4 Aug 2010


Posted by Oblivion in Philosophy | 12:55pm

Even as he dropped all weapons and armour in the midst of the battlefield, Arjuna, the inimitable warrior, was fighting a battle with himself. Will he relish victory, exterminating the kin, he pondered.

Of what sweetness
Shall victory be
When I must slay
Those who I call mine

Of what merit
Shall peace be
Cold as death
A bitter fruit of war

Who will win? Who will lose? Who will die? Who will survive? What is right? What is not? What for, after all? Does the Lord, the Omniscient One, have the answers? Can He assure that nobody dies?

Lord Krishna's face radiated serenity and quiet. He turned to the dejected Arjuna and said with conviction, "Arjuna, I have no answers to your plight. Only this much is true - the war is the outer, the warrior is the inner. I cannot control the outer dimension. It's a battle; anything can happen. I can, however, control the inner dimension. I can assure you salvation, but cannot assure you of the next meal. Do what you can as best as you could; whatever happens, happens. That is all there is".

18 Jul 2010

Three Birds

Posted by Oblivion in Philosophy | 10:24pm

There are three kinds of birds.

The first bird is aggressive in flight and defending of its purpose. Aggression is its defence. It revels when you forget to fly, and clips your wings to accomplish its own flight. Ruthless in ambition, it's intolerant to deviations to its trajectory and its care is conditional. If you fail to comply, its eyes are red with fury. The rules are its, the game is its, and it takes you for granted. It is the master, you are the slave. It perseveres to impose its strength. Even when you fly along, it doesn't let you speak. Its delight is in reaching its destination.
The second bird is pliant but firm in resolve. Vulnerability is its strength. It grieves when
you forget to fly and strains its wings to fly even to the end of the world just to see you fly. Unconditional in care and patient with trajectory, its delight is in watching you fly. If you give up on flight, its eyes are red with tears. It cares for you above itself. There are no rules, it is no game, flight is life. It braves devastating gales and rains to stand up for you. It perseveres to remind you of your strength. Even when you can't see it, it's never far enough to not hear your voice. Its focus is flight, not destination.

The third bird is too occupied with its own flight that it doesn't care whether you fly or not, or where you fly to. Its greetings are cursory and its smile is shallow.

16 Jul 2010


Posted by Oblivion in El Eye Ef Ee | 2:47pm

The road was damp. It just stopped raining. The bird fluttered its wings and took to the skies. The leaves drooped with the weight of rain. The baby cried, aching for a reassuring hug from its mother. The flower dropped to the ground, to be crushed by the speeding wheels of the car. The young man behind the wheels jived to the music. The Sun tried in vain to peer through the dark clouds. It would rain again. It was a gentle breeze but it was strong enough to blow the weary leaf off the branch. It would fall. The rain would, too. The buds would bloom.

Sid looked, as he walked, at the clouds. It will rain. Some will dance. Some will die.

There's no knowing when life beats you. Vulnerability is the true measure of strength.

"Guess it comes down to a simple choice really. Get busy living, or get busy dying"
- Andy, Shawshank Redemption

22 May 2010


Posted by Oblivion in El Eye Ef Ee | 10:31pm


19 May 2010

Winter Date

Posted by Oblivion in Fiction | 4:01am

The dawn was promising, and the day at Cafe Delight began early. Sid, an amateur poet all through his life, now weary and old, stepped in and settled at a corner for a quick cup of tea. He was eager, unstoppable and uncontainably happy. It was so obvious and infectious that everyone looked at him and smiled almost as if lured to. Being a recluse, attention always made him uncomfortable. But he wouldn't mind all the attention that is being showered on him now. It is his day. It was as if he postponed living so that he could live it all on this day. 

Sid had been a regular visitor to the cafe for the past fifteen years. He would walk in quietly, find a corner, have tea, pen a few lines on the tissue, and walk out as quietly. He would talk only rarely, and in brief, at that. He was queer but affable. Stacey greeted him. Over the years, she became a good friend. She knew his regular choice and she was sure he would not try anything different now. Sid smiled and meant, "Ya, the same stuff". "You look so happy today?" Stacey was curious. Sid looked at her with a beaming smile, took a deep breath, and said, "she's coming today! Twenty years ago, she promised she will come this day. And here it is!" Stacey was quite happy for him. "Aha! Now I know!" she giggled. "I will get you a chocolate cake too", Stacey rushed to the counter.

"No no. You know I am off cakes".

"Shut up! It's for her. From me". Stacey looked back firmly at him. Sid smiled.

"I had been living just for this day", Sid reminded himself, almost holding back a tear.

Arvind was arranging roses on the tables.

It was tough to tell whether it was the occasional, chance chats with the young or his ramblings on the mangled tissues, but Sid became known among a few as an oldie with a thing for poetry. "Poetry is not to be read. It is to be felt", he tells the young when they ask him the trick. "Feel. Live. Poetry will come by itself. You will be impelled to write. There's no trick". A useless advice, but he is only an amateur poet anyways. 

As he looked around, he saw her everywhere. He could see none but her. That same face, but only more beautiful. A few gray strands of hair, those stunningly beautiful eyes and that loving smile. He felt she was coming in hundreds, to shower all the love that he had awaited all these years for. A few lines occurred.

for thee, my queen
and for this day
i have lived

hasten thy walk
come, o, delay not
a moment more

this longing heart
and weary soul
cannot wait

He felt more restless with every minute. He wanted to run and hold her in his arms to never let go again. But it's still a few hours away. He must wait.

Stacey left the tray on his table and went to get the cake.

Roses looked forlorn. They knew their fate. To serve as mere adornment through the day and at evening dumped and thrown away in garbage. Sometimes, their petals are torn by ruthless hands or they get trampled under unkind feet. "Nobody ever looks at us", the roses seemed to grieve.

