Crimes, Protests and Solutions

It is perhaps impossible to shut one's ears to the public protests going on all over India, and Delhi in particular, in response to the medieval act of brutality meted out to a young lady and her friend. Impossible, unless you are the Prime Minister of this country, or so say some. I would rather say that the Home Minister and his likes have been responsive to the situation in all the wrong ways; unresponsiveness probably would have served somewhat a better purpose. (The last statement was made out of an inherent respect for Dr. Singh's above-the-average academic achievements and not for his failure as the leader of world's greatest democracy.)

I am not here to discuss what the Government should or shouldn't have done. Having studied in a public university, I am well aware of how government officials are expected to react in such turbulent times that hurt their slumber; as a rule of thumb, this is what they do: buy time! This is not difficult to see given that the mass suffers from 'short-term' memory. We've seen that in recent cases of protest against corruption and in the past, during protest against reservations. The current rage is all-pervading, except that it is likely to die down very soon, that the media now already has other breaking news such as Sachin's retirement from one-day cricket or more ridiculously, the success of Dabangg-2. This is not surprising, especially because the ones protesting are driven more by passion and less by thoughts. Let us assume the ideal situation where as a result of the huge participation in the nationwide protests, the case is fast-tracked and all the accused are sentenced to death. The country will rejoice, come down to streets and the media will be somewhat relieved at not having to figure out what would feature on their cover page that particular day. What would hurt me most is that my Facebook news feeds would be flooded by the same status updates, slightly varying in some cases, some teary-eyed, others full of pride. Case closed- until the modesty of another woman is outraged the very next night.

Some people complain that the Government has been too complacent about the way it carries out its duties, others say that the policemen are worthless pot-belly haggards, good only at accepting bribes. True, to a large extent. But I still fail to understand how an efficient policeman would have been able to prevent the crime in this country of ours. How would a policeman know what's going on inside a moving bus? Does one realize how many cops are required to keep a firm vigil on all vehicles- public and private- moving across just Delhi, with so few security cameras at our disposal? One might call the Government's failure to install security cameras a total disappointment. But unlike popular road-signs “accident-prone area”, one does not expect anything called a “rape-prone area”; atrocities such as these could occur in the remotest corner of Rajasthan to the posh locale of Mumbai. Does a government go about installing CCTVs everywhere? Even with an incorruptible system and higher taxes deducted from your salary (which again has the potential to start a fresh round of protest!), this would still not be feasible.

As has been oft said, punishing the criminal serves no purpose unless you look carefully where exactly are things going wrong. When people say “hanging” the criminal would deter others from doing the same crime again, think again. I can readily provide the example of Dhananjoy who was hanged for the same crime, after his mercy plea was rejected by the then President of India, Dr. Kalam. Probably it 'brought justice to the girl' and her family, as they were quoted to have said. But justice wasn't brought to the millions of women who come so close to have escaped a similar fate as that girl, every day. Most readers would by now be thinking that I am here to discuss that there's no solution to this problem. Well, there is. Investigate further. How does one decide whether or not to commit a particular crime at any give moment? Since I am neither a criminal myself (really, believe me or not) nor a Sigmund Freud, my vision is limited. But from what I understand, there has to be some spur- a catalyst- some lightning-fast life-altering decision driven by an unsettled mind, wanting to break free of certain customs fettered by one's upbringing. What they lack at that moment is perhaps control of the self.

Education, I would argue, largely takes care of this problem, except in certain physiological cases. By education, I don't mean literacy. Literacy certainly forms the big chunk in education and could help curb these crimes to half the current number. I cannot but agree with Shashi Tharoor when he points out that if there has to be one solution to all the problems in this society, it must be: Educate the girl child. By educating the girl, we are educating not one person, but a family. An educated mother would mean informed decisions, better family-planning and broader outlook that would disseminate to her children (both male and female). Educated families would mean an educated society. An educated society would mean greater respect for women and reduced crimes- not just against women. It would also mean not accepting dowries which, as one of my seniors rightly pointed out on Facebook, originates from the same misfortune (or so shall we say) of considering women as “objects”. It is thus no surprise, as Amartya Sen argues, that the states of Kerala and the North-eastern states, which have an above-the-Indian-average literacy rate, registers extremely few cases of crime against women while states such as Uttar Pradesh presents horrific statistics. An interesting point to note here is that abundance of wealth has no role to play in this context. An opulent state like Punjab or Delhi could be put to shame by the poverty-stricken Nagaland, if their statistics of crimes against women were to be compared. While there is no comparison as to which states are better and which are not, there certainly are lessons that the rest of the country can learn from the so-called disadvantaged states; they deserve utmost respect and applause, simply because they need not drive Audis to learn and respect the basic principles of living in a human(e) society.

Reward


Fate that resigned to faith,
While overcoming both sloth and mirth,
Birds that guide me to silent hills,
And bards goad me for a thousand drills,
Prepares me for the uniqueness
In acceptance and in rejection-
Immensely gratifying,
For I don’t have to ask for rewards,
Which are preserved in a covert safe,
Securely hidden from the searching eyes,
Just for me, at the end of the weather
I embark to brave.

