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.”