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Thursday, December 17, 2009

The lives of flowers...

No hands reach out to caress
The blood red flower that blooms
Upon the cactus in the desert;
Though it has struggled much to be.

Elsewhere, loving hands tend to
And eager eyes await the rose;
A spoilt beauty that stays awhile
And droops at the first rainstorm.

Desert flower – it patiently waits.
But even a lost soul, in the desert,
Shuns it fearing the cactus thorns,
As if his roses did not bear any. Read More......

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Leap of faith

I took a leap of faith
Trying to close the chasm
That lies between us

Trusted you with facts
To see if I could trust you
With things like feelings

If anything was to be
It would have been, then
In that split second

Blankly, I see, you watch
And fade away to a dot
As the abyss swallows me

I’ll meet the ground soon
It won’t kill me, but I fear
Becoming addicted to the fall

But, there was no choice
You doubted the vague outlines
You made out through the mist
And the chasm was in the way Read More......

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Midnight walks

Sometimes, this place will drive you crazy. There will be too many things due the next day. Too many meetings being scheduled and rescheduled. Too much you’ve bitten off and can’t chew. Your room will be a mess with bundles of papers stuffed into random files and piles of unfolded laundry all around. There will be things bothering you, making you restless despite the work that remains to be done. After you catch your attention wandering for the tenth time, this is what you need to do.

Put on something warm and walk out of your room. Step out of the door and feel the cold immediately creep up. It is December, after all. Never mind. Just walk. Let your feet decide which direction they want to go. A lone wanderer in the midnight. There will be guards around but they will know that tonight you are chasing something within yourself. You’ll see them quietly blend into the darkness, leaving you to your quest. The trees will whisper in the still night as a cool breeze ruffles your hair. At some point, you’ll be walking into a light cold mist playing between the roadside trees. Just pull your jacket closer and walk on.

As you walk, you’ll notice the shiny flecks on the dark tar roads, reflecting the light from the sodium lamps. Like stars at your feet. With that, you’ll remember there is a sky and look up – the faint twinkles of fire greet you as an old friend. You’ve met them all in another place and age and time. You pause a while and try to remember their names and the stories behind them. Only a few come to mind. It was a long time ago; just walk on for now. Your footsteps will be the only thing you hear apart from the insects of the night. Sometimes, a moth will keep you company a part of the way.

When you’ve seen all there is to see; when you’ve breathed in enough cold air; when your cheeks grow icy and your hands begin to tingle – you’ll grow aware of your movement, each steady step set to a brisk pace; you’ll feel a faint ache set in somewhere; you see how far you’ve come from the discomfort of your room and you’ll feel a warmth that’ll spread from within. Allow yourself to think now – one by one, your mind will dig out the problems. With every step you take, reasoning begins and decisions will be made. Emotions seem to have been left behind somewhere along the way. One by one, the pile of troubles reduces. These decisions you make in the solemn night, with no witnesses to attest – you’ll oddly find them easy to stick to and somehow just right deep within. Tomorrow will not bring about a change of mind. Trust me.

Finally, you’ll turn your feet homeward. You’ll step back into your room - not exhausted, but just tired. Drop on to the bed and lie there, eyes closed. Feel the cold slip away from your body, looking for the night outside and another soul to comfort. Sleep will be along in a moment.  Just wait.
Read More......

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rites of Passage

Walk out into the world,
Find a little space to rest on;

Don’t follow anyone’s rules,
Push the limits, define your own;

Discover the inner rhythm,
Hear the whispers of your soul;

Listen for it in the silence,
When in crowds you feel alone;

Open to all there is,
This is the truest you’ll ever be.

And the rite of passage ends,
When you surrender this freedom. Read More......

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Harry Potter Quotes

It seems odd that this blog doesn’t yet contain any quotes from the Harry Potter books. So here goes..

  • Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.
  • It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.
  • If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.
  • Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.
  • Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.
  • It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
  • This is how it is -……….. - there are things worth dying for!
  • What's comin' will come and we'll meet it when it does.
  • It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.
  • It was like having friends.
Read More......

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I love you, Maggi

Dear Maggi 2-minute noodles,

I love you. I don’t know what I’d do without you. I come home at odd times, tired of running around and sick of work. The nights are cold these days and I am glad to be indoors where it is warmer. As I drop the keys back in my bag, I see that there is no one around. Empty houses don’t feel like home, you know, and right now, I desperately want to feel at home. I am hungry too and simply want something steaming hot.

I drop my bag and stare dolefully around wondering if I'd have to go back outside for a cup of hot chocolate. Thankfully, I decide to raid the fridge and cupboards first. And there you are…the sight of your yellow wrapper brings a relieved sigh. A cup of water with that heavenly masala goes into the pan and boils away merrily while I break the noodles up. I drop the noodles in the water and wait for the magic.

As I wait, I think back on the countless nights before this when I have stood waiting for you. You are a part of many memories with friends, studies, late nights, books, rain and a growling tummy.  I love this smell - who invented that masala anyway?  That little pouch is what makes you tick, you know.  That, and the fact that no one can go wrong with you.

A few minutes and stirs later, you are ready. I tip you carefully on to a plate and leave the pan to soak in the sink. It is a break for a few minutes as I sit down with a story book that I enjoyed years ago. You are too hot to eat yet. I set you down and try to find an interesting chapter to read.

Right there – Perfection. A book in hand, a warm house smelling of cooking and you nearby.

SIGH….

With love,
Me

Read More......

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Inspired by nature


Just to prove that my posts aren't all gloomy: A couple of poems inspired by nature. :)

Welcome, Distraction

Dragonflies in the afternoon light,
Gliding over fresh cut lawns;
Willing feet sink into sharp blades,
As I follow one and give up;
When wings shimmering, it darts away;
Escaping my playful fingers.
But another passes enticingly close,
Gleeful, I begin another dash;
Chasing dragonflies in the sun.


The Last Few

The sun is hidden
Behind light grey clouds
And the air is wet
After the rain
The last few drops fall
All the way down
Splashing into the puddle
A circle waves out
The next drop falls nearby
A smaller circle forms
And they clash
The old and the new
And it all looks so beautiful


Read More......

Saturday, October 03, 2009

An Absurd Quest

There was a dream I was in,
Where I lost something of value.

I searched, but my dream ended,
Before I recovered my treasure.

Since then, every dream I’ve had,
Memory drives an irrational search.

The scene shifts, twists out of shape,
And it always ends as an endless quest.

All I know is, I lost it in a dream,
And now, my only hope lies in another. Read More......

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dear Visitor

Walk down my gallery,
And see all you want to;

Don’t ask me to explain,
My motive or meaning.

My art, though is true,
Isn’t meant for 'em all.

Knowledge only burdens,
The unprepared mind.

So, stop struggling to see,
What is just out of sight.

The meaning is such,
That it heeds no effort. Read More......

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Daydreams...

I just finished a huge daydream spanning a few future years. It took me an hour to imagine it.

It was mainly about friendship. About dark, cold nights. Phone calls. Closure. Goodbyes and Hellos. Help. Clasped hands. A frantic chase. Hugs and tears. There was a letter too. And a confession. Cozy chats. Weak links. Sign language. Gatherings. And a face. Silence. Family and strangers. Happiness. Questions and answers. Cheerful voices. Apprehension. Many plans. All the right answers. Pleasant surprises. Perfection. Happiness.

Feelings have an odd way of spilling over from the imagination to reality. I don’t think they notice the difference. I don't think I do either. Read More......

Friday, September 18, 2009

Breaking Silent Nights...

I went to wash my face, tired of falling asleep over my notes. The tap was running and the lights felt harsh on the eyes. That was when it started. Someone was walking across the quadrangle outside, whistling. The notes were sharp and firm. He was excellent at it and I recognized the song ‘Teri adaaon pe marta hoon’ – from Barsaat. I remember watching Bobby Deol and Twinkle Khanna dance in that song - I think it was their debut film. Now, I just stood there smiling to myself and hummed along. Somehow I didn’t feel like finding out who it was. It felt like a moment to be enjoyed, uninterrupted by any questions. The night was silent except for him. He stopped after awhile. Somehow, sleep had vanished.

Some moments always tend to trigger memories. The last trip comes to mind - it was a CD straight out of college days. One after another all those old songs that we loved came up. We sang along, of course. Odd how I can perfectly recall every line of an old BSB song that I haven’t heard in years. The highlight was during the last length of return trip when the roads were emptying, and we felt particularly good after dinner. ‘So gaya ye jahaan’ from Tezaab came up – talk about timing! A smooth road, after the rains, cool breeze, open windows, a city going to sleep and we sang along. Twice. A perfect ending to a perfect trip.

I could go on and on as many of my fondest memories include music. I guess I have a thing for music and the night and silence and free voices – voices not trying to sound good, but just singing. Songs broken by giggles and abrupt changes in pitch. Songs we sing with a smile on our face, not caring how we sound and who hears us. Songs that just happen. Read More......

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It.

Just one more time. What difference does it make? It isn’t really wrong, you know? I’m not breaking the law for god's sake! I am not addicted! I can stop anytime. I’m not out of control. I like this. I am choosing this. How can I be out of control when I am making a rational choice? Why are you being so dramatic about this? It doesn’t hurt anyone. It really doesn’t hurt me. It’s just fun and it feels good. It isn’t my imagination! You have no idea what you are talking about. I am stronger than the others. They can’t deal with it – I can. What do you know anyway? I am not going to end up like them. This is just for now – only for now. When better things happen, I will stop of course. How will better things happen? Things happen, don’t they? I’m just waiting here. What else can I do? The others? I don’t want to see the others. They are perfect, I am not. There, happy? That is what you wanted me to say, isn't it? Why can’t you see? I need this. I want this. This thing – this one thing. Think? About what? Why? Don't you understand? I don’t want to think. Thinking is hard - thoughts keep crowding in my head. I want a blank mind. I can't sleep with all that screaming in my head. This? It kills the voices. It brings that blessed silence.