Parenting



Over the last two years of my stay in the Delhi-NCR region, I have, along with my friends from my native state, been overwhelmed by the differences in culture that exist between the two regions. The difference is sometimes surprising and at other times shocking. One of the many conflicts that succeeded in evoking “shock” in me is definitely ‘parenting’. Although I have literally no access to any of the households in my current neighborhood, the observations on the road or the playground, to an extent, enable me to sum up the attitude of the young parents of this generation.

Every evening, when I return from office, I see parents- the father and/or the mother (in most case, a mother) - pushing their children around in a perambulator. Certainly, while the gentle breeze in the evening is the closest today’s children get to, to be part of Nature and the temperature at dusk might just be conducive to the baby’s health, there is something else that worries me. Consider a couple of scenes from my daily observation:
1.      The mother chats with her friend over the mobile-phone, while driving the carriage around. She is not to be blamed because pushing a carriage around for an hour or a half isn’t the most interesting job in the world; ennui drives her to play with the keys of her smart-phone. She might as well stop to talk to a neighbor physically- a welcome break in the baby-carriage marathon!
2.      The lady is lucky to have her husband with her, while pushing the child around; so, she has someone to talk to by her side. The couple enjoys a nice evening-walk, while also taking care of the ever-widening waist size. Dual purpose served! Other purposes might also include buying grocery.
Now, in each of the above scenarios, I haven’t talked about the baby- who should have been our prime focus. What does the little thing do all this time? Doesn’t it get bored? Does it “learn” all this while? Does it ‘evolve’? How does it react to the external world i.e. outside of his/her family?
I get a feeling that these are not important questions for the young parents of today. Educated that they are, MS-Excel troubleshooting allures them more.

Recently, I saw a couple traveling in a rickshaw (i.e. a tricycle). For those who don’t know, rickshaws here have a front seat that accommodates two people and faces in the direction of travel; there is another seat at the back which faces the opposite direction. The couple I am referring to was sitting on the front seat and the child was made to sit at the back, which essentially means that the couple was sitting with their backs facing the back of the child. The kid was definitely not more than four years old. The father was holding his son with one hand; all the while busy gossiping with his wife as the child precariously held a rod to support him, while questioning my gaze!
If I compare the situation with the kind of parenting I have received or observed in the area I come from, the difference is a wide gulf. A pram is something I rarely see there, one of the many things I don’t miss. The advantage of living in a simple middle-class neighborhood is that mothers do not need to worry about spoiling the paint on the face and can keep their babies close to the bosom. That way, I believe, albeit not supported by any scientific study, babies feel safe and comfy. And comfort partly is a result of this safety. After all, you won’t feel comfortable sitting in a BMW, with a gun held against your head!

Moreover, the child learns from it being in the parent’s arms more than it would in a lonely well-decorated carriage. This is precisely because it can now observe more closely with its cute little eyes, try to comprehend the way parents talk, react to a situation or laugh at a joke. Certainly, the baby might not be cognizant of all these aspects and emotions, but unconsciously acquires ‘experiences’ from the world, continuously adding to its kitty bricks that are vital to the building of a human being. The kind of perambulators used here prevents eye-contact between the child and the parent for most of the time. The touch of a parent’s skin is always the most assuring one; they constantly nourish me with courage and confidence and propel me to strive to reach the zenith to this day. Surely the babies of today miss them! 

The attachment between parents and children is extremely important in deciding what the child grows to be. To strengthen this bond, my view is: parents, especially mothers, should care less often about whether the baby would wet the clothes or louse up her make-up; instead she should pick the little-one up in her arms, throw it up in the air and catch it back while it falls, to make it realize where refuge exactly resides. Also, it’s always a better idea not to bore the child because it still can’t indulge in philosophy; instead one should let him/her participate, laugh at the innocent toothless giggles and respond to him/her. And although the parents might be doing that at home, there’s no reason why they should behave differently when outside!

The competition

A Ferrari and a bicycle
Doesn’t vie for the top spot
In a race that the world knows is unfair;
For if there was a competition
Where the winner was judged
By the time spent in the journey,
For curiously appreciating the hill-top view
From every sharp turn,
For slowing down to let the stray dog pass
And for contemplating over
The aroma of wild flowers
While being nipped by the November air,
The cyclist would’ve indeed been
The winner.


A rat's rant




It’s extremely odd that I should be writing about this now, for this could indeed be demotivating for me in the first place. In fact, at this mature hour, I should be focusing on something very important; something most people believe is “life-changing”: the CAT examination, which in my case is due in two days. Like all serious rats in this marathon race, I am concerned about my performance in this test. All rats do fear the CAT. But why am I wasting my time writing this (more so when I know that I have not more than 5-10 regular readers of my blog), instead of taking another of those numerous “mock-tests”? Probably because this is where I find my true calling.

