Saturday, July 29, 2006 

Separate Lives

One life (ordained at birth)
given short shrift; generic.
Like a million others on earth.

One life (by work ordained)
Different only from the old one
In the details by which constrained.

One life (fonts on screens, yours, mine)
Validated by Sitemeter, comments, readers.
With rants, raves, (often a whine).
Unconstrained, hence favoured with an extra line.

Sunday, July 23, 2006 


He stopped at the entrance, an unpretentious brownstone. They had to be discreet, he thought, what with attacks on the TimeTravel clinics bringing back memories of the attacks on the cloning research institutes of yore. A drunk lounged at the entrance. He dropped a coin into his tin, and the drunk’s words followed him:

“Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know
Through the world we safely go”

Loser, he thought. Went in, registered at the reception. Signed forms that stated he had read reams of small print. Listened as the flight stewardess went through the motions. “ You shall arrive at the time you were prescribed”, she droned. “Please remember that you shall arrive with no knowledge of the future. Your first knowledge of this trip will be when you have the opportunity to choose it again. This is mandated by the present laws. Have a pleasant life as you redraw it and do visit us again”. She smiled and he savagely thought “Not if I can help it, idiot”. He had taken a lot of care in choosing the precise point of time he wanted to go back to. Old enough for maturity and young enough to have a lot of potential mistakes ahead of him. Some of the choices were still not so clear to him, of course. But others? Oh, the others. The friend who went out of touch. The criminal hesitation in telling her. The utterly needless outburst that wrote off his career. Oh, there were a lot of things he’d redo totally.

He felt the snap of the restraints as they clamped him into the chair. The descending darkness, and then oblivion.

He stopped at the entrance, an unpretentious brownstone. They had to be discreet, he thought, what with attacks on the TimeTravel clinics bringing back memories of the attacks on the cloning research institutes of yore. A drunk lounged at the entrance. He dropped a coin into his tin… and déjà vu struck him. Had he really repeated every single step? The drunk cackled “Here’s a free one for you, pal”:

“With Earth's first Clay They did the Last Man knead,
And thereof the Last Harvest sow'd the Seed:
And the first Morning of Creation wrote
What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read.”

Mechanically, he dropped a coin into the box and tried to grasp what he’d just heard. Even as he turned away and began slowly to retrace his steps, the drunk’s words arrested him:-

“Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.”

And suddenly, he was smiling, then laughing aloud as he walked away.

Sunday, July 16, 2006 


The man wiped his forehead and looked at the mountain in the distance. The heat was sapping. He was secretly surprised at his own lack of internal conflict. Did it in some way reflect upon his own humanity ?

The man wiped his forehead, and saw the milling crowds, the evening rush. The heat was sapping. He was secretly surprised at his own lack of internal conflict. Did it in some way reflect upon his own humanity? Then the anticipation of atavistic satiety of bloodlust came upon him, and he joined in.

He looked at his son, the promised one. At the embodiment of hopes and dreams; some the child’s, some his mothers, some his own. And knew that one sweep of his arm would bring it all to an end. And found that predominantly, his emotion was one of righteous pride, that he had been tested and not found wanting.

He looked at the children rushing, the crowd both uncaring and roughly pushing them into the safety of the jammed interior from the footboard. The first class compartment had its share of the fresh-faced junior executives, trying to retain a composed demeanour amongst the rush trying to ensure their shirts were not creased too much. And found that predominantly, his emotion was one of righteous pride, that he had been tested and not found wanting.

The waiting was over. He lifted his hand, and in a fell swoop, scythed through the air, ready for that spurt of blood from the throat that would paint him in shades of the Believer forever … when an angel’s hand stopped him.

The waiting was over. He had placed the bag in the first class compartment, and his watch told him the synchronised moment was at hand. He lifted his hand, and taking out a mobile, punched the numbers of the mobile that was in the bag, that had been modified to act as a remote detonator.

Then and now.

Which is why I say to these people, get yourself a reality check. Every religion asks for sacrifice. You can argue all you want about the Knight of Infinite Resignation being a precursor to the Knight of Faith : in reality, there is no angel to ensure a happy ending.

And while at it, spare us your jingoistic “kill all the bastards” tirades. If your sole solace lies in drumming up “us versus them” patriotic fervour, you have lost already. For “ Kill all the bastards” is what the other side is advocating anyway.

Repeat, slowly after me : There is *no* big picture. There is *no* fucking Man/Woman/Thing Up Above, *no* fucking idea that is worth one bloody corpse consisting of assorted body parts wrapped in a tarpaulin in a municipal morgue.

That includes all of *our* ideas as well as *theirs*.

