Michael

“Carefully, painstakingly carefully place your left foot ahead, planting it with certainty on the uneven floor before you lift your right foot, creeping forward into a darkness which is total. A darkness not just of sight but of sound, smell, touch and taste. Where you don’t exist but at the same time you exist the most, because you are pure. A plight that most of us cannot even imagine. Yet I implore you to attempt it, for then we shall cry together upon perceiving ourselves for what we truly are. Therein lies an answer that though by no means solves your conundrum in its entirety but shall provide you that glimpse of hope you seek, that we all crave in the darkness that you blanket yourself in.

Now restore the painting to how it was the day you first walked in here. I want you to think about what changed. Unchange it.”

Time passed.

Berta soaked up her situation. The sage had taken her to a cave instead of the usual hut that she would find him at. The smell of bats engulfed her, the rhythmic dripping of water from the roof onto the floor hammered on her ears, the absolute darkness blinded her. She felt like her mouth wouldn’t open as she ground her teeth with a clenched jaw. She couldn’t just stay still, like she had for the last one hour, or was it a day? She had to do something. She couldn’t hear the sages voice anymore, which meant that she was all alone in the cave. She felt angry at herself for being in this pickle. She imagined that the sage and his disciples had by now made off with everything they could find in her room and without a doubt she would be seeing neither those ‘fuckers’ nor anything else she had collected as possessions. Strangely, the thought of not seeing those men again comforted her. Her mother had always warned her about this. Don’t let those smooth talking men bed you, she would say. You are too easy to manipulate Berta, you mustn’t trust people so easily, she added. And wasn’t she right?

She sat cross legged on the wet, slippery floor of the cave and started thinking how she felt stranded in a foreign country, taken for a ride by a spiritual guru, in bed with a smooth talker.

irate, annoyed, cross, vexed, irritated, exasperated, indignant, aggrieved, irked, piqued, displeased, provoked, galled, resentful, unintelligent, ignorant, dense, brainless, mindless, foolish, dull-witted, dull, slow-witted, witless, slow, dunce-like, simple-minded, empty-headed, vacuous, vapid, half-witted, idiotic, moronic, imbecilic, imbecile, obtuse, doltish

There is an eerie comfort in being truly alone, something that soothes and calms your inner turmoil, normalizing the aberrant emotions, thoughts and actions to create an almost perfect calm. That is how Berta found herself after what felt to her like a lifetime had passed. Blindness engulfed her. Restore the painting. She could faintly see the painting as she remembered it.

When she first laid her eyes upon the painting, the size of a wall calendar perhaps, she didn’t think much of it. She couldn’t even tell whether the ink on it had been laid by the persevering hands of a poor craftsman or by big machines that in unison create art by the thousands. It was an old woman carrying a earthen pot on her head. Over time she noticed the details, the wrinkles on the back of her hand, the visible nerves that began near her fingers and showed along her upper arm, the small toe ring she wore on her right toe, the deep green colour of her sari, tiny droplets of water leaking from the earthen pot and mixing with sweat, nestling in the frowns upon her forehead and her eyebrows. Yet there lingered a faint smile on her deeply cracked lips, like she knew she was being immortalized in paint. The next day she noticed the small mole on the woman’s neck. Later she saw that one of her fingernails was painted a dark shade of red. A week later she could feel the heat that burned the woman’s brow, smell the earthy smell – like the smell of imminent rain on dry clay, hear the faint breeze blow across the dusty terrain. She could feel her dry tongue and the movements it made inside her mouth gulping down saliva.

She began to go back in time as she sat in the cave, blind. She had, a long time ago, seen a collector taking layers off an old painting. He had multiple brushes and a a whole tray full of liquids with strong smells. He went about his business with patience and planning, almost unaware of anyone’s presence. She began to restore the painting in her minds eye. She removed the light brown stain where dust had settled on the frame. She got rid of little scratches near the edge where it lay against the wall. Layer by layer, she undressed the painting, moving back in time, one day at a time, determined to not stop until she had unchanged it. There might still be a lesson in this, she postulated. She spent countless hours repeating, refining her work, the bridge of the nose, the small hair on her chin, the uneven surface of the earthen pot, she adjusted the smell of the rain, the tongue became dryer and the lips brighter. It was all coming together for her, she was restoring the painting which had been muddied and adulterated by time, exactly what the sage had asked her to do. She lost track of time.

She stood up and in hypnosis, made her way outside the cave into the bright sunlight, past the giant banyan tree whose roots hid the entrance to the cave, skipped across the rice fields which due to the heat looked barren. She unlatched the door and stared at the painting that lay rested against the wall, in her own room, mocking her. Her knees gave in and in a fit of disgust and pity for herself, she went down on her knees and cried. He stood by her side and cried with her because that’s what he had promised her in the cave.

