Sunday, May 3, 2009

I walked out of the house yesterday.Ran down the stairs, idly noting the paan stains on the wall.The banister is wooden,dusty and cool under my hand.I reached the lobby, where the watchman sat, dozing.A newspaper fluttered in his limp hand. I noted that he had completed the crossword. I stepped softly aside so as not to wake him, and walked out of the building.
The two stray dogs came running to me, like my appearance had made their day. The younger one wanted to play, this was apparent from the way he kept running round my legs.The mother dog stood back, watching her son, with a bemused half smile.I patted his head, his fur was short and bristly, unlike his mother. She had soft hair and was much leaner than her son. I left them wagging their tails as i made my way up the slope.The son trotted up beside me, he always accompanied me till the road.
A gutter ran alongside the slope.In the rains, it was filled with gushing water, now only rustling leaves lay there. At night, I often heard soft scampering noises, unseen small creatures running in the drain.I gave the gutter a wide berth at night.
On a hot afternoon like today however, the road was silent,except for my soft footfalls and the panting of the dog. I looked down at him fondly. He grinned back at me, his tongue lolling and proceeding to butt my leg with his cold, wet nose.I swear that dog understands me. He gets distracted by a falling flower, watching it with his solemn brown eyes till it touches the ground. i watch its descent too. It is a simple white flower, giving out no fragrance, but it has been there for the longest time,and suddenly not to watch the falling flower seems like sacrilege.We stand there, dog and I, in the sweltering heat, as a slight breeze floats the flower to safety.
Suddenly, the urgent need to escape the house leaves me. I'm content, doing nothing on a nondescript road in a quiet part of a large bustling city. I thought I went for a walk, but I never even reached the road.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Under siege

Yesterday all of Mumbai watched in horror as our major landmarks were targeted by terrorists who came out of nowhere and had the audacity to walk into our city and spread absolute terror. 24 hours later, Mumbai is still under siege, held hostage by terrorists who seemingly have no specific agenda nor seem to be making any demands. When i went to bed last night, even though i was shaken, i never believed that it could last so long. It's the sheer randomness and apparently careful planning that frightens me the most. First, our offices were unsafe, then our buses, then our trains, now major luxury hotels and landmark sites. We live in a country, though traditionally viewed by the western nations as third world, which has a fairly stable economy, bright prospects, our moon mission was just successfully executed....but of what use? If in one of the most busy cities in the country, a common person cannot walk down the street without wondering when a terrorist's bomb or bullet is going to get him?Every day i board a bus to get to college. Thousands like me do. Even more take the trains to get to work, including most of my friends. How terrible it is that every day, the average mumbaikar leaves home with an impending sense of doom, praying that he gets home safely?
The media, the politicians the people on the street are all trying to theorise what these fiends could probably want. One of the theories is that they are targetting foreigners, since landmarks like Leopold's were hit. of what use are these theories?Even if they were targetting the foreigners, it is happening on Indian soil, in Mumbai's hotels, spreading fear among the Indian people. For the 16 foreigners reported dead, 105 Indians were killed. 14 of our cops, including 3 top cops were gunned down.2 of our jawans were butchered. Does it matter what their agenda is?The fact is, Mumbai is being held at gunpoint by these terrorists and that's that!
What disturbes me the most however, is the equipment used by the Mumbai police. Even on T.V., even to the untrained eye, the guns looked inadequate, the bulletproof vests seemed practically just something for the sake of being there. It almost feels like we sent those 14 policemen to their deaths by failing to provide them with the latest in combat equipment. In contrast, the terrorists seemed armed to the hilt, ever inch of them covered with every imaginable weapon. Can't we do more for the men who stay vigilant so we feel safe at all times?
Tomorrow, most of us will head out to work or college. It has always been like that. "The spirit of Mumbai"they say, watching with pride as citizens flood the streets as always tomorrow. But honestly, you think we enjoy this? The fact that every time we are hit by some calamity , we pick up the pieces and carry on , refusing to accept defeat?We don't do it because it is how we are, it's because if we didn't, Mumbai would cease to exist. It hurts that our city has been the victim so many times, all we can do is move on. When will this end? When will our outrage at what is happening to us be transferred into definitive action?When can we stop worrying every second that our life may just end before the day is out?
I hope that today is that day. When news channels stop spouting the words "Spirit of Mumbai". When we can walk freely into any place in the city. When we don't switch on our television sets to see our city burning again. When the city stops resembling a war zone. When I can sleep again.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Accident

