Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Goodbyes

How difficult Goodbyes used to be... for those who remember a time before the gadgets of today. You meet someone, make friends, and then it is time to part. As the last day approaches, you realise that there is nothing you can do to push it a little farther. You have to go your separate ways. You exchange postal addresses and landline numbers, and promise to keep in touch. And it happens too, for a short while. Then one day it stops.

Today at least we have the luxury of knowing they are always at the other end of our phone. If we miss them, all we have to do is ping. Text them, call them, video call them. Or read up their updates on Facebook.

But how does one bid farewell to one's Dreams? There does come a point when, after much deliberation and struggle, we realise that it is time to give up. Stop, let go, and move on. For reasons that cannot be generalised. Or explained. Or even understood. Not a screeching halt, perhaps; a sputter, a jerk, a roll and... it comes to rest. The decision may not be made lightly or quickly; it could happen over the course of months or years. If we are unlucky, it would just snap out of the blue, leaving us unprepared and flailing.

There is a Goodbye looming in my horizon; and there is nothing I can do to prevent it. I have been fighting tooth and nail to keep it away. But there is only so much one can do - what is bound to happen will happen. You can only try to find satisfaction in that you tried your best. It doesn't work all the time.

How does one say Goodbye to a Dream, and to the people that come with it? Only Time can tell. Only Time can heal.

Or so they say.


Friday, March 8, 2019

Tomorrow

Yesterday, it was too far away.
Now I am closer by a day.

This moment is beautiful - the anticipation:
The dreams, the possibilities, the expectation

For which I have so yearned;
Not yet arrived, nor been ruined

What I desire may come out well
Or, if luck so desires, go downhill

There is yet hope, at this instant -
Tomorrow may bring resentment

The precise point in time to find
The courage it leaves behind

To face the result, come what may -
To rise afresh in the dawn of day

Not a moment too soon, not one too late
What is life, if not an endless wait

For what the morrow brings?
The heart must take to its wings...

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Spare me the wisdom...


Dr House was right. People don't change. Our attitude to things or approach to certain circumstances may change over time from experiences or from the right type of upbringing, but our deep instincts, never. At best, we learn to pretend that we are not thinking what we are; or to smother our raw emotions; or to present a polished exterior while dealing with our inner wilderness.

At certain moments, however, under the right amount of pressure, the real 'we' that with difficulty we had kept suppressed shatters the mask and springs forth...

If we are prepared to accept that people are like that, and they may open their eyes but will never really change, it puts us in a better position: for one thing, we realise our efforts to change them aren't going to work - which is frustrating of course, but then it is relieving as well. It sets us free.

I have been battling a demon of my own for many years. All this while, all these encounters, always the same outcome - and yet, I have not tamed the beast nor trained it nor brought it into any kind of control. It deludes me into thinking it is asleep or even dead; and when least expected, awakens with a roar, and rears its head, completely overpowering me. A battle of the brain and the heart, one might call it. The one, always pragmatic, always ready with wise counsel, eventually bows to the other, foolish, impulsive, adventurous. Every now and then, the cycle repeats, over and over. Tossing me up and down; and from north to south.

A string of disappointments follow, but interestingly, no regrets. Experiences, aren't those what we live for? Memories of adventures past, aren't those the only things that remain with us, when all else is lost?

There's no escape - ultimately I have come to terms with that fact. One can resist only for so long. The only way forward is to walk through the fire. Because there definitely is reprieve, on the other side. Besides, I know the road. I have taken it countless times.

I pretend that no one knows of the existence of the slumbering beast but I. Honestly, I have no idea. It must show, somehow or the other, a sudden flash. Our true nature cannot be hidden for long. I cannot change, but now that I know it, I can better equip myself for the stroll through fire.

I suppose I am grateful though. But for the existence of the demon and the unrest it drives me into, I would not be writing nonsense like this at all. Any writing, whether to a specific purpose or otherwise, is fuel to the fire of creativity. When the war rages on, as it takes me through its ups and downs, and stifles me with its maddening persistence, I find an outlet, an escape, an energy - in words.

This demon... this sleeping giant... and the battle I have to wage every day...