That night she made another diary entry

My time in the cave has taught me something, just like the sage had said it would. I perceived more than I ever have, yet at the same time I was blind to all my senses. I, saw, as myself; yet the painting, restored back in time by my inner eye, was but a ghost of the original. During the process, unknowingly I added one hair or forgot a few wrinkles or made the eyes browner, all in the likening of someone. The ears resembled my great grandmother’s when she lay on her death bed. The smell, a combination of the sage’s and my sister’s. I had personalized it, added elements that did not belong, feelings that were stolen from my past. Nothing, I realised, is pure. Why then shall I seek for a purity that cannot be perceived, other than by God? And who is to say what God does or doesnt perceive?

Everything touches everything else and that is the basis of creation. She was going to name the protagonist of her novella ‘Micheal’.

 

The awakening

“What is happening now and why it is relevant to you

I have a strange relationship with words. Every once in a while I am drawn to them by how they fit together, creating sentences with rich meaning, which balm over the aches of a million suffering souls. I gloss over the essays written by eminent writers, thinkers, and it is spellbinding to see how timeless their thoughts and how seemingly they allude frequently to each one of us, collectively yet individually. I was Raskolnikov, in Crime and Punishment, when he struggled to hold within him the deepest darkest secret; that he was a killer. I was also Christopher,in The Curious Incident of the dog in the Nighttime, when he needed to find out who killed the neighbour’s dog, because a mystery had to be solved. I was the dead miniaturist in My Name is Red, who believed he was at a turning point in history and embraced the individualism of the West, only to die less than halfway through the writer’s tale. Yet, what beckons me to these wordly reconnaissances – that’s how I perceive these books, is not what I have been and felt but more and more what I have not felt. When I was at the Baggins’ party, I was not walking back home from work where I had just spent 12 hours on a project and received no recognition. As the pigs surrounded the farm and my comrades spoke of how it was impossible to distinguish between pig and man, I wasn’t stressing about the presentation I had to make the next day.
Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.
Which is why, after courting them, teasing them, cheating on them, ignoring them, I always, without fail, lie in bed with them when life gets overwhelming. I have a weird relationship with words. “

She paused. She lifted her pen from the white paper on which was had been scribbling her thoughts. It had been almost a year now since she moved to India and started working on her novella, her breakthrough piece. Her peers thought it unimaginably naive of her to move to India in the way she did. Sometimes, in her dreams, she still found herself re-living the day when she informed her colleagues about her plan.

” Isn’t that the stupidest idea I have ever heard? “, Sheila had said. Who on earth ever heard something like that. Are you turning Buddhist or something? Do you think you are Socrates? Just name them whatever, who cares? Don’t they say what’s in a name? Isn’t it what Socrates said?

He hadn’t.

But wasn’t a name something very personal, I had countered. How then, can a writer who spends hours and months on building character, adding and deleting the smallest of details, living the emotions of who he births, make the mistake of muddying the waters, so to speak, by allowing such an act of adultery. How could she then name him ‘John’.
JOHN! ADAM! MICHAEL!
The baker, her colleague, that football player who had scored an amazing goal last year in a derby match. The names were all taken. She had left a small note for her publisher, a cowardly step but a necessary one. She dared not explain to him in person why she was going away.

My novella is meant for the western world, the world that lies east of the Afghan mountains, north of the Mediterranean. If I am going to name my character something, which unfortunately I must, I will not give him a name you have heard of. A name that will adulterate the character I have painstakingly created. Every reader will, unknowingly, personalise the character with traces from their own acquaintances, from their own Michaels, Johns and Adams. That is not my wish.

She paused. She lifted her pen from the white paper on which was had been scribbling her thoughts. This is how we find her now, albeit with a bit more context. We find Berta, in India, far far away from when we had met her in Greece. She had shed the braces, her improved set of teeth set evenly inside her small but expressive mouth. The fat that during her teenage years enveloped her evenly had now gather mostly around her bosom,inadvertently drawing glances from men and women alike. Her big bosom hung over her wrist and pressed down slightly on the pen as she almost hunched over the notebook. She had her hair tied up, mostly to avoid getting sweaty at the back of her neck but also because she liked the way it made her feel. There was something powerful about a woman with her hair tied up in a bun, almost erotically powerful to herself.
She carefully turned the pages of her notebook till she found a blank page and proceeded to stare at it as if looking for some inspiration. Then with a determined hand she expressly noted down the following words –

“alter, make different, become different, undergo a change, make alterations to, adjust, make adjustments to, adapt, turn, amend, improve, modify, convert, revise, recast, reform, reshape, refashion, redesign, restyle, revamp, rework, remake, remodel, remould, redo, reconstruct, reorganize, reorder, refine, reorient, re-orientate, vary, transform, transfigure, transmute, metamorphose, undergo a sea change, evolve; customize, tailor; tweak; permute”

Power surged through her spine whenever she could successfully write down a whole list of synonyms of a word she chose at random. It served as a reminder to herself that no matter how slowly she progressed,how harshly she judged herself, words were still her friends. An entity which she found was hard to come by, Friends. She glanced at the wall clock. It was almost time for her to proceed to her appointment with the sage. She covered herself extremely conservatively, ensuring that her legs were covered till the ankles and her hands till the wrists, draped a flimsy cloth across her chest and wound it round her neck to keep away prying eyes , grabbed a satchel made of jute into which she stuffed her notebook and stepped out into the sweltering heat.
At night she made a new entry into her notebook.

