Thursday, December 13, 2012

Why I have not written or Why I still hope to write


I have not been writing for such a long time that it feels very strange. Maybe, it is because I haven’t been reading as much. Books have become rare guests into the steadily evaporating minutes in my life. Some days, when I am relieved of my worries and bills, I cast my eyes on my fading friends, lying unattended as show pieces on the wardrobe in the hall. I feel sad for them, like one does for people who have fallen from their high posts. Yet, I do have hope.

My laptop often lies unattended in the bag in the corner. On days when I am bored, I look it up and find half written articles and stories, incomplete drafts that beg to be completed. And yet, the drive is gone. Not forever. At least, I hope not. Yet, it is gone. Something is missing.

Yet, I wait. In hope. In silly, miserable hope. Every moment waiting, like the dry, wasted hay under the sun. In the hope of a faint spark that shall set fire to my imagination again. A fire that shall again burn through the dark recesses of my mind and light up my days. I wait. In hope.

Yet, there is a hidden fear. A fear of failure. I do believe it is natural. To fear being a failure, when you have already been branded one by everyone who seems to put up a claim of knowing you. My life seems so much like that of Philip Care in W. Somerset Maugham’s ‘Of Human Bondage’, that it feels scary. What if, like Philip, I end up finding up I have no talent in art? What if everyone around me is just being encouraging, without realising the fact that they are setting me up for a heartbreak in my quest of artistic success? Will it be too late to turn back, and try and find an ordinary career then? What then, shall I choose as a career? So many questions, so little answers.

“There is nothing so degrading as the constant anxiety about one’s means of livelihood. I have nothing but contempt for the people who despise money. They are hypocrites or fools. Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five. Without an adequate income half the possibilities of life are shut off. The only thing to be careful about is that you do not pay more than a shilling for every shilling you earn.you will hear people say that poverty is the best spur to the artist. They have never felt the iron of it in their flesh. They do not know how mean it makes you. It exposes you to endless humiliation, it cuts your wings, it eats into your soul like cancer. It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank, and independent. I pity with all my heart the artist, whether he writes or paints, who is entirely dependent for subsistence upon his heart.”

Like the art teacher says ‘It is cruel to learn about your mediocrity too late in life.’

Indeed. This is one of the haunting prospects that face me. It is difficult.

This is not a defense of my procrastination. No. It is an explanation of my current emotional state. It is an explanation why I have not yet closed down my blog. It is my last line of defense. It is the reason why I have not yet given up my hope of being a writer. I cannot. Like my brother pointed up, you need an almost impossible target to aim at. It will drive you, when nothing else does. And so I wait.

Till the day the fire burns again. And I write again. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Potential Part 2


Amit walked across the vast campus courtyard. Not much had changed. The kids still laughed, screamed and walked across the main road in groups. They were sitting on the bench, bang opposite the Arts college entrance, discussing Sunny Leone’s tits against Deepika’s legs. He smiled. Nothing had changed.

 ‘So? Who is she?’ Mrs Joshi asked him one day, while a casual examination of his latest poem.

‘What?’ He blubbered. He really did not know what she was talking about. Many people did not. She had a habit of going on a tangent, crossing the equator, cooking some elephant gob, before returning to the topic. He sometimes wondered how her family could withstand her.

‘Your muse? The one who keeps propping up in your poems? Do I know her, by any chance? She does look familiar’ she clarified.

‘Err… No. I don’t think you know her ma’am.’ He wanted to close up the topic. This was uncomfortable.
‘Don’t worry. The poems are getting better with her. A word of advice, tell her, before somebody else does. College is a very competitive atmosphere for love.’ She handed the notebook back to him and smiled.
He had walked out the door with a weird expression on his face. He did tell his ‘muse’. It took him a couple of weeks. She had laughed to his face. The next couple of weeks were filled with poems, which today, look like a bad copy of Metallica and angry punk songs.

‘Have you ever written Ma’am.’, he had asked once. The third year Literature class was a lonely place. It had two idiots, and a cabin, that looked like the Old Widow’s shoe cabinet. It was embarrassing.

‘Yes. I have.’ Mrs Joshi answered, without looking up from the copy of Whitman. ‘And I have been rejected by publishers a million times’ she had continued. The voice was clear, but it had a slight edge to it.
Amit prodded further. It was a doubt that was prescient in his mind too. ‘Then why do you continue? I mean… I am not sure if I can be published or make money through writing either. Wouldn’t it be easier to choose some other career and go on?’

‘Yes. It would be easier. But should you do that?’ She asked.

For the next decade, the voice screamed from within Amit’s soul. It continued to scream when he could not think of words. It screamed when he felt like taking days off from writing. He could always hear her voice, bespectacled, and shattering the null void of the world. She haunted him into writing. And he remained ever grateful for that.

Sitting down with a cup of tea, he remembered the day of his graduation. He had walked in to see Mrs Joshi talking to Ahmed about choosing a career in a teaching. Amit wondered if she would be recruiting future professors for the department. He wondered if he was in the list.

Her advice to him was simple. ‘Do you have something in mind?’ she asked. He shook his confused head. He immediately regretted it. He did not want to stand and hear to another one of her long and droning lectures. Not when, he had just ensured that he wouldn’t have to listen to it anymore.

She smiled. ‘No, I am not going to lecture you. I never waste my advice where it is not wanted. When the day comes that you need it, do let me know.’ She walked away.

That was the last he had seen of Mrs Joshi. Life, with its vicious henchmen, responsibility and economy had seen to it.  Amit had found time to continue with his academics though. Not that he had a choice. Education was his only solace from the world. Books offered him a comfort. Dickens, Dostoevsky, Lamb and Browning. Tortured souls, trapped in the vicious circle of life. There was a certain familiarity of being in the company of these friends.

