Monday, September 26, 2011

Heart of Darkness

Taking moral advice from cartoon characters is probably a bad idea. But if you are not averse to it, visit:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

You’re a Strange Loop

When the drama had unfolded, Kekda Man tried speaking. But his words failed him. All imperative alphabets seemed to have been replaced by underscores. What was left behind looked like a crossword puzzle somebody had tried solving. And failed at gloriously. Rendered quite helpless thus, he shifted his weight from one foot to another. Chirkut Lady just looked on in another direction, the lights failing to light up the emotions in her eyes, as if an invisible veil had been drawn over them. With a start, Kekda gets up.
“You wrote all this in a week? I would take ages!” he was genuinely surprised. And perhaps a little jealous. Green was always the colour that came most easily to him. The details of another revelation were almost lost on him. Or perhaps this was just a crude distraction.

“I don't need time to write,” pat came the reply. The very next second, she hesitated a little, as if checking herself from saying something even more scandalous. Embarrassed by his own question, Kekda smiled in wonder at her vanity. Perhaps she saw through him, for she did not know whether to smile or keep a straight face. As he walked back, he shook his head in silent amazement. How accurate was her own appraisal of herself! Even if it were pride, so true. So true.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Professor Masturbation

Believe it or not, my first lesson in college life was on the subject of masturbation. Quite literally. The person preaching this singular sermon was none other than my talented roommate who, for obvious reasons, shall henceforth be respectfully referred to as Professor Masturbation (or Professor Saab or other such dignified titles). Perhaps I am supposed to elaborate. Where did it all begin?

Those Eyes! Those Eyes!

On a stifling August night, we had lain in the darkness of our respective beds, trying to escape the infamous ragging at the hands of our zealous seniors. It was rumoured that once the shadows lengthened, they prowled the corridors in search of hapless victims who could not (and would not) get their pronunciation right. The halogen lamp on the terrace of the opposite hostel had thought it prudent to announce its doleful presence in our lives through a rectangular block of light on my wall. It was under such a circumstance that the Professor had explained to me his outlook on Life, the Nipples, and Everything by means of a discourse on the more familiar subject of masturbation. My silence spoke volumes about my ignorance and I had basked in the wisdom of his erudite scholarship, occasionally disrupting the flow of his speech for answers that had so far obstinately eluded me. Thus began an association which would have long been relegated to some insignificant slice of spacetime had it not been for my inherent ability to ignore everything substantial in life and his capacity to fend off attacks that sought to bring his honoured name into disrepute.

Contrary to expectations, this tribute – my humble offering to a great mind – is not going to progress chronologically for such formalities are the sole reserve of the unimaginative. It shall, in a manner befitting its subject, dwell solely on the charismatic aspects of a personality which eclipsed everything else (or at least made an effort to) competing with it. Now that the mandatory disclaimer has been suitably dealt with and the necessary bhoomika built, let me see what I can remember.

Professor Saab and Me: Sharing a light moment.

Professor Saab is, in the opinion of all involved, not only very wise but extremely good looking as well. I.C. Balu chronicles that on the first day of the Professor’s college life there were no less than twenty six reported cases of babes fainting at the very sight of him. Such is the nature of his Greek-God looks. As Balu aptly surmises, Saab is a “lethal roll of dynamite”. Things were not always this rosy and perfect. In his teenage years, the Professor had been a gawky geek, who could only be described as plumb, cuddly, and cute, with a fondness for the Earthly sport of cricket. He was uncouth, abusive, abrasive, and quite a character. A chance bout of pneumonia and a near-death experience, however, forever turned the tide in his favour. Never since has he looked back.

The fact that he is afflicted by the curse of vanity does nothing to cast a shadow on his charm. Indeed, he almost makes a virtue out of it. Many a lovely maiden have cast a disdainful look in his direction because of his pride and his unapologetic attitude about it. This unadulterated beauty, this perfect narcissism thus for some time served the purpose of shielding him from the all the dazzling beauties in our slice of spacetime. But soon these very damsels were won over by his scholarship, diligence, and ‘sense of humour’. Once word got out, each and every one of them was dying to grab a piece of him. Our Saab, though, is a man of honour. He maintains that only true love can stake claim to his affections. Such wonderful ideals, I tell you!