My eyes have been irritating relentlessly, a result of incessant computer-based mock-tests and other stuff for which I have been staring at the computer screen for hours together, without taking a break, while keeping an eye on the timer and trying to figure out the correct “choice” among probable answers instead of attempting to “solve” them. One of the several life-altering experiences that one goes through as one prepares for the big leap, I guess. CAT aspirants will know what I am talking about. A splash of water and get back to the next question! They say- “Sky is the limit” and the only strip of sky I see now is through my window, dark and clouded by affluent Noida constructions.

Besides, there’s a logjam. Like the ones you frequently get to see during the Parliament sessions- the ones that bring them to a screeching halt. But, this one’s inside my head. One part is unwilling to listen to another. I don’t know what those parts of the brain are called (the marks I earned in Biology in school bears testimony to the fact that I am not expected to know about this). But, I know one thing for sure that these parts are protesting: revolting against the “unnatural” exercises they’ve been asked to perform. May be they are planning to bring down the dictator in me. I wish them success!

One thing about when you’re racing against time is that you cannot “think” to best of your abilities. Probably the pattern of the examination is so designed as to find to-be-managers who would be capable of making decisions and solving problems at hand really fast. I, however, doubt that those decisions made over fast food might not necessarily the best. So, during CAT, when I read a very thought-provoking comprehension passage, I will be asked to keep my brain in the bag, along with my mobile-phone. For the use of brain would be limited to finding coherence between the questions and the “lines” in the passage. Those “lines” will never become food for my brain. (And if I try that, I am doomed!) If I find the questions “tricky”, I might have to skip a passage altogether. (I deeply empathize with the authors whose passages are used in a test where the students find no time to appreciate their creation!) I will have no time to indulge in a logical chain of conclusions beyond what is asked for in the paper, no time to contradict the author and no space for freedom of expression (I cannot laugh out loud if I find a piece amusing, for the guy beside me will be upset and the staff will throw me out of the hall). So, I’ll silently say to myself: LOL (i.e. without the exclamation sign).

So much is at stake over one test. Months of dedicated toil will mean nothing to the world if you get a stomach infection or a common cold on that day. No one would care if you reached the examination center late because your car broke down or if you met with an accident. Not that I want any of these to happen to anyone else or myself, I cannot rule the myriad possibilities out, given our limited control over the state of affairs around us at any point in time. So, if no one cares, why should I? “Sit back and relax”- that’s what I’ve told myself, for it’s more important for the people around you to know what you are capable of than one examination full of uncertainties decide it. Yes, it can yield me a prized seat in one of the IIMs, a handsome paycheck thereafter and a luxury undreamt of. At the same time, I don’t want to miss out on the little things that make me who I am, even if I don’t get there. You can say that I chose the ‘wrong’ examination. But, my friend, no examination is ‘right’ for me. So, once again, “Sit back and relax”.

Pursuit of happiness- 3



A neophyte that I was
In games that shapes societies,
Creates bonds, restrains and ties,
Bodies and souls.

Philosophy was complex,
While immersed in booze,
Malaise was unearthed
And vengeance unsheathed.

Time flew, experience accrued,
Books sold and the mood eased;
As the recipe to happiness
Became known.

The secret lay open, as they say,
For the pleasure in living is in
Secretly watching the loved ones-
Joyous and happy.


Review: Barfi!


I am no critic and given the handful of movies I could treat myself with, in my short span of life, my opinion is plainly drawn from a non-critic audience-who-goes-out-on-weekends-to-movies-for-entertainment point-of-view. If you are thinking that this article will spoil your experience of the movie, rest assured this is in no way a spoiler; moreover, you might feel more motivated to go and watch it after you read it. Which you definitely should, unless you already have. The story-line is clich├ęd in some ways and there have been myriad films made in Bollywood that tell you the same story, give or take a few episodes. What sets this film a class apart from the mundane others, is the way the story has been narrated. Audiences in India aren’t new to the triangular love-story. Nor is it new to the portrayal of the lives of the disabled- the deaf, the dumb, the blind, the autistic, a patient of the Alzheimer’s and other kinds of handicap.  What is common to all these films is that the story-teller attempts to draw the sympathy of the audience, banking on a deluge of emotions- mostly lachrymal- to achieve success, in Box office and award functions.