On Time and Memories

There is a lesson to be learnt in almost everything. All actions lead us towards an inevitable truth, pry us away from falsehood. Everything touches everything else and fosters change. These ideas are universally accepted, logic and reasoning have been built and societies constructed upon these very basic ideas. I am not going to question them anymore than the devotee questions the existence of God.
What then have I learnt today, I asked myself. Something strange did happen today, something that I was gearing up towards for some time now. Yet I do not have much to write about what transpired. The sage asked me to restore the painting. The painting in front of which I have meditated for the last few months, the details of which imprint in my brain. He asked me to restore it to how it was the first day I saw it. There is a lesson to be learnt in that he said. A valuable one at that, something that I would take back home, my spiritual gift from India to the West. 

Three months later, she was back in Europe headed towards the quiet town of Kampen where her boat stopped for a couple of days before it headed further west towards the Randstad. Clutched under her arm was a shiny new copy of her first publication.

Rough Road

The small teal coloured Beatle rolled down the hillock making its way towards The Park which nestled beautifully within an outgrowth of trees along the banks of the meandering river. The front plate of the car had been covered with brown mud marks that had dried from the wind caressing it for the last hundred miles or so and baked by the bright sun. Like it was trying to hide, suspicious of judgement, afraid of being recognized by the casual eye and a tad too shy. It barely made a sound as it came to a halt in front of a black metal gate. A small sign – white paint on a wooden plank, hand written, confirmed this to be The Park. The grounds of the hotel were surrounded by high, chrome coloured stone walls, which discouraged passer-bys from ‘getting a glimpse in’. A smell of strawberries wafted through the humid air accompanied with the sweet smell of bread and the sound of seagulls across the perfect blue sky, something that reminded the occupants of the car of their vacation in Greece, a long long time ago. Water dripped onto the mossy walls from the long leaves of a few trees that grew inside the hotel grounds on the east side. Some seagulls mingled with a group of red chested birds which were perched along the wall pecking at the moss growing on the tree trunks.

The river was lined with boats, sails, yatches of all sizes, shapes and colours – some of them turned into restaurants, some into cute little block shaped houses with small terraces, where the young folks sat and smoked cheap cigarettes, carelessly glancing at the boats that came downstream, passing many villages and towns, to finally rest in Kampen, . It was on this semi-festive Sunday that Michael and Jesse arrived at The Park, the only hotel in the town, in a teal coloured Beatle and were greeted by Jannie, the tall brown haired receptionist who welcomed them with all the warmth that the residents of Kampen reserved for their guests. The Beatle,parked on the stone pavement inside the hotel gates was relieved of the bags in its trunk by a hefty, tall, blonde boy who kept glancing towards the guests shyly, as if unsure of how to behave in front of ‘Heren Van Buiten’- the gentlemen from Outside. He barely spoke any English. In fact, he barely spoke.

They were holding hands. She didn’t approve of it at all. When she was twelve, she had come running home from school, crying – not because she had accidentally entered the men’s toilet and had been reprimanded at school, but because a more twisted version of the story was doing the rounds almost immediately and that did not sit well with Jannie. She was crying out of embarrassment, when her mom, between Jannie’s sobs, managed to find out what had occurred and naturally, Jannie was soon frequenting the church more often than before, nudged by her mom. Now, ten years later, she was as devout as they come.

” I will need you to fill out these forms please”, she said with a smile and a suspicious eye. ” It is just formality – will need your names and some identity”. She scrambled behind the desk to search for something, found what she was looking for and cleared her throat before she spoke to Michael. ” It says here that you have booked one room with a double bed, am I right? I just printed out the booking last night so that I wouldn’t have to search for it on the computer when you came in today. The internet here is pretty unreliable”, she explained as she held a white sheet of paper between her fingers, fidgeting with its corners. Michael nodded his head at Jannie, producing both their identities from his wallet. ” Yes”, he said, supporting his nod with words, “we booked the double bed room, and if I am not mistaken also the boat ride early tomorrow morning?”.

Of course.

She could see that they had added the ‘Sunrise boat tour’ to their booking. Most couples did that. There wasn’t much to do in Kampen otherwise.