Sid caressed the rose placed on his table. "No. I looked at you. Every day. For the past fifteen years. And this day I will not let you get wasted for the beastly circus of trade. I shall take you along with me, to be the messengers of my love, to be blessed by the loving touch of my beloved. You shall live for your rightful purpose", Sid spoke in a whispering tone. The roses glowed in joy and swelled with pride.

As he sipped tea, he again wrote a few lines on the tissue. Stacey noticed it, as she does every day. She brought the cake. Sid quickly crumpled the tissue and put it beside the flask in the tray. Stacey was all curious to know Sid's story, but he was, as ever, brief. She knew she cannot elicit any details from him even if she grilled him for ten years, so she took just what he had told.

When Arvind brought the check, he said to Stacey, "Here. A thousand bucks more. Pack for me all the roses in the cafe". Sid hardly ever asked anything, so Stacey couldn't turn him down when he did this one time. Besides, he was so happy that she just couldn't do anything to spoil it. She knew why he asked for roses. So she didn't ask him any questions. She smiled and told Arvind to have all the roses packed in the best of gift-wraps.

As Arvind cleared the table, Stacey swiftly and furtively grabbed the tissue and slipped it into her pocket.

Stacey dislikes it when Sid sounds formal, so he didn't thank her. He thanked Arvind, though. As Sid prepared to leave, Stacey hugged and extended her best wishes. "This got to be your best date, Sid", she said. Sid, at his happiest best, wished her as well and walked toward the door. Stacey, at her curious best, almost ran toward him and asked, "what if she doesn't come?"

Sid turned around, smiled, and said, "she will". His eyes didn't reflect even a trace of doubt. Stacey was quite happy for him. After a pause, Sid said, "to answer your question, though... these roses would then make for a beautiful wreath on my grave". And he said it as firmly.

Stacey made a dismissive gesture. "Shut up! Now, go. Run, boy!" She smiled.

Sid smiled, waved at her and walked out.

After he turned the lane, Stacey unfolded the crumpled tissue eagerly. She found a quote: "I'm not frightened. I'm not frightened of anything. Why should I be? I welcome obstacles, because they'll be like mountains I can fly over to be in your arms. The more I suffer, the more I'll love..."

13 May 2010

To Fullhyd Team

Posted by Oblivion in General | 1:56pm

This is about a topic on discussion forum, so I thought it fitting to post on blog instead of on e-mail. Just curious of the status of the campaign TV news channels killing Hyderabad's image for TRPs. The last comment was posted on March 23, and it's very likely no more comments would come. So, have these comments been sent to the chaps concerned at TV channels? What have the chaps replied (if at all they did!)?

It was an active topic that attracted impressive comments, so I'm curious, as a reader, to know where it stands this day. It'd be encouraging if any of those chaps really replied anything more than the usual politically correct PR bullshit.

The interest of groups dwindles faster and most campaigns don't accomplish anything. Just that the readers would know that at least the fullhyd team did their bit.

9 May 2010

Shining Goddess

Posted by Oblivion in Philosophy | 2:05pm

Having just passed out of college, he had a few plans for the choice of his career. He needed a book and dropped by to check if I have. When he opened the bookshelf, he was almost amused at finding an exclusive space for philosophy. An exchange of a few questions and answers later, the invariable suggestion came up - "...but philosophy is for the old!"

I have heard this, from young and old alike, so many times that I feel almost apologetic to the subject. It's perhaps the fixation with livelihood that is imposed on the young that has rendered such image for philosophy. Slog, succeed, achieve, plunder, earn a livelihood first; understanding of life can wait! This prevalent view is, to my mind, utterly insane and nonsensical. It's akin to a lover seeking to understand the beloved, whom he has lived with for decades, when she is on the death-bed, when he himself has no life left to feel that zeal in its total flowering. It's like doing just for the sake of it. It's absolutely ugly.

If one loves someone, understanding should come at the beginning. If one loves life, one must understand it at the beginning and not pretend to do it at the end. Philosophy, the love of truth (nothing to do with the cliched term that we use, as opposed to falsehood and in connection with lying), should come first. It is meant for the young.

There were some great souls who fell madly in love with life, gave their entire lifetime to understand it and shared their insights, and we are lucky enough to read them. Notwithstanding this fact, philosophy has nothing to do with books. Philosophy is not cynical contemplation or a research topic. It's about the spirit of inquiry. And understanding is not a momentary task. It's a perpetual exercise. So it's ridiculous and vulgar to put it for the last few days of life. For it's not something that one can accomplish by reading ten books and finish with it. It takes a lifetime. For, truth is not something static that one can find and hold or that can be shown by another. Neither is it a concept, an idea or an ism that can be construed in one reading. It has nothing to do with ethics. If you are reading to find some divine secret or add to your knowledge or as a gesture of tokenism for life, you got it wrong. It should be the other way round - you love truth, you would die to find it, and so you read. Reading is secondary and insignificant.

Russell's quote fits perfectly: "Truth is a shining goddess, always veiled, always distant, never wholly approachable, but worthy of all the devotion of which the human spirit is capable".

Another question usually accompanies - "what's the use of philosophy? Does it land me a lucrative job?" My take is - if one really loves, such question never comes up. And the one who asks such a question has already moved away from discovering anything, for he has already reduced it to utility. When one loves, one just loves. It is thought that plays with questions; love doesn't. It never occurred to Mozart what his compositions would get him. He just composed. He loved music. He died in abject penury. Thanks to such souls we can still talk of passion in the real sense of that word. When Siddhartha wanted to find truth, he just walked out. Without a plan, without a care.

When you love someone, you would listen to her, sit beside her, and seek to understand her with all your being. You would be sensitive to her emotions, receptive to her every word and gesture. Every moment. Till you die. If one hasn't loved life like this, how else has he loved?

