Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Almost Doomsday …and then an after thought

“It’s strange,” he thought, “That she should feel so much guilt for such a minor misdemeanor.” The people she should have hurt, felt none, cause they did not know of it, the woman she had sinned against, was someone she did not know off, till the deed was done, and the one she apparently sinned with, could not care less. He could see her through the mist of the rain across in the café; her eyes still betrayed confusion and pain.

Sin, confession and truth…..he wondered watching the women, what it was all about? The Ten Commandments, the seven deadly sins - all now quite defunct, aside from the strange guilt she felt.

Thou shalt not do many a things… though shalt not use patriotism as a refuge for buying the dirty bomb! Now that constituted good old sin, dark and rampant, even Faustus would not hold near such depravity. And he laughed aloud, people on the street stared, many felt a shiver down their spines.

It was strange how the World leader, Tin pot dictator and the Terrorist, were equally chest thumping in their declaration of Nationalism. “To keep our people safe,’ each one of them said. Oh yeah, bump of people, finish off a part of the earth, to keep your nation safe, and of course the contamination of the regions. But he had work to do… his briefcase he carried that little job that would change destiny….

“Where has the earth come from, who knows that,
What shall happen when it goes, no one knows that either

Misinterpreted lines from the Rig Veda…..strange words to go through one’s head.

The rain was heavier, possibly the last great refreshing rain that the earth would ever know. The smell of fresh grass in the urban landscape left him with a nostalgia he could not afford. The postmortem of time, the actuality of everything changing in a few minutes from now, like a birth and then a quick death. For him there were no forty virgins, just an ancient prophecy that he had to fulfill in one way or the other.

Would the angels arrive or Kalki descent, or will the air become too tainted for anyone to arrive too offer redemption.

Moving inside the café, he ordered what would be the last cup of non-contaminated coffee. Grinning he shook his head thinking, “Enough power to unseal the seven seals of Revelation! Unleash the Gochihr comet!”

“You are mixing up religions,” the voice suddenly piped up next to him. “The end of the earth will be much simpler, we will all have enough and then simply die off!”

She had heard! Strange, the words were never said aloud, and how could she read his mind, “How do you know, what I was thinking about?” he asked. She was startled, the guilt still overwhelming her. “Did I say something?”

“Yes you did, about me mixing up religions,” he replied, with as much ease as he could. Warily she looked at him, whispering, “ I kind of thought you said Book of Revelation and the Gochihr comet together, one Christian, the other Zoroastrian….both about the end of the earth. I was not talking to you, just responding to the words.”

How could she read his mind, the Mephistophelian rage? He almost had the man on the cross, exchange his life for a better one and give up redemption. And had even helped spill enough blood on battlefields to call it righteousness. How could this dumpy, housewifely thing, so guilty about her aborted affair, hear the thoughts?

“Do we know each other?” he asked, normally a pick up line, this time it was genuine….had they met.

For a minute, she looked confused, and then she said rather meekly, “We have met haven’t we?” Had they? Everyone on the point of breaking a social rule and justifying had met him, at least for split second. Seen them all, right from the adulteress, to the person who decided to drop the bomb in Hiroshima and then Nagasaki. “Perhaps we have,” he acknowledged.

Then he saw the intense look in her eyes. Never liked intense women, turned him off, yet this one could read his mind. He nonchalantly asked, “So you read about religion and such like?” She shook her head, “Nope, it bores me, I used to, but now have collective fragmented Googled knowledge.” Then she took a deep, slightly frightened breath, “But it seems that you are concerned with the end of the earth.”

Fire and brimstone, he could cast her down now, this café and the earth, he did not even need the damn bomb he was carrying. Yet there were times when even Mephistopheles felt powerless. “We are all concerned with death, are we not? You know, the day we are born, we are doomed to die,” he replied as simply as he could.

She shook her head, “Death does not frighten me, life does. In this adventure, there are things that come up to change everything in one snap second.” Clicking her finger for emphasis, she added, “Like this!”

Then she stopped, why was she talking to this handsome yet strange fiendish creature with such intimacy? She had almost confessed her insane escapade to him. They had met before, somewhere and very closely.

He was unnerved; you could face the greatest heavenly warriors and yet shy away from a mousy woman. Blustering he said, “We all have our reasons to do the things we do, even the guy who waits for the end of time.”

“It’s not the need to see the end of time. Sometimes we are just not able to see eye to eye with someone who has given us the power to be what are now. An urge to rebel or even overthrow the power, and look beyond redemption. Of course, we don’t want to be ourselves,” she blabbered on irritatingly. Dear God, where was the confessor when you needed him? This one really could do with one, the priest or the psychiatrist.

He wondered for split second, has she figured who he was? Who was she?

The looking across at the now setting sun, he knew the bomb in his bag had to be detonated. The nuclear fall out would quick and devastating.

The voice next him piped up again, “You know, there is no point in trying to end the earth in a flash. It will happen on its own. Worse, it will simply decay just look around you. Pollution, radiation, facile material of mined uranium flow into village streams green house grasses, corruption, ever rising buildings….it’s happening. We don’t need the bomb to destroy us, nor the asteroid, we are doing a marvelous job on our own. Everyone one of us….”

He had to ask her, mindful of the dirty bomb in his bag, “Do you know me?”
Shaking her head, she looked at him, this time her mousiness had gone, “I don’t know you, I feel you, I sense you and sometimes I am you – as you are me. Involved in the same game of living and making some sense of existence, just as you did, in the beginning of time. We are all cast out of heaven… never ever to return.”

Looking beyond at the horizon, the words came out as they did many years back. For a minute, she saw the power and tiredness, the need to defy the truth and let the earth burn. She quietly whispered, “The seven deadly sins….” Then she left, walking out in the rain. It seemed to clean her up, wash away everything and even enter into the soul.

He to got up, the bomb untouched in his bag, there was no need to use it as everything was heading to an inglorious end. Then again, who knows, perhaps there was redemption, even for him…..only it had to wait, as doomsday still had not arrived.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Waiting for the Storm

He watched her in the deep, surrendering to the sea. Sitting on the cliff, he wondered if he should rescue her. But, it seemed as if she quite enjoyed it, arms open, waiting for the end….

For centuries, he had seen women like her come, waiting for their lovers and husbands to return from the sea. They were not given to much expressive love, but you could see the loss in their eyes. Moments of life slip away as they waited, once young and then slowly aging. Soon they got used to being alone. Though it seemed that this one did not want wait aging anymore, or perhaps she really wanted feel the the power of life in her veins as she slowly died.

“Love,” he thought, “makes fools out of such clever woman. Suicidal fools.” Her hair spread out on the waves, and soon it would be over. There was no struggle only giving in…

But now this was more than he could take. Sacrifice, what for, a human being who in few years would forget to love? And a love that would most likely become humdrum and perhaps even lose its way. There has to be much more to life…so spreading his dragon wings he went to her, towards the deep sea

The water crashed against his him, as he once more changed form. Her breath was shallow, as she seemed to give in to the water. “Damn! I’m not supposed to save these damsels; the myth does not allow me.” Yet he did, there was something about her. A sense of power…like one of those women who fought the raging wars all alone.

He had been seeing her since she was but a child. A village daughter, she would sit beside her mother cleaning the entrails, and then the boats. Scraping of the thick barnacles that crusted the bottom and sides, hard at work, gossiping, and laughing Each monsoon they struggled with the news of death. Till they again rose up to sing for a wedding or a birth.

One day she too married, and then widowed a year later. The monsoon storms had claimed her man; she was left with a child. Like the other women, who had seen it before, her strength grew from within. But in the evening she would come back to the edge of the sea, sometimes her baby would be there, as she would watch over the horizon. When alone she would wade int the water, swimming through the lagoons where the jelly fishes and mussels crowded together, into the wide open sea. Then the wails of her child beckoned her to return. Today she did not heed it, because something else called her further in.

He, the dragon would have none of that; he wasn’t against killing off a human or two, when it suited him, but sacrifice for a vague emotion…no too disillusioning. He dragged her to the shore, leaving her there enveloped by the darkness.

As he turned, he heard a voice. “I knew that you would save me, have been watching you for a while.” Her voice startled him, snapping his head around, he saw that her eyes knew, “I had to see whether you would come.”

“Is that why you went in?” he asked, wondering what human emotions were made off. She smiled, “No, I have no idea why I went in; perhaps I needed to give in. But, I’ve seen you waiting ever since I was young,” she said her voice barely audible.

“I don’t rescue women, I covet and then have a knight save them from me, or so the myth goes. And definitely not above sacrificing a few for myself.” He grinned, slowly metamorphosing back with his dragon wings.

But he could not take people for long, and his end of that specific time was already stretched. The fisherman’s daughter sensed that and got up, “Death and the sea are as interlinked, as life and the sea.”

“Fisherman’s philosophy,” he thought, as earthy as they come, and it did not appeal to him. He was made of roaring fires and stronger impulses, “No I saved you because loneliness is not a good enough reason to die.”

“What about love?” she asked.

