Friday, December 19, 2008

The Masquerade…

Attracted by the charming evanescence bursting through the yellow bright halogen light; purloined from the slippery grasp of the world at large, the moth reached its demise by immolation on the hot tubes of the halogen lights. Its sudden jerking noise of death was heard by nobody over the drumming of drums and cymbaling of cymbals. Nobody paid attention to its twisting body-on-the-plastic-reflector as it convulsed feebly in unexpressed pain and burning heat. Nobody looked up from the drama unfolding on the lowly earth beside the river to hear the twirling of its wings, curling of its leg in unseen coruscation. He was unknown, a non-entity in death.

Except that somebody had indeed paid attention. Just as it were going to evaporate off its existence, just as its last traces of being were absolved criminally by heat pain and deceit of light; Vishnu the director of Ram Leela looked up from the act, his attention diverted by the scrawny noise emanating from creature-melting-on-the-reflector. He quickly withdrew his eyes though; murder of an ignominious insect from the millions zooming across was of least concern to him. Big things were happening and were scheduled to happen that night. Of course he didn’t know then that they were not in the manner he had designed or anticipated…                                                                                          

On the stage, Inder, the person enacting part of the monkey god Hanuman was doing a perfect gig. Jumping and swaddling, with his artificial tail swinging behind him; he effectively conveyed the loyalty and allegiance towards his saviour lord.

‘Thou lord, O mine! Don’t worry you should. This humble monkey is on your footsteps to serve, he will do anything you need. O swear of the heathen skies of this tempestuous day; O witness this rowdy winds! Because thy will do anything for you, so be it to cross the seven seas. For your help, I’ll uproot the world if you need, my benevolent master!’

The older generation of the crowd ooh-ed and aah-ed at the display of such heart rendering fealty and kinship. Most of the young lot were not present, and those who were, were on verge of falling asleep. Trials and travails of idealistic gods were out of vogue, it seemed to Vishnu. But it wasn’t the composition of crowds he was concerned about. It was the reactions of seeing somebody like Inder enact their favourite part he was worried about. It had been tough decision to cast Inder. But he was fabulous, and fitted the bill with his huge frame and power packed arms.

Inder was a recluse without choice. He was an idealistic man, who was left without any other option but to be alone. People avoided Inder simply because they were afraid of him. More often than not, streets of crowd would vanish wherever he went. And that is not a hyperbole. It was too much to face what he might say. Of what he might make them realize. Of what he might make them stop them from doing. He was far too honest and blatant to be accepted by majority. Inder was devoid of any empathy and any belonging. He just floated adrift as if a tiny pore; unhinged and uncared for. Shunted and avoided, he had slowly started to become paranoid. Not mad. Not demented. Not delinquent. Plainly filled to brim with fear and anxiety of how the world was turning out. Fear, which we usually ignore…

The next scene was about his conversation with Shani; Saturn who had chosen to arrive in Hanuman’s destiny at the crucial junction of building of Ram setu. According to the script he had to convince him to come some other time, since he had to do such a tedious job. But Inder being Inder did what he wanted to. Or what he felt he should have.

‘O thou master of discipline! Thou harbinger of hard work! Thou supplicant of efforts!’ he cried loudly, deviating away from the script and dialogues. The guy who played Shani looked confusedly towards Vishnu, who gave anxious and urgent looks; as if asking him to somehow cover up for heavens sake!

‘The lord of those divine rings of sternness! The master of ultimate tests of life! The bringer of all the trails to meek humans; how should I lend protection to these twitches running at my door to seek help against you?’ Inder continued. A young boy laughed and everybody looked at him in surprise which stifled it immediately.

‘I am helpless o lord of toil, I am puzzled and simply out of wits as to what and how to say to these shameless and spineless creatures… tell me what should I do, so that they can avoid hard work you want them to go through. Tell me what should I do, so that they live a life without learning lessons. Lead me my lord!’