Philosophy has nothing to do with books or scriptures. It is to be in love. Love for truth. As long as one is alive.

Love. And let truth unfold itself.

Truth is truth, one, alone; it has no sides, no paths
- JK

10 Apr 2010

Graffitee - 2

Posted by Oblivion in General | 4:26pm

Among the many captions that make me observe the changing trends in freedom of personal expression, the following two (spotted last week) stand out.

Caption 1
Front: "I am 9. Will you be 6?"
Back: none

Caption 2
Front: "fcuk"
Back: "me"

As regards their right to choose what to wear and what captions to flash, nobody need question. They can go naked if they prefer. None of my business. 

If they think it is a simple exercise of freedom and believe in it so firmly, they should be, to my mind, mature enough to grant the same to the rest as well. And it implies not making a fuss when a few brats pass lewd comments. If they think it's a sign of being bold, why not, then, ask it straight of their guys? Why flash it among crowds? Besides attracting avoidable reactions, it proves futile. If they think it's an ostentatious sign of empowerment (a term in vogue, of late), it's an insult to their own intelligence. 

When you step in the wild, you don't say "it's my Earth, my home, so I can walk in any which way at any time", although nobody need, technically, question your choice. If you choose to, though, you must have it in you to be a potential prey, however little the probability is, for a tiger.

Freedom is a responsibility by itself, not a license to dump all responsibilities.

9 Apr 2010

The Mirror of Time. In Future

Posted by Oblivion in Poetry | 12:02pm

stiff and young
the pillars
huge and august
rising into the sky
adorned the corridor
and, as i walked,
light and swift,
smiled along

dance in my step
song in my heart
i walked past
the pillars
as beside walked
she, my world,
in hues stunning
black, red and white

dancing tresses, dark
music in laughter
whispers sweet
and joy of heavens
in her eyes, beautiful
hand, tender and loving,
in mine, seeking,
hasty and blithe

dance in my step
song in my heart
did i walk
past the pillars
that, with years,
aged, as i did,
into stones
weary and stoic

at the dusk of life, now
jaded and sullen
as i walk past
the pillars grim
i walk alone, musing
of memories unparted
precious as love
and of dreams undone

i walk past
the pillars sombre
and a life done
walking ahead in space
but i wish to
walk back, once,
back in time!
oh! if only!

languid and old
the pillars
dull and defaced
sinking into the floor
saddle the corridor
and wring my heart
with echoes, unfading,
of times, dear and distant

7 Apr 2010

GPOs. Why Not?

Posted by Oblivion in General | 10:37pm

A company hires a chap, puts him on probation, and assesses his performance at the end of the term. If it is happy with his performance, his services are confirmed. Else, he is fired. If he is offered confirmation, it appraises his performance every year. It holds the right to fire him whenever he fails to make a certain cut. Appraisal decides his incentives and career path.

We elect goons (politicians, I meant) to run the country. We pay for their fake telephone bills, conveyance bills, luxury accommodation and food, and redundant security. When their convoys pass by, we subject ourselves to mindless trouble, risking deadlines, including those even of interviews and hospital appointments. Once we finish with voting, we are as good as non-existent. We issue them a license to plunder the country for five years. Or even more. Responsiveness is mild and accountability is zero. 

We need change. It's high time. Why should the goons be exempt from probation and appraisal processes?

I have been hearing about gairbi hatao and other similar campaigns all my life. All the hype and fuss about economic growth notwithstanding, poverty continues to be the most pressing problem. In all these years (we are talking about decades here), poverty has been cut by barely a few percentage points! Some achievement, that! We are an incredibly complacent nation. And complacency is not a virtue when we talk about nations. It's a shame.

Sixty years of experiment has proved to be a massive fiasco. If anything, it has benefited only the rich and the powerful. The number of Indian billionaires has gone up in the global list. But that's that. The country is being run by goons and the future is hopeless. Things must change. This very day.

1.The goons must be put on probation. Their performance must be assessed on the basis of our feedback. If they fail, they must be grilled on live television and fired. These chaps should be barred from contesting again. If they do good, they must be appropriately commended on live television and offered confirmation of service. 
2.After confirmation, their performance must be appraised every year. If they fail at any point of time in their term, they must be fired. If they do good or
excel, they should be offered appropriate incentives.
3.When they go to office, they must go as one among us. Follow the signals, do away with those booming red lights, and stop if the traffic jams. They already
have bullet-proof vehicles, so there's no reason to expect royal privileges on road. Positions in political office come with a risk, so they must take it. If they are shit scared, they must step off the chair and give it to more deserving chaps.
4.Every job has its respective functions and responsibilities. Their job isn't, technically, any more important than our jobs are. They are not going to stop
some war. They are just going to work, so they must go as quietly as we do. 
5.Theirs are public service profiles, and we are sponsoring them. So they must submit annual expense reports to us. If they go on a foreign visit, they
should submit a report of the findings. They better not just talk about transparency and bullshit; they better implement it.
6.Government must outsource a few of its processes. Every constituency should have a PO office. They should collect our feedback regularly, analyse it and
report it to the respective representative. The same report should be shared with us and the respective party chief. It should also be copied to the CM and PM.
7.Increase citizen participation; resolve their problems promptly.
8.They better behave decently and argue maturely at the workplace. They are standing for the brand of the country and they better protect it. Besides, we are
paying for the infrastructure. Behave as responsible adults and not as mindfucked lunatics.
9.The GPOs (Government Process Outsourcing) must be run by private organisations, please.
10.Let not the government kid that running a GPO is not a joke. Running a BPO is not a joke, either. There are exceptionally smart people out there who can run GPOs. If the goons excel at screwing the country, there are brilliant people out there who are as good at building the country.
11.A GPO for every constituency implies generating huge employment and improving the relations between goons and citizens. Much needed.