“You never die of love, it is just that feeling of emptiness, being left behind,” he replied. And then he was off, as she walked back to her child.

The sea below called, he too was alone, had been for a while. For a minute he wanted to let go of the loneliness. But, it was not a good enough, just not enough…

Once again, the monsoon clouds gathered above him, and the sea stirred. He wondered how many wails would reach him this year of the women left behind, and how many more would walk to the depths of the sea.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Look Ma - There’s a Bird in the Sky….

“Guess what the leader of any democratic country, a despot, a terrorist and perhaps even a construction site engineer have in common – they build their dreams on the lives of the young.” Then he stopped randomizing, his audience was already hooked. Some were uncomfortable, others ready with jingoistic claptrap, and a few nodding their head vigorously. But nobody could ignore him…..

And then he went on, “The crashing, perhaps faulty MIGs in the Indian skies , the unimportant American soldier fighting a causeless war, undernourished girls giving birth to future workers and suicide bombers barely sixteen years old,” Radical enough…he thought. Meaningless too, who really cared…..and then he stopped. Hands rushed up in the air, someone told him about the greatness of the army, others about freethinking democratic leaderships, there were of course the apparent arm chair radical who vociferously thumped the anti-established line.

The moment was over – ageless as he was, he really wondered at the shallowness of this century. Such intense thought, over as soon as the voices mellowed down. He looked around….

And there she sat, unmoved....rare, usually humans are give to spontaneous combustion. For a minute, he wondered…

So he stepped out of the darkened auditorium with her, “You have nothing to say about war and the sons who die?” he asked. She laughed, “Humans have always sacrificed the young…nothing new, why am I expected to react.”
“Women’s love, motherhood and such like…” he said.

“New research say that the important reason for a mother to defend her young is to ensure her genes pass on,” she replied.
“Same reasons the lions eat the young of another male,” he added.

“Why blame the lions, the Greeks, Romans and every capturing soldier clubbed the male babies, making the women and girls their slaves,” strangely she was still grinning when she said so.

He was beginning to get uncomfortable, difficult when you see a woman with such lack of motherly love. “True, but it doesn’t seem to bother you, after all love has made our species the great protector.”

“Hmmm, about a thousand years back, perhaps more, many sent a young man; we claim to love to the cross, calling him a traitor, so that he could take our sins. All human love is essentially selfish,” she said in the same careless tone.

“We did,” he agreed, “But some would say that it was an act of redemption, and we were supposed to learn forgiveness from his act,’’ This was getting weird…he had to see where it was going.

“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us,”
she recited, a memory from Catholic school. "This was said on the cross you know." Then adding with the same careless grin, “We never do forgive do we; instead we let someone take on the burden of sacrifice.”

“So the young are sacrificed, so that we can redeem ourselves,” he asked, “Now that’s a strange view.” Then he asked, “Who are you?”

“The same as you are, the harbinger of evil. Only you are ageless, and were the first to fall. Look around, the darkness has set in, the apocalypse has begun way back, and it is never going to end. The little man with the horse will not come, nor the archangels....we have sacrificed too much of humanity.”

Changing into his mythical form, he looked around, and saw the business suits, the party wear, and even the apparent casualness disappear, there was a metamorphosis…the difference was in the degrees.

There was neither heaven, nor earth anymore.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Feet and Shoe Thing

I saw her walking, stepping across the boulders on the hill. The MP3 player on her ears, locking out the world. She needs to get in the world now…how does one tell her? Have been waiting to talk to her forever, but she just hasn’t been listening. Of course, there are times that you have to play your little game of chess and move towards this pawn. And here she was – so predictable. Over the years, everyone seemed to have turned free will into a habit. Strange…but at least I knew where to find her.

A slight turn and in front….and she was near. “Hi there,” I said, she was wary, but polite- not the kind who really wants to be rude, replied cautiously, “Hello.” Then the familiarity caught up. We have met before, she knows it. So she smiles, to an old friend, then she whines, “Am kind of down you know, borderline depression.”

“Why?” I asked keeping a straight face – I think she likes being down, giving essential darkness, which is actually missing from her well-lit life.

“Don’t know – things have happened, moneywise and relationships, a certain lack of control in both,” she replied.

“Yawn,” I had to suppress it, how many people could you listen to with the same complain. Luckily she did not see the yawn, and went on, “I have no idea why I am telling you this, I seem to know you forever.”

I nodded my head and grinned, but what does one tell an atheist, that we have met before in stranger times, only she does not know. “You know I just find it so difficult to cope,” she added with a flash of tears for full measure.

The sun was setting prettily today, and I had to keep it on for a while longer, just to let her know. But she was not really interested.

“Why do you find it difficult to cope? So there are a few crazy things, perhaps even screwed up parents, and even loves that have slipped off – so what?”

But she was not listening, caught up in her own misery. Then I thought I’d give her the old shoe and feet routine. And I did…. “Look at this way, what is worse not having the shoe or not having the feet to wear it?” She had this incredulous look , “What does my life have to do with feet or the lack of it?”

Now whom do I blame for such lack of awareness. “What I mean is…” and then I knew once again it would some more time, “Look it’s not all that bad, look at closely.”

Then of course, she whined on again….the sunset could not be held for longer, and I let it sink. And moved on, I would always be there, but perhaps she needed to find herself a bit more. She saw the sun sink, moodily, and still unaware. One day… will wait for the day.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Taking his art seriously

The young politico was wrapped in the latest issue of Penthouse smuggled in by his favorite uncle, when his mobile burst into an appropriately jingoistic tune. “’aloo, bass, there noode painting in art ischool….do we burn it, throw stones, walk on our hands…order and we do!

This was a bad time to be bothered, just when he was whetting up his fantasy, “Arre yar, nude painting, kuch bhi karo – stone shone throwing, hungama, just do it. And suno how nude is the nude.”

“ Ekdam noode, our great Goddess, no saree, no nothing… our culture getting damaged – no! But saar you have to come, party headquarter order.”

So the young fellow left his magazine aside, went hunting for the red tilak, smirched it across his forehead, snogged his single malt on the rocks quickly and marched on. Practicing his religious face, he found his crowd, gave them the correct instructions, all connected to the pride of the nation. And they marched on.

On the way they were met by auntyji, who had just paid off her gigolo, she too had a protest march against nude art. In the car, she practiced her speech, “Thees iz insult to womanhood, nude painting of the mother!” The young politico had to keep his thoughts clean as she went on thinking her words aloud.

Soon they were there, by now looking as if they could shatter the earth itself. He in his white funeral clothes, with the red tilak shining like a blood spot. She indignant and shaking and together they had a critical comment to make on art….something like tearing it apart and torn assunder,then possible held across crowned with a very shaken and stirred artist.

The Crack Open Wide

He wasn’t really a vampire, it was only more fun to think of himself as one. You know the bare fanged – loony attitude, so incredibly sexy in its way. Made him feel good, covered up for the oddness he felt for himself, especially now when he watched the entire street open up him like a full scale meal… but then it was not blood that he was looking for, just the chase to find it.

She was there, closeted, dumpy in a sweet way, she’d do…and besides she may even hit the high Cs, with greater ease than others. Easy enough for pretend vampire like him.

And so they sat, "Ever had a cherry,” he asked not really sure why he asked that, just slipped out. “ A cherry,” he repeated, “red, round and a word prone to some vulgarism” She of course was most amused and laughed, it was a nice laugh….her cleavage showed, that was the degree of kinkyism she was all about. But that was okay, at this moment she needed the least effort.

And so in time they did it, locked away in the room filled with soft screams - marks on her neck…and then it was over in more ways than one. The urge to escape the room had got into him. He saw the strange look in her eyes; it had begun....the change over – now he could no longer wait.

“Gotta go babe,” he said, and she nodded, adding “Yes if you can find the space ahead,” A strange sentence , he put it down to post coital madness, and smiled indifferently and slightly indulgently. Opening the door – he heard the scream…..hitting like a force.

He looked at the wide cavern, empty and it screamed at him. The voice somehow spoke of loneliness and his past. The sheer emptiness of life, and his actions. At this point, he knew that nothing mattered….he was just a fake a complete shell of nothingness. His non-descriptive affairs did not matter, nor his despairing relationships. All he saw around was the depth of everything he wanted to avoid. Behind she was there all dressed and ready, “like a cherry,” he had no idea what it meant. It did not work being a fake vampire, because somehow he just could not give up his soul. But she had given up hers, the moment she stepped in the room with him.

She crossed over, and looked down the cavern, “ I am going – it is the free-fall, someone has to take it or this pit will never close.” And so she fell, weightless, the fake vampire watched her. One more sacrifice, for nothingness. The pit closed as she neared the fire below and everything went back to a certain normalcy.

Then he walked out, closing the door behind him, carefully stepping over the cracks. These show up in the most unexpected of places.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Horse whispering

Now do read this tale,
it may get me into jail!

There was a man, who's profession was horse breeding
he claimed he could do horse lip reading
It struck me strange and wondered what he could read,
Did the mare tell him, "He's a stud, ahem,I'd breed,"
or "yuck, him, really him! Could you find no other!!!
His child you really want me to mother?"

