Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The beginning

I started out for the golf course feeling a little out of place because of the letter that had arrived. I had decided to open the envelope after the game but could not stop myself from thinking about the contents of the letter. My thoughts had taken a U turn to more a decade back when I had first met D. I remember our first meeting vividly. It was pouring heavily, close to ten in the morning, and I was desperate for a smoke. When I reached the Paan Waalah holding an umbrella in my hand, I saw a man sitting next to the shop puffing on his cigarette which he held with an amazing technique. Everything else on his body or even remotely touching his body apart from the cigarette was completely drenched. I could not contain my disappointment for the closed shop and banged hard at the door.

“Want a smoke?”, I heard him say. A true angel in disguise, this was the first time I had noticed his face especially the eyes. They were discomforting and soothing at the same time and he spoke as if he was looking through me and not at me.

“Would love to......Thanks a lot, mate”, I replied with genuine gratitude.

“No need to thank me” he said as he passed me the packet of cigarette and drew out his lighter to light my stick.

“Ganesh”, I extended my hand introducing myself

“You can call me D. My father named me Devbratta, but I prefer to be called by the first alphabet of my name. Short and sweet. What’s there in a name?” This was to be the last time I heard his full first name and an immediate bond had been established through a firm handshake.

“How do you hold the cigarette, mate, not a drop of water touching the stick?” I always wanted to learn new stuff to flaunt around.

“Heard ‘bout Darwin.....’Survival of the fittest’? I was basically trying to evolve my cigarette consumption technique. It took me two packets of cigarette to learn this. See...” He said, pointing at the cigarette packets lying behind the bench. “Go ahead and give it a try, but you have to learn it on your own to make it perfect. Everybody has a different way of doing the same thing, you see.”

My nostalgia had ensured my overshooting the turn to Sharma’s house. I decided to concentrate on driving, and reached his house in about two minutes. As always I had to ring the doorbell twice before I could get the remotest of attention.

“Bhaisaab, I am ready. Just give me two minutes” yelled a familiar voice from inside. Sharma reminded me of Shakespeare’s Polonius who could give a five minute speech to conclude that ‘Brevity is the soul of wit’.

“He didn’t have the courtesy to even call me inside.” I said to myself. He was a typical know-all, or at least presented himself as one by talking about the latest buzz of the town. I am sure he started playing golf to be a part of the elite, sophisticated sect.

I finally saw him coming out wearing a pink t-shirt on brown trousers with a cheap golf cap having. As soon as he saw me he ran back to the house shouting “Start the car, Bhaisaab. I just forgot something” and came out wearing his black sunglasses. “It is really hot today, isn’t it?” he commented. I avoided the conversation while Sharma started his typical office gossip, acknowledging with occasional nods as we headed towards the golf course.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


