Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Crossword Safari

It was only the other day when having received my much awaited pocket-money, I decided to hit the humble portals of Crossword. For the unaccustomed, I would like to chirp in that it’s an invigorating experience, after a month long hiatus, to rummage through the cream colored leaves of a luscious new paperback. And for an unrepentant bibliophile, for whom I’ll proudly qualify, it’s like discovering an oasis in the midst of the deserts of Arizona. Anyway, off I went striding on a Nagpur safari, a khaki hat perched on my head and my wallet for a gun. For us bibliophiles spending some time in a book shop can be very analogous to a brief stint in Heaven, or better still in a Mughal harem! It certainly won’t be an exaggeration to say that while hunting for the book that would satiate my intellectual appetite for the next coming month, I had no idea that an hour had already elapsed. I could visualize myself as Robert Langdon going after the Holy Grail! It was a nerve racking hunt though, through the Amazon of wood pulp and dog-eared copies of my favorite books. No matter how pleasurable an experience this could be, yet one tragic thing about book hunting is that you are placed in the company of the books that you always wanted to pour yourself into but can’t, perhaps because your pocket ain’t heavy enough to sustain the weight of these volumes. It’s like an individual suffering from loose motion, one who is placed in a sanctuary of meals that he can’t eat, much because his stomach ain’t heavy enough to sustain the weight of all the food. In short, suffice it to say, that I was in a fix. Several books loomed before me, their fresh aroma, like an enchantress, trying to entice me, but I had to choose only one. There on that bookshelf was kept a collection of Wordsworth’s complete sonnets, a volume I really wanted to possess. As I began towards it my eyes caught a second shelf where Keats was awaiting me or the third shelf where Dickens was standing with open arms…All these volumes swirled around my head and I began to feel a little inebriated. I began to look hither and thither, trying with all my might to focus my attention on a single book, but to no avail. Having drenched all my energies, I sat down with a thump on a nearby stool, my face in my hands, like Rodin’s The Thinker.
You must be wondering how I resolved my predicament. Well the simple answer is that I couldn’t. I committed one of the most unpardonable crimes that can ex-communicate me from the Society of Geeks and Bibliophiles; I quitted Crossword without buying a single book. Back at home, with a heavy heart, I try jotting down my painful story and like all bibliophiles I take refuge in philosophy, and a comforting thought surges from within me: “life is like spending an hour in Crossword; you never know what you’re gonna get”.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Morning Blues

Early morning, I wake up
Toaster burnin',
The stove turnin',
My cell-phone ringin'
A hot black coffee
Against the techno beat.
A dusty sunlight filters in
Through the ragged curtains
Gotta go uptown
But the car ain't workin'
An iron monster clogged in the road.
Time, that old fool
Just a crawling corpse now
Gotta go uptown
Another tavern to cross
Another signal to break
Achy, breaky day
Where will you take me?

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Reunion

It was 7:00 a.m. The alarm was ringing in full swing. My mother (as if the alarm wasn’t enough) told me, in a very curt way of course, to show a leg. When I retorted back saying this was Sunday, she in her usual calm way reminded me that my college assignment was pending which I need to submit in a week’s time. Just great! Sometimes I kind of wonder how I’m living a life equivalent of a cheese macaroni gone stale!
Anyway, I woke up and did my daily chores. Just as I was about to sit for my assignment when the phone rang. It was my friend who had called in to wish me for the Friendship’s Day. Its funny how one can get so entangled in his daily humdrum life that days such as this slips from the vortex of one’s mind. After talking about a little bit, my friend invited me for a small reunion of our school mates. But I curtly declined the offer saying I was busy with my assignment. My friend did not coax or cajole me but said that it would have been better if I could join them. For a while I debated my possible options. I knew that this was a rare opportunity to get together with old school mates I had long lost touch with. So after a little contemplation I decided to go for the reunion.
When I reached the venue, I felt as I was standing in the midst of strangers for I could no longer recognize my friends. Some whom I had always known to be of short stature were now suddenly looking tall and full grown. For a minute I felt as if this was some illusion, a mirage perhaps. But no it was something stranger than a mirage. It was Time. We went for a long drive through the city, shouting, yelling and pulling each other’s leg as we used to do when in school. Assignments, project reports and exams shifted to some deep aberration of our minds. Just for a little while we had all lost our maturity and behaved like a child. Some of my friends were now doctors, some engineers and some into other fields. But there was something that bound us all together no matter how different fields we were in – our memories. We knew that in just a little while we would all be dispersed again, lost again in our daily routine. Yet we lived for the present.
Four years after leaving school when I look back at those carefree days, I do get a little nostalgic. Now in the silence of the midday sun, working strenuously on my assignment, I crave desperately for those days when life didn’t mean planning ahead for the future but living in the present.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

