Different dawn of the same long night

The night was long
He was tired but did not dare to yawn
He had not slept
It was already dawn

The bullet whistled as it arrived.
It had found its mark
Mercilessly it pierced,
all the way to the beating heart

Punctured
but it kept on beating
slowly draining away the life
It was meant to be saving

As the dawn broke
the transition was Complete
The body that once was man
had turned into meat

Far away the news app pinged a notification
Another death at the border popped on the screen
With a swipe of the finger it was removed
Cursing the bad news he should’nt have seen

The night was long
He was tired and gave in to a yawn
He had not slept
It was already dawn

They were far apart
Each blissfully asleep
One had no will to get up
While the other…Never will

अपने कल का कलाकार

यादों का क्या
अतीत का आईना है।
अतीत का क्या
अपनी यादों ने ही बनाया है।

कुछ याद रहा
कुछ भूल गया।
कुछ याद रखा
कुछ भुला दिया।

मेरा अतीत मेरा है
मैंने बनाया है
मेरा भविष्य मेरा है
मैंने बनाना है

Inheritance

The rubber tried to hold on to the tar, but it was a losing battle. The speed was too high and time too less. Umesh was distracted by the message on the mobile as he executed the turn on the hilly serpentine road to Manali. Swathi slept peacefully as many events crowded into the last few seconds. The monstrous truck was hurtling down the same road as it appeared around the bend at the last moment. Umesh hit the breaks instinctively and the tyres screeched as they laboured to do what they were created to do. But the tyres were literally losing ground. The wet roads, the speed of truck and the late instruction by Umesh were stacking the odds against them. The inevitable was about to become a tragic reality. Swathi opened her sleepy eyes to stare at death. She never had a chance to have a last look at her husbands face as the truck rammed the chassis of the car into her rib cage. The last thought she had was for Aditya who lay strapped in the back seat. Her last prayer to God remained mumbled on her bruised lips

“….please save him!!!”

************************************

Sunder Lal was alone at home, going about his routine, which, more or less, had got fixed since he retired 12 years ago. It was 30 Sep 2006, 12 years since his wife had died at the Military Hospital in New Delhi. She succumbed to the fatal consequence of Dengue. This was the first outbreak of such a deadly fever. No one could predict such a catastrophe. He was serving his last day of his army service in the north east when he recieved the tragic news. The doctor had assured him of the improving situation.  Lulled by this apparent hope, he gave in to his foolish desire to stay back for his farewell dinner.

She had left him with two sons Bhavesh and Umesh.  Bhavesh was the elder one. He stayed at home with mother. He had completed his Bachelor Degree in Commerce. He was preparing for the Bank examination. Well that is what he claimed he did. Umesh, the younger one, had recently joined IIT Guwahati. He was the very first to have cleared the coveted exam among the community. Sunderlal and his wife were so proud of him. Sad his wife had to leave before she could see her son becoming an Engineer. Sunderlal asked him to join him at Guwahati Airport.

Bhavesh was yet to reach home with the mortal remains, when Sunderlal and Umesh reached home. The house was teeming with the relatives. The mood was of disbelief. Each one was speculating the cause and was placing the blame. The blame shifted from the irresponsible government, the unusually hot weather in September caused by global warming and to state of disinterest shown by Bhavesh while pursuing the treatment.

Sunderlal could not blame any one else. He would live with this heavy burden of the cross. The ‘whys?’, ‘what ifs?’  were questions which were likely to haunt him recurrently in his mind space.

The questions still echoed in his mind with an eerie clarity.

                           ***************************************************

Today, it was another day of routine. 12 years hence, the pain had reduced to a mere  numb throb. But at days like these, when no one else was around he missed his wife. In these day bound by routine, he painfully missed another significant event which had kept him alive. He missed taking Aditya, his favourite grandson to school. His scooter, although old, was faithful enough to never fail him on this critical task of the day.

The circle on the calender marking the date of Aditya’s return from his holiday at Manali, was still four days away.

RRRRINGGG!!!!!

The phone rang with a uncultured and intrusive ring. It lived up to its jarring personality.