Anyway there were too many questions that came to fore,
and for your sakes I wont tell you any more!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The vampire with a fetish

My dragon set himself on fire,
Now there is a vampire to hire!
He has many a weird fetish,
besides he is half Swedish.
He Yodeled till he was blue
Then he'd lick the inside of a shoe.
Bearing his fangs he asked all those there,
"Would You rather that I licked you?"
Now a young girl who had a massive nose,
in her teeth held a red-red rose.
She said, "I'd like a lot done to me please."
holding out her shoe, she said like a tease,
"But first can you clean my stiletto heels?"

Monday, May 7, 2007

Smoking in Space

The Dragon, now free forever, sat at the edge of the belfry of the giant church. He managed to look a little like a gargoyle. In the modern urban space, life was a little strange and architecture a topsy-turvy avant-garde, so no one quite noticed him. He watched the millions of little humans, so ant like scurrying off to work and sighed, “Scenario one – I come screaming out and scare them all. Or Scenario 2, I turn into a human and prey on them. They don’t even make serious knights now! They turn into good obedient workers instead…sigh.”

The Dragon had been through centuries of warfare, but now it was dangerous to barge into human habitation, what with all kinds of automated shooters. A fire-breathing dragon could get the huffed up General, with a zillion stars on his shoulder to finally try his nuclear arsenal, who knows.

Of course, he would sometimes change forms and become human, and impersonate a general on the loose, trigger of a war and then move on. But that was not fun anymore, especially with the Cold War era ending, and the new enemy of the great state being the terrorist. It as perhaps the most boring time he had ever lived. The humans nowadays preferred staring into the television or intoxicating themselves with something or the other. He was seen either a hallucination or man in a dragon suit; the fire was taken to be advanced pyro-techniques, and applauded. Dull…

Ahead the Dragon looked into the building opposite him, in one of his metamorphosis he had worked there as an elevator man – you know pushing the buttons and reaching the people to their destination. A remarkable amount of people had got missing at that time, and then one bright spark began suspecting that it all happened inside the elevator. The Dragon, changed back….the metamorphosis was good while it lasted, gave him some time to think.

The building had an ad agency, nothing very major, a forgettable one. And it also had a real estate company, who were their clients. Together they created a whole load of nothingness. The time they spend together gaffing, scheming and brain storming, could have been put to better use, like fighting dragons and saving the world for instance. And the money they got paid…the mind boggled.

The Dragon had become a moneylender in one of earlier avatars in Venice. He called himself Cherie Locke, which had been later changed to Shylock. And he had a ball, asking for a pound of flesh from all those who failed to pay. Until of course a women came a ruined his game. “Women,” he thought, and she was a particularly pretty one.

Anyway, he dragged himself back to the present, and looked into the ad agency. Then flew in pretending to be a journalist, to chat with decaying shark teethed owner, they had quite conversation. He was easy to impersonate, so that’s what the Dragon did, only this time he did not eat him up, “too old, too gray, and bad teeth!” Instead, he locked him up in one of dungeons and let him sleep into oblivion.

After this he took charge of the system…his aim to somehow merge these two desperate businesses based on unrealistic aspirations and unsold dreams. “Darling,” he told himself, “It’s a question of space.”

Now looking like the ad agency head honcho, complete with the strange sharkish teeth and unseeming polish, he entered his office post lunch, in an appropriately pompous manner, condescendingly smiling at all those underlings. Some he could see swore under their breath, others ignored him and still others scraped their feet and semi-bowed, almost saluting the space he walked.

The Dragon gave a loud, “Good Morning – and let’s win the world today” and wondered whether employees made good meals. Then decided against it, never eat too close to home. A terrible line crossed his head, “Being a dragon in the twenty first century is a drag!” Yes!!!! He had the makings of a copywriter. And soon enough the real estate campaign was shoved down his nose,

It was followed by a visit from the boss-man of the real estate company. A truly smooth, corporate soul…you could eat him and replace with a robot, nobody would miss him. Then the dragon shook his head, better to go eat a chicken or a goat, inferior humans took their toll on the digestive system.

“I need a corporate image ad,” espoused the real estate space seller, “Every single soul in this city and across the internet should know that I am a man who wants to create healthy and happy spaces. Focus on the swings in the backyard.”

The Dragon smiled, “Go beyond the swing, and think people, think benefits, think trees! Let them think that every building you make is a favor.”

The youngish copywriter piped up, the line, “We change the geometry of the earth.”

“ ….And make it more square! Shh…speak only when you are spoken to!” the Dragon growled back. The young fellow popped back into his own shell.

Then growling again, Dragon smiled as he espoused, “The world order has changeth appease to the conscience - trees free, your soul flies like the wind! ….As the glacier melts; save the penguin from a cold…Make polar bears your friends, not jackets.”

The corporate real estate boss looked as if something cold had slid down his back… “I’m selling real space…money into millions.”

The Dragon smiled, his newly acquired shark teeth looked as if they had seen better days. “Exactly…All we need is a famous line, an attitude….and anyway who gives a damn – as long as they believe that they have got what they want.”

Then he leaned across the real estate boss, “We are all selling something that could disappear and have no meaning in real time.”

“Pshaw…rubbish, just plain bad philosophy….what’s with you today, you are my ad agency. I need ideas, not pontificating,” screamed the real estate boss, his corporate image slipping just a little bit.

“They are all just ideas; no space in any sense is real!” The Dragon said as softly as he could. Then he stared with his dark black fathomless eyes and something happened. It all merged into one, the real space, the new space, print, satellite based media, the internet - and the world outside, became a single dimensioned entity. The young copywriter tried to lance with his ballpoint pen, he could see the dragon regain his wild form. But, he was not a knight. Not even a particularly good writer.

The dragon saw the pool emerge –this dimension had lost its forms and had only one side left- a vast ocean. He went to sit out of it. There was no chaos - the three dimensions were over, even before global warming had come to fore… and there was finally nothing left to sell. As for the humans, there were where the dragon always wanted them, on the Petri dish, ready for closer disdain and observation.

Friday, May 4, 2007

The End of Direction – A short story

It hurts to set you free,
But you'll never follow me,
The end of laughter and soft lies,
The end of nights we tried to die,
but you were never a part of me”
The Doors – This is the End

At the edge of thought…she sat, once a priestess, now a hunter. The noble dragon that she had walked for a while was now gone, chased away by the seeming chains that she never wanted to put on him…she was once again alone. At the edge…everybody is alone…a meek consoling thought.

Walking on the hill, afar the sharp lightening tore the road apart; the priestess felt the sudden death wish. The shining white light, giving a sense of the ending… the dragon would laugh at her fears. She thought about it sometimes, his sudden coming, possessing and then he was gone…on some words. Poof.... vanished….Actually she wondered if he really liked her ever…

He was strange -the dragon, apparently noble, but manipulative. There was righteousness in soul, but cunning in spirit. In a world where creatures like him are hunted down, he knew how to use his wits; survival depended on it….and his had been through a strange life.

Once, the fires of hell had tied him chains. This is how he told the story. “Be warned,” he had begun, “the only way you can free yourself if you find the power to do so.” She would tinkle, “The power is within me,” He would look at her and then away, “No, the power has to be far greater and wiser.”

Long ago, in the forests of the damned, he had lain for a while and carelessly supped. The beauty of the forest had enchanted him. “I could not come out, and got in deeper and deeper,” he said.

The tormentors of the forest had finally tied his willing body in chains and for a while he did not wish to escape from. And that’s when had met the lady in the far away castle, “She simply had to crook a finger at me and I was there. I thought I loved her.”

Hearing this Priestess had laughed, “You noble dragon, you ran to a lady….don’t believe you.” He then showed her the tattoo of his first love, when he was still young, and they had once again laughed, as they lay together. The dragon did not speak about the lady in the castle much, but the one he had tattooed himself for-you could feel the love when he spoke of her. This tattooed, brokenhearted dragon was not the fierce image of a noble beast. But he never gave in to her, neither she had the beauty or power to crook a finger, or the pureness of soul to keep him.

Then he told her more of his story, “I was dragged deeper into the darkness, my nobility exchanged for a few bits of escapism, and the chain was pulled tighter around me. For a while I was a slave.”

Then one day, he found the power to escape, and he flew far. Vowing never to forget his lost freedom…he still wore a chain, on his arm, which at once was a signature of possession and freedom. She never asked him about his past, and he never said anything…you never forget the chains when you are free, but you really never want to talk about them.

The priestess looked once again, and this time she looked into her eyes. Black as coal, fathomless…and somewhere she saw the pain. But she could never ask him….dragons like to keep their distance.

She too had chains, but these were invisible, those that she tied around herself. Made of the ghost of the past, and unable to find the will to escape. A while she sat with her one master, uncomfortable in obedience. Long ago she had sworn allegiance to her master, never thinking that she’d wanted more.