R was a sensible man.At least, that's what he always said when uninformed people called him hard hearted or insensitive.After a point, he stopped correcting these ignoramuses which, instead of pleasing his detractors, annoyed them even more.Now, in addition to being called hard hearted and insensitive, they also called him antisocial and robotic.It's not as if this affected R. He figured it took all kinds to make the world, and even if he didn't know their purpose, he was sure nature wasn't dumb enough to make such a major evolutionary mistake.So, R went his way and paid no more attention to people anymore.
Another thing that R called himself, was regular.Every morning he woke at 5:25 and made his bed in two minutes.By 5:33, he would finish his bath and would walk to his kitchen to make himself a cup of tea, with two spoons of sugar. By 6:12, he would leave his house, and walk to the bus stop. His bus would arrive at 6:16 and R would sit by the window, third chair from the front, and read the newspaper.The bus would deposit him outside his lab at 7:47 and R would take the elevator to his lab on the second floor, where he needn't speak to anyone for the rest of the day.
Nothing in the past three years had caused this routine to change. So, one morning, R was mildly surprised to find that his bus had stopped unexpectedly in the middle of the road. He looked around to see all his co-passengers staring out of the window, horrified. He followed their gaze, and saw a man lying in the middle of the road, knocked down by a truck.He was wearing the bright yellow rain suit that all municipal road workers wore to be visible. The rain poured down on the man, who lay oblivious to both the rain and the crowd gathering round him.
Suddenly, the girl sitting next to R burst out crying. A few of the people got off their seats and were comforting her.R was puzzled. He asked whether she knew the man."No, but it's so sad!"and she launched into another bout of crying. R was appalled at how sentimental people got in the face of what he thought was a rather commonplace occurrence. Of course, when he voiced this opinion, all he got was horrified stares from all his passengers. The girl got up and sat elsewhere, peering at him through her wet handkerchief, as if he were some strange specimen.R sighed, and settled in his seat. On an ordinary day, he would have ignored what the people thought, but today he felt a strange desire to be accepted in their fold. He launched into a long spiel about the frailty of human life, accident statistics and the uselessness of sorrow. It was of no avail. The longer he spoke, he more he felt their hostility. Abruptly, R cut short his speech, seething inwardly. The bus arrived at his stop, and R got off, completing his arguments in his own head.
R never saw the truck coming. In fact, he was so busy justifying himself in his head, that he didn't even hear the desperate honking of the truck driver. He did feel it though, as it hit him squarely and threw him to the ground, limp as a rag doll.As he lay there, unable to feel anything, it began to rain. And in the pouring rain, he watched the people gather around him, in an uncanny recreation of what he had seen earlier. R would have told them not to grieve, but instead he just sighed and shut his eyes. In a passing bus somewhere, R thought he heard a girl sobbing.
(This is inspired in part by the movie stranger than fiction and an accident i witnessed on my way to college.I have no idea what happened to that man, I hope he recovered)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Is it possible to be interested in several things but unable to dedicate to one?Is it possible to be an atheist and still seek faith? Is it possible for a book, a line, a word to affect you so profoundly, you'll never be the same again?Is it possible to respect a person you despise?Can a person be able to survive in this world and not lose humanity?Is it possible to be shocked at kids today and want to adopt a dog instead?Does that make me less of who i am?
Is it possible to want something you know nothing of?Is it strange that a city bred person yearns for the country but know she'll never live there?is it possible to feel lonely in a crowd?Is it possible to have a lot of friends but consider yourself a loner?Is it antisocial to feel happiest when you are alone with your books, your music,your thoughts?Can you feel the notes hanging in the air, whispering to you, when a beautiful piece of music plays?Isn't rock more profound than just angst?Can a person leave everything behind and start afresh?
How is it that when man is evil, he's called an animal and when he's good, he's called a saint?What does one have to do just to be called a human being?Why is there religion to separate us?Who drew the lines on maps?Why do we allow other people to decide our destiny?
If all this worries you too, welcome to my world!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Monsoon magic

