Which one is the truth…?

Ridhesh and Meghna have always been the travelling types. Any travel was an opportunity for them to move out of the program codes on their computer screens and into the real world. Both had graduated together from NIT with BTech with majors in Computer Science. Making conversations with people they meet and living the customs of where ever they visited was something they revelled. They travelled with thier reluctant teen aged daughter Ridhima.

This year the trip was to the Kanaul. A sleepy hill Station, little known on the tourist circuits, but well known on the religious tourism searches. Ridhesh had visited this town as a kid with his parents. It was somehow a nostalgic trip too.

The temple of Godess Kali was the major tourist attraction, apart from the natural beauty of the hills. The temple was tucked in midst of an array of shops selling items from audio CDs to toys. The livelyhood of the town survived on the grace of the goddess. The temple diety was known for its myths and power. The folklores were in plenty which describes the various miraculous feats of the goddess, both benovalent and ferocious.

As Ridhesh and Meghna emerged from the temple after offering thier prayers, they found Ridhima sitting in the steps across the street. Ridhima who had decided to give the temple a skip. Aarti bells were still ringing as the setting sun turned the sky into a fiery red glow. It resembelled the tilak from the Kali temple.

Ridhesh flicked open his DSLR camera to capture the beauty of the sunset contrasted by the hussle of the market place. The third click satisfied him. He noticed Ridhima Siting on the roadside steps flipping stories on Instagram. In the moving mass of the tourist she was an another contrast. Ridhesh changed his lens and altered the exposure settings to capture his Daughter in a candid frame. The first click was blurred, the second spoiled by an overfilled polyethylene carry bag of an enthusiastic photo bombing tourist. Third chance is rare and the laws of statistics were not flouted this time. Ridhima noticed her father’s irritating habit in time to hide her face.

“C’mon Ridhima, be a sport”, implored Ridhesh. ‘You will remember this moments through these pictures.”

“Dad, please!!”, protested Ridhima, “I don’t want you to post them on our family group. And, I hate it when everyone would comment on what I wear.”

“Where’s Mom?“ enquired Ridhima.

Ridhesh saw Meghna checking trinkets at the street vendor’s cart. Cheap fashion jewellery shared the space on the cart with prayer beads and holy head scarfs. The spiritual and the material, combining in a philosophical way. Meghna, in a pang of guilt dropped the trinket and picked the holy head scarf.

Meghna looked up to see where the father and daughter duo were. She saw them walking up to her quarrelling on how to click pictures. Ridhima was telling Ridhesh, just having an SLR does not make one a photographer.

She had a smile on her face as the father and daughter reached her. She piosly wrapped the scarf on her head.

“Now what?“, asked Ridhesh.

” Lets checkout some shops”, said Ridhima suggestively. Although the statement was vague, but her eyes and intentions were fixed on a Souvenir shop. And that is where the three of them headed. One resolutely and the other two in decreasing order of enthusiasm.

They had to navigate through a rush of humanity gathered around a free food stall distributing ‘prasad’ or the ‘Divine food’. Divotees thronged to get the Divine blessing on the auspicious dark night of the Goddess Kali. As the custom and belief goes, the food being distributed is first offered to the goddess, who blesses the meal and then the same food is distributed to the divotees. This was also the night when the sacrifices were performed. Although the custom was on a decline but it still was being practiced in the recesses of the homes and societies.

As they reached the shop, Meghna got busy exploring the pieces from seemingly some ancient times. At least the dust and the stacking of the artifacts gave it the ancient look. Wonderful pieces of wood carving ranging from gods to animals and guarding demons adouned the busy walls of the shops. The counter was filled with old bracelets, utencils, knives, etc.

At first glance it seemed there was no one in the shop. The old lady owner of the shop almost blended with old artifact. It seemed as if after staying for so long in midst of the timeless artifacts, she seemed to become one.

She smiled a weary smile. She had seen many customers who would loiter, click pictures and move on. Ridhesh tried to strike a conversation, but the response were monosyllabic.

The shop was not too small in comparison with other match box like shops on the street. However, the crowded artifacts made it look dingy and cramped. The door on the rear was partially hidden by the life size statue of goddess kali. The blood red tongue was in striking contrast with the deep blue body. The statue was a piece of art, except the smear crack near the eyes. Possibly the reason for the statue remain unsold.

