Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Detour

The 7 year old girl walked from school to her home. This was the first time she was walking alone on that route. On any other day, her mother would have gone to pick her up from school, but not that day. She was not aware that schools were declaring holiday an hour and a half earlier due to trouble in the town owing to some agitations and protests. Only few parents could be intimated about this.


A friend’s mother accompanied her to the lane leading to her apartment, from where it was just a minute’s walk. But that day, for some unknown reason she decided to roam about a bit and take the longer route. It is not always that she gets to roam about, and no one would know about it. After all she wouldn’t tell her mamma about that.


The road was almost deserted. It was usually the case around the noon time in this part of the country. She walked ahead leisurely, singing and dancing all along as if she owned the road. But this was short lived. In couple of minutes, the scene changed. She could see scores of men, all armed with lathis and sticks heading towards her.

But why?

What had she done?

She did all her homework, scored good marks, was obedient and had clean shoes.

Then why were they headed towards her?


She got scared. She took a turn in the nearby lane and hid behind a tree. The group of people moved ahead. Probably she was never their target. But where were they going. She decided to start for her home after few minutes, after the group had disappeared. Or maybe she could take another route. She knew that road. She had been through it many times with her mamma. She moved ahead, shedding all the fears, only to be face to face with few men behaving strangely.

Politely she asked one of them,

“Uncle, why are you breaking window of that house”

The uncle didn’t listen.

She did not hesitate before asking once again.

No reply came. She was just shoved away. Next few moments were spent in shedding tears, and remembering her mamma.


But that didn’t dampen her spirits. She continued her march towards her home, when she caught few men breaking the statue of a prominent national leader. Not learning anything from the lesson taught moments ago, she asked one of them

“Uncle, why are you breaking the picture?”

“Jaa chhori … apna kaam kar … ghar jaa … ye baccho ke khelne ki jagah nahi hai”

“Uncle, our teacher says that we should …”

Kya teacher weacher lagaa rakha hai … Samajh nahi aata kya?”

“But, uncle …”

“Oye … Samajh nahi aata kya … Ek chaata maaroon kya”

“Sorry Uncle”.

She moved ahead.


She stared sobbing, and then crying when a stone hit her and blood started flowing. But she marched ahead. Then onwards, she was cautious at every step. The people had gone mad, she thought. Braving all the conditions she was victorious. She reached home, to be received as a triumphant girl, as if after winning a war. The minor injuries did not matter. Apart from the victorious look, her face had an expression that of asking hundreds of questions. Now it was turn of her parents to bear the brunt of her questions, which even they had no answers for.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Follow thy Heart

http://www.rediff.com/movies/2008/may/27khan.htm

Above is the link of an interview of Mansoor Khan - The man behind movies like Qayamat se Qayamat Tak and Jo Jeeta Wahi sikandar.

His life went in following sequence -

Son of a successful film producer --> IITian (... and dropped out) --> Went to USA for further studies (... and dropped out) --> Made few successful movies --> Settled as a farmer at Coonoor, far from the maddening crowd, to appear only once in a blue moon

There is nothing special about this interview, but it is about a person who did the thing best seen in proverbs, philosophical monologues and books like The Alchemist - " Follow your heart", something which very few of us end up doing!

Prima facie, it may look like fickle mindedness and a person being uncertain about things ... but ultimately he is in the exclusive club of ones who followed their heart!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Gods must be Crazy – X

(Warning --Blasphemous content ahead. Read at your own risk!)

__

“I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time”

– Friedrich Nietzsche


HE looked down the heavens, and had a hearty laugh. The long serpentine queue was moving slowly. With his divine brain HE calculated that mean queue length was nearly 600 and mean service time was 150 per hour. That meant people waited an average of four hours just to have a look at his statue, be awestruck for few moments, seek blessings and ultimately offered gifts in cash and kind. The PR agents in form of the priests in the temple collected them ostensibly for benefit of masses. The PR agents used various kinds of tactics and strategies to up the number of visitors; most important being the fear appeal which is often used by advertising agencies, in which the ill effects of not worshipping the deity for him possessing extraordinary supernatural powers was propagated.