If it means a total departure from the extant practices and processes, so be it. If it means challenging the "sanctity" of constitution, so be it. Country is important, not some conventions marketed by a colonial regime.

This may not be the best solution. It may have flaws too. Nonetheless, if a few brilliant chaps come together I'm sure they will come up with better solutions.

It's high time indeed.

6 Apr 2010

The Great Indian Laughter Challenge

Posted by Oblivion in General | 12:05am

If we rank governments as regards compassion, ours should rank first. So that the citizens never get bored, it cracks jokes with amazing frequency. Laughing is good for health, so making people laugh is the best healthcare and compassionate gesture. The latest one came in the form of women's bill. Only, the joke is on women! And on us, the citizens, at large! As it always is, truth be told!

A historical move, they said on the idiot box. A few women anchors seek opinions and reactions from a few pretty young girls at some academic institution. "Women rock!" is the unanimous verdict. They giggle a lot, yell a lot, and think little. And the TV channel passes it as if they are the jury and they have just announced the judgment. It's quite likely that none of these would make it to mainstream politics in their lifetime. Besides, it's quite likely they may settle in a foreign country. And I can bet my money that most of them haven't spent even two minutes to think what the bill is all about. Look at it from whichever way, they are an inappropriate sample (for this issue) to represent the generation. It's the opinions of these that the news channel airs as the "voice of India's young women"! It's tough to decide whom to laugh at - the government? the media? the audience (you and me)?

When there has never been, in the first place, any restriction for women to participate in politics, what's the rationale to press for quota for them? Politics is serious business, and it's ridiculous to seek participation by invitation. That effects a new form of discrimination, doesn't it? - that against men. You may be the best man for the job, but the seat is meant for a woman! Are women incapable of getting elected without a law to push them along? It confounds me that women are thrilled at this move, when the message actually is - they are not as good as men and need the help of law to get political power!    

We had Indira Gandhi at the helm for many years. We have Sonia Gandhi, Pratibha Patil, and a bunch of women parliamentarians and legislators. So when the process doesn't have a bias against women, why this need for quota? Besides, the law is flawed for it assumes that if there are more women in parliament they will fight for women's rights more strongly! Assuming that the law is indeed meant to benefit women, which "women" are they exactly referring to? If the government is so very clear as to which women it wants to help and what kind of benefits it wants to provide to them, what is stopping it from doing it right away? If they really care for their upliftment and believe that this can be achieved only by having more women in parliament, why not mandate parties to nominate 30% women as their representatives? What stopped Sonia Gandhi to mandate her party to allocate 30% tickets to women? Why doesn't she push Priyanka into politics? Why Rahul Gandhi? Instead of mandating the parties, why mandate citizens to elect a certain percentage of women? She obviously didn't want to risk the ire of the male party representatives.

And whom do they want to uplift? The spouses and relations of the goons (read politicians) that we have now? After all, it will be them who will contest and win. And loot the country. The downtrodden, the oppressed, the poor women will never be given a chance. So, whom will it exactly benefit? There are, even now, many women who are working for the upliftment of the disadvantaged. But they will never be allowed to enter mainstream politics. If the government really cares, as it would have me believe, why doesn't it invite them right away and provide them with the requisite funds and infrastructure? What has government done to, say, Sunitha Krishnan who has been working for the exploited and marginalised women? Instead, a few of her colleagues have been eliminated! And she continues to receive threats.

The reference group for politicians is always an abstract one. They always talk about change happening "somewhere there". And the gullible buy it too. Change is always in reference to "the others". They always talk in terms of "we will help them". Nobody ever questions who exactly them are. 

Doesn't the government know where the poor live? Doesn't it know where prostitutes live? What stopped the government to rehabilitate, educate and employ the thousands of exploited women in, for example, a Sonagachi or a Kamatipura? What stops the government from doing so? Does it need more women parliamentarians to research, analyse and do a thesis in order to take action? Bullshit. The government makes a huge revenue from these spots and slums alike, so it will never touch them. Instead, it would want them to thrive. So the poor and the exploited would remain as they are. Affirmative action is just a political point-making in this country. Nothing more. 

If it really cares, why not improve the quality of education for women? Why not penalise parents who don't send their girl child to school? Why not execute those who commit female feoticide and infanticide? Why not encourage more women to become social entrepreneurs? Why not persuade women to think more independently? What is really required is a change in the culture of how men and women relate to each other. The problem is with attitudes and values. You cannot change these by passing laws. It's akin to a large company that razes hundreds of acres of forest for its survival and does a few CSR exercises to flaunt that it cares for the world! It works good for the feminist organisations as well. They need some situation or the other, else the funds will stop. And if there's no situation, they must create one. Nobody gives a damn to the poor, the exploited, and the disadvantaged. The few who do are pushed into the background.

India is a telling proof as to why democracy doesn't work for a large, diverse population. As a scholar noticed, "India's grotesque personality cult built around the Nehru-Gandhi family continues to make its people the laughingstocks of the world. Let's face it, the primitivist politics belying India's democratic facade shows the country's true face. The bill is a farce. It personifies the Congress government's impotent rule. If the government really wanted more Women participation there must have been a reservation for the weaker sections of the society. Now, bigger classes and upper castes will have the last laugh. The one time electable 1/3rd women will plunder the country in 5 years and waltz away overseas".

Arun Shourie sums up perfectly the current state of the country: "Now, mediocrity has become the norm. Intimidation has become argument, and assault has become proof. Because I can assault you therefore I am right".

They talked about liberalisation as if it was the panacea. It has been twenty years. Trade has certainly changed for the better. The rich have become richer, the successful have become more arrogant, and the powerful have become more ruthless. What else has changed? Of course a few crumbs were thrown at the poor, for that helps the PR chaps to project that the campaign has been immensely successful.  