It is unfortunate, therefore, that the Professor has so far been unable to find love in his life, leave alone the love of his life. His disappointment is evident, desperately making an effort to hide behind his smiles and his cheerful demeanour. But I know that what sadness stirs his heart at night. In his weaker moments, he daydreams that a girl will serenade him one fine evening. She will smell nice, be well endowed as far as breasts and butts are concerned (34B or 34C – 26 – 34), kiss him on the lips, and fall so hopelessly in love with him that his mere existence will provide her with all the comfort in the world. I know all this because I have been at the receiving end of such leaps of fancy. And ever since I was jolted out of my own daydreams by the undeniable verities of life, I have refused to partake of such fruitless labour. I merely listen in silence, hmm from time to time, and pray to This-God-Person for granting him the happiness that he has so viciously denied to me.

It is said that some prophecies have a tendency to fulfil themselves. I would like to think that I have been fortunate enough to be a part of one. During the early days of our camaraderie, I followed Professor Saab like a lost puppy. He would guide me to the lecture theatres that seemed to shift in space every single day of the week, thanks to the weird principles of quantum mechanics. We would religiously share our lunch and dinner, our appetites too stunted by the workload to dwell on such insignificant subjects like food. And we would spend our evenings staring at the rectangular block of light on my wall – a regular fixture in those days of translucent curtains – and talking about, well, Life, the Nipples, and Everything. It is thus not inconceivable to imagine why some sadistic gossip began to gain ground. We, poor friends, were branded as Miyan and Biwi – it still being unclear who was the Miyan and who the Biwi. The Professor dealt with such tittle-tattle in his inimitable style and with time the malicious slander died out. But the seeds of love that it had sown in our young hearts continue to blossom even today. Though I have grown a lot wiser and attuned to the ways of this wicked world, Professor Saab still insists on professing his undying love for me. I blush every time.

Saab and Me: Thoda contemplation ho jaaye!

Often, it appears that Saab is a reincarnation of some Jane Austen character, pruned at just the right places to fit into contemporary Indian society. He is extremely devoted to his parents, makes no bones about his rustic cultural heritage, and does not have a single truant bone in his body. He is the ideal student who values hard work more than everything else and does not wince like a baby (or me) when his efforts are not rewarded generously. He takes the good and the bad in his stride. Though he is known to shed his suave and refined persona to talk about such subjects as hagga, tatti, and copulation, these instances are far and few between and are more than made up for by his umpteen virtues. He is a matchmaker’s delight if ever there was one. He is not only self-righteous, but also incorruptible. Here’s why.

During our formative years, I.C. Balu and I were ardent champions of the Coca Cola generation. We listened to Pink Floyd, read Upamanyu Chatterjee, and drooled over Kubrick. But no matter how much I tried, my exhortations refused to have any effect on Saab. It was as if though we shared space and time, we did not belong to the same universe. He sometimes listened to me, rarely followed my advice, and almost always did his own bidding. Unfortunately, the same can be said about his overall effect on me. So though I lived in the shadow of such a great personality, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy reincarnate, I failed to learn anything worthwhile from him. But such misfortune is entirely due to my own insufficiencies and does not reflect poorly on Saab.

In this long and eventful association, there are two episodes that somewhat overshadow the rest of the lot quite unabashedly. The first one, which I have christened SIDH for convenience, took place after the first year of college. Bound by regulation and cast ashore together in a remote village in the Himalayas, Saab and I went on long walks through the lush countryside and shared afternoon siestas under a mango tree. I would lie awake at night, writing juvenile poems, while he would be his enigmatic self – reading, writing, staring blankly, or just wondering why I was wasting my time on verse. And while he would entertain the teachers in our school, I would lecture them on the finer points of Science and Mathematics. It was quite a jugalbandi. Though we returned to civilisation and waxed eloquent about its benefits, we never stopped reminiscing about those perfect days when solitude did not mean loneliness.

