Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Myth called Closure

Seems like yesterday when you'd caught hold of my diary and wouldn't give it back before sneaking a peek. You'd opened the pages where I'd written this:

Be the home I return to for laughter 
When I turn around let me find you laughing too

Be there 

to share with me what I lovingly cook up
let your heart be a canvass for my colours
Let me paint my dreams

Be there
when I bring home a homeless little baby
Help me bring her up.

Be my church and my temple
Pardon me when I err

Be successful in what you do
so that I can take inspiration

Was that the day when you'd sealed the fate of our friendship?

I know the kind of jokes that would make you laugh, that you like to listen more than speak, that you stop for that clandestine cigarette not in front of the stall in front of your apartment but at the one a little further away (although the chances of your mother (who probably knows that you smoke) discovering you smoke are very remote). 

I know that you value your friendships. Once when we were walking with friends, I fell behind to tie my laces, to see if you would turn around and wait till I caught up. You did.
I know these these things about you (that will absolutely of no use to me soon)
Whom are you kidding? I know you like me, you always have.
You are at peace when I am around as if there is order suddenly in this chaotic world, as if everything is as it should be in our random lives. I know this about us.

This knowing you and being friends with you didn't happen in a day.

This note though is about today.

Unlike every other time, today I spared the pillion on your bike for your fiancee. Obviously dancing with you was out of the question at the club. Thus, while you were dancing with your fiancee I was left at the gracious company of her friends.
Occasionally I stole a glance to see if you were happy. I caught you looking at me wondering if I was feeling lost among new people. 

Your fiancee, I am sure, is a fine woman. One day, she'll know you more closely than I've known you.Can there be an end to how much there is to know about a person?

Occasionally in those stolen moments while deeply inhaling a smoke, you would perhaps think of me, of those long drives along pristine beaches, on silken roads.

Having let you go, I on the other hand would forever have the satisfaction of having known you once in my own way and having written about it.

Friday, January 9, 2015

On cartoons and anger management

The following is a list of human activities infinitely more cruel and harmful than drawing cartoons or being satirical. These however have nothing in common with what any self-stylized godman, priest or prophet or seer has ever prohibited. Not so surprisingly, these have also not been mentioned in any religious texts.

1) deforestation
2) dumping toxic chemical waste into natural water bodies
3) sweeping seabeds clean while killing million fishes and destroying aquatic ecosystems
4) hunting tigers, whales, dolphins for trade and fun
5) killing animals for food
6) circumscision - because the creator made you with foreskin and you obviously know better
7) killing fellow humans - because thats what you do when you are angry and you are always angry
8) evading taxes - because you owe nothing to the government and your country for your identity
9) hoarding wealth while millions starve
10) abducting and raping women and children
11) exploiting the less mightier through pornography and prostitution
12) creating wealth by trading drugs and weapons which are used to crush the innocent and meek
13) being remorseless about the above

For those who don't understand sarcasm and cynicism i'll put it more plainly:
If you find yourself burning with mad rage and uncontrollable anger use the above list to give direction and reason to your wrath. Perhaps the godmen you respect and revere may even be proud of you. And reserve some special houris in heaven in your name.

Friday, December 19, 2014

On love and remembrance

The only bit of reality that has ever made sense is that outside of this earth bursting with billions of humans, there is not a single entity who'll return your smile or say hi or share a drink with you.

And the wonder that's keeping the stars apart is how your smile lights up my day, making me forget the billion people, the stars and the universe.

There aint no sunshine when you're gone, as i remember that i can never forget that teaming millions spend their lives on roads, with wretched hunger in their stomachs, that thousands would repair their leaky rooftops and send their children to schools if only they had a little more money.

Kuch na tha yaad ba-jus kaar-e-mohabbat
Ye jo bigra hai tou kaam kayee yaad aaye

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The enigmatic paradox

One of the greatest secrets of the universe is even simpler than the h2g2's answer 42. It is this: the truth, that which sets you free is neither good nor evil, neither correct nor wrong.