As the eighth grade students of a small town school were waiting eagerly for the school bell to ring; sat amongst them, a slightly plump boy listening eagerly to the history teacher with shining eyes. There was nothing sweet or cute about the kid, apart from his grey eyes which were refreshing in the curious way and strangely made him look slightly elder to his fellow students. He seldom spoke in the class partly because his stammer made him the laughing stock of the class and partly because he was a good listener, a quality hard to find in the entire civilization leave apart the children of his age. Although, the perplexed expression on his face today was eloquently expressing his discomfort or curiousness, the two expressions that were hard to differentiate on his distinct face.
“Sir, Wha....aa....aa....aa...t is independence?”, D stammered
“Independence means self rule. It is the liberty to take your own decisions without anybody’s control or influence.”
“Is it any different from freedom?” D asked; this time in a flawless flurry of words.
“Idiot! This is not your English class. This is Pandey ji’s history class. Such idiotic questions are not tolerated and of course, both mean the same.”
This silenced his curiosity for the time being. D was used to such systematic murder of inquisitiveness as he was barely an average student; a ‘nobody’ who wasn’t as chirpy or intelligent as the other children in his class. He was different from the others with an ambiguous behaviour pattern that was mostly taken as his lack of intelligence by the teachers and fellow students. Absence of a set pattern or a stereotype in behaviour automatically got him categorised in the “zeros” out of the only two available typecasts. The curious look on his face was gone now as he slowly lowered his eyes.
The school bell rang and everyone dashed out of the classroom. D sat still, staring at the word written on the board sans any emotion or probably unable to express if any. He was always the last to leave, walking the two miles to his home alone. He loved looking at the colourful sky filled with kites in the afternoon, a wanderer at core of his heart.
D was born to a middle class family in Faizabad. His father was an accountant at the local bidi factory with a decent income as per the neighbourhood standards. The concept of ‘decent income’ isn’t that complicated. It means that the person owns standard amenities to flaunt like a scooter or a television or an air cooler. Depending on the number of items possessed by him from the list of income standards, he is grouped into different income levels by the society and the income level is directly proportional to the respect one gets. Therefore, being from a decent income group meant that D’s family walked a thin line; skipping a social standard purchase could see a drop in their respectability from the ‘decent people’ to the ‘poor people’. Money was a measuring tape for every adjective in the language.
D’s mother was a typical example of an alarm clock, she never forgot a social acceptability purchase. Every statement that she spoke included references of other people in the colony.
“Why are you late from school laat Saab? Mrs. Kapoor’s son came twenty minutes back. We bought you a bicycle last week to reduce the time you take to commute, so that you could study better; but you don’t seem to get serious.”
“Maa, my cycle got punctured again. I had to walk my way to home.” D reluctantly answered. Actually, he never wanted to have a bicycle. After all, he enjoyed his walks, but the bicycle was purchased as a social standard maintenance purchase for their neighbour, Kapoor’s son had it as well. So, he intentionally took air out of the tyres everyday and walked with his bicycle.
“Nowadays there are no quality products in the market. We spent 2800 rupees for this perpetually punctured piece of crap. I wonder where the Kapoors got their bicycle from. Absolutely disgusting! Now go to your room and start studying while I’ll get your lunch. Mehra ji was telling Paa that their son had started studying for the half yearly exams. Isn’t he the topper of your class?”
D turned around and started walking towards the room silently. His thoughts still wandered in the question that he had asked in the class. It is very tough to satisfy the penchant of a child, a perfectly rational and pure brain. Suddenly, his perplexed expression gave way to calm, smiling face as he slowly made way to his room. He ran to his table tore a page out of an unused notebook and made a paper aeroplane. As he darted it out of the window he was assured it would never come back. His smile broadened.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A dull sunday morning

I was reading the newspaper in the morning when my three year old son Murli came to my bed, eager to wish me his newly learnt “good morning”. Murli is a sharp young boy and he loves playing games on his computer. He is quite a replica of my own childhood, a quick learner and a practitioner of his knowledge with immediate effect. A dull Sunday morning, with the clock making the mirror image of an ‘L’, and the news had nothing eye-catching in store. I reminded myself of the commitment with Sharma for a game of golf. He is the typical sales guy who rose in ranks by whatever means he knew and could employ. In short, the word ethics doesn’t exist in his dictionary.

Oh! I forgot to mention, my name is Ganesh, K.G. I keep my name abbreviated out of preference, as my three year old is still unable to count the alphabets in my full name. Besides, the name also adds some air of dignity to my thirty three years of experience in life as people of the management are always amazed by abbreviations.
I was about to rise from the bed when the phone gave a small buzz. A missed call; had to be Sharma. I picked up my cell-phone and called him back.

“Good Morning, Sharmaji”, I sounded pleasant even to myself.

“Bhaisaab, I thought you must be sleeping that’s why I gave you a buzz. I hope you haven’t forgotten our appointment for today.” Enthusiastic, thy name is Sharma.

“Of course not, I was just getting ready.” I knew what was about to come next.

