Sunday, February 15, 2015

River, docks

 

I think I sat behind you that one time.
Perhaps twice, it could - might even be more
Than just an off-chance, singular affair
With your Swift, sour, soft, sweet, indifferent hair

The moment described itself as I learned.
Sinusoid, straightened: so like a river
It flowed, unfurled and poured, almost downwards:
Down beneath the shoulders of geography.

It hurt your neck to face back for an hour,
Amidst roughcast roister; mixed reactions
Wistfully whispering secrets of the sun
Whose brightness shone through when the day was done.

And I talked with public sector happiness,
Fenced off from the farthest seasons of autumn;
I twisted and twirled and touched that part of you.
We spoke to each other, But you couldn't feel it

-Upamanyu Acharya

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Poem about Poem

 

Trochees, like life do seldom falter first.
Indeed, the stress at first is not the worst:
The sentence under pyrrhically traversed
The path I chose of iambs, in this verse.

Enjambments that were utlised before
Will find a way to creep within once more;
For now, just take this only substitution
Where I apologise for aberration!

That Alexandrine there was quite a test
To my one pentametric manifest.
Of course, the instant that’s imposed
That one dactylic metre gets exposed.

A day will come when I’ll look back at this-
This poem; the words, I’ll probably dismiss.
I held this pen that writes in blue and white
To self describe a poem; that’s quite the sight.

-Upamanyu Acharya

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Kyrielle Sonnet

 

Indistinct we wander - through life,
Wallowing o’er a murky strife.
Where pardons and sorrows are free;
Overwhelmed by infinity

So many ones to choose to love-
Past and present; here, and above.
The choice of solidarity:
Overwhelmed by infinity

Joining dots regarding lineage;
A shadow of a past image-
Do we search for our divinity?
Overwhelmed by infinity

Indistinct we wander through life
Overwhelmed, by infinity.

-Upamanyu Acharya

 


A Kyrielle Sonnet consists of 14 lines (three rhyming quatrain stanzas and a non-rhyming couplet). Just like the traditional Kyrielle poem, the Kyrielle Sonnet also has a repeating line or phrase as a refrain (usually appearing as the last line of each stanza). Each line within the Kyrielle Sonnet consists of only eight syllables.

Just having a bit of fun with words over here.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Exorbitant

 

A connoisseur of interest compounded and time confounded
Within his grasp lie numerous advantages
predetermined
Three makes five and two makes three
The end is in sight – the tremendous expanse of infinity

Comprehensively careful he displaces himself
The sum of all parts, greater than none
The horses grandly gallop and the racers rapidly race
Outpacing his spirit with rich monetary embrace

With mettle, pluck and fortitude he humbles investors
Trees are greener, food is tastier, but life goes on the same
Slowly in the murky, shadowy depths of relevance
The wolves howl for what they seek to reclaim

His soul is skittish and perturbed yet sanguine;
Hiding behind a curtain of impenetrability
Dreams of trotting, ambling, striding and then sprinting
The triumph of ascendency is listlessly dwindling

Graphs wavering like Patagonian mountainsides
The solitary curtains shimmer one last time
The wolves arrive – the numbers have been rounded and
Interest has been compounded

Friday, January 23, 2015

People I’d Invite to a (Imaginary) Party

 

I’m not the kind of person to throw parties, but a few weeks before anyone’s birthday comes around they’re always inclined to sit down and wonder who they’d invite. Even if they haven’t celebrated in five years and they have no friends. Indeed, every year in mid December after I’ve decided that I’m not celebrating my birthday I think about this. My imaginary list gets to about three names and then I’m daunted by the task ahead; how many people do I invite? Where should it be? Do I call that cousin I’m kind of friends with, but not really? Do I invite that girl I like who doesn’t know a single one of my friends and will get bored to death if she comes? The additional problem of ‘doing things’ is also perplexing – between the ages of 15 to 21, what do people even do at a birthday party? You can’t really drink and you can’t do kid things like go bowling or something (which are actually really fun). At the end I just leave the real party for next year, and this happens every year.

But now I’m changing the topic, because I can. I can invite anyone, from anywhere, from any time period to my party, and they’d come. Who do I invite? Obviously the first person on the list has to be Oscar Wilde, the original party person. The traditional British upper-class, no holds barred avant-garde trailblazer of his day; gossiping amongst royals and artists and 19th century Stephen Frys. I’d invite him just for his quotes:

“The world was my oyster, but I used the wrong fork”.

