Saturday, March 28, 2009

Redemption!


Ten years ago… India performed miserably at the Cricket World Cup...

Ten years ago… The Dot-com Bubble finally burst…

Ten years ago… An Indian plane was hijacked with the help of Taliban, on the Christmas Eve…

And ten years ago… He had lost his brother forever to an accident…

An accident…

He walked down the building, through the foyer, across the street and reached the signal crossing in about ten minutes. But he had no recollection whatsoever of those ten minutes. As a matter of fact, he didn’t knew that he had eaten French toast for his morning breakfast, had two full glasses of orange juice and had watched TV news for half an hour since the time he had woken up. He didn’t knew that the sidewalk he was standing on, was covered with huts of varied assortment, and children having similar blackened, soot-laden faces, and women with half the clothes to cover their shame. He didn’t realize that a big fire wagon had blazed past in front of his eyes, which was followed by an equally noisy ambulance. His eyes missed the stares he got for his ill matched tie, or ruffled stubble on his face, clashing horribly with his beige three-piece suit. He was unaware of this and most of the past one week, wherein he had done all the things expected out of his jammed schedule, completed all the priorities piled up on his demanding time; yet he did that as if he was a machine, a robot, an inanimate object trained to do all those things. He did not live it, did not relish one single moments realization of life. Since past one week, he was almost like a dead man.

All this… Because it was his birthday today.

He had realized this almost a week ago, when his mother had called him up to ask him about his birthday gift. He remembered it was the time he was having his lunch. After abruptly ending that call, he ignored his food, and went on to start working like a machine. In past three years of his work-history, he broke all records by working over-time for twelve straight hours, retiring only at daybreak. He did not hear or even cared for the praises he was lauded with. He nonchalantly shrugged off his boss’s recommendation plans, and attempts to excite him by offering him trebled pay-package. He accepted it without any sign of excitement or any remote human emotion.

All that… Because it was his birthday today.

He had never celebrated any of his birthdays. Not since then, back ten years ago. He had never asked for presents, thrown parties for friends or treated his relatives to any sort of celebration. He had even vehemently declined instigations on part of his mother to go and visit temples. He had cocooned himself off in a separate space, a parallel world for rest of the time in the year, living a life in which he acted being happy, pretended geniality, masqueraded smiles, and behaved as if he was alive, happy and contented with his life. His friends were envious of his glamorous lifestyle. His colleagues were in awe of his intellect and creative genius, his cousins jealous of his riches. His uncles and aunts put his example to their rather irked children; his nephews and nieces looked up to him reverently; and his parent’s eyes glowed with immeasurable pride whenever he went to visit them back there in Poona. But all that crumbled, everything dissolved, each year, regularly, he forgot everything of it when his birthday came. It was then actually he was living, not when he wined & dined at high profile parties. It was then he existed, not when he caroused with the best girls around. It was then he truly became himself, pure and unpretentious, not when he worked his way up the charts of success.

All of this, because ten years before… He had lost his brother in an accident forever… On his birthday.

An accident, which was not an accident...

They had gone to visit the Bandra bandstand; him, his little brother and their parents. On reaching the place, the kids saw the decrepit structure of the old fort, a fort built as a Portuguese Watchtower, and destroyed by British as a threat to Maratha forces… They passed the winding stairs that were house to many couples finding solace and solitude in a usually crowded and conservative society… They reached the low stonewalls and peered through the open sky, towards a city beyond the sharp stones in the sea, which was once seven different islands...

And they cried their throats out in the blowing wind, rendering the surrounding public askance, and they fought for their way to sit on the on the only ridge available, built probably to house a cannon. His parents frowning over him ushered him to let the younger one take the seat. They went downstairs to eat chaat at the corner of the street and asked the kids to follow them. He being denied of his opportunity, followed immediately, but his brother, missing the instructions over the sound of incessant breeze, stayed on. After reaching the bottom step, when they realized he was still stuck there, they asked him to go and fetch the little punk.

On seeing the desolate place, and spite still fresh at being denied the opportunity to sit on the ridge, he decided to play a prank on his brother who still used to urinate in sleep after hearing ghost stories. He surreptitiously slunk behind him, and shouted BOO loudly in the small child’s ears.

