Tuesday, July 22, 2008 2 reflections

[SLICE OF LIFE] - The Resurrection

Slice of life: The Resurrection
© 2008. All rights reserved.

IT WAS FINALLY here - the moment he had been waiting for his whole life. He had been through this very instance a million times in his head but hardly ever had he gone through the kind of jitters that were plaguing him now. It was as if a million butterflies were laying a million more caterpillars in his hungry stomach. It had been a long and weary day out in the merciless sun yet he was finding ways to keep himself focussed

The buzz of a noisy mosquito snapped him out of his reverie as he proceeded to ensure his gun was functioning and ready. He looked at it in pure admiration – an emotion that almost brought tears to his eyes. His thoughts went back to his village. He thought of his mother who had nurtured him with so much love and care. He remembered his friends who had always believed in him. He fondly saw his childhood love, draped in rustic ornaments and a shocking orange flower behind her loose strand of hair, smiling back at him and wishing him good luck with a mischievous wink.

‘Hey! Lost in dreams already, brother?’ said his partner who lay a couple of feet away from him with a similar looking gun in hand.


‘The bullets will fly any minute now, brother. Keep your head in else the captain will definitely lose it! Think patriotic thoughts only!’ said his partner whose face was smeared with camouflage and grease.

‘Yes…yes…I am ready…’ he responded straightening his position and taking aim.

‘We have to listen to the captain’s orders. Once he says ‘Fire!’…we go in…’ murmured his partner as he took aim at some swaying trees in the distance.

The following couple of seconds were devastating. There was a deafening explosion just a few meters away from where the men were, sending rockets of flying metal all over their uniforms. He shook off the smoldering debris and just like that he knew – it was here.

‘FIRE!’ rang out a high pitched shrill as clouds of smoke obstructed his vision. Without a choice he ran into the smoky curtains wrapped in intense heat with his gun set to roar.

‘Careful! Watch out!’ yelled someone as he swung around and sprayed bullets towards an approaching soldier. But before he had the chance to duck out of the way, the soldier had returned the favor. It felt like a thousand pinches at once – excruciatingly painful for a second but then followed by the vanishing ache. He fell on his back as his helmet came loose and bright red spots appeared all over his chest and stomach. A thunderstorm of more gunfire continued in the background and around him as he lay there still – with a wide grin receding from his fading face.

And then there was silence. It was as if all that had been one long nightmare. But to him it had been the most peaceful sleep he had ever been part of. He would have probably been there a few more minutes had his partner not come over and whispered in his ear ‘Fine fine…you did a wonderful job. I am sure your people back home won’t miss your seven second debut appearance in this cheap B-grade movie. Now get up and get ready. We are shooting at the next studio in an hour. We get to play construction workers this time. Who knows, you might even get to say a line if we are early!’

Saturday, July 19, 2008 4 reflections

Karmic full stops

Karmic full stops

ONE OF THE MANY TRENDY BUZZWORDS of the contemporary society is ‘karma’. Ironically, I caught a serious whiff of this word through an American who once told me ‘This project is my karma’ and when I asked her what that meant, she responded with a hint of surprise in her tone ‘You don’t know what that is? We borrowed it from you guys! What goes around comes around?’ It was after several such instances did I realize the usage was being associated with the fact that a human being should, at some point of his/her life, pay the price for his/her ill doings. The Karmic Circle, as it were, catches up.

Now the more I thought about this the more it started becoming apparent that there was no way Karma was a circle. If that were the case then the ‘bad guys’ would never pay for their misdeeds until they were in their 90s and by then it just wouldn’t matter. According to me each conscious action of a human is in reality a sentence. What ends it is the Karmic full stop that brings a just end to that action as applicable. You do well – you get a good full stop. The opposite puts a contradictory full stop at the end. Either way, the sentence ends so that you may renew your moment and start working on your next sentence. A collection of such good, bad and ugly sentences is called life. You may, as you read this dribble, have several such sentences currently open waiting for a full stop! So watch out!

Now, be that as it may, I happened to encounter a wonderful little intersection of such full stops the other day. Ill health had strapped me pretty badly thanks to a wide range of gastronomical treats I had been indulging in since I arrived in India. So I decided to hop along to my family doctor and get a check up done. Once out of there I stepped into the pharmacy next door and placed the prescription in front of the pharmacist. The place was oddly crowded for a silent evening since there were several other customers waiting for attention. I asked the pharmacist if they take credit cards. He responded that they do, but only if the bill was over 500 rupees. I then asked him to tally up my bill and tell me the amount so that I could decide.