Now if you have ever been baffled by the beauty in nature or disgusted with war and terrorism or just disillusioned in life, you would find your mind polarising, wanting to take sides. Because taking sides gives the mind the semblence of and the motivation for moving forward vis a vis the alternative of being stuck in hopelessness and despair.

But which side should one take? If the answer to this question is even slightly important to you, you are probably already on a quest for answers. You could meddle with philosophy (particularly impressive are the works of Socrates, Aristotle, Cicero and Plato) and metaphysics while losing yourself in the works of Kant, Schopenhauer, Ouspensky, Gurdjieff. In your search you could discover bizarre rituals of secret societies like the order of Illuminati, the Freemasons, the Yazidis, the Zoroastrians or marvel at magical koans and the mystical lives of sufis and yogis. Poetry by e.e. cummings and w.h. auden and songs by leonard cohen will give wings to your heart and make you cry.You would decide for yourself that pirsig's compassionate metaphysics of quality touches you somewhere where rand's superficial objectivist philosophy though powerful wouldn't even begin to skim.

Between hoarding and processing so much information you would stand up for friends, fall in love, be betrayed, understand fear and discover that your condition is not very different from the general human condition. And at some point, you will laugh at the pointlessness of it all and arrive at the truth i mentioned above.

Or you could spare yourself the hardwork and consider that the following is a paradox:
In the pursuit of an idealogy to live life according to, so as to have done justice to it thereby leading to the notion of freedom (consisting of peace and contentment and the absence of guilt) in the end - 'good' and all that it stands for is a better guide than 'evil'.

The above sentence and all ideologies, concepts and religions derived from it are extremely deceptive. This idea has for centuries in different contexts enmeshed mankind in battles in which humanity has always lost. In its enigmatic best, this notion has the potential to throw the thinker far away from any understanding of freedom. Truth thus has always remained elusive.

For our amusement let us in simple and elegant ways try to show what is wrong with the above idea:
The first thing that breaks it down completely is that the measure used to compare the two is what is being compared in the first place. The whole problem is analogous to answering that a mango is more mango like than an orange on being asked which of the two should be preferred.
Secondly, there is also an element of bias because before even beginning to compare the two we have already formed judgements (depending on our natures) as to which side is worthy of emerging victorious. 

The reverse - 'evil' and all that it stands for is a better torchbearer than 'good' is by similar reasoning, a paradox. Races, cultures and civilizations have perished trying to defend, uphold and preserve, the good, the pure, the clean, the white, the more, the true.

The problem with swearing by any ideology however legitimate it sounds like in the beginning is that it makes you fearful of losing whatever thing of value it helped you to hoard in the first place - wealth, power, grandeur, luxury, supremacy, superiority, a sence of entitlement, etc. Once you have things that you are fearful of losing you try two things : to make others see value in the things you hold dear, or you set out to destroy everything that threatens you. Thus while fighting for and standing up for your 'good' you become that which you set out to destroy in the first place.

Pause for a bit. Think if you help your brethen in their diffcult times as easily as you pick up a weapon to defend them. Congratulate yourself on being a part of a race that has used its intelligence to spot the differences between the opposing values and put the worldly miscellaneous in correct baskets (albeit in their heads).

However it is my hope that we soon realise the danger of believing that either one is more correct, more beautiful, more right, more legitimate, more worthy of preserving than the other. 

Now and right now is the time to transcend.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Ashim had always believed that a divine intelligence existed and that the entire universe was proof of the manifestation of its will.
He called this super consciousness, God.
So, when the doctor announced that he and Shudipa could not have children, he was unperturbed.
If that was God’s will, how could he say otherwise?

They drove home in silence. On entering their apartment, Ashim noticed as he switched on the lights, that Shudipa walked straight to the kitchen. Normally she would wash her feet before doing anything. Strange, he thought.

Before he could realize, Shudipa opened the refrigerator and emptied an entire bottle of chilled water over her head. “Shudipa!” Ashim rushed to hold her in his arms.
“Of all people, why us, Ashim, why me?” she wailed.