A fitting quote: "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy".

The joke is on women. The joke is on us. I wonder when we will wake up!

31 Mar 2010

A Drop of Rain

Posted by Oblivion in Poetry | 4:43pm

Splash it does
On the window
As you stare
Frozen and blank

It slides, fleets
And dissolves
As time and life
Fritter away

Splash it does
On the window
As you stare
And blink not

At times gentle
Balmy and candid
As the smile
Of a baby

At times violent
Devoid of mercy
As the fire
Of wrath

At times quiet
Stealthy as whisper
Armed with calm
Of the woods

At times dreary
Cold as death
And dark as
Depth of gloom

Falling from heavens
Where your dreams fly
On to this Earth
Where you belong

Splash it does
On sand and rocks
On flowers and grass
On glass and faces

Splash it does
On the window
As you stare
Frozen and blank

With dabs tender
Reveries it stirs
It spares the glass
But breaks your heart

And it slides, fleets
And dissolves
As time and life
Fritter away

9 Mar 2010

The Homecoming

Posted by Oblivion in Fiction | 9:58pm

December 11 '08, 6.47pm
The clock showed 6.47pm. It made noise with the tick of every second, but nobody heard. It has become a part of the din of the day. The evening faded and the layer of dust on its top thickened.

Aslam entered the room with haste. He closed the door behind and moved toward the bed. His steps were loud. Sarah lay on the corner of the bed. She heard the approaching steps and cried, "please do not". The protest was lame. It was a pleading. She was thoroughly languished and had barely any energy. Her back was bare and bruised. She couldn't feel her legs anymore. Tears filled the eyes that reflected emptiness and blood trickled from the corner of her mouth.

"Please do not", she pleaded again. She knew it was futile to plead. In the last 90 minutes, six men ignored her words. She resisted, even violently, the first two. She hit the third and he punched and kicked her. When the fourth walked in, she began to accept her fate. Hope faded; energy gave in; will broke. Six men. From behind. 90 minutes.

Aslam looked at her thighs. When he moved closer, he noticed the blood on the pillow. He couldn't see her face clearly. He stopped and observed for a few seconds. "Please", Sarah said, tears running down her cheeks and soaking the pillow. Her voice was barely audible. "Scream!", Aslam said in an audible whisper. Sarah was too much in shock to comprehend. "Scream!" Aslam raised his voice. Sarah heard him now, but she failed to construe his suggestion. Even as she strived to understand, Aslam explained, "Look! If you don't scream, they will feel something is odd. You must scream. I won't fuck you. Don't worry. But you must scream".

Sarah thanked his gesture with a glance. She could do whatever at that moment, if only it saved her from another round of rape. Another round of fucking. But, has it ended? What if there's an eighth who is waiting for his turn? What if there are more? What is she? What is left of her? Sarah started screaming. Aslam sat on a chair and watched her scream. A kind fucker watching a helpless woman, raped and sapped of her life. For the moment, though, he was the saviour. Fifteen minutes went by when he stood up and walked out.

Sarah looked into the mirror. She sought to find herself. She couldn't. Tears, blood and void - that's all she could see. At the foot of the mirror, she noticed the burnt remains of her passport. Two hours before, she was a woman with dreams, wishes and hopes. In two hours, she saw her life slip by. Forcefully taken, caged and mauled. An erased identity, shattered dreams, quivering frame, pulsating heart and lifeless soul are all that remained.

Aslam walked toward Varadan who was engrossed in watching television. Aslam fastened his belt, tucked in his shirt and pretended to adjust his hair. Varadan looked at him, gulped a sip of beer and winked. "Awesome, wasn't she?" he asked. "The best bomb, boss!" Aslam smiled. Both of them shared a good laugh.   

December 11 '08, 4.00pm
The car was speeding and Sarah's hair was swaying with the breeze. "I'm so excited", she said, looking at Asghar, her spouse for three years, who was driving. "After a year when we will have saved much money, we will come back and take mom along with us. She will be so happy", she shared her plans with glee. "A small house, and she will have her own room". She tapped on Asghar's shoulder. "And, you know, we will...", she continued when Asghar's phone rang. "Varadan", the name read. Asghar answered promptly. "Yeah yeah!" A pause. "Soon", he kept it brief. Sarah was lost in her world of dreams. She looked at the sky and noticed the solitary bird flying at leisure. She imagined herself cruising through the skies, comfortably seated in aircraft. "Can't wait to get into the flight... just a few hours away!" she enjoyed a brief monologue.

Sarah turned to Asghar. She put her arms around his neck and asked lovingly, "You will come soon, right? I will miss you, love!"

"I will join you in three weeks, sweetheart", Asghar assured.

"Listen! Do they serve wine in flight? I will try two", she said. Asghar smiled and said, "I am tired. How about stopping by at a friend's?"

Sarah continued, "I won't get tipsy, don't worry!"

A moment later, she nodded, "Yeah, sure dear! We can. You can take me wherever you want. So long as you drop me at the airport next morning on time! I'm all yours, honey!". She gave a quick peck. Asghar looked at her. "We will have a ball", he teased. "Airport will just be 30 minutes away. I will drop you on time. Worry not", he assured.

Sarah looked at Asghar fondly.

December 11 '08, 4.25pm
Satya opened the door. Asghar smiled and walked in. Asghar took Sarah's purse and asked her to come in, too. A gentlemanly gesture. Sarah followed him. Satya smiled and stared at her. It had the suggestion of being lewd, and it inconvenienced Sarah. They walked in to a spacious hall. Varadan was playing a game of cards with Irfan and Mitra. As they exchanged greetings with Asghar, Sarah noticed three mugs of beer and a few butts of cigarette on the table. At the corner on Irfan's side, there was a briefcase. On its top, she noticed a pistol. She moved closer to Asghar. As Irfan and Mitra looked at her admiringly, Varadan grinned and said, "Welcome home!"