“Am I speaking to Mr Sunderlal?” spoke the omnious voice on the other end of the device.

Sunder Lal would have normally banged the phone after speaking his heart out at the intrusive tele-marketer. But this time he knew it wasn’t going to be any selling. The omnious voice warned of a “Loss”.

“This is Sub Inspector Dhumal” identified the caller. The tone combined with the identity of the caller made his gut recoil and his hand grip the phone harder.

“Yes…? Sunderlal… er… Col Sunderlal, retired… speaking”, he replied, trying to hide his worry.

“I am sorry to inform you that your Son Umesh and his family have met with an accident” said the officer with a practiced ease.

The details sifted through the dazed ear of a man losing his sanity. He was not hearing a word, but he did not need words to feel the deep sense of loss.

“But, by the God’s grace, the child has survived, unhurt. But he is in no state to identify the bodies of his parents. Can I request you to come here to identify and collect the body?”

The last statement made him break down and cry. The phone slipped and crashed on the floor.

                              ***************************************************

Nobody spoke as they traveled on the same winding road in the opposite direction. The irony of the situation was stark. In one direction it led to happiness and fun, while on the opposite end it led towards gloom and despair.

The gloomy silence was broken as Bhavesh recieved a call from his office enquiring his likely date of return.

“Your sanctioned leave ends tomorrow. Manager wants you to meet him tomorrow”. The officious voice of the office clerk echoed on the bluetooth speaker of the car.

“I am not dead. I will return!!” Retorted Bhavesh, irritated by so many factors. The tragic occurance, the inconvenience and the added responsibilities of his father and Umesh’s child were weighing on his mind.

“How can you talk like that to your employer, the provider of your bread” implored Sunder Lal.

“For the money that they provide you cannot even buy a loaf of bread. And now I have two extra hungry mouths to feed.” complained Bhavesh.

“Be sensible Bhavesh, there is a child in the car who has just lost his parents. He is your Nephew goddammit!!!” spoke Sunder Lal in a hushed but stern whisper.

“Thats your grandson, born out of your favourite child. Don’t lecture me now.”

Aditya snuggled closer to Sunderlal, his only thread of sanity left.

Sunderlal looked affectionately down at the young boys face. He ran his hands tbrough the boy’s hair. He thanked god as he saw the eyes were shut tight.

“God bless you, dear angel of sleep for saving this poor soul from the brutal teuth of life” he said a silent prayer.

Sunderlal failed to notice the shifting of the eyeballs under the clinched eyelids as they battled the welling up of the tears inside.

                   ************************************************

It had been an year since the unfortunate event had turned the lives of Sunderlal and Aditya into an tangled mess. Post that tragic event, both of them had shifted to Bhavesh’s place. The shift was more economic and administrative rather than emotional. The rental expenditure and the cost of maintenance of the palatial house was considered unnecessary by Bhavesh. The tragedy caused the double jeopardy for Aditya. The loss of family combined with the loss of familiar surroundings caused a severe strain on the psyche of the little boy. The cynical attitude of Bhavesh wasn’t helping either. It drew Aditya closer to his grand father. His grandfather was Aditya’s only island of solace and sanity. He never realised that Sunderlal felt the exact same feeling for Aditya. Each were a support for each other .

The routine was fixed.

Everyday, Sunderal would drop Aditya to school on his old and faithful scooter. He would be there much before the bell rang for the end of the school, waiting patiently under the old shady banyan tree opposite the school gate. As the long bell rang, heralding the long awaited “Chutti”, Sunderlal would cross the road and place himself at the centre and in the first file of the waiting mass of parents or assigned caretakers. Aditya would search him out and would feel happy to see him at the familiar spot. For that smile of recognition and relief, Sunderlal was prepared to jostle with the other claiming the same spot.

