Saturday, December 29, 2012

An illusion of Absolute Power

My son does something naughty, unforgivable by a Mother's standards. I yell at him, and raise my hand to strike. He cowers in fear. His eyes are wide, they plead, "Don't". For a fleeting fraction of a moment, when my eyes full of rage locks on his terrified ones, what passes through my mind is a wild pleasure. Someone is afraid of me! The Me that no one was ever afraid of. The Me who never could bully anyone and was forever bullied. The Me who was a weakling. And now here is this little being that is afraid of me. The fraction of a moment when I became the boss - the tiniest instant when I had the Power. Then the moment passes, and a flood of motherly regret and love washes away the illusion.

I look closely towards that smallest possible fraction of a second when I lost my head and imagined I had the Power. I zoom into it and magnify it into a window as large as Life. When I look in, I see myself in my second year at college, asking my juniors in the rudest possible manner, 'Where're you from?' (and more unfriendly questions) in the name of ragging. I see myself at the door of my classroom looking insolent while my classmates brought an embarrassed guy from first year and asked him to 'Salute Madam.' Yes, these slightest instances of Power over Weaklings did feel good. (These juniors later became friends, and we laughed together at these instances, but that is not relevant.)

The appearance of power is merely an illusion.
The boy who saluted me wasn't weak.
The girls who replied politely to my rude questions were not weak.
My son, who looks at me on the verge of tears, is not weak.

Everyone has a moment in their lives when they feel they have the Power over others. But there is a world of difference between having Power and using (abusing) it.

Where does this illusion of power come from?
Rage? Complexes? Money? Desire? Lust? Temptation? Availability (of a weakling right before one's eyes ready to be reduced to ashes)? Hatred? Revenge? Absence of Fear? An Urge to Destroy? An easy way to silence the overpowering Beast within? A cowardly instinct that refuses to suppress the urge to destroy? The momentary blindness that clouds all reason?
So many reasons to do wrong. And only one against - that you mustn't. That the only thing you are allowed to do to a person who appears weaker than you is help. Or walk away, before the Beast roars.

Despite a thousand admonitions from his mother to the contrary, a child throws stones at stray dogs. And when an explanation is demanded of him as to why he did that to an animal who did him no harm, he says, 'My friends challenged me to do it. If I don't, they will call me a coward.' The phase may pass but the temptation to fall for a dare (lest he be called a coward) remains. The "collective wisdom of the Gang".

We ask little boys who cry, "Why are you crying like a girl? Aren't you a man??" Of course, girls are weaklings who cry.


As a nation, we are lost. We do not know where to begin, what to do. What are the symptoms, the causes, the signs, the answers, the solutions? Who to blame?

Meanwhile...
Parents of little girls shudder, afraid of the kind of world they are bringing their daughters up to face.
Parents of little boys shudder, afraid of the kind of men their sons would grow up into, despite their best efforts.
As parents, we are confused. Are we teaching our children the right lessons?
What in the world are the right lessons?

The End

The End.
A Year. A Life.
A Light.

Unseen,
A curve in the road
Of Destiny

Jerked;
Skidding off the lane
Bruised, battered,
Knocked
Out of existence...

Unbalanced
Is the Balance of Life.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

To 2013. And Beyond!

And thus, we have successfully crossed to the other side of the dreaded and much anticipated Dec 21, 2012.

Whatever we may have said, however confident we made ourselves appear that the Mayans were a bunch of crackpots, however we rubbished the Doomsday predictions, most of us have had this inkling of doubt that maybe, just maybe, these ages-old wise men did know a thing or two. Maybe there was indeed a huge meteor headed our way. Maybe the sun was going to turn nasty, and pull us harder into its mouth. Maybe there was a very secret volcano brewing under our feet all this while which was going to hit expiry date this week. Maybe this was going to be the first - and the last - predicted earthquake (of literally earth-shattering magnitude) in the history of the planet. Maybe our space watchers and scientists knew it all the time and kept it from us, to avoid a collective international panic and stampede.

But, whew, thank goodness and all that, the day is now behind us. At least, if there is a real doomsday lurking around the corner, it will catch us unawares, which is much better than waiting for the hangman's loop, really.

The world as most of us know it, did not end as predicted.

But the sad part is that for many people, their worlds did shatter and crash and come to a tragic end this year, and not necessarily on Dec 21.

In the first half of this year, I lost people who are very dear to me. A few of my dear friends lost their loved ones. There were also people whom I did not know closely but their departure left voids all around. Whatever little achievements I may have had this year, whatever big hurdles I managed to cross, seem to fade in comparison to the enormity of these losses.
For each one of us, a part of our world did come to an end, like it does every year. For others, the rapid corrosion had begun.

The world proved once again that it is not a great place to live in (and our own continuing contribution to that situation is enormous), but, as usual, we really do not have a choice but to keep on living.

So we gingerly step into 2013. Without having a say in what comes our way. We do not have the luxury of staying back in the comfort of our past, in the safety of places and things we are familiar with.

We have to put our best foot forward and take each day as it comes.

Friday, December 21, 2012

It's okay to be weak

Some people are so afraid to appear weak. You don't hear them say, "I'm worried" or "I'm tired" or "I am desperate" when there is a real crisis. Oh, they say that all the time for non-reasons. But when there is a real situation in the offing, they want others to think 'He's taking it so well, he is so brave and capable.'

Right before me is someone who is terrified of what's going to happen. Scared if his little world is on the verge of a collapse. Yes, he is capable and brilliant enough to rebuild it - and he has faithful hands to help him, people who would stand by him no matter what. Nevertheless he is anxious. So would we all, in his place.

But he refuses to acknowledge it. He keeps repeating, 'I'm fine.' I want to tell him it's okay to be scared. Let your guard down for a moment. Relax. It doesn't make you weak. Even if it does, the weakness would only lead to more strength and courage.

Maybe he doesn't know how. So he continues to struggle with himself.

And we, some of his closest, wait silently, for we want to be there for him if he ever wants to lean on us.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Persepolis

Just finished reading Persepolis: The story of a childhood and Persepolis 2: The story of a return by Marjane Satrapi.

I don't have any words to describe them. If you haven't read these books yet, you should.



The books were recommended by Cartoonist Sunil.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Time passes you by


A chapter is closed
And long forgotten;

A word, tossed out
Against one unspoken.

For the right time,
For the right words,

You wait to speak;
Time is passing you by...

Young suns rise
When the tired ones set

Yet another day,
Yet another time;

Seize the chance-
Before it's too late!

Do you not see
Time passing you by?


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The President of India

"Do you know what I will be when I am big?" my son said to me in utmost confidence one day at lunch.

"What?" I said, without much interest. So far he has wanted to be an astronaut, a football player and a skating teacher, among other things I could barely remember.
"The President of India," he said.

I raised my eyebrows. That was definitely a new one.

"Yes," he said, seeing my surprise. "You know why?"
He asks too many questions, believe me. More than that, he wants me to ask him the right questions. "Why?" I said.

"Because I know what is the most important duty of the President of India." Then he waited for me to ask.
"What is that?" I duly obliged.

"To save people and protect people." He launched into an explanation of the save-and-protect clause. "If someone gets into trouble like, like, like, if they fall into the sea or a pool or something, he should help them, right? Like that. He should help people."

Pranab-da, I hope you're listening.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

When you take up your tools


They say writing is a lonely job. I have seen enough of it to agree. No one can chip in and do it for you, nor can you delegate it. You do not even want anyone to help you with it.

No one knows your story like you do. You raise it like a baby. You nurture it and care for it and prepare it for life. When it goes out to face the world, you fear if it is going to fall and get hurt.

You toil alone, for the most part. You fight your battles alone, you face your demons alone, and, win or lose, you endure alone. Friends can only stand to one side and say, 'I hear you.' They can inspire you, encourage you, motivate you but they cannot share your frustration. When you want to bang your head against the wall, you don't want them to bang it for you.