The second episode, or Orange Dates, has a special place in my heart because of being symbolic of the nature of my relationship with Saab. Trust me, despite the tone of this essay, we have had our ups and downs and a particularly long period of down towards the end of our time in college threatened to engulf everything beautiful we had ever shared. Then one day, out of the blue, Saab enquires of me – “Is there a problem?”. Of course, since there was no problem to begin with, the entire interlude of strained conversations was quickly forgotten by both of us. Thence commenced weekly trips to a nearby restaurant where, over mouthfuls of a particularly delectable sandwich, I regaled Saab with my non-existent future plans, half cooked existentialism, and tragic love affairs while he pledged his blind support in all my harebrained schemes. Such is his magnanimity.

When Saab meant Sexy : )

I have on several occasions been flummoxed by the Professor’s out of context monosyllabic or one-word comments and remarks. Only yesterday, he had thought it wise to call me ‘chichhora’. Why he would do so is, quite honestly, beyond me. After nearly 6 years of half-understood responses, I have stopped trying to make sense of them. Perhaps, my limited wisdom prevents me from understanding the hidden connotations. In my foolish ignorance, I rant and rave against this injustice, instead of humbling accepting it as a fact of life, and have been known to become grumpy and taciturn then. Saab politely pleads and cajoles until I am my usual self once more, waiting for the cycle to start all over again. We have our roles cut out and both of us play our parts to near perfection.

This is where things stand today. To say I have learnt a lot from Professor Saab would be incorrect. I am incorrigible enough to learn from no one and none of my mistakes. But through his eyes I have seen what life can be and perhaps should be. In my conceited world, where romanticism is more essential than reality, that is often more than enough.

So long, and thanks for all the love.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Silent Conversations

Tonight let’s spend some time together, you and I.
It seems it was ages ago that we giggled merrily,
Finding the perfect bliss in each other’s company.
But this night is special in ways more than one
For I have found the courage to talk to you again.

Often in lonely hours I look back at those treasures
Which now seem lost like strangers in alien lanes.
I smile when reminded of the twinkle in your eyes -
It had seemed so innocent on that moonlit night.

But now there is nothing but silence between us;
Neither you, nor I try to bridge this divide.
Where our eyes could talk in silent conversations,
Even words have lost their meaning in this void.
So tonight let’s spend some time together, you and I.

I stare blankly into the cruel cold of your eyes;
In search of warmth that had once seemed infinite.
Misunderstandings have wedged us miles apart;
None should blame the other, for we never tried.
Tonight leave the words aside, let silence do the talking.
So tonight let’s spend some time together, you and I.

Friday, September 09, 2011

A Conversation

A Woman: How long did it last?
A Man: It was over in a few months, but it lasted a lifetime. Do you think I am romanticising?

The Woman: Oh dear, never mind what I think. Why should you care? Do you regret it?
The Man: Saying that I regret it would mean I am willing to make amends. I am not. I do not believe one can change the past. There is a certain finality to it. It simply exists, like this present, and every other moment in time. Even if one could go back there, one would invariably end up reliving it. So in the restricted sense of the term, I do not regret it.

W: Of course the past doesn't change. How else would you have it? The arrow of time marches on, isn't that they said? Shouldn’t it be more like 'the arrow of time stays frozen forever'? Waiting for you to illuminate just a blip on its immense expanse?
M: Ah, now you see that remorse is often overrated. Over-regretted anyway. I believe I could not have said it better!

W: (Smiles) Believe. (She rolls her tongue over the word, as if getting a sense of its varied contours) Do you believe in what you say? These mannerisms or ideas - are they not mere affectations? How can you be sure?
M: Can I be vague? (Chuckles). Can one be sure of anything but what exists in the mind? I believe they call it solipsism. I am not that extreme. But there is a certain degree of blind faith involved. Identity is crucial. Some people know they have a fake one. That is okay. But not being able to believe in oneself is dangerous thing to confess to. Even to oneself. Hey, are you even listening to me?

W: Oho! Of course I am. Are you saying all this to satisfy me?
M: Uhun. We are here to rationalise. You are not a part of the equation.

W: Better. Tell me more about your work. What do you do?
M: Oh dear, now why would you ask me that? Geez, I have been branded as a person who does not attach a lot of importance to actions. In my defence, all I can say is that actions can be measured, cited, controlled and undone. Thoughts and ideas, even when policed, can not be forced. There is something beautiful about that. I like to stake my paltry claim to that beauty.