He had forgotten all about college. And Mrs Joshi. Till today. Today, when Mr Shah walked in bumbling, with his trademark white kurta, and scratched the surface paint off his wall of memories. 

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Potential - Part 1


Mrs Joshi never called herself a writer. Even in the years, when her sight failed, thoughts wandered, and the salt pepper bob of hair lost its bounce, she never called herself a writer. Amit knew better. He had known her better. In better times.

The first time he had met her was on the winding staircase at his college entrance. He always thought that it was too filmy. It stood there, like the grand trunk of huge oak, branches of corridors snaking out through the first floor, and students scattered like leaves all around it. He had run into her on his early days in college, a time when he used to attend lectures. She was fierce. Dressed in a blue and white salwaar kameez, that would become her staple apparel for work; she asked him what he was up to. He did not know. He was looking for the principal’s office, and was lost. She pointed out to the right corner, from the entrance and said “I do hope you can read. There is a board right there. Are you sure you cleared the SSC examination?” He went off without a word. Words had not yet become his staple weapon. Words, which she had not yet taught him.

The principal’s office was a huge room to the left sight of the entrance, past the clerical offices of the college. It was an oasis of silence in the middle of a humdrum that was college. The principal is the one person who can never enjoy popularity amongst students in a college. It has nothing to do with his character, which can be as affable and jolly as Santa; it is just against the rebellious hormones that run within the youngsters that walk these corridors. The office belonged to a Mr Keerti Shah, MA, M.Phil, D Lit.

Almost a decade since that day, Amit looked at the small, balding and pitiable man in front of him. The invite for the annual college fest lay in front of him. It was the 25th anniversary of the college. He almost felt a twang of pity for this old man. It was hard to believe that this was the same fearsome figure, who had denied Amit a 5 day break from college. Simply because the reasons were not convincing enough. A part of him wanted to remind Mr  Shah of that incident, but it would be rude.

‘Please do come for the event. It would be nice to have a former alumnus visit us on our 25th anniversary…and one as prestigious as yourself, would be an inspiration to our students’, Mr Shah muttered.

Amit knew his recent spate of awards was a honeypot for social parties, events, but his college anniversary was a surprise. He was half afraid of attending events in colleges. He remembered the times when he had sat in the last benches of the assembly hall and jeered and hooted almost all of the chief guests. Actually, all of them, he smiled to himself.

‘Sir, I really do not know. My schedules are so packed these days. I will surely give it a try. Please, do not take offense.’ He fumbled.

‘Of course.’ Mr Shah mentioned. His eyes spoke their disappointment. ‘I understand. But please, it would be nice of you to come. We, teachers, do not get many opportunities to boast about our students. Especially, ones like you’ Mr Shah muttered. It sounded, pathetically, like the last request of an old man.

Ah, what the hell… ‘Sure, Sir. I will try and make it to the event. It would be nice to meet my old professors as well. Are they all well?’ He asked.

‘You know… most of them at least. Mr Kak passed away last week. Well, that is life.’ Mr Shah is not a man of sentimentality. He never was one.

But Amit was. He would never forget the years spent outside in the campus. The walks, the friends, the udhaari chais and the free lunches. The crushes, heartbreaks, poems composed and the delirious joy hidden in a smile. There was a time when life was simpler, when happiness was easier to come by. There were people who took young boys, and taught them about the better things in life. People like Mrs Joshi.

 ‘If you think literature is for easy going Casanovas, you are in the wrong class, kid’ She had snapped at him. He was late again, and she was known for her punctuality. He remembered the minutes of embarrassment, while his friends tittered at the back of the class. Dammit woman! There were girls watching. But Mrs Joshi never had mercy on students that did not respect English Literature lectures.

‘You will never be a writer, unless you are fearless’ she would go on to advise a year later. She had spotted him scribbling in his notebook a couple of times in the classroom. She took the notebook. It was 3 nervous, agitated hours, before she called him and gave it back. The works were filled with edits, and pointers. Since then, Amit had a critic and reviewer, as honest, and probably, more honest than any he would encounter in his life. 



...To Be Continued

Sunday, September 09, 2012

The Man and the Sea.

A deep dark horizon
Spreads its wings endlessly
Over my head
And embraces the sea;
The waves come in
And crash on the rocks beneath my feet
And again, and again
The sea heart beats;
I sit there, a lonely soul
In the embrace of the cold, sharp wind,
Looking at the future
That is fading into the past;
Love is in the air, they say,
I try to smell it, but I can't;
Nothing, other than the smell
Of wet, white sand.
I remember Poe
And his poem, 'Alone'
I wonder if that is what my future is,
If that is what I am, what I should be.
The wind blows again
And the waves rise over my head
To hold me in their embrace,
And put me to sleep on their sandy bed.
The waves part reluctantly
Farther than they were before,
They return, but surely,
Further than they came before.
As my eyes probe the sky,
My lungs inhale the wet air,
And the waves rinse my skin clean,
My heart beats, with life.
My skin is now sand,
My blood, the waves,
And my lungs have the wind of the sky within
I am the world.
The world is within me,
I, within the world,
Inseparable, yet distinct,
Thus, do the twain meet. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Drunk


He sat down on the rusted swing. His boots were dirty from walking in the rain. He ran his hands along the chain and thought someone should fix this soon. The children were going home and the few that were playing were being hunted down by tired mothers looking to get homework done. The clouds crept just as tiredly across the sky, as he lit his fifth cigarette.

