Sunday, October 31, 2004

The language of confessions

I could have sworn his peppered hair gleamed the way his eyes did, when he turned back and looked at me.

He had read my mind and knew exactly what I had been thinking. His words were not hidden. He wanted me to know that he had been reading my mind. He wanted me to know that what I had been thinking, my inner thoughts, my personal space, was open. Open for him to read. Open for him to let me know they had been read.

For a moment I was taken aback when he first spoke. His words came out and jolted me. And then everything wooshed into stillness. His mouth was opening and closing but I had no idea what he was saying. His villainous eyes gleaming. In knowledge. In knowledge that he knew exactly what I had been thinking. And that I knew that he knew.

I kept staring at him. Time had stopped. I could hear nothing. Just soft music playing and I felt as if I was floating. Floating away.

My secret language violated by his seasoned ears.

* * *

I could have sworn her beautiful hair lost its shine the way her eyes did, when I turned back and looked at her.

I thought I had read her mind and knew exactly what she had been thinking. My words just came out. I wanted her to know that I had something to tell her. I wanted her to know my inner thoughts, my personal space, was open. Open for her to read. Open for her to get to know me.

For a moment I was bold when I first spoke. My words came out and she didn’t seem to be listening. And then everything wooshed into stillness. My mouth was opening and closing but I had no idea what I was saying. Her beautiful eyes questioning. In confusion. In confusion perhaps, because I was saying exactly what I had been thinking. And that she didn’t know what I was saying.

She kept staring at me. Time had stopped. I could hear nothing. Just soft music playing and I felt as if I was floating. Floating away.

My secret feelings violated by my pathetic confession.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

A lesson in English writing

I remember, the first time I experimented and wrote something similar to what I have been writing recently (Juxtaposed, The Oracle, Intrusion, Influenced Opinions), what I call ‘reflective imagery’, my English teacher refused to put it into the school magazine. At that point, for the life of me, I couldn’t understand why. So I asked her, what was wrong with it.

Teacher: It’s not right.

Me: What is wrong with it?

Teacher (shocked at being questioned): I said, it, is, just, not, right.

Me (refusing to understand): I don’t understand, what is wrong with the writing?

Teacher (bewildered): I … I don’t know. I can’t publish this.

Me (eyebrows up): Why?

Teacher (exasperated): I have already told you. It is not right. This is not the way to write articles for the school magazine. I will publish the other piece you wrote on (some school function) but not this.

(I stare at her in disbelief)

Teacher: Now stop asking stupid questions and go back to your class. Who is the English teacher, you or me?

Me (mumbling, while walking away): It doesn’t look like you are going to stay one for long at the rate you are going!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Influenced opinions

The wicked old man, tipped his hat, and stared into the paper in his hand. The creases on his face bunched up in union of the opinion that he was about to form. His shirt, crumpled and creased from yesterday, hung loose on one side. His headache hammered away, sealing his opinion on the matter. A draft of tobacco lingered nearby. Smoke trickled from a cigar on the side like embers dying out. He moved his head slowly from one side to the other and squinted his eyes. The decision already decided. But done to give an impression of careful evaluation. His body bathing in a spotlight on the wooden stage. The light solitary, going back to the end of the theatre. Controlled by hands. Wrinkled hands, like the crease on the old mans’ face. The wrinkles bunching up in union, in anticipation, of the old mans next move. The next move already decided, but the hands ready to change direction. If necessary.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Girl, Interrupted

In the afternoon, the rain beats down, splattering memories unwanted. She asks herself, “Why did I get punished before I did the wrong thing?”

And the haunting sound of the piano being played in the background resonates.

Saturday, October 23, 2004


Her mouth went dry. It felt like crumpled paper. Like crumpled sandpaper. She reached out for a drink of water. Loud gulping noises. Gushing noises. And then silence. Taking stock of the room around.

The curtain opens and the world intrudes her space. Streaming light and morning birds. A silky wind, caresses. A palm gropes around the side table. Fingers spread, coming down in a pattern. Left, right, forward. Until it finds the pack. Pick up and put next to her. The palm repeats the same groping movement. The lighter is found.

As the pack is opened, the light plastic scrunches. A stick is pulled out. The pack is snapped shut and thrown back. The stick is twirled around her fingers. Clockwise from index finger to middle finger and then anti clockwise from the middle finger to ring finger. Then it follows back the same route to the index finger. Again and again, back and forth. The other hand lights a flame. And then lets it die.

She is juggling now. The right hand twirling the stick, the left lighting and letting a flame die. She is in a trance, her head still staring at both movements, controlling them in her head and marveling at the coordination.