The ride to the school was filled by stories of Sunderlal. Stories of bravery and stories of patriotism, Stories of Mythology and stories of fantasy. Aditya would remain quite, partly because he was wanting to hear the stories and mostly because he was scared of the prospects of the school. Stories of Sunderlal took him on the ride of fantasy and wonder, away from the crippling thoughts of the school. The ride back would be full of stories from Aditya. Stories of fun and stories of deceits, stories of friendship and stories of enemies, stories of victories and stories of loss. Sunderlal would patiently listen to them, without judgement and prejudice.

Together, they lived in the world woven around with their stories. Truth and fantasy were unrecognisable as they merged into one glorious reality. These stories were their world. A well preserved world existing within the outer world. It was, as if the real world did not exist.

                   *****************************************************

Aditya woke up to a frenzied commotion. Bhavesh uncle was speaking in an urgent tone with someone on the phone. Aunty held her son close in a tight embrace possibly trying to shield him from the cacophony. Aditya wasn’t sure what was happening. He couldn’t dare ask. His eyes met Bhavesh uncle. There was irritation in the eyes.

Aditya felt unsure of what was happening. He wanted to dive back into his own world. He saw his grandfather’s room uncharacteristically open. He slowly walked in. He was filled with a heavy gloom. Somehow it seemed their world was breached. The environment was lifeless, there was no breeze. It was as if, it had died.

Sunderlal lay calmly, his face serene in contrast with the the frenzy outside the room. Was he dead? If this was death, why was his grandfather so peaceful. He felt happy for the peace his grandfather was experiencing. He was also slowly realising the enormity of the change in his life. The reality closed in on him.

The walls seem to rush in and create a wedge between him and the serene body of his grandfather. He was petrified. He wanted to shout at his grandfather to move quickly towards his side, because he was rooted to the floor. He panicked as his voice was also stuck within him. It seemed to echo within him with no perceptible effect on the outside. His silent screams were making no effect on the oblivious body of his grandfather. The walls were looming large. It rose from within the floor too. It was getting claustrophobic.

Aditya shouted his lung out. It was not a cry. It was a shriek.

Bhavesh uncle was shouting instruction to his wife, “Stop this imbecile from creating a ruckus. I am trying to speak to the hospital guys. These people want to be sure he is dead” grumbled Bhavesh. He cupped the receiver as added conspiringly “All these are ways to extract some money. I know how to handle these leeches. You just make him quite!!!”

The deal was done. Bhavesh was good at it. There was no need of a travel to the hospital. The body could be taken to the cremation ground. There was no family to waited for. The rituals were to be completed earliest. Why waste time and money. It would be a private affair.

The body burned over the sandalwood. The charred remains were collected as the mortal remains only to be prepared for being sprayed over a flowing water. Submitted and consumed by the fire and returned to the water.

The fire was lit by Bhavesh. He was entitled to do it. It was the rule of inheritance.  He was allowed to offer the mortal remain of his father to the fire. Inheritance of this obligation was his right. This right also entitled Bhavesh to be the legal heir.

Aditya looked at the urn full of ash. The ashes were the mortal remains. It wasn’t his grand father. This wasn’t what he was looking for. Aditya was looking for something they both shared. Then he looked up into the sky. No answer seem to appear. No answer seemed to be an explanation. He wasn’t even sure what to ask. His world had disappeared. The world that they shared. He suddenly blamed his grandfather for taking his entire world. He was not supposed to take that.  Their world. For that he was the heir. He was the only entitled one. The worldly laws were of no consequence for this pronouncement.

That was his inheritance. And it had turned into ashes.

सफर का नशा

मदहोश नशे में,
मदमस्त चल पडे़ थे
जुनून का नशा था,
हसीन ख्वाब लिए चल पड़े थे

काम का बोझ तो गहरा था
और दिन-रात में फर्क भी कहाँ था
पर एक सुरूर सा आ रहा था
एक मस्ती का मंज़र था

फिर एक दिन, अफसोस
अपनी मंज़िल से टकरा गए
खुशी की उम्मीद थी
पर इस ठहाराव से मायूस हो गए

मंज़िल तो आ गयी थी
पर सफर से दिल भरा ना था
मंज़िल तो पा ली थी
पर सफर का मज़ा कुछ और था

अगली मंज़िल की तलाश में, फिर एक बार
निकल पड़े हैं
एक और ख्वाब में
ज़िन्दगी को पाने,

फिर एक बार… निकल पड़े हैं

Buoyancy of Joy

Stress Ball

I hate myself!!