‘115 Rupees, sir’ he responded leaving me no choice but to pay by cash. So I pulled out two100 rupee notes and handed them to him. After a few moments he returned and asked me if I had two rupees in change. I did, so I gave him two rupees to which he handed back a 100 rupee note. This act got my attention. But instead of saying anything I kept mum and waited for the pharmacist to realize his mistake. Once he had bundled up all my medication I attempted to point him towards sanity by saying ‘…my change?’ to which he pranced back to his counter and returned with yet another 100 rupee note!

I now had a decision to make. Either I could stand there with my aching stomach and settle this or walk away in animated silence. I thought ‘How often does this really happen to me? Never! So why should I interfere with the Almighty’s way of putting a full stop to some sentence in this man’s life? That would be rude! So I did what any self respecting Indian would do – kept mum as injustice happened and walked way.

Now moving on to the second part of this ‘full stop’ series. For the last five years I must have paid thousands of rupees in excess to boorish auto rickshaw drivers in their insane demands to get me to my home. Each time I have cursed them for looting me in such a shameless manner as I found myself helplessly succumbing to their outrageous demands. For a long time I thought ‘One and a half’ should be automatically programmed into their greedy meters so that we can go where we wish without hassles. Anyway – so I stopped this hunchbacked fellow who argued with me for two whole minutes why he wanted extra 30 rupees for my destination. I said 10…and then we settled for 20. I would probably have taken another rickshaw but I was eager to get home thanks to my rumbling stomach so I caved in – again.

We stopped at my destination (a BDA complex on the main road since there was no way he would come directly to my house without grumbling his head off and charging me another 20 rupees for it) and the meter read 40.50 so I said ‘…it is forty…so that is sixty…’ in Kannada, implying that I needed to give him sixty rupees. Karma came knocking at that moment as I inevitably became a full stop to one of his life’s sentences. As I handed him a 100 rupee note (the one from the pharmacist!) he handed me back a fifty and a ten rupee notes. I stood there for a second shocked at this twin stroke of bizarre luck I was having. Had this man forgotten our conversation about the extra buck? Whatever had happened! Or was it that I had now become a full stop again in this man’s wayward life of daylight robbery?

I said a polite ‘Thank you, boss’ meaning every word of it and walked away into the darkness eager to gulp my medication and get to bed.

The final stroke appeared when I called up my brother who I knew was on his way back home. I figured I could take a ride with him. And sure enough, a minute later his roaring 2-wheeler stopped next to me. I was on the phone so as I said my goodbye to a friend and lifted my right leg to get into the pillion seat, I got a cramp. So I stepped away to try again. Lo! My brother took off! For a second I waited to see if he was coming back in a circle – since I knew he had some idling issues with the vehicle – but no! He was gone. I stood there wondering what on Earth had just happened! So I decided to walk off the remaining distance hoping I did not meet any more bizarre instances.

A minute later he resurfaced like a ghost and yelled out ‘Did you not get on?’ to which I smiled back as my only response. ‘Man…’ he said as we drove back ‘…I was wondering why you were so silent! I stopped near the gate and asked you to get down and no response! I thought I had picked up a ghost!’

‘You idiot,’ I responded ‘…you didn’t wonder why the weight on your vehicle hadn’t changed? How self involved are you!’

He laughed heartily before uttering the magic word again – ‘karma!’

©2008. All rights reserved.
Thursday, July 10, 2008 1 reflections

Why SO serious?

IT MIGHT BE THE CASE THAT I was asleep a little too long. Or maybe the logistics of the small screen world have undergone a major paradigm shift. I really cannot say. But there is definitely something amiss since what I see makes absolutely no sense.