The marketing channel to improve the number of visitors worked in various ways. The head priests were at the topmost level of the hierarchy. Next came the priests who formed bulk of sales force and also doubled as PR agents, each associated with a fixed set of people who were divided as per their caste. Caste system was sacrosanct. Ill effects of not following it were … well … no one knew as no one dared to challenge it. The PR agents also came in handy while collecting all the gifts – cash and kind, so that HE could bask in luxury. Of course, PR agents got a fair share of the pie. After all HE never played dice with universe!

Time and time again reinforcements were given regularly in form of few stray punishments. For example that lady who said that she wouldn’t offer a generous bounty to the priests and won’t sing aartis to please HIM … She didn’t know that in few days she would be nursing a fractured hand for 3 months after a near fatal accident. Or that guy who called everything a form of ‘ego massage’ and sycophancy … little did he know that in few days his girlfriend would ditch him. And that businessman who believed in some other deity and not HIM was to suffer huge losses in coming days. These … and many other stories. After all, how dare they question things! Therefore, the punishments were apt … actually they were well deserved. Such people needed to be taught a lesson.

As of now, it was the peak season. After all it was his birthday in few days time. That day HE would relish in tones of milk, water, bhaang, food, sweets, flowers and god knows which all things. HE would indulge in revelry, enjoy all the sacrifices, create folklores around him and be the center of attraction that day. Then the peak rush to the holy place would subside though people would continue to throng the pace in thousands. HE shall continue to be served as he was being served before … today, tomorrow, and ever after.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Survival

Dark clouds were looming at the horizon. In few minutes they would have traveled few miles in westward direction and came closer. This is not usually the scene at noon in the hottest month of the year. Dark clouds meant something ominous. Probably sign of an impending storm or maybe a cyclone approaching. Sea is a capricious lady. Bay of Bengal was no different. It was infamous for cyclones, and Orissa was often at the receiving end of nature’s fury.

Ramdas was few miles into the sea. So were his brethrens of the fishermen community. There were around a hundred boats in the sea that day. No one anticipated the storm. So no one even thought of staying back at the shore and miss out on their livelihood of the day. Ramdas was alone in his boat. He owned the boat. His son helped him with his job. They managed to get enough as to earn a square meal a day.

They had a good rapport with others of fishing community. But of late that relationship was breaking down. No reasons for that. Nor was relationship that bad. It was just that it wasn’t as good as before. Most of the fellow fisherman earned more than before, but Ramdas felt his earnings were stagnant. Few years ago, major chunks of his earnigs were spent for medical expenses of his wife. Maybe, that difference in earnings made him a bit jealous.

Out of the boats in the sea, a quarter belonged to the village head, famously or infamously known as Lala. He was the biggest money lender of the village and was regarded as cunning, shrewd and cruel. Maybe, that was the reason why he commanded such a respect in village. His boat was equipped with heavy machinery and could venture much farther into the sea than Ramdas could have managed.

That day Ramdas was nearly seven miles away from the shore, while others with modern equipment were on average thrice as far, and probably they’ll catch thrice as much fish as Ramdas. But Ramdas couldn’t have afforded that. So he had to be satisfied with his small boat, which he had to fend alone for that day as his son was ill. He seemed out of favor with lady luck, as the fishes seemed to have deserted that area. Probably they had a premonition of what was about to come. Ramdas could see the storm approaching, and had to fight it alone. The prize of victory was survival.

The storm raised its hood, and came nearer. The rains started. With each passing moment, it began to get heavier. The next day’s newspaper would report that a cyclone whose origins lay somewhere in the Bay of Bengal hit the east coast of India at a speed of 190 km per hour causing widespread destruction to life and property, and leaving thousands dead and much more homeless. Probably Ramdas would become just another number, among one of those few thousands. Or maybe not!

Within minutes, the small boat was completely wet and was getting water logged. Ramdas was completely drenched and made attempts to withstand the wind as valiantly as the boat did. The boat could have capsized any moment. But it didn’t. It withstood all the challenges posed by the winds bravely. It survived … At least for few minutes.

The tides were higher and mightier than ever. The small boat had no chance of survival. Lala’s boats could have survived for a while, but not his boat. They were designed for survival in a calm sea, not in the sea it was now. One giant tide … and everything may be lost; gone forever. He saw one such tide coming.