” I thought it was a error”, she said without looking at either of them, fixating her eyes somewhere on her desk, still fidgeting with the piece of paper in her hand.

Sorry, what?

“I thought it was a mistake in the booking. In your names. I will have to ask someone to re-arrange the room a bit, I was expecting a … man and a woman…” .She said she was really sorry and it would take just a few minutes to ‘sort’ it out.
Would they mind taking a seat in the reception area for the time being?

Jesse looked at his wrist watch, it was almost noon. They had driven for hours, taking turns, stopping by beautiful villages, hearts fluttering at every glint of green grass and every speck of bright blue sky. “Lets walk up to the river and come back in fifteen”, he suggested. He wanted to stretch his legs a bit. They were still holding hands and walking towards the river when the church bell went off twelve times, each resounding chime reverberated throughout the town and like the opening of a dam, hundreds of people poured out of the church doors – whole families, young couples, old men and women. Like Jannie, most of the people in the town would kneel in front of God every Sunday, they would pray to Him, they would share their wine and bread. Jesse and Michael looked at the amazing spectacle that the river-side had now become. They watched as the church goers, dressed completely in white or black, mingled with the others like when you mix coffee with milk and serve it with a slice of rainbow. The town was an absolute delight.

When they got back to The Park, Jannie had some bad news. Apparently, the hotel had overbooked and the double bed rooms were not available. “Would you mind if I put you in two separate single bed rooms?”

They had gone to Greece almost ten years ago on a vacation paid for by their parents. It had been the two of them along with a few friends – that tall pretty girl from school, her brother, the chubby girl who wore braces throughout her teens, Berta she was called, and her pet chameleon. They weren’t partners yet but goofed around like teenagers did, carefree, enamoured of each other without a care in the world.

Now Jesse looked at Michael with disappointed eyes, a look that Michael read as a sign of defeat, a look he had seen many time before. They were lovers. They held hands, the kissed and they made love like everyone else.It was that simple.But this wasn’t the first and wasn’t going to be the last time a hotel was overbooked on double bed rooms at the last moment. Ibiza, Venice, Brighton, New Delhi, they could name a hundred places and each one had the same story. They opened their bags and rearranged some clothes and toiletries so that both of them didn’t have to ask the other for fresh clothes or towels or toothpaste. Once this was sorted, they took their own bags, went to their own rooms. That night they slept- tired from the driving, eager for the romantic Sunrise tour, in separate rooms, in separate beds, just like they had done a hundred times before.

A Rope and a Knife

Its not a haze, it’s a cloud. To the eye that observes and the mind that perceives, they are very different. The haze lifts and opens a door to another world, less gloomy, less dark and more likely of providing simple miracles. You wait for the sun to burn the haze and turn your world around like the rebirth of a beautiful phoenix. Your eyes eagerly await the sight of little children playing in the mud and your ears tickle with their peeling laughter. But while you wait, the haze draws tears from your eyes. It shall pass, she whispers into your ear. Her voice reminds you of why you are hanging from a noose right in the middle of the street on a dirty hot day. It reminds you of why you are not dead yet.

You and me are not different now, we are the same, we know the same.

It’s not a haze though, it’s a cloud. It’s a dark cloud that you wish would make you wet with big poisonous drops of rain. She is not holding your hand anymore. There must be a reason why you are alone in this downpour. Do you remember? You take out the wriggling goldfish from your pocket ,let it settle nicely into the cup of your palms and let the rain wash over it.

You and the goldfish are not different now, you are the same.

The sun never rises and its almost been a year. The rain has been incessantly beating down upon your brow while you see the little goldfish still wriggling in your palms. You know it will not die.  You whisper to it, “This too shall pass”, you say, as you slowly squeeze it between your palms. The rain stops as the world erupts into a riot of colour and laughter. Now you are hanging by the noose, right in the middle of a dirty street, but you are not dead.

“This too shall pass”, she says as she flies above your head holding your hand, lightly yet firmly. Its not a cloud though now, is it? There you can see the sun trying so hard to burst through the rows of flowers and the disgustingly beautiful rows of colors, glowing as bright as your eyes.

You ask yourself who are you and not a word in the universe can describe that.

Sail away

I alone in the darkness of the night, listening to Glenn Gould daftly play away at the piano as the soft notes of Bach’s Goldberg Variations fill the room and beckon me to a more romantic and musical carnation of life’s sweet memories. Not my memories but those of the conflated worlds of Bach and Gould. The music is interspersed with the barking of a solitary dog somewhere being the king of the night, alone like myself paying homage to the shade of black that hides even the vilest thought and dirtiest action. The dog and me alone, maybe we share the night or just the loneliness, yet alone we are encompassed in our thoughts. It is strange indeed that I must feel only the wind and see the stars when half the world stays up soaking in the sunlight. Time condemns me to this torturous ordeal twelve hours of the day when I see myself as an extinguished flame inside a dark room while a million candles burn away outside, their flames criss-crossing, none of them alone.