Mukti spoke aloud. The utterance did not even make a ripple in the green surface of the still water in the pond. She did crave for appreciation but she never expected so much hate from her colleagues. It was as if they were waiting for the opportune moment for the hate to fructify. So called friends, were exposing the cloaked fire of jealousy. The gloves were off and the fangs were exposed. Suddenly, she was amidst the werewolves. Silently gnawing away the meat from her calves as she dragged herself up from the blow of reality which exposed the masks. The real faces were gruesome.

It all started from the ‘rise’ in her popularity in office. Display of her multiple facets and new levels of performance split the people around her into the opposing camps of ‘Liking her’ and ‘Jealous of her’. As she drew her joy from the accolades of the ‘Liking her’ camp of people, she also enjoyed the misery it caused to the ‘Jealous of her’ camp. This misery was the root cause of the hatred towards her from the ‘Jealous of her’ camp. This misery was turning out to be a greater source of her joy and she thrived on it more than the accolades from the ‘Liking her’ camp.

More she relied on the misery of her detractors as a source of her joy, more miserable she felt. She, kind of absorbed their misery. She no longer felt any joy from the appreciation of her friends, rather she felt the anxiety of not scoring over her detractors, far more.

Her core was being consumed by this reflected misery and soon she started sinking in self loath. She was sinking into depression. And ironically as she sank into this gloomy depths, she saw the joy in her detractors, which further pulled her down to greater depth.

As she was in the throes of her depression, she found herself at the steps of the temple pond. The waters had become murkier as though mirroring her mind.

The stress ball, counter intuitively shaped like a smiley was being gnawed by her nervous finger nails. The smile pasted on the ball was ironically making her more irritated as it seemed to mock at her.

In a fit of revulsion, she flung the spongy ball into green thick water of the pond.

The yellow colour stress ball remained buoyant over the green surface of the pond for a while. The viscosity of the murky pond keeping it afloat. However, the jubilant joy was short lived as the spongy core of the stress ball, ill shielded by the porous skin, started to absorb the surrounding filth. It remained buoyant till its core was filled completely by the green filth. That was the time the stress ball started to sink. The essence of the bounce was lost. It sank rapidly to the slimy bottom of the pond. Deeper and deeper in the vicious depressing abyss.

As the last of the smiley on the yellow ball got subsumed by the green slime, the yellow stress ball taught her what Archimedes understood in a very different context. A lesson no self-help book or a psychiatrist would have explained or applied. She learned, or she was revealed the secret law of the ‘Buoyancy of Joy’.

Buoyancy of the stress ball, as per physics, is dependent on the effect of gravity on the water surrounding it. This differential downward pull of the gravity on the water in turn pushed the stress ball up, thereby making it feel buoyant. The fall, therefore, of the surrounding water gives the up thrust which kept the stress ball floating with joy. Interestingly, like the dead Sea, greater the density of the surrounding water, greater is the buoyancy. The starkness of the similarity with her own life was uncanny.

More the grief in the surrounding, greater is the buoyant joy one experiences. She remembered how she felt buoyant with joy as she received the positive feedback and appreciation from the people around her. So much so that, the awareness of the jealousy among the people who she lived and competed with was also a source of glee and joy. The effect pretty similar to the increased buoyancy of the murkier water.

The sight of her detractors being unhappy was the buoyant force which made her joyous as, she rose higher on her popularity. She rose higher as, she lived of the ‘likes’ and also the ‘jealous grouse’. Therefore, she felt ironically full of gratitude for her detractors to provider her the buoyant joy. She also realised that slowly she had started being affected by the crave for her detractor’s unhappiness.

She observed how the stress ball was invaded by the outside water and it lost its exclusive identity. It was filled by the similar heaviness of the surrounding. The gravity which was relatively more on the outside, was now within the stress ball. It therefore, no longer felt the buoyancy. It sank deeper and deeper into the murky depth of the pond till it settled on the mushy floor the pond. There it rested in the depression created on the floor by its own weight.