“Ah, this is the last breath of my life”, thought he, remembering all the gods and goddesses in what he thought would be the last moment of his life.

But miracles do happen. The boat rose high up with the giant tide, was in the air for a moment and when it seemed that it would turn upside down, offering everything it had to the sea, it was back in the sea, in the same position it had left it. This wouldn’t classify exactly as a miracle, but it was nothing short of it. Ramdas was first time lucky. But the question was that how long his luck would really be with him. Maybe, for few more minutes at max. After all, very few survived such a storm and such wild tides, if at all anyone did.

Another tide came. But he escaped unharmed. He couldn’t understand what was going on. Maybe, he was lucky for the last time before it would desert him. Meanwhile he couldn’t spot any boat till far. Maybe he was lost. Probably others were lost. Or the other boats simply ceased to exist. While he was lost in his thoughts, his boat was attacked by another time, and this time he wasn’t all that lucky. The boat tossed up in the air with the tide, turned upside down and was broken into pieces after a moment. The moment had finally come. After all, he could not be lucky all the time.

He lost contact with anything wooden, and a moment later he was few feet inside the sea. But his tireless efforts to keep afloat brought him to the surface where he encountered a wooden piece. He recognized it as part of his boat that once existed minutes ago. He fought for survival by clinging to that piece. He could barely see now. He could just feel the sea and the watery grave around him.

The game of tide continued for few minutes after which it subsided. It was only the winds that subsided. Rains didn’t. He was just hoping that somehow the interplay of tides and weather gods make him reach the shore safely. But he had miles to cover before that happened. There were moments when his grip was loosening, when he was just too tired to hold on anything, moments when rainfall was too heavy to be bearable. Thankfully, there were no sharks in that part of the sea, though some dangerous creatures were present. But it was drowning that he was most scared of. In midst of all these, Ramdas fell asleep … rather unconscious. Few hours’ later rain would have subsided, and Ramdas would have reached a deserted place very close to his village. While this happened, he would be largely unaware of it happening

He woke up when it was few hours since the sun rays graced the shore. In fact it was almost noon. He had slept for too long. Then things began to flash in front of his eyes. He looked around but found nothing intact. He decided to have a stroll through his village but found nothing but houses which were destroyed. There was not a living soul to be found.

“Where have they gone?”

“Have they all perished with the storm?”

“Am I in some other village? No. Village is pretty much the same. I can recognize the places. Yes it is my place. But where are the people?”

Meanwhile he managed to see a person. He seemed to be someone from army from whom he learnt that a cyclone had struck the village two days ago killing every inhabitant there. The dead bodies were removed the very next day to avoid spread of disease. No one in the village was alive. No one who went to sea was alive, except him. He realized that he had slept through entire day and a half, absolutely unaware of all the dreadful happenings around.

Everyone in the village was dead - His wife, his son, his neighbors, other fishermen, Lalaji, Everyone. No one survived. Entire village of 400 inhabitants was wiped off from existence, as if it never existed.

“I am the only survivor of the storm. How lucky I am. But I have lost everything I had, everyone I had ever known. It can’t get worse than this. Ah … my bad luck!”

The only survivor walked through the ruins, to somewhere even he didn’t know. Maybe, somewhere else a new life awaited him.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Forest

The Toyota Qualis and the Chvrolet Tavera stopped after a long journey. It was almost 9 in the night and it was pitch-dark. Night times in a forest are always pitch-dark. Adding to that it was a good `thirteen days since the last full moon day. Adding to this, the cloudy weather made visibility close to zero. Later in the night the forest would be engulfed in a fog making it nearly impossible to see. The only noise audible was that of silence, few random insects and that of a train going at a distance.

After a long journey they all were quite weary and all they wanted was some rest so that the next day morning they can head for tiger and rhino spotting among many other species of flora and fauna in the wildlife sanctuary. Right now it was time for some parathas, maggi and booze. All fifteen of them headed for the cottage which they had booked, sat near the fire place relishing food, chit chatting about college life, universe and everything. But chit chatting wasn’t what they came there for. They wanted to see some wildlife, tigers to be specific. So they planned to roam about their cottage and try to spot some wildlife. But it wasn’t that easy. Being a human settlement, tigers rarely came there. Adding to the woes was the railroad which was close by, through which couple of trains passed during the course of day. Nevertheless, they decided to give it a shot. Maybe, they would have some adventure, spot some inhabitants of the jungle and will have stories which they can recount back in college, and future generations.