Ashim forced her to look into his eyes.
“Listen to me. You have to believe me when I say this. It is not your fault.”
“Then why me? Ashim, tell me one good reason why me?”
He hugged her tightly while she whimpered into uncontrollable sobs.

“So why doesn’t everybody get what they want? Why is there so much misery all around?” Shudipa had asked Ashim one day, a few months into their marriage. His unflinching faith in the divinity intrigued her.
She lay with her head on Ashim’s stomach, while he read the newspaper on that lazy Sunday afternoon.
To someone near the ceiling fan they would look like a T.
Ashim had laughed at her innocent question.
He had gone on and explained an excerpt from the scriptures.
Shudipa’s bewildered eyes had betrayed disbelief.
“You won’t understand”, Ashim had mocked and pulled her into his arms.

Today Ashim didn’t have an answer to her question.
The sight of his beloved, young wife lying spent on the floor from crying pained him immensely.
For the first time in his life Ashim wanted to question the Benevolent One. Out of the million children being born in this world every day, why couldn’t he arrange one to play in her arms? Suddenly he felt tired as if he had returned from a battle, lost. He began to weep profusely for his wife.
That night they remained on the kitchen floor, she, with her head on his lap, and he gently stroking it.

Next morning Ashim woke up to find Shudipa sitting at the window sill and staring outside. She had a blank look in her eyes. Though surprised and seriously worried, Ashim decided to give Shudipa time to heal, naturally. Everybody had the right to be silent after all.
He cooked lunch while talking to Shudipa like he normally did, when he cooked. Only Shudipa didn’t respond.
After he was done, he fed spoonfuls of cereal to her, not even a hint of the previous night’s events crossing his words. He left for office after placing lunch, covered with upturned plates, on the dining table. I have to be normal, he repeated to himself. When he returned in the evening both the lunch and Shudipa had not changed their places.

Shudipa was too disturbed to speak for the next two days. She refused to eat or to sleep or to move out of the room that she had, they had, planned would be their baby’s. Grief made her look like her own ghost.

On the third day, Ashim could not bear it anymore. He clasped her hands and wept on her lap.
“Please become normal, Shudipa. I can’t see you this way.”
“Am I of no importance to you?” he reasoned adamantly, when Shudipa refused to look at him.
“Please Shudipa, Come back to me.”

Shudipa was seventeen and a decade younger than Ashim when he married her. She had completed her twelfth year in school.
“What a huge room!” she had remarked on entering their room for the first time.
“You like it?” Ashim had asked. She had instantly nodded her head while surveying the entire room with enlarged eyes.
“Will you sing a song for me?” Ashim had gently coaxed.
“The neighbors are sleeping” Shudipa had replied abashed.
He had played with her earrings while she sat huddled on their bed in that cold November night.
“Won’t you say something?” Ashim had tried to break the ice.
“I want to go to college”, she had given voice to her earnest wish. “So it shall be.”
Ashim had lovingly replied. The ice had soon melted.

Ages had passed since that day. Or so it seemed to Shudipa.
A tear silently rolled down her cheeks as Shudipa gently ran her hand through his hair.

“I am going to teach”, Shudipa announced at breakfast, one morning. Ashim looked up from the newspaper, at her sad face. He remembered the day when he had first set his eyes on her.

Ashim was visiting his aunt in the village, when a bhajan, tugged at his heartstrings. Never in his entire lifetime of twenty-seven years had he heard such a melodious voice, almost divine in nature. He had followed its strains and reached the riverside. And there he had first set his eyes on Shudipa.
She played with the running water as if aware that Krishna was playing with her too.
Her love for the dark lord flowed unrestrained as she sang with complete abandon unaware of everything else.
The river, trees and the birds seemed enchanted and the universe had come to a standstill. Ashim too was in a trance. The song ended, and there were tears in his eyes. He knew what he had to do next.

“Well, that is a great idea.” Ashim responded carefully. Shudipa had been touchy, off late.
“Have you applied anywhere?” he continued gently.
“Not yet. I am going to check if the pre-school in our neighborhood has any vacancies”.

