An ode to the one still out on patrol….

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“…It is fear that is the cause of all our woes, and it is fearlessness that brings heaven even in a moment….” – SWAMI VIVEKANANDA

What does it take to uphold the emblem….
A faith in the concept of the motherland….
A belief in the country, standing guard on the glacier….
A love for the soil I am borne of & which I would perish in….
A gaze at the dawn with the thought ‘what I do today, is not just about me’….
A smile on my mother’s face that says ‘do your best’….
A hearty laugh with the friends long heard of saying ‘you will be the best’….
A sigh from the better half & the last touch of her hands saying ‘do your best & then come back’….
A last hug from the grieving child, looking for her father ‘you are the best’….
I am a witness to all that & more….
I am the unknown sentinel & I stand guard….to the end & beyond….

“Blessed are they whose bodies get destroyed in the service of others….” – SWAMI VIVEKANANDA

(For all the ones protecting at the altar of the nation, for all of them, still out on patrol never to be seen by the awaiting eyes of the loved ones….)

PSX_20170902_074930 LOCATION: Leh War Memorial & Hall of Fame, Ladakh, India

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The Trek….

Every time we clean our houses, a lot of dust emanates, some of it we throw, some of it remains and some of it sticks to our skin. When we mop the floor, the remnants from the floor vanishes or at least a majority of it. Then having done the exercise, most of us head to the shower where we clean the remnants on our bodies. I guess life experiences are no different, we build some bile in our mind, some experiences do leave a bitter memory, some encounters tend to freeze our mind-space to a certain period/person or to a certain occurrence. Then there’s the house-keeping….My guess is house-keeping is as relevant to our own persona as it might be to the house. Every now and then, one round of it clears a lot of assumptions, memories & mental bile….the mopping up does the rest & when we finally take the plunge into the next day of our lives, guess the shower’s through.

All said & done, this unlikely metaphor has its limitations & the similarities end here. You know that you have to get rid of what holds you back, some people work at it everyday & eliminate the negatives in their lives and…. for some people it is re-lived everyday until a life altering experience changes the way they look upon themselves. Guess, I fall into the later category, not a pretty picture but something that I now accept. Unfortunately, life is a variable, diametrically opposed to the comfort of constant….you never know how, where, when, what & which lessons it imparts. I had been waiting for some of my lessons.

Some movie I saw, once quoted, Bhutan as the happiest country, the “Land of Gross National Happiness”. The adage kind of stuck to me. I knew I had to visit this nation. If you are visiting Bhutan, the trip is incomplete without a trip to the Thakshang Monastry or “The Tiger’s Nest”. So like every run-of-the-mill tourist I knew I had to do it.

Things however were not so rosy after the inputs began flowing in….
– A trek completely through the woods & mountains….no roads;
– Its all about inclines & very steep ones at that….rocky outcrops (the monks sure did want their share of exercise/pain & some for you too!);
– Its raining cats & dogs which meant, heavy siltation, slush, chilly weather, all soaked up before you reach….boy! perfect timing;
– I was the oldest guy on the trip, rest of the bunch, all young studs….what if I am the only one who failed to make it….why the f*** were you born so early

There was this little tussle between the two “me’s” the night before….
– The egoist one (trained & baptized long back for this….should be a cake walk!!!!) &
– The broken realist (bad back, oodles of fat, sheer lack of exercise, haven’t done it in ages….are you kidding me??!!).

However, this time round I was ready to push myself & so be it! The four hour trek began with some briefing by our organizer, some safety tips, a wooden stick in tow & some really soaked and chilly weather (the water-proof wind-cheater was of little help!). You could not have been discouraged more than what you see within the first five minutes of the climb. The huge monastery peeping through the clouds like a dot in the page.

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If this wasn’t enough, the moment I stepped on the stony outcrops, there was this huge group which came down bragging about their U-turn midway into the trek and how its so dangerous & slippery out there. The other side within me was immediately happy, now I know that even if I came back midway, I could comfortably say that I wasn’t the only one!!!! The question however was, “Did I want to”?

Fifteen odd minutes into the climb, the slopes were now quite steep….almost sixty degrees, the path’s narrower, the mud slush’ real, the entire route was an accident waiting to happen (the same slender route was for the scores of horses, ponies as well as people) and on top I was all breathless. To rub salt on the wounds, I found some of my team members waltzing away effortlessly on. Guess the local folks saw the evident pain. One of the guides informed that there’s a cafeteria at the midway point with beer available!!! What a relief, I suddenly find a spring in my shoes & air in my lungs. I was even more convinced now, that if anyone asked, I could also say that the booze had me & I just sozzled out enough not to contine….The question was, who needed convincing, people or me?