He did not care if he rained again. He was tired. His work had drained him. The fight with the CA and the accounts department head did not help either. He swung a little, to feel the air in his face. It was wet, cold and smelled of the rain that was to come. It also smelled a little of the rain that had gone. Time is constant, in the past and the present, he thought. He puffed again and watched the grey smoke against the pitch black sky.

The first showers of July had passed. Soon, it would flood the city, he thought. I need to get rain wear for the kids. The little one had just entered school. She needed new rainy clothes. But that was for another day. This was another week. His life had changed suddenly and unexpectedly. Some things are more important than the rains and shopping. Things like family.

There was a question to which he had no answer. Not yet, he thought. Then again, maybe, not ever. But he had no choice. He had to make a choice soon. This was his last week. He took another drag and let the burn settle into his lungs. There was a strange comfort that alleviated the restlessness. The time ticked off the seconds on his watch, and the cold crept into his blood, slowly but steadily.

He could hear Dr. Mehta in his ears. The man had the moustache that reminded him of Kakkad uncle, his father’s military friend. ‘The shivering is a sign of regression,’ Dr Mehta had said. ‘It will last till your body feels the craving. Just focus on the eventual goal.’ He said. He was an optimist. This thing was harder than he had thought.

He never believed in goals. Life had a tendency to take his goals and fuck them bad. Take his career for instance; it had gone from being a journalist to a copywriter to a manager within the span of 15 years. Every decade had resulted in a loss of direction and a complete return to the life of a homeless remnant. Thankfully, some people too his eccentricity to be a sense of adventure. Except her. She really believed him. Or so he thought. Till that eventful day last week.

He tried to inhale the smoke again. But the intoxication was gone. He no longer felt calm. The shivering was beginning to come over him again. He could remember her face, when he saw her in court. Her brown eyes were bloodshot. He knew she had not slept the night before. Just like him. The judge ruling their divorce, was blissfully unaware. Or he had too many cases that he did not want to bother over.

He would have called it off. He had tried talking to her. But it was always the same argument. You won’t change, she had said. Change! He was willing to give it all up. Did she even realise the extent of his pains? He was torturing himself to stay sober every day. But did she know it? NO! She would not have any of it. He kicked the last cigarette into the mud. It sank with the last gasp of smoke escaping the water.

He did not blame her. She had stood by him when most others had given up. She had been around when a better life was calling her. Yes, he knew he had problems, but who did not? Every man hid something dark within me. Some did it better than others. But they did hide it. And so what if he did have a problem? Would that make him any less of a father? Any less caring? Had he not provided for his children? Did he not try his best to be at every one of their major events? Why could they not understand how impossibly, ginormically and hugestic difficulty it was to quit the bottle? Dammit, smarter men than he had failed at the effort. But he was getting there. He would’ve. Eventually.

She should not have done that.

The watchman took Mr Lall home that morning. He had been in the rain, drenched all night. The fever had taken a hold of his body. The watchman rushed out to call the doctor. He spotted the bottle of Jack Daniels lying by the swing. The watchman never could understand why Mr Lall chose to suffer the cold and torrential rains, rather than take a shot of the Jack Daniels. He laughed, ‘crazy rich bastards.’

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Journey (A short)


He stood by the railway platform waiting for the train to arrive. It was six minutes late. The crowd was getting restless. No one wanted to get to work late on a Monday morning. Just then it struck him, he had forgotten to take the newspaper again. It would be left hanging in the door post for somebody else to swipe. The thief was simply stealing his newspapers. Why would anyone steal newspapers? Aren’t they going obsolete? He hoped Mrs Sabnis would take the paper in and hold it for him till the evening. He hated to have his dinner without the newspaper. Eating alone wasn’t his best experience.

The train slowly chugged into the platform. And then began the mad clamber to get in. Mr Phadke, as usual, jumped into the still entering train, like a jackrabbit. Then, went Mr Iyer and Damle. He was still amazed at the urgency of these men to get, not to work, but inside the compartment. He squeezed in just before the rush was beginning to take over. Slowly, the compartment filled up, like water flowing into a vessel. In the beginning, a thin trickle, then suddenly a gush of people packed in. Soon, there was no space to stand.

Sandeep was sitting at the window on the right as usual, and Mr. Joshi was catching his forty winks. Soon, the train picked up pace. And the scenery outside began to move at a steady rhythm. The lush greenery of the first month of June, was moving in a beautiful blur. He reminded himself of sending a picture to his parents back home.

Mr Phadke, slapped Sandeep on the shoulder.’Kaay re kaartya! Haltos ki! Old men are standing here and you, young fellow, sitting comfortably. Get up, lazy bum!’

Sandeep laughed, ‘Kaka, kaay…Morning morning only you fought with your wife or what? Why take it out on me? Joshi ko dekho… How soundly he is sleeping? You never wake him up? Best friend no he is your?’

Sandeep was a 12th standard graduate working as a peon in a corporate organisation. You could not have told it from his attire. The stylish belt, the branded jeans and the checked shirt would have cost him more than a thousand at any store.

Joshi Sir heard the conversation and lazily opened one eye and said ‘Sanya, he is my best friend. Ask him last time who brought Kande pohe for breakfast? I did no. Now till next month, no one will wake me up from the seat. At least till Kurla.’

Mr Iyer had already caught a seat. He was involved in a deep conversation with Rajesh. Rajesh was a software engineer by profession. Since the last few weeks, Mr Iyer was offering him suggestions about investments and mutual funds. Not many people knew Mr Iyer did this as a part time. His full time job was as an accountant at an engineering firm.

‘See both the Madrasis are sitting discussing something. This is the bad habit you people have. All the time, you get together and keep talking in some unknown language’ Phadke snapped again. He had this annoying habit of making comments. Iyer was not very fond of it, but he bore it because he was not fond of confrontation either.