It dawned on her, that to remain buoyant, she should not have allowed others to affect her. Just like the murky waters entered the spongy core of the stress ball, the negativity had invaded her. It made her lose her buoyant joy. It made her lose her ‘me-ness’. The negative emotions outside started mirroring the same emotions within her, it replaced the happy emotions with the heavier, darker and sad emotions. These heavier, darker and sad emotion were dragging her down the murky depths towards her own created depression.

She also realised the futility of relying only on the external feedback for her joy, since it could only raise her up to the level of the external expectation. Just as the stress ball relying only on the water for buoyancy, can only rise till the level of the water. Her fate was like the floating stress ball bobing up and down at the water surface based on the expectancy of others. Her joy was hostage to others ‘likes’.

Just like the porous skin of the ball, no skin is so resistant to sustain the onslaught of this external invasion unless there is an internal pressure that keeps the water out. She needed to find her belief in the ‘me-ness’ that pervades the inside. Only her essence was capable to raise her beyond the petty level of the others ‘likes’. Our ‘self-ness’ is self-buoyant, willing to soar irrespective and oblivious of the forces outside – favourable or not. Soaring not particularly above but in the direction that is mine.

The state of the stress ball either soaring high and rising above the limits of the water surface or the stress ball placed on the mushy floor of the pond do not guarantee joy or grief. For the soaring ball, as the buoyant force propels it higher, the threat of a grand fall looms larger. The ball continuously seeks loftier heights after every rise. At the same time, the sunk ball calmly sitting in harmony with the slimy floor may find solace in the vast opportunity the state offers. Therefore, the state of joy has no relation to one’s state but is more related to one’s view towards that state.

Buoyancy and gravity, she realised, both lead to movement which were relatively opposite to each other in direction. The end state of both was subjectively judged as favourable or unfavourable.

It was her moment of realisation to perceive the joy in going beyond the forces of buoyancy and gravity.

She found herself connected to the blissful stress ball which lied calmly at the bottom of the slimy pond. She had experienced the eternal truth.

Mukti rose joyous, glowing within. Glowing with the ‘buoyancy of the real joy’.

रिश्तों की कीमत

रिश्तों की कीमत
दाम लगा के देख लो
रिश्तों की अहमियत
अनुमान लगा के देख लो

पहचान पाओगे
तो उसकी पहचान है
महसूस कर पाओ
तो भावनाओं का मान है

रिश्ते
रिवाज़ों के मोहताज़ नहीं
रिश्तों की पहचान
दुनिया के रिवाज़ नहीं

एक रिश्ता अपने से भी है
अपनी पहचान और विश्वास का
एक रिश्ता ऐसा भी हैं
मेरा और आईने में अंजाने चहरे का

The cone of Anxiety

It was another one of the days of chasing the deadlines. The misses of the previous dates were accumulating into an astronomical wave. The baggage of the ‘Could Nots’ was weighing me down as much as the expectancy of the exit through this competitive tunnel.

The meeting tomorrow was a make or break one. I had heard myself saying this before, but this one seemed more real than the real.

My mind worked simultaneously on the multiple possibilities and worst case scenarios while remembering the previous mistakes from which I seldom learned. My thoughts,  while flipping between the two divergent ends of past and future, seldom rested on the presentation at hand. It was lonely and restless for the head that wears the crown. I was heading the marketing for the largest region in India. With great powers, I realised comes much greater responsibility. And the HR at the head office had knowingly skewed the ratio,  far in favour of the responsibility vis-a-vis the power.

I had many things to prove.

The disapproving look and the dismissive attitude of the CEO wasn’t something which escaped my empathetic eyes and the eyes of the competitive compatriots. They waited for the fall. I hung on to the cliff edge with my nails. In times such as these, even the shadow wasn’t part of the inner circle of my trust. I couldn’t rely on any one else. I had to do it myself. One thing that many of them wanted to share, and I was not letting it be shared was – The Credit.