Ridhima was visibly not enjoying the experience. Ridhesh was trying to make conversation with the lady at the counter, in his usual style, however with not much of progress.

The silence was broken by the loud arrival of the husband of the lady. The old man was pot bellied with scraggy unkempt hair. These imperfection were out shadowed by the loud exuberance. He moved in carrying the ‘prasad’, which was no mean achievement considering the hungry line of devotees, eagarly queuing up to gain the divine grace.

He filled the space with himself and his enthusiastic hospitality. He offered the ‘prasad’, which was essentially ‘Purees’ a kind of an Indian bread, Gram Dal curry and ‘Halwa’ – a sweet preparation seeped in clarified butter. The dishes were placed on a plate and bowl made of dried leaves. Old man had balanced the plates and bowls while navigating his ample presence through the crowd. His exuberant announcements of the his achievement was indeed credible. The possession was a consequence of vigorous strife among the dense mass of devotees. He handed his prized possession to Ridhesh.

Ridhesh was visibly embarrassed and feeling guilty of accepting the Holy meal which wasn’t initially meant for him, irrespective of the play of destiny. He was also starkly aware of the reluctant moan by the lady, who must have many times witnessed this infructuos hospitality. She sighed and started stacking back the artifacts on the counter with a sense of resignation, shared by Ridhesh as he was left holding the plates and bowls.

The old man looked at Ridhima and smiled. The return smile moved no urther than the lips.

“Little Doll!!, you must surely have the Halwa” instructed the old man to the visibly irritated Ridhima.

Before she could react, the old man had turned to his wife, and affiably rebuked his wife to leave the counter and make sure the ‘little doll’ was looked after.

“Baldev’s Mother” called the old man identifying his wife as a relation and not a person, “this ‘little doll’ is your responsibility. Look how famished she looks. Soon you shall have your own little grand daughter.”

With words assuring Ridhesh that he would be back with more prasad, he exited the shop in the the same abruptness as he had entered.

Ridhesh looked towards the old lady behind the counter. She was looking at his daughter, taking the instructions of her husband far too seriously. She turned and looked at Ridhesh and her lips smiled. The gaze lingered on Ridhesh a fraction longer. Silent was awkward.

to be continued…

The screen is alive!!!

Credits : google

The first ray hits the fabric. The spectators settle in their assigned seats.

The pixels, each of different colours, find their respective place on the fabric. Each of the pixels, programmed and intermeshed, collaborate to form pre-decided familiar shapes. The pixels dance in sync dutifully, on the directions of the maestro above. Each teaming up with other multitudes of lights to form images, magically moving to curl up the lips to smile, to shed the hanging tear and to dilate the pupils to form the illusion of wonder. As the myriads of emotion play on its surface, the fabric comes alive.

The actors played out their characters. The story is a unfathomable mystery yet. It carries within its bosom, the possibilities to burat into a humorous comedy or spawn into a grieving tragedy or unravel an exciting odyssey. The dancing pixels fabricate emotions on the fabric which find resonance in the hearts of the audience. The tear is surreptitiously wiped, the laughter noisily shared and the excitement chewed along with the skin beneath the nail. As the story grips the fantasy, every subjective eye starts to live the life of the characters, coloured in the tinge of the beholders script.

The spectators fuse into the pixel, not only seeing the dance of the shapes, but become the shape itself. Each one identifying with the feelings which warmed up the screen. Each observing mind, merging with the thoughts and intent behind the actions of flat beings on the fabric.

The story eventually frenzied into the climax. It is a moment of judgment. One of the kings have to die, the black or the white. The colours stay loyal to the light as projected by the overhead unseen beam, irrespective to the effect it has on the beholding eyes. The presence or absence of the pixels form the opposites, thus evoking love or hate in the filtered eyes. The hackles on each neck is raised and the atmosphere is charged, baying for action. The emotions are no longer, just the projection by the maestro in the projection room…they are real. They burn the neural pathways urging the physical being to act. The hero fights for the cause as does the villain. The good and the bad is coloured by the beam of light. The hero triumphs over the villain. The pent up emotions of the crowd escape in a loud cheer. But the reel still whirs. There is still some story left.

Oh no!!!