Then in the depth of the night one day she had heard a screech, the dragon had come to her. He had watched for a while from a distance, and in his new freedom coveted her. Life had changed him, and the nobility, was scarred with the need for occasional warmth. He saw it in her, and so they walked for a while.

The dragon wounded by his past, gave up some of his nobility for that little comfort, so though he stayed, he also roamed. And she the serving priestess of another lord, had to let him go, she was not the dragon's, they were just walkers. In his wanderings, he found the world and gained power from it.

The priestess watched joyously as the noble dragon now had begun to spread wings, and went further. He roared fire and made the paths, and soon destiny was made, he even found a purer soul...and became hers. The priestess watched it all, and knew the days of wearied worshiping were drawing close, the dragon was someone else's, and she needed something more.

For the dragon drew away from the priestess. His path was strewn with wars, and so many maidens that he had manipulated to rescue and anyone who tried to make him theirs...he did not want them anymore. The priestess still walked for a while. Though he was now the pure one's. There was no point of jealousy; you can never claim what is not yours.

But now, he was gone, to be free. She watched him leave, as he politely told her, that he could no longer be of service. Hysterically the priestess asked him for his allegiance, "My world depends on you being there." But the dragon swore none, “All allegiance is of convenience. Let us go on separate paths.”

She did not want him to go, but there was very little she could do. The blame was hers, fallen, she suddenly wanted him to redeem her, tell her that she could have been special…but the dragon was not given to love or redemption…. The knights in the realm had wearied him, with their endless battles, some even challenged him to wars, and he had to fight on, simply to stay alive and free from his chains.

Then she became the hunter and set her across the course of freedom. The priestess gave up her chains and her deity. The lord summoned her, “The power to leave is not yours,” he said. She never said a world, but picked her meager arsenal and walked the broader path, telling her lord, "Walk with me as an equal and we can make a newer world." The future was scary, but the dragon had helped her find faith and she knew she could make it. Though he longer wanted to walk with her anymore.
I am not particularity serious,
No wisdom and thought I confess
All I can make are rhymes so silly,
that come out whilly nilly!

Once upon there was a dragon,
his name was fake Fagan.
Large he was, with glistening scales,
and given to eating large raw whales.
Anyway one day a knight called for a fight,
and that day his dinner was not light.
So he blew our some garlicky fire,
that burnt up the old bent squire....
The Knight was not too pleased
So he ever so loudly wheezed.
"Fie oh fie, Monsieur Fake Fagan,
You are now an eclipsed dragon."
But he just smiled, a scary smile,
The knight took out his unscaling file.
The poor dragon is now shaven and shorn,
never to fight he has sworn.

King Kong At the Bus terminus

Waiting for a bus in the big terminus,
The loud King Kong created quite a fuss!
"The bus gone, the toilets stink,
my girl friend is too small and pink."
Now he was quite large, and scary too,
not someone you could say boo to.
So he shouted louder beating his chest,
scaring away the passengers rest.
Till an old lady who had enough
shook her umbrella and said, "now stuff."
"You may be scary, big and quite hairy,
but your girlfriend is bored of you truly.
So behave, or in the corner you stand."
King Kong was so taken aback
That he ran up the magazine stack,
and up the Empire state building he scooted,
saying, "My sense of sanity, a grandma looted.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

A vampire came to the city

A vampire came to the city,
seeing his teeth a woman took pity.
"Your fangs are mighty pointy
they make you slightly ugly.
To a dentist we shall go,
To get a neat pearly row"
The vampire just smiled,
and so ever gently filed
her toe nails nice and curly,
till they were also pointy.
"I'm a vampire with a foot fetish,
who is also kinda high on hashish!
I need no dentist, just a toe will do
Some wine and Swedish cheese will too."
And now I must say something censored
But it must be quickly mentioned.
The lady has a blissful look and strange toes,
the vampire has a pearly white but defanged rows.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Life and Times after the Kiss

Right, Richard Gere is almost in jail, and Shilpa Shetty got into the news again – all for a kiss that some Advocate Pratibha whatshername protested about. Apparently, she was disgusted at the kiss that was being shown on television over and over again.

Hullo – she could shut the TV, change the channel, or read a book…many things to shut of that offending sight. A dishy Hollywood actor and a beyond Bollywood kiss – so what? Enough, for a district court in Jaipur to get tizzy. Huh!

Put that against – young Mr. Pereira walking out of court, sharp and tall, after mowing down 7 people in his car. It’s all right, a kiss is a bigger thing after all!

Then there are inter-religious marriages that create a furor, while the local rapist is happily absconding never to be found. The slivers of justice gets so much more mundane!

As criminals in Mumbai watch and play, the policemen in the city, spend time in the Lakme Fashion Week, ensuring that there are no costume malfunctions! Lucky cops those! I bet they were waiting for an eyeful of some malfunction, before being thrown back on the sweltering, stinky alley again.

Methinks what the Indian social system is telling us quite clearly, mutual consent kissing is out, murder and rape is in. Inter religious marriage is out, but child marriage is fine, and most of all, do get drunk and mow down people in your large car. Just keep the lawyer and the police handy….life can be such a smooth sailing after that.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Man with the Long Black Hair

On the way to Scarborough's fair
I met a man with long silky hair.
A hippie, Oh man he was groovy!
Just like the cool ones in a movie!
So I walked with him for a while,
watched him light his chillum too,
From them we looked at life anew.
Talk of love, peace, and woodstock
Che Guevara and the revolution rock.
He blew up a lot of philosophy in smoke.
Some I liked, some of it I did choke!
Behind the faint strains of Doors played,
CSN&Y, Who, Tull, many orchestrated.
Suddenly he lost his way, became a software guy.
Nnow our hippie, well he is rich and hi fi.
No longer smokes his chillum, nor the guitar plays
He’s on the internet surfing and working always
I wonder if he misses his wild happy days.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

A young girl with proportions unparalleled

A young girl with proportions unparalleled,
had suitors wherever she happily traveled.
Men with, flowers, chocolates and dashing smiles,
would await for her in rank and file.
She batted her eyes and never said no,
and between them they had a merry show.

But one day, crawling out from a limousine,
came an old, bent man so desperately lean.
A young girl with proportions unparalleled,
Had his good his intentions completely unraveled.
Soon they got married with much fanfare,
The young girl lived with vagabondage care!

Of course things got a trifle boring,
old men are given to loud snoring.
The girl with proportions unparalleled,
Now had her eye, which I must say traveled.
The chauffeur of the limousine was rather handsome,
he was by no means shy and winsome!

Of course, the tale should follow the usual way.
But it turned out the chauffeur was incredibly gay.
Now all the men who would flock around the young girl,
Around the chauffeur would merrily twirl!
Our young girl, the poor girl no more her eyes did bat,
She felt like an old worn out hat.

Oh dear how can I tell you so smitten was she,
He made her go so weak in her knees.
Then the with the incredible proportions,
Had the most weird sex change operation,
So now man, is with a man who was once a woman,
and who is also married to a very old, old man. (Sigh)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Fine Line between Work and Money

Perhaps it’s the heat, perhaps the sheer feeling of not finding myself for the last few days, but somehow there is a strong urge to leave everything and run away to the mountains. Lose myself in the forests there, feel, touch and even smell the cool green. Yet, there is no escape….for all that I do is work. Wonder what happened to me?

Today, I took out my child and her friend to a smallish science fair, a nice enjoyable place…And soon as I came back, I was hacking on the computer. I work on my own, unplanned, unthought, not particularly creative anymore, nor truly productive in the sense of leaving a mark in the world. Sometimes I wonder if what I do matters, it gets me some money, but these are completely lost in the space of the large world. These are but words created, objectives met at the end of the day.....and it has little to do with me.

And then I always trawl for work-even if I have more than I need. My friend has a wonderful phrase for it, a condition that afflicts freelance writers, the “starving writer syndrome”. It is a peculiar place, you are never sure of the work you get. Even if you have a job, you are not sure whether the words you write match up to the needs. Then again, because you have a creative edge, even if you don’t expect it much anymore, the idea of doing something “dead end” bores you. Strange, you want the work, yet you do not want it.

But this is becoming too dark and remorseful; just imagine us writers sitting in our smug corners, with words as our arsenal, throwing in a punch at the most unexpected places. In the commonality of newsletters, corporate shing ding writing, an ad perhaps or even content that matters to no one….we laugh at the world in our silent way, because we can.

I wonder whether all who use the peculiar skills given to us, and treat it like a trade-able commodity, actually walk the narrow line happily. Van Gogh, with paintings that could make you stand still for a lifetime, never even sold a scrap, while me a hack, who merits not even one hundredth the talent actually manages to garner some money...

Well so much for musings, and now I begin to wonder if I can make this blog payback….sometimes even a hack has to be wise!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

No answers in the wind

What a week! The co-conspirator in the Nithari case, the richer bearded boss is given a "clean chit", the men in blue lost a few games, and so their funerals are carried out, Nandigram continues to burn, villagers in Maharashtra keep killing themselves, a cricket coach is murdered and somewhere it traces back to India…

These are surely the worst of times…there is no best in it.

