Saturday, May 19, 2018

Back to the Womb


my journey into time
backward through my mind
took me to forests of clouds
which became dark
and rained on weeds
that swayed indolently
in a green breeze

as it became dusk
I heard my mother calling me
before I could hurl the last pebble
into the pond
to frighten a frog away
and make ripples of music
I could not wait to comprehend

the complicated maze clears
into the transparent innocence
of my childhood
and as I think of all the wisdom
of disillusion
I recognise the unsullied past
of languid time
before I travelled into the future
of a dehumanised present

I close my weary eyes
to run back into the one time
which I can relive without remorse:
through the dense trees and marshy clearings
shrill cries of excitement
playful mischief
an endless capacity to marvel and wonder
at every small search and discovery

then I hear myself calling out for me
in helpless desire
if not to be able to retrieve my loss
to retain at least the ability
to live while I last
with nostalgia

Friday, May 04, 2018

Arctic Sun

Because of man-made climate change and the depletion of the ozone layer, the Arctic sun has reduced the snow by almost 90%. Where has this snow gone? Into oceans, rivers, water bodies, and then onto the land, continents, cities; flooding streets and homes.

But that is not all. The depletion of the ozone layer over the the poles has conversely facilitated the penetration of ultraviolet radiation, which affects earth, its creatures, weather and life itself.  When this phenomenon of reduction of the ozone layer had not taken place, it was protecting all life, and controlling more or less all weather in a particular system and order in the planet earth.

Now, that protective ozone layer has been progressively reduced to smithereens. The behavior of water bodies has gone haywire, and therefrom springs unseasonal heat, rain, storm, flood, and countless other inclemencies, causing enormous harm, disease and death to creatures of every hue and kind; to forests and vegetation; and to almost everything else on earth.

Is this process of disintegration of the planet as Man knew it restorable, renewable? I have no answer. I would be grateful if someone has, and if I come to know about it before my time is up.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Summer Afternoon

In the past, India generally provided losers at international sports competitions, but this year India has won more medals, including gold, than at any time since the Mahabharata. May this trend continue, and increase.

India's performance in badminton at the 2018 Commonwealth Games:

Women's Singles - Saina Nehwal - Gold; P.V. Sindhu - Silver
Men's Singles - Srikanth Kidambi - Silver
Men's Doubles - Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Chirag Shetty - Silver
Mixed Team - Gold

P. V. Sindhu (l) and Saina Nehwal

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Friday, April 27, 2018

Existentialism According to Ramesh Gandhi

For those who either did not know it, or, if they knew it, did not understand it; understanding it now, not guaranteed.

Around the age of 12 (1948), in a Gujarati charitable school, millions of questions, ideas, curiosities, began to make their rounds through my mind.  Today I am unable to fathom how it happened, when the school did not have a library with works of thinkers or scientists, nor a teaching staff which was educated enough to rouse the fire of hunger for knowledge. Among many names, from various mythologies, sciences and civilisations and history, which threw themselves at me for me to grapple with, were philosophers of the past two or three hundred years, mainly from the West, like Socrates, Schopenhauer, Voltaire, Kant, Heidegger, Hegel, Nietzsche, Camus, Bertrand Russell and, most relevant to my writing today's essay, Jean-Paul Sartre. I had no access, either to the English language or to a mentor for consultation or engagement. My familiarity, therefore, with these and countless others, forever would remain a mystery to me.

I am writing today specifically about how existentialism became a brand philosophy, and Sartre its ultimate spokesperson. I confess I was no less fascinated by it than was war-torn Europe, especially Eastern Europe, which, impoverished and forlorn, embraced existentialism in its variegated forms. It probably still continues to do so, even as, as far as I know, Sartre's relevance, if any, is fading elsewhere.

For four to five years (between the ages of 15 to 20), I began to feel that I had found my ultimate calling: existentialism was my philosophy and my religion. But then, I became another man, which is another story (Theory of Contingency and Inevitability of Inevitability). But I did not lose my verve as an explainer or spokesperson for Sartre and company, and began, in lighter moments, to claim that my frivolous interpretation of it was the real one. In other words, I re-shaped it in words and in my narratives, and in parables that I built to illustrate existentialism.

Today my wife, Nancy (@nancygandhi), came across the 3-minute video by Will Braden, Paw de Deux. The moment I saw it, by happenstance, I found in it the definition of my interpretation of  the brand of existentialism which was perpetuated by Sartre and others, which the author of the video almost certainly did not intend.

I am delighted to present, through the courtesy of M. Will Braden, my brand of existentialism. I hope you exist as you enjoy, or vice versa. Bonjour. (Please watch both Henri Part I and Henri Part II - Paw de Deux, below.)

Note: Those who are interested in what I call the existential cat (in philosophical terms, connected with Camus, Sartre et al.) can go to this link, courtesy the creator, Will Braden.


Charu wrote:

If I did not understand your version of existentialism the cat, a twin of my Murphy, did a good job of explaining it.