The rains are back!They crept upon us last Tuesday, a week before predicted, as if eager to meet us after the long, dry year. The rains bring with them some strange joy, some inexplicable upliftment of spirit that keeps me cheerful despite the gloomy skies.Haven't you ever felt it?That crazy desire to get soaked in the rains, to come home dripping wet, to curl up on your window seat watching the rain pouring outside, while you drink hot coffee?
I love the rains(quite obviously!).It always reminds me of Kerala, of the long train journey winding through the konkan coastline that takes me there.I've never been to Kerala in the rains, mostly in summer, but it is the kind of place where everything is reminiscent of the impending monsoon.The green fields that never seem to dry up, the lovely rivers...The train always reaches Kerala early in the morning, so that we can marvel at the sun rising over the coconut palms. Every time i go back, I always have the same sense of coming home, back to someplace that has a stronger, more undefinable link to me than just college or a job.What's even stranger is that I get the same feeling when we get back to Mumbai.Sure, the sites aren't so pretty, and there aren't any trees to speak of, but that same sure feeling of welcome greets me here too. It's wonderful to be able to belong to two different places, two different cultures whole-heartedly, completely, without having to choose, isn't it?
The rains give me hope again, of a new beginning, of everything washed clean. New year's does nothing for me - nothing in nature heralds it.But the a day the weather was cool, after an awful summer.The trees rejoice, their vigour returned.The monsoon is when nature triumphs over man, showing us where we stand, worshipers at her feet, not lord and master.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Koregad dreams

Koregadh sat by the road, unseen by eyes that did not look, on the way to Amby valley.No Sahara cottages for us, we seek the goddess at the peak.We set off, up the winding hill, its pinnacle lost in the clouds, giving it an unimaginable grandeur.As we climbed up the dry , dusty hill, so common to the Sahyadris, the rain clouds moved in, drawn by the goddess.An archway was spotted, and as we made our way to it, the skies poured rain upon us, trying to slow us.
The archway did not just lead into the fort, it was a portal into another world.The dusty road stopped short of the fort, giving way to a lush, green plateau.The rim of the plateau was guarded by the low fort walls, and the cannons pointed up, still alert, hundreds of years since they were last used. There was two temples, their idols missing and abandoned by their devotees, but still mysterious for all their loneliness.
I wandered away from my family,and made my way to the shallow pool hidden behind a mound of grass. I crouched by the pool, idly listening to my nephew laughing as his little feet ran across the cool grass and the low voices of the rest as they looked at the cannons. The peak was silent despite our presence- even nine of us couldn't break it.Or perhaps we didn't want to, or lacked the courage to disturb this sleeping fort. As I stirred the waters of the pond, the voices died out, to be replaced by nothing and the silence grew in its void.I no longer could see the rest of my group, and in that moment, felt the gods mocking me.The waters of the lake stirred and I scrambled up the slope, suddenly terrified of that serene place. Once I climbed the slope, I heard laughter, but human this time,and I felt like a fool, letting nameless fears overtake me. I never mentioned my horror to anyone, but that night, I was a believer.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Quiet Rebellion

Ever wanted to get out?Just out, anywhere as long as it wasn't your own life.Just to find a road, any road and follow it till you find the scenes of your own life fading, just to be replaced by another's?To break free of the claustrophobic life that expects you to conform, or worse still, to conform to the rebels?Why is it that to rebel, all you need is a set of goth clothes and some mean attitude?Ever wondered why everyone turns up at a rock concert wearing black?If i turned up in hot pink,not that i would,not in pink anyway, but hypothetically, would i not be accepted?To rebel is to go against the conforms of society, but what kind of rebellion is it if we merely conform to a different set of rules?
In college, most people follow an unspoken rule.Must love death metal,must hate authority...
A rebel, if there is one, is lost in the crowd of a million, all conforming to "rebel hood".Probably a person who follows convention may be looked upon as a rebel in these days, our days ,a generation lost to the charms of rebellion but unsure of our reasons.