I do not know what it is about the music that makes me aware of myself and the noisome fragments of time that pass through my fingers, through my hand and through my body. Gould strikes a high chord and the music picks up, while the fingers waltz upon the keyboard increasing in tempo. There must be a flourish in life too, I think. This piece should be a part of my life, a life that seems like the slow moan of the violin deserves a harpsichord or its own concerto. A brief silence and Gould enters another slower softer world. I start making bird sounds in tune to the tiptoey music. I am going somewhere slowly holding my shoes in my hand aware of the footfalls when suddenly like a river of cold water the music hits me sideways and leaves me reeling in its wake. The dog too has gone silent. The night has set in completely waiting only for the sun to disturb this sickness of sleep.

If ever music could silence silence itself. Each note sunny yet stiflingly silent making me desperate to touch the note that follows. Each lift of the finger away from the keyboard a painful wait. It’s the piece where one must dwell to reason with oneself and whisper into ones own ear magical notes. I can almost see Bach, sitting alone in a room while the notes imprinted his morose thoughts onto the music sheet by themselves. What a wonderful feeling. Music as a carrier of thoughts, of feelings and moods. For the umpteenth time I feel the pull of the Baroque era and a need to listen to this music on as old an instrument as possible.

I am jobless, unsure of what I want to do, and feeling completely at the mercy of some unknown force. Yet when I do put on some Bach or Vivaldi, I know with a certainty that somehow they will untangle all the knots and like a loving parent send me on a boat to some beautiful island where the sand and the sun and the trees will look after me. A place we all call happiness.

A split in the night sky

I stink of nightly wisdom, slithering though a starless sky
It wanders and naked upon the horizon, lies invisible
Waits for a glimmer or for the smell of rain, and
in so many words as the breath allows, speaks feverishly
Of the inside and the outside, as distant from clarity
as the smoke rising from the burning woods, obscured
by big wet drops of teary fountains, sleepy eyes
and the tired limb shed two drops of shining red blood
That fades and evades the moonlight, burning my body
With spears of ice and bricks of light, nonetheless
it deafens my ears with a profound silence, ripped
apart by only the harried darts of the senile mind

Koel Son

Every morning Nina gave birth to three sons, and like everyday one of them was born slightly different.Like a brood parasite she would lay that one egg in her own nest, hatching them all only to find one of them belonged to her and not to her. The manipulation did not come to her attention until the squabbles began. The different chick liked worms in the morning when the rest of the hatched nestlings were busy sleeping with their eyes half closed and dreaming about growing up. And at night when they had their grub, he would cover himself with dry twigs and close his eyes upon this world.
“He is different”, the two would complain. They bit, snapped at him and maintained in their sweet chirpy voices, he is different.
The eldest of them would grow a beard after a few days, and often Nina found the two speaking in hushed tones about the koel son.He is different, the other son repeated. He is an idiot, the eldest said. When the younger one grew a beard, they had yet again changed their stance. He is an idiot, the younger one said. He is bad, the elder one interjected. The koel son never grew a beard and kept to himself, backing up against the wall of the nest with a mix of fear and doubt in his eyes. Nina punished herself everyday for his tergiverising attitude towards laying down the law of equality. She knew the koel son would die and she would have to mourn. It was after all, she reasoned, only a balancing act of nature.
The koel son grew up to become a smart intelligent boat whereas the two bobbed around in the lake like rubber dinghies, unsure her and now, unsure elsewhere later.The drowning caterpillars hung onto the boat for dear life and in but a few days, the boat was bringing to the shore, not one or two but a thousand caterpillars. When Nina saw what was happening, she sold the koel son off to the cat for a healthy sum of five thousand rupees. A thousand years later, on another day
as the koel son, used to being sold , used to saving the caterpillars came back home, Nina massaged his painful joints with oil and passed a cross over him. For some days she prayed to the lord. Have mercy on my son, she said, and tried to put the dinghies and the boat together. He is big and bad, the two parroted as was usual. Next morning when the koel son woke up, his brothers were gone. His mother had flown away to distant land with them and he sat alone in the nest waiting for them. Habitually he sold himself to the cat. But this time the cat was different, it was aloof yet nearer. He could see its eyes, narrow and a glint of malice, but cold and unseeing. He sold himself to the cat.