The trailers and promotions might have given you a similar experience- a movie that you can go and watch with your family or with your loved one- a movie devoid of sex, violence or even verbal abuse. You might even have imagined yourself exiting the multiplex with a heavy heart or a soggy hanky, contemplating about those unfortunate beings for the next few minutes before going back to enjoying your own fortune. On the contrary, this movie is meant to be an enriching experience, for it doesn’t harp on the emotional string, doesn’t produce that monotonous pensive tune, doesn’t moisten your eyes all wild; instead, just when you start feeling the deep undertone of melancholy the characters are experiencing, the actor will brighten up your face by his caricatures and antics. This is not the story of two handicapped people; it’s about love and more importantly, the timing of love. This certainly has to be a first in Bollywood: in its depiction of how the experience of love changes over time.
The use of symbolism is so aptly crafted that it would certainly have made even the master Ray proud. The use of choirs with musical instruments out of nowhere isn’t meant to have the same implication as the nonsensical dance sequences the Indian audience is so used to, where the hero and his lady-love move across continents dancing on top of snow-covered peaks to dense tropical jungles, ignoring the unity of time, place and action and of course visa complexities! The glass ball showing an inverted image of any object is an absolute treat to watch. The director brings to the fore the difference in perspective with which we all view the world and how each is equally valid. The spherical cage with the rabbit incessantly trying to climb through its walls is another of the numerous superlative images used in the movie. The reflection of light from broken glass, the shoe thrown up in the sky, the asynchronous steps of a deaf dancer all add to the poetic beauty of what is deemed to be one of the best-made films in Indian cinema.
The beautiful script is supported by some of the best acting Bollywood has seen in recent times. After the release of Gangs of Wasseypur, I had little doubts that the acting skills of the likes of Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Manoj Bajpai would be surpassed anytime soon. Within only a couple of months, I am forced to think otherwise, umm, at least think twice and still be unsure! Raj Kapoor would certainly have been extremely proud of this young man, Ranbir. It might be too early to compare him with the legend Charlie Chaplin, as some reviews apparently point to, while at the same time it would be extremely unfair to criticize him for “copying” the legendary silent-movie star, for Basu’s portrayal of Barfi is not meant to serve either purpose. Instead, it is an Indianized version of a happy handicap, with which he lives his life to uphold the beauty of life itself. PC proves her mettle yet again with a challenging role. Music, specially the background score, plays an important part in keeping the spirits high, never letting the audience drown in the ennui of silence. The lyric of the title track sounds funny when you hear for the first time, makes you think the second time and touches the soft part the third time.
I must admit that I have a soft corner for the locations used in the movie: Darjeeling and Kolkata. Because I can relate to my childhood trips to the unofficial summer capital of Bengal- Darjeeling, a beautiful landscape nested in the lap of Himalayas, with its narrow-gauge lines and the tea-gardens. The occasional Durga idols in the making, the lush green fields, the pot-belly policemen, the lackadaisical tram and the magnificent Howrah Bridge standing guard to the City of Joy, add to the beauty of the brilliant cinematography.
Is there a lesson that you take home? Not once will the message be slapped on your face; instead it is learnt collectively through small episodes of apparently trivial importance- the lesson of finding happiness in the humblest of events in life, of being happy and being loved despite the greatest challenges and handicaps. Truth is: only a combined effort of a hand-picked team reflects in the making of a good film. And Barfi is a perfect example. So, do not wait to see if it sweeps the award ceremonies or box-office collections, because some movies are made to help you appreciate life, happiness and love.
  

Being Online



As I write this post, I can clearly see colorful dots in green, red and yellow. Do not be mistaken, for I am not talking about traffic signals here- they change colors fast- yes, as opposed to what most people believe or at least act like, they do not indefinitely remain  red! I’ve digressed enough! These dots can be found preceding several of the known and unknown names on almost all instant-messaging clients. These days, they have integrated it with their e-mail systems- so, Gmail (okay…to sound impartial, let me also name Yahoomail) is no longer just about e-mails: in fact, it now is less emails and more chats. Invariably, you must have noticed people with characteristics familiar to the following:
 ·         The “always-Available” class: The green signal never dies, unless their internet connection does. Of course, I am fully aware of the fact that using the phone and the seamless connectivity (what? Is that even possible? Not even the best commercial telephone network in the world provides that, I assure you) that their operators claim to provide, make it easier. But you could save some battery for an exigency, by not caring that some random person could remember you while you are traveling to work, early in the morning! My experience with these people is that they are slow in responding to pings, possibly because they have a lot other chats to take care of, simultaneously. Possibly.
·         The “always-Busy” class: For them, life is probably all about a bunch of people born with the sole purpose of interrupting them and ruining their peace of mind. To all those folks, here’s a message: close your browser, disconnect the data service on your phone and enjoy the breeze in the balcony. Turn that red-light on only when you are really busy forwarding important e-mails (like ‘forward to 10 people or you end up in hell, having to share the room with Osama-bin-Laden’!). Moreover, if you are eternally busy, one day, people will realize that you are never really busy and only pretend to. So, they will ping you, without caring if you were really busy forwarding that Rajnikant joke. In reality, most people of this class will respond to your ping almost instantly, proving the color of the signal wrong!
·         The “always-Invisible” class: These people are not bad. In fact, they think they could have been Mr. India (my apologies to the womenfolk), if Anil Kapoor hadn’t opted for the role. Well, they appear to use the e-mail server for e-mails and not chat. Mark my word: “appear”. And that holds true till the time you get a ping from them. That ghastly feeling of receiving an unexpected pop! So, they are not as innocent as they make their case to be. These are the ones with enormous power: the power to be able to disturb anyone as they please, without the fear of being disturbed. These people would make good politicians, who, analogously, would come to you begging for votes during the electoral campaign and once they secure a cozy seat, reaching out to them is a futile effort. In reality, you never know who all belong to this class since some might actually be offline while others “invisible”. Fortunately, with time and experience, you’ll realize who they are.
·         The “always-Away” or “always-Idle” class: These people are just fond of being online. They seem to be enjoying the fruits of technological advances, turning their green bulb on, which turns yellow in a while, as every effort to reach out to them goes in vain. Don’t ping them, for you’ll not receive a response. At least, don’t try this too many times: you could as well be tagged “desperate”! Yes, they could have other work and prefer to stay away from their computer. So they are really busy people. Huh? Did I say “always- idle”? I should consider revising it. The truth is: they might be doing anything that your wild mind can or cannot imagine!
 Folks, why don’t we use these ‘signals’ a little more judiciously? Red, yellow and green mean something. They SHOULD change colors, like the traffic light. Times are when you should apply brake on that “always-available” vehicle of yours, stop and relax while the red-light is on, and watch other vehicles. You could be idling away but be prepared to return and accelerate your vehicle. Remember, other vehicles are driving along the cyber-road at varying paces. If you don’t stop when you should or don’t move when you are expected to, your traffic sense is in question; so, be prepared to be abused by a honking passer-by. The cyberspace is no longer just for fun- the growing number of tales of love and hatred in it makes me believe that you could actually be juggling balls of different emotions by turning these lights on and off. Being online and being human.