It’s OK. Don’t worry about me. I’m fine. Really.


PS: It's FICTION, people. Please don't get worried! Read More......

Monday, August 31, 2009

Voice from an empty nest

One from the past again.
--------

You are home after so long. I see you. Touch you. Listen to you. I’m just trying to assess the damage the world has inflicted. I want to know if you are ok. If you will be ok. My glance keeps coming back to your hands. They’ll tell me the truth. Despite your brave, kind lies.

Your hands, once so soft are now beginning to show changes. I notice the almost-healed cut on the thumb – what happened? You were cutting up vegetables for dinner? A splash of hot oil has left a burn mark on your wrist. You palms show the strain of having to pump water from the hand pump. The whiteness of the skin hidden by your watch strap is in sharp contrast to the rest of your hand. It speaks of hours of travel in the hot sun. The very lines on your palm seem to have changed directions. But, I also notice that your grasp, which used be that of a child holding on for guidance, is now changed. I feel the grasp of an adult and an equal. You are growing stronger. You stand tall and speak with confidence and conviction.

I’m still scared for you, of course. I can never be sure that you have all that you need. I will fret and worry. Never mind me. I’m just wondering if I did everything I should and could for you. There is no way of absolutely knowing that. I know that. And yet, I do wonder and hope. Read More......

Friday, August 28, 2009

Change

Everything changes. Everything. That is it.

You are walking constantly and so are the others. For a while, you fall in pace with someone. And there is company - laughter and conversation. Then comes a ditch that you cross in a leap and the other chooses to circumvent. You are over the pit instantly and have to keep walking. You can’t wait. You have to keep going. You try walking in circles feeling a bit clever. But somehow, the land is moving too. Nothing ever falls in place in exactly the same way. You try and try and only go dizzy. You take a last look at the familiar face and stop trying.

Sooner or later, you learn that you cannot re create moments or feelings. A memory is just that. A memory. It is a past record. Not a promised future. You stop trying to hold on to what was and go on to create more memories. Such a lot of effort. But there really is no other way. The odd thing is, it isn’t a lesson that stays with you to prevent future mistakes. It happens over and over again. You don’t learn from this mistake. Read More......

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Big Read list - how many you have?

Picked this tag from this blog.

The Big Read
reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they've printed.

* Look at the list and bold those you have read.
* Italicize those you intend to read.
* Mark in RED the books you LOVE.
* Reprint this list in your own blog.
* Having seen the movie/cartoon/TV series is not the same as having read the book.
* Reading abridged versions also does not count. :)


The List

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

I tag everyone reading this :) This is fun! Read More......

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Forget it...

No. I don’t talk about it. Why should I? The more I say the words, the more firmly they embed in my memory. It becomes a story that I narrate over and over again. With time, it will morph into something different from what it was. Unconsciously, of course. Tiny changes - a word here, a word there. I will even believe in every version of it. Soon it will turn into a reason; an excuse I will use with indignant righteousness.

No, better say nothing. Let it be even if I can't let go yet. I feel it now, but without sufficient attention, most things attenuate into nothingness.

I don’t have to forgive if I just forget. Read More......

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mostly ok

Pain isn’t all agony always. There aren’t any tears or even that choked up feeling in the throat.

Sometimes, it is just a deeper sigh than usual. Or a stolen second glance. Or a momentary loss of breath. Or a finger tracing a face in a picture. It is that refusal to look someone in the eye. That search for past feelings in familiar places and actions. An endless walk on aimless feet. It is like the warmth that a hug leaves behind. A phantom feeling.

If you look at it that way, it isn’t really much. Read More......

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

That Feeling

A poem from the past.


That Feeling

Don’t let it lie,
It won’t die on its own.

Don’t go to sleep, thinking,
It’ll be gone when you awaken.

It’ll stay alive and well, and,
Feeding on you, it’d have grown.

And, you can’t even kill it,
With a single bold stroke.

You see, ‘tis like the dam,
Holding back the flood.

Throwing the gates open,
Will only flood the valley.

Holding it all back,
Will only break the dam soon.

You need to open the gate a bit,
Let the water flow, little by little.

So, try it out this way,

Cut the wound a little,
Let the blood trickle,

Let the life seep out,
Feel its hold slacken,

It’ll take time,
But it will go away this way.

But, whatever you do,

Don’t let it lie,
It will not die on its own.

Read More......

Friday, August 07, 2009

The unwilling picture

Scraps of information,
Tossed away, unthinking;

Gathered by the one,
Who knows where to look.

Got enough to start with,
Patch them up on guesses;

Attention then turning,
To the next possible circle.

Scrounge around for tidbits,
Search in what is done with;

Put all the bits together,
See the semblance appear.

Step back a few and look,
At the unwilling picture. Read More......

Monday, July 13, 2009

Confessions

I whispered those little words,
When you were fast asleep.
You might have heard them,
As a part of a strange dream.
You seem puzzled about it now.
But my hidden and veiled ways,
Will not be found till you believe.
Free of guilt; yet not judged;
Mine is the perfect confession. Read More......

Friday, July 10, 2009

Where do you go?

Where do you go when you run away?
Do you merely run around at random;
Only wishing to get far away from,
What you carry within your heart?

Do you walk deep in to the woods,
And sit down beside the old trees,
Listening to them whisper secrets,
Feeling left out all over again?

Do you wander into the marketplace,
Losing yourself within the crowds?
Yet, knowing you aren't one of them,
Just a fraud in the public space.

Do you walk on calm sandy beaches,
And sit down beside dancing waves?
Watching them play with the shore,
Feeling lost in the lovers' world.

Do you slide into a shallow pool,
Withdrawing into that liquid womb,
Blinded. Deafened. Mute and Numb,
Wishing for strength to stay forever?

Do you stop by a place of worship,
And drop to your knees before him?
Asking questions you want answered,
But, greeted by only passive silence?

I don't know why you wander so far,
To find that place to sink into,
An open heart awaits you here always,
Deep enough for you to hide forever.

Why do you go afar, when you run away? Read More......

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Understanding

I found a few words,
Put together in a certain way.

They puzzle me a lot,
As they dance in my mind drunkenly.

Making one meaning now,
Then another as they change partners.

He can stop the music,
And explain it all; but, I hesitate.

Everything is a haze now,
And I'm starting to doubt my sobriety.

I'll just wait for the party to end,
Maybe it'll make more sense to me, then. Read More......

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Conversations...

I enjoy, need and thrive on conversations. You know - the real and true ones - where there is no pretense. Just two people willingly siting down and talking. Those magic moments when you forge a connection with another and neither is willing to break it. The kind where you are almost afraid to stop, because you aren't sure if there would be a repeat.

Life throws a lot of questions at you and sometimes, you are unlucky enough to not find the answers to it. But you do try. To help you along, life throws people at you. You have to somehow connect to another human being and you do try. It doesn't always work out. Everybody is interesting in their own right, just not to everyone else. You keep looking for kindred spirits all the time.

I keep realizing how much of myself I discover during my conversations with people. It is as if every answer was there inside all the time, waiting for the right question to be asked to unlock it. Do you know what I mean? I realize my stand, frame my arguments, understand another perspective, process so many bit of info in my head and concrete my views. Conversations force me to think and realize. How much each person contributes isn't always balanced, but both people can't think of anything else they'd rather do at that moment. That is what counts.

There are moments when you can sit in a crowd and still feel lonely. Or you walk out of a fun situation, full of jokes and banter and have loneliness overwhelm you in the darkness as you walk away from the brilliant lights. But, some conversations really warmly cocoon you. They create a high from where it takes a while to get down. You can just keep going back over and over again to the same few words and almost recreate that initial delight.

Conversation are a gift of a person's time to me. I would ask for nothing more. Read More......

Friday, June 19, 2009

For old times' sake

You are always here,
Hiding in the crowd.
And I try to find ways,
To reach out to you.
Infusing special meanings,
In the words of my songs.
Hoping you understand;
And wanting you to know.
It isn’t easy to face a void.
Yet, you hide behind silence,
Though you still see and hear,
But, blinded by the lights,
I have no choice, but sing.
Would you return the favor,
Just for old times' sake? Read More......

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Poem: Overall

Overall

Above all and beneath it all,
Just so afraid of one or the other.

Bad decisions? Anyone better?
Worth unknown in these new places.

Felt the pulse of each interaction,
Built impressions, possible reactions.

Voices heard by extrapolation,
In the silence that greets an entrance.

Found sights to dislike and unrelate to,
Remaining alone by choices made.

Made up a meaning for all this too,
Twisting what is to sate an ache. Read More......

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The unsaid.

1. Have you ever smiled?
2. How can you be so damn sweeet?
3. How much more can you take?
4. Wow…you are rude today, buddy! What’s up?
5. And I thought you were quiet. :)
6. That was some thought!
7. Dude! Stop it, please!
8. What did you just say?
9. Tell me what is important. I am lost.
10. This is fun! We should do this more often!
11. You have done all of that? Wow!
12. Did you honestly not know?
13. Why did you even bother?
14. Do you ever stop laughing? :)
15. You are super-woman!
16. Are you sure?
17. How on earth do you do that!
18. You are nice.
19. Do you sleep at all?
20. That comes at an expense, you know.
21. Whoa! Don’t run!
22. Look around. See? There are others too!
23. You really need to stop doing that.
24. It was just a joke. I’m sorry.
25. Don’t you DARE! Read More......

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

While you are here...

You run a marathon as if it were a sprint,
Till you find your pace in each terrain.

You push your limits on another's scale,
Till you make it a race with your past.

You defend against chance opponents,
Till you realise this ain't your game.