If one were to believe the CBI investigation in the horrible crime, the Nithari boss was playing blind, deaf and possibly dead when all that was happening in his house. Over 30 children are murdered and scientifically disposed off by an illiterate servant, while the old man had his orgies. One never interferes in a person’s orgies, but when it manages to corrupt a system-it needs something more. The deaths of course are horrible; so many children die just to satisfy a strange lust. More horrifying are the cops and the administration who did not care then and do not care now. And you know what, neither does the average man on the street, for them the loss in cricket was far more valid.

The men in blue merely lost a game, and the mass despair unleashed. Their homes were targets, mass mock funerals were arranged….if India could carry out such demonstrations for the way that the Nithari psychopath boss is being given a “clean chit”, maybe we would have some real justice.

Nandigram still burns, fanned both by the men in power and by those who want to come into power. The farmer in Maharashtra dies over onions; the girls in Hariyana die before they are born…and we weep, beat our chest, and mourn…because we have lost a game of cricket.

The bossman of the game, President of the Board of Control of Cricket, comes on television and talks about accountability from the captain and coach…Did I hear that right? He is also the Minister of Food and Agriculture –in this land of weeping and angry farmers!.. Hmmm I will not say word more, might be send in for defamation!

There is malaise that sweeps the country, and revolution is right round the corner, but not waiting to happen. Yet there will be pockets that will burn, and maybe many collective pockets will burn together. I certainly don’t want the Maoist revolution to happen, nothing good comes out of that…but I cannot see the change happen either.

Because the same malaise prefers to let things simmer– the collective anger has already given place to despair, there is no answer blowing in the wind.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The square inch of space…

There are days that never seem to end, the demands of people, events…they are not essentially stressful, but take just too much of yourself. Much more than you are willing to give. As a writer, all I really want to do is sit in a wide open space and just write my stories. These are not for clients nor are they meant to be coming online, but stories that I want to tell, and hopefully they will have some meaning for someone else. But there is something else; I also want to make the money….and that overrides the need to write my stories. And to make money I have face up to the all that comes with it, only I meet them in my precious square inch of space.

As a children writer I am often asked. “Are these stories for your daughter?” Much as I love her, no, these stories are not written for her. They were actually written for no one. Perhaps they emerged from around, but written with nobody’s approval in mind. They were written because I had a story to tell. They were born from the square inch of space that I can claim to be my own….it has no real estate value…but I have begun guarding it zealously.

Everyday something happens in life….and these in the cosmic event have no meaning, yet they change you…and that change helped me find this little space. A space which is ready to surrender…to find more in life. And I have learnt to value that space within me…

The demands of people take large chunks of your life. Your boss, family, friends, clients believe that your functionality and purpose is to cater to these huge demands. The writer in me does a good job writing stuff which for me has no other value than earning money. The homemaker in me tries to keep things on an even keel. And you don’t have the luxury to wonder whether it is all worth it. Because this is the time to make the money, and you have this one talent that lets you do it.

Soul searching has no place in the daily grind of life….but it is always there. It is there in the fundamental square inch that no one else can enter. It also gives you certain sanity –yes, your talent in real terms may have been given for better things, but what you do is wholly justified. As a hack, I earn money for myself and family, and that helps in ensuring a decent quality of life. Do I like all the work I do, no, I am indifferent to it, it is difficult to get passionate about country clubs, and apartment buildings.

Most writers, I think, who are content or copywriters dream about their great novel. Very few of us actually write it. I think about it, but at least I don’t agonize over it….There is nothing to agonize about, because after all it’ll happen when it has to happen. And if it does not, then that is one less novel written. But I have a job to do, I do it well, and that itself is worth the journey.

That square inch of space that no one enters, it’s not fortress, it has no walls, yet it keeps me intact. And, yes I know I am worth just 5 pence in carbon, but that’s still worth something…

A little square inch of space puts so many things into a perspective….of course it is your own perspective. But it is valid and the only way you can really see things. That square inch of space is my faith in all things more beautiful and complete than me. It is truly inviolate, yet it allows me to go into crowded rooms, and create a sense of being quite happily alone and unhindered. It’s a space where I do realize that life is much than me…it is my retreat.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Death Over….

Eleven gladiators living out the aspirations of a hopelessly besotted country…they want to see victory…Everyone, the players and their viewers manipulated by a greedy power hungry board, and the rich media that loses million dollars if the team loses, on the periphery are punters.

In the middle of all this is an extravaganza, and one of the favorite teams, the Pakistani team loses unexpectedly, the next day their manager Bob Woolmer is found dead. By the evening we have a major TV news station asking an audience in all seriousness, “How does our audience think Bob Woolmer died? A. Was he murdered B. Did he have a heart attack C. Did stress raise his blood sugar levels” A-ha…there are of course trained coroners sitting in the vast populace across India.

Now the Indian gladiators are there, they are rich heroes…and suddenly they lose to the small guy…..their houses are broken, and even worse their mock funerals held….the gladiators have fallen - kill them!

I am no great fan of cricket; my family loves it, especially my nephew. Increasingly I find myself distancing from it. The sheer media hype, blind following, ecstasy, glitzy promotions, power games put me off totally. Yet, it crowds all around you, and you can never ignore it, on it is pinned the aspirations of almost 1 billion Indians and of course the huge media. And when you hear the death of a cricket coach, you wonder what it is all is just a game, a spectator sport - right?

Of course countries have gone to war over football matches in South America, and ordinary people are ready to sell their kidney to buy a ticket to the world cup games. We all need our gladiators,let them fight,and if they fail, everyone has their knives drawn out….it is a case of dishonor before death…

But for now, may the luckiest gladiator win…at least may he remain alive.

SEZ for Who

I sit in the city, cocooned my simpler knowledge of what happens in a village and listen all this talk about creating special economic zones. There is war going on over there…petitions to be signed, riots, and deaths. On either side are a mix of completely untrustworthy politicians, and their ideas of development or non-development for that matter. Who do you believe?

What gets you is the heavy ham handedness of the establishment, the sheer power they wield and the way they use it. The brainless hitting, of workers, students, farmers, people…I mean you stop thinking about validity of the cause and shudder at the brutality that is seen over and over again. It almost as if the system has no idea on how to really deal will people, other than beating the shit out of them…or murdering them.

Of course the entire idea of SEZ is to close in the dramatic economic gap with China, and many would argue that is the way ahead. China has become the country to emulate, the country that in my memory, ran people over with tanks in their most visited tourist spot - the Tiananmen Square…no roses or appeals could stop them that day.

Of course, putting this out a blog is even more elitist. After all, I already am sitting in an economic zone, and the farmer is by his fields, not with folded hands, but anger in their fists. Is that anger valid, or is misdirected or is a just mix of everything that the have not’s hate about the have’s.

India in its villages and small cities is and will continue to brim over with dissatisfaction, yesterday in Gurgaon, then, Pune, today in Singur and Nandigram, tomorrow in the richer Southern states ….Welcome to the great divide, a boiling cauldron watched over by opportunist politicians, power hungry police, corrupt administration….it is and will continue to spill over and everyone will burn.

I have no solution, because for that one has to introduce rational and even more collaborative thinking and none of the above are even remotely capable of that.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Finding Happiness

Stopping at a traffic light, I saw a little boy, dressed in the worst rags, clinging to an equally shaggy dog. It was moment that looked like absolute love. Neither cared what the world thought, they both sat there, for each other.

Another time, another place, the railway station. A family of albinos, all very poor, possibly beggars, sat together eating and laughing. From where I stood they looked happy. Even under the eerie orange glow of the streetlight they had a look of joyful beauty. These are moments of love and kinship. Unwanted souls on the edge of the street with nothing …yet they find happiness to hold on to.

Human beings are meant to be happy. What was remarkable here was the simplicity of it all. I refuse to romanticize it. There is very little happiness in being poor. The sheer human degradation of life will rob most of it away. What makes it remarkable is the way these absolutely poor people found it. Amidst the street fumes, dangers, fears, the simple moment of contact.

Recently in Pune about 250 young people were arrested at a rave party. The police over zealously took the media along, and the camera’s caught them at their happy high. Of course it came rapidly down, as they had to spend the evening regretting their pursuit of happiness,that would be found in a cocktail of drugs, many sounded straight out of a chemistry lab. It was most escapist kind of joy that they were seeking, like so many others, for whom the last vial could be the ride all the way to paradise.

It’s just amazing how many ways there are for us to seek that happiness. Many of the paths actually form the very basis of the seven deadly sins. Yet none of them really harm, a great dinner with friends, with a dance thrown in may cause some cholesterol but other than that no harm done.