I told you so

What had happened was pretty unfortunate. Nobody could have suspected Rashid to show that violent streak, nobody. It must have been the heat, some
opined later. Others, having a more psychological bent, discussed away some hypothesis about both the aggresor’s and the victim’s mental states,
eating away at non facts with their razor sharp reasons till the results checked with their surmise. All in all, though the dead body did afford a minor
distraction, the lot was happy , jovial too , with their sharp detective skills on display. ” I told you so” seemed to be the catch phrase everywhere until
a person outside the group heard it and decided to bring the whole group around to his point of view, at the end of which a different person would now
pull up his sleeves, straighten his tie and say ” I told you so”. If not for their wives waiting at home, some with loving eyes, others with disapproval and
still others with that burning rage, this process could have gone on forever. And ofcourse also because now Rashid, who had been sitting on a corner, unspeaking
, stood up with some effort and spoke. ” See? I told you”, someone shouted from one of the groups nearest him.
“Is he dead”, asked Rashid, just with a little hope that maybe a hundred people had been mistaken in judging the extent of injury.
” I told you so”, the man next to Rashid spoke. ” I told you he was dead the moment you hit him on the head”.
Ah! What a victory, surely he and his woman would be out for a fancy dinner tonight?
“Yes, yes you did. But now, yes, I know you said it too”, he waved a hand at a man about to jump on the I told you so bandwagon, “now, you must tell me,
not the problem, which I think is pretty clear to everyone with their eyes open, but a solution”
“Ah! Yes! the solution!” the all echoed together, and started to split away into groups again.
“Wait, the lot of you! Wait! Do not group thus!”
“Sir, it was his fault, not your’s.”
” His life does not matter your’s does”
“You could leave the dead body in the dustbin”
The noise had reached fever pitch, what with all the questions, their answers, men trying to assuage Rashid’s guilt all speaking together with raised voices
to make sure their exceedingly important and brilliantly deduced answer was well heard and accepted.
“Rashid, Rashid!”
RASHID.
Oh! Everyone knew that voice! The mistress!
“Shut up you morons! Our mistress is here, make way make way!”
Rashid’s wife walked into the jam packed room and made towards him, on the way kicking at some rowdy men who tried to touch her skirt or even paw at her neatly
sewed top. These uncouth men, she thought, its a wonder the factory even produces anything at all. All bloody drunkards and boors of first rate.
” Here, Kim, here, make way for the lady make way for her!”, ordered Rashid to a man who seemed to be of quite some importance, somebody like a union leader.
” Did you kill the rat?”, asked Farida.
“Yes, darling, I did”, said a triumphant Rashid.
“Poor thing. Death to the rats. What a victory”, some one chided in from the crowd.
“What the hell are you people doing here then? Hundred men to kill one rat?”
“No, no Farida! I killed it myself, with my bare hands. These men, well, we men, were just discussing the morality of it”
” And the mental state in which you did it, and the mental state of the rat right before it died”
” And the emotional response of those who saw the death!”
” And its effect on the workforce of the factory, the output.”
“Not to mention, the effect it would have on the political setup of the country”
” And on our children”
“But your children arent even here!”
“Genetic trauma”
“GO BACK TO YOUR STATIONS!”, shouted a half mad Farida.
” I want no less than ten thousand of those skirts you make by tomorrow evening. Back to your sewing machines you bunch of morons!”
The hundred workers, with damped spirits, made for their stations. Some said it was a pity that women did not understand the important matters in the world.
“Frank, they do make it seem like a trifle less important, but believe me you, we men must not relent! Look at how she dismissed us all, like beggars! Who would
have thought our very own mistress! Our sweet darling, our very own!”. To which Frank replied,
” I told you she would! I told you so!”

The Gentian

The blue gentians lay at the head of the grave nestled in a heap of snow, their blueness a strange reminder of the contrast between the living and the dead,
of what lay beneath and what lay atop. “Beloved wife” , the tomstone whispered softly into the ears of anyone who cared to cast a glance. The old stone, spoke
into the earth, of the inevitability of death and yet, the young flowers, as soft as her lips, held onto hope. The dewy petals more fortunate, than her, to be able to touch the cold yet passionate wind, still more unfortunate for being at fate’s mercy and destined to a crumbling existence. Yet one couldnt miss the sadness in his eyes as he sat down at the bench, with warm reverence, unpacked his lunch box and took a bite off the cookie, the remaining part of which went straight back into the box, for another time, for another day. The sadness of the flowers, their death in the cold weather, accentuated the underlying grief, a tribute from the abundant nature to the poor man, a sign of empathy.

The first day of their marraige, John remembered, was a bright sunny Sunday. They had married outside the church, him and her alone, full of hope full of love.
And just before John, in his own voice had given himself permission to kiss the bride, she had brought out the cookie box.A half each to a life of sharing.
They had a cookie together the next day, and the next and the next. On good days, they could afford one each yet they still shared one and kept the other one
for later. When hard times came by, they sometimes had one cookie over the whole week. And then there were times when they spent days feeding off love alone.
That day they shared love, and the next day and the next until the cookies hardly came by. Yet they lived on, each with the other, for the other. But now she
was gone. It had been a year now, since last he had held her, and to him it felt like a lifetime. He had work again, he could again afford a cookie a day and
yet, she was gone. All he wanted was that half cookie, and a bunch of gentians now, for her grave, until the day he the gentian finally crumbled to join
her beside her grave.