You rest with just a deeper breath,
Till you glance beyond the finish line.

You dismiss the ache of dormant ability,
Till reason finally catches up with you.

You know all along what you want to do,
You're just too scared to say it aloud.

And that you've noticed life's hard knocks,
Only tells me you may be on the wrong path.

---
Cross-posting from my class blog. I guess this would make sense only to my fellow students, though. :) Read More......

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Defining limits...

Some things have to lie within
But where do I draw the lines,
To show where the boundaries lie?

I feel safest in the tightest circle.
But, that’s a self worn strait jacket-
As if I am the danger to begin with.

I opened up enough to let you in,
But with you came in others too,
Couldn’t keep check after that.

I’m not quite sure why I want lines –
For me or for you. For us or them.
Each bound anyway by free will of another.

I’m a part of me, us, them and then all
Tell me, how do I draw the lines,
To show where the boundaries lie? Read More......

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Help.

I need to talk right now.
No, I’m sorry.
It can’t wait till you have,
Nothing better to do.
The words are ready in my head.
No idea how they got there.
But now, there is this voice,
That wants to be heard.
It is mine, not me-understand?
A new born creature I host,
That waits on the tip of my tongue,
Turns into a lump in my throat,
And sudden screams in my self.
Silencing thought. Stopping action.
Choiceless, reluctant, I ask of you.
Please listen. I need to talk right now. Read More......

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Turning a corner...

I’ve often split myself to avoid making decisions,
And I’ve walked on every path that I wished to see.

There were limits to the things I could do,
But, it was a small price to pay for a taste of it all.

I kept my various lives separate till now,
Never mentioned this there or that here.

Today, there is a lone road leading away.
And I'm struggling to merge the best of all worlds in one.

I see I’ll have to leave some things behind,
Bolted as they are, to this place or time.

Tomorrow, though I may seem very different to you,
Nothing was a lie – just more to me than met your eye. Read More......

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Letter to Samantha

I wrote this story more than two and a half years back. Many of the things I've written in this story, were realised while writing it. The end product has turned out to be loooong and really preachy. It actually sounds as if I've decided on all the answers. But, it was with this, that I actively started thinking about some stuff. That is why it is so special to me, I guess. Hope you find enough patience to read the whole thing. :)

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Letter to Samantha

Dear Samantha,

I came home from work a bit early yesterday. I normally assume you are in your room working or reading. I never come upstairs to call you before dinner. But something didn't feel right yesterday. I came up to your room and found you lying on the floor. You lay on your side, your back to the door and your knees drawn up to your chest. I thought you were crying. I knelt down near you and touched your shoulder and softly called out your name.

Then I saw the pool of blood and the razor. I remember how I felt then. My heart stopped beating for a moment. I know it did. I felt it stop and then stay that way. Then I saw you heave for a breath. I closed my eyes and willed my heart to beat again. I felt it beat again - Faster and faster. Louder and louder. As if it was trying to beat for you too.

I remember running downstairs for the phone. I called the hospital. I called your dad. I ran back up leaving the door open. You were unconscious. But alive. I dropped down on the floor and tried to stop the bleeding. But it wouldn't stop. You always did things well. Even this. The cloth I held turned bright red as your life spilled out.


I remember talking to you, saying stupid things - more to comfort myself than to help you. I told you that you were going to be ok. The ambulance was on its way. They'd help you. They would save your life. But would they actually help you? I didn't know. I wished you'd open you eyes and yell 'April Fool' though it was December. I wished I would wake up and find that it was just a nightmare. Wake up darling. Wake up. Wake up. Open your eyes and everything will be fine. I was babbling.

I heard the wail of the ambulance siren as it raced closer, then a screech of tires as it stopped. Men running up the stairs. Someone banging doors downstairs. Someone found us and called the others. Suddenly the room was full of people. They took you from me. Doing their job, calm and collected. Someone was asking me questions. I answered him but I never took my eyes off you even for a single second. I rushed after them down the stairs as they went holding you in a stretcher. A neighbor noticed the noise and came over. She was speaking to me, but I didn't understand what she was saying. I nodded mechanically – all I cared about was your frail form in that stretcher being taken away. I climbed into the ambulance along with the paramedics. I still spoke to you nonstop. Jabbering away without a pause.

At the hospital they took you into a room and left me outside. 'Don't worry', said someone, 'They'll save her'. I nodded and sat down. Your father came after a few minutes - Scared and anxious about his little girl. I pointed to the door behind which you lay. It was chaos out there in the corridor. People were rushing in and out of rooms, carrying equipment, medicines, pushing patients in wheelchairs. I felt lost in there. We sat on a bench opposite to the room you were in. The tears finally came then. We cried for you and talked now and then. The doctors came out. Non-committal tones….. God…. Blood…. Loss….. ICU……

I don't know how many hours it has been now. You are in the ICU. They have let me stay near you and I'm writing this. Why? Perhaps to tell you tomorrow when you wake up? I don't know. To ask you questions? To doubt myself? To remember this forever? Maybe I hope that if I spill my thoughts on these sheets of paper, my heart will hurt less?

Right now Samantha, I have no idea why you did this. You wrote no note. I saw no signs of your pain. What drove you to this?

Did you do it to spite someone? Did you find some pain too much to bear? Did you not find any friend to share with? Did we make too many demands? Did you not find happiness in your work? Did someone hurt you? Did something scare you? Did someone leave you? Were you forced to do something you didn't want to do? Did you lose something? Did you love someone who did not love you? Did you care too much? Did you break rules? Did you do something wrong? Did you fear something? Were you ashamed of something? Did you feel guilty for anything? Did you envy someone? Was jealousy a reason? Were you dissatisfied with something? Did you hate something? Are you sick? Were you sad? Did you think you failed in something? Were you tired of trying? Did you feel unnoticed?

I have put down every possible reason I can think of. But I don't expect an answer from you. Whatever reason you had, there was something that made you to stop wanting to live. I don't want to know the reason. I want to know the reason that reason took you this far. Why did that single reason make you decide this while you could have had a thousand other reasons to live? What power does one single thing hold over your very life?

Something happened and your heart hurt so much that you didn't want to live. I don't know what I can do my darling, I cannot hide every bottle of pills, I can't remove every sharp object on earth so you wouldn't use it to hurt your little body, I have never been able to prevent you from doing something if you really wanted to do it. You could always find a way over every obstacle. I have to make you want to live. That is the only way. I desperately want to say that even if the whole world isn't with you, I will be and you must live at least for my sake. But I cannot say that. I keep thinking of you as a part of me. I cannot help it. I'm your mother. I now realize that you are not a part of me. I would have known if any part of me had been in pain, wouldn't I? But I never knew it in your case. No. Not a part of me. But you are a part of my life. My joy and pride. My child.

I was just an instrument to bring you into this world. But you are a separate person - with a mind and heart of your own. Just because you are our child does not mean that you will turn out exactly like me or like your father. The circumstances you have grown in are different, the people you have been with are different and the world you grew up in was different. But I still hope you take in the good in us in your self. You see Sammy, people are not born with a personality. You are born with your mind empty except perhaps for instinct, and as you grow you learn things. The first few years of your life were just spent in learning how to survive. After that you started to think, make decisions and from then on your personality started to evolve. We are all just creating our self. Creating our personality and evolving into a person who is an eclectic mix of good and bad – the sources of which lie in the persons we deal with, the books we read, the work we do, the ideals we believe in, and oh many many more. Who you are, is therefore not just the physical ‘you’ that we created, it is mainly the mind in your head that you created.

You created your self.

Do you see the immense possibility and the power in that? Do you now see how you have the power to do anything on earth that you want to? Do you see how you can be any way that you want to be? Do you realize the wonder of life Sammy? There is absolutely no carbon copy of you on earth. You are the only one of your kind. Do you realize how special that is? You. This bundle of being called you? Out of the billions and billions of people who have walked and will walk here …there isn't anyone who'll fit into your shoes as perfectly as you do. There is a reason why you are the way you are. That purpose of your life is a nagging question that will drag you to search in many places and believe me, the hunt is what makes your life worthwhile.

There are some people whose lives are such that they live for sometime after they die – either because of fame or because of notoriety. There are others whose presence is limited to their lifespan, who live their lives quietly and pass on with out any racket. I don't know which of the two you are destined to be, Sammy. This is a pretty old world and has seen millions of lives. People don't live on Sammy – their work does, their achievements do, their talents do. Books, poetry, buildings, bridges, movies, music, industries, contributions, designs, styles, creations, products – These are what live on. The creator is lost with time. The creation is not. Perhaps now, we don't know who actually invented the wheel – maybe in a thousand years from now no one will remember who invented the telephone. A towering building is built on foundations. The foundation is lost to sight, but it is still there holding the building up. Your work is what you leave to the world, to build on, to negate, to disprove, to understand, to appreciate, to realize, to experience, to help, to learn from, to reach out and to inspire.

That is why Sammy, you need to live, work, create for yourself and for the sake of the work itself. You can not live for others. When you set out to create something, you don't think of the others – you think of how much you want to do and see it done. You think of satisfying yourself. You are not fighting the world Sammy. You are competing against yourself, against the best that you can be. When you set a goal, you must set it by your measuring stick. You can not measure your success using another person's yardstick. You see, we all know where we want to be and what we are capable of. And we are trying to reach there. To the place where we are at our best. Not where we are the best. But where we are at OUR best. That is the only measurement of our worth.

Most of the times, the very result we aimed for will be less satisfactory than the joy we had in the effort we put in to achieve it. Effort spans a lifetime but the result is always a split second. Now do you get where the actual happiness lies, sweety? Dreams are what drive a person. Once you fulfill them, there will always be a strange lingering sorrow – the sorrow that the chase is over and your life suddenly comes to a halt. Only then, you will realize the truth that your actual dream was to chase the dream and not to actually achieve it. Strange is life and stranger are the emotions of humans, Sammy. Shouldn't you be alive to experience this wonder itself?