The cats do lead a life of existentialism. I have seen it led, first hand.

While you do not like them as much I think Murphy will do a great job being an insignia for your version of the theory.

Just joking.


Rameh Sir,

I never had a cat in my house. I used to not like dogs till we acquired a great dane. He was all of eight inches high when we got him as a two month old puppy. In three months thereafter he grew to thirty two inches and he was huge. He reminds me so much of the cat featured in the video. I was seeing my dog and not the cat in the video.

Dogs, too, lead a life of existentialism.

Unfortunately, my dog does not exist in our house as we had to give him away. 

I do not know how I exist without my dog.

Thanks for the tour.

V T Narendra

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Life on the Water, Cochin, Early 1970s

Cochin is a fascinating city.  It is situated on an island which is connected to its much larger sister-city, Ernakulam, by bridges over two waterways, with the island of Willingdon in the middle.  One is easily confused as to where the labyrinthine waterways end and the Arabian Sea begins. 

Willingdon Island belongs entirely to the Defense establishment.  It also contains some small commercial places at its edge and a hotel, the Taj Malabar. The 'real' Cochin, on the Arabian Sea, is surrounded by bobbing boats, with fishing nets cast into the air, and fish being caught in a way that has to be seen. 

All my visits were to Defense-owned Willingdon Island, on which Taj purchased the best property, at the northern end of the island. I was a guest in one of the largest suites there. The picture above has been taken from there. I often regret that I enjoyed the suite in the hotel and looking out at the sea and waterways, rather than spending more time in Cochin proper. Cochin is an old city with a unique character, with architecture which is very photogenic. The above photograph does not contain that, I am sad to say. 

Vasco da Gama and many other travelers from Arab lands and beyond, were not aware of Gujarat or Maharashtra when they landed between Cochin and Trivandrum.  If I am lucky, by and by I would find other pictures, showing you the distinctive charms of Cochin, which not only a migrant from the north (Calcutta, like me, or others) would be able to admire.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Dreams of Far Places

A small window in the Taj Mahal Hotel, Bombay. The main Taj building has many curved, straight, oblique, semicircular architectural styles built into it, culminating in a central dome which has become iconic.

Nine times out of ten, I stayed in the new wing on the 16th or 17th (top) floor. This was a rare occasion, when I was offered this ornate room in one of the minaret structures, while the Reservations department sorted out some confusion about my booking. There was a small window with a bamboo blind. During the hour or so that I had to while away, I was looking through that blind; lifted it, looked at the sea, and, not finding it interesting photographically, dropped it and took this picture. 

If one travelled to the left of the boats, one would reach Elephanta, Aligarh, and several resorts and suburbs, which, in 1982 when I took this picture, joined Borivali/Thane on the left, and on the right, took people to Lonavala via Panvel and Khandala, and onwards to Pune. For those passing through Panvel, it was a must to stop for a snack of the local alu bonda, which was supposed to be the best and most authentic of its kind.

I have gone a long way from that little window, and I am sorry for people for whom the story would not arouse their own memories of a terrain familiar to me.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Beauty in Asymmetry

We were going out one day in 1982. As I was getting into the car, I saw a cluster of bougainvillea hanging from the terrace at the back of my house, which I had cross-bred into multiple colours. In a flash a composition appeared to me, a challenging one: to convert the ordinary into the extraordinary. I took my camera out of the car, and mounted the old-fashioned telephoto lens (the biggest I had was 300 mm). Without a tripod, without a second thought, I reduced the depth of field, eliminated the entire bougainvillea plant, and took only three flowers. They looked as if they were spinning away, like the propellers of a colourful airplane, like a poet's dream. I clicked the shutter, and as far as I am concerned, I took one of the best pictures of my life.

Thursday, April 12, 2018



growing out of adolescence
you watch the world

a little quizzical, perhaps
maybe just about to smile

I remember you
there, in the past
looking at the future

Bhashwati wrote:

The image and the text are so compatible.
The expression contained in the eyes and the meaning contained in the text are equally evocative,.. in the past looking at the future and in this moment looking at the past where the future was barely beginning to form even as the consciousness of your subject evolved..

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Friday, April 06, 2018

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

A Bridge Too Far

I called this picture A Bridge Too Far because I saw in it the abstract form of a bridge. My title is also the name of a movie, set in Norway during the Second World War, directed by Richard Attenborough in 1977.

But in fact, the movie that I was thinking of as I looked at the picture was The Bridge Over the River Kwai (1957), directed by David Lean.

Just for the record, Richard Attenborough was mostly known as an actor. He had a brief foray in India with a small role in Satyajit Ray's Shatranj ki Khiladi, which he performed only out of respect for Ray. Perhaps that spurred him on to come back to India in a very big way as the producer-director of the epic Gandhi. His career after that is more or less obscure. He is the brother of the documentary director David Attenborough, who was inspired by Carl Sagan's Cosmos. He went on to write many books and make documentary serials on nature, animal life, and evolution in general.