Yet, with some happiness gets more and more convoluted…so far from what could constitute reality. The very meaning of happiness changes. Nothing can satisfy, because you are within so unsatisfied. The more convoluted the pursuit the more we hanker back to simpler days, and remember little boys and dogs sitting on the corner of a busy road….simple memories that refuse to go away.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Lunar Thoughts…

Some of the best and worst philosophy strikes you in the middle of the night, especially during a lunar eclipse. I was told about it a day before itself, but, never thought I'd see it. Three o’clock in the morning seems like a crazy time to do anything other than sleep, unless of course you don’t sleep…

I was lucky that night, the sheer freedom of being alone kept me awake, as I browsed, read, listened to music, answered scraps without the usual daytime responsibility.

And then suddenly outside my bedroom window was a rather funny looking, slightly red moon. It was strange, almost beckoning the world to see it and perhaps even save it in this dark hour beyond witching. An eclipsed moon brings out certain primeval thoughts. The dark demon swallowing it whole, perhaps never to return it again, the scientific mind screams, but….

Of course, usual ideas of being a dot of the vast space went through the head. And so did the thought that just suppose we are the only life in this vast universe. Six billion people and the millions of other teeming life. But that’s all there is, because there is no other life around….no one else in this vast universe. Life on earth was an accident…

But philosophies of midnight need to be discounted….especially if the moon beckons.
So in this dark hour, I went out to see the moon a little better. Three o’clock o four in the morning is a nice time. The goons who were awake last night have passed out fatigued with their booze by now, and it is too early for the daytime sneaks to get up…so you are safe. Reaching a higher plane I saw the eclipse, without a thought in my head. No philosophy, no cynicism, no wisdom,just the sight of a moon being partially devoured and then returned. I was in time and space with the few others across the world who saw this. Scientists and astronomers armed with data, riders on the highway, night shift workers….anyone who was awake. These are the times you are glad to be alive….and no you are never that alone.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Child Sexual Abuse Happens Because We As a Society Allow It

“Orkut” which is so maligned for corrupting kids, also has a plus side to it, one of them being the “Elaan-Combat ChildSexualAbuse” community. This community is concerned with sexual abuse of children, and one thing I learnt there that little boys are as prone to abuse as little girls.

A woman I know very closely, was sexually abused for a period of two to three years; she is still not clear about the age, possibly because there is a need within her to hide the facts even from herself. It went on sometimes sporadically and other times often, but enough to for the scars not to heal till today. Actually one doesn’t know which scar stayed longer, the abuse, or the certainty that she may never be believed even if she told her parents about it.

She got away lucky, maybe there is a God watching over her, but though the scars still fester, she has not emerged broken. The life she leads is normal, and reasonably nice. But there were many a strange and wrong choices because of that and yes there were lost years trying to find trust with other people. In spite of it all, she now middle aged, copes reasonably well with it. The scars don’t show, and apart from being obsessively protective with her daughter, there are no outer manifestations. .

The woman is often asked by those who know, “Why did you not tell?” She still has no answer for that. From what I have understood, there were two reasons. One, the man in question told her that everyone would think of her as a bad girl, second, her parents would beat her up if they found out. She says, at that time, and perhaps even till today, both rang true. Think of her as a small 10 maybe 12 year old, very confused about herself, her sexuality, her intelligence, and her goodness. She did not want be the “bad girl”, nor get beaten by her parents. So she kept shut and got abused. This man, she says, was at her house all the time, he was a “family friend,” an assumed brother. He was there at her dinner table, in her bedroom shared with siblings, at movies…and for some reason he was liked. And she had a strong feeling that she was not. So it is better to be quiet and abused.

There were repercussions, all of which she has eventually got over. Bad grades in school, and low esteem for a very long time, and this desperate need for approval. But perhaps the same God, who managed to keep her sane, took care of her this time, and she has come out pretty all right in the long run.

But there are many who have not. Boys abused by fathers, uncles, teachers, older kids in hostels. Girls abused by family, and the same group of guys who really deserve to be burnt at the stake. And then there are child prostitutes, beaten till they submit, and passed from hand to hand, till one day they die. Boys and girls are sold on the streets everyday, their rapists, and abusers have protection, but they are left without having the capacity and the will to fend for themselves. And yes serial killers who have been caught after abusing and then killing children are truly just one of many thousands who escape punishment.

I asked this woman, what would does she want to do if she came face to face with her abuser. “I want to slam him against the wall, and hit him till he dies,” came her clear answer. But she will not do it, because she still does not want it known. But we have to do something about it.

Child sexual abuse would not go on, if it was not covertly supported by society. We encourage it by turning a blind eye, and pinning it on the uncontrolled “urges of men”. There is only word suitable word for that. “crap!”

We encourage it by not protecting our children enough, and by not arming them with knowledge and self belief. We encourage it because we don’t value our children; they are but cannon fodder crushed by the depraved society.

We allow it because we don’t value ourselves as human beings enough, if we did, we’d take care of ever individual child, rich, poor, quiet, scared, boy or girl.

We allow it because we don’t care for the individual child…who is but a dot on this abusive, unkind landscape of ours.

And we cannot allow it anymore.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Heck, who are we really….

Everybody who is a nobody is tracing back his or her genealogy nowadays. It has thrown up many interesting facts, there is a large group of Europeans(and the English who are standing tethered at the periphery) related to Genghis Khan, and an American black civil leader is the great-great grand son of a famous separatist and a slave. It seems many a white “massa” had children with their black slaves…while screaming for separation between the colors. Dark dots on a pristine white bed sheet…

Stretch the idea of searching for our roots a little further – we are all the sons and daughters of that African mother and father, or go back a few millions of years– we are children of apes, measurably more decent than us. Or we could be the children of Adam and Eve, but that is immaterial.

There is one fact that we seem to forget, the search for genealogy is to prove “my blood is better than yours”. You see, racism is still alive and kicking. In India it gets more confused between the several bills that grant reservation in education and jobs to the apparently “lower castes”, while the actual poor untouchables in the villages never seems to be getting the benefits of it. The upper caste, on the other hand, can never quite leave their lineage behind, even when they convert to another religion. Ask an Indian Christian or Muslim in Kerala or Bengal his or her name, and if they are from the upper creeds, you’d know the sub caste that they belong to, to the last disgusting detail. The purity of the caste would even make any Nazi proud. You can almost see the Fuhrer nod in agreement and delight.

India is one of the most racist countries in the world and it is based on factors as marginalized as caste and creed. Your surname matters here, because you slotted immediately in your groove…people can narrow you down to your sub-sub-caste, once removed.

Women are in any case lesser in status here. In between the whitening cream, matrimonial columns that insist on “fair beauties” and the bevy of rather unrealistic European looking actresses, jostling for space with their dark colleagues, color brews a nasty concoction of inferiorities and dowry. Of course, many a woman rise above it all, and do darned well for themselves, on their own terms... And have a lot of fun in the bargain.

In the west, in spite of its apparent liberalism, the divisions, between the “natives” who feel disadvantaged, Asians and Muslims get deeper. This now goes beyond the surface of mere color; in fact it boils down to pure economics. England is poised to throw out the Indian doctors, even at the cost of ruining their own health care system. Of course the scars between “us and them” deepen further, if even the whiff of a bomb scare surfaces, so fragile is the system. And Germans keep chucking out the poor Turkish, whose country has now been reluctantly admitted into the European Union. Though they will ever be accepted in the cultural one. The French throw out the Algerians they once conquered, who riot when they can’t take it anymore. In America, the land of braves, the elegant native Indian has been ghettoized in a country that was once theirs. The African American fights it out in harder in poorer neighborhoods.

If you want to know more about racism feels, ask the poor small sized Indian boy, in a school in the western world, whacked on his head by the bigger compatriots and can do precious little about it. Or an untouchable in a village, who is raped and burnt because of her caste. Paradoxically also ask the young students who feels disadvantaged because of the caste reservation, and the affirmative action bill when suddenly many avenues of education or jobs seem closed. Some are enraged enough to set himself on fire before the Parliament building.

Or ask the man with a Muslim surname how it feels to be stopped in European and American airports and treated like a potential terrorist. This even if he is one of the most prestigious names in the country he comes from. Or the African American Executive, suspected for shop-lifting in a posh store, when all he wants to do is check out ties.

But then I guess racism and hate of the fellow human being, is what the social fabric is made of. Anyone who is not exactly like us….is surely against us….and that’s how the racism cookie crumbles. And it is not going to go away…rearing its ugly head every single day….

And no, Shilpa Shetty, the beautiful Indian film star, is not the symbol of Asian hope in the racist world…she had to make a buck, and she made it well. I actually sometimes wonder how she treats the maid who works for her.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Searching for the Word

All right, the front page of one of the premier dailies said that they have found the coffin of Jesus and James Cameron was looking mighty thrilled about it. Good for him… and so what?

I have never understood religion. Everyday in every way I keep hearing I have broken a million religious codes, and none the worse off than anyone else. So they have found Jesus body and are fully convinced that he was married to Mary Magdalene and perhaps they had a brood of children.

The point is, even if Jesus died in his sleep, at a ripe old age, what he had to say, and the way he lived his life was far more significant than poor old Dan Brown’s scribbles over two novels or Cameron’s sentimentalism in the Titanic. And in any case we resort to religion to console ourselves when we're down. And the constant reminder of the sufferings of the “son or reincarnation of god” is usually to writhe in guilt. In religion we actually lost out on the deeper words of what god really had to say. Paradoxically, the same can be said of a Marxist rally, where the true meaning of "the state shall wither away" are lost in the entire jargon.