Yes. 100 years from now, maybe no one will care if a girl called Samantha walked here on earth. But that doesn't matter Sammy. What matters is that you do walk now. The smallest action of one person will cascade over and over like a snow ball rolling down the hill. So you will make a difference no matter what. Unfortunately life is not a movie for us to play back and check ourselves, our actions and their effects. But rest assured sweetheart that you do matter.

Perhaps your mind is confused now, perhaps you heart is troubled. You have ventured into the world and then realized that the world is not perfect. Perhaps I should have cushioned your fall a bit. No. I don't mean that I want to protect you from the world - it is your life and I will not be around forever. I mean that I should have prepared you for what was to come. There is only one cushion a person has against adversity – Confidence. I should have taught you to understand your worth and your strengths. I should have shared my life’s experiences with you, so that you don’t make those mistakes in your life. But somehow we always want to see for ourselves if the paint is really wet despite a board that says so, right? But still, I should have found a way to share my experience with you so that you had a chance to learn and profit from it. There is one thing I blame myself for; that you did not seek help when your heart was troubled. I taught you to be self-reliant. I never taught you that it was ok to be tired sometimes and to lean on a loved one for support and to rest awhile. We were too busy being the perfect parents that we never let you see the painful times in our lives and how we overcame it. You were a large part of our lives. But we made only our joys a part of yours, and not our sorrows. Maybe, if we had done that you might not be fighting for your very life now?

Maybe you expected that your little world would be perfect? Then you saw that it wasn't. But Samantha, how do I tell you this - there is no such thing as a perfect world. Every single thing in your world has both good and bad in it. This is not a movie Sammy, where the actors are superheroes and embodiment of perfection. This is real. In the real world, everyone you meet has both good and bad in them. You must have felt this before. In yourself. One person means different things to different people. When you judge a person, Sammy you actually are judging him by what he is to you and not by what he is to the different people around him. People are odd creatures, Sammy. They aren't the same to everyone around them. If you try to judge a person by what he is to the others around you, you will understand what I mean and perhaps you will find yourself getting confused. We are all human – with good and bad and shades of gray in us. Just because you can see only one shade of a person does not mean there are no others.

Take yourself for example, now.

There is someone who loves you. There is someone who hates you. There is someone who respects you. There is someone who worships you. There is someone who envies you. There is someone who is indifferent to you. There is someone who likes you. There is someone who is your friend. There is someone who thinks you are pretty. There is someone who feels you are nice. There is someone who believes in you. There is someone who trusts you. There is someone who admires you. There is someone who salutes you. There is someone who doubts you. There is someone who laughs at you. There is someone who laughs with you. There is someone who hurts you. There is someone who scares you. There is someone who is glad to be with you. There is someone who dislikes being with you. If you want the whole world to like you, that is not going to happen. For the same reason why you don't like everyone you meet.

You will perhaps meet undesirable characters, perhaps be forced to be where you'd rather not be. You'll have to put up with people's sneers, their criticism, their low expectations from themselves, their fears and their insecurities. You'll have to deal with these uncertainties without giving way under their burden. Don't ever let another person's opinions, words or actions dictate your life. Every man owns only his own life and nothing else. Don’t let anyone take over yours. Keep your life under your control. Use your mind Sammy, you can and you must grow stronger under pressure. Haven't you heard about how diamonds are made under tremendous pressure? You will never be in any situation which you cannot handle. Any time you feel that you need help, just look around you Sammy. There is always help at hand for a person from friends or relatives or neighbours or total strangers. The world is a crazy place. But there are many decent souls as well.

There will be times when you do something wrong. What ever you do, accept the punishment for your wrong. Learn from the mistakes and then let go. Sometimes the very guilt may be your punishment. Your own mind will be the one punishing you, reminding you of your wrongdoing. No my darling, you are not alone. Every one around you is also drowning in guilt at times. Try and make amends if you can. Otherwise hold that guilt and bear it with grace. Use it as a tool to discipline yourself and as a result to better yourself as a human. Understand that you are not alone even in this. It is when guilt has no bearing on you that you have to worry.

We sometimes do things right. Sometimes we do wrong. Don't be cruel on yourself. There is no need to. The point is to go on and do less wrong. The point is to live and to grow into a better person day by day. Most importantly, remember to be happy despite all the trials.

We make our own happiness Sammy, by the choices and decisions we make. And there is no such thing as an unchangeable decision. You can always go back. Make sure you do go back before any damage is done. You wouldn't keep driving down a road once you realize you are going in the wrong direction, would you Sammy? No you'd try to find the nearest exit on the highway and figure out how to set your direction right. You have to do that in life too. Your only objective on earth must be your happiness, earned in a fair and just manner with no harm intended to anyone around you.

Right now you are sleeping. When ever you wake up you just lie there, saying nothing. I have not questioned you. You'll speak to me when you want to. Your bandaged hands will serve as a grim reminder of your heart’s pain. You will hold the scars for the rest of your life. I am not concerned about the physical scars now. I am wondering about the painful wounds you hold in your heart. This may sound very strange and unreal, but they will heal too. With time comes change and with change, the heart fills with a million thoughts, healing the wounds. But first of all, you must choose life. Don't go back on this path again Samantha. This pain you are going through now, that led you to this decision, will not be forever. There are people who can help you and will. You will come back to live. I know.

Anytime you feel unhappy or pained, think of all that you have not done yet. The things you want to do. Think of the music you have not made yet and choose life and happiness, my love.

With Love,
Mamma.
Read More......

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Short Story : Knowledge Transfer

Since I can't think of anything to blog these days, here's another story written two years back :)

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Dawn had not yet broken over the city. It was a cool morning but the day ahead promised to be a hot and sweltry one. Pedaling hard on his rickety old cycle, the boy turned in to the main road, emerging from a maze of side-streets - somewhere in the middle of which was his home. It was a bit too early for him to be up, but he needed to get to work early.

He could see that the kerosene lamp at the news mart was lit - the owner was there already then. The sound of the newspaper truck grew louder as it came nearer; the boy felt the rush of wind as it overtook him. He heard the sound of the bundles of newspapers slamming on to the pavement as he reached the store. Cold fresh morning air – for all the pollution in the city, somehow the earth managed to give her children a clean start everyday. ‘Odd, how she manages to do that’, the boy thought idly as he jerked the cycle back on its parking stand and locked it.


The owner walked out of the store carrying a little stool and a notebook. He glanced at the boy “In so early?” He asked as he settled down on the stool and started untying the bundle of papers. The boy didn’t answer. He just settled down on the pavement and began helping. “The new fellow should be here soon”, the owner continued, “You have another half an hour before you need to start out anyway and…”.

“Have to get started early today. It’ll take time to show him everything today”, the boy interrupted.

The owner fell silent and the two of them sorted out the bundles of papers. They were just about done when the tower clock stuck an early hour. The boy could see another cyclist coming up the road. “The new chap”, he thought to himself. It was. The newcomer parked his cycle near the boy’s and walked over to the owner. The boy turned away and began stacking the bundles up. He could hear the owner talking to the new chap. Soon he called the boy over and introduced them. The boy took in the other – He was a little fellow, couldn’t have been more than 12 years old. “I was even more young when I started”, the boy thought with a fierce pride rushing through him. The Owner was saying, “He’s been doing that route for 5 years now. It’s his last day today. He’ll show you the houses. Note everything down. Don’t miss any house. It’s early today. From tomorrow you can come in half an hour later than this. That second bundle is yours. You’ll be delivering it in about 12 streets. You know the area right? You won’t get lost or something? Oh! you live here only, don’t you? Ok then…Get going.”

“Come” the boy called out as he walked to the bundle of papers. The little fellow was at his heels at once. The boy picked up the bundle of papers and separated them into two. He pushed one bundle over to the little fellow “Tie this on your cycle carrier. Get some rope from the owner”. The boy finished tying his bundle on the cycle carrier and turned to the other cycle. The little fellow had exactly copied the way he had tied the bundle himself and was looking at his face eagerly waiting for more instructions.

The owner called out, “Come back later to get your wages settled”. The boy thought for a moment and asked “Can I take it now? I’m leaving in the afternoon.” The Owner nodded and motioned to him to come into the shop. He checked the details in a ledger and counted out the bank notes. He added an extra 50 rupees from his pocket and handed it to the boy “There you are, all settled. Count it and sign here”. The boy signed and closed the ledger, the pen still marking the page inside. “Thanks for the extra money. I’ll go home after we finish the route. Tell the other boys also. I’m leaving in the afternoon.” he said. The owner patted him on the shoulder and said gruffly, “You’ve been a good worker. You’ll be fine, boy. Go on now.” He would miss the boy- it wasn’t often that he got quiet, hard working chaps like him.

The boy went out and saw that the little fellow was already seated on the cycle, one foot on the pedal and the other balanced against the pavement, idly pedaling back and forth while he waited. The boy found that he resented this. The kid was, by chance, facing the direction he usually set out on the route. The boy unlocked and turned his cycle around to face the other way. “This way”, he said and the kid hastily turned around. The boy started off in front and the kid followed. With half the papers on the little fellow’s cycle, the boy found it easier to pedal. He could see that the little fellow wasn’t used to the load. He wondered if the kid realized that from the next day, it would only be harder, carrying the entire load. The Sunday papers would be even heavier. The magazines were the worst of the lot – He’d then have balance two bags of magazines slung from his handlebars also. The boy slowed down a bit so that the kid could catch up.