It indeed is the dreaded tragedy. It was what the spectators dreaded, but somehow expected. The director of this motion picture is known only to make tragedies. Eventually, all lighter moments are lost from memory and just the miseries are remembered. The cheer of the heroic triumph is marred by the bleeding hero, fatally wounded in the ultimate duel. The villain lies slain, but the ebb of life drains off the hero too.

The bodies on the seats responds. They feel drained too. The lips curl, the eyes shed the tear and the pupils dilate in wonder. The two being are one, the flat beings on the screen and the flesh and blood on the seats.

Hero breaths the last in the arms of his love. His soul rising and disappearing beyond the limits of the screen. The story ends as the pixels freeze on the face of the hero’s love, staring in helpless grief. The maestro ceases the flow of light and fabric is lifeless again.

The spectators are stupefied by the drama, still wishing the fabric to come alive. To once again see the face of their love, they stay at their respective seats reluctant to let go of the illusion. The feelings still raw keep the bonds strong. Just one last look is all that they desired.

But the ushers of the cinema are on job to move these bodies out of this world of drama. There are others waiting in line to witness the drama once again. They are eager to see the same ‘fabric’, once again, come Alive.

Cracking the JEE

The admit cards, the passport size picture and the government approved ID were checked before we got into the car. These, at least would get us into the ring. The ingredient to crack the bout was presumed to be stacked in the nearest location on the RAM in the CPU of the brain for quick retrieval at the time of need.

The Google map showed a drive of 26 minutes, after its artificial intelligence consulted many more Google map users who were on the same route. Many more travelers, travelling with the same aspirations and similar apprehensions.

The FM radio employed songs of Kishore Kumar to sooth the frayed nerves. No one talked, as the soulful voice traveled across the time bridge connecting the 70s to the last of the teens of the 22nd century. As the RJ broke the spell, I realised we were not even hearing the song. We were engrossed in our own thoughts. The mind had moved ahead, pacing the unformed future.

Quite, was not the state of existence which was habitable for Anjali. She initiated the conversation, prempting my urge to revise the chemical equations and the mathematical formulae. We, instead talked of the many tips trending on the Internet, on how to crack the exam. I wondered, if there was a correlation between the people who made those blogs or the people who visited those sites with their pass results. But I guess it wasn’t something that would get a favourable result. Also, I wanted to impart the wisdom, of how it was more important to be well prepared than to rely on these ‘tricks of the trade’. But I guess our Arjun wasn’t keen on the Gita discourse while traveling towards the battle for future life.

The trip was spent laughing on anecdotes of people preparing for the battle and the pragmatism of the tips. The light heartedness was something each of us clung to. However, the upbeat mood eventually submitted to the inescapable law of “All good things must come to an end”. The gloom was thick as we cramped into the viscous traffic jam. Moving slowly through the sludge like a suspended impurity in a dense solute. As we inched closer to the collosium we could see the anxious gladiators sharpening their weapons through well thumbed notes of an year long accumulated knowledge. The anxiety spilling over to their guardians. The gloom also turned the green lights into red.

The futility of travel by the wheels was evident but people were unwilling to let go. We decided otherwise. We broke out of the conveyer belt and parked our car in a small bylane. We walked past the snail paced line of vehicles, each capable of greater potential but stuck in the rut with the bonnets cramped into the bumper ahead.

We reached the entry of the battle zone. The lines converged at the first check point. Thats where the support staff of parents, tutors and some accompanying fairy god mothers had to let go of their wards. That’s where the gladiators had to move on, into the battle space armed only with the knowledge in their minds and the mandatory material things that would ensure their entry. Now they milled together and forged ahead as one mass.

Parents were moving on to higher grounds to have one last look at their wards before they entered the arena. We were not to be left behind as we jostled competitively to find the best viewing site.

Ah!! We were in time to see our daughter emerge from the first check point victoriously. We were about to shout out to her, when we saw her making animated conversation with other co-participants of the race. Making friends with a complete strangers, related only by similar aspirations and apprehensions. There she was, sharing the infectious laughter she is blessed with. There she was, helping the other just-formed-friend, with the forms and the documents. Then, before we could shout out to her, they entered the arena together. We did not shout out her name. We just watched with a knowing smile on our lips.

The result of this exam was still somewhere in the future.

But we were happy she had already cracked the exam.