You try to see through the eyes of your characters all the time that sometimes you forget to see through your own. And you most definitely fail to see through the eyes of the real people around you.

Real problems are not problems any more unless they serve the purpose of appearing in your writing.

You force others to find their solutions, and inadvertently look for yours within your own world.

You sometimes feel the pain of your characters more than your own.

You abandon things and desert people, and feel guilty for doing so. And it's no fun feeling guilty.

Writing isn't all about writing. It isn't only about writing. It's a whole lot of things apart from it. And not all good.

But, when you take up your tools and begin to create, it makes everything worthwhile.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

4 one-liners to live by

1. No harm in asking! Poochne mein kya hai?
Seriously! If you don't get the answer you seek, that's that. It's over, and done with. But by all means, ask. What's the harm in asking?
(Poochne mein kya hai is a famous tagline in an advertisement. That did inspire, though I didn't buy the product, whatever it was.)

2. What do I have to lose? Mera kya jaata hai?
This is a corollary of the first, but it does have its own existence.
When I desperately need the courage to do something, that's what I tell myself. What do I have to lose, dammit?

3. Who cares, anyway? 
My colleague (alias friend) and I often spend a long time after preparing a sophisticated email, asking each other, "Shall we send it?" "Shall we send it?" We're terrified that we may not have verified its contents properly, and may have overlooked something.
Finally when we are tired of procrastinating, and are ready to let go, one of us tells the other, "Who cares, anyway? No one's going to read it."
That statement kind of releases our tension like no other.
Until the next time we have an email to send.

4. Better to have tried and lost than never to have tried at all.
So that, at the end, we can tell ourselves, at least I had the courage to try.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A headache or a memory? Your choice.

Every difficult decision, more often than not, boils down to a choice between a Bad Headache and a Bad Memory.

The day I stuck to my belief (or principle or self-imposed rule, whatever) I came home with a headache. People tried to prod me, nudge me, lovingly force me into doing something I didn't want to, but - though I almost did give in, at one point - I mercilessly (and I dare say, rudely) resisted and fought and refused.

The effort itself was enough to split my head into pieces. I almost regretted the decision within minutes. The headache stayed till morning reminding me of the darn stupid principle I was trying to stick to. Who made up these rules, anyway?

But I told myself, the headache will be gone soon - after an hour or a day. Instead if I had given in to the people and gone against my wish, the memory would had gotten bad over time, decayed, smelt like shit and would have ruined my days forever. Better the splitting headache than the rotten, life-long memory.

And so I say, everything that does not have a happy outcome is either a severe Headache or a decayed Memory that forever gnaws at your mind.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Fox and the Grapes

I think the Fox was right to turn away when he did.
He was not a loser as I had been led to believe. He tried the best he could, and when he realised that he would not get the Grapes, he knew it was time to give up. He commented on the sourness for good measure, to give himself the strength to stop trying.

One of the most definite signs of a loser is that he continues to run after the finishing line.

There are things like hardwork and persistence. Then there are things like crawling on all fours and begging and pleading and returning, even after you've been kicked out. The line between the two is very thin. It is where Dignity ends.

You do not run after the finishing line, it is foolishness and a waste of energy. What you do is find the next race and try to win. It is important to know when to stop and move on.

The Fox was dignified, he knew he would never get his hand on the Grapes. He accepted the fact and turned back. He did not keep trying until and after the grapes were eaten by birds or the vine had died. He knew when to stop. His was the honourable decision.

Who knows, he may have found better Grapes at the next juncture.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Lonely are Journeys


The roads are now wider, the green is all gone;
The full moon at dusk throws a cool, golden dawn.
An old tree once stood where a new one's now born,
Old garments stripped off as new ones are worn.

Night streets are well-lit, which once were all dark,
The streaming of cars, with no space to park;
The shiny outsides only hide what they lack,
The old days are past, one can't hold them back.

The children are busy, grown up and gone
Leaving their parents to wait up, alone.
The garden is unkempt, the path over-grown,
The flowers have withered, no seeds are now sown.

An old shop, new people; new signboard, old name:
The cup of vanilla still tastes just the same!
Landscape beloved has vanished from town,
Landmarks have come up, old ones come down.

The beach, well-remembered, the waves children wade,
Open, safe places where friendships were made;
The sunset is over, the crowd soon does fade,
Fearful of danger that lurks in the shade.

Childhood, a shell, gathers memories by day,
Happiness, sadness, all that come our way;
Rising and falling the feelings, they sway,
To savour and taste when we are far away.

Once there was love, and life was not fast,
Hearts were much closer in spaces so vast
Changes will blossom, the shock does not last,
Lonely are journeys I make to my past.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

NaNoWriMo - at the end of Day-15

Chugging on - on the right track and a wee bit ahead of schedule! Absolutely delighted!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Just for Fun - a quick Diwali poem

A little star was born,
Opened eyes and yawned.
Looked around and found
Blinking lights abound.

What are those? Or who
Are blinking red and blue?
Sometimes don't they move,
And playing peekaboo?

Stars they are, and planets
And asteroid belts
Satellites, comets
And, like you, small starlets.

I like that little blue,
Yonder, see, do you?
Like a drop of dew,
Mom, is that one new?

Why does that one glow
When the night does grow
Does it try to show
Us something we should know?

Two nights it has fun
It sparkles like the sun
Every year it's done
It's Diwali, my son!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Reward or punishment?

When my son came from school, he was the best child ever. He did everything he had to do without my asking even once. We had a nice Mom-and-Son cuddling-and-talking session, we had a lot of laughs, and then he went out to play. He knew he had scored a few points with me.

But when he got back from play a couple of hours later, the tide turned. He wanted to watch TV and I wanted him to do something else. Some of those Mother-and-Son sparks flew. Lightning and thunder lurked behind the curtains, ready to make their appearance, and storm brewed in the horizon. All of a sudden I had this enlightenment that I did not want to yell any more at him, and gave in.

"Go watch your TV, do what you want," I said in the most upset and resigned tone I could manage.
"Thank you," he said, and ran off, my sarcasm and indignation totally lost on him.

When it was time for dinner, I placed chapatis on a plate and brought it to him. He looked up in surprise. I did not explain, and turned on my heel and walked away, my chin raised to show my displeasure in general.

My unspoken words, which I believed he could fathom, went like this: "I know I would have to yell at you to make you turn off the TV and come to dinner, and I don't want to yell any more. I'm tired of yelling every day. So this is me being indifferent to you and punishing you for not listening to me earlier" or something of the kind.

His Dad walked in a few minutes later, and was surprised. "Hasn't your mother told you so many times not to eat in front of the TV?"

"But she brought this to me," came the reply. From the next room I could imagine his wide, innocent eyes as he spoke. I braced myself for what was to come.

"Oh! Why?"

"Because I was a good boy today when I got back from school and she was happy."

Talk about perspectives.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

An absent-minded Mom's Guide to Packing for a Holiday

1. Packing begins two weeks before the trip. At least ten days. My condolences to those Moms who have to travel 'tomorrow'.

2. Make a list. Lists are essential. Trust me, without a list you aren't going to remember a thing. If you do, you do not deserve to be called "absent-minded", nor do you belong in this elite club. Quit reading.

3. Start laundry and folding. Throw them into the travel bag, but don't pack them properly in. Not yet. That comes in step #8.

4. The number of clothes to pack for the child is a complicated mathematical formula that each Mom has to arrive at. Here's a hint: The equation takes into consideration the climate of the destination (the more humid the place, the more change of clothes per day), the weather conditions (in the rainy season, the child loves to get drenched twice a day, so at least two changes of clothes), multiply it by the number of days you'll be away from home and the number of baths foreseen per day. Square the final answer for good measure, and you get the number of clothes you need to carry.