In the corner of the second row, a couple of young college kids went through their notes. Struggling through those years was something he remembered clearly. He was not a bright student, but he got through just fine. Now, was a different time.

Damle had, by now, immersed himself into the Navakaal newspaper. The paper had frontlined the news of the fire in the State secretariat. The news had become the main spread across the train compartment for the week. Damle would never shut up about how it was a conspiracy from the congress party.

‘It is. Can’t you see? The corruption, all those files are burned now. Nothing will come out of this inquiry-winquiry!’ he groaned.

‘Kaay pan kaay!’, rebutted Joshi, ‘Nothing like that. Did you read the papers or not? No important scam papers were damaged in the fire. The government has lost already. Why plan a fire now? They should have done it before people came to know about such news.’ Well, he had a point.

Sandeep turned and asked, ‘You want to sit. You are standing since a long time, no? Sit. You get down at Dadar, right?’

He nodded. The standing journey had made him tired indeed. He was dying to sit down. He crumpled himself at the window seat. The space was small, but at least, you could sit down and rest your calf muscles, he thought.

The train had passed Thane now. The crowd inside the compartment was exceeding the limits of humanity. All he could see was a mass of arms and legs flailing around. Mr Iyer had finished the never ending conversation and was now beginning to look for his friend from Thane, Suresh Yadav. Yadav was late, but he bungled his way through the mass of arms.

‘Damn crowd! Every day it grows more and more. I don’t know where so many people come from.’

Sandeep laughed ‘Sab gaanvvaalon ko lekar aa gaya ab kya rota hai?’

Even Mr.Iyer couldn’t resist a chuckle at that. Rajesh responded, ‘Nahi nahi. Its about the city population growing. It had to happen some time now. You can’t blame people from outside for this’

Yadav frowned ‘Tum logo ko koi aur kaam nahi hai. Everything is blamed on outsiders. Khud to kabhi mehnat nahi karoge.’

Sandeep would’ve taken the argument further, but he spotted an old couple struggling through the crowd. He waved them over.

‘Kaaka, yaa ikde. Basa. Arrey, unko andar aane do. Itni gardi me kyu chadte hain pataa nahi? Basa ikde’

He sat the old woman and uncle down. He was a kind man, the one who grows up in very difficult places. Kindness is often valued highly amongst people who are surrounded by violence and injustice. Sandeep, growing up in the slums knew how cruel the world could be.

Yadav worked as a manager at a firm in Bandra. His travel everyday was accompanied by a dish, packed carefully in his suitcase. Breakfasting in the train was a practice he had developed over the years. Of course, Mr Iyer had a habit of stealing his dabba before the bag even reached out to the upper loft.  He did it again.
Iyer sat down and unwrapped the silver foil, and opened the parathas in. He offered a piece to everybody. Yadav could only stare as his beloved breakfast vanished again.

‘Iyer,Ghar pe khaana nahi mila kya? Your wife sending you to office hungry again? What did you do this time? Pull out early?’

Iyer replied ‘Nahi. Since I decided to eat your breakfast, she has stopped cooking for me. It is also very cheap you know.’

Damle piped in ‘Ye accha hai. See, Yadav. He is saving his money. You are doing work of charity by feeding poor hungry people’

Iyer added, ‘Yes. He is manager. Where do we accountants get paid as manager? We are poor only, no.’

Yadav nodded ‘It does not take money to feed people. It takes heart. You should learn from me. No dil only, I say.’

The train was jostling past Ghatkopar by now. Joshi had already made his way to the door. The college kids were also off. The lane between the door and the inside of the compartment was packed still.

I should probably get up, he thought to himself. He got up and offered Damle the seat. Phadke was already snoring his way to glory on the right. Damle squirmed into the gap between the window and Phadke.

‘So where do you work,’ Damle asked.

Sandeep piped up ‘He works in a HR firm’

‘And how did you know?’ Yadav asked, ‘You even know the meaning of HR?’

‘Arrey baba, he gave me his card once,’ Sandeep said, ‘Kya tum log bhi? What? If I don’t pass graduation, I should not learn anything of the corporate industry, kya?’

Rajesh was now preparing to get off at Kurla. His journey to his office in the BKC would take him another 30 minutes. He strapped on the laptop bag and made his way through the crowd. The customary goodbyes followed him to the door.

The compartment was beginning to get lighter now. The mass of the crowd would empty out at Dadar. That is where Damle and Iyer would get out too. For now, they were catching a small nap on their seats. Sandeep had borrowed the newspaper and was reading the film page. Deepika Padukone stared out dressed in a swimsuit. He laughed. She wasn’t the same league as Katrina, he said. Sandeep nodded.

The day in the train ended uneventfully, he thought, no fights today. Not even the high toned argument between Yadav and Sandeep. Those people are getting sober. He got down at Dadar station and waved a formal goodbye to Iyer. The old man needs to lighten up, he thought.

The roads were crowded as usual. He walked up the centre and tried to stop a taxi. The cabbie would not have stopped for anything. The world was growing crowded he thought. He had to get back home. Mom would love it. She kept complaining about how he had lost touch with the culture and tradition back home. He’d have to talk to the management to see if they had any opportunities or projects running back home. Ohh, he’d love it.

He took a step further, before he could hear the horn. He turned to face the metal grille of the truck coming at him. He was not very sure if he was dreaming or if this was real. Sandeep would have laughed at the confusion. He thought, what the others would think if he did not make the train tomorrow.

But most of all, he wished Mrs Sabnis would really take the paper today. He wasn’t going to make it home.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My Insecurities




I should have died long before, if there were a time for such things, when my body was more closely attached to my soul. Now, it is just a matter of time before, death rakes its last nail through my skin and peters down my soul into a jar of coffee, to drink while it makes its way to hell. Everyone dies. As biological creatures, our body is subject to entropy, decay and eventual death. Death by different and, some, entertaining means. To each his own.