So close to midnight, they left their cottage and began their search. Four of them weren’t too willing to risk their lives, so they stayed back while others moved forward. Initial few minutes of search yielded no result. Yet they decided to continue with the search. The path was barely visible; the mobile lights were of little use. The temperature was close to freezing point. Nevertheless, the hunt for stories continued. They were relatively confident that nothing will attack them. Because tigers rarely visited that place and other animals didn’t scare them much.

Half an hour and 100 meters later, half of them retreated to the cottage as it was unsafe to wander further. Five of the group were of more adventurous kind and decided to wander further. They got one of the cars and some leftover booze to keep them warm and carefully treaded through the forest terrain. After a luckless first hour, they decided to call it quits and return back to the cottage. But no one knew the exact way back. They were probably around a mile away … or maybe tens of miles away.

They came out of the cars and tried to find a direction, if at all they could make any sense of it. They couldn’t they were completely lost. In next few minutes the rains will arrive accompanied by hailstorm, which would be lashing the place for half an hour. Trying to drive through the inundated pathways would result into a flat tire. As of now, they were just concerned about finding their way back.

Meanwhile they decided to call up their friends. But their cell phone couldn’t catch the network. There was no network present in a radius of many miles. And now with rains and flat tire, they had to spend rest of the night at that place it seemed. It was around four hours before the first ray of sun would arrive. Till then, they would be shivering, and weather would be not the only thing that would keep them shivering.

Maybe some talks would help. Maybe something light, sort of chit chat. Or maybe someone can crack a joke. But no one gets a joke in such a situation. No one can even think of cracking a joke in such situation. Just as they started speculating whether they would get out of that place alive, they heard a noise, noise of something being trampled. This was followed by complete darkness. With limited visibility, they could gather that a group of few wild elephants, may be 4 or 5 of them were roaming about in that place, and one of them stepped upon the bonnet of the car resulting into breaking of the headlight. “Elephants must be on way to their night mess” – one of them exclaimed. No one was interested. They waited for few minutes inside the car and hoping that they didn’t return. But they were wrong. The elephants were back and trampled the engine once again. The humans were second time lucky. Their lives had been spared.

The car was not safe anymore. They had to come out of it.

But how will they manage it?

Where will they go?

They could do nothing within that jungle. Even if they ventured out they would be eaten by tigers for breakfast. Suddenly they heard a noise. The only noise coming from distance whose roots can be traced to humans. This was followed by a light from some direction. In next few minutes the noise increased and the light moved closer. It was a railway engine. It was some passenger train which would arrive probably in few minutes at a point closer to them. But where was the railway track? As the light grew brighter, few things were visible … but not the railway track, and defiantly not the elephants.

Meanwhile one of them looked outside the window and exclaimed

“We are on the railway track”.

“Damn! We’ll be killed by train after having escaped the elephant assault”

“Let us get down and hope that the train stops. They may stop on seeing a wrecked car on the railway track”

With a minute to go before train arrived, they stood on side of the track and moved a tree which fell down during the rain such that a part of it was on the railway track. Having 5 people made it easier. The train stopped, they talked to engine driver who was kind enough to accommodate them. They removed the tree and the car from the track, climbed on to the first bogie and were in a mood to celebrate safety.

They told their story to an old man who was awake at that point in time. He listened patiently, and gave them an advice – “Never mess with the jungle. Respect its laws. Don’t roam about in the dark. I could have killed you if I wished to, as I have done with many people like you before who disturbed the jungle equilibrium in the night, the same mistake I did moments before I died … but then ... I wasn’t in a mood to do so today, as it is my 300th birthday. That is why the elephants went away after partly trampling your car. That’s why those tigers did not attack you”. Saying this, the old man disappeared. The train chugged off, with each of those 5 people staring at the green eyes at some distance from the track.