 The moment after that, he can never forget till the time he would die. He remembered his brother standing upright, balancing himself on the sidewalls. He remembered that on hearing the noise, he shook feebly, and a rock below his feet dislocated. He remembered the look of blankness on his face. And in the next moment, he was gone! Out of sight! Disappeared! Abracadabra! Lost!

A small hand reached up to his fingers, and tugged at it, bringing him back to reality. He saw one of the similar faced children pointing at his bowl, at his tummy, and at his even smaller sister beside him turn by turn. He looked at both of them and realized, that maybe they were impoverished, maybe nobody even looked at them twice, maybe they had the bleakest possible future ahead, but yet… somehow they were together. Somehow, they were alive, and loving each other, caring for one another, able to look after and beg for each other.

He removed a hundred rupee note, handed it in the sister’s hand and said to the brother;

“Never lose her.”

He did not go to his job that day. He went to the nearby liquor store and brought liquor worth a month of a regular drinkers appetite. Then he proceeded back home.

He drank for the rest of the day. For the first time in ten years, he tried to dissolve those memories, tried to evaporate his guilt, his searing pain of incompleteness, the unforgettable memory of his crime.

But memories he discovered could be created, but cannot be removed out of conscience. As much liquor he consumed, as many tears he shed, as many howls of fury he screamed… he could not forget, what he never had to remember.

At last, driven by insanity of alcohol, and the overpowering might of guilt, he picked up his phone and dialed his Dad’s number.

The call got picked up after three rings.

“Hello” he heard his dad’s warm voice speak on the other line.

But he could not bring up to speak what he wanted to.

“Hello… Arun, are you there?”

He said nothing.

“Arun… Arun… are you able to hear me?”

“H’llo dad”

“Arun… what happened beta?”

“How are you keeping dad?”

“What happened son? Where are you?”

“How is mom, dad?”

“Arun… where are you? Have you been drinking?”

“How is everything in Poona dad?”

“Such shame Arun… who else is there with you? Are you alone?”

“Dad, its my birthday today dad… you remember… its my birthday…”

“So these days you have started celebrating in this manner, my son? What shame, god! What shame!”

“My birthday, remember dad? Ten years. Bandra bandstand. Anil. My birthday… Remember dad?”

“Anil? Are you all right son? Is everything fine over there…”

“Remember dad? Bandra fort? How Anil… How I… How we were…? Remember dad?”

“Son…”

“Dad… Anil did not die that day dad”

“Beta you have been drinking too much. Go to sleep dear. And have some lime water after you wake up.”

“Dad… he did not die that day… I killed him dad… I murdered him…”

A still silence greeted him after this. For two long minutes nothing was said or heard from both the sides. After that,

“You have been drinking too much son… Go to sleep and drink lime water after you get up.”

And before he could speak another word, the line clicked and went dead.

He looked up at the setting sun on the horizon. A black spot seemed to grow bigger and bigger over the orange heliocentric disk. On closer observation, he saw it was a bird returning to its nest after the days toil. He could hardly suppress his emotions then. He hadn’t shed a single tear since the time Anil dropped down the fort walls. Neither when he was being rushed to hospital, nor when he was cremated. But he couldn’t stop then. As the tears welled his eyes, a smile lit his face, and he placed the bottle down.

A bead of drop rolled down the glinting cyst of the green bottle, as the door clicked close.

He could feel his presence, somewhere, somehow, as the waves knocked about him, licked his toes at the foot of an old fort, which was destroyed for safety, and where destruction happened ten years ago, because of risky fun.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Gandhism v/s Terrorism