5. Don't ever make the mistake of asking the child what toys to carry, unless you plan to hire an entire train for the trip, because every little toy, every little book, every CD, bicycle, even the dining table, is "absolutely essential" to them.

5. Remember to

6. By no means allow the child to see what you've thrown into the bag. Because once they start pulling their favourite outfits and toys out, there is no stopping them. If that happens, return to step #1 and start all over again. (You're allowed to swear aloud at this stage.).

7. Locate the bag/suitcase you're going to carry, from the depths of over-stacked cupboards. This should have been done before step #3, but I forgot to mention it. Dust and clean and air it and keep it where you can see. You don't want to lose it again.

8. I am sure there is something to do here, but can't remember what.

9. Before you leave, attend to the laundry pile - the ones you don't intend to carry. There is nothing more annoying than an overflowing laundry basket when you return from the trip.

10. Keep the list safe. (What do you mean "which list"? The one you made earlier, that's the one.) You'll need it for the next trip. You know you're never going to find it again. But keep it safe and secure nonetheless. You can create a new list the next time.

There will always be something you forgot but you can always blame it on the list.
Have a safe and happy trip.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Labyrinths... on Facebook

A blogger friend of mine had suggested a long time ago that I create a Facebook page for this blog. I never got around to doing it... until now.


So if you read this blog, and like what you read, please let me know by 'Liking' Labyrinths Of Life on Facebook. Thanks!

Thank you for the suggestion, Harish.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012...


... kicks off in a few hours, and I am all set!



Oh yeah, that's me over there, flexing my fingers, refilling my glass and spreading my notes all around me, waiting for the stroke of midnight.


Read my last year's NaNoWriMo experiences:
Why I decided to NaNoWriMo
15 days of NaNoWriMo
I did it!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Taste of Success


They said I could not do it.
They said that I was weak.
I gave up out of despair,
Lost belief in my self.

But One was on my side,
He took my tools away.
Left on hands and feet,
I worked with nails and teeth.

I kept my dreams low,
So that they were in reach.
I made my plans in small steps
So that I could cross each.

And then I went to overhaul
My house that was in shreds
I pulled things out, I pushed'em in,
I gave the place a shake.

The day, when at last ended,
I looked back at my trail
I saw my life, spic and span,
The path of Achievement.

If I set my heart to a task,
Whatever they may say -
I could take a sip of success,
That's certain, I knew that day.

Friday, October 12, 2012

And yet I search...

I'm here, I'm there,
I'm everywhere

In search of that
I cannot find

Which, if I find,
I cannot take

And, if I take,
I will reject

Once I reject
I will regret

And yet I search...

I search here, there,
And everywhere.

I'm here, I'm there,
I'm yet nowhere.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Rocky Balboa

... and then it comes again, after a gap of a few years, twice in a gap of a few weeks, too close by to be a mere coincidence, this well-remembered quote from a movie I had never seen, a dialog I had never heard uttered or a scene I could never envision - until a few days ago.


"Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't how hard you hit; it's about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done. Now, if you know what you're worth, then go out and get what you're worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not pointing fingers saying you ain't where you are because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain't you. You're better than that!"

Rocky Balboa

Friday, October 5, 2012

Like and Unlike Poles

Some people are so like you that it is darn infuriating.

Margaret Mitchell may have famously said that people who are alike should hang out together, because they alone can understand each other. The Understanding part aside, hanging out with folks who think (and act and have desires) just like you is... challenging, to say the least.

At the start, the likeness - the passion for the same things - is very attractive, very enticing. "Oh, you're just like me!" and "That was just what I was going to say / do" set your blood on fire. Contrary to the popular Like-Poles-Repel theory, like does attract like, almost with an explosion. Add a same-star-sign coincidence to the mix, and you are positively done for.

As time passes though, things tend to change. Imagine both of you always reaching out for and wanting to do the same things; one of you will have to retract your hand and let the other take it. That metaphorical hand-outstretching can stand for any real life scenario.

Eventually, the likeness begins to turn the relationship sour.
The giving in - losing? - becomes exhausting. To be fair, both feel that they are giving in all the time.
Seeing the other's passion for the same things as you makes you want to puke.
Really.

That's perhaps when the Unlike-Poles-Attract theory actually kicks in.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Waiting...

Everyone is waiting for something.
An appraisal, a promotion, romance, marriage, children, grandchildren, good news, bad news, some news. If it doesn't come today, it might come tomorrow, if not then next week, next month, next year.

The wait is never-ending.
Where would we be if we had absolutely nothing to wait for?
If every morning when we got up we had nothing to hope for, to wait for. If every day was sheer boredom, with no change, no excitement, no expectations, no waiting?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why we should respect film stars...!


I have this newfound respect for filmstars.
Oh, I've always admired them. I thought their life was cool - notwithstanding the hectic schedules, travels, sleepless nights, holidays away from family and so on. I thought it was cool that they could portray different people in different movies, adorn different costumes, dance to the most beautiful songs, have themselves projected on to huge screens, and have people rave and chant their names. Not to speak of the big money.

As usual when you see the other side of the story, you find it strange that you hadn't seen it till now: wasn't it very obvious and glaring right into your face?

I have worked with snobs (and others) of all kinds; I have also worked with people I adored and admired. But the first kind takes precedence here, the second are still too revered to be mentioned among the filth. I have had to say Howdy, and smile at and joke with and pat the nastiest ones on the back (even when my intestines were squirming) because they were part of my team. I thought that was really tough. And now when I watch movies where two people have to feign love and friendship, look longingly into each other's eyes when they really don't have any affection between them, I realise that my joking and smiling and Howdy-ing were nothing at all.

That's why I say, these filmstars, their lives aren't easy at all. They deserve our admiration and respect, not (only) for their larger than life presence, but for what they do uncomplainingly for the sake of their job.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Of Sunrises and Sunsets


I suppose every child of Kerala grows up drawing sunrises over the mountain and sunsets on the sea, and believing that the sun *has to* always rise between two mountains and dip into a crimson sea. I did too, and I was well into adulthood before I even thought about the fact that there could be places on Earth where the sun rose over the sea. Or over a barren desert.
Or over a series of dull-looking apartments and set beyond railway lines behind other big, boring apartments.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cry


There she goes again,
weeping, sobbing,
screaming, howling,
spraying her tears all around.

Why is the sky so sad?
Why does she cry so bad?

Does she have thoughts,
emotions, feelings,
friends who hurt her,
people who make her cry?

Does she have fury-
hitting and yelling,
plodding and pounding-
that she wants to unleash?

Does she feel lonely
amidst the crowd
that throng her
on her darkest nights?

Does she endure
having to smile
like us, when the
pain is unable to bear?

Does she also believe
her sniffing, sneezing,
sobbing, goes
unnoticed in the dark?

Does she so glow
in her deepest sorrow
beautiful and calm
with a million stars?


After I wrote this I was reminded of Smt.Sugathakumari's Rathrimazha, which I had learnt in school. That beautiful poem must have inspired me from somewhere deep within.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Breakfast

Breakfast, often called the most important meal of the day.

The flock gathers at the restaurant. Some are here early, some are on their way up the steps to the long hall where tables and chairs are spread for the meal-after-meal marathon of the day. Some wait for their food to arrive, some are already dipping into chutneys or scooping their iddlis.

The smell of tea and coffee and chutney and iddli and ghee hangs in the air before escaping to the world outside. The clink-and-clank of vessels against bowls, and forks against plates, and spoons against cups, reaches the ears of people hurrying along the road. Some are tempted to drop in, to see what's cooking.

A few children crowd around the huge aquarium near the steps, observing and squealing at the fish of all colours splashing by. They block the way of - and are immune to the irritation of - the arriving breakfast-seekers. Parents hover around the smallest ones, making use of the distraction to pop iddli-made-into-rolls to little mouths that open and shut like that of the fish they are gazing at.