After twisting through many side lanes they reached the first house. The boy stopped. The kid parked his cycle and came over, pulling out a sheet of paper and pencil from his pocket. “One Hindu and one Dhina Malar here everyday. Kumudham every week.” The kid diligently noted all this and wrote down the door number and street name. Then he picked out the papers from his bundle and opening the gate left them at the front step of the house. The boy was starting to pedal on when the kid came back. He hadn’t told the kid that the house owner always wanted the paper to be properly folded and slipped into the grillwork.

A few streets away, they reached the road where most of the customers stayed. He stopped in front of a huge apartment. The boy came back to him and noted down all the details as he rattled them off “There are three buildings here. First building Ground floor – 1A Hindu and Economic times. 2A Hindu alone. First floor 5A Dhina Malar, Anandha Vikatan and Kumudham. 6A – Hindu and Mangayar Malar. Second Floor 9A Hindu and Indian Express, Tinkle and Chandamama, 10A Hindu, Economic Times, Business India and India Today. In the next building Ground floor 2B take Hindu and Sunday times. 4B Indian Express and Dhina Thanthi, Second floor 10B Hindu and Gokulam, Chandamama, 11B Hindu and India Today. In the third building Ground Floor…..” he went on.

The little fellow looked at the long list and hoping that he hadn’t missed out anything, counted out a huge bundle of papers. It took him nearly 20 minutes to deliver the papers there. He came out, slightly out of breath from climbing the stairs. The boy had been leaning against gate talking to the watchman. He watched as the kid drank some water after asking the watchman. They started off again. Behind them, in the third building the man in flat 12A had let his dog out. The kid had left the newspapers resting against the door of each flat, on the floor. The Pomeranian created a mess on two of the papers. In the floor below, it ripped two of the newspapers apart. The boy had not told the kid to make sure he slid the papers under the door for everyone in the third building.

The little fellow dropped off the tamil newspapers in the third house. He came back and they set off – the boy had seen the other car there, he did not tell the kid that if that happened, he had to ring the bell and ask if they wanted the English paper as well. At the next stop, the kid went to the first floor to leave the newspaper at the door. The boy didn’t tell him that the owner preferred to find the paper thrown on to the balcony from the street.

All the things that he had missed out would make life terrible for his successor for the next few days. Then he too would learn. On his own. Alone. This was the first job that the boy had held. He remembered all the difficulties he had faced in those five years. The things he had learnt had not come easily, handed on a platter. It had taken scoldings, angry customers, missed newspapers, late deliveries, wrong deliveries of the past 5 years to be what he was that day. He knew that his customers were a satisfied lot. He had treated it as more than just a paper route. His aim had not been to deliver the papers in the morning. He had delivered them right when and in the way that people wanted it. He was how they all began their day.

He had planned out a careful route to cover them all, leaving the late risers at the end of the route. He had taken care not to irritate the elderly men who woke up early and fretted if they couldn’t read the paper before their coffee, by putting them in at the beginning of the route. Today he had taken a different route totally. The kid would now have to figure it all out on his own.

He had not told the little fellow about the little girl in the previous street who insisted on his ringing the bell to wake her up if he was delivering the comic books. Nor about the old lady in this last house who asked him to read out the headlines to her as the others in the house woke up pretty late. In many such small ways he had inter-twined himself into his customers’ lives. He did not feel that the kid had a right to that. The kid would have to build his own way of working and would bring something of his life into the others’ lives. But the kid should not mean the same thing to the people as the boy had.

He could not bear the thought that tomorrow morning he would not be doing this. That someone would step into his shoes. He had the obligation to pass on his knowledge to the little fellow. But he somehow couldn’t bear to be replaced by another that fast and that easily. Atleast for the next week or two, he would be missed. He knew what he was doing wasn’t right. But, he wanted to know that there would be people whose lives would be a little difficult or at least unpleasantly different for awhile.

Insecurity? Yes. Most probably. That basic human need for feeling wanted. The need to be a part of another’s life. For most people, it is that link that gives them a feeling of worth. God! How sick it sounds when I put it down on paper. But it is true. It is another’s appreciation that makes us feel good. Somehow, an unappreciated effort doesn’t seem to have as much value for us. What others see in us means more to us than what we see in ourselves. How much power do we bestow upon our fellow beings! And how easy is it for them to hurt us. The power to create our happiness no longer lies within us. It lies in hands of all those who surround us. People, who are most probably damned indifferent anyway, are the ones we depend on to let us experience the flavor of joy.

Won’t it be wonderful to meet someone who wasn’t insecure about himself? Someone who doesn’t need another person’s sanction to feel a justified pride in his achievements. A person who is so secure in his knowledge of his worth that he needs no reassurance from those around him? Someone, who doesn’t suffer from the illusions that seem to blind most people? Someone who realizes that he is dispensable in most situations and is able handle that truth and all its implications? Someone who, despite the implications of that truth, finds a joy in his life and in living it? Does such a person exist somewhere? A man who does not need others – a purely self-contained individual.

It actually makes no sense – the way we hold on to the past. Why was the boy doing this? Selfishness, perhaps. Maybe mixed with a lot of fear too. Was he was afraid that this was the best he could be. Clinging on to the past probably gave him a false sense of security --- the past is so comforting, isn’t it? Pathetic …Pathetic….. . Scared humans walking all around, guarding their territories like dogs do. Why does the human heart crave permanence everywhere? Everything is so fleeting – fame, failure, success, love, hate, money, achievement…everything. Why do we keep trying to hold on to it all? It all seems so desperate. As if we are trying to achieve immortality by resisting all the changes in life.

Tomorrow, the boy would be miles away and would have no way of knowing it, even if he were missed. But at least he would be safe in his ignorance of reality; free to imagine whatever he pleased, about the situation in the place he was now leaving. He could see that the kid was sharp and would soon be doing just fine at the job. Perhaps he would do better. He would learn to fold the newspapers properly so that he could throw it properly; he’d figure out the correct route and understand people’s needs and preferences. He would gradually entwine into the lives of his customers. The boy didn’t want to think about it. He just wanted to get his last day at work, over with.

It took a long time. But some time later, the cycle carriers were empty. The boy turned to the kid at the last house after delivering the paper. “That’s all. You have written down the whole list right?” The little fellow nodded. The boy checked it once to make sure he had not missed out any paper for any house and then handed the paper back. That was the only thing he would pass on to the kid.

Nothing more. Nothing less.
Read More......

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The death and life of a rose

The girl was in a hurry, I suppose. She had to struggle a bit to get off the train as people outside tried to get on at the same time. As she made it out of the bunch of people crowding at the doors, the rose fell off. A beautiful red rose, more a bud than a flower. The girl had not noticed. I watched the rose and hence the people.

A man walked briskly down the platform with a large suitcase in hand - he almost didn't see it. Then when he did, he fumbled awkwardly in his desperation to avoid stepping on it. He even turned back to make sure he hadn't crushed it. So did everyone else who came along. They all sidestepped the rose so carefully. The fat lady with large shopping bags, the children who walked holding their father’s hands, the lovers who walked holding each other’s,..everyone. They even gave others sufficient warning so that they wouldn’t step on it.

And the rose? It just lay there, letting the world treat it as a queen and a whore at the same time.

Maybe something would happen to it by mistake? And it did. The man rushed to catch the train, dragging his suitcase behind him. It was the luggage that did it – he noticed the wobble as one wheel went over the bud, tearing some of the petals. He paused to see and I fancy he hesitated the tiniest bit. But he had a train to catch, maybe friends and family waited at the other end of the journey. He shrugged away his guilt and rushed on. A child with a pre-occupied mother, picked it up then. How must that caress have felt? I felt a faint upsurge – must have been hope. But, mother snatched it away with a scolding. The child being only a child, was quickly occupied with a colourful poster. The rose now lay crumbled. The child’s hold too seemed to have damaged it more. Or was the damage because mother snatched it away?

How did it matter? The damage was done. After that, no one hesitated, no one changed their step, no one glanced back. Shoes, slippers, luggage and bare feet -they all pressed the flower into the hard concrete. Till it died. Thankfully, the sweeper came over soon, removed the carcass and hid it away in a dustbin.

Poor darling, it wasn’t your fault. How would you have known that you couldn’t let go for even an instant? That you should have clung on, with even a single fibre of your self. Some stranger may have alerted the girl and she may have saved you. Everyone would have admired you at the girl’s office. If only you had known enough to hold on. But you fell. How were they to know that you weren’t thrown away?

Oh! But, I knew. And even I didn’t save you. What a damned life you had.

I must give you life now. In the only way I can. Here. In my words. From my heart. Read More......

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Story: Social Networking

I am very preachy. I don't practice what I preach. I'm posting this because otherwise I'll kill it in my drafts folder.
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Social Networking

'Ding Ding Ding', the doorbell buzzed insistently.

Priya turned away from the computer with a little frown on her face - now, who could that be, on a Sunday morning?

'Priyaaa! Open up!' a voice yelled from outside followed by a furious banging on the door.

Priya’s eyes widened in surprise as she recognized the voice - 'Meghna!'. Priya rushed to open the door to a smiling face. Shrieks and hugs followed of course.


'When did you get back? I had no idea you were coming, you idiot!'

'Of course, you didn't know. No one did. It was a surprise to my parents too!' Meghna laughed as she tossed her bag to a corner of the room.

'Oh you are so completely stupid.' Priya said grabbing her friend from behind and kicking every bit she could. The depth of the friendship should be apparent from the shrieks and the liberal physical ‘affection’ expressed.

Finally they were done with saying hello and sat up to take a good look at each other.

'You've lost weight.' said Priya eying her friend critically. 'But, what's with the stupid hairstyle?'

Meghna punched her - 'You don't look so hot yourself, baby! I headed out to CCD yesterday evening like any sane Saturday expecting to see all of you and only Vijay and Ranjan were there. You haven't been hanging out with them for the last few weeks they tell me? What's happened?'