Thursday, February 7, 2019

We are capable of magic

Why do we read stories?

For entertainment? For a distraction? For learning something new? For living a thousand lives without moving an inch from our seat?

All of the above, of course. And more.

But we also read to find answers. It's like opening an holy text when you're worried, and finding the answers you seek, on the random page you chose. Even in a depressing novel that ends in tragedy, you might find what you are seeking. A sliver of thought, a fragment of philosophy, a shred of an idea. A ray of hope.

Lately I have been finding answers everywhere, in every book I read. Every author has something new to show me. No, they don't solve my problems - if only they could! I've to do the solving all on my own. But they shine a new light on the darkness. They show me something I have forgotten or I have never known. They don't help me with my choice, but they stand by me when I make mine. They expand our horizons and remind us of possibilities.

But when we write, we cannot think of the lessons we ought to leave behind for the reader to find. The moment we do that, the purpose is defeated.

Which, for some reason, reminds me of the water beetle.

“The waterbeetle here shall teach 
A sermon far beyond your reach; 
He flabbergasts the Human race 
By gliding on the water's face 
With ease, celerity, and grace; 
But if he ever stopped to think 
Of how he did it, he would sink.”
- Hilaire Belloc


I come from a book crazy family. Everyone in my immediate circle could be found poring over a book or a magazine; always going to the library to discover something interesting; always talking of books, new and old. I never thought twice about it. I suppose I believed unconsciously that every family was like that. Much later, when I made friends with people who "never read much" I was stunned that such people did exist.

I leave you with a beautiful thought from the inimitable Carl Sagan: "Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic."


(Photo: Sapna Book store, Elements Mall, Bengaluru)

Monday, January 28, 2019

Pinnacle

Sometimes life takes us to a pinnacle -
Just to show us the view:
How far we have come,
How far yet to go.

The treacherous climb we've undertaken
The barriers on our path we've broken

A rare glimpse before we walk on
Down and up the next hill
Of how our choices shaped our road;
How our lessons lead us on.

Thoughtless, impulsive decisions
Led to life changing situations...

Looking farther back; we'd see
The point where our life diverged;
We chose - yes, it was our own choice;
WE have shaped our future.

The lonesome, twisting trail did promise
The adventures we sought.

You break a twig, you make a way
You step on mud, You walk in rain;
You make your mark in history
Tiny, barely visible. Or gigantic.

Our choices have opened new doors
Our thoughts have led to actions

It's our eternal discontentment 
And our never-ending yearning
That fuel our search, push us on
They drive us up the hill...


Saturday, January 5, 2019

Stories

I wake up, over a hundred years ago, in a civil war, where I am digging the debris for the rest of my unit. We were blown off the face of the earth by the enemy who knew we had no choice but to march forward and be devastated by their canons... The handful of us who are alive are frantically searching, digging, without a shred of hope...

Sometimes I am on this side of the war, sometimes that. No one knows why they are fighting, but they are bound by duty and some by a misplaced sense of hatred. A few firmly believe the war is right. Most have no clue.

I am digging, and digging - I find a hand - torn from the rest of his body...

Now I stand at a critical moment in history, as an important declaration is made that would change the course of the world.

No. I am the one making the declaration - which is carried across the country and possibly the globe. Which is recorded and listened to, numerous times by the generations yet to come. "... and consequently, this country is now at war with Germany..."

Don't mingle with the natives, they say. A picnic at the Caves sounds like a terrible idea. East is East... "Make yourself at home, Aziz."

I am in the twenty first century. Looking out the window at a countryside I have never seen. Its beauty escapes me. Everything looks lifeless because I have lost everything. And everyone. The journey I have to undertake terrifies me and, in all likelihood, is bound to end in failure.

Slaves - I see them suffer. I suffer with them. I surrender before their eyes. I have no promise to give them but more suffering.

I've loved and lost. Go fight for it, says the dying old man.

I am travelling into space, far from the world I have known, searching for a new home. Searching for a man who had run away, a long time ago.

A country is born at midnight. I fling stones at my own brothers and sisters as I follow my people towards the border...

I've survived. Battered and bruised, but alive. Barely.