The air is abuzz with loud talk and laughter. The waiters call out to the kitchen: 2 iddli ! 3 set dosa! Uppittu! Kesari bhath! Tea! Coffee!

The man at the desk scolds the waiters and the cooks loudly, for nothing in particular.

A child opens the tap near the rest room to wash his hands, and a spray surges out towards him and the man standing nearby. The little one giggles, and the man scowls.

A couple of foreign women, one wearing Indian kurta and pyjama, and the other in a saree, tackle iddlis with forks in their left hand, talking in low voices. Next to their table, three Indian women in western attire, laugh as they munch their sandwiches.

The large glass windows on all sides are open. A cool breeze intent on interrupting nothing, flows in.

A waiter hurries past with a tray full of glasses, bumps into a child, whom he had not noticed, for the child was only as high as his knee, and the glasses shoot in all directions and crash. The talks cease, the people freeze, the men in the kitchen stare: all accusing eyes are directed at the scared child and the even more scared waiter. A man grabs the child out of the way: Haven't I told you not to run??

The waiter begins to clear the mess, and the sounds resume.

Everything is back to normal.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The coconut tree and the people of Kerala

There is this coconut tree somewhere in the dense mythical realm of Kerala - every Malayali knows it exists, but no one has seen it, no one knows where it actually is. Every Malayali speaks about it, every Malayali knows the man who climbs it, every Malayali also knows that the man springs up the tree for the flimsiest of reasons, but no Malayali can recall the story behind it.

For the sake of each Malayali on Earth, the man clambers up the tree and stays there, sometimes frequently, sometimes rarely, and for every single Malayali he has stayed atop the tree at least once.

If you are a Malayali, you know by now that the name of the coconut-tree-climber is Sankaran, and that his job is to climb up the tree whenever a Malayali finds himself or herself back to square one.

One of these days I will cut down that darn coconut tree.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Everything we do has a purpose

... We may not see it immediately, perhaps, but some time. Sooner or later. For sure.

A couple of days ago, I was helping a colleague understand how Google Analytics works; she wanted to analyse the hits and visitor data at the website. After I lectured for about ten or fifteen minutes, she asked, "How do you know this? What made you spend so much time on understanding Google Analytics??"

I told her about my blog, this blog: the beginning years, when the only hits came from visitors who strayed in from Google looking for something else, and leaving quickly because this was not what they wanted. And some, staying a little and reading a little and leaving - or not - comments behind.

I told her about the hours I spent daily on this, following an isolated guest back to where he came from, to his country, to his state, to his city... wondering, and trying to find what brought him here. And a flicker of delight when I noticed that a visitor has returned.

She remarked at the end of this flash-back: "It's good that you once did all those exercises; today they have come in quite handy for us."

Yes indeed, all exercises we do, though they seem like a waste of time today - evoking snide, nasty comments from people ("Vere pani onnum ille? Have you nothing better to do?") - would eventually become useful tools, to us or to others, some day... The lessons we learn today - without even realising that they were lessons - are stepping stones that shape our future.

Everything we do has a purpose, a meaning, a reason. As long as we believe in it, even if it is as small as fiddling with Google Analytics...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Midnight's Children

At the very outset, I have not read The Satanic Verses. I plan to, but given the fact that the book is banned in India, it may not be easy.

After years of hearing about the Rushdie controversy (which has a habit of popping back up every couple of years or so) I finally decided - and I do not know what finally clinched the decision - that I wanted to read his books, at least one. In fact, now I wonder why all these years I never thought about reading them, even the ones that are not banned.

I cannot now recollect what I was prepared for when I started Midnight's Children. I surely had some kind of expectation about it. But one week and 647 pages and 60+ years of Indian History later, my original expectations are as blurred as (perhaps) the memories of my infancy.

The book gives us a glimpse into what the Satanic Verses could hold: even if I do not know what "religion-bashing" (to use the phrase a friend employed to explain why the book is banned) could be contained in it, I could form a fair idea from Midnight's Children. I could perceive who could be offended and why. But I do not want to venture into it: religion after all is a dicey topic, and the Who-talks-about-it part is more important than the What-they-said.

But by God - forget what the plot is about, forget what the author tries to convey about history, geography, politics, mythology or religion (oh, yes one could take offence all over the place) - what totally blew me over was his style: I didn't know you could write like that! The book defies every (almost) writing rule I have come across, and yet stands firm on its feet. It left me reeling in its wake.
How can you have the first person (I) and third person (he/she) narrative in the same sentence, referring to the same person - for that's how the narrator, Saleem Sinai, tells us his tale: going back and forth from first to third, and the reader does not even notice when the 'I' became a 'he', and then became 'Saleem' and again back to 'I'.
And, man, where are the commas, why are they not where they should be? And why is it that I did not even feel odd (after the first such occurrence) that they are not there?
And when did Saleem switch from past tense to present, even while describing the same scene, from the Bombay (or Karachi or Kashmir) of years ago?
What about  repeated statements, wandering phrases, incomplete sentences that begin and end in thought-provoking dots... words tumbling and cascading over each other in their mad rush.
And so forth.

The first page of the book left me raising my eyebrows, which could mean anything: I was surprised, but was curious to read more, and a little wary (after all, the author is banned in several countries), perhaps sceptical as well. But after page 4 or 5, I caught myself gaping, astounded that such writing was possible, that it was allowed.
And a little disheartened that I would try to call myself a writer in a world where such writers exist.

Enjoying a book is all about deciding what you care about - the literature, plot, characters, theme, premise, backdrop? What captures your attention inevitably stems from who you are, what you are,where you come from, how you see life, what you expect of yourself. Right after I turned the last page of Midnight's Children, I took up another book by a good (perhaps, brilliant) author, but the first couple of pages seemed too plain, linear, ordinary, lifeless, that I put it back. I need more time to get past the hangover. I post this before I have second thoughts, Time always dims our first impression and tries to force its own convictions on us.

Students of literature may claim that similar writing styles have been experimented with by others before or after - I do not know. I haven't come across any. And, as I write this, I am still in a state of shocked disbelief.

I will just say this: after reading 647 pages of Saleem Sinai, my writing can never be the same again.

Monday, August 20, 2012

We leave so much to Faith


It's alarming how little attention we give to the safety measures in life. And I am not talking about the government or others in responsible positions, though they are included as well. I mean each one of us. We know things happen, we read about them daily, yet we have this strange and unreasonable faith that nothing of the kind will happen to us.

On our way to the hospital one day, we saw a truck ahead of us that was tightly packed with concrete bricks. It was easily slipping in and out of traffic. My first thought was, what if the driver hit the brakes suddenly or something happened to dislocate the bricks, they would fly off the truck and crash on to the rest of us right behind it. When I made this statement, my husband said, "No, nothing of that kind will happen. There is no danger."

I said, How do we know? We believe the bricks must be carefully packed, and nothing will throw them off the truck. And that the driver will be careful. I knew I sounded paranoid, and it was no doubt from reading the newspaper too much.

The discussion did not go any further till we reached the hospital where I happened to pick up the day's newspaper. In page 2 there was a news of a building collapse, and the sub heading: "Builders ignored safety regulations..." which led to the collapse. Everyone involved must have assumed that others will take care of it so that no accident will happen. Yet it did happen.

When we eat shawarma from hotels we really don't expect to die within a few hours, do we? Nor do we expect to land up in hospital with severe poisoning after a chicken biriyani. Yet these things happen, and we continue to eat those. We easily use products beyond expiry date saying "Oh, it's fine... just a day or two won't do any harm." Not to mention the compromises we (are forced to) make on matters of hygiene.

We see school bus drivers overspeeding on the roads and the best we could do is place our hand on our hearts and say, "God, please keep those children and others on the road safe." We read of train and bus accidents, yet we continue to travel hoping that someone will be more careful this time.