The Haunting past



High up in the sky and deep inside the cottony clouds
The mirror is clear and I see my face in the droplets;
Content to have escaped the fetters of sulky emotions,
Frequently made turbid like tempest makes of glass,
And able to unintimidatingly look into my own eyes-
Serene and immaculate- craving no more for you,
Even if the terrible thing was to bid a tearful adieu;
Knowing that out of sight might be out of mind,
Indulging in newer ventures to leave a past behind,
That proudly was a basket full of fresh dreams
Bartered in lieu of what I felt were mutual feelings.
The last string is still attached, feeble yet unyielding,
Holding onto me like a child drowning in deep sea,
Who realizes that it’s sometimes better to let go
And try to explore that which’s underneath!

Conflict




Cold shudder, now and then,
Melancholic angst reign;
Thousand words to console
And swooshing heavy breaths,
Diving into the soul
To feel uncanny depths.
Confused and colonized,
Living a life biased
'Cause we are civilized.
Following their idea of dreams
Shutting ears from painful screams
To be a part of a race,
To save their face,
The ones who’ve betted on you.

Sometimes I forget...


Sometimes I forget
To write-
About things hovering in my mind,
Of places close to my heart,
About people my kind-
As if the mind is a cart
Overloaded with bags, carrying the past-
To the nearest shore,
To let them go with the wave,
While the crowd is intoxicated in a rave.

Sometimes I forget
To talk-
Of people who made me me,
About journeys that made me free,
Of discussions that made me see-
As if other things are important;
While being shut from the innerself,
Wearing a mask
To face the world of deaf,
The one with eyes and teeth.

But I never forget
To think-
To thank,
Of times in luxury and in dank;
With subdued expressions,
Restrained emotions,
Uncaptured lachrymose secretions-
As joy and sorrow create a collage,
Reminding me of being
Part of a memorable voyage.

Examination hall




Confident, I entered the examination hall,
Standing amongst the serious crowd, tall;
Looking for a place, next to a pretty face  ;)
Alas, all occupied!
Invariably, the last row corner seat,
Less airy, so as not to fall asleep, but neat.

As challenges popped up on the computer screen,
And I, hurriedly scribbled in vain, to questions bland
The timer ticking away, as if to a magician’s wand;
I decided I had had enough!

The guy next to me was bored to death
Scrolling through questions, yawning,
Looking sideways, his head swaying,
Oft opting for a deep breath.
Another one was busy adjusting his chair,
A third, a could-be model, her hair.

Most girls looked serious, boys looking vicious;
One of them closed his eyes in apparently a ritual,
Either asking God for help or for making a wild guess!
An obese guy had his head down,
As if, waiting for a bud to sprout,
From seeds he had sown!

Curly hair, with the appearance of a bee-hive,
Possibly from a budding rock band,
Ronaldo-spikes, energetic, impatient and uneasy, 
Possibly from the soccer field,
Thick-rimmed glasses reading comprehensions
Of prosaic measure with poetic muse;
All aspired for the same- what a shame!

Pursuit of happiness- 2




In counting in the night-sky the uncountable,
The feral animals from the fable,
Ice-cream and cakes on the birthday table,
With the little sibling everyday quibble;
In holding your papa’s hand,
Colorful balloons on stand,
Watching waves soak the sand,
The kiss on the forehead that costs
More than a grand!

In sharing junk food with friends,
Homecoming from school in the rain,
In diving to stop the ball
From touching the boundary, the wall;
The nursery rhymes in family gatherings
The gestures, the mannerism, the noddings-
Earn you thunderous applause;
In winning the drawing competition,
Hands all dyed in red and green!