"Thank you!" Sarah said, with a hesitant smile. It was a formal, ingenuine response. But it seemed like nobody cared.

Irfan took the pistol and pushed it into his pocket. Irfan was swift. Sarah observed the gesture with extreme alertness. None of the others did.

Suddenly she felt a hand slithering across her waist. She shuddered instinctively, held Asghar's hand tight and looked back. "Sorry! Some insect", Satya said. Sarah looked at him but didn't say a word. His was a sly smile, and Sarah noticed it. She moved further close to Asghar and whispered, "You want us to stay here?" She actually meant, "I don't feel good at this place. Let's go!" Asghar looked at her and assured, "Relax! Nice people".

"Killed it", Satya told Sarah as he crossed her to stand beside Irfan. Satya sported a wide grin. It repulsed Sarah.

Sarah overheard a few men shouting and clapping in the room behind Irfan. It felt they were enjoying a cricket match. She was unsure of their number, but she was sure they would be at least three.

Satya pulled the briefcase up and looked at Varadan. They communicated with glances; a code they had agreed upon, practised and perfected through years. Sarah could not comprehend anything. Her impulse was to just run away. She wished Asghar would change his mind about staying there for the night.

"Here, dude!" Satya handed over the briefcase to Asghar. Asghar gave Sarah's purse, in exchange.

Sarah's heart skipped a beat. The code wasn't private to the group. Asghar also, she realised, knew the code. "Asghar!" she meant to tell him to not give the purse.

"Passport?" Mitra asked.

"Yeah. Everything in", Asghar replied. "Thank you", he told Varadan. It was clear to Sarah that something was amiss. Asghar let his hand off Sarah's grip and made a move. Sarah was nonplussed. Mitra pulled open the zips of the purse and held it upside down.

"Excuse me! What the hell are you doing?" Sarah asked Mitra. Asghar walked toward the door. Mitra pretended he hadn't heard. Varadan looked intently at Sarah. Irfan and Satya laughed. Sarah made a frantic move. "Asghar! Where are you going? What's going on?" she shouted. Asghar ignored and walked ahead. Sarah ran towards Asghar and held him by the collar and pulled. Everyone enjoyed a good laugh. "Chill, babe!" Irfan said loud. "This is your home", he laughed.

Mitra emptied the contents of the purse on the table. He found the passport and gave it to Varadan. 

Asghar turned back. "Where are you going??" Sarah yelled. A muscular fellow, he pulled Sarah's hand off his shirt and pushed her with force. He heard her no more. He won't answer. Sarah almost fell down, but Satya held her from behind. He had his hands press against her breasts. It was deliberate. "Easy, sweetie", he said. Sarah was irate. She tried to loosen his grip. "You bastard! You can't do this to me. Don't go", she shouted at Asghar who was opening the door. "You can't do this to me!" Tears rushed down her cheeks as she still wrestled with Satya and yelled at Asghar who closed the door and walked out. Without a word. Without a trace of remorse.

"I loved you!" Sarah cried. "I loved you!"

She tried helplessly to remove Satya's hands. She attempted to run toward the door. She wanted to run away. However hard she tried, she was too powerless for Satya. He lifted her and took back to Varadan. "Let me go, you asshole!" she dug her nails against Satya's hands. He laughed and ignored. Varadan held her passport up and licked her photograph.

"Fucken assholes! What do you want?" Sarah yelled.

Mitra picked his glass and threw the beer on her. Her eyes were fuming with anger and the chilled drink hit hard against her face. "You", Mitra said with a smile. A pack of wolves ready to pounce and gorge on the prey. Sarah was the prey. The hunt was complete.

"How do they feel?" Irfan asked Satya.

"Let me go!" Sarah pleaded.

December 11 '08, 5.17pm
The room was dimly lit. Satya finally let Sarah off. "All yours, boss!" he told Varadan. He quickly walked out and bolted the door. Varadan walked close to Sarah and sprayed perfume on her. He threw the bottle on the bed and moved closer to hold her. She moved back. "Dare not touch me, you fucker!" she warned.

Varadan smiled. "You are in, honey! There's no going out from here".

Sarah rushed to the door. She tried to open, but it would not. She banged the door. "Open", she shouted. "Open the door, filthy bastards". Varadan approached her with ease. He was absolutely sure of the opponent's moves. He was in total control of the game. He ran his fingers through her hair. She quickly turned around and pushed Varadan fiercely. "Don't!" she reminded. Varadan was unmoved. He moved closer as Sarah avoided him. He clasped her hands. She tried in vain to avoid him. He tried to kiss her lips. She quickly turned away her face. He bit and licked her cheek. Possessed by rage, Sarah kicked him in the abdomen. Even for a rugged, strong man that Varadan was, it was painful.

It took him a few seconds to collect himself. He punched Sarah on her face. She fell to the floor. "Remember the equation, doll. I am the Man", he said.

"Shameless bastard! One must be a disgusting worm to hit a woman. And you call yourself a man! You are just a male. Not a man. You can never be".

Varadan moved towards the mirror and picked the lighter up. He pulled out Sarah's passport, air ticket and other documents from his shirt pocket. With an arrogant smile at Sarah, he held them against the flame.

Sarah hurriedly crawled toward him to stop. "Son of a bitch!" The documents were on fire. She held his legs and tried getting up. He slapped her hard again. She fell down. At his feet. The burned remnants of her documents slowly fell beside her. She held his foot and bit his leg with all her strength. Varadan grabbed her hair, pulled her up and threw her on the bed beside. Sarah fell down on her face. Varadan threw down the burning documents. He admired her body for a moment and stripped her skirt. She tried turning around and kicking the fellow. He held her hands tight from behind and pressed her against the bed. She couldn't turn. He stripped her undergarment. Sarah lay naked from below the waist.