We believe someone else will be careful so that the rest of us are safe. And yet so many accidents happen because of neglect and carelessness. Because no one gives a damn about what happens to others. We leave so much to Faith.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Somewhere a dream has fallen...

Somewhere a dream has fallen
And melted into dew...
Somewhere a pair of gentle eyes
Has picked it up for you.

The morning mist has cleared,
The sky is golden hue;
The day holds forth promises
Of a miracle overdue.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

You'd better be running. Or should you?



Once, not so long ago, I had this text pinned near my work station. My gaze would fall on it when I sat down to work in the morning, and when I got up to get my tea or to leave for home in the evening.
It inspired me more than anything else.

But now, I beg to differ.
Running is not for me.
Running is for lions and gazelles. Or maybe for Usain Bolt. And others whose survival depends on their speed.

For me, it is Persistence.
Persistence sprinkled with luxuries like afternoon naps, stops to smell the roses, getting drenched in the rain, taking evening walks,...
And then getting back to work.
It's about getting depressed once in a while. Getting mad at the world. Feeling pleased about a small encouraging email. Or sharing a laugh with a close friend. Or making plans that would never happen. Dreaming about getting even with others.
And then getting back to work.
It's about taking a break from work one day because I am tired. Or lazy. Or because I just don't feel like working.
And then that day will pass and I will get back to work.
It's about attending to chores in the house - grumbling. Swearing out loud when I can't take it anymore. Hugging my son just the way he likes to be hugged.
And then getting back to work.
Slow, perhaps, but steady.

For me there is no running. And no prize that comes with the race.
But there is persistence.
Because I have dreams, too. And the wish to make them come true.
I don't want to race after my dreams.
Because I know, if I am persistent enough, they will wait for me to catch up.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Absent-mindedness

This is the only excuse I have, for being absent-minded and forgetful and uncaring, most of the time.


Click on the image to enlarge


Read Between Friends Comics by Sandra Bell-Lundy.
Read Sandra's Blog.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

In truth, the journey is irrelevant, except to yourself

Whatever said and done, all philosophies of the world notwithstanding, what matters is the result.

If you are successful, no one really cares how. You got there. Let the congratulations pour in.
If you fail, no one really cares what you tried, or what you learned, or what services you rendered to others on the way. You didn't get there. That's all.

What matters is: did you reach, or not.

Perhaps that's why they say the end justifies the means. As long as the end is attained (or even if it isn't), no one really bothers about the means.

What matters is the result...


Friday, July 20, 2012

Changes and Patterns


Change.
I had forgotten how receptive I was to change. 
How I used to welcome it with open arms.
How I, even when terrified of what I was getting into, would embrace the simple fact that there was going to be a Change.
How I had struggled against myself when a part of me, the coward, wished to return to its well-known security and the other, the explorer, refused to succumb. How the latter eventually won. And how, sometimes, I let the coward win.
How I had delighted at the prospect of seeing, hearing and sensing the unknown. The delight I now see in my son's eyes when there is something New in life. A new toy. Or the magic words, Let's go out for a walk. Let's go for a movie. Let's play something new. Let's make a new kind of paper plane.
The way his eyes light up when I utter, "Why don't we..."
A Change from Routine.
Maybe that spark - the eager wait for Change, the excitement of facing the unknown - dies with age.


Now the very sighting to the horizon of an alteration to life's pattern sends me close to panic fits. 
I do not know how I got here... The coward begins to get her way more than usual. The explorer is burned out, from the fatigue of a million efforts.


I may despise my routine, but I fear change even more.
I may be tired of doing the same chores, seeing the same things, living the same life. But I am petrified of the unknown.
Unless the unknown were the much-awaited, much thought-of, much-imagined, but yet-unattained Dream. 
The Dream does have its routine.
An expected arrival of an unexpected destination.
The order in the Chaos.


I dream again.
Of patterns in dreams.
Of changes in routines.
Of the routine in changes.


The only option left to me is the only one I know. 
Take a deep breath, and let go. Come what may. 
Float, without trying to swim.
Live, without resisting.


And yet, the possibility of Change never ceases to terrify me.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Walking to learn


Like two children
Learning to walk,
Fallen trees in the path,
Thorns in the trail;
Walking in the dark.

Holding their hands
Drawing them ahead.
Through slush and mud
And fire and wind,
Walking to learn.

The fire burns within...
When the journey's done,
The darkness is past,
They've learned to walk,
It's time to let go.

The walk was fun,
It's now time to run.
Separate ways, other trails,
Out of reach,
But within earshot.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What if your heart came with a fixed expiry date...

What would have happened if the human heart was manufactured with a definite expiry date on it?
Some do say it already is - it's just different for each individual and none of us can actually read the date.

But my question is, what if the life duration was the same for all ??
What if each heart could beat for say, seventy-two years, three months, five weeks and twenty hours.
And on the last minute, it just stops beating. Piff! And we're gone.

What if the heart cannot be stopped by any means natural or artificial - the human will not die until the heart stops even if he is bleeding incessantly, or his brain is crushed, or poison has entered his heart, he will be alive because his heart does not fail any time before its time is up. The person may go into a coma - coma is allowed. But no death.

Don't ask me why. Because that's how it is.
I know, letting imagination veer a little off the path of reason, and all that.
But let's continue.

First of all, the moment this ultimate truth was figured out, mankind would have invented the most important tool since the wheel and fire - the Heart clock. The Heart clock (or watch) is obviously unique for each individual, and at any moment will show the time remaining in his life. It begins at seventy-two years, three months, five weeks and twenty hours (72:03:05:20) and runs backwards to zero.

"Age" will have a new meaning altogether, and instead of saying "I am twenty years old" one would say "I am minus fifty-two years old" or something - which means he or she has fifty-two more years to live.

There will be a huge division in Cardiology consisting of people exploring ways to extend the life of the human heart, doing experiments with rats and other lesser beings - and also secretly exhuming dead human bodies and tearing their hearts out to see how it works. All human efforts to transplant an old heart with a younger one and thus achieve immortality have failed miserably, mostly because none of the younger people were ready to donate their hearts before their time was up. Not to speak of it totally complicating things, with a running heart outside a living body.

The trials to extend life continue. Nobel prizes have been showered on scientists who unearthed the reasons behind this fixed lifetime phenomenon of the human heart. Some have arrived at theories and formulae on how to extend the heart life. But nothing have been achieved in reality.

A group of people have formed a cult that believes the human heart will function for long if taken outside the planet. Scientists who support this theory claim that a person who visited space has had his heart life extended. When the man died, there were controversies surrounding his birthdate (some said the date on his birth certificate was fake), so nothing could be established. Discussions are on to send another person to space, whose birthdate is non-controversial, and who is minus three or five months old in his Heart clock. However it seems highly likely that by the time the arrangements and formalities are through, his time will be up.

Meanwhile, some are involved in making commercial spaceships that can carry people on a trip through space to extend their lives. No one knows if it will work, but it's always worth a try. After all, business is business, and clever marketing still sells. People are ready to pay any price for a seat in the ship. There is also an underground movement involving VIPs from powerful nations to create luxury living conditions on another planet, but it is all hush-hush at the moment.

The rashness level of the planet is sky-high, because no one is afraid of death - in fact, no one ever knew what Fear of Death was - and they fly their motor bikes or sports cars over the roads without much danger to themselves or others. The only thing that hovers above the rashness level, is the carelessness level. With no Fear, the concept of being careful has no reason to exist. In fact the words 'careful' & 'careless' do not figure in the human vocabulary. Neither does the word 'Murder'.

When a guy proposes to a girl he would say, "Every moment of my remaining forty-nine years, six months, two weeks and three-and-a-half hours will be dedicated to keeping you happy." Obviously a lot of proposals are turned down because the time remaining in a person's life is too less for a long and happy married life.