When I knew nothing of philosophy
My life was easy,
Like the child, who need not pay-
For being happy!

Pursuit of happiness



Miles away,
Uttering unheardof words,
In an unknown time-zone
Where thick is the layer of ozone,
Wrapped in colored leaves
Out of civilized bounds,
To chirping birds,
And to the tinkling of stream
That passionately kisses
The grey pebbles, as if in a dream,
Men and women dance
Around the newly born.

Their happiness is in the belief-
Of having been blessed,
Of having been rewarded,
For the agony that preceded.
Prayers and grateful tears,
Held as beads of pearl
Like the ones gracing their ears,
Would put to shame-
The civilized- the rich and the literate,
In whose eyes they are lame.

Expectations



Strange expectations,
Impossible and in reach,
Cloud my aspirations-
A year or more,
Of habit of failures,
Wrecking the ship
That once was brightly lit.

As the mind shifts its base-
Trying to think of it
Less and less,
The more it haunts
The more it stings,
Melancholic tunes
Sound beautiful,
As the lachrymose eyes
Bleed colorless.

The best I know
From what I learnt,
Is not to expect;
For the best surprises
Are the ones that
Pull you off your seat,
Sudden and incognizant;
Laughter and tears
In a motley
That they call life.

How the battle was avoided…


[This is my entry for the contest titled “Internet is Fun!” organized by Vodafone (www.vodafone.in/fun) and Indiblogger.]

A connected world is a fun place
Where you play with distant friends chess,
Where online music on phone is easy,
And videos when you’re not-so-busy;
Social networking and useful apps
That take care of security lapse,
Besides the huge knowledge pool on web
Without which you are today as good as in a grave!