There is something about the death that captures the imagination of the mystic, the realist and the scientific minds. Each one, in their own way, spends hours and days wondering about the secrets of this inexplicable and mysterious end to our lives. The realist looks at its grimness and futility. The mystic revels in its liberation and mystery. The scientist, well, that idiot is still caught in the web of trying to prolong it as far as possible. Now, why would anyone want to do that is beyond my understanding?

As far as me, I have had a close and often, strangely knit connection with death. I have been familiar with the ravages of life since my birth. I have lived, no, survived for the last 25 years like the last leaf clinging on to the surface of the tree. My parents, extremely kind of them, have been trying to prop me up like the proverbial house that gets blown off in the storm. And how many storms have I seen. Every time I had been on the verge of giving up the last breath, before someone brought me back to life. My system is now a chemically induced reaction to life. There is more medicine running through my body than food. Well, at least in a larger percentage compared to the normal 25 year old.

This proximity to sickness, decay and a regular inability to enjoy life at this age has led to a more profound impact on my consciousness. My understanding of life and its eventual damage has grown. I have questioned the use of my constant efforts to build a life with alarming regularity. I have gained a personality that is defeatist, nihilistic, completely depressing and in many ways, establishes me as the leading jerk in the genre. 

My friends hate that part in me. The humour in me has grown very cruel and often, ends up hurting people. I have now realised that constant sickness to your physique does result in some sickness to your mental and emotional self. This was easier a couple of years in the past, when my body wasn’t as bad as it has come to be today. I could, at least, go out on trips with my friends without embarrassing myself. Now, every time I step out, it has become a contest between my body and my mind over which one will give up first. More often than not, it is my body. Damn this useless thing. On second thoughts, don’t. It might do worse.

I have heard friends laugh about it, thankfully, in front of me. It makes it easier to bear, when you know they are not genuinely concerned about me. Makes it easier to not feel like the jackass, not that it proves I am not a jackass. I still am. But you get the point. They mean no harm. And yet, it hurts like hell. That I can’t be like them. I can’t eat like them, drink like them, laugh, talk and enjoy like them. Live like them, without the pain, without the embarrassment, without the constant visits to the doctor. I wish. Why? They are dumber than me, no offense. They lack half the linguistic ability I have (My only pride). They lack, even, the ability to comment sarcastically, without the other person realising its vitriol. Yet, I would gladly exchange this for one week without pain in any part of the body, the simple ability to eat food without worrying about its consequence on my bowels the next morning.

This game of waiting and watching between me and time has been on for the last 25 years. Right now, Time has the upper hand. This feels like a scene from the ‘Seventh Seal’, with me as the knight and death being my sickness, playing chess in the miserable solitude of my room. I know I will lose eventually. The question is how bad will the damage be by the end? Do I care to switch my life over? Do I wish to change? Can I change? I am not sure I care anymore. I am too tired to care. I need to puke. Excuse me.

I have been playing the game far too long in far too wrong the manner I guess. I am tired now. I need to sleep. Even forever seems like a short time. 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Great Depression

I am a slacker. The last of the species. Perhaps the only one so built, that he cares for nobody or nothing. It is pathetic, to think about it. But then, so is life. Why am i this way, you may ask. Maybe an early childhood filled with trauma... maybe being an ignored child in a family... Throw some Jung at me. Some Freudian hypotheses, and you would still be wrong. The point is, that I do not know the diagnosis of my own problem.

Yet, the fact remains that I find the world uninteresting. Its been like this for a couple of years now. I wake up every morning to go to work. I come home every night bored out of my brain. I laugh. I cry. But every moment I keep hoping that I would die. Someone must have switched on the auto mode in my brain. You ever get that feeling of an out of the body experience? When everything that is happening to you seems to be happening to a stranger? and you are an observer? Yeah. I feel that. Every. single. day.

So, what exactly is a slacker? Other than an asshole who pretty much keeps feeling sorry for himself? The creed of a slacker lies in the fact that he has no ambition. He has no dreams. No wants. Nothing. Absolute nothing. You might have heard of hippies, travelling across the world with nothing, but a backpack. Well, this is kinda like that. Except, I don't travel nowhere. I go on with my miserable life till it ends. Or I decide to end it.

Don't worry. I no gonna kill myself. I am too much of a scaredy cat to do that. It's not like I have not tried to figure this problem out. I have tried losing myself in work. Not really a great idea to get rid of stupid thoughts. I tried running in the morning. But you really can't run away from your problems. Seriously, I tried. Plus, you only get sweaty and tired. I tried drinking to death. Shot my liver a couple times and ended up on meds. Plus, they kicked the junk food out of my system. That sucked royally.

So what do you do? How do you get your life back on track? I dunno. Still trying to figure that one out. Till then. I wake up every morning. Go to work. Come back home. Smile. Laugh. Cry. Pretend that everything is fine. Till it actually becomes fine. Maybe it will.

Jeez. That was a weird write up. I think I might be losing it. But, then there is no pain I am receiving. A distant shipsmoke on the horizon. I am already coming through in waves. My lips move but I can't hear what I am saying. When I was a child, I had a fleeting glimpse. Out of the corner of my eyes. As I turned to look, the view is gone. I cannot put my finger on. The child is grown. The dream is gone. And I have become Comfortably Numb.

Just a song. Life is just a song. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Story 2: The Tale Of The Madman


3 pm was always a tough time for Ganesh Lad. Customers were beginning to crowd around his tea stall. The benches were full and business peaking. Javed was already running out of milk. He asked chotu to keep an eye on the boiling tea concoction and stepped out to get the other packet of milk kept in the storage container.