No one can commit suicide. The best they can do is commit comacide, but they may find that skilled doctors can bring them back from coma too soon, so the whole exercise could turn out to be a waste of everybody's time.

There are nursing homes where those in coma can wait till their life time is over, without troubling those that are leading normal heart lives.

More important than yearly birthdays are the mid-life day, quarter-life day and three-quarters-life day, which are celebrated with invitations sent to the whole neighbourhood.

One of the subjects taught in school would be Life Planning - how to plan your life, and do the maximum possible before death, how to plan and choose your career, and make the best out of it for yourself and generations to come. And how not to panic. Of course that is an important lesson, and there will be end-life consultants who help you deal with the panic during the last days of your life. From childhood you'll repeat after your teacher the magic number: seventy-two years, three months, five weeks and twenty hours.

People prepare their wills about a week before their death. They also get to finalise their gravestone carvings and designs on their coffins, and so forth. Death certificates serve no purpose.

The heart slows down in the last weeks of its existence, and people show tiredness and exhaustion. Of course they all know what it means.

Photos and videos are taken on the last moment of each person's life, to record each death. People spend their last days knowing they are in their last days. The Heart clock will be rewound and kept ready for the next birth in the family, or donated to a poor man who does not own a Heart clock of his own.

Any thoughts on what you would do on your last day?


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Why go out at all?


The last time I went out, I caught sight of a new library a few kilometres from where I live.

Before I go any further, there are a couple of things I need to clarify: 'The last time I went out' was at least a month ago, if not two (I can barely remember); and the 'new' library could have opened three or four years ago - speaks volumes about how frequently I tour the neighbourhood.

Anyway, the view of the passing library stocked with books and more books reminded me that it was years since I stepped into a book lending library. It also reminded me of something I wanted to do for a long time - register at a popular online library here in Bangalore. I came back and did that, and reserved a couple of books I had wanted to read. They were delivered the next day.

Thus the library became one more place I used to go out to, that now arrives at my door. To think that somewhere in the periphery of our memory, there still exist dusty, book-smelling libraries we used to walk into, long queues we stood in patiently to pay bills, book stores we frequented to feel the rustle of fresh paper in our hands, hotels we visited to taste food we loved, shops we pushed our way into to buy our monthly provisions, wooden tables and chairs we sat in to run our pen over papers and files, ...

They still exist in the world, of course, but it is easy to imagine a day when none of these would.

When Amazon came into existence, it was called the largest bookstore without a single book in it. It took me a while to understand what that meant.

I now pay all my bills online. A few of the bills I get by post, many arrive by email. When I need provisions, I call up the supermarket and within an hour I get everything in my hands. One day when my son needed a new pencil box, the boy from the shop brought two different types to my house for him to choose from.

For almost two years I have been working from home solely through email, using online whiteboards for discussions, online taskboards to track my work and Skype to chat with my colleagues.

In 2009, I published an anthology of stories and sold it through the Internet. Almost without taking a step outside my door - 'almost', because I did visit a couple of stores in Bangalore at first, before realising that their vendors could be contacted and the entire transaction managed through phone or email.

My daily dose of fresh air reaches me when I step out to the gate - in the morning to see my son off in his school van and in the evening to receive him.

My son's school communicates with me through email or phone. I could skip the monthly Parent-Teacher meeting if I wish, and the teacher would call me on phone if required and update me on his progress.

Restaurants deliver food to the house, and there is a variety of food and places to choose from. One can buy dresses, books, CDs and even furniture through online stores - it's just a matter of choose-and-click. All the latest movies are available on DVD or through the digital TV. With the home theatre, one does not even miss the ambience of the real cinema - popcorn and nachos could be delivered at the door.

In short, the only reasons why I may need to step out of the door is to get a haircut or take money from the ATM. I don't see any change happening in the first in the near future, but I sometimes manage a home delivery of money by transfering funds to another's account and asking that account owner to bring it to me.

Do I ever wish to go out? I do, once in a while, though I would rather not. A few minutes of the heat, dust, unruly traffic, and a handful of disgusting experiences are enough to send me running back to my sanctuary.

The day is not far when schools will be extinct and children would study directly from online tutorials, and take online exams. Already offices ask personnel to work from home when required.

I don't think anyone who first envisioned the Internet dreamt that it would one day lead to solving traffic problems or fuel price hikes. People would soon not have to travel at all (except the ones who do the actual delivery - till a better method is devised), then how would there be traffic jams, and why would anyone need petrol?!

Those days are long gone when the whole world was within reach. Now when we knock on our own front door, the world opens it for us.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Today I can dream

Today I can dream...
Tomorrow it may shatter,
But today I shall dream.

The questions have been posed,
The response not yet given.

A newer set of queries
Whose answers are unknown...

A springboard into life,
Or a stumbling block of stone?

Tonight I can dream...
Tomorrow things may change,
But tonight I will dream.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Draw


"Draw," said my son, thrusting a piece of paper and pen under my nose.
"Draw?" I said.

We were playing beyblades. He had made sure that I got an ancient, broken and bruised beyblade whereas he took the best of the lot called 'Pegasus'.

After losing a couple of times (the loser is the one whose blade stops spinning first), I was ready to stop playing when he, playing carefully, ensured that both blades stopped spinning together.

"That's a draw," I had said, pleased with the result.
"What's 'Draw' mean?" he said.

"You know what it means."
"Tell me anyway."

"Well, it means no one has won, and both players have got the same number of points."
"No," he declared. "Draw means you have to draw something. You have to draw a picture now."

So, ladies and gentlemen, the next time you say "it's a draw", take a pen and a paper and draw something.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Harvest



There's no dearth of ideas
But none to implement them.

One has no clue of what he is
Till the pressure's on to him.

Teach a man no swimming,
Just throw him to the sea.

Watch him learn to survive,
But help him if need be.

Plant a seed into his mind
And watch it grow to a tree.

The fruits will soon be falling
Into your hands, you'll see.

Sow the set of ideas
To the hearts of those like he.

Reap a harvest of progress
And brilliance, aplenty.

*

Friday, June 8, 2012

Into the realm

After a while, it becomes easy, almost a habit.
The Silence.
Of course it is not total. Not always.
There will be noise, lots of it, from all sides. 
The walls hold them out.
One will speak, one will hear, one will listen. 
One will even sing.
But one does not communicate. One does not share.
Nothing of any significance passes anyone's lips.
That past is left far behind. It exists on the other side of Chaos.
One has moved on, beyond the point of no return.
Without looking back.
The mind expands, seeking newer pastures.
Into the realm of Solitude.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Putting Mamma to sleep

Today afternoon my son put me to sleep. What more can a Mother want?

He placed my head on his lap, rocked me, told me a story (involving a ferocious panther or a leopard, I forget which), gently requesting in between 'Baby, go to sleep fast' (Kunju vegam urangane...).

Finally, when I began snoring impressively enough, he eased out, replacing his lap with a pillow. He carefully placed another pillow next to me so that I don't turn over and fall to the floor. After that, he gave my legs a push so that they were folded up and not spilling over the corner of the bed.

He demanded to no one in particular, "Are you really asleep?"
I did not answer, of course.

I heard some scampering sound followed by soft steps returning, so I peeked through my closed eyelids to see what was happening. The fellow, all of six years old (and a half) was trying to fool me into thinking that he left the room, so that I will open my eyes. Three times I heard the scampering and the returning feet. When I didn't open my eyes, he decided I was really asleep (which I almost was, by the way) and went away. After about five minutes, he came to check on me and patted my shoulders (not gently, but hard enough to wake an elephant) a few times, the way we do to put him back to sleep if he wakes up at night. I continued to snore.

Considering that usually when I need a nap, I have to beg and plead with (and more often, yell at) him to allow a few minutes of peace, and when I start dozing, he appears out of nowhere and rolls all over me till I abandon all hope of getting some shut-eye, this was a welcome change.