The crowd got startled and started buzzing like a huge sonorous bee. This was one of the reasons why Vishnu was so worried about casting Inder. He was forever controversy’s illegitimate child. The bee was almost ready to sting when the Shani character got up, hurriedly blurted some dialogues and changed the scene. Inder, crestfallen and disappointed walked to the backstage. He felt abject frustration. Something he wasn’t able to convey to anybody properly. Ironically that fuelled the frustration. ‘It is high time’ he thought.

When he was supposed to imitate Sita; who was applying the sindoor on her forehead as a mark of respect for her husband Rama; he had to apply the same sindoor all over his body to show the innocent gesture of unwavering fealty. But, after applying the sindoor he again started to deviate from his scripted dialogues. Thankfully for Vishnu it started to rain then which distracted the viewers and gave him the opportunity to usher Inder aside and promise to murder him the very next opportunity if he at all alter his dialogues once again. This blew the lid off Inder. He could take that no more.

Just when his last scene was to begin, he picked up a drum and slung it around himself. The scene did not need him a drum. It was where he had to tear his chest to show the divine pair was present in his heart and thus always was with him wherever he went. But Inder had different things on his mind.

He started beating the drum loudly and began in an announcing voice. Ignoring the rest of the cast and whatever dialogues they were uttering, he began to rant his tirade against a world which had always suppressed him under its feet. And then there was no stopping him.

‘O listen the skies as I defile this innocuous platform for expression. O hear the gods as I besmirch the tranquillity of thoughts. O heed the lords because I come out and say what I wanted to say, what I had to say, but what couldn’t say, hadn’t been given a chance to say all throughout! Open your ears O fools because this is no drama I am doing. Listen to me once for you may never get a chance to follow the path of right again…’

‘O the supreme almighty, O the creator of universe, I have been denied in this creation of yours! I have been shunned and made desolate in this enchanting world of yours. All because a few ears were getting pricked by the words coming out on your order. All because somebody had taken up the mantle to say what had to be said; what was supposed to be said. Come to my aid O goodness! Help me in their distress…’

‘This world you created has failed you miserably. You made them for peace. They fight for maintaining that. You gave them intelligence to create. They destroy using that. You asked them to spread love through religion. They spread hatred through that. You asked them to be united, together and for a single cause. They divide themselves on the basis of cause. You asked them to be satisfied. They ask for more and more after that. You asked them to do good. They keep on doing bad. You asked them to search you within. They search you everywhere but there. You asked them to grow. They pull down the one who does that. You asked to repent, become compassionate. They do just the opposite of that. This world is a failure my lord. We are all being led into a huge gaping blackhole of demise. Slowly but surely. We are inching near and near all the time, each second, each moment every time one of your million children does something against your wish we are nearing there… very surely and most definitely.’

He started prancing around the stage then. His red sindoor coloured body got exposed to rainwater time and again making him look as if he had had a blood bath. He beat his drums even more loudly, as everyone stared at him in complete silence, in rapt attention to his every word.

‘What am I? Who am I? They make a mockery of me my lord! They whisper behind my backs, yes. They don’t think I know, but I most certainly am aware. They call me an ape. A stupid idiotic brainless monkey, who follows every order of you; my lord! Without once thinking up for himself! They just outwardly respect me. It’s just a show off, pernicious attitude. They don’t really care. They don’t really learn. They don’t see that Hanuman brought the Sanjeevani Booti on time. They see that he has brought the whole mountain along. They don’t see that Hanuman is pure and consummate. They see that he is loyal and unquestioning. They don’t see the devotion. They see his unwavering service. They keep on jesting in their minds. They don’t respect. They lie to you and me that they respect. They lie to the world that they respect. They lie to themselves when they say that they respect. The fact is that they don’t respect themselves my lord. How can they ever respect us?’