She

She sat down by the window and looked at the raindrops bounce off the roof of the church and harmlessly trickle down the stone walls to form small puddles.The tiny larks that rhythmically puffed up their chests and dipped their beaks, sang of the providence of nature, as they drank from them. It was a perfect day, the sun, the rain even the specks of dust hanging in the air seemed exceedingly perfect. It all seemed like a painting to her,
the window a canvas where someone had painted an idea from the clearest part of the mind. The pen in her hand held loosely between her fingers, wanting to capture some divinity onto the blank piece of paper, but held back by lack of profound words. She breathed silently, carefully, lest her breath disturb the equilibrium that the artist had attained so meticulously. With her finger nail she wrote out an imaginary alphabet on the window glass and stared at it. It almost blended in with the sublimity, it almost added a texture of its own to nature’s fibre, yet she relented. She glossed over the imperfections
of her act and smiled to herself an imperfect smile. Hours passed by and she stared, unblinking, at the sky, at the wet streets and at the unseen yet felt mountains far away, till it was near dusk. She pulled down the blinds as the sun went down in the west and her shadows lengthened towards the east. She moved across the room in her wheelchair, towards the other window that opened out east. There she waited for the sun to come back up as she drew an imaginary alphabet on the window glass.

Light up the world

Leafless boughs adorned with white gold
Welcome do you , the princess of light?
The cold in your cracks and fold
Call out to her all through night
Her touch that blooms a million flowers
summons the drowning man ashore
Amid the wrath of a thousand showers
Pestilence away, on light foot we soar

Forth and forth and gently we glide
Little lives bud up the shoots
Father frost his time he bide
Till she weeds out his unsavoury roots
Here she comes oh she prances
Look how the snow she melts at touch
Stare at her little dainty dances
Upon the ripples she loves so much

What of the princess, she turns a queen
Her breath a breath for all to feel
The cold eyes commanded to wean
From soft eyes that upon her reel

And then when the earth has turned
Half of what deed he is burdened
She shall lay her chin on her breast
Night shall fall, and she shall rest

Pretences

“Hold that front boys, hold it!” cried the general rousing the tiring ranks back into action.
“Weapons! Iron will, boys! One last stand. Karl get the snipers ready, make way for the bio-warfare squad. Jesper, keep a lookout on their bunker, report
any movement. Remember, we take their general, their guard is down, their co-ordination takes a piss. Jehova, flank them from the north, take all the tanks you wish to take with you.
I need a proper battle there lads, lives on the line. Think of those angel wives of your waiting back home for their husbands to deliver for the country. Think of the
tales of bravery lads.”
“In line , keep the formation, we are a thousand they are half of that at best”

“Listen brothers. We are four hundred of us, they are a thousand. I see no chance on this goddamned earth. I dont see a result where we all walk out into the sun again with our bodies intact
and free.”

The army breathed the dust and fear was at its peak. The general wasnt really helping the mood. Or so they thought.

” Now Ababa, this is what I want your platoon to do…”

Jesper spoke. ” Sir they are crawling out of the woodwork. And…”
“And what Jesper, report”
“Sir, they are eating some kind of a fruit, and laughing. Sir they seem merry…”
“Pass me the binoculars”
The general put his eyes to the glass lens and focused on the enemy.Jesper was right. WHat on earth were they doing? He zoomed in to focus on their eyes…

” Boys, I want you to fall back a little. There seems to be some new developments we are unaware of, some new reinforcements maybe. Take a look at their eyes Jesper, one look?”

The army pulled back and stepped down operations for the time being. Do not fight an unknown enemy, they knew that.

Ababa and the general stood right in the open with another two hunndred of their soldiers eating apples and fooling around. Their eyes had no fear but only cunning.
The general cast a glance at the retreating army.

” I told you guys, pretences are everything”

Trapped

So facticity. My freedom within the confines of the cage I could not escape till this very moment. Which I cannot escape from unless a miracle came my
way. I can be what I want to be, ofcourse unless my facticity robs me of that dream. Simply put we are all free, in a cage.
But what is it that we as human beings , this package of mind and body, want most in life? I for once, want happiness.

I was born in the year nineteen eighty nine. Fact. And each moment that I managed to elude death, I remained in the clutches of a certain cagey freedom by my
facticity of existence. And with it had gone my dream of happiness. Managing again by some misfortune to reach the age of twenty four, my dreams grew
stronger but the facticity remained. It remained. Now I wish for happiness more than ever and more than ever I realise I had lost that comfort at the very
beginnings! And what of being miserable? The very fact that I have to be , forcefully, have to be miserable for the time I wish to spend on earth, compounds
the misery a million times.