"I will show you who the man is, you intelligent cunt". He unbuttoned his trousers.

Outside the room, Irfan, Mitra and Satya were playing dice. To decide whose turn it would next be. "There! Me next", Irfan revelled.

"She's a tough nut", Satya said.

"My foot! It takes just a few weeks even for the toughest to crack", Mitra joined. "Third week on, one starts adjusting. Six weeks, she begins liking it", he shared his insights. "Six months down, this same tough nut will be a professional whore, liking it every bit. Wanna bet?" They laughed. Sarah's life; their joke.

December 12 '08, 2.12pm
"Hello?" said the voice from the other side of the phone.

Sarah restrained breaking down. "Hello?" she heard the voice again. A pause later, Sarah greeted, "Hello, mom!"

"How are you, darling?"

"Fine, mom. Reached an hour ago. How are you?"

"Found the place? Did Asghar's friend come and receive you?

"Yes. Mom..."

"God bless Asghar! I always knew he is right for you. Else, I was worried how you will go".

"Yeah. Asghar was a great...", Sarah's voice choked. "...a great help".

"Is it very cold there, Saru? Wear sweater. And did you take the medicine last evening? I hope you didn't puke on flight!"

"Ya. Took the medicine, mom".

"Is this the new number?"

"Yes. Ah... no. No, this isn't. This is a kiosk. Will tell you the number later".

"Oh, you haven't reached the place yet?"

"No. I did. Mom,... I will give the number later".

"Tell me the address, Saru. Let me write it down. Wait, I will get the pen".

"Mom. Wait! I will... I will write you a letter. I don't know the street number and zip yet. I will write you and let you know".

"Okay. Write soon. And take good care of yourself, child. I always think of you".

Sarah was in tears. "Yes, mom... you do, too. ...and..."

Irfan cut the line and took the pistol away from her forehead. As he put it in his pocket, he said, "Good job. One call a month. One letter. Some bucks. Don't worry, the old girl will be fine".

As he walked away, he turned and said, "You wanted to go to the U.S for fast bucks only, after all. You will make more here". 

January 09 '09, 10.53am
"I don't want to fucken eat!" Sarah yelled at Mitra who brought her the breakfast.

"All right. One call from the boss and they will fucken pump ten fucken bullets into the fucken brains of your fucken old woman. How about that?" Mitra left the breakfast on the table and left the room, closing the door with a bang. He took away the envelope addressed to Sarah's mother. It had a letter and two five-hundred dollar notes.

Sarah wept. She had no choice. She remembered her mother. The unwritten words remained with her. "Dearest mother, I am dying. Please save me!" 

February 10 '09, 01.16am
The last client left ten minutes ago. It was a long day for Sarah. She lay naked on the bed. She looked up. The ceiling was white. Quiet. Empty. Emptied. Like her eyes. She got up and walked toward the window. She pulled the curtains open. Behind the iron railings was the glass window through which she could see the enire city. Shimmering in lights. Speeding cars. Weary pavements. Trampled cigarette butts. A sleepless metro hosting millions of dark lives.

As she focused hard, she saw her own faint reflection in the glass.

April 06 '09, 4.34pm
Sarah gave the envelope to Aslam. A letter and four five-hundred dollar notes. "Careful", Sarah reminded. "Absolutely", Aslam reassured.

Aslam walked out and shut the door. Sarah looked at the door. "Dearest mother, I am retreating. Don't let me go!" 

April 06 '09, 11.03pm
Sarah sat naked against the pillow and sipped wine. The young man pulled out his wallet and counted the money. "Look. I don't want money. I made plenty. I make...", Sarah said and paused.

The chap looked at Sarah. "Come again!"

"Look. You said you are with government. I want a passport and a pistol".

The young man shrugged. "Why?"

"I will pay you 10% more".

The man threw two five-hundred dollar notes on her and left.

October 22 '09, 12.23pm
"How about the day after? He's a rich ass. He will give you two trucks of gold for an hour", Irfan asked Sarah. Varadan laughed. "Didn't I tell you I'm busy all this week?" Sarah commanded a reply. "Only after November 2nd. Till then, ask him to cool his dick in gold". Varadan burst into laughter. Irfan couldn't help laughing, either.

Irfan took the envelope from Sarah. He wanted to try again. "He is a dude with great power. Will be good for our business", he tried to convince.

"Power! Power is when you have strength but don't use it. Not when you do", Sarah replied. "He who exercises strength is not powerful; he is a weakling. An ant is more powerful than such a shaky ass", she added. "Fuck off!" 

Sarah liked Varadan. She made the best business for him, so Varadan showered her with incentives. It was easy, now, for her to command everyone. Stockholm syndrome didn't perplex her anymore; she learned about it the hard way, in real time. 

"Dearest mother, I am vanishing. Don't let me go, please!" The unwritten words, yet again.

March 01 '10, 11.41am
"We will go and visit her. Don't brood. She has been put in the best hospital in town. Rizwan knows everyone. He is running the show fine", Varadan assured Sarah.

"I need to visit my mother", Sarah insisted.

"We will get your passport in a day. Irfan is doing the tickets for us. Relax. Don't brood. You are a strong slut".

Sarah looked at Varadan. She reflected: "Strong? What was I? What am I? What is left of me? A woman who walked out of home to chase her dreams. An abject pawn in a chilling tale of ruthless betrayal. A professional whore with a dead soul. A living commodity for the needs of lust. An involuntary accomplice in the cruel game of abuse of humans".

"Dearest mother, don't leave me alone. Please! I am coming. I am coming home". She never uttered these words. Her mother never heard.

"Irfan. Three tickets. Dubai to Mumbai", Varadan reminded Irfan.