‘They don’t learn my lord. I keep on trying to make them learn. I keep on showing them hints to learn. Keep on telling them stories to learn from. Try to rouse the devotion in their soul so that they might learn. But to no effect master. They remain the same every time. They keep on continuing with their idiocy. They keep on following each other and end up going nowhere. They keep on failing me, you once twice thrice every time. They fail and fail miserably. And after doing that they try to hide the failure by acting. Yes my lord, we have gathered a world of actors out here. They are just acting, masquerading hiding in the shadows of self doubt to SHOW that they know. But do they by acting to do so? No my lord. They remain as ignorant as they were. They do not grow. They do not move out of their comfort zone…’

The drum beat reached the penultimate level of crescendo then. The world seemed to revolve around Inder and his volcanic eruption of suppressed thoughts anger anxiety, oh whatever you name them.

‘But do I despair? Nay my lord, I don’t. But do I lament? Ye my lord, sadly I have to do that. I lament that I have not been listened to. Not once, twice thrice but since forever. Oh hear they do, but never ever have they paid attention to my voice. Never ever thought about what it said, what it guided. I have just been heard as a drone, as a lecture. Or else they use me, woo me, lure me, bribe me whenever they need help. Yes that is what they do. Either ignore or bribe. Nothing else. They don’t see they don’t pay attention. They don’t feel my beloved lord! They have lost the sensation. I am now a nothing, a variable, a non entity amongst the hordes of troubling matters you had created for them to enjoy. They have lost touch with the simplicity which imbibes in the greatness of creativity. They are just copying, freaking bloody copying. They don’t look out for real lesson. Everything is supposed to be tailor made and spoon feeded into their mouths now. The exploration has been lost. The voyage into the inner realms has been lost. They look at me as if I am just a symbol. Hanuman the Lanka torcher. Hanuman the ring carrier. Hanuman the planet saviour. Hanuman the abstract strength. Hanuman the blah blah blah… but not the Hanuman of innocent innocuousness. Hanuman the devoted messenger of hope. Hanuman the personification for grit and perseverance. They just see me as the one who tore open his heart to show to people that you are in there.’

Inder started banging his chest dangerously then.

‘But they don’t see that I actually want to say that you live in there.’

He started to pull at his skin, digging his nails and his brute strength into his body.

‘They don’t see that I mean to say that you are everywhere, here there and nowhere’

Blood started to trickle out then. Vishnu realised what was happening and broke away from the trance when it happened finally.

‘They don’t see that you are in them, me, yourself and everybody my lord, my master. They fail to recognise you; fail to see you feel you get connected with you. They fail to see that you are in here.’ And he tore apart his chest.

Dead silence followed. Slowly it came around to Inder what had happened. He saw his body ripped by his own hands, his hands stained red by the sindoor, wet by rain and his blood; managed to fall down with a smile and swam in a pool of red water, his blood mixed with rain and sindoor.

Nothing happened at all. Just a single ring of fright shame and realization rang across hundreds of hearts as the rains raged on and clouds thundered. After all it was just one person less at the end. If you see it from the mathematics perspective. Clouds were fighting and rain was falling, within few hours they would subside and probably after few years Inder too would become an object of gossip, his final message being unheralded after all. It was just one down according to maths. No big deal…

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dancing eyes!

The sudden, harsh outburst of light struck me defenceless, crippling me for few moments... Getting up before it, as a victim raises its head before its impaler seconds before he is going to be executed, I saw that it had blinded me completely. All I could see was the swirling mist of darkness. All I could feel was helplessness, desolation.

Then there was a jerk, a shrieking noise of friction between two metals resisting each other’s inertia, a bump somewhere, and clouding sigh as if something exhausted had taken a long deserved break. The cumulative result was that I had been spared of one nightmare to enter into another. And this time there was no escaping it. I guess when you live a reality of nightmare; there is no end to your woes. To put it in mundane words, I woke up.

I got up from my berth, which was the lowest one, and felt around in the darkness for water bottle. The bloody jerking halt of train had rolled it down. I squatted on the floor and finally traced it cuddling along with luggage under the seat. Breaking into its leaky romance, I opened the cap and drank some noisy gulps of water spilling most of it on my dress. 

My movements woke her up from the top most berth, so I decided I did rather switch to discreet mode. But unlike me there was respite for her in matters of dream and reality, so the question of transition existed too. Albeit a slow one.