“Bhaisaab, If you please don’t mind, would you pick me up on your way. My car is making a lot of noise and I have called the mechanic. If you take the Lajpat Rai road my house will be en route.” Slimy bastard, it is eight extra miles that way.

“No problem Sharmaji, will be there at eleven. Sharp” I keep the phone quickly before he made any more ‘If you please don’t mind’ demands. Its not that I am against the sales people, I am more a person of refined logic and rationality. I am a senior manager, finance, at Dave industries Limited.

I took a leisurely bath in my newly fitted Jacuzzi to beat the heat and exhaustion of the week while Sudha prepared her Sunday morning special breakfast. Sudha, my wife, has been my perfect support in the five years of our married life and she has been extra special to me on Sundays: cooking the perfect meals and granting me full liberty to relax after the draining weekdays. A lady with little demands and completely devoted to our small family of three; in short, a typical Indian housewife. In no time, I wore my golf muftis and shouted:

“Sudhi, my golf cap and sunglasses”, unable to recollect where I kept them last week.

“They are in the drawer of your study table ..... and come fast, your breakfast is ready”, As always she is on the spot. I am sometimes amazed by Sudha’s ability to find things that I keep almost hidden from my own self like confidential office documents and keys, high value cheques; although, she never tries to look through my belongings.

I rushed downstairs towards the dining table. My glass of fresh juice was waiting while Sudha made fresh puris for me. Right next to the juice tumbler was kept an envelope with ink blotted all over.

“When did this come?”,I asked

“It came yesterday afternoon and you came late last night after your office party. I thought I will give it to you later”, She said smiling. “Open it after you’ve had your breakfast or all my efforts will go in vein.”

“All right”, I said, and started sipping from my glass of juice. The ink blot, however, had told me who the correspondent was: My old friend and companion ‘D’ and it had been seven years since I last heard from him.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

half sleeping flamingos

It had been sometime since I had been sleeping or shall I say in trance. The virtual connect between ‘me’ and ‘myself’ was beginning to wear off. It is like living a split life: the life in your dreams and the 'real' life; both equally exhaustive. I tend to wonder at times that why the word ‘misery’ even exists in the English language. What is misery but emotional exhaustion and time is only a proxy emotion: a slow, brutal and incomplete assassin; a true Devil's instrument along with, how could I forget, money!!

I tightened my semi relaxed muscles while I was informed that we are ready for another round of tranquilizers. It was a hot sunny day, ten hours past midnight, and a still sleeping accomplice, 'D'.

“Beer? " I asked D, in the calm tone of a lullaby.

"Of course", D replied promptly, as if he had been feigning the sleep like a baby waiting for his mother's milk. D is not the lazy bum, he is more the hyperactive-hibernating kind, a typical procrastinator. Both of his states tend to have an unsettling social effect. Not that I had known him for ages, but he found a mark in my two dimensional plane of existence.

We rushed to the door of the train bogie and opened it. It was scorching hot outside and the train had taken a halt. I generally tend to find a similarity between the state of my mind and the sound of the fizz. It is funny at times to hear the fermented serum full of anti air almost gasping for breath: Slightly suffocating. We started the proceedings by colliding our cans.

"Cheers" I spoke, wondering inside how absolutely it rhymes with 'fears'.

My first gulp told me that I need to light up my smoke. Fire and water actually have a lot in common. The two vehicles of life yet one coveted and the other despised. I filled my lungs with smoke letting it out from my flaring nostrils: a raging bull meets a silent sage. I look out of the door, saw trees passing by; such a usual and unexciting sight. Just about then, I saw violent clouds. A highly fragmented cirrus, curiously in the shape of a fleet of bomber jets, it seemed the most masterful recreation of the world war in an abstract artistic way. D who was busy taking large gulps from his drink, for a change did not find my wild flights of fantasy amusing. Yet, I moved ahead in time......