My dreams begin to fade as I linger listlessly through this deserted town. The streets are all empty and a doleful breeze blows gently singing a dirge for faces long forgotten and memories long lost. The trees seem bent with an eternal grief and I could hear the silent, moaning whisper of the leaves as Beauty slowly dissolves, like sugar in the rain.

Friday, June 22, 2007

A day in a Coffee House

Darkness falls and colors begin to fade. A low, faint light illuminates the coffee house, anonymous and unknown in this nameless town where dreams die as soon as they are born. The not-so-hot-not-so-cold coffee slowly brews as I rummage through my worn out copy of Ulysses.

Come up Kinch. Come up you fearful Jesuit

Yes thats better. The half-ajar door opens with a silent creaking sound and a man with a long drawn face slowly enters and occupies a lonely seat in a secluded corner.

In the bright silent instant Stephen saw his own image in cheap dusty mourning between their grey attires....

The man's cell phone suddenly rings.

"Yes honey I'm speaking."

"Yes I know."

"I've signed the papers and you can sign them too. They are in our bedroom drawers.”

“I understand.”

“I’ll hang up now….take care….see you someday soon…bye…"

The man’s long drawn face suddenly turns ashen. He clings closer to his black over-coat, taking refuge in its warmth. Joey comes near him, a notebook in hand.

“What would you like to have sir?”

The man looks up and stares at Joey’s plump face for what seems like an eternity. Barely audible, he replies as if words had died somewhere in his throat:

“Nothing. I was just about to leave.”

He slowly gets up and walks to the door. As he passes by me, the fringe of his black coat gently brushes against my skin, and at what seemed, from a distance, tiny pearls trickling down, I saw tears glistening in his eyes. Outside thin drops of rain falls in the darkness. With a deep sigh I return back to my Ulysses. Yes reading, the only true source of oblivion.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Outside my window

        Here I am
        A worn out man staring outside a worn out window
        At dilapidated houses with dilapidated people.
        Above me the spider slowly weaves its nest
        And a mosquito sings its lonely strain
        Outside, the grimy cars come and go
        Dry, droning, despair
        A little afar off, a woman cries
        A little afar off, a child laughs
        Under the afternoon sun, the kids are playing with their hoopla-hoop
        And Tommy the dog barking at Gina the maid.

The Soldier

       The clouds, gunmetal-grey, gathered around
        Rain slowly, steadly falls,
        Like wax from candle,
        Into the dead man's mound.

        The trench muddy and turbulent
         He lay therein
         Heaving, breathing and panting
         Lost amidst the voices around
         And a dreary silence within

        Amidst those teary eyes
        Memories of his homeland rises
        The gentle caress of those yellow cornfields thrush
        Treading on the grass, green and lush
        Under the sky starry and blue to lie
         In her arms to die

         A cold, sullen wind drew
         A bullet piercing his heart through
         With eyes wide open
         Stared he at everything and nothing around
         Lay he in the dead man's mound.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Another Solitary Walk

              Today the weather station had predicted some quick and early downpour. But I walked out anyway. Outside the remnant rays of the sunlight was slowly fading away and night was gently approaching with her downcast eyes and twinkling anklets. I could feel the susurration of a cold breeze shimmering through the grief-stricken tree tops. Above me the gunmetal-grey clouds was slowly proliferating, expanding and encasing the sky. I walked on.
                                  Today, after what seemed like an age, I received her e-mail. Nothing new. Just the same enquiry about my condition. I could feel a strange silence permeating from her letter. Instead of the earlier warmth I could feel a strange coldness, of love gone awry and a sense of complete resignation. I turn away from the main street and land myself in a dark alley. Here the ground was soft and the air colder. I stopped here, taking refuge in the darkness, wanting nothing but just the desire to pass through life unnoticed. Over the past few months her mails had become irregular. I couldn’t help but think that soon all this would stop. I would move on with my life and she would slowly melt and mingle away in those million faces, becoming a nameless face herself, like a cube of sugar dissolving in water. The breeze had become colder and it had already started to drizzle. I began to feel an overwhelming sense of vacuum and emptiness, a sense of being present in the midst of the crowd and yet feeling lonely. Back at home I sit down with a pen and paper, trying to express this extreme melancholy and despondency in words. Probably, its true after all that writing is the only consolation.