In the sphere of religion or atheism and all that goes with these two extremes, one can only say, “In dogmatism no one can hear you scream." Because we are so deaf listening to the loud shouts of all. Veering between being an atheist to an agnostic, I must say I have found non-believers are as dogmatic as the rabidly religious ones. Put the Marxist next to the Papillary and each can say so stuck in their groove….and neither get ahead or find anymore meaning to life, state or poverty.

For me all religion is anti woman, and necessarily patriarchal. However I am also convinced that religion was itself a process of a revolution, and the revolutionaries at the center of it would cringe at the horror that has taken place in their name.

All religions are so unlike their thinkers, in fact no religion will be able to even justify their actions if it is put into the context of the word of God. The word was meant to set the soul free to introspect and do so much more, religion tied it up in chains.

Jesus would be horrified at the ornate ceremonies, crusades and the many convolutions that actually ended up keeping the faithful out of the fold. Krishna or Ram would definitely cringe at the sacrifices, sati, Babri Masjid episode, and the horrific murder of Graham Staines and his children. I don’t know much about Islam, but I’m sure the World Trade Center is not a part of the plan of God, nor are the million wars, or suicide bombings. And these are just some of the countless incidents to be deeply ashamed of, done in the name of religion and has absolutely nothing to to with word of God.

As for finding the coffin of Jesus, let us kneel and pray that James Cameron does not subject us to a three hour sugary, sentimental drama of the discovery…

(cut and paste this link for the Cameron story -,7340,L-3368731,00.html)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Faith on a hill

Pune is blessed with one of the most beautiful hills, these literally surround the city and are unfortunately eyed for their real estate value. For many of us the hills are a retreat, from the pollution and even the general white noise of life.

Sometimes early in the morning, or in the evening when there is a cricket match going on few are on the hill, you will spot hares, peacocks and if you are very lucky snakes. These sightings are so sudden, that you are left wondering if it was real.

These rare sights also makes me ask one more question, how much of control do I really have on life? I’d like to imagine that I planned my visit in a way that I’d see these creatures. But, I’d be fooling myself.

The thing is like many, I have been an atheist for a large part of my life, and perhaps it is the fragility of getting older, I wonder about divinity a lot more. Clearly ones private demons are around the constrictions and dogmas that religion places around you, the divinity has not been really considered much.

The absolute truth is that we are consistently giving up bits of our lives, to the government, authorities, our mates who would like to have more stake in our lives, children, parents, the moron on the road, the technician in the nuclear plant, friends, the thought police…the list is endless.

Imagine for a second if you surrendered to a power far more perfect, wise and even beautiful…what would happen then…
For a moment stop intensely planning, and believing you control life…I have a feeling in some strange ways it might make things a lot more clear…and much of the baggage may just be shed....
But it is I think one of the toughest roads to take...and eventually freeing, now you know that you really have no control and it does not matter if you do or don't.

Friday, February 23, 2007

For the space we occupy, such a mess

Thinking of a series of dreams
Where the time and the tempo fly
And there's no exit in any direction
'Cept the one that you can't see with your eyes
Wasn't making any great connection
Wasn't falling for any intricate scheme
Nothing that would pass inspection
Just thinking of a series of dreams

Bob Dylan

There is point in life that you pretty much become aware you but a momentary traveler on this earth. The only thing that you have contributed significantly to is global warming. Now this is not to trivialize ourselves or put anyone down…but think of it like this…when one dies…how long do memories last. One generation, and that too with some hazy difficulty. My own are not worth filling a 20 page note book. But the damage that my existence has done is immense.

Oh yes there is some charitable work, and a few good deeds, perhaps even work that might make a difference. It’s not altruistic, just a way to keep body and soul together and hope that life lets you be.

This gloomy view of existence is really because I am working on a website talking about global warming. Lifestyle costs included, I realized that we are not really worth this earth we walk on. I mean, compare us to the dinosaur that walked longer on this good earth of ours. These toothy,apparently fierce creatures at least kept the ecology intact for mammals to prosper. We on the other hand, will leave very little behind. Never heard of Tyrannosaurus Rex creating pollutants, so as to radically deplete the ozone layer. Surely the murder and mayhem that we create is way more than these much maligned creatures ever did.

So we have a society, culture and writing and we have invented machines, many of them I use. But the point is, for the earth in the long term it means nothing. It goes on in its cycle, beaten into submission by us conceited apes. The thing is that we really don’t want to stop doing what we do, and leave our ravages behind. Perhaps we are quite ready to mutate shamelessly, to adapt to the changing circumstances and continue our humdrum existence.

Of course all this also mean nothing, if this was someone’s nasty dream, and he or she or it were to wake up and we disappear in a flash. Till we sort this out, let’s prepare for the doom….it’s at hand.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Thoughts as the rock falls

Just read the news, there is a possibility of an asteroid hitting us 2035 or so. It struck me, what then is the purpose of all that we do. As we rage through our lives, managing relationships, jobs, admonishing children, getting angry, angered, political, seductive or ready to seduce, we somehow forget that life in its essence was meant to be happy. Of course the quest for happiness has got so much stranger.

We all moan about the times that things were simpler, when coffee used to cost a pence and happiness meant riding around on your cycle. Yet, the strange part is at that point we were sure we could do so much better. The freedom of the riding on the bike meant zilch, when you could do so much more with your life….you could be on a faster motorbike or bigger car.

But, put this into context of the fact of an asteroid hurtling towards the earth, and sure as hell in real life there is no Bruce Willis to save you this time. In the cosmic event of things you do not matter, what you want does not matter, neither what you feel. Your kid’s marks do not matter, nor does scoring, nor does riding in a big car, nor does the charity you do....

Imagine this, for the asteroid you do not matter. Sometimes, I pretend to look at myself from the moon, and heck I am not even a dot on this landscape. Yet I quest on…for that elusive thing called happiness. Trying to find it in friends, children, conversation, internet, the last cigarette, rock concerts, hobbies, communities….

So occasionally there is a feeling that time is running out, because paradoxically one has discovered the sheer magnitude of life. One is also increasingly aware that the time is now, because the rock could fall, if something else does not strike before. Suddenly there is so much to do before the sins catch up and happiness takes a backseat. Perhaps we have not realized that life is as simple…as one can make it. And it takes a hard road to understand that…

Monday, February 19, 2007

Roger Waters…Taking us beyond the “Dark Side of the Moon”

“We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found? The same old fears.”

The legend rocked the MMRDA Grounds and how…I went there expecting an extravaganza, and drowned myself in the sounds.

Let me put it this way, he came, he performed, he conquered. Not too old to rock and roll…the joints lit up, the distinctive smell of grass filled the air…and we rocked, to sound that has reverberated for 20 eventful years.

The audience was this strange mix of teenyboppers, and 40 plus rockers. I have heard Pink Floyd ever since a child,the first album was “Dark side of moon”.

I had once done the “rebel without a cause” thing on the last day of school, after the tenth standard. Along with some other girls I stood up on the chair, to loudly sing….”We don’t need to education.” Too late to expel me.

Of course, music like this draws you in, and there was so much to listen. Their albums, “Wish you were here” and “Animals” eventually became my favorites.

But here he was…with everything that Roger Waters had to offer.

The show started a tad late, and there was no opening act, thank goodness. The music played earlier to the show had me a bit worried. For a while, there was Abba …was I in the wrong place…?

And then the giant screen behind moved…radio knobs, the cigarette ash …and it started straight off. Roger Waters did not waste time, he was already connected to the audience and you were just taken in… I must tell you, Harry Waters, the legends son, was a part of the group.

We all screamed, ….for this 63 year old man…who still defines youthful rebellion. He belted it out…from “Wish you were here”, to Shine on you crazy diamond, Animals, some of the best songs of Pink Floyd. “The Dark Side of the Moon” was yet to come. The Pyrotechnics were mesmerizing, while the giant screen had all the stuff happening. If you know something about the group, some of the images would be familiar “Shine on you crazy diamond” had the pictures of Sid Barret….

Among all the old songs, a new one called “Leaving Beirut” was rendered. Before the song, the legend talked about his visit to this war torn capital in 1961, a long-long time ago…
The lyrics questioned the entire US and British strategy in Middle East, these were shown in a comic format on the giant screen behind the audience sang on. I along with others, appropriately screamed when the anti Government slogans came on…come on we are standardized rebels are we not?

While this was on, a completely mixed up guy behind me shouted “David Gilmour rules…we want Comfortably Numb.” He is but young, so it’s all right…rock and roll legends do get a little confusing.