David Lean, on the other hand, made movies which had to win Academy Awards, such as Brief Encounter, Lawrence of Arabia, and Doctor Zhivago. Ryan's Daughter, set in Ireland, which I and many others loved very much, did not succeed, but it did not make him change his mind, and he was so hurt that he vowed not to make any movie again. I lectured on it and defended it at a seminar at the time. Just before his demise he came back to India and made his last film, A Passage to India, which neither he nor his audience understood.

When E.M. Forster, the author of Passage to India, was contacted for clarification, he laughed it off and said that even he did not understand.

E. & O. E.

Monday, April 02, 2018


elixir of countless moons
in a teacup
forming pearls of temptation

Bhashwati wrote:

Just now i realised that you have turned one crescent into countless moons!!! like the mythical grain of rice that Krishna turned into a feast for the untimely guests..

but i repeat that i heart the arrangement of the words a lot. Each word is like a pearl plucked.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Way We Were


In the little that I have traveled in the United States, my mind has chosen the Adirondacks as the most loved and reminisced about place; starting somewhere near Syracuse, and going all the way north to Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Beautiful mountains, hills, and plenty of lakes. This picture was taken in 1972, on one of those lakes.

Sunday, March 25, 2018



Charu said...

A beautiful picture. I love it.

Not too long ago I entertained a thought that if the glass of reflective property, including mirror, had not been invented there would be less of Narcissism, self-absorption, in the world. That was quickly negated by another thought that as long as there existed any reflective pool of water a Narcisssus with a death-wish will be born every minute.

I see here that the rose wanting to be the Narcissus,the flower, is alreday dying at the edges.

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy said...
Dil ke arumaan "aayine" mein rahe gaye.....

My reply...

Ab dil hai na dil ke aarmaan hai
Bas main hun meri tanhaai hai
Sheeshe mein dekhkar
Sochta rahta hun
Akele Akele
Kahaan ja rahe ho
Dekh li teri khudaai
Bas mera dil bhar gaya

Aansuon mujh par hanso
Mere muqaddir par hanso

Friday, March 23, 2018


delicate as tissue
fragile as the beating heart
of a butterfly
it flagrantly displays itself
to every pollinator
who happens to stop by

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Man In Nature

Earth is infinitesimally minuscule, its resources even smaller; humans are among the least of all. Yet we have taken everything as ours, to explore, consume, subsume, deprade. Even though we know that we will be destroyed along with our world, we have ensured that we cannot turn back.

Monday, March 19, 2018

In the Loop

All life is bound within a loop of certain fatality; only its time and manner are indeterminate.

Friday, March 16, 2018


Bhashwati wrote:

Aap ne tasveer jo lagwaayi hai incredibly awesome hai.
Saath koi shabd hote to 4 moons lag jaate lamp ke saath

Monday, March 12, 2018

Monday, February 26, 2018


fragile as a moth's wing
dissolving at the lightest touch
into motes
 borne on a breeze

Sunday, February 18, 2018


Our science believes that all matter in the universe springs out of one, another, or all of the three types of quarks, which supposedly conduct the business of running the universe. Interestingly, though, it is given only to mankind, as far as we can know today, as we have yet to discover any other intelligent life beyond us, no matter how near or how impossibly far away, to undo and alter the work of quarks by extinguishing intelligent life, if not life in its entirety.

A twist of quirk, maybe, do you think?

Friday, February 16, 2018


in the innards of earth
more than a million years ago
to turn into
coal, gas, diamond
volcanic exudate


something else


who knows
even perish

Anonymous wrote:

What reaches us as fossil is the ultimate embodiment of tenacity in nature and yet the image you present is so delicate and fragile.

Once again im not speculating on what it might be.
It is beauty, nuanced in tone and texture and compelling.
The text compelling in its brevity and subtly depicting transience of life itself.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Before the End of Innocence

In Bangalore in the early seventies, before the West End Hotel was taken over by GRD Tata from Bhabha and very vastly expanded, Ashok was the ultimate hotel, where everyone from film stars to politicians to whoever was someone, with exceptions like me, stayed. The top, ninth floor was where I always stayed, and film stars  shooting in Bangalore also stayed on that floor. When I stayed there Dharmendra, not yet married to Hema Malini, was in the suite next to mine, shooting for Shalimar (a total disaster) with Rex Harrison.

To avoid getting carried away with my narrative, I will quickly come to the picture above: I was checking out of the hotel when I noticed her, toddling all over the lobby.  She turned out to be the daughter of the Manager, a Sardarji. I requested that I be allowed to take her pictures. She had a fever, but because of my pleading, the Manager called his wife, who held the baby on her shoulder. I took several pictures, and was so taken by her beauty and innocence that I wrote a letter, sealed it, and told the Manager to preserve it until the girl turned 25, and then give it to her to read.

This is the long and short of my emotional outpouring. For those interested, we moved outside near the swimming pool, because the light inside the hotel was inadequate. The baby was held by the mother with her head above the mother's shoulder, looking behind her. I took the pictures from behind to avoid the mother's head.