Shudipa joined the pre-school within a few days. Ashim thought that their lives were coming back to normal finally. He was to know otherwise.

One evening, Ashim and she were having their tea.
“I can’t do this, Ashim”, Shudipa shivered between sobs, suddenly.
“It’s too painful….The mothers, they all come and drop their children and pick them up and hug them…” She simpered. “I can’t...just stand there and watch everything and not think…”

Ashim gathered her into her arms. “Shhhh... It’s alright” He should have seen this coming. He should have never allowed her to join the nursery.

Tears had all dried up in Shudipa’s eyes. All that remained was emptiness. Like drought.

Shudipa was fiddling with her mobile, one morning.
Menu. Click. Messages. Click. Create Message. Click. Sad Smiley. Happy Smiley. Sad Smiley.
A few button clicks was all it took. How ironic, she thought and laughed sarcastically at her fate.

The bell rang. It was Padma, their maid servant. Like Shudipa’s, her eyes too were red and swollen, perhaps from a night of crying. Her daughter, Kamala, stood expressionless beside her.

“Didi, Kamala will take my place from today.”
Kamala was fourteenish and Shudipa’s eyes put forward the looming question. Why?
“Her father home brought a new wife. We don’t have a place there anymore.”
She added slowly, “She gave him a son.”

Shudipa looked above and closed her eyes, trying to absorb what she heard, trying to stop the tears that were welling up in her eyes. They stood that way for an eternity, she leaning against the half opened door, Padma and her daughter standing outside, trying to understand the one common thing that they shared – grief.
“So be it”, sighed Shudipa after some time. She suddenly felt sad for the uniform, the bag and the books that would never be used from that day.

“So why doesn’t everybody get what they want?” Shudipa had once asked Ashim.
“Doesn’t your God want us to be happy?” Ashim had laughed at her question.
“The sorrows and joys that man faces are the fruits of his karma in several previous births. His reactions to these create more karma which will be dispensed off in his subsequent births” he had explained lovingly.

Somehow it just didn’t make sense. It never did.


“Ma, are we going to Chotka’s house when my summer holidays begin?” Tito asked his mother.
“We might. Let’s see”, replied his mother, while tying his shoelaces. Tito was seven years old.

Last night, Tito dreamt that he, his Chotka and Kamma were sitting on a giant wheel, holding on to each other tightly while his parents looked on from below. He wanted to know, if the was any possibility of his dream coming true.
Tito had practically grown on his Chotka’s shoulders. His first transformer, his first Phantom comic’s book, his first Citroen miniature model, were all gifts from his Chotka.
That morning Tito chose to sit beside one of the windows of the school bus instead of playing rock paper scissors with his friends. He remembered fondly, the lazy afternoons spent with his Chotka in telling and hearing stories of the valiant little prince ‘Khokon’, of the how he fought the dangerous dragons and saved the princess of the faraway kingdom of magic. No one except the both of them knew the secret – that prince ‘Khokon’ was actually Tito himself.
Everybody knew that his Chotka was Tito’s best friend. But not many were aware of the fact that Tito also loved his Kamma very much. When Tito was 3 years old, his beautiful Kamma came into their lives. Today as he looked at the world moving outside the bus window, Tito wished that he were sitting on her lap and his Chotka was on the seat beside.


“Dada, cha”, Kamala held a cup of tea in front of Ashim, one Sunday morning.
“Hmm”, Ashim took it, barely glancing above his newspaper.
“Is your mother unwell?” he asked, surprised a little to see Kamala in place of Padma and genuinely concerned.
“Kamala will work with us from now on”, replied Shudipa, from the dining table.
“Why, what’s the matter?” asked Ashim, continuing to read his paper.