Then came the break and a bit of a retreat before the storm….and what a storm it was. The Dark Side of the Moon…unleashed. The group sang “Speak To Me”, “Breathe In The Air” , “Time”, “Money”, “Us And Them” and “Brain Damage”. Oooph…. By then I had inhaled enough of second hand grass and was quite high. The giant pig flew across, when pigs fly they make a statement. All the standard rebellious stuff written on it, stuff, included some specific to the Indian audience. It floated off off…into the night sky.

The Dark side of the moon part came to an end with lines taken from the album, “there is no dark side of the moon.”

The show was not over, the grand finale, the encore wrapped it up with“We don’t need to education” and “Comfortably Numb” with one of my favorite songs, “Vera”. Now the 40 plus danced made their spaces among the really young ‘uns, and grooved. One young fella whispered in my ears, “This place is full of aunties and uncles.” (In the darkness enveloped by the smoke I suppose I looked younger) I had to tell him, “When the granddaddy of rock is here, uncles and aunties have to jive”

During “We don’t need to education”, I sang loudly along with the rest of the audience, “Hey teacher, leave them kids alone.” Quite forgetting that I had got after my daughter about her math’s homework the evening before.
Comfortably numb as usual gets you there….so perfectly.

All good things come to an end, Roger Waters, he still rocks on, as remarkable as ever before.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Forties – as crazy as your teens

Today I read a strange news, an interesting 43-year-old NASA astronaut turned nuts over an extra marital affair. To me it seemed all a part of the craziness of being 40.

Right, so I have turned 40, like all of us eventually do and have. At one time when I was eighteen, it was better to be dead than the big 4 and 0. It’s a strange age ain’t it? Death looming somewhat abstractly ahead. But, that is not the worry, it suddenly hits you - there is limited time ahead for living your life on the edge.

Edge walking is something we kind of did somewhere between the misspent youth and the time we settled into our daily grind of earning a living and bringing up a family. Then before you knew it, well-cushioned middle age arrives. You were anyway brought screaming and kicking into your 30s, but there was hope that by the time 40 would arrive, most of all that had to be achieved would be. Of course, life is never like that, because what you want to achieve is so abstract in any case. You now know that time is suddenly too short. There are mountains to climb, adventures to finish, books to write, discoveries to be made, money to be made and things that have to be done, they are so defined in your head. And, it is so difficult to undefine yourself.

In all this, there is a teenage hunger for freedom. Only at 40 it is more focused, you know what you want your freedom from. This freedom is usually a break from the past, the straitjacketed lines that you’ve drawn around yourself. It is a freedom to do your own thing…be your own person. And this quest, sometimes leads you to very interesting and unsheltered territories. Now there is no one but your belief and faith that keeps you going. The lucky ones find their guide that gives them the courage to surge ahead. The not so lucky ones keep searching…

Looking around I saw this was the age of the riskiest changes. People leaving jobs, with little or no security to hold on to, relocating in bigger-badder cities, traversing dark tunnels fully aware that a sudden train could kill them instantly, riding motorbikes through highways in the middle of the night, walk the ledges of deep crevices - some have affairs doomed to die even before they are really born, others inject botox. Everyone has their own hunt for that edge.

The good thing is most of us are smart enough to deal with it. Those who are not, once again get into trouble, just like teenagers, and this time there is no one to say, “Hey they are just acting their age!” Because by now you just need to know better.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Random thoughts on a rainy day

Sheets of rain like tears from heaven. She wondered at the line…perhaps her mother had told her the words sometime.

Nowadays, as she reached her mid 30’s, her mother’s quaint terms came into her mind often. Theirs was not a typically suburban life, the one you find in books and movies, but grittier and much less romantic. Her father was an occasional intrusion, her mother harried, loving and full of strange advice. Yet, it had not been an unhappy childhood.

Today as she sat in the café, words came flowing from all directions. Her boyfriend had left with a note, not in his own words, but, taken from a Bob Dylan song – now this was so typical of him. It said, ‘It ain't no use in callin' out my name, gal, like you never did before. It ain't no use in callin' out my name, gal…I can't hear you any more.” Strangely she had laughed after reading it, not an original thought in his head, not even when it came to saying goodbye.

Here she was kind of reaching middle age alone, and reasonably happy, counting the men in her life. Her mother called them her, “romantic entanglements.” Everybody wondered why someone as attractive as her, “never found a man to marry.” How could you explain the fear of commitment, the need for space to stretch your soul and mind, and was it so bad to be alone?

It looked as if the rain would never stop; she had a sudden vision of Noah hurrying his way to the café, to choose two good human souls, the ones who would populate the future. Would he choose her, and if he did, who would he take as her mate? She looked around - who would she choose, that one- too corporate-handsome, and the other – too slick….
“See that’s your problem,” she scolded herself, “too hard to satisfy!”

Perhaps she should have stuck to her Fourth Grade sweetheart…he was nice enough!

“Oops, you are beginning to sound like Ally McBeal!” She said to herself, imagining her rather curvy figure as a much thinner…and even anorexic. “Too fond of pasta,” she told herself.

Freedom…she had no idea why the word entered her mind. The swing in the backyard, which seemed to have the power to reach the sky…as a child she felt it would. Sometimes she wondered if it would take her to space…to the moon… to Mars perhaps

Freedom meant so many things to so many people…in the French revolution it had stormed the Bastille's, the African Americans in the ‘60s; fought for right to ride on a bus without discrimination, and went on to win so much more. For women way back it meant the vote… for her it meant leaving behind the past. For everyone it had a different meaning…

Right now, it suddenly meant taking a walk…in the rain, wearing her business suit…and not caring about anything else apart from the magic of the moment…Freedom…was her call to take.

Monday, January 29, 2007

There is a friend of mine, who will tell anyone willing to listen about the sheer beauty of the small towns of Belgaum and Kolhapur. As a woman, my take of small towns is a little different based on the few I have seen.

My life in childhood revolved around few small towns other than Pune. They were in the depths of North India, in bad old Bihar - Dhanbad and Jamshedpur, and in Bengal - in a place called Barrackpore, where the 1857 mutiny started.

Now Pune, when I was a child, was this tiny town, and we were a part of the expatriate Bengali community, therefore the greatest need was to herd together and celebrate the Bengaliness, through Durga Pujas and other such "socio cultural" activities. Over time as Poona has grown, this too has changed. I am now too busy and indifferent to be a part of it and somehow this once rather boisterous event has become very staid - strange!

Dhanbad is a bad town. Mafia run, wicked in so many ways. My uncle was in the railways and was posted in Dhanbad for quite a few years. The mines located underground the town constantly burn, it has the smell of fired coal. Every pan chewing, wild-eyed man could actually knife you down, without a thought-and you were always well aware of the dangers! Yet, I was fascinated by it. There was a massive railway yard in front of the house. It had a "turntable" which allowed the engines to change directions. My uncle used to take us for steam engine rides. Within the town, there was no place to go, as Dhanbad was an industrial town, in the worst of ways, a coal hell. I have no idea how this town is now.

Being stuck in a place with nothing to do meant lots to read. There were these fabulous “bong” books to read, which made my evenings. These were the creepy ghost story types, long hands silently dripping with blood, crawling towards you,...the skeletons are dancing, ready to pounce on you, and you have nowhere to go. These made my days. The house we lived in was these old colonial houses, quite fitting the atmosphere of the stories.
Iti, my daughter, seems to have inherited my love for ghost stories that is all she reads nowadays.

Then we went to Jamshedpur, or TATANAGAR. Now, everyone in those days, worked for either TISCO or TELCO here. My father too was here for a little while, so there were many friends here to visit. I was born here...but I don’t think I’ll want to stay here.

Jamshedpur back then was divided into class-conscious neighborhoods, with little to do. Gossiping, clubbing were the main activities of the evening. Women then had no status apart from being homemakers; the men would discuss football and whatever else men talk about. Children had plenty of space to run around.

Living in this provincial town, the mindsets became quite small; they could be packed on tiny pinheads. Of course, the girl child was viewed, as a potential wife. For every one of us fairness creams were suggested, even the fair ones were asked to use a range of "treatments" to get even fairer- I of course had a range, right from turmeric to whatever else you can think off! The boys were asked to study harder and become engineers. If anyone wanted to be an artist, a quick whack was delivered to knock it off his head. After these thoughts we were left alone in the courtyard, and asked not go further because it was dangerous.

But, this was a well laid town with a place called Jubilee Park, where everyone would crowd around in the evenings. The sky was always a brilliant orange, because of the furnaces from the factories. Of course life has changed, with the blossoming brigade of working woman with so many attitudes, and job hopping youngsters.

For me the escape from these little towns was the sheer anonymity of larger cities. They were and are so crowded that gives you space. If you want to, you can get lost there. No one bothers you, no one cares.

Yet, I retain a love for many a small town. Madgaon, Kolhapur and Belgaum being among my favorites. The only time I went to Belgaum was in small “meter gauge” train, sitting at the doorstep, passing by countless other village and towns. It was a great ride. The red soil, the nip in the air, fragrance of dirt and flowers-the beautiful houses.... I was always an outsider enjoying the peace, because Pune by that time was beginning to burst at the seams.

So, here's to small towns, and may we always love and enjoy them.