He was walking down the street, to his regular-boring-unbearable job. As usual he was not in best of his tempers and thus was visibly upset when a roadside crone gave him a shove and ran away.  The nearby urchins; to his displeasure started howling and jeering for no apparent reason! Yet he could discern some connection between the two events. He decided he should check his belongings, and there! He was aghast when he found that the wallet was missing from the side pocket of his double-breasted jacket. When he looked up, both the urchins and the crone were out of the sight. In utter fury, he threw away his coat, which crashed with a garbage bin, and made its contents to fall down. Well not so much so as contents, but streams of newspapers tumbled off it.  On closer observation, he realized that the whole street, in fact all the streets had been strewn with similar bits of papers. It was as if they were some pre-independence pamphlets, which were thrown off randomly to declare open rebellion. He became curious about the nature of that paper then. He picked it up and noticed it was crumpled up in a ball, as if somebody was understandably disgusted with the contents of the paper. Now thoroughly intrigued, he straightened it out and saw a big photograph of Gandhi on one side and the picture of Osama-bin laden on another side, with a big question mark in the middle. The sheer paradox made him laugh. It had to be a joke, he thought. Gandhi and Osama in one single frame!!!

 

He started reading the article. Oddly, it was titled,

 Gandhism v/s Terrorism

Intrigued, he carried on with it…

Tragedy strikes India!!! Under the veiled conspiracy, the Anti-Indian elements have launched a new virulent attack on the nation. The said forces have perpetrated a threat so strong that it seems to have rocked the peace, tranquil and the calm of our nation. Needless to mention it has been met with unimaginable outrage from all quarters of the society...

He started wondering what in the hell that could be! Nothing that he had heard off. Except perhaps some meteorite crash, which might have been predicted quite late. But he wondered where do meteorites and Gandhi get linked? Or even Osama for that matter… He continued…

But wait… What’s this latest piece of information? Oh boy! Jubilations are in for the call!!! We are saved!!! Yes Friends, Indians, Countrymen! A little-more-than-required-known ‘gentle’-man? called Vijay Mallaya has saved the day, and halted the enemy’s march. Celebrate you fools… Because some liquor baron has finally saved the sniveling nose of a nation, by buying out ancient relics of a severe teetotaler!!! Rejoice... Idiots!!! 

 Now this was disappointing. He had expected something more mature and real. Frowning, he continued…

Yes that is what the nation and its fabulous ‘wealth’ have come down to. No, it doesn’t make any difference that Slumdog has clinched multiple awards. People just put up banners, trying to steal artificial and unreal glory. No we don’t look at the movie! Who cares whether the slums shown in it are real life stills and not any made-up sets. We do HAVE a serious poverty and habitation issue. But no! Why spend money on feeding and staying poor ugly children? We invest our money wisely, we Indians. Why splurge it on unnecessary things like providing food and shelter to Lacs of those slum-dwellers? We use the money for very precious activities. We save national treasures.

And what are they?

Second hand, worn out objects from the last century; which if not with the name of some chap called Gandhi attached with, wouldn’t have fetched more than 18 rupees (Rupees mind you) and How much change does our King of Good Times shell out? Just 1.8 million ‘dollars’!!! (Yeah call me whatever, but you cant deny, that dollars fetch more money) Now what a trade! And in the times of a global economic recession. And considering we are a third-world (yes, it’s a shame, but lets face it... India is still a third world... Err... If not that then a One and Three quarters world country having no belonging or bearing at all) country! With severe food population education land technology housing and an endless list of demographic problems. But no, we find it easy to pay for rusted pair of spectacles in for exchange of hundreds of family’s lifetime worth of sustenance!!! Great deal, thumbs up!!!

That is why, I think in this modern context, after almost three fourths of a century, we have got two new poles in our country, two new demons of the society, two new Rahu’s and the Ketu’s, two brand new pair of dragon’s head and tail...

One is obviously terrorism, the destructive Ketu

The other is Gandhism, the illusionist Rahu.

Now, this was turning nasty. He looked up at the name of the journo, and was surprised to find that it was some unknown chap called Mann Maheshwari! In fact, when he searched for the name of the paper, he was surprised to find it was an unknown daily, probably he had never even heard of it before. Disturbed, he again pored into what this chap was ranting…

In every house, it is the father who usually cultivates the intricacies of social and ethical conduct. No wonder we have breeded such a populace in past fifty years! When you have the most dumbfounded donkey at the head of the table, surely rest that follows is going to be utter-sheer-crappy-chaos. 