'Bloody Fuckers! Deccan Chargers lost again!' screamed Rishi.

'Saale, what are you crying about a 5 re bet. Stop pretending like you lost a big amount on betting. You embarass me.' Mukesh cringed.

'Sure. The money was mine. Cost me a cigarette, you know.' Rishi spat back.

'Don't worry. The money goes nowhere. I won more than the complete betting pool. So the tea's on me,' Sanjay gloated to his 'poor' friends.

'Bhenchod! Aise bol raha hai jaise daan de raha hai. You forget the days I lent you money. Anyways, you are still paying for the tea. I did yesterday. And Rishi the day before that.' Mukesh

Javed served their orders with an eye on the door. He hoped that everything went smoothly. At least today.
'Did you read about the iPad coming out? A mini? I mean, what the heck were they all thinking?' Rishi got back to his topic he loved. Gadgets.

Manoj would have replied, and considering his vast knowledge it would have been difficult to shut him up, before the commotion on the street distracted him.

It was an argument. The waiters were trying to move an old man from the pavement. He was, naturally, not willing to move. The waiters were now beginning to curse, and he was giving it back. The argument had now caught the attention of everyone in the hotel.

'Another one of those beggars on the street starting a fight. Why can't the BMC take these people off the streets', Manoj grumbled.

'So says another executive from the upper echelons of the bourgeouise'  Sarcasm was Mukesh's skill and he enjoyed mocking his friends. After spending 8 hours in a cubicle reading lines off the computer, wit and verbosity were his catharsis.

'Yes. I pay my taxes and I expect my streets to be clean, my tea time to be stress free' snapped Manoj. He hated when Mukesh got the better of him. 'And the guy is clearly crazy.'

'And how did you know that? From your previous experience in the Psychiatry ward?' Mukesh snorted again. He was loving this.

'Guys, ease up. Don't start another team meeting here.' Rishi said without looking up from the newspaper he was reading.

'Whoa! Hey, you started that fucking argument, saale. Stop acting like you had nothing to do with it.' Manoj half willed his tea to cool down, but the steaming hot May sun had not let up yet.

'I am convinced, Manoj. You do know the insane old man. You show his traits. Close relative, is he?' Mukesh sneaked in sarcasm between the snorts of his laughter.

'No, I wish. He is just another businessman, who lost his entire fortune in the stock market. Another one of those idiots who believed in the 'India Shining' prophecy. Doomed, i tell you.' he shrugged.

'That is not it at all. I heard that he was thrown out of his house by his sons and daughters in law. That drove him crazy. That is what the watchman told me.' Rishi added.

'Are you both making up stories again? Seriously, that is what this has come to now?' Mukesh scoffed.

'No. Rishi is making up stories. I know that the guy is mad because he lost his money in stocks. People, I have been working here since before you two novices came along. Believe me; I know more about local stories than you do.' Manoj was not about to give up the argument.

'Shut up! I got authentic sources telling me the story. Our watchman roams around these tapris more than us. You know, it is always them who have more information. And i source my information right from the bottom of the ladder. So don't gimme that crap of being here before me.' Rishi

'So what has this got to do with his having to be removed off the street? I mean he has every right to be here. More so, since he has been here before any one of us.' Mukesh argued.

The tapri was now closing down. People were returning to work. Manoj reached for his cigarette and lighted it. 'C'mon, don't start up with another one of your Anna hazare rants. I got no time for that. He is an old man. Maybe he would be better off staying in an old age home.'

'Really? With the facilities our government offers. He might be better off on the street. Actually, to think of it, he is living a better life. No payment, place to live, free food and no worries in life. What are you bothered about?' Mukesh stepped up to the argument.

This would have continued, but the solemn premises of the corporate workplace filtered out sounds of argument. They had other things to worry about.

'Shit! I still have the Accounts file to submit. Any ideas what I should put up in the Investments part? I really need to cut down my taxes.' Rishi wondered.

'So much for saving the country and helping old men on the streets. Bloody fuck!' Manoj laughed.

Back at the pavement, the old man opened his gunny bag. The office goer crowd would be coming out in a couple of hours. He had to increase his sales today. His son's school fees had to be paid. He had to work.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The First Lines.


There was a man that died in the street today.

'That is a great start for a story,' she said, 'not a conversation.'

He stared  at her wondering if she will ever know the seriousness of his situation.

'Why do you never let me complete my point?' he grumbled.

'Why are YOU being such a girl?'

Her laughter tinkled through the glass cups and fell in with the ice cubes. 'Is this about your latest crush?' For a moment, her eyes paused on the question her lips had formed.

'Maybe. If only you'd let me talk'.

'You are not really serious about her? I mean she is so not you..'

'Maybe I am. Does that bother you?' He was beginning to get annoyed.

'No. Why should it? Weren't we talking about a story?', she fumbled,'Are you going to write it down or will another one be lost amongst the shadows of your diary?'

'Look at you forming big words. You should have been the writer, not me.' He laughed mixing the drink. The whiskey was clear and so was his head. He had been long waiting for someone to have a conversation with.

'Do you even remember how we met?'

'No', he said,'Does that matter? I have a bad memory anyways. I often forget my birthday'

'7th of April'. Her reply was matter of fact. No suggestions. No pride at remembering the right date. Just plain fact. As cold as the ice cube in the glass.

He hit the shot and stared at her. The seat next to the window was perfect. The mid afternoon sun was drawing her silhouette against the window frame.

'Yes. It is me', she said,'Stare all you like. It ain't gonna change. Its not gonna be her.'