It is amazing how we tend to value destruction. The entire civilization is fed with war stories even in the curricular education. Stories of how Alexander the great conquered the world, the story of revolutions, of how brutal could emperors be. And even the smallest kid is fascinated by the sense of destruction. Sounds of cannons, of bullets fired in the air and of blood falling on the ground. The sense of victory is so deeply engraved in our hearts that no one is willing to lose how so ever strong or deserving the opponent may be. Man has given birth to irrationality, generally called hope, so the concept of civilization itself is flawed and this is the harsh reality.

I tried to gather my shredding thoughts, and said:
“The beer has a soothing effect today”, absolutely contrary to how I was feeling.

“Absolutely”, D replied, a blatant lie. We both have an awkward sense of mutual understanding and respect. We both know who is lying when.

I realised then that the journey was about to end soon, some hours left to go. I told D that it had been a long night and we should catch up with some sleep. We both go back to the compartment and lie down in our respective births, like lovers who have made love all night. I am sure we were truly the ‘spent lovers’ who had romanced their thoughts and figments and the pleasure, rather, the joy was inexplicable; yet came close to ‘the orgasm’ but we had to leave in six hours.

It is really tough to tell when time passes slowly and when it passes fast. It truly is the perfect assassin a slow poison that flows through our entire lives: killing us second by second, minute by minute and hour by hour. We had just passed twenty and two hours of our life and ironically speaking, had a lot of fun.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Yeah! Whateva' nevermind

Death, they say, is a liberating experience. The closer you get to liberation the easier it gets to accept the eternal truth. As I rolled up a heavy duty mary jane cigarette, talking to myself about the effect it was about to have on my neural dendrites: enhancing and slowing my senses at the same time, I started contemplating the probability of death in this perfectly random world.

"Is the stuff good? Roll up another one please....." said D

D has always been the questioning, inquisitive kind: a friend and companion in such frequent moments of revelation. I assured him and went back to work. Cigarettes, they say, increase the probability of death.

"What is death?" I asked myself..... I wondered if it is 'the transition' or 'the transformation' and settle down for 'transition' in a self assuring way. The transparent time passed slowly as I blended the tobacco with the autumn leaves. The flow of thoughts had already started to create an avalanche in my mind. Thankfully the cigarette rolled itself quick and we were ready for the stimulating stimulus. The venue of our party was to be a smelly and suffocating train washroom; not a great idea for someone as claustrophobic as me.

I ensured a properly locked door for our desired privacy. D did the honour in lighting up the joint as I calmly controlled the pace of my thoughts. Fresh aroma filled the washroom overwhelmingly as we puffed slowly on my fresh weed joints. As my senses slowed, I was stretched to think about the physical truth of space time inter-changeability. My claustrophobia overcame itself as my time slowed and the space expanded. The smelly washroom had converted itself into a fog covered grazing grassland and we started making merry about the social inhibitions and if someone saw us coming out of the washroom together. D, I must say, has an uncanny sense of wit with a superb sense of timing. As evacuating as this dose could be, we had started to feel famished and were desperate for food.

We started a silent assault on the food that the train pantry had to offer and stuffed it in ever vacant corner of our stomach. Relieved of hunger, we started our discussion which had to end with one of us passing out, but at times it is best to take what destiny has to offer.

"Would you like another one?" I initiated the conversation.... with a question even our eyes could answer. The unanswered question, although, helped me to catch his attention. I began.....

"Would you care for a discourse on religion?"

"Yes", he finally answered

I closed my eyes.......... "And then there was light." I could feel myself stranded in the moment of creation, "But every action has an equal and opposite reaction and this segregation of matter from antimatter is popularly known as the big bang.” I could feel the creation of that infinite origin and the connection of my roots to this formless black hole, the alpha, the omega...... a connection through the flawless shreds of time. I have always treated time as a multidimensional vector and my vector was deviating from its current dimension of life and a moment of bliss.
My soliloquy went on and on with brief interruptions from D. After a while, I realized that D had reached his state of slumber like a baby listening to fairy tales. I drew immense satisfaction from his peaceful sleep.

“Sweet dreams”, I said lightly as his smile broadened.