Gandhi! One-man-army! Colossus of Resilience! (Well, actually Colossus even of impoverishment and under-nutrition, but hey! We can discount at least that much… after all, he is the father, the big boss of the nation!!!) 

Sacrilegious!!! That was the only word that described the thing. Nothing but pure blasphemy!!! He threw the crap away and yet again started to go on his way to office, his frustration and anger redoubled. Such things are not just supposed to be thrown… we should make examples of such people and punish them severely, he thought. 

Each turning saw the same newspaper crumpled up and thrown, or used as the fuel for angry bonfires. Smiling with vindication, he went on ahead.

But the phrases kept on repeating themselves in his mind. He was helplessly lured by the temptation to read it, to complete it, but no! it is rightly believed that knowledge is a sin, because a person who never has seen light cannot understand darkness too. So it was better to be in darkness rather than explore light and become blind once again…

To his surprise, he discovered that knowledge too had its magnetic pull. He picked up the half burnt newspaper he saw next, and eyeing to his left and right, he started reading it once again after confirming he was alone. 

No history textbook in the world can be complete without him. Yet again, history is after all his­-story! Dare you doubt it?

Nay sirs and soiree’s I am not here to debate about Gandhi’s greatness and goodness and hugeness and blah blah blah… I am concerned more about mundane issues of pressing present, rather than doubt a strong man (Yes, looks ARE deceptive) who lived… Err… sorry, who used to survive half a century ago. I wish to talk about the burning legacy that he seems to have left behind, framed, and compact. Unbreakable.

Thanks to sincere efforts of One Mr. Sanjay Dutt, Gandhigiri is a modern fashionable term. Uber-kids don’t fight, they do Gandhigiri! 

“Yo man… that bloke beat the shit outta your face man… What are you gonna do mate?”

“Me? I am gonna sit outside his door everyday with bandages to make him remember my pain and sorrow!”

“Hey buddy, your girl left with your best pal… tragic yaara!”

“Nothing yaar. Its ok, I have sent them bushels of flowers with a congratulatory note.”

Sure this sounds Kewl, even convincing. But how about some reality? Haven’t we had enough Masochism during his time to practice more posthumously? I don’t say gouge out the left eye if you have lost the right one… Just that all these tricks and disillusionments seem pernicious and hypocritical to me.

Rahu, in astrological terms is a disillusioner. The one who confuses you and weaves you into that proverbial Maya-Jaal. And Gandhi, on his spinning wheel has weaved out such a fantastic fabric of enchantment, that he should have been accorded Nobel prize in a new category, solely for him.

Take this in your consideration. The whole issue of caste divide did not practically exist before Gandhi frog-hopped on the political scene of the nation. Yes I agree the society was not at all equal, and that Varna system was no less ugly, yet, everything notwithstanding, there was no communal segregation. Even if on different classes, no Git had the idea of difference between gods. And here comes Gandhi! You see the connection? Gandhi-Topi on the politician’s head, His influence with them insured for perpetuity… Oh c’mon, our politicians are like they are, because their idol, their model was like that!

How do I work that out?

An ad hoc characteristic of a politician is tendency to be opportunistic. And Gandhi was the biggest opportunist ever! BIGGEST! No wonder Britons found him threatening… After all, he was the lion of their own jungle! It’s a recorded fact that he shifted his base from Sabarmati, to Wardha just for the lure of money. And I wont go out to outline details of his relationship with his sons. Or even the Irwin pact, which murdered Bhagat Singh et al. Do I clear a point?

It is Gandhi, who has left behind the stinking legacy of divisions, disintegrations, stubborn mule-asses, dirty red tape, thriving nepotism, incorrigible opportunism, and yes, even corruption.

It is Gandhi who is solely responsible for disillusioning our nation.

Ajmal-Amir-Kasab. Sounds similar right? Yeah… It’s the same chap who went haywire on CST station last winter, isn’t it? What about him?