Bengaluru, 2019, and a Life I can barely understand. The hand I have dug out of the ground grasps my arm. I writhe and struggle and I declare: "Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny... " The slaves will be free. Tell them not to lose hope, it is only a matter of days. There is nothing to see in the Caves. Only darkness - and madness. My ship plunges into the stars looking for an ancient power to help us. "Make yourself at home, Aziz." "May I really, Mr Fielding?"

I am trapped - with mirrors all around me. I see a thousand versions of myself - but are they all me?

These stories... they consume me. They aren't stories, they are Life. They are Hope. They're Guidelines. They're Reminders.

I live and breathe in them.

When do I step out from there and step into this life - the one I call real?

Where ends reality and where begins the illusion?

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Petrichor

Last night there was a drizzle:
A sudden, unexpected patter.
Many would not have noticed,
Many would not have known.

I ran out, opened the door
To see, to hear, to breathe
What they call petrichor
And chilly winter breeze.

Early today morning, I
Looked out for some sign
A cold, bleak day, dawning;
Did I dream up the rain?

Not a drop, no cold wind,
Not one whiff of petrichor
Was it the morning after rain?
Did I dream it up again?


Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Final Door

I had started packing at least two weeks before.

Packing, cleaning, removing all the garbage that had gathered over the years. So much - you have no idea. 'They had gathered' - I make it sound like they had all walked in of their own accord. 'I had collected' is more correct - I had brought them all. Invited them in and allowed them to stay.

Now it was time to send them away - out of my life. Overnight, they had lost meaning, they had lost purpose.

When the door is in sight, priorities shift. All the unnecessary stuff we had been holding on to, begin to fade. It's only a matter of time before we step across the threshold and close the door behind us. What do we want to do, in those final minutes? Leave some memories behind? Brace ourselves for the journey ahead? Say goodbyes? Take one last look?

It kept me busy, the clearing of my space. Kept my mind off things. Things that were thronging my head, jostling for attention. Secondly, it gave me a chance to stage my disappearance - slowly, without anyone noticing. Honestly, no one was interested anyway. They did not observe that every day I was wiping myself from their view. Erasing myself right before their eyes. Or did they not care?

Every day I walked out, taking stuff with me like Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption emptying dirt out in the yard, little by little daily. Andy had all the time in the world. I had slightly lesser.

The door beckons, closing by inches. Too soon, too quick. Every minute it leaps closer. On the other side lies uncertainty. 

I didn't know what I was going to tell my friends. Yes I had a few. They didn't know what to tell me either. We kept safely away from the elephant in the room. I spoke about other things, for their sake. Their embarrassment and sympathy would only make me more miserable.

On the Last Day...

I was ready. A handful of people knew - none of them my friends. It just happened to be their duty to know. They would much rather have remained ignorant. This was awkward for them. Seeing me made them uncomfortable. Avoiding me was easier. Their forced smiles said as much. I wonder if they expected me to make a big hue and cry of the situation. Did they even bother? Or were they relieved when it was over, quietly, just like the end of another day?

I don't remember much of that Day. I have wiped it clean too, when I closed the door behind me. I must have walked around, bidding farewell in my mind. To things, to people. Touching the walls and the doors and the coffee machine for the last time. If I met any of my acquaintances, I must have said goodbye as usual. Some of them might have said, See you tomorrow. I must have smiled: I knew I won't see them tomorrow. They didn't have to know yet.

I turned my back on that part of life - with a vengeance. Pushed it out of my mind. Drowned it in my newfound independence.

Vanished. 

I heard them utter my name. Wondering, questioning,... finally comprehending. And then my name would fade from their lips too. The final stab.

Some memories are like quicksand. They just keep pulling you back in, no matter what you do. You remain still, and you tell yourself you're out, you're safe, but all the while you're right in the middle of it. If you move, you sink. But they don't take you in completely, they just leave enough for you, just enough to make you sigh over and over again, years later.

When it is time for you to leave, and if you're fortunate enough to get ample time to prepare, would you take the time to look around? To say goodbyes? To hand over unfinished work to someone you trust?

We are mortal. But our work can be immortal. 

The question remains. Did we matter?

Did I matter?


* Background vector created by Freepik