She stops. And brings the stick to her lips. In what is almost a twirling somersault between her fingers. The lighter is now being twirled. And now she lights it. Bringing it close to the stick. The flame dancing. Her hand stopping an inch away from the flame. The moment frozen. Then she moves her head forward for the stick to meet the flame.

The tip of the stick glows and becomes brighter as she takes the first defining drag. The crumpled sandpaper feeling in the mouth intensifies but her calm now blends into the intrusion of the new morning.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Master of the game

Silence alternates with sound
The silence deafening
The sound intrusive
Slow motion silence
Cuts into
Real life sound
Cuts into
Your imagination

Saturday, October 16, 2004

The Oracle

The light now streams into the room, through the slightly parted curtains.

The mesh like curtains, offer a hazy view of what is outside. The streaming light bounces onto the marble floor offering a scratchy reflection blocked in part by the rug. The reflection blends into the rug and comes out on the other side. Next to it is the reflection of the white sofa, which blends into the white curtains, which blends into the white walls. As you move up the walls, the purity of the reflections and the white is broken by a new image.

A black and white image.

An old man, conjuring up the gods. Praying for rain. For his people. For the drought to end. He blends into his black background and is streaked with a swirling dust sparkle jet stream. The stream is frozen and captured in black and white. But next to it, the light that streams into the room, through the slightly parted curtains, highlights the swirling dust sparkle jet stream that is not frozen. It moves the way the one in the image ought to move. Towards the light or away from it, you cannot be sure. But you can see the glint in the old man’s eyes.

Friday, October 15, 2004


And in another world
Things happened differently
The way they were
Supposed to happen
And in this world
Things happened differently
The way they were
Not supposed to happen

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The way the sun bleeds into the sky

Some pictures of "the sun bleeding into the sky" that I took earlier this year (in April). Thought I'd share them, since a lot of you seemed to enjoy the earlier post. This was probably one of the inspirations for it. Hope you enjoy them too.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Missed Sunset

Sometimes the twilight comes and goes and you don’t even realize it.

I just took a break from my laptop and looked outside, and was surprised to see the night lights and darkness around. And it does not even seem like I have been at it for long. The last time I looked out there was a fair amount of light. Not sunny, but bright at the same time. And no inclinations of the sun about to set.

I have always found the ‘sunset window’ to be very intriguing. It does not hang around for too long. I notice this whenever I decide to watch a sunset. Most of the time you land up spending at least an hour or more patiently waiting for the right moment to for the sunset to ‘start’ and then it only lasts about 15 minutes and suddenly it is dark. But the wait is always worth it. Those few moments are very beautiful.

What makes watching the sunset worth it is the wait. And what makes the wait worth it is when you are in a relaxed mood and all geared up to watch the sunset. Somehow, my favourite memories of sunsets are always related to vacations and to places away from where I stay. To beaches, to mountain tops, to cliffs, to rivers and forests. Those are moments I can’t resist capturing if I have a camera in my hand and keep clicking away.

I love the way the sun bleeds into the sky and how everything changes in those few moments. Every bit of the experience is essential. The birds flying away. The smell in the air. The sound of the sea and the wind. The glistening reflection of the sun in any surface that can reflect. It is a multi-sensory experience.

But today I missed it. Today I didn’t realize when it happened. But I can’t even say that I would have wanted to see it today.

There would have been no wait. And I like to wait for the sunset.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Evolved Reflections

It is strange how, sometimes, the nature of your childhood, evolves into the nature of your present.

You don’t really see the evolution. But then you look back at what you are today and compare it with what you were 10-15 years ago and draw the parallels. They are striking. You behaviors are mirrored. It might not be an exact reflection, but it is an evolved reflection. Like looking into a pond which has ripples. This reflection comes out in the way you handle situations, your attitude towards things, your demeanor and countless other ways. I realized it last night as I was heading home. I was thinking back on my week and how I thought about some stuff and handled certain situations and about how similar it was to what I was like when I was a child. Now, this is not be confused with “not growing up”. This is about growing up, but at the same time retaining what is essentially “you”.

Think of your demeanor towards anything in the present, and then look back and think whether there is a parallel mannerism you exhibited when you were young(er) …

Examples invited.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Button Pushers Reloaded

Looking at all the comments, I thought that "button pushers" deserved another post!


First off, go here. It has good explanations not only for pedestrian and elevator button pushers, but also for honking in traffic jams, cable TV channel surfing, refrigerator door reopening, email box refreshing and hitting the snooze bar. All in all makes for a very interesting read. Thanks to whoever (Anonymous) left it in the comments section.