The Sun still had about an hour to settle. They sat at the table, sipping Darjeeling tea, as the last rays filtered through the half-open window.  The couple was banished from their town, for they had brought disgrace to the family by marrying each other. To make matters worse, the gentleman’s bachelor brother, a part-time social activist, decided to go and stay with them. They were not exactly in deep trouble; they had managed to get a decent flat on rent. Now, don’t be amused by their names: the gentleman was named Rama Rao and the lady Sitavati. The brother was Laxman Rao. If you’re thinking that this sounds strikingly similar to the story of Rama’s exile, you are mistaken. This is just perfect coincidence!
Laxman had been looking for a job. In his mid-twenties, Lax, as they preferred to call him, had to stay up-to-date with the latest news and updates from job portals. Besides, social networking was at its zenith. To keep up with his male friends, he had to ‘like’ and ‘comment’ on every photo or video some girl posted on Chasebook. And did I forget to mention that he was a great sportsman in school? He was a champion- in the popular sport, ABC (Archery Before Christ). With the new high-end phone in place and a lightning-fast connectivity, he could now play this game with archers from all corners of the planet (Yes, the earth still wasn’t known to be round). During these high-tension matches, he usually was disturbed by e-mail notifications from the job portal he had recently opened an account with.
Rama, an engineer by chance, used internet-on-the-go for stock updates and checking business e-mails, while waiting at traffic signals. Bored by the same playlist on his phone, he would often listen to music online. And boy, his latest craze was BSL (Banar Sena League), a prestigious tournament, in which top tycoons had poured glamor and money to watch provincial teams of Banars clamor while constructing a stone-bridge. Rama frequently tuned in for the latest scores, for he was a die-hard fan of his home-team, Ayodhyanagar.
At the table, Sita was browsing the internet on her phone. “You know”, she always complained, “I am fed up with the frequent power-cuts in this town. I so often miss my favourite shows in the afternoon.” She had recently persuaded her husband to get her a better internet ‘plan’ so that she could watch on Viewtube, glimpses of all those saas-bahu serials that she missed on TV. Rama had complied. After all, his namesake had set very high standards as to what an ideal husband should be like.
While scrolling for the latest products available at the nearby store, she suddenly got excited, held the phone in front of Rama and said- “Darling, I want this golden teddy! This is so cute! I want it now; the website says- they have only 2 items left!”
“Why don’t you order it online? If you don’t have enough money in your account, I’ll transfer it now; mobile banking...”
And before he could complete, she hit back strongly, “This article is not available online. Surely, this must be very special.”
When persuasions didn’t work, Rama had to surrender. He reluctantly drove his car out of the parking lot and headed for the store. Before leaving, Rama whispered into the ears of Laxman, “Take care of your bhabhi. Do not leave her alone. I will be back in half an hour.” Laxman raised his right hand with an air of assurance and went back to playing ABC on his phone.
Thirty minutes went by; Sita’s phone was ringing.
She picked it up-“Hello?”
“Hey, Sita. I …” and then the voice cracked.
Sita asked-“Who? Hello? Can you hear me? Rama, is it you?”
But there was only a noise at the other end. Then, the call snapped.
Sita tried calling back several times, but the call didn’t go through.
Sita was worried. Half-sure, she said, “Lax, it was Rama. I think he is in deep trouble. Please go and see if your brother is okay.”
On the verge of completing a hard-fought game, Laxman was annoyed.
Bhabhi, bro will be fine. Don’t you know he is a black-belt?”
Sita got angry at this- “How can you talk like this when your brother is in danger? Don’t you feel ashamed to call yourself his brother, Lax?”
Embarrassed, Laxman got up from the sofa.
Bhabhi, let me see what I can do. Don’t worry and please keep the door locked. I will ride my bike to the store and find out if anything’s wrong. Adieu!”
On his way, Laxman found Rama jovially driving his car, with a cigarette in his right hand. Their eyes met. The car and the bike came to a halt with the irritating noise of screeching tyres. Rama was upset- “What are you doing here? Why did you leave your bhabhi alone? Don’t you know that this place is not safe for women?”
Lax narrated the entire story. Rama was getting tenser. Uttering curses, he said- “Man, I better get home before something happens to her! This must have been a trap. And we fell for it.”
When they reached home, their worst fears seemed to have been translated. The door was unlocked and Sita wasn’t inside! Both tried calling Sita but were always responded by a “Out of reach” message. Rama knew- “Some goon must have abducted her and absconded; now they will ask for a ransom.”
Lax was quick to notice an update from Sita on one of the social networking sites: “Damsel in distress! Off to Sri Lanka tonight!” They stood dumbfounded.
Lax concluded, “So, they haven’t taken her phone? Strange! Probably they thought she had no roaming facility. Or they were too busy to notice that she carried a phone!” Laxman commented on the post, “Where are you now, bhabhi?”
He kept checking his phone from time to time but to his disappointment, there was no reply.
Refreshing the webpage, he saw a video posted by one of their neighbors, Jatayu Das, in which he had ‘tagged’ Sita. His heart throbbing with excitement, Laxman started to stream the video. Nudging his brother, he smiled- “Look, awesome speed, man. Internet rocks!”
The video was only 2 minutes and 12 seconds. For the first minute, the clip had caught the initial resistance Sita had put up. Then as the camera approached the scene (i.e. Jatayu neared), the phone must have dropped off Jatayu’s hands. It showed Jatayu being badly beaten up as he tried to rescue the beauty from the beast. Rama paused and watched the video thrice. Finally, he uttered with a deep breath- “It is Sh-Ravana. Let’s go to the police-station.”
Twenty minutes later, Hanuman Singh, the police inspector, nodded after listening to Rama. “Sir, we will try to find out your wife as soon as possible. We have a hi-tech team on field. They are equipped with state-of-the-art GPS tracking devices which are connected to their mobile phones. They get instantaneous updates on their e-mails.”
Impressed, Rama thanked the inspector. Within fifteen minutes of the alert, the cops found out that the goons were waiting with Sita at the airport to board the last flight to the Lanka capital. The police, connected via the internet to the airport security, informed them of the situation and got the thugs arrested immediately.
Within half an hour, Sita was back in Rama’s arms, weeping and at the same time relieved.
This is how the fierce gory battle was avoided, significant defense funds and innumerous lives were saved; more importantly, the 1.5 kg- epic called Ramayana was reduced to only a leaflet.

Grooming


(Getting a stylish haircut, a smart pair of jeans and a “presentable” appearance are only 
at most a month away; there are other things, like our grey cells, which we have been 
grooming over the years, if not for decades. Why not attempt to make them lasting?)

You saw his dull hair, dishevelled
Atop his square and bland face;
You saw the melanin on his skin
From lying under the sun, bare-
You saw him grow beard,
Made you sneer as he neared.
You saw his lacklustre lips
Which he purses whilst anxiety grips;
You saw his glasses, discolored,
Gathering dirt from every line
Over which he brooded.
You saw him in clothes fit for a Bedouin-
Untrimmed nails, chisel teeth,
An unpleasant countenance-
And fashion miles away.
You thought he needed a makeover-
“Manicure and pedicure are no panacea”,
He said, “for ignorance, the real malice,
And I’ve been training to reach out for peace.”

Beauty or the beast?




When the storm had its way
Dust turning the blue all grey
The face of sky blood-red
Drizzle apparent- run for the shade!
Signs of destruction- they thought,
Forgot the chill it brought;
Sheltered under the roof of a nearby store
Where I went to buy grocery and more,
Saw them running for cover
With their heads lower, (in respect?)
Birds flying off the tower;
Ah, just can’t wait for the shower!

And then it came,
Pouring without a shame;
Who dares to tame?
The iciness, the sigh of relief
Even old men in disbelief,
A kid, hands on his hip,
Like a commander-in-chief,
And still, not a cause of grief!

As the rain subsided,
We, recovering from the dread,
Walked away, enjoying the bliss
Nature’d gifted her nephew and niece.
A display of atrocious power
Or a feast for the eyes?
The rich walked back, happy
While others blamed their fate
The thatch had blown away,
Unprotected by any crate.