My trips to Bangalore are always peppered with a lot of interesting sightings each year. This time, one such sighting occurred during the time slot my family dedicates to television between 7 PM and 10 PM. Those three hours of our definition of entertainment. Do not get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with spending three hours in an 18 hour awake-schedule for the idiot box. But what caught me by absolute surprise is the amount of tears, deceit, over the top melodrama and a general sense of mass hysteria! We have a woman decorated in bright flesh colored foundation and what can only be described as some sort of jewelry malfunction all over her ears and nose. She walks around with a shocking orange vermillion on her forehead, without blinking, prophesizing the downfall of some family she has had a bone to pick with. Moving on we see yet another fashion ignorant lass weep her eyes out every time she is on screen for pretty much any reason. Come to think of it I don’t think I have ever seen that girl smile. It is such a shame though since she happens to be quite attractive. If this is the state of women, men are no pretty picture either. There is usually one guy who always sits in the same room with the same expression and the same bitterness talking of conspiracy and backstabbing. We also have shows that celebrate infidelity and loudly talk about sensitive issues concerning women and their health. And please do not get me started on the “special effects” that are now being used as a substitute to acting. All the actor has to do is stand and stare – the effects take care of the rest. I feel nauseas just thinking about it.

Honestly – what has happened to television? Why is there so much emphasis being given to long drawn out family feuds, divorces, adultery, child abuse, loveless marriages and not to mention the very popular women-against-women conflicts that always seems to happen with stinking rich folks only? Don't financially lesser endowed women have issues with each other?

Being part of a generation that found good old Doordarshan a gift to mankind, I found myself roaring with laughter at these cheap attempts at “capturing human emotion”. When did meaningless and ham-struck acting start getting passed off as entertainment? And why are people still watching these? Could this be why people are hostile and unfriendly in the city? Would this be some sort of pervert culture that is being sown into our social fabric? How can we possibly have the nerve to talk about unity and peace when all we do in the name of entertainment is portray the ugly and nasty side of human kind? Where are those rib tickling comedies? Whatever happened to intriguing mystery series like ‘Guddada Bhoota’, ‘Byomkesh Bakshi’ and ‘Karamchand’? How did concepts like ‘Malgudi Days’ and ‘Bharat Ek Khoj’ disappear from the horizon of modern television? When did we stop making socially relevant images like ‘Rajni’ and ‘Hum Log’? Why can we not recreate something similar which actually celebrates what we really are rather than a fictitious image of some mutated Indian gene? Indeed – looks like with passing time, ironically so, our standards for what entertains us have fallen steeply. Do we want something more real? I hate to mention it since clumsy 'reality shows' come to mind.

It saddened me that from the current collection of “human science” series, I only had one show I genuinely looked forward to seeing – “Mukta…Mukta…”. If not anything else, at least it doesn’t show me a woman entering a room thrice in slow motion and fast forward along with a background score that seems to announce a battle.



Sunday, July 06, 2008 1 reflections

[POEM] - Resilient Eyes

Resilient Eyes

It hits me with surprise, the density of the scene,

Like a rainbow that forgot to be colorful with glee,
I sit there mute, without a word in my spleen,
Watching the painting of life unfold shamelessly before me.
The auto-rickshaw coughs itself to a relieving pause,
As the driver proceeds to wipe off the dust on the screen,
My attention shifts to a child who is center stage because,
She is about to perform a trick I have never seen.
Her head wobbles and a string spins in abundant energy,
As she starts to dance her young limbs to please me,
Her smile is radiant, but her eyes say ‘set me free’,
As her little brother joins her in this momentary ecstasy.
The sibling pair brings out a rusty metallic ring in view,
And squeeze themselves in and out of it with effortless ease,
Looking back at me with an enthusiasm anew,
Wanting me to applaud and reward their latest feat.
The brother disappears; the young girl approaches me,
As the light gets ready to turn back to green,
“Friend, please give me something…” hums her tender voice like a bee,
As I sit there unsure if I should resist and never be seen.
Thankfully, my heart makes the decision for me the following second,
When I find my hand slipping into my pocket to fish out,
Whatever I can find there to lend this young flower amend,
Hopefully something that she has been dreaming forever about.
The signals make way, to another wave of screaming automobiles,
And soon the girl, her brother and the ring vanish like ice,
Yet miles away from that spot, I cannot help how my heart feels,
About the helplessness and fatigue that I had seen in her eyes.
I get off at my destination, looking forward to meeting a friend,
Yet with a haunting image of the young face still in my way,
I closed my eyes and silently prayed to the unknown to end
Her misery and grandly reward her mute resilience some day.