I woke up half an hour later to find myself still lying as he had left me.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Nostalgia


Raindrops on the roof,
A clink of the gate;
Cries of a little bird 
Every morning at eight...

The tweets of a Sparrow,
The squeaks of a Squirrel;
The rustle of leaves
In the early morning breeze...

The rain-lashed ground,
Ripe fruits in the trees;
The caws of the Crow,
The buzz of the bees...

Flowers of all colour,
Medicinal plants;
The swaying green cover
Of Coconut trees...

A cough of a rickshaw,
Women selling fish;
Squeals of the kids
Splashing mud in the streets...

The growl of the scooter 
Coming up the drive;
Friends across walls
Catching up on life...

The place of my childhood,
The home of my dreams;
I miss the place!
Oh, how I miss the place...

Monday, May 7, 2012

How to brush your teeth, lessons from a 6yr old

My six-(and a half)-year-old was in one of his moods. He wanted to brush his teeth all by himself, without my coming anywhere close, let alone help. There was no point in arguing, so I observed him discreetly while making the bed.
The routine 'eeeeees' and 'aaaaaahs' were heard as the brushing progressed with generous wastage of water from the tap. I kept my words in check.
He ran his finger through the front of his teeth, as he did every time, washed his brush and, before my surprised eyes, began to squeeze the paste out into it again.
"Hello, hello?" I said, rushing to him, and placed a restraining hand on his arm. "Why do you want to squeeze the paste again? Aren't you done?"
"I am going to brush again," he said, picking each word with care whilst I waited impatiently, "because my Doctor Uncle said I should brush my teeth twice every day."

Monday, April 30, 2012

Mother, defeated

They say, when a baby is born, a Mother is born too.
And in that Mother, a power is also born - an immense power that helps her protect her children against all evil that could arise: evil from outside, evil from within.

She cannot give up, no matter what - she has to keep fighting for what she thinks is best for her children, even when the children themselves become the beings she has to fight against. If their lives are in danger, she fights with her tooth and nail, until her last breath. If she loses a battle today, she knows she will win another one tomorrow. She knows she will keep fighting. For their sake. For her sake.

She is never terrified of losing - she knows that if she as much as thinks about giving up, her children won't stand a chance.

As they grow, as their perception of her changes, even as they accuse her of interfering in their matters, she knows that one day when they become parents, her motives and actions will become crystal clear to them.

There is only one thing, next to losing a child, that she views with horror - the one thing that haunts her night and day, the one thing she has no control over, throughout her life as a Mother. There is only one Monster that can ever bring her to her knees. She would fight it nonetheless, but she knows that it will overcome her in the end. The one terror that she carries, the one thing she knows she cannot fight forever, is her own Death. She would secretly beg it to give her some more time, so that she can protect her children till they are old enough to protect themselves.

And when she realises that she does not have that time, that she may have to give in too soon, that she may have to leave her children to fend for themselves because she has been summoned, there is no defeat as complete. She knows they will survive, she knows her courage will continue to inspire them, she knows her lessons will be remembered years after she has gone, yet the thought would gnaw into her consciousness: I will not be there for them.

My friend lost her two-year battle with cancer last week, leaving her two young children behind. I would never know what thoughts passed through her mind in those last days. I do not think she was afraid of Death as much as she would have been of leaving them - too young to even understand what her loss would mean to them.

R.I.P, my friend.
You are not defeated, you have passed on your amazing courage to your children.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I just set a butterfly free

I just set a butterfly free
To see if it'll come back to me.
If it does, it belongs to me.

Ten days pass, and then some more.
Night and day, by my door
I wait until my heart turns sore.

Merrily fluttering 'cross the globe;
My thoughts bind it in their rope.
Can it read my mind? I hope!

Does it wait for me to call?
Does it think of me at all?
See the paintings on the wall?

Do I go and call it back?
Do I show it what I lack?
Do I say 'I need you back'?

I want to go, I want to fight,
I want to stay, I want to wait,
Don't know no more, what is right.

Is success meant to those who stay?
Those who wait to greet their day?
Or the ones who fight their way?

So I set this longing free
I'd been blind, but now I see-
Perhaps it wasn't meant for me.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fish in a Timeless Pond


My friend and I were talking, as usual. Gossiping, if you like. (Ever noticed how that term stops being a concern after a certain age?) The topics were the usual ones - career, mid-life, family, shifting priorities. How we're past the struggling-to-love-what-we-do days and are now more or less into the doing-what-we-love phase.

A certain job description that we had a chance to read, came up. My friend remarked that the phrases 'challenging job', 'rare opportunity', 'learn new skills', 'do you have it in you' and such always lure a freshman, whereas we "who have seen it and done it all" steer clear of those. In fact, those phrases terrify us. We know what we have, and what we want. We're past the bubbling over phase. We're settled, more or less.

And we didn't just get here by accident. We have travelled our share of the way too.

Two or three years into my software career, I came across an incident that perplexed me. A person with almost fifteen years of enviable experience on his shoulders, quit a large, reputed organisation and joined a small firm that was well on its way to extinction.

A friend explained it to me: "Maybe he wants to be a big fish in a small pond." I was hearing the phrase for the first time. The idea was baffling, as well. Why would anyone, big or small, want to be in a pond that size at all? Knowing that this particular pond was muddied and drying and unlikely to last much longer? Isn't a bigger pond safe and fun enough??

It took me all these years to finally figure out the answer. Strange, how perceptions change with experience. No, I guess it isn't strange. It's quite natural. I don't think I would have thought this way - or even imagined myself thinking this way - ten years ago!

Now, the aforementioned friend and I are small fish in a small pond. Or maybe we're big fish in a pond where all fish are big. But somehow the size of the fish or the pond does not bother us at all... 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Words


People are very kind.
They always say Sorry.

They say, don't you mind.
They say You take care.

They say please pardon me.
They say don't you fret.

They say you should be happy,
Because you're the best.

They say a whole lot of things
But all they mean is No.

No, it can't be done.
No, I can't help you.

No, I am not the one,
But you're wonderful too.

What do I do with kindness?
What to make of mercy?

What to do with politeness,
And what of apology?

Mere words, have no meaning...   
Does this have no end?

Monday, April 9, 2012

A flower from the past


This flower takes me back to 17-18 years ago. 

I first came across them one summer, growing wild all over an ill-kept garden, swaying in the wind, totally oblivious of the surroundings and their new admirer. When the flowers gave way to seeds, I collected them and brought them home, saying to my Mother, "I want these flowers to grow wild on our garden as well."

On my last visit home a few months ago, my Mother gave me a few seeds and said, Plant this in your garden.

Our living space having shrunk, I do not have a wide garden where these flowers can grow wild as they did long ago, so I planted them in a pot. 

The first flower blossomed last week.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Of Following Dreams

*Warning: negative post ahead.

One must not take one's passions too seriously, or set out in pursuit of them.
Trust me on this. It will be much easier if you just take my word.
No? Then read on.


It is one thing to say, Follow your Dreams. It is yet another to shed the normalcy and security of daily life, and set out on the unfamiliar road, clutching a sheaf of hopes. The road less travelled, some say, to inject a sense of romance into it. That's brave of you, they say, to make you feel proud of your actions.

It is not easy, for sure, but to assume that the road is less crowded is attempting to deceive oneself.

It is not easy to look at people one has known all one's life and see them as characters. Observe their traits. Their colours. Their smells. Their accents.
It is not normal to manipulate situations, throw baits and wait for the bite.
Everything becomes a tool in a laboratory. Everyone becomes a lab rat.
Some call that art, the unapologetic term for irresponsible behaviour.

Worst of all, it is not easy to ask oneself every day, Was this the road I was meant to take? Or, am I making a mistake and wasting years of my life? Am I going to die over a pile of regrets??

Until a goal is reached, one never knows. In some cases, not even when a goal is reached.
What is the goal, after all, if not the journey itself?