The Sunshine Porch

                                From the small window in a still smaller cell, Aslam watched the bizarre landscape outside. The street was lined on both the sides with Chinar trees. But one end of the street was pitch black and Aslam could hear the lonely strain of cicadas and the hooting of owls. The sky above was star-less, there was only a red half-moon lingering aimlessly. A low moaning sound of an urchin wind could be heard, blowing against the ghostly tree -tops. The other end of the street was filled with a golden sunshine and the ground underneath was swathed with a colorful carpet of fallen leaves. A whole throng of doves loitered, twittered and sang. The whole scene was as if Beauty was running for cover to hide her from some evil eye. He just watched -- open eyed, feeling a strange mirth of comprehension overpowering him.

It was a very busy street. On one hand there was a small but packed restaurant from which emanated the fresh and oily odor of fried samosas. And on the other hand there was this garment shop which exhibited attires of different range, color and style. A little ahead one could see a book depot with Dickens and Wordsworth peeping from its glass palace. The whole street wasn’t narrow either. It was of considerable width, not as wide as Broadway though, but enough to allow a passer-by to walk freely. Evening time, the street was lit up with street-bulbs, and various shops with their different colored neons.
But that day was different. The street was busy as usual, and then a sudden explosion. A sudden jolt in the daily, domestic and humdrum lives of everyday people. The result – a hodgepodge of debris, blood, sweat, saliva, bile, severed limbs, charred bodies and charred dreams. People began to fly, just like birds. For a while it seemed as if it was the fulfillment of Man’s lifelong dream to soar the skies. Nothing could have been any different than this. Nothing.

              That was also the day when he lost himself.

Standing now in his cold cell where notions of space and time are forever absorbed by those ever enclosing walls, he waited patiently waited for that one Phenomenon to deliver him. He had always been a nomad, a vagabond walking listlessly on that long eternal road called life.
How long has it been since I came here.
Not long I guess. But wait, then why does it feel like I’m here since eons back?
I know nothing, nothing. These clammy cells are withering me. But then I’m the one who deserves this most of all.

At that particular moment he wanted to cry. But tears just wouldn’t come. He was afraid to close his eyes, lest those nightmares should torment him again. Nightmares in which he saw the faces of all those infidels who died That Day. Faces, expressionless faces, with wide open eyes, that just stared blindly at nothing at all.

His own face was smeared with blood, their blood, and what forensic experts later called cerebrospinal fluid, all fused, mingled, interlarded and amalgamated with his own bleeding soul.

Her name was Noor. Resting his head on her lap, he began to savor the scene. The day was crystal clear and the sun rays flooded his porch, glittering and lighting it up, like a hundred diyas lit together. He liked to call it the Sunshine Porch.
               “Do you know how much I love you, Aslam?” Noor suddenly asked.
               “How much?” Aslam asked.
                “More than you love yourself.” She answered with a heart warming smile.
                “Why do you love me so much?” Aslam asked with a placid countenance.
               “Don’t be ridiculous. Love is something spontaneous; you don’t need reason to love somebody.”
               “But there is always a reason to hate; so why can’t there be a reason to love?”
              “Because reason is a friend of fools and only fools hate. It takes courage to love somebody.”
Their eyes met and Noor, for a fraction of second, saw a shadow pass through Aslam’s eyes, disappearing as soon as it came.