She yawned loudly, though never pointedly. I would have loved it had she done it that way. Oh the list of the things I would have loved in her! Incorporated and sealed like an unchangeable programme... But I haven’t been given that luxury. I have to live up with pity and remorse. Remorse and pity. Like alternating current these two things keep on coming and destabilising my paradise. Sometimes from my side. Sometimes from theirs.

‘What happened Shyam? You need something?’ she asked, her voice coated with unbearable affection.

‘Nothing dear. I’ll manage’ I grunted, trying to keep away the derisiveness in my voice.   

‘Oh well then I’d rather go back to sleep…’ she said again falling down on the hard makeshift bed sprung up between the top and the bottom berths. Within seconds she was again peacefully snoring. That left me with my darkness and loneliness. And incompleteness. And of course the living nightmares. Nice little chirrupy world of fascination of mine. Complete in black and white. Black for good and white for bad. So easy was it to fall back saying its ok and peacefully ease into sleep. So damn fucking easy!   

Swirling within the light grey hued tempest of visions I tried doing the same thing as her. I fell back on my inflated pillow. I tried to rest. To be calm. To imagine her face as I had known it and visualise that smile which used to cool off everything within me in an instant. No that was not working any better. I’d rather throw the pillow across the seat and suffocate the heavy snores obviously coming from an elderly lady. Alas!

I got down, rummaged around the floor to locate my footwear, finally found them crushed beneath the elderly lady’s suitcase, snatched it out and set rolling about in the crowded aisle of the dark train. Managing to get down, I rumbled a few feet into the darkness on the empty station platform. When I asked a hurried gentleman about the station, he told we had reached Igatpuri. It was safe. The train was going to wait for long since the engines were changing for uphill climb of the Sahyadri. There was plenty of time.

Sudden hooting of a horn brought back those excruciating memories. Wasn’t it at a similar juncture in a similar environment I had lost my ability to be normal again? Ever again! Do I hear the same horn blaring in the midst of that rain washed street? Do I see the same child jumping across the road, bobbing behind his ball which had gone astray on the road? Do I see the same car zooming across, zipping past deliriously? Do I see a drunken truck driver losing control of his gargantuan beast? Do I feel the sickening rise of realisation up in my throat? Do I run in the middle of an obvious crash to rescue the confounded child? Do I see collision just inches away from me? Do I realise the gravity of the situation when my eyes watch the last scene of their lives? Do I dread, get appalled fascinated intrigued angry guilty confused moved and marvelled all at the same time when I see tiny shards of glass from the exploded windshield of the car fly towards me like mini daggers? Tiny pesky little bits of glass which wouldn’t have caused anything more than a tiny pinprick if it had hit me at any other part of my body! But these tiny pesky little bits of glass were deemed to hit the most sensitive tissues of my body. And render me a cripple forever. Do I scream in anguish agony dereliction frustration agony pain excruciation torment and loss at the spasms of paining running through my body? Do I collapse down writhing and jerking like and repugnant dead body? Do I hear the doctors announce my fate nonchalantly, pushing me into an irrecoverable hell? And does the oddly silenced hospital air is troubled when my cry rants into it when I realise I have been announced a blind without any hope of recovery? Yes I do. Because judging from the fluttering of wings on the nearby tree, and resting of a soft hand on my shoulders, I had again screamed out in exasperation. Another thing which I realised was the station must be empty, devoid even of the station master, since no one else had been roused enough to get up and help me.

‘Shyam… Oh Shyam!’ she sighed into my ears, cradling my head into her bosom. I cried uncontrollably, sniffing and snotting like a kid in his mother’s arms. I felt lost, even when I had no reason to feel so, when I had the most treasurable treasure in the world. I felt incomplete even when I was crying in my lovers arms, even when I was under the warm and cosy comfort of the blanket of love. To tell the truth, I was not crying out of anxiety. It was the understanding of the loss in the battle which made me behave like a puny. They were tears of anguish which trickled down my cheeks. It was hopelessness.