So I remained glued to my PC in my lonely cell. The radiating illumination from my PC escaped my cabin into the dark vacant office space outside. The same office space was to transform itself into the battle space – the Kurukshetra, where my battle of survival would be raged tomorrow. The battle was part of the endless war I fought in the bid to stake my claim of existence. It formed part of the war which I raged with myself and my many contradictory roles jostling for the same click of the needle in the turning clock.

I had made my choices well, as I moved up the ladder of success.

The doting father, the romantic husband, the dutiful son and the fun-loving-butt-slapping friend were put on the waiting list as the deligent bullock went round and round turning the wheel of time. I was racing against the time. I perpetualy remained two moments behind, slowed by the baggage of the past and pushed back by the incapacitating dread of the impending future. There was so much at stake.

I flipped the hour glass over. The ritual of keeping time was being repeated. The hour glass remained the measure of time as I moved from the expectant past to an uncertain future. In this state of distress the senses were at highest state of perception, ready for the fight of flight eventuality. In this state of heightened sensory state, I noticed the sand slip down. Time moved forward.

The sand slipped in a heap at the bottom. Each grain of salt jostling with the other to cross the stem of the time. The narrow stem of the hour glass differentiates between the space above filled with sand at the beginning of the time with the eventual resting place of the sands of time at the bottom.

The benign hour glass was silently trying to tell a sacred wisdom as it emptied it’s last grain of sand into its eventual resting space. It waited to start the same cycle once more. Move the grains of sand from the upper past space to the lower future space. The combative competition keeps getting repeated in an cruel cycle. The stem dividing the past from the future. In the rush of the grains through the stem, the moments pass. The time moves a notch as each grain moves through the stem. That place in the stem is… the moment. Unnoticed, it goes through the fog of the worry. Remembered, only on either bulging sides. The worry and urgency of squeezing through and reaching the other side misses the experience of the moment.

I looked up at the pendulum as it struck midnight. It moved back and forth, back and forth…past and future. Between the swings from the past to the future, I observed, it missed the present. Swinging…swinging…perpetually in motion. As the pendulum rises from the nadir of the swing towards the zenith, the urge to return back to the nadir increases. It pauses at the zenith temporarily only to race back. However, as it races back to the place it seeks to be, the very same rush takes it helplessly past it. Never able to pause even for a moment at the moment. It moves rapidly past it towards the next high. And the cycle continues as it chases time.

Like the grain of sand, the pendulum remains precise in keeping the time interval.  However, missing the sweet spot of the moment while flitting between the regrets of the past and the worries of the future. Always anxious to move to the other side. Like the grain of sand, existing either at the top or the bottom of the cone of anxiety.

I realise we also live trapped in a similar Cone of Anxiety. Proudly carrying the cross of the privilege granted to the wise humans. The privilege of remembering the past and to imagine the future. These form the bulging sides of the cones – The cone of the future and the cone of the past. The cones intersect at the moment – the narrow stem of the hour glass. As we move into the cone of the past we are engulfed with the gloom of regret. The future cone floods our minds with the worry of imagined scenarios. As my mind moves back and forth in this cone of anxiety, I am a co-sinner with the pendulum and the grain of sand. I commit the similar unpardonable sin…I miss the moment.

I grabbed the pendulum to a pause. I placed the hour glass on its side. They resisted for a while, till the string no longer pulled, till the grains settled in stupefied motionless state. The clarity occurred. The realisation dawned. Now is the only truth. The past is merely my flawed interpretation of event that already occurred. The future is a only an abstract speculation. The only truth is in the Now. Everywhere in the cone is the source of anxiety. There is no anxiety of judgement in present moment as it lies in the future. There is no worry in the present moment as it is left behind in the past. The moment of now is pure and unsullied.

The realisation of the moment cleared the mind of worries and regrets. The vacuum created was soon filled by clarity of thoughts.

As the illuminating screen of the PC shut down, I felt radiant and sure. The past would not be allowed to sully my present. The future would not be allowed to steal the moment

I would live pure.