“Hear no evil, speak no evil- and you’ll never be invited to a party”.

”Talk to every woman as if you loved her, and to every man as if he bored you, and at the end of your first season you will have the reputation of possessing the most perfect social tact.”

A party hosted by me would be nothing without some good old social-awkwardness thrown in; people shuffling about near the door, taking way too much time to pour their drinks; three or four people not having a ‘group’ to talk to who’d randomly bustle into one of the other groups and try to force their way into conversation, only to brutally realise that they don’t know anything these guys are talking about; dozens of people sitting in the corner on their phone because they don’t think they fit in, while they try to connect to the WPA-PSK protected Wi-Fi in maladroit fervour. These are the kind of things you’d probably expect.

I wouldn’t call Hitler or anyone like that because they’re already invited to thousands of other imaginary parties. There are so many people out there who, if given the chance, would invite Hitler, that I wouldn’t be surprised if he has more imaginary invitations than Elvis Presley or The Beatles. I will call Taylor Swift though; that should attract the paparazzi and make this party more illustrious and eminent. Plus, it’s Taylor Swift. I’d actually probably invite every famous musician whose music I listen to. That should be about 1500 people so we’d need a big venue. I’d also call some more tangentially famous personalities; I’d love to see the founder of reddit interact with J.R.R. Tolkein or Bill Gates expressing his admiration towards Ramanujan or Tsiolovsky discussing his work on rocket physics with Chris Hadfield. Tchaikovsky playing his piano in the background while Freddie Mercury sings along. Edgar Allan Poe reading his poetry to Allison Brie (okay that one’s a bit creepy). That would be a hell of a party.

But in the end, who really cares, because imaginary things don’t exist and dead people don’t come back to life. Which is the main reason people celebrate birthdays in the first place – to enjoy the importance of life. Nothing warrants a celebration more than the slow plodding of age, to survive another listless year surrounded by benevolent and loving friends and family, knowing that the icy specter of death looms over everyone’s shoulders ready to snatch us up (or down) at any time. That’s the purest form of celebration – the most poignant and paramount phenomenon - integral to the world and integral to us learning and loving and living; existing.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Did This God Guy Really Create Aliens?

 

"Two possibilities exist - either we are alone in the universe or we are not.
Both are equally terrifying."
-Arthur C. Clarke

Whenever I look at the bigger picture – of life on our planet with our double decker buses and red roses and revolving doors, I find it a bit dull. It’s not the monotonous drudgery of the average human life that I find dull, but the slow, precise way organisms indulge themselves; with evolution. It’s so intricate and complex, though, the way all life stems from a single primordial cell. If it’s all true, we all do indeed have common ancestry and all that separates our grandfathers from E. Coli is a few million generations of life finding a way of doing things it wants to do. Which leads me back to the bigger picture – it makes sense. Aside from the disputes between things like abiogenesis and panspermia, all these sciency theories that are not really theories but fact, but still theories; aside from them it’s all very believable. Something called the big bang happened and it created space and time and atoms, and gravity eventually pulled these atoms together to form earth, and then some weird chemistry happened between atoms on earth and we have life. It’s a very harsh, clinical portrayal of what could otherwise be the most poignant narrative ever. But there’s no way for us to access that information. We don’t know when life was first born. People remember birthdays; grandparents tell pretty stories and parents tell horror stories, but they all still remember your birthday. And yet all we have to learn about where we really come from is talk of amino acids and self-replicating molecules.

Why can’t it be another way? I’d like to live in a world where I wouldn’t be mad for thinking that this whole thing is a computer simulation, or that HAL 9000 really exists and we’re all just 1s and 0s in its singular reality. Or that aliens created the planet earth and will soon destroy it to create space for an intergalactic bypass. That would mean that there is an ultimate way to find answers to every question way have (aside from creating a giant computer or doing things the hard way by doing maths and launching spacecraft). I’d like to believe that there is indeed a creator, because that’s just a lot more of a poetic story to tell. Many religions have already painted a picture of what this creator might look like, or what this creator wants done from us mortals, and how we should eat, read and behave. When people are bored, as they have been for millennia before the Industrial Revolution happened and whales started dying out to feed our consumerist attitudes and corporate greed, they like reading and living colourful stories – and religions fulfilled that for the longest time.