As poets sing hymns
And musicians translating in chimes
For the beauty of the beast,
Spare a thought for the ones
Who now have their least.

The Postcard


I cannot recall when I last wrote a letter on that cheap, yellowish, thick, cardboard-like paper. It was called the postcard. The Indian postal service was kind enough to provide a page and a half of writing space in just 25 paise. That is, barely a decade back. Even if it costs eight times now, it hardly matters to those who write letters. The problem is: very few actually do; and so, even fewer care about it, unlike the case of hike in railway fares where you find loud confused uproar from all sorts of unlikely politicians.
Well, returning to the question of ‘space’, anything you get for such a small price is actually like a football ground. So, cheerfully, you start writing, and very soon, you realize that there is a serious dearth of space. I will give examples of two opposite situations. During examinations, when I did not know the answers to most questions, I have been tormented by my invigilators: “Do you need an extra sheet?” I had to politely nod in refusal, while cursing him or her for such a sadistic attitude. And when I have been asked to summarize something exquisitely philosophical and esoteric, I did not have the liberty to use as many words as I like. In bold letters, is a warning: Word limit: 100 words! That’s how you feel when you write a letter on a postcard. You have to be overly cautious not to exceed the “space” limit. Thus, you cut short the interesting incidences you wanted to share with your septuagenarian Grandpa. Now, you cannot reduce the size of your already-tiny alphabets, bearing in mind his senescing eyes.
Plus, you have a format to follow; something you learnt in school and which earned you a few marks even if you left the body of your letter blank. It had to start with a “Dear” or “Respected” and end with a “Yours lovingly” or “Yours faithfully”. You say, that doesn’t take up much space? Think again! You have to leave spaces before and after these ‘special’ words, no matter how scarce the writing space is! To compensate for the lost space, you have to move from horizontal space to vertical, along the margins- left or right. The words push and shove one another to make space for themselves while the reader has an agonising time following the sequence.
Now that you have managed to somehow fit in words- the most unsuitable ones in the most unsuitable places as part of the space management- you have to worry about privacy. Yes. The postcard is an “open” letter; the postman can read it at his leisure while it is on its way to the intended receiver. So, one has to be cautious; in other words, if one intends to broadcast an “interesting secret” to the world, there is no better way than to mention the same in your postcard letter. The reverse page is shared between the concluding section of the letter, the address of the receiver and the postage stamp. And while you have a space crunch, you have to tolerate the address written in clean handwriting, enough spaces for the aging postman to read and deliver your “open” letter to the right door.
Having said all that, writing a letter on a postcard was a real test of your classroom learnings (remember, the elaborate format?), vocabulary (remember, shunning verbosity while resorting to brevity?), management skills (space, I reiterate) and ciphering ability (privacy issues, you know). This is in no way meant to insult a form of a once-very-popular system of communication: letter-writing. As telephone wires (and wirelesses) have gathered strength, the use of postcards has plummeted. And so have postmen. The khaki-uniform is barely seen riding the bicycle. You wrote a half-correct address and still the postman identified you by your name. He shared a relationship with your family not defined by the boundaries of PIN codes and streets. And he never actually read your letters (That was just to scare you off). He was a paragon of trust; simply exemplary. Compare and contrast: now, telephone calls are being tapped! We have certainly come a long way: from penmanship to articulation, from paper to radio and from trust to helpless doubtfulness.

Scribbling-2


2
                                                                                                                            
(This is my vocab practice space; readers are requested not to bug me about this)

Of ancestral amnesia
Of benign brouhaha
Of Colossal connivances
Of didactic deities
Of eloquent efforts

Of fascinated Fascists
Of gluttonous gourmands
Of high-profile hysteria
Of innocent inanity
Of juvenile jests

Of kinky karate
Of lukewarm logic
Of mellifluous music
Of nubile non-sense
Of opaque ostentations

Of playful pulse
Of quizzical quests
Of rightful righteousness
Of successful sonnets
Of Tolstoyan teachings

Of Utopian utterances
Of venomous verve
Of woven worries
Of xenophobic X-ray
Of youthful yorkers
Of zeros’n’zyzzyva


Scribbling


(Readers are requested not to bug the author, asking for interpretations of 
such meaningless scribblings)

Of thoughtful reflections,
Of old chats, friendship, love and terror-
Of timid strokes of brush and random imagineering,
Of comely dawns and procrastinating afternoons,
Of themed decorations on awkwardly beautiful backdrops.

Of past, present and future
Of freedom, of choice, of force
Of myriad emotions
Of theatrical dramatics
Of art, of dirt on art,
Of philosophical interpretations of miracle
Of time, of timely happiness,
Of troubles rekindled from happiness.

Of amateur craftiness
Of thrifty flamboyance
Of jammed ears, on jammed roads
Of confused souls,
Of untold truths,
Of secret confessions-
Of the precious thing that never was.

(One thing I have learnt on the first anniversary of my blog is: 
write your heart out; it’s your own space, sponsored by an American giant)