“Her father threw them all out”, Shudipa almost spat out bitterly.
“Hmm”, replied Ashim waiting for Shudipa to explain, knowing that she would.
Instead Shudipa retorted in a quieter, colder tone, “When will you ever learn, Mr.Ghosh, damn it when?”
Ashim had had enough of this.
He slammed the newspaper on the table, strode towards Shudipa and shook her in a fit of fury.
“Do you even realize what you are saying?!” his voice shook when he said this. “I married you because I loved you. And not because I wanted a child-producing machine for my wife! You really disgust me sometimes Shudipa!” He stormed out of the living room.

“Stop being so good to me for once Ashim”, Shudipa drawled loudly behind him. “I can’t stand it anymore.”
Her eyes had the faraway look of somebody whom nothing could ever touch again, not love, not pain.


The phone rang on another day. Ashim picked it up.
“Boudi!” A smile spread across his lips for the first time in a long time. “How are you all?”

His Boudi responded pleasantly, “We are all well here. Tito remembers his Kamma a lot and wishes to spend his vacation with the both of you.”
Ashim felt his insides warming up with the long forgotten affection he had for his nephew.
“Ha-ha. Salute to Colonel Tito. Tell him that we would love to have him here!” He added sheepishly, “And his parents too!”

“We are just waiting for his school to close for vacations. Your Dada is tired of my cooking and raves about Shudipa’s cooking all the time. I don’t think I can keep them tied here for much long. Well, how is Shudipa?”

The question hit Ashim like a jolt. The familiar voice of a good friend that he had always seen in his Boudi urged him to vent out everything. He explained what had happened over the last couple of weeks and what Shudipa was going through. His Boudi, though irate initially that she didn’t was not taken into confidence earlier, eventually empathized with him.

“Don’t worry, Ashim. You’ve been strong for far too long. Just wait for a few more days. Let her just set her eyes on Tito. I am sure she’ll smile. We’ll find a way out of this together.”

Ashim replaced the receiver heaving a sigh of relief. He had almost forgotten that there was somebody to look after them, after all.

“Shudipa!” he harked out loud. “Tito and family are on the way.” Shudipa came running out of the kitchen. “When?!!!” she exclaimed smiling after eons. Soon it started to drizzle outside.


Shudipa remembered the day when she fell in love with Tito.

She sat beside Ashim on ornate chairs made of red velvet in front of a mesh made with Rajni Gandha flowers. It was their wedding reception.
Somebody had tapped on her knees. She had turned around to see a cute little face, wearing cute little brown glasses suspended by a red cord. The little boy had wordlessly climbed on to her lap.
 “O colonel Tito!” Ashim had exclaimed on seeing him and Tito had burst into a gleeful grin. Shudipa had hugged her cute little new nephew tightly. He had remained seated on her lap for a long time while she received gifts from relatives and guests. As if they had known each other always.
And then at some point, he had pulled her hand of the seat rest and had wrapped it around himself.

Nature has strange ways of making dreams come true, ways often beyond the comprehension of man. Ways which leave him bewildered in the end, sometimes.

Tito’s dream came true. In a way which neither he nor his Chotka had ever imagined. And which left Shudipa stunned.

When Ashim and Shudipa had set out for the site of the accident on that fateful day, they had prayed fervently that his Dada, Boudi and Tito were alive.  Alive, albeit bruised and shaken, they could make allowances for that, but not more. Ashim had hoped that his prayers would come true. He would die if they didn’t he thought. He had underestimated himself. Tito’s parents had died in the accident that had met their train.
They had managed to find his father’s ringing mobile phone in the carnage. It had survived unscathed and lay beside two crushed and battered corpses. They had found him sitting at a distance numb, but alive. Thankfully.

Shudipa had crushed the little boy to her bosom as she howled amidst the throngs of other people around. People, who like them, were distraught and pained by similar personal losses.
“Why on earth did you wish to see your Kamma?” She planted fervent kisses all over the little boy’s sad face, as if to ease all the pain way.
“Why?” she kept repeating between sobs.

But the memories hadn’t taken long to be forgotten. And the pain belonged to the past soon. What remained was love, bequeathed and then begotten, forgotten a long time ago and then reminded of suddenly.
Thankfully it was only love.