So I’m talking about god a lot, and here’s where I have to tread a bit lightly because I really want there to be a god, even though I’ve never been religious. I’ve spoken about this before, but I revert back to my personal inspiration, Albert Einstein: “If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.” I marvel the framework of physics and mathematics that even begin to set us up for exploring the universe, but at some point everyone has wondered who set it up. Who set up constants like gravity and the speed of light, and was it a ‘who’ or a ‘what’, or was it even ‘it’? It’s so ridiculous that we can’t fathom the concept of nothingness before the creation of space-time; that we have to believe in creation instead of a limitless, four dimensional expanse, beginning from nothing and fading away into all of eternity. There has to be something, right?

I’d honestly prefer it if there were, but Einstein’s interpretation of god will continue to make sense for the longest time. Let’s say he isn’t right about this one – that either the religious identity of a god is correct, and there is a physical manifestation of a creator somewhere – or the more standard atheistic standpoint of there being nothing at all. How likely are we to encounter aliens? Does Fermi’s paradox, which so kindly tells us that it’s not fucking likely at all, mean anything if a god really does exist? It seems almost hideous and cruel that we’re put on a little rock planet far away in the Western corners of the Orion Arm in the Milky Way, far away from a heavily concentrated supercluster, far away from the centre of a galaxy, and far away from that thing, whatever that thing was, in the movie Interstellar. If he did exist surely he’d put us closer to some friends or enemies.

I really hope aliens are real; I hope life elsewhere exists. It would be sad if it didn’t– not only because all our knowledge and culture would go to waste after a million years if we don’t escape this blue planet, but because we need some sort of scale to measure our civilisation against. The Kardashev scale sounds really cool but we really don’t know if it’s even taking the right scale into consideration; Kardashev talked about utlising the power of stars and eventually entire galaxies. We don’t even know if aliens can read. We don’t know if they’re blobs of goo who eat themselves or intelligent machines that zip through space at 99% the speed of light; we don’t know if they’re the size of microbes or Sri Lanka; we don’t know if we’re the first intelligent civilisation or the last – and both are extremely scary prospects (assuming we’re even considered intelligent). It’s just so many things to consider, some closure into whether we’re good, bad or average would be nice.

If he does exist, and I use the word ‘if’ and ‘he’ very liberally, I do admire his love for both mathematics and art – two subjects which in their cores are very dear to me. I like the subtle things he’s done, like how we see dendritic patterns in our body’s circulatory system, on our planet’s geography in the form of rivers as well as in the concentration of stars in the universe. He’s created an excellent, ambiguous yet intriguing three–dimensional puzzle, the scale of which is daunting and immense but still excites a frisson among most of us when we think about traversing it. He’s created complex personalities, who create art, food, music and have the capability to love – all from a few amino acids. He created numbers and fractals and time and colour and an octillion other philosophical and physical canvases for us to paint, and for that I’m grateful. So, this god guy… probably a smart chap.

It's a fake picture - don't kid yourself

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Laterebeight [Pronounced Latter-Bite]

 

So I’ve been playing the guitar since 2010, and our band, Laterebeight was formed a year before. Some of our older readers might remember me posting about my guitars back in 2011. The band consisted of four of us childhood friends; Aditya Ramchandran (Ramu), Shivendra Shukla (Chevy), myself Upamanyu Acharya, and Samar Dikshit (Samar). I don’t know how or why I formed a band before I could play an instrument, but our musical talent was eclipsed by our Photoshop skills and we ended up with our band, Laterebeight. [Pronounced Latter-Bite]

Laterbeight's first cover, obviously based on the Beatles.

As our band’s resident blogger, I was told to stop listening to Thom Yorke and write about our first gig that happened this Saturday evening.

usFrom left to right – Upa, Samar, Ramu and Chevy
Upa on guitar, Samar on guitar, Ramu on guitar, and Chevy on bass.

I’d always wanted to play live, even before I picked up the guitar in a David Gilmour infused frenzy. But I never really got a chance to play what I liked; Pink Floyd wasn’t appropriate or appreciated in school assemblies, no band would recruit a kid who didn’t play Bollywood songs, and no Lower Parel pub would give a gig to someone who can’t sing, even for free. So the four of us pressed on with continuing to learn guitar till the four of us were learning from the same gentleman. It was he who hosted the concert – the second annual RisinGen, for his students. It wasn’t so much a gig as a talent show, and we had talent.