What purpose does it serve anyway?
A sense of achievement that lasts a week? Nothing is satisfying or gratifying after ten days, is it?

The journey continues, regardless of the number of stations that pass, the milestones you cross. What does a mountaineer do after conquering Everest? There is no End, is there? There is no destination, no place that signifies the Ultimate Goal. Each goal gives way to the immediate next.

Isn't it easier to give up, turn back and swat those pestering dreams away while you can?
Isn't it even easier to never start, to pretend those dreams never existed?

What's a few more regrets anyway, in the end? There will probably be less regrets, for there is nothing more selfish than chasing one's own dreams.

Mark my words...

Sunday, April 1, 2012

We're all obedient...

...by nature.

We don't know it, we are ashamed to admit even the possibility, but the truth is that we are. The trait conceals itself deep inside the forgotten recesses of our memory. It takes but the right nudge at the right time to bring it out.

Of all my son's virtues, I believe 'obedience' would fall somewhere towards the bottom of the list. "Why don't you just do as I say?" has become the tag line I have to repeat several times a day.
And I know my Mom would roll her eyes if I call myself 'obedient'.
But when I look at my six-year-old carefully, I can see a tiny unit somewhere within his being that urges him to listen and obey. When he was smaller, he would just obey without thinking.

I find the evidence for the existence of this entity when he tells me things like "I threw a stone at the dog because my friend told me to."
"The TV says 'don't go away', so I am sitting right here." ("Don't go away! Cartoon Network will return right after this short break!")

As he grew, he started pondering over my words, and then he learned to hesitate, or refuse, to obey.

That tiny unit remains intact even as we grow, partly dormant, sometimes shaking itself awake with a yawn, and makes us want to obey every direct order we get.

How else can I explain the urge to obey when Google tells me authoritatively that I haven't fed my mobile number to it and I'd better do it immediately?

Or when Facebook says, my email account and FB profile aren't linked, and that some of my friends have gone bonkers trying to locate me on FB, and it's my duty to save their lives by linking my profiles?

Or when one of those job profile websites ask me to complete my resumé, lest some ill fate befall me before the day is out?

Or when some unknown site pops up at me and says Click here to know your future! I don't want to know my future, but I unknowingly move my mouse towards the window as if in a trance, before I snap awake, realise what I am doing and stop.

I feel guilty - as though I am breaking a few rules - when I resist that urge to do things these robot monsters suggest, and when I refuse to give in to their demands. I feel as though I am not being a good girl. I would so love to get a pat on the back from Google when I fill in my personal number, the way my son gets one when he is being good.

It must be that tiny trait called obedience, that still lurks inside...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Habits

I call up the supermarket guy and ask him to deliver a few items to my house.
He says Okay. I say Thank You.
He says Thank You.

The home delivery boy comes and hands over the packets.
I pay him. I say Thank You.
He says Thank You.

The auto driver drops me to my apartment.
I pay him and say Thank You.
He says Okay.

I call up the Broadband Support and lodge a complaint.
They fix it and call me back.
I say Thank You.
They say No problem.

He comes up with a new idea and implements it.
His colleagues say Awesome.
He says Thank You.
They say You're welcome.

She steps on a cat's tail as she hurries out.
She says Sorry.
The cat says Meow.

Hollow words, borne out of habit.

My niece gives a parcel to my son when she comes to visit.
He opens it and peers inside. I ask him what it contains.
He says, Biscuits and Gulab Jamun.
I ask, Did you say Thank you?
He shakes his head with an embarrassed smile.
He comes to me and whispers loudly, Can I have the Gulab Jamun now?
I nod, beaming.
My niece has got her Thank You.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

This day, that year


I don't think I will forget very easily. I don't think I even want to. Maybe over time I will.
It has already begun to fade from memory. This year I had to look it up to confirm it is 25th, and not 26th.
The day when all those loose ends in life came together and broke into a crescendo, while I watched alone, from the audience.
Events prior had their culmination on this day, and events later, their origin.
Some would say, it is important to forget.
I disagree.
It is important to remember. Because it was one of the toughest tests of all time.
More than the surprise and horror of it all, it showed me how vulnerable I really am. All those pretensions were a myth. All those beliefs were someone's cruel joke. All those assurances were fake.
The awareness that I was indeed alone in the audience. The rest of the folk were an illusion that vanished when I looked around.
Though things did change hence, who can tell if they changed for better or worse?
What came out was the realisation that Bad things happen, there's not much we can do to avert it. Much of what we could do amounts to preparing for the inevitable and trying to cushion the fall.
Expect the worst.
Once you have walked through fire you are no longer afraid of a spark from the matchbox.

Remembering is important.
So that we don't forget there are thorns in the bed of roses.

The blood could always be washed away like Lady MacBeth did, but I do not know how many of them still walk in their sleep, trying to scrub their hands clean.

Friday, March 23, 2012

This too shall pass

Ache. That's what it is, primarily. Ache, clubbed with mild fear.
Maybe it is not fear, maybe it is anxiety: Have I overstepped the limits?
But, regret? Regret there is none.
For it was a carefully thought out action, considered and reconsidered over months and perhaps years.
It was made to appear spontaneous. It was meant to come out as "Oh, by the way-"
It wasn't spontaneous, it wasn't sudden. It wasn't by-the-way.
It was polished and diluted and mellowed down till it appeared insignificant, unimportant, almost invisible. Just enough to seem as if it had just popped up. Out of the blue.
It was planned.
Schemed, if you like.
That's why there's no regret. It was done because it had to be done. It had to be gotten over with.
If it were not done, there would have been no peace. The what-might-have-beens could have become exercises in suffocation.
What ensues has to be taken in its stride. What could ensue - the possibilities - cover the wide and coloured spectrum of right to wrong.
That's why even the ache is tolerable.
The fear is reasonable.
The anxiety is manageable.
Everything seems natural.
And they will pass.
It will take time, but they will pass.
Just like everything else.
Before.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Of Norway and Gullibility


With the new twist in the story, the Norway fiasco has taken a new turn and who knows how many more would come in (no one has heard the wife's side yet) before dust settles on the case.

It is our right to feel embarrassed about jumping to conclusions without considering all the facts or trying to understand the other side of the story, and we also owe an apology to Norway for calling them names.

However, the way I see it, the best thing about this case is that all the parties concerned - though their actions were grossly misunderstood by each other - acted on the best interests of the two young children. The methods were different and often at conflict with each other, but the goals were the same. The Child Welfare Services of Norway, the parents who wanted the children back, the Indian Government that intervened, the people and media of India who rallied behind the parents in huge numbers, everyone thought they were doing the best thing for the little ones.

Take a moment and consider the image.
In this dreary world where every piece of news that greets us in the morning, and throughout the day, depresses us and makes us lose faith in Life itself, this is the silver lining... That we are still ready to jump in and support others because we feel they are right, their struggles are genuine, there is something we can do to make things better for a total stranger. Even though we shout at an autowallah who cheats us of five rupees, or yell at our kids because they don't listen, or refuse food to a beggar, we still try to do our bit to make the world a better place. As long as so many people and groups and organisations can work for what they believe is right, there is still hope that all is not lost. If we cannot appreciate that, I don't know if there is anything left in this Universe to appreciate.

Tomorrow someone else may face a similar situation, and many of us would approach it cautiously because we were once fooled by a pair of Indian parents in Norway, but guess what? - a lot of us would still jump in and support them and hold candle light vigil or stage protest marches in their favour. Call it gullibility or foolishness if you will. The next time, who knows, maybe the State is wrong and the parents are right, and who will support them if a set of gullible people don't.

Where would we be if we lost all sensitivity and left our fellows to suffer, because it is not our problem.

While it's okay to be ashamed of making a mistake or falling for a lie, we should also be proud that we were ready to stand for the happiness of a couple of children and their parents.