'My eyes. My view. I will stare as much as I like'. He was burning from the inside. The whiskey had hit the spot. Someone had picked the sore scab on the inside of his stomach. 'I've spent 20 years confined within 300 sq foot of bad wall color and peeling plaster of paris. The only way I travel is with my eyes.'

'And that is why you are the writer and I am not'

The afternoon chores next door had begun. Neighbors were out talking. He never spoke to them. They hardly saw him. Theirs was a unspoken, discomforting truce. The 'No Ask No Tell' Policy. Visitors to the place were pointed with the courtesy that neighborhood demanded. Nothing more, nothing less.

'It hurts. Everyday. I just can't find a way out. It hurts.' he said

'You should see someone about it. This is not healthy. You look crazy, you know?'

'Well, I am. Isn't that one reason why you hang out with me? I thought that was a prerequisite with you.'

'So much for the inspiration and intellectual discussions.' she huffed and went back to staring at the street outside.

'So why are you still here?'

'Do you want me to leave?'

'No, its just that I am not used to having someone else sitting beside me during my silence. It is weird.' he hit the shot again. The bottle was halfway through.

'Don't bother about me. I am perfectly fine. Catch your train of thoughts and go back to la la land.'

'I can't. Not anymore. Not with you around.' he replied.

'Ok, then I am leaving.' She stood up.

He watched as she stood up. The table was littered with books, writing paper, a couple bills and the last dregs of whiskey in his glass. The bottle was still on the ground. As dead as his last train of thoughts.

'I know you love her' she said softly as she moved to the doorway.

'Love is too strong a word'.

'...then you definitely more than like her.' She just can't let go of the topic, he thought.

'I don't know what love is.'

'You are just afraid. That is why you never tell her.'

'Maybe.' He thought out aloud.

'She is not your type, however.'

'And you are?' He smirked.

'Yes. Absolutely. I am perfect. So why not me?'

He smiled. He knew it was right. The sounds were beginning to return. He could hear the parking music by a car outside in the complex.

He leaned to touch her skin. The last drink had done him in. His fingers disappeared through the wisps of smoke drifting in the doorway.

'You are perfect. Yes. But you are not real.' He smiled as he turned to the sheaf of papers on his desk.

He was still stuck at the first line. ' There was a man that died on the street today.'

Monday, March 26, 2012

My Rant Against 'Whatever'


You, apathetic ancient pronoun
Undefined, Unrefined,
Emerging from the confused vagaries of the mind,
Product of the diminished vocabularies
Produced by the creators of bowdeleries,
The dimwit’s fashion statement,
The negation of every argument,
Born of the bowels of grammatical extract,
Haven of assumed, unissued facts
I have fought and fought and fought you
With every breath,
And yet you live on,
Spiting me to death;
Abomination of language,
The key word of the teenage,
Anyhow, somehow surviving cockroach
Of the literary bile,
The word I shall forever revile,
My vicious rant shall last forever
Till you are used…
‘Whatever’…

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Poet...The Dreamer

questionsquestions (Photo credit: lovelornpoets)
The poet stood in the middle of the street
And hummed in slow tunes
His voice rising and falling
Through the dins of the  afternoon,
Even as his words trickled on
Like scattered gold dust
It created a mosaic in the underground
Where a sky rose anew
Where a sweet wind blew
It created new dreams and a new dawn
Built on the whispers of an old song
'Hear me, stay awhile', he cried
Even as passers by shrugged him off
His words were smoke
Snaking their way up to the sky
Filtering through the souls of dead people
And people that were about to die
Then he sat down and started singing
With every sound and word ringing
In his ear, drowning other sounds
Till the whole world was silent
Not the drone of cars
Not the sound of whores
Not the violent screams
Not even dead and dying dreams
It was just him
And his words
Filtered through a dreaming soul. 
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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Why I Stopped Watching the Television

I hate television. I despise that little inventsion of a tin box filled with moving pictures that keeps you drooling in front of the screens like taxonomed no brainers. I hate that. I prefer the movies. That grandiose art of creating stories, giving flesh and bone and blood to characters. To make them smile, laugh,cry and feel with every passing turn of the story. This is far more glorious. Don't think that i am just making things up. Well, i am so what.

My first glimpse of the television was as a 6 year old. I was in my tiny half pants while my neighbourhood kid stood in front of me preening how his dad had just bought a television. The green monster within my heart was raging, burning like never before. That was my first pang of jealousy. And kids can be impish when they are jealous. I wished his television would crash and burn by some clumsy delivery people. But alas! Those days workers were far more capable. But soon i was hooked. Line and Sinker.Everyday my mom had to scream a hundred times and then drag me from front of their Tv sets to dinner. Sometimes the scene i would create would make the Aunty cringe and say, "jaane do na. Yahin kha lega.' Then i would sit and flash a grin so triumphant, it would result in a thrashing when i get home. My mom hates being trumped. Especially by a 6 year old imp.

It arrived at my home when i was in my 3rd standard. A pitiful videocon set piece, a second hand purchase. The television slowly gripped me by the brains. I stopped going out to play. I stopped socialising. From school straight home, and in front of the television set. Nothing could budge me from my favorite position. He-man visited me. I stood toe to toe with Ming the Merciless. Shazam became my war cry.

Then I grew up. Slowly, my tastes changed. I was there when the first serials started on that dreary channel called DD. My sundays began with a conchshell and a booming voice which said 'yada yada hi dharmasya'. I followed BR Chopra's Mahabharata with such fervor that my parents mistook it for religiosity. Then came Ramayana, and my father almost feared that I might join the RSS.

