Sunday, May 17, 2009

I Dream of Electric Sheep

Shlok Deepankar walked back to his room. No, he strolled back. His gait seemed relaxed, almost bordering on what cynics would call lazy. The setting sun had painted the sky a bright crimson. The pale white crescent had not yet made its presence felt. But he was not in the mood for romantic musings right now. He had enough for one day. A random book had triggered the wildly erratic thought process. Threads had gone out of control and had necessitated a trip to the cafeteria. A lonely, deserted cafeteria. It kind of reminded me how all of us actually lead our lives. We think we are surrounded by all sorts of people. Feel safe in their hustle bustle. But in reality, it’s just a farce and when the push comes to shove, we must find ourselves alone. Swim against the tide. And fight our own wars. Now that he trudged back, the mental overdrive seemed to be slackening. A toothy grin greeted all those who loitered by, much to their ill-suppressed surprise. Who was this person?

The subtle ambience of Shlok’s room greeted him with open arms. He could not resist smirking. He had been derided, often ridiculed, for his civic sense. It did not conform to the standards of a boys’ hostel. But the aptly aimed sarcasms merely ricocheted off the thick skin he had acquired over the past four years. The spick and span bed sheet had stayed on, despite telling glances from more seasoned hostellers. So had the table lamp. He switched it on and glanced at the neatly stacked novels on his study table. Doctor Zhivago. The Godfather. Shantaram. Hitchhiker. Mocking Bird. Rest. This led to a spontaneous, almost guilty, peek at the dusted editions of Tannenbaums and Deitels lying inconspicuously in the same room. A pair of shoulders was shrugged and some decisions were repented over. Life then continued at the same snail pace.

The semester had already drawn to a sorry conclusion. In line with expectations, plans had been shelved. Decrepit time tables jeered like skeletons in one’s closet. Shlok made a point of making a face at them and then slamming the door shut. A session of customary mourning usually followed. Letting it out always helped. When the scattered remains of wasted opportunities had been gathered and safely stashed away in some nondescript corner, Shlok looked around. It was time for a smoke. Ritwick, his partner in crime, had left for home for the last time. But today, he was in the mood to light up alone. So he did.

As he did so, he decided to play Floyd. He had been holding back from listening to any of their Music. It did things to him. Strange inexplicable things. He had not wanted any of that. But today was different. The random book and the ensuing trip to cafeteria had already ruled out the possibility of any constructive work. Moreover, he wanted some inspiration. Some silver lining. The smoke got to his mind instantly. The words were in perfect tune with his mood…

From morning to night I stayed out of sight
Didn’t recognise what I’d become
No more than alive I’d barely survive
In a word...overrun

He flicked the ash. It seemed to have a mind of its own and the light weighted particles flitted in and out of the yellow light like moths drawn to the flame of a dying candle. When they were tired of all the games, they flopped down on his table in exhaustion. He blew them away and smiled as, this time, they disappeared without a trace. Even the smoke came to life and flew around the room, exploring all the nooks and corners like a curious child. It clouded his senses faster than it usually did. Floydian melodies, combined with the intoxicating influence of the first smoke, hit him like a sledgehammer. There were goosebumps and he decided to relent for the first time in several weeks. He decided to be weak. He tried reigning in the tears, but the voices told him otherwise. So he did not and they, in turn, made his eyes look almost poetic. Like the ones in a water colour painting. The ones brought to life by a struggling artist.

Look at him now
He’s paler somehow
But he’s coming round
He’s starting to choke
It’s been so long since he spoke

He heard someone knock on the door. For a second he contemplated getting up to get it. Then realizing the state he was in, he decided otherwise. This war was his and if he let anyone into his mind now, it would mean staying this weak even after. So he got up and lied down on the bed. Ignoring the hammering on the door. The words were still floating in the air and seemed to mind their own business…..

And with these words, I can see
Clear through the clouds that covered me
Just give it time then speak my name
Now we can hear ourselves again

Against all regulations and rules that he tried to adhere to, Shlok decided to dream. He saw sheep. Yes, electric sheep. So many of them. All looking alike. They were jumping over the fence of a barn in order to graze the grass in the meadow that lay beyond. They bounced along, happy in each other’s company. Unmindful of the sheep that had stayed back. Or were too afraid and weak to jump over the fence. He could see the want in the eyes of the sheep that stayed behind. Even in the dream. They looked at their fellows grazing gaily, lost in the pleasures of the world and oblivious to everything else. It was almost pathetic to find them this way. So pitiable and full of self-loathing.

But then he saw something else. Something unnerving and encouraging at the same time. Amongst the ones that were still in the barn, there was a group of sheep, no electronic sheep, which stood out. They had refused to follow others not because they could not, but because they chose not to. On a casual glance, they seemed like a bunch of haughty arrogant electric woolies to Shlok. But this was his dream. And so he decided to draw closer and observe them a bit more closely. It was then that he found that they were neither haughty, nor arrogant. They were original! They had decided to swim against the stream, even if that meant ridiculed and jeered at. Even if that meant not being able to graze the lush, delectable grass in the meadow that lay beyond. Even if that meant being isolated not only from others, but also from each other. Even if that meant facing failure, as the other electric sheep had come to define it. In time, the others would realize. That not only does the grass on the other side always seem greener; but that one must always find oneself on the side less green. As of now, they were content in their solitude, silently biding their time.

When Shlok was done with the dream about electric sheep, he knew he would be okay. Stronger, better. And yes, okay. With a sigh, he adjusted the pillow under his head again. And drifted into a dreamless sleep.


  1. Lal Badshaah....comment shumment to main baad mein karunga...pehle...let me offer my congratulations... :D

    how could i miss this....

    I had the intuition...hamesha se...but now I know. ;P

  2. Congratulations? For what? Please elaborate for this is beyond me. And dont just say "ishara kaafi hai". I am not too good with subtle gestures.

    You had intuition about what? I dont like being left hanging in the lurch. Seriously. Hmpf.

  3. Electric sheep it is. Original electric sheep sound like salmon. Salmon swims against the current/ stream no?

  4. "Relatively soon, I will die. Maybe in 20 years, maybe tomorrow, it doesn't matter. Once I am dead and everyone who knew me dies too, it will be as though I never existed. What difference has my life made to anyone. None that I can think of. None at all."
    - movie 'About Schmidt'

  5. are u sure this is fiction? Mr. Shlok here sounds slightly familiar.. or do i try to fit it too far?