March 08 '10, 6.19pm
Sarah put the flower gently on the grave. Varadan and Irfan stood behind, at a distance. Sarah looked at the inscription.

Josephine d'Souza
(September 21, 1946 - March 06, 2010)

She ran her fingers along her mother's name. She longed to feel the warmth of her love. All she felt was the cold of the stone. "Dearest mother. I have come home. But where am I? Where are you? Where are dreams? Where is love?" Tears rushed in cascade.

March 08 '10, 6.47pm
Irfan accelerated the car as they hit the expressway. He spotted a huge, brightly-lit billboard a few metres away. The ad read:

For the beautiful half of the world
Happy Women's Day!

99 years of celebrating womanhood. Share your vision. Call: 9000933399 E-mail: vision99@iwdindia.org

It featured the smiling face of a model. Irfan looked at her and she reminded him of Sarah. He looked at her from the rear-view mirror and fantasised abusing and fucking her.  

Sarah opened the window. Her hair danced wildly in the breeze. The sun had just set. In the fading light of the day, Sarah looked out of the window and noticed the retreating waves of the sea.

Her eyes, devoid of all dreams, would not seek to stop her retreating soul anymore.    

25 Feb 2010

Five Flicks and One Idiot

Posted by Oblivion in General | 2:23pm

When I said I cannot stand romance flicks, I believed it was a simple statement. I feel it's a simple case of preferences which doesn't need any explanation, unless I'm missing something vital. If a certain X enjoys Mexican cuisine, red color, parasailing and war cinema, that's his take and he doesn't need to explain it to anyone, as I see it. But when I said I cannot stand romance (and, therefore, Bollywood) flicks, she thought I am insane (insantiy has relative definitions, yes). Therapy is a must, she felt. Assuming the role of the therapist, she prescribed: "five movies on weekend". And booked the tickets. Arguing was futile, I realised.

After the drought, the flood. Five flicks, then, it was. Thanks to reviewers among friends, I get to read comprehensive reviews of flicks as they hit the screen. So I put my take brief.

Ishqiya: Nice script and impressive performances made it a good watch. Given that realism is almost dead in Bollywood, such scripts are welcome. In the past few years, I remember only two good scripts (among the very few flicks I had watched, I must add) - Dor and A Wednesday. Naseeruddin Shah is, of course, the strength of the film.

OK flick, overall. Rating - 3.0 (on 5)

Rann: After a few forgettable flicks, Varma seems to rediscover his magic. A very contemporaneous script that dares to pose a serious question (which, like most others, is easily ignored and forgotten soon after one steps out of the cinema) about the regrettable condition and murky side of media in this country. Impeccable performance from Big B. For the strength with which his character holds to values, however, it looked unconvincing that he could be won over by a sly three-minute persuasive talk by his son. In contrast, the three-minute talk about the consequences of inaccurate reporting in Woody Allen's Scoop is more appealing. Keeping that failing aside, Varma surely dares to bare the ruthless side of media and politics. The last time one tackled this subject in Indian cinema was perhaps Ramesh Sharma with his masterpiece, New Delhi Times, in late '80s! (by the way, where is A K Bir these days?)

Varma can do better, though. Would be good if he gets back to his form soon. Rating - 2.5

3 Idiots: I may sound like an idiot when I say this, but I didn't quite get the movie. After pretending to take a dig at the obsession with success, it ends up glorifying success! "Don't run after success; strive for excellence and success will naturally follow; succeed nonetheless" seems to be the message. Ends remain the same; just change the means. Big shit. In that case, why belittle the unhealthy emphasis on success, in the first place? Obsession with excellence cannot be less destructive. The problem is not success, but obsession. I would have liked it if it showed Rancho as a school teacher or a shepherd, perfectly enjoying life in Ladakh. A regular formulaic flick. Aamir did a great job, though. And that gorgeous lake in the last scene!

I couldn't stand that "all is well" crap. With his kind of talent, I wonder why Vinod Chopra did not push for a better script. Whatever has happened to him after Parinda! Rating - 2.0

My Name Is Khan: Shah Rukh should never try experimenting. For, the character always goes into the background. A typical KJ melodrama that ostentatiously believes in "nothing is impossible" line. Reality is harsh and that's the way the world is. So why not tell me a story that is fair, even if unpleasant? Ever heard of any terrorist suspect getting out of a prison, and completely sane at that? One may say why not give it a chance in that it may be talking of that one exception? Fair enough. But, to be candid, the package had too many incredible things happening.

Joke no.1 - The film teaches Amnesty International a lesson or two about how to run their campaigns!
Joke no.2 - Shah Rukh does a Dustin Hoffman!

And I really wish they stop this fixation with 9/11. After all, they use it only as the backdrop. Why not a flick on the discrimination and injustice happening right here? Is it because it's too sensitive and could run into probs with the government and censor board?

Anyways, the flick gets 2.0

Avatar: With Titanic, my awe for James Cameron vanished. So I didn't expect much from Avatar, and it worked. A simple tale of forceful plunder of land and resources by the powerful, and the resistance of the natives. Put it on another planet for the sake of fantasy, generously use scientific references, throw in some superstition that befits primitives in a forest, and exploit visual effects to the extreme, and you get Avatar. "Sometimes all life boils down to one insane move", the protagonist avers and assumes the role of the saviour. A taut screenplay that's typical of Cameron, and absolutely stunning visual effects.

Rating - 3.0

When the run ended, I felt absolute relief and resumed reading the grim and gripping script that a friend is penning.

24 Feb 2010

Free Fall

Posted by Oblivion in El Eye Ef Ee | 5:32am

Act I


A slip from the edge of a cliff. Life drives the direction of the fall. Self resists. Hopes for the chute to open.

It ends.

Act II


Self, the fictitious entity, has been evicted. Life takes over. The free fall is on. Now... wherever it takes...

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