Priya made a face. 'Nothing happened, Megs! I just don't feel like hanging out - that’s all.'

Meghna rolled her eyes impatiently 'OK. You can probably tell me in two sentences, but you won't and now I've got to drag it out of you over the next few hours. OK. I'm game. Got anything to eat? I'm starving.'

'You are always saying that. I'll make you something. You want coffee too, I suppose?'

'Of course, dear. What's a chat without that?' Meghna fiddled with the music system while Priya was in the kitchen. She soon had Boy zone playing softly in the background.

'Hmmm...Still not gotten over your crush on Ronan Keating, I see.' Priya remarked when she heard the music.

'You still drool over George Clooney, don't you?' Meghna retorted as she continued her inspection of the room. 'Your computer is still on - do you want me to shut it down? Oh hey, you are digging through Orkut. Who is this girl - Vani?'

Priya walked in with a tray and said mysteriously. 'Guess.'

What?' Meghna said absentmindedly as she picked up a cup of coffee ' I know this girl? Really? I can't remember. Did I know her well?'

'Well enough to sit behind her in class for two years.' Priya said smiling as she picked up her own coffee cup.

Meghna's jaw dropped in shock. 'No way!' She said in a hushed tone ' Are you seriously telling me that this is Madhuvani?'

'The one and only' Priya confirmed. She thoroughly enjoyed the shock on Meghna's face as she tried to figure out how the fabulous girl in the picture could possibly be the geeky girl in specs and oiled pigtails from their school.

'They've all changed, you know.' Priya said softly as she took over the mouse 'Almost everyone. Remember Krishna - all pranks and jokes? He's married. Preetham - the quiet guy whom we thought would end up in a dusty office somewhere? He designs cars for a living. Vidya? She's cut off all that beautiful hair and has turned as modern as she used to be traditional. Ritu - you won't believe the kind of paintings this girl does. Ranjith - he's lost weight, see? Looks stunning now, doesn't he? Asha - she's married with a kid. Chandrika - having a great time in the US from the pics. Lavanya - all happy and smiling with her fiance. And Madhav at a fabulous holiday at London. Jenny in Australia doing an MBA. Bharath is doing a PhD'

Meghna put her cup of coffee down and stared at her best friend of fourteen years. 'Priya...', she interrupted gently.

Priya stopped the clicking and after a pause clicked on a last link bringing her back to her own page. 'Priya? Still in the same city. Working a boring job. No fabulous holidays to show off. No great changes to shock people.'

'That's what this is about, Priya?' Meghna asked softly and moved closer to hug her friend.

'No. Not this. Atleast, not just this. I just feel all empty. As if there is nothing to do or something stupid like that. Look at them, Meghna! Look at all the cool things they've done. I want them to look at me and say wow, Meghna. Just like I'm doing now.'

Meghna sighed. 'Priya, you can't take the stuff people put on Social Networking sites at face value.'

Priya smiled a sad smile. 'This is how people keep in touch, Meghna. This is how you know what is going on in their lives. This stuff is the truth, not lies.'

Meghna snapped rather irritated, 'Don't be such an imbecile. All this Orkut and face book and stuff - they are people's happy pages. People share their lives here only when they are happy. They disappear off the face of the earth when they are not. Or maybe they become passive readers when they are sad - like you are doing now. Maybe some also try to reach out to long forgotten friends to remember happier times. But, only the happy moments are for the public. Sadness is always private and dealt with alone or with a few friends for company.'

‘I mean - people share news of their wedding, a great new job, additions to the family, got my own car and so on. But, we don't say things like 'My boss hates me. Work is a nightmare.' or 'I'm sick. I wake up more miserable each day' or 'I lost someone so dear to me that it left this gaping hole in my life.'

‘No. These websites are there for the happy times. They are meant for showcasing perfection. This is a great trip I took to xyz. This is a pic of me with my company's top brass. This is my new house. My marriage pics. My new car. Me doing this absolutely amazing thing. The perfect pic of me which makes me look tall, thin, confident and happy in a casual way.’

Meghna’s voice seemed a bit different towards the end - softer, more thoughtful. Priya glanced up to see a frown on her friend’s face. Meghna shook herself out of the brief reverie and continued.

‘It’s just human - wanting to project perfection. Oh! We probably have friends who know exactly what is going on. But, to everyone else, our lives are apparently blissful - moving from one achievement to another. It really is not that way, you know. People studying now probably have a huge loan to pay. They may actually hate the place they are in, the people they are with, the routine they are stuck in. Seemingly happy faces have their hidden troubles. Sure, they’ve done this. But it couldn’t have come easily. They must have given up something to gain the things you envy.’

‘Why don’t you make these sites a source of your information and inspiration instead of envy? You like the things you see? Go and try it.’

Meghna stopped speaking abruptly. Priya sat slumped in her chair aimlessly scrolling through another website. But she was listening. Meghna gently turned Priya’s chair so that they faced each other. ‘Don’t let people’s achievements make them seem too big in your eyes. Don’t be scared to reach out to them because of their achievements. It doesn’t matter, Priya. They are as human as you are.’

Priya sighed. ‘I was just being stupid, I guess.’

That evening, they were back at CCD. Pictures were clicked. Oddly enough, this time, Meghna didn’t ‘pose’ for any. The group laughed and spilt coffee all over the place. The next day, the ‘real’ pictures were up on Orkut. Two months later, Priya went on her first trek.
Read More......

Friday, March 06, 2009

One for sorrow; Two for joy..

I'm in the gym - one of my rare spurts of enthusiasm. I huff and puff on the stepper feeling rather annoyed at the girl using the next machine at twice the difficulty level. I look down to see the timer on the machine as it ticks down. When I look up again, it is there - outside, hopping around on the grass. It waits till it is sure I have seen it and then flies away. A pure black crow - the jungle crow

'One for sorrow
Two for joy
Three for a...'

We used to sing in school. It is the magpie song. I wonder if there are magpies in India. We always sang it for the bigger jungle crows - the blacker ones. I just call them magpies now. It is gone now. I haven't stopped exercising. Auto mode, I suppose. It's OK - just something stupid that kids come up with. I wish I could forget those first two lines forever. I don't have to be scared then. It isn't like the fear you have when you are chased - not the racing heart kind. This is like a grey cloud that seems to hang there whenever you glance up - threatening to rain, making you hurry towards your destination.

I am on the lookout for sorrow today. Not sorrow, just anything bad actually. It is worse this time because there is already something that I am dreading - a difficult meeting with a lot of emotions attached. What are you saying, magpie? Is it going to go wrong. Again? Show me tomorrow, God.

Wait. That's not till tomorrow. Now, if I see one today, then the bad stuff has to happen today, right? I mean, there has to be some rule of that kind. Yeah. That's it. No problem. I can deal with that. As long as it isn't tomorrow. Please let it not be about tomorrow. So stupid.

Done at gym. No major damage. Caught the office bus on time. No major traffic jams. Nothing goes wrong at home. I double and triple check the lock, the taps and switches. I reach well in time at the travels office for my bus to my hometown. I settle down and sigh. If something doesn't go wrong soon, my theory on the effects lasting only for a day would be blown. Then I realize that I paid a few rupees extra for the auto by mistake and the auto driver didn't bother to be honest.

So, this is it? A small loss - is this really it? I can't decide whether to believe or not. But the bus arrives on time, very few passengers too. Midnight must have struck when I was fast asleep, The day is past. And so is the cloud?

***


On the way to the meeting. The familiar feeling of uneasiness in the stomach. It's OK. I look forward to it being over. I know that this will go away then. Practice. It takes about an hour to get there. My book isn't interesting enough. I glance out at the wrong time again. This one is dragging something out of a dustbin. That sinking feeling again. No. Please. No. Why today? But there it was. Of course it all went wrong. Someday, I hope to control my emotions. Today, I couldn't. I stack things up so carefully in the corner - then I forget about it for some time. Then it all tumbles down again. It was the magpie that did it.

But wait. That was nothing majorly different. Only, it kind of got to me this time. Is it over yet? Anything more to worry about? Deepen the frown lines, streak a few more strands white. Can't be over yet. Just the beginning then? Hey, how about showing up with a friend now and giving me some hope?

***


Another day, I haven't seen one. Maybe one of them that I saw and didn't notice was a lonely Magpie? Had to be. It can't have gone wrong all by itself. Wait. Today's problem is because of a mistake a month ago. It must be because one I saw then.

Sometimes it is big. Sometimes it is tiny. But it happens. One for sorrow. Two for joy. It all happens.

See? The perfect theory - it explains everything. You can't disprove it, can you?

Oh, right. You. So sad.

If you didn't read my story, and hadn't heard the rhyme before, you could have lived in peace. Now, the magpies will be after you too. They are such clever birds.

Sorry about that. NOM. Read More......

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

At the movies...

I don't quite understand why people look at you as if you are crazy if you go to watch a movie alone. I'll admit it is nice to have company sometimes - more comfortable if you have people you know around you. It's especially good to have company for bad movies - you think of so many clever things to say and you need someone to say it to. But, in general, watching a movie isn't a social experience like a picnic is. It is a personal thing - like reading a book. I discovered the joy of movies very late. School and most of college went by without any special interest in them. Nowadays, as much as I like movies, I prefer to watch them at home. The theatre is an occasional treat. You can't let some things become too common if they have to remain special. Besides, it is more expensive on the weekends. :)

The faint smell of popcorn hits me three floors below - I'll always associate The Forum with that mixed smell of coffee, cookies, popcorn and chicken. The weekend crowds don't make it easy to ride the escalators. I head for the stairs instead. There are couples sitting on the stairs, chatting. Third floor. I look at all the posters, pick a movie and buy the ticket. I almost always manage to get a good seat even at the last moment if it isn't the opening weekend - they always have room for one. I pick up a Pepsi sometimes. Today I'm in the third row from the top.