Some additional thoughts on the previous post - I firmly believe that crosswalk buttons are completely misleading. You have no control whatsoever over what the sign will do, and that any perception that you do have control is a complete placebo effect. I've never seen anyone press the button and shorten the interval for the light to change. People keep pressing these dummy buttons, thinking they have some modicum of control over traffic and their immediate path in life. But instead what they have is an illusion of control. The decision about when the light will change has already been made, independent of them and their button-pushing desire to move forward. For elevators however, there is no delusion of giving control. The only control that it offers is the ability to choose what level you want to go to. Beyond that there is no promise. So I guess, we can attribute this purely to impatience. Not that the earlier one cannot be attributed to impatience, but that does have an element of delusional control to it (which is the more overbearing reason).

As I sign off, I must admit, I am sometimes guilty of these too (more often wondering if I should do it again and having someone preempt the second pushing, than pushing repeatedly myself) ... and I do agree that it does not irritate as much as someone behind you honking at red lights!!!

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Button pushers!?!

Does anyone ever push the crosswalk button only once? Does it make a difference if you hit it ten times instead?

Why do people push it after they have seen you pushing it? Do they think that it will stay green for a longer time when it comes on?

Why do people stand in a elevator lobby and keep pushing the button once the light has come on? Do they think the elevator is ignoring them?

Why do people in an elevator push their floor button regardless of whether or not it's been pushed already? Do they push it again and again in the hope that they will reach faster?

Answers appreciated.

Friday, October 01, 2004

The Philippine Jeepney

As I roamed the back streets of Pasig City, I came across the Philippine Jeepney. Quite a fascinating and innovative contraption. I took pictures of some interesting ones I came across and looked it up on the net. The result is the compilation below. Enjoy!

* * *

Filipinos are known worldwide for their ability to improvise on and reproduce first-world technology into forms more attainable given limited financial resources. An example of this ability is the Philippine jeepney. The army jeeps left by the United States after the Second World War inspired the making of these vehicles. Artworks of painstaking detail are often seen on the shining chrome bodies of these vehicles, which, as earlier said, are copies of army jeeps, resized and remodeled to accommodate commuting passengers numbering from 20 to 30 all in all.

The first jeepneys were actually the army jeeps themselves, numbering into the hundreds all over the country, but mostly concentrated in the metropolis, which were repainted or scraped to the metal, upon which various decorations were attached. Moving horse figurines, flags, colorful lights, paintings, traditional designs, bonnets, mirrors and stickers were put on these vehicles, making each vehicle startlingly different in terms of appearance from the next one. Ford Fieras were also soon used for jeepney production. Later on, however, the companies that did these remodeling jobs started making much bigger bodies running on surplus diesel engines (which are cheaper in the long run for the jeepney driver), thereby increasing the overall capacity of jeepneys. This, of course, gave much advantage to the jeepney drivers who bought them, over the ones with original remodeled jeepneys. Soon, the army jeeps and Ford Fieras were all but totally displaced by the Philippine-made jeepneys with bodies entirely crafted locally, but with the high-tech parts obtained from surplus shops throughout the country. The Philippine jeepney industry was thus born, and later on, it spread to the different provinces from Metropolitan Manila where it all started, making the jeepney the most ubiquitous vehicle indeed in the Philippines.

The unique thing about jeepneys is that no jeepney is exactly the same as another. Each jeepney is a testament to the artistic ability of the designer assigned to it. Work on the vehicle itself sometimes takes much shorter than work on the design and decorations on the vehicle, as the former has become almost mechanical, but the latter requires repetitive planning, and sometimes, mistakes can put back the designing effort by 1 or 2 weeks behind. It is a matter of pride for a jeepney designer to come up with a jeepney pleasing to the eye, and with an interior design that is both beautiful and not an impediment to function. Several improvisations are also put in inside the jeepney, such as blinker lights that come on when passengers who have to alight press a button or pull a string. Sometimes, there is a basket attached to a string that collects fare from the passengers. Payment while on a jeepney is on an honesty basis, with the jeepney driver just hoping that everyone who goes on his vehicle will pay the required amount for the distance traveled. Apart from the occasional companion while driving, the jeepney driver has little way of knowing who among his passengers has not paid. Sometimes, designers therefore put on signs to stoke the conscience of passengers, or to admonish passengers who fail to pay, with lines like “God knows Judas not pay.”

Local companies like Sarao Motors and Francisco Motors are prominent names in jeepney production in the Philippines. These companies build jeepneys piece by piece and in painstaking individual production. Buyers may have jeepneys made on a contractual basis, with designs specified by them. Visitors often pass by the workshops to watch jeepney artisans at work, to which the latter have no objection.