Because being part of the not-rising gen is too mainstream.

We’d been practicing since I joined his classes in April, although actual practice happened barely thrice, two of which were in a studio. We met at my house at 6 PM as the show was to start two hours later. We practiced our set twice till we were satisfied enough to start making jokes at Ramu’s expense, as usual. Ramu and I played a bit of Dota 2 (3 of ours’ new obsession) and neither of us had our 7Up because we were feeling quite nervous.

 Pictured: What Laterebeight does best, absolutely nothing.

I’d been nervous before, to the point where my hands shook fervently – they do shake a little bit but it’s almost pendulum-like when I’m nervous. It’s that rickety rackety Parkinson impersonation that I’ve mastered, but guitar fingers do well to numb that particular feeling. Thankfully that didn’t happen this time because I wasn’t really nervous, just anxious for it to go well. We reached the venue 55 minutes after we were supposed to, but thanks to a trusty Indian tradition known as ‘delays’, we were early to the show. The trip from my house to Prabhadevi was spent talking about how late we were, how being late wouldn’t affect us because we were last to perform, and how some girl liked Samar.

The first set was quite frankly, one of the best things we’d ever seen in our lives. Five little kids – so small that had this been school recess, we’d have accidentally trampled them - playing Doe, a Deer. As the night grew on, Ramu and I went down to eat (I had a lovely wada pav, and he got a medu wada), leaving the other two wondering where we were and why we ditched them. I tried to call them, but there was no signal. Sadly, no one believed me. Many performances by some talented (and some not so talented) students later, it was our turn.

We don’t actually have a drummer in our band, or a vocalist, or technically even a bassist (Chevy borrowed a friend’s bass). Drums were being played by a guy called Joe, who was really quite good and fun to play with. I play lead guitar on two songs, interspersed with scatterings of rhythm. Samar is rhythm and electric. Ramu plays acoustic guitar with lead on one song, and Chevy plays the bass, and not the cod, as I often love to joke. None of us can sing, so we’ve never got around to it. [We’re still looking for our Freddie or Thom]. Our setlist for this gig was quite small, and we tried to fit as much into it as we could, so we did various parts of different songs that we knew and loved. It’s called the Greatest Hits medley.

Bonus Soundcheck: Money by Pink Floyd
1) Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd (Intro)
2) Let it Be by The Beatles (Acoustic Instrumental)
3) We Will Rock You by Queen (Instrumental)
4) Untitled Instrumental by Laterebeight (Riff and solo)
5) Stairway to Heaven (Intro)

Shivendra Shukla - bass maestro.I'm stuck in Limbo between Jonny Greenwood and David Gilmour

The performance went well – the crowd cheered quite loudly, the lady who was compering asked us to remember them when we became famous, and our guitar teacher told us we did a good job. So everything was great. But that’s not what I want to write about because victories are fleeting and plentiful. It’s the value of the combined losses that add value to a friendship. After one of our practice sessions the night before the concert, we went to one of our favourite places to eat, McDonalds, ordered a lot of food, and discussed our group’s dynamics.

Samar impersonating a guitarist sucessfullyRamu, thinking about playing Pirates of the Caribbean Theme Song but choosing not to

Laterbeight is a wonderful name for a band, but in the end it doesn’t mean anything. I picked out the name by making a portmanteau of two words from a random name generator. The words don’t form the band, it’s the people in it that do. Samar and I, between us, might provide 80% of the music, but Chevy gives us the solidarity and Ramu, the cohesiveness, without which our 8 year old group would have faded away into obscurity long ago. We might not even be interested in music as we grow older, but in true boys-will-be-boys fashion I think we’ll always be doing something or the other, whether it’s making videos, playing competitive Pokemon, getting into IIT, or harassing McDonalds’ customer support for their inevitable mishaps. Laterebeight, like Top Gear UK or the Queen of England, is going to stay. As the inside joke runs, our first album is called Greatest Hits and it’s releasing when we’re 24 years old in 2021. Stay tuned!

Laterebeight Facebook for more information

Laterebeight Twitter for less information

Laterebeight Youtube for our concert performance, practice sessions, and bloopers (mostly the latter).

And finally, watch part of the concert footage here!

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Upamanyu Acharya is a writer who doesn't write. Sometimes he's an artist, musician, photographer, physicist or lazy student. His hobbies include being vague, bending rules, time-travel, and embellishment of words.