I find my seat and settle down. I love the largeness of a movie theatre. I like it that the ceiling goes so high, that the walls have this curtain like material, that it always feels the same inside despite it being day or night or summer or winter outside. The preview trailers of upcoming releases are always interesting to watch on the big screen. It must be quite an art - making those trailers. Ever notice how even the worst movie looks ok on the trailer? Yeah...those people are good at picking out bits and pieces to create a few tantalizing moments. The ads are a pain, though - especially the jewellery ads. Sometimes, they repeat the same ad a few times in a row - really boring.

And then, the lights dim down slowly as the boy on the moon tosses his fishing line down. The theater itself puts up quite a show apart from the movie that's playing. Very dramatic - the dimming of the lights, the torches of the ushers, the elevated sensation of hearing and sight, the smallness of your self and the final silence of the crowd. Sometimes a prankster hoots to annoy the others.

The story begins and it goes on - sometimes all twisty, sometimes straight. There are all kinds of movies and zillions of scenes. The big screen works best for me when the scenes show places and crowds than a few main people - like an expanse of water, the mountains, the streets of a city, the view from a chopper, city lights at night. Some scenes are sound intensive - bombs falling, music, storms, monsters growling, people screaming - you know the like, when the sound is so intensive that you can feel it physically, the kind that makes you shiver a bit.

I see the people around me in silhoutte when there is some light from the screen. A couple watches cuddled up together, a child holds on to someone and is almost asleep, a man takes out his crying baby, leaving his wife to watch, a bunch of friends giggle and comment at everything going on, families with stern fathers who make sure that the ladies are not sitting next to strange men, people laden with shopping bags block the whole row and then there are loners who just watch and write blogs later. Popcorn bags rustle around me, ice cubes in the Pepsi rattle in my cup as I take an occasional sip.

In the theatre, I let myself laugh aloud. I don't cry at every sad thing, but I do sometimes tear up. I stick my fingers in my ears when the sound or suspense gets unbearable. I also cower down a bit when i expect something bad to happen suddenly - like when they don't show the monster or the murderer and show the possible victim instead. I don't do all this when watching the movie at home, of course. I don't care about the crowd around me - I have oohed and aaahed and wowed and awwwwed and gasped and almost squealed.

There are movies where the climax is played in slow motion and a complete lack of general noise. The pistol shot is so clear and the only sound you hear. Sometimes it is the beep of a heart monitor. Or a person falling or a clock ticking. And there is silence all around you as well. I like that. I stretch as the lights come back on again as the credits being to roll. People don't usually stay to read the credits unless there are some gag reels \ songs \ something special playing. Pity, really - those poor souls who worked so hard and we don't care.

I'm swept along with the stream of people as they move towards the exit. Suddenly, I'm outside and the treat is over. There is just the sorry old world waiting. Read More......

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Poem: He, you and me

He thinks of us as stories walking all around him,
And it interests him to note the links amongst us.

Our lives are only pages in a novel that he reads.
And our problems, mere tangles in the ball of twine.

His hands itch to unravel the knots that he sees,
And he yearns to turn the page to see how it all ends.

So, at times, he manipulates us into fast forward mode,
But that’s ok ‘coz, only what’ll happen’ll happen anyway.

He talks of us to others with the pride of possession,
And we exist to some strangers strictly on his terms.

Still, we owe him something

For, however long they slept deep under ground,
Only stories come alive every time they are told. Read More......

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Littlest One

My first glance of you this visit - you stare at me wide-eyed from the safety of your mother's arms. You have a cold and your mum is naturally worried. You are so small, so frail, so blindly trusting - it must be overwhelmingly scary to be responsible for you. It doesn't help that your Mum and Dad are doctors and know every tiny thing that can harm their darling - they don't have the blessing of ignorance. I lift you up carefully. I wonder if my sequined dress would be too harsh on your soft skin. I hold you with care. You are still a bit shaky and as I quickly learn, at a stage when you want to put everything in your mouth. You grab my hair and pull hard. Whoa - you don't seem sick to me!

I carry you around to let you look at things and I look at them with you. Even the patterns on a leaf seem to fascinate you for a moment. But, I am not left alone to enjoy this time with you. Needless to say, everyone is out to catch your eye. You don't seem to care who holds out their arms - you are happy to be with anyone. We call out to you and use anything around to grab your attention – all you need are flashy colours and squeaky noises. We figure out that if we call out your name at a strangely high pitched tone, you laugh. Everyone tries it out. Stern old men break into a smile when they see you, their voices strangely softened to an extent that I don’t recognize them.

Sometimes you cry and we fervently hope that whatever we do soothes you down. That would be something, wouldn't it - to do something just right so as to calm you down?! We pride ourselves on understanding some of your gurgles. Of course we don't, but your mum does. She seems like superwoman to me - constantly feeding you, cleaning you and the mess around you, carrying you around, dressing you up and so on. You aren't easy to care for, you know.

A multitude of aunts, uncles, grandpas and grandmas spoil you rotten - the house is full of bright toys and cheerful clothes. We click pictures on mobiles and gush about you to all our friends who'd care to listen. Grow up fast, little one. Grow up enough to recognize us all as people rather than comforting pillows. It's going to be so much fun! And you should know this right away – you are the darling of so many. We’ll always see you as the little baby we held and crooned to. We’ll go crazy when you sit up, walk and talk. You’ll grow up and we’ll probably give you unsolicited advice at every step, get unnecessarily over protective, completely embarrass you by narrating your childhood incidents and generally behave as a family will.

Get ready for the ride of your life! Read More......

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Story - Just another day

Another story written in 2006. I think story writing was just a phase for me.
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He sighed as the signal turned red just as he was approaching. She laughed. She found everything amusing. He loved the sound of her laughter. She sounded like….everything nice…you know.

This was one of those long stop signals. No point in keeping the engine running, he thought and turned it off. Thank goodness it was a pleasant morning. He adjusted the side view mirror so he could see her face. He always did that at signals. It was so amusing to see her look all around, trying to take in the sights around her at a single go. She’d look at vehicles all around and tell him which ones she liked, she’d stare with unabashed curiosity at every person on the road, she’d crane her head up to look at the tall office buildings, turn this way and that trying to read the billboards. She’d giggle and whisper something about someone to him. She’d lean over and check out her reflection on the car nearby. He hoped she’d stay that way for ever – childish, happy and full of laughter.




For how long had he known her? He knew the exact date he had met her. That date was etched in his heart forever. It was on her birthday. It had been nearly 10 years now. Her birthday was coming up now. He’d make it special. 10 years since he’d met her. That was something special, wasn’t it? His life had been so different before she came along. But right now, there were very few people on earth whom he knew the way he knew her. She had turned his life topsy turvy right from the first day. He hadn’t minded that. Coming to think of it, he had hardly noticed the changes as they happened. He had had so many other priorities in life 10 years before. Now it all reduced to just these - Her laughter and her happiness. She had made his life so simple yet so complex. Fears surfaced in him day after day – fears that he had never known before he knew her.

They usually didn’t drive this far out on the bike. But she had insisted and he gave in, as usual. She loved going out on the bike. She loved to feel the breeze on her face as the bike sped over the road.

He watched her face, those dancing starry eyes as her head whipped impatiently from sight to sight. Suddenly, she froze. She was looking at something. She tilted her head a bit and stared. Then she turned away and continued her inspection of the vehicles around them. He looked up from the mirror, in the direction she had been looking at. It was a huge billboard. A pretty model - maroon and white silk – lovely patterns running at the bottom of the cloth – gem work and embroidery above the border – god knows what they called it – some work or the other – It was beautiful. For a moment he saw her wearing it. She’d look perfect. It would suit her perfectly- the colour and the style. Besides, her eyes had lingered over it just a tad longer than over anything else. She liked it. That was all that mattered.

The signal turned green and he started the bike and they were off.

The next day, he drove to that same place again. He left the bike at the corner and walked over to the other side of the road. “Thank god they put in a camera in these things”, he thought as he took out his mobile phone. Of course it was her picture on the wallpaper, what did you expect? He positioned himself carefully and took a few pictures of the billboard. Then he drove to his office. He was 10 minutes late. He didn’t care.

The next weekend, he went to the shop. God! He had forgotten how crowded the garment shops would be on a Saturday. Where on earth was he supposed to go? This place was huge! He stood there looking miserable. “Your wife in there shopping? She won’t be out for some time then. You better find a chair and settle down with a magazine like me.” said a genial voice. He turned to the speaker and mumbled, “No. I just came…to shop…you know…”. The man opened his eyes wide in disbelief and turned to look at the crowd behind him. “Oh! That’s very brave of you. I should wish you luck.”, he said in a voice that was awed and sympathetic at the same time.

He went to the security man standing at the door and showed him the picture on his mobile, ”Excuse me, Can you help me please? I want to buy this. Where should I go?”. The man smiled, “Surprise, is it? Just go to the first floor. Its on the right side of the stairs.”. Relieved, he thanked the man and made his way up the stairs. It was amazing how many people came up to help him out. They found the sight of a man in there very amusing and rather sweet. Half an hour later, he found what he was looking for. It looked even more beautiful than in the picture. He ran his fingers over the smooth material and hummed as he went over to pay for it. At the entrance he smiled and lifted the bag up to show the security guard and the other man. They grinned back and applauded. More conspiracy and the stitching was done without her suspecting any thing. They had gone shopping for new clothes for her birthday long back. But this was a special birthday. And this was a special gift. He couldn’t wait to see her wear it. It was her birthday the next day.

He had woken up at midnight and left the dress on the table near her. She had been fast asleep. It would be the first thing she’d see when she woke up. Morning came and he was woken up by squeals of laughter.