Kasab is a proved killer. He has extinguished many living lives, in broad daylight, in front of many people. He fired at innocent public, who could not even protect itself from the crazy gunshots he pelted in open air. He did not even flinch once while taking aim at unarmed common man. Is there any difference between him and O'Dwyer of Amritsar, 1919? So why should there any difference between the treatments? Or are we waiting for some non-existent Udhham Singh to apparate and solve the problems we haven’t been able to? Fat chance!We have herded terrorists in our nation. Given them food-clothing-shelter. SAFE Shelter, EDIBLE Food, PROPER Shame! Most of the people in our nation find that hard to come by. Man can you imagine the stupidity, and the shame of catering to a man who has killed many Innocent fellow countrymen! We give them protection! We strive for their Justice!!! JUSTICE! To those who have blindly fired at crowds, or blasted bombs in trains, or hijacked temples and parliament houses! We literally swipe their arses for them! And all in the pretext of Justice! All in the name of Equality!

Reservations and Segregations have arisen solely out of the need for justice and equality! Can you dream of bigger paradox! I don’t think I quantitatively need to point out the perpetrator of such non-new-sense...

If Ketu destroys, makes you realize the harsh reality, the inescapable truth; terrorism it is; The dragon’s head… Spouting fire, gnawing at our flesh.

On the other extreme of the palette is Gandhi-Rahu. Forever discriminating. Forever misleading. The ultimate disillusioner.

Which hell would you choose?

Or do we find out the path in between? The road-less-traveled? The path of REAL justice and INDISCRIMINATE equality?  

Time will tell.

This time he did not throw it away in disgust. It fell off his hands. He was unaware of everything, except perhaps words and phrases leaping out at him, jeering him, as the urchins had. In an ultimate irony of life, he noticed that there was practically no difference between ignorance and thought. Between good and evil, between sane and radical. The thin boundaries of practicality and reality faded, and he found himself staring at dark recesses of confusion, wondering what to do, what not to do… What to believe and what not to believe…

True he was not true. True it was blasphemy. True, it was unbelievable. But an indent was formed on his beliefs. There was a void, a hole in what he could trust and what he couldn’t. Confused, derelict, and directionless, he moved in his own space, wondering whether it was real or an illusion…

Time will tell.

 

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The White robed Savior

The darkness was unfolding,

Like spiraling coils of smoke,

Of untouched vagueness in unseen.

 

There was no light on the street,

Neither in the heart of the traveler,

He was, but, Alone, desolate and lost.

 

Not in the sense of direction,

Not in the way of destination,

Lost; without any purpose or a goal.

 

He fell down on his knees

His head prostrated,

Not to the god he was searching,

Not the solace he was seeking.

 

Stars twinkled from the diamond studded sky,

Winking, as if mocking

His failure, his frustration

In naughtiness, they exposed that harsh truth

 

He sighed, and exhaled,

A deep sonorous breath

Which resounded deeply in his ears.

 

He was shocked,

By the hollowness in it!!!

Is this what faith had reduced him to?

 

He was tracing, the footsteps taught, wasn’t he?

Will the promises be retracted, now?

Did this road never lead to that ultimate destiny?

 

He was exhausted… and consumed,

By fear of failure… of purposelessness

He sighed again, not out of pity for self,

But for remorse for that to come by.

 

He prayed then, for the next traveler,

He wished he will turn midway,

To achieve those lands, those skies

And that one shining hope of ray

 

But then, at the far end of the road,

Appeared the man in white robe

His face gleaming with a blithe smile,

His aura glowing over the mile.

 

He came, and picked the man

Embraced him lightly and whispered silently

 

‘Amen!’

 

‘What thy wish for, thou gain’

’Cause this journey is not easy; not without the pain

And thus thou deeds come back again

Whatever thou wish for; joy or vain.’

 

‘And you my friend, unlocked the door right now

When you prayed, not for yourself, but for the friend unknown

And the tear you shed has melt the world

For you have gained what they search all along.’

 

‘So walk in, come with me

To the paradise lost

So we experience the bliss

And retrace the road’

 

‘To heaven, peace and solitude.

To fulfillment, pleasure and salvation

We reach the doors of unknown and know it

Only to lock it back again to re-explore.’

 

And thus he went along, never turning back,

Finding his destiny at the edge of the road.

Just when he thought there was journey no more.