Midway it was at last, the cafeteria in sight, turning right meant the beer, carrying on straight meant a prayer wheel & barely a shade to sit….the wind’s freezing & the rain’s soaking, heavier by the minute….the prayer wheel it was….the beer’s the reward waiting on return.

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(Thakshang Monastery as clicked from the midway point, but at the full range of 300 mm on the lens….)

Guess this was one break I happily skipped although my back & my lungs said otherwise. Continuing the path was even more difficult now although the gradient’s eased a bit. Nevertheless, the slush got worse as did the winds. At this point I knew that whatever was my preliminary estimate of myself, I had crossed it, so whatever distance I could do now was a bonus….The question was, did I want to live with just the bonus & regret not having made it to see what its like?

‘Soldiering on’ would not be an appropriate term (because, by now, I had ashamed myself enough with my thoughts of giving up every five minutes, the disdain with which I had treated my body leading to this lack of fitness) but this was remotely what I was trying to do. As every step got heavier, the knees weaker, the gaze buried to the ground & the only solace being the start of a series of markers pointing to the monastery….I slipped barely holding myself to my walking stick & a protruding branch. “This was enough & that I could not make it, time to return….” was the only thought manageable through the almost exploding lungs when a really old monk (no pun intended….) breezed aside me chanting the holy scriptures & throwing a lovely smile saying “you are there”. Walking a few steps ahead I could see the Thakshang. However, Guru Padmasambhava did not want short cuts to divinity & spiritual yearning, almost 500 stairs were yet to be covered. I clicked a few pictures. Who would know if I actually made it to the structure & prayed, all I had to do was simply click a few zoomed-in pictures & post it in on social network….b’seder….The question was, is that the aim?

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The few hundred steps were like the last nail in the coffin, it broke me (knees, lungs, back, tummy, every single part….) but having made it as I headed into the monastery I looked for my organizer who carried the entry passes & my other team members….couldn’t find anyone….was more than happy….found a corner where the rain water didn’t pour through….all soaked & wet, in pain & frozen by the chill….I dozed off. People in droves kept pouring in & out, all cheerful at having made it & received the blessings, I was just content with the warmth of the corner & the person sitting next to me. The question was….I was too blanked out for any questions, f*** the questions!!!!

An hour later, a familiar voice woke me up….one of the team members, the rest were fetching up. My lungs felt not-revolting-against-me-anymore now, it was still damn cold & I was wetter, the winds changed direction & so did the rain. As all fetched up almost two hours after I reached, someone did point out that I was the first one who made it up in almost hour & a half (there were some Awwww moments heard….). I was now in the sanctum sanctorum & it was a moment of peace, tranquility, spiritual chanting of the verses, sights of people praying to Guru Padmasambhava. As I headed to the place where they lighted candles, the warmth of the flames as if brought in a sense of pride & it felt as if bloated up from inside. It was just a while ago that I thought about chickening out & here I am….all set to glorify myself in my mind & blurt out self praise in front of others….The question was, who was I fooling, people or myself?

As i lighted up the candle & the warmth blew to my face, the only thing I could remember were the few moments ago when I had almost given up, the old monk who smiled at me….and yes!!!! my back, which by now was killing me. It was time for return….came down a few notches & clicked THE THAKSHANG MONASTERY one last time….A lesson in humbleness received, a tale to be reminded to self, a grim reminder of the weaknesses I carry & somewhere a belief that “it-can-still-be-done!!!!”

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Coming down was an arduous affair….I slipped & covered myself in red soil, the camera’s obituary had almost been written but above all, the latent & bloated ego of having completed the trek was put to rest for good. Midway it was again….the beer’s in waiting! Having ‘Done-&-Dusted’, time for a couple….if Guru Padmasambhava’s followers didn’t have a problem with it, why should I….”Guess it wouldn’t be a left turn, just turn the prayer wheel & keep walking….” was the voice inside….I kept walking.

Back to the hotel in the evening, a nice warm bath, good food, cultural program & a few more clicks later, it was time for bed….there was more to explore the next day. Something within me wasn’t there anymore, some enemies have been decimated, some burdens have been shed, some egos have been shattered, some excuses have been foregone, some fears have been put to rest (not conquered yet though!!!!) & some people had been ‘let-go’….I had my house-keeping done….The question was, who all would I tell about this? PROBABLY NOBODY….

Pain, Drain, Meme, Shame….and a hell lot of expense….

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DISCLAIMER: may be the guys at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and their indulgences with “Rasputin & the Empress” has taught me my lesson for good. So before I start, here I go….”The