So here I am. With something I have been told has to be cherished. And what ,one is bound to ask, is a reprieve? You know it and I know it, why then are we afraid
of it? Fearful of approaching it and uncomfortable when someone leaves the cage? Is it not THAT that is to be cherished? Is it not the other one of my facticities,
death that I must look forward to with excitement?

This is a balm

What happens to the general thinker? The one whose brain doesnt stop thinking, over-thinking and invariably garbled? Those who lend coherence to this randomness
and fashion their thoughts in a way that fits the framework of logical thinking, become the Sartres, the Socrates of the world. The others slide away into the
dark unwholesome state of the mind that we refer to as insanity.

Its a dark world this, to my eye. And within this darkness, even as simple a thing as a flower or a cat radiates brilliantly. The joy of rain, the coolness
in every drop that trickles down the body makes me laugh. A childish laugh. A good painting , a good poem makes me laugh. But what of the affectations? Every
human face mocks me, a sheet of plastic wrapped onto a mystic concoction of thoughts and ideas and emotions. Yet I run towards human beings when I am infact
all alone among a million. The temporary alleviation from conversations, from fake smiles and stupid laughs, encourage me. What if I could do this forever?
How wonderful would it be? And within two minutes these conversations turn into useless facades, filling up the space between two people with a solid wall,
unbreakable and transparent. Within five minutes you are wondering if it was even a good idea, and within ten you are unresponsive.

I am unresponsive. I am the one who initiates dialogues with people whom I couldnt care less about, but who nonetheless will provide me my daily balm to calm
the ache, the anguish.Do not think me selfish. I merely know no way to speak to multiple people at once, the twenty thirty people inside of me whispering to
me candidly, each a thinker in himself with ideas gulfs apart from the other.One believeing in the frivolity of my actions and a lack of cure and the other
seeking desperately for the cure that would put to rest the thinking piece of garbage once and for all.

I sing to myself, loudly, no doubt a very good pastime. I try not to mince my words and not to sing out of tune.And when I do all of these, I am at peace
with myself. When I make a sketch, the pencil strokes divert twenty nine of my minds and the One can finally think and act on it. And when the one thinks,
I must cry. I must look into the mirror and think of what will happen to my two eyes when I finally do conquer myself. Will they again puzzle me, show me
the colors but forget the stench? Will I again burst into a thirty pieces when a small speck of dust settles on the paper and my hands pause for a mere second?

The others are back and will not succumb. If I cannot help myself who can? Can love sedate the others and lend prominence to the One? Can hate do that?

So I look again in the mirror. Do not touch your teeth with the tip of your tongue, I say to myself. Look yourself in the eye, I dictate the eyes. What will
it yield I know not. There is some sense in all of this I say to myself.

Did you steal the banana?

And where did you think you were going? Into that wide place of power struggle thinking it to be a kids playground. You believe that your brutish
looks and a heavy hand would let you tear up the place, uproot the devilishness that springs from the very act of being and establish something
‘exciting’?
Have you been past the dogs yet? The dogs that cower in the bushes and the lions that merely growl at you with a statement of a challenge, however with
an incapability that they know must hinder them in looking you in the eye. You are the king of the jungle, or so you believe.
What of the monkey? Where do you place yourself in a society where you have brothers who tear at your hair and jump onto your backs, each time taking the
wind out of your sails so to speak?

A constant struggle of I am versus I believe I am versus I know I am not but would like to believe I am.
You seem scared now? What makes you reconsider that which not but a moment ago considered already?
Because the dogs will kill you right under the supervision of the monkeys monkeying around and will feed you to the eagles. They wander.
That is my funning hundredth post. I am done.

God loves those who hate themselves

My corrupt words, may God Bless you unto whom I speak,
Strangle myself. Clearly the poison is grave,
and cut my throat if you will, for the harm
I do to myself exceeds the splatter upon you

Quite rightly, justly, vehemently I should hate,
For what I should have been but turned wrong,
debased. Speak up you mirrors, lie to me
Can I behold my eye? The black expanse of
Everything that slithers and crawls, in and out,
Accursed, violates my skin, sickens the healthy?

Where light, is only a shade of black, and I
sufficiently soiled by a streak of pure,
unadulterated filth, wallow in the pits of
my own eyes, black as the blood of a sow,
and strive, not for fair light, but
for a stench, unbearably delightful
For what must I, curse me, desire more
than to abhor my judgement, base and uncongenial?

And twenty thousand snakes burst forth
their tongues, entangled in my own, and their
writhing bodies, poisoned immaculately, torched
by black fire. And my feet, curse them, firm
unmoving, standing? What nerve! Burn the body!
The smoke, the stench, all mine, the heat!
What remains, burns with a hellish glow,
screams with joy, despicably melting away
into a pool of grimy essence, and I laugh
And cry and cry more and more and more.