When there is darkness, absolute and muffled darkness around a person, it is then he can feel the need for light. And when the darkness is the call of doom; irresolute and unchangeable; it is then the person feels the loss of life. I had lost my life then, there in my lovers caring and compassionate arms. Her sweet words of consolation making me realise their futility, making me realise the absence of life light joy fun and happiness. I lost a battle in a field of comfort and got slayed by my benefactor.

I felt for her face, trying to memorise it the way I remembered; the indent of her nose, the long eyelashes, the high cheekbones, the neat brow line, the soft curl of hair falling on her ears, the smoothness of her skin, the suppleness of her lips, the lusciousness of her pout, the edges of her smile, the dimple on her left cheek, the birthmark on her back… I tried to see everything with my hands, feel the love radiate through my fingers, feel the passion of my love through the touch. I smiled for the last time, giving up in my battle. The white flag was unfurled.

She took my face into her cupped arms, and the waft of her aroma entered my nose. My knees went weak again, as I felt the burden on my heart relaxing. Then she brought her lips to touch mine. And then the world got lost as I got united with my benefactor/slayer. I felt the heat pulsing through each pore of my body, felt the wetness of her lips, the shyness of her tongue, the impatience of her lips as they slipped over mine; trying to overcome each other, but overcoming the world… For once, and the last time I was devoid of anything. It was just she and me and overlapping lips fighting the world under the pretext of one another. And the rest was a zilch.

After several millenniums solace, I broke away and smiled. And smiled some more. The fatigue was slowly coming back, but something still kept me guarded. There was some light still. Or some trace of it. Like a remnant drop of elixir in the goblet of eternity. But then, just like the door shutting out the single slit of evanescence bursting in the darkness, everything turned pitch black and dark again. Darkness was victorious once more.

‘Come inside Shyam. We’ll fight this. We shall overcome everything. I love you. And you love me. We will waddle our way through.’ She said. I listened with irony bearing down on my heart again.

How sad... How very sad!

My native town was bang in the centre of the country at Nagpur. Since my early childhood the train journey from Mumbai to Nagpur through Vidarbha express was a matter of habit. And every time I had noticed the prolonged halt at Igatpuri junction for change of engines. I suppose it was destined I had to use this innocuous bit of information so cruelly later, after my death before death.

‘Of course my love. I know you will be there for me. I’ll come… soon.’ I said.

She lapped it up, all that pretence and holding of grit and nerves. I barely could hold back my tears, but I had to, it was me and not she who was blind. I can still imagine her smiling in agreement, her face smeared with collective tears both from her seeing, and my blind eyes. I can imagine her coming near my face for the last time and kiss me silently first on the cheek, then lightly on my lips and after rubbing her nose against mine turning behind and leaving nothing but bitter memories and her sweet fragrance in the air.

I turned in the darkness to face god knows what. Now picture this. A boy is deeply in love with the girl who loves him equally in return. Fate plays a cruel game with them when the boy is rendered blind for the rest of his life. Both are destroyed and devastated but both react differently to the situation. One is still hopeful, still believing, still optimistic. I don’t think there is any further need to elaborate the others condition. On insistence of the one, the other and the one are about to be married. The other suddenly comes up with an idea more than a month after the accident and a week before their engagement. He books a ticket for an up-down trip of his native place for both of them. One happily agrees to come, getting an opportunity to spend some time with the other. In midst of the journey other gets down on the station he knows is a long stop. The one follows him and they share their last good moment together. Other promises the one to come back. But other had different plans right from the time he booked tickets. He does not climb the train even when it hoots loudly. He lets it pass by and stays alone on the platform, distancing the one from the other. All smiles and grimaces he hears the bogies pass as the train carries away one from the other. And then the other stays… … … …

You might feel I am a very stupid and pessimistic person. But I am in love. And my love saw what my lover with eyes could not see. My love saw the incompletion which would have created a huge void between me and her. And thus my love decided it was better that we don’t stay with each other.

I am not weak. I am fearful. Not for myself. But what I would have done to her!