“Daddy ! Daddy ! It’s beautiful. Oh! How did you know I wanted this? Oh! It’s so pretty! Can I wear this dress today? I saw it that day when we went out on the bike on that sign board. How did you know Daddy?” She danced all around the room holding the dress in her hands. She twirled around and ran out of the room. His wife watched the child, amused and turned to him “You do spoil her a lot you know?”. He smiled, “I know. I have only you two to spoil, don’t I?”

His daughter came back after awhile, wearing her new dress. She looked perfect. Just as he knew she would look. The three of them went for a drive on the bike. She settled down on her seat on top of the petrol tank, in front of him. Her head hardly reached to his chest. They stopped at a signal and he automatically adjusted the side view mirror. She looked lovely, like a little princess - His sweet little princess. He felt his wife’s hand on his shoulder. He put his hand on hers and then bent down to kiss the top of his daughter’s head, just as he had done 10 years earlier; on the day he had first met her.

If you had seen him that day, he would have been just one more person in the crowd for you. That day was very special to the three of them but it was just one more day in the calendar for you.

PS: Now, tell me truthfully, who did you honestly think the girl in the story was when you started reading? Just curious. :)
Read More......

Friday, February 13, 2009

Short Story: Betrayal

A post from the past - a story written about 2.5 years back. I haven't written a story in over a year now. :(

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BETRAYAL

He woke up that morning from a restless sleep. He had woken up at least three times earlier and found it was still pitch dark. He had tossed and turned all night, desperate for the morning to come. Now he could finally see dawn approaching when he looked out of the window. He lay there on the mat spread on the floor, watching the colours of the sky change beyond the bars of the window. When he finally got up after a while, he was careful not to wake the others up. It was too early. After about an hour, he came back to the room and called out to wake up the other children. Slowly the corridors of the orphanage filled up, as noisy as any weekday was – with the fifty four children getting ready to go to school after helping out with small chores. The day was usual – he stopped about 3 quarrels, cajoled the youngest kid to eat some breakfast, ordered defaulters back to their chores…


He was dressed in the white shirt and khakhi trousers which was his school uniform. The clothes were clean and neat. Not ironed. The orphanage couldn’t afford those extra expenses. But he had washed and hung up the clothes carefully, folded them neatly and kept them pressed under a bundle of books. Those clothes and books were what made him different from all those children who worked, begged, lived and grew old and died while still a child. Yes. He did not have a family – no blood relations. But what did that matter? He was lucky to be here, to be able to study – to have the means to make a life that he wanted. To choose and not to be led by inevitability. He was the best in his class just because he always wanted to be better. Never satisfied, never complacent.

He stopped for a moment before he picked up his books. Like everyday, he thought of all those people who were helping him to get this education. Those who set apart a small part of their income to reach out to people like him. The ones who didn’t do it out of a sense of duty or a need to feel benevolent but those who did it, as they would throw across a rope to rescue a person about to fall – Not to see the other live because of their help, not to create a sense of eternal debt, but just to see the other person alive and glad to live on. He never saw them. He didn’t feel obliged to them. Their help was a loan that they were repaying themselves for some hand that had helped them once. It was still a loan given to him that he would one day repay to another. He picked up his books and went out. He was among the eldest and had to take charge of the younger kids on their way to that old rundown set of buildings that stood around a dusty playground - the government boys’ school in the area. All the boys in the orphanage went there. The girls went to the government girls’ school a little further away.

The day seemed to drag on and on. He couldn’t concentrate in any of his classes. He wished the last period of the day would come soon. He didn’t even go to eat lunch. He sat in the classroom instead – he didn’t have too many days left to spend here. School life was almost over. He tried to occupy his mind with other thoughts – but his mind absolutely refused to co-operate and kept turning back to the same topic again and again. Ever since he had handed those sheets of paper yesterday, he had been waiting for the answer. He was almost sure of the answer. But still he waited for it. Clinging on to some shard of hope or was it hopelessness? Today he would know the answer to the question that had pricked his heart for so long. Finally.

The last period was English. They had had the same teacher for 4 years now - that was a miracle because people like him didn’t stay to teach in government schools for long. But he had stayed and everyone liked him. The boy remembered the first time the man had taught them. He had made the subject come alive, bringing characters alive with his descriptions. It was magical to hear his voice – that voice that seemed to belong to a magnificent podium in front of an eager audience - not this forgotten school in the middle of nowhere. The boy had taken him to be a person who was repaying some loan of his own. He wouldn’t have been surprised if the man had left at the year end. He’d have been glad that he had met this person at all. But to his surprise, the teacher had stayed on. He found fault with no one, was easy going and praised everything everyone did. He was always smiling and called everyone by name. He wore worn out old clothes, though he could afford better. Not that he did not notice his own clothes. But he seemed to derive some happiness out of being more and more like them. The boys accepted him and that was what he wanted.

He was now returning their essays back to them, marked with his comments on the back of the paper. The boy turned his sheet over and read the remarks – “Excellent work. Keep it up. “, scrawled in a corner with a red pen.

The boy waited till everyone had left the class. Then he walked over to the teacher’s desk and laid his paper down on the table. “Do you really think that what I have written here is good?” He asked quietly. The teacher nodded enthusiastically, not looking up, busy bundling up the papers, “Oh yes. It is really nicely written and nice thoughts…quite different, you know”. He looked up smiling but when he saw the look on the boy’s face, his smile slowly faded. He wished he was not sitting down. The boy seemed to tower over him, but he was no giant – just a lean young boy.

The boy looked at the man straight in the eye – “You know that what I have written is total rot. I know it too. Why do you praise everything we do? Do you think that this will give us confidence? You are wrong. It makes us weak and not strong. Do you feel that you are doing me a favor by saying those words? Do you just feel sorry for me and for all the kids here – sorry for our backgrounds, sorry that we cannot afford better clothes, that we don’t have a proper home? Are you trying to satisfy your self by praising our mediocre efforts? ”

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”, the man snapped back irritated. But he did. Oh! He did know what the boy was asking. The questions that his own conscience had tried to ask him long back before he finally turned deaf to that little voice. He didn’t want to answer. He wanted to silence this boy, the way he had silenced his conscience long time back. But he knew he couldn’t do that. He couldn’t do anything at all.

The boy didn’t raise his voice – but his voice was so cold, dispassionate and restrained. The man wanted to look away but something made him to meet that accusing gaze.

“Do you know why you get along so well here? Why everyone likes you? You don’t ask for much. You don’t demand. You have no expectations from your students. You are not here to show us what can be and how to reach for the stars. You think we belong here and this is just right. And the others, they find that convenient. You give us no challenge, no reason to do better. You are damn easy to please. I can write anything in the world and you still give everyone the same comments. ”

“You are afraid aren’t you? Afraid that if you don’t say those things and act the way you are now, you will not be liked? You felt that you were doing some good by praising us even when we did not deserve it. You thought that appreciation would give us strength? You thought that we were hurt by enough in our lives and would find comfort in your words, even though it was unearned and empty? You said them out of pity, didn’t you?”

The teacher didn’t respond. His student was reading his mind well. He found that he was not able to even breathe properly now. How could he? The boy’s words seemed to eat into him and threatened to suffocate him with their truth. He didn’t even dare nod his head. He wished this boy would go away and leave him in peace. He didn’t want to argue. Not with this boy who stood so straight at his desk and looked like that into his eyes.

“I am disappointed in you. You are really good at your job. Not like some teachers who come to schools like these, who are here because they are not good enough to be somewhere else. When you started teaching us, I was so happy. I thought you were someone who would help us to become better persons by being an example to us. But over the past four years, you have done nothing but create false impressions of our selves in us. You have only managed to give us false hopes. What will we do when we go out into the world and realize just how false this is? Why don’t you just tell me that what I have written is nonsense? Why don’t you just throw these sheets of paper in my face and tell me that? Don’t you see what we need? We need you to help us be the best we can be. To reach for something that is better than this. The worst of it is that you want to be like us. You try to hide your own self to be like us. You think that we will be happy to meet more like us? You have no idea how wrong you are. I’m dying to meet someone who is not like us – a person who will not succumb to the pressure, pain and under people’s sneers. ”

The boy paused. He was breathing a little faster from his effort. Not the effort of speaking those words. But the effort of restraining himself while speaking them. He held out the sheets of paper to the teacher.

“This thing I wrote – it is no good. I know that. Because I wrote it that way. I deliberately did my worst. Do you know what kind of desperation I am in to have done that? After all this time, to meet a person like you. Then to slowly begin suspecting what you were doing and to finally see the ugly truth? You’ll praise my pathetic effort though you feel revolted by what you see, just to spare my feelings? Am I supposed to feel grateful to you for not asking more from me? I would have been so much happier if you had trashed me black and blue and ordered me to do better. You are blind. Blinded by your heart’s feelings. I don’t need your pity. I need your mind. When someone I admire appreciates my achievement, you have no idea to what heights that can spur me on to. That belief that the appreciation I had seen was earned by me by the work I did. You must show appreciation only where it is due. For things that your mind has consciously found joy and achievement in. Otherwise your words mean nothing. “

He stopped. He looked at the pale face of the man in front of him. When he looked at the man’s eyes, he knew that he had broken an illusion. He wanted to stop but there was one more thing to be said. To be heard by the wreck of a man who sat in front of him.

“To a person whom you show your appreciation for a mediocre effort, praise it to the heavens because you feel he will be hurt otherwise, he knows deep within that you lie. Just as I do now. And after you do that, if you appreciate a truly well done work – something spectacularly perfect in its creation, in the same way, you insult the creator’s talent.”

The boy turned around and left the room, pausing long enough to drop the papers into the dustbin near the door. His heart was heavy. But at least he knew and was prepared to meet the world. He had enough confidence in his ability and in the power of hard work to create the life that he wanted. What would happen to the others? Would they be able to bear this betrayal?
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