The room was dark, very dark and a strange silence permeated from its walls. Aslam could hear the surging of the river above and blood pumping in his brain. Thump. Thump. Thump. Crates of different shapes and sizes, which were destined to play a vital role in the clash of civilizations, adorned the cold, stony floor. The room was filled with five men of different stature and built, but united by a white skull cap adorning their heads. Due to the darkness, Aslam could barely make out their visages.
             “Are all the arrangements complete?”
            “Yes everything has been done. There is hardly any room for failure”
           “Good. I expected this from you. Thank you for keeping my trust”
All the three men hugged and kissed each other with a holy kiss.
          “Brothers, today we are on our way to the path of Allah. May He help us in our endeavor”

Aslam sat patiently in his cold cell. The window was ajar and a chilly breeze came in and began lingering on his side.
After a short while I’ll be off. All this pain and suffering will end.
Perhaps the world will be a better place. I may not live to see it, but I can sense it. It might take a day but it can also take an eternity. Better days will come. Things will change. They certainly will.
He could hear footsteps approaching him.
They are here to deliver me.
The iron door slid open and a bunch of armed policemen entered.
            “We have got to go now, the time is up,” said the chief of the bunch.
            “Yes officer time is up,” Aslam answered.
As one of the guards approached him with a handcuff, Aslam stopped him.
           “Please sir don’t handcuff me. I won’t run away.”
The chief ordered the handcuffs to be out away. Outside the dawn was approaching. The sky was swathed in a blanket of orange light. Darkness began to disappear. Slowly.
Aslam kept walking, flanked by policemen on both the sides. He could register the Executioner ready with his Device. He kept walking. Soon he was standing on the podium. He closed his eyes. The image of his ten-year-old self running through the Sunshine Porch and collapsing in his mother’s arms began to linger around him.
Mother look how beautiful are the flowers I’ve brought for you.
            “Oh yes my darling these flowers are a dandy.”
           “I was in the fields a couple of hours before and its there that I found these beautifully colored flowers: Isn’t this world of ours a beautiful place?”
          “It is, son. It is. Everything seems beautiful if you have beauty in your soul”.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Dundee's Secret Confession

                                              On a sunny Sunday in August Dundee arrived in Kolkata from the U.S. His family members had already made necessary arrangements for his engagement to Lina Lahiri.  Everybody was happy.
                                             A few days after his arrival, Dundee was having a cup of tea with his friend Shyam, when suddenly Dundee made a confession. On hearing his confession, Shyam was absolutely flabbergasted.
                  “I don’t believe you did something like that”, Shyam exclaimed.
                 “I know buddy but I just couldn’t restrain myself”, Dundee replied.
                “I’m sorry”
                 “Sorry? How could you do something like that? How can you undo the thing you’ve done”.
                “There was no other way.”
               “But you broke the trust of your family members”.
               “Friend I know I cannot undo what I’ve done, but please for the sake of our friendship don’t let this go out of the room.”
             “But….” Shyam protested.
            “Please”, Dundee pleaded.
                                             After a little contemplation, and a little coaxing and cajoling from Dundee, Shyam promised not to disclose the contents of this conversation to anyone.
But at this point of conversation, Chinu Maasi was passing through the room. She caught bits and pieces of this conversation and from what she got she inferred that Dundee had led an immoral life in New Jersey and also thought that Dundee had already gotten married to an American Mem. Unable to restrain herself, she communicated her thoughts to her husband who in turn told Kishore Da, who in turn told Dundee’s parents – Rajesh and Priya. Rajesh and Priya feeling the strains of morality closing in on them, went and apologized to Lina’s parents. Lina in a fit of rage broke off the engagement and also feeling humiliated at the hands of Dundee gave him a tight slap on his left cheek. Poor Dundee, unable to comprehend anything, shifted to some remote corner, like a rat.
                                             The next day, Shyam came to pay Dundee a friendly visit. He was dumbfounded when he came to know how badly things have changed in less than a week.
           “Hey buddy”, Shyam said, “everything is gonna be alright.”
           “I hope so too, Shyam.”
           “But I don’t understand one thing, how did all this happen?”
           “I don’t know.”
    Shyam, true to his self, fell into a deep reverie for a moment. His brows tightened and he suddenly asked:
          “It doesn’t have anything to do about our conversation, does it?”
          “Do you think someone overheard our conversation that day?” Dundee asked.
          “Could be possible, seeing the way things have turned up.”
      Dundee, gently caressing his left cheek, slowly answered:
           “Boy, I had no idea that having a hamburger in New Jersey could cause such uproar.”