Monday, July 10, 2006 


Of course there are moments of blinding clarity. When you see, with great precision, exactly what is happening. But they are few, and thankfully, despite their grasping, it is easy to let them go. Not throw them out, of course. For there is nothing forceful about the process.

You just have to relax, face the fact that the large eyes in the pinched face are yours, that the collection of unrinsed bottles coupled with a single glass means that you have been drinking alone, again.

Saturday, July 08, 2006 

This Man Won't Watch The World Cup

The cousins had been chattering through the night, following coverage of the previous day’s incidents on TV. His English wasn’t quite as good yet, but he got the gist. It was Friday, and he was a bit late in waking up. He rushed through his showering and dressing. No time to shave, could do that later. He had to go and install that fire detector. He wondered if he should call Avi, and decided that it would be better if he called en route. At least he could say he was on his way. He hoped yesterday’s incidents would not delay him.

He was reasonably at home in this country. Since he was a kid, he had been determined that he would climb his way out of the slums. Not by football, as so many of his mates dreamed. He used to love the game, like them, but he knew that not everybody would be a Ronaldo to rise from the slums through football. He ground his way through a diploma, and landed up here following cousins with similar dreams. He sent money back home. He knew the parents needed it, though he sometimes was angry as what he saw as their grasping. They knew little of his life; how he was technically an illegal immigrant, how he had to scrape and save. He went to Church regularly. An occasional blowout at a pub was all he allowed himself, and even the football he restricted to watching on TV. Three years, he told himself. Three years, and he would have enough to go back on a holiday, with some money. And who knew ? If he could, he would buy that ranch and settle there.

He caught the bus at Tulse Hill, and got down at Brixton. The station was closed, damn. Probably yesterday’s result. He hopped onto the bus again, and got down at Stockwell. He stopped momentarily to pick up a free newspaper, and heard the train. Running easily, he used his Oyster Card to pass through the turnstile, and boarded the train. He sat down, and began to open the sports page. He had to practice his English.

The man at the left suddenly was yelling, and holding his arms. Oh my god, it’s a white gang, he thought. Even as he attempted to rise, he was thrown on the floor, and he tried to twist. His face was being ground into the floor. He heard a shout : Police. Polizei, he thought. Safe. But what if they asked his papers ? And ohh FUCK, Avi was going to howl him out for being late on the job.

The first bullet shocked him. He felt the blinding pain and the wetness in his shoulder. In the split second before the remaining six started their journey into his head, it flashed in his head, “But I thought I BELONG here".


Material from here, here and here.

Saturday, July 01, 2006 

The Fight Club

The scene unfolds, as it has done several times before, in disjointed, disconnected pieces. The fluster of checking tickets, of checking that the train is on time, of howling at the driver who has elected to push off for a cuppa at this time: it is almost welcome. There have been the usual spats over the last weeks. As a family, we are rarely shy of pronouncing our judgements, usually disapproving, over each other’s lives. But the fights have lacked the passion of old; the fighting and the making up compressed into too short a timeframe. Thank god for the kids, says the youngest in a moment of candour. They fight much more freely, and make up much more easily, than us. The spouses stand a tad apart, not used in their families to anything apart from conventional handshakes and some tears during goodbyes.

So we fill in the awkward moments with terse comments. Eat your pickle with curd, I tell the eldest. Better still, forgo it. And I tell the second to smile more in photographs. It helps hide the double chin. The eldest gives me quite a painful knock on the head: her habit of reacting with visceral violence towards any discomfort hasn’t left her in all these years. The second says stupididiotretard without either a pause or rancour. The youngest, as usual, looks defocused and vague. Mail me those songs, she says. And do you have a book for the journey ? I like salt and pepper, by the way. But you are losing hair faster than you are greying. Maybe you should try henna.

We each have lives that are so far removed from each other that we do not even peripherally impinge on the others’ consciousness. Sometimes, it is easy to tell oneself that it is only the mother and the grandmother who actually retain those bonds. For the rest, objectively, we are a disparate lot who happened to spend a childhood together. It is easy, and one tells oneself, it is true. Except for moments like these, when suddenly the second sniffles and we all look askance at this aberration.

The straying driver is back, and we are all loaded up and ready to roll. A last round of handshakes amongst the spouses, and we are off. The youngest comes hesitantly forward, and we hug. For just that moment, she holds on instead of letting go, and I do not disengage either. Go, orders the eldest with some roughness, and reaches out for her with a protective, if heavy, hand.

Thank God it is getting over, mother says loudly to one of the menfolk. Look at their ages, and they still fight with each other everyday. I look at them, and like a camera shutter in slow motion, the driver rolls up the tinted glass with a whir. The image blurs, and then disappears as he drives on.