W: What are you, an 'Orwellian'? Dreamer?
M: I don't even know what that is supposed to mean. You haven't read him, have you? I loved 1984 though. I like the idea that sanity doesn't need to be statistical. Though there is no way of proving it, I'd like to believe an objective reality exists outside the mind.

W: You are being evasive, as usual. Come on, this is not an inquisition, you know. Why does it have to be a question of 'either' and 'or'? One can be part of something beautiful without being merely an armchair intellectual.
M: You are a shrewd observer. Hence, my self-loathing.

W: That's all you've got to say?
M: I guess so. Is it working? My mojo? Anyway, I have a question for you. Do you think vice and instinct are the same? It's not a digression, I promise you.

W: Under the spreading chestnut tree / I sold you and you sold me
M: Excuse me?

W: Nothing really. It's a silly rhyme I learnt when I was little. There are these two people, you see. Obviously, they have to be in love with each other. But then they are forced to face their worst fears one day and in that moment of panic they somewhat betray one another. Having surrendered to impulse and consequently plagued by guilt, both of them drift apart. Just like that.
M: I see. It's an interesting anecdote. I sold you and you sold me. It's got a nice ring to it in any case. So your answer is a yes?

W: I wish it were that easy. Instincts are nature but vice is all nurture. In our world, they have somehow come to mean the same. The blame partially lies on morality and religion. They brand traits as virtue or vice. It's a pity really. You seem to agree, don't you?
M: Absolutely. But you know the worst part? This rationalisation is not in the fashion of helping me escape any of that guilt. Pity, really.

W: Yes, we are not strong enough. Even reason does not help our case here.
M: And so it goes. Care for a cup of tea?

W: You don't drink tea. (Rolls eyes).
M: And you don't have to be so mean. Come on now.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Slip of Time

The moon’s a shadow of itself, the only warmth
Are the twinkling stars. No lights for another mile.
The air’s cold, slices through me like a steel knife;
Yes, it comes around, night like this, once a while.

My dreams stifled, slash through me, and scream
Out in despair on dying this sudden death.
I feel their desperate gnawing against my soul,
While on my fingers settles their morbid breath.

That path is right, and correct. Yet it sleeps there
Covered beneath stratagems, and spoils of a past,
Distant and unseeing. I dare not wade through
For the fear of them vipers still holds just as fast.

Yet, I must try, so I tip toe along the edges.
The owls moan and flutter past, while the moss
Groans on being disturbed. It’s then when I see
Her – just a swish of the skirt. And then all is lost.

I am lost with nothing to find. I follow the trails,
Her enchanting scent is the only prize. The end,
Now forgotten, makes the means seem to matter.
And it’s in her magical favour the scales ascend.

I see her then, distant, aloof, swaying to a rhythm.
Her eyes are closed, and she softly licks her lips.
No wonder the moon had taken refuge, for her
Beauty had been carved out of sliver arrow tips.

She looks my way, her sensual glow not fading;
I am drawn to her, but, to my wonder, she to me.
Our love is instant, for ever, but best, it’s silent; for
Her words I don’t understand, yet they set me free.

We dance on the dew laced grass, stepping on each
Other’s toes; the music of the night is our symphony.
The otters and the moles call out to their mates;
We don’t mind – for we bask in their furry company.

She takes me to this special place, on a beam of her
Moonlight we ride. I gasp in awe, but more in wonder;
For in dreams this is where I want to be. I kiss her in
Gratitude, pray against reason never to cast us asunder.

As I lie by her side under a canopy of fiery stars,
I vow to myself how I am never finding my way back.
And running my rough fingers through her silken hair,
My memory tries to forget that very same track.

But she whispers softly in my ears how I must be
On my way. My end must be she, not other way round.
I protest in vain for she argues reason;
And with a heavy heart I trace my steps around.

I slowly find my path, “So out of place”, I wonder.
And soon it dawns how everything was a Slip of Time.
An asylum from banal reality, in guise of a mistress
Of words. How fitting I should sing of it in rhyme!