I entered college with the accompaniment of the transforming television scene. There were a million channels now. Each plotting a dozen serials. Each serial lasting decades long. I could not bear it. I was now addicted. I could not get enough of Movies on the telly.

And then we purchased a computer...

Incomplete poem

St. ForestImage by Vainsang via Flickr

 Memories are strange things.
They take you to places you know,
and show you different things.
Sometimes when i lie awake at night,
wondering about the course of my life,
i see my birth flash in front of me,
i see the way i died.
I remember people and faces,
some complete, some in traces
Memories which sometimes heal
At times they leave you numb
At times, they are too deep to feel
Like old long lost friends
 Meeting suddenly around the bend
With an awkward smile
Awkward unfinished conversations
That lasted a while.





Monday, February 20, 2012

The Teamaker

Cup of tea?Cup of tea? (Photo credit: trekkyandy)

I see him everyday. He sits there brewing his tea all day, while customers flit in and out of his little store. Its a walk from my home. Right next to the railway station where crowds mill in and out of their own occupational frenzy. This little man, keeps serving hot, spicy ginger tea. Day in and Day out. His smile is infectious. He gives me a little wave when he sees me walk past his shanty. That is invite enough for a cup of tea. 

'Kaam se jaldi aa gaye?' he questions handing me my first cup 

I just nod. For someone employed in an occupation of words, speaking can become a task after a day at work. When days and hours lead to nothing, and life, somehow, feels empty. All I am looking forward to is wordless silence. 

I just hold my cutting in my hand, and the burning embers of another stick in another and stare wordlessly into space. Sometimes i wonder if he wonders about me. If he thinks i am weird and talks about me to other customers. I have known barbers share information about dandruff. Maybe, he does. But he wouldn't show. 


I watch as he pours out cup after cup from that tarnished steel kettle of his. Held by its handle, it has the mark of a thousand burns on the burner. He smiles at me as i hand over the cup. 


There are others that walk in to sit on the tired benches. Flip through the newspaper, or listen to some gossip. He smiles and joins in conversations effortlessly. Everyone talking about their problems. Things they have, things they do not. And witnessing all this, is a lowly tea maker. He does not complain. He does not whine. Just makes tea and goes on. 

He returns my change and says 'Meri bacchi kal class me first aayi'. I nod and say 'Badhiya hai. Congratulation bolna use.' He nods embarassingly. 'Bahut acchi padhti hai. Kucch banegi'. He says. 

There. Steaming with the Assamese green, boiled with the milk is hope. Dreams steamed in a cup of hope with the fumes of the future rising forever. And I can see his reason for standing in front of the burning fire. I can see the comfort for the callouses in his fingers and the burns he has suffered through. 

And i see what he has that i don't. Hope. That never ending fountain of strength. 



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Monday, January 23, 2012

Creator


I walk down streets empty of voices
Where thoughts fear being trampled upon
The day slips quietly past noisy traffic
Into shady side lanes where inspiration dies
And I walk past them all
Past them towards the sun
Burning red, orange bright
Burning like my own soul’s light
Shining over a dipping horizon
Warning about the coming morn
I shall walk into that dawn tomorrow
Light up the darkness with my words
When souls shall die and voices with them
These shall light up the world
Each word a sentence
Each sentence a soul
Each soul transforming
Out of nothing
Into the whole
Into that silent dawn shall I wake
Where nothing remains and everything paused
I shall be and shall create
The word that starts it all
I am the fire
I am the fear
I am the word
I am GOD.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bury it...

Crying childImage by Creative Donkey via Flickr

Empty faces empty thoughts
Flit across the distance of my mind
When pain reduces but shines across
The greying landscapes of fading sunshine;
When swallows of spit get stuck
In the back end of your throat,
As memories come flooding past
The last happy anecdote,
When tears struggle to be contained
At the edge of your eyes
All you can do is stare at space
And try not to cry.

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Sunday, January 08, 2012

Wasted

Mr Charles - When the smoke is going downImage by Laurent Lavì Lazzeresky via Flickr

Its my third shot of rum. The burn has just hit the spot. I do not usually drink after work. I do not usually drink alone in the evening. I am not Bogart. Then why am i here? At the strike of 8? I don't know. I felt like it. The waiter brings me another plate of groundnuts. I am getting late. But I can’t help it. I am in no hurry to get home. Sometimes you just want time to slow down and let you pause at the doorstep. Everything within this small, tiny room is smoky, dull, lazed and in limbo from the rest of the world.

The fan creaks to slow pauses. The street mellows down. The bus carries me and a dozen sleepwalking passengers to their destinations. I dream of streets empty of people, and me running through the wind. But I digress. I am just lost. I have friends that are getting married. I have friends who know what they want in life. And then there’s me. Lost, alone and absolutely confused. The inebriated condition makes no difference to my ability to judge life. Au contraire, it helps by clearing my mind. But what do I know? I am a confused, half educated drunk.

My stick lands with a fizz in the gutter water. I can still smell the last wisps of the smoke passing. I have a job. I have enough money in the bank. I have a family that loves me, friends who won’t kick my ass. But there is still something I lack. Something that I can’t find. It feels like a vaccum within me and I can’t fix it.

I wake up and go to work everyday. I try to smile and laugh through the day and get back home. Sometimes through the traffic I sleep. Sometimes I sleepwalk all the way back from work. The day passes through me like a daze. No, I don’t hate my job. I just don’t love it enough.

I am calling out to something somewhere that won’t return. I am hoping someone listens. I have no idea of where I am headed and how. I just know I am on the move. It is like being trapped in a mass of people headed in a direction towards something you can’t see. I am just moving. I want to stop, but I can’t. So I light another one and sing along with the radio

Tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa to nahi
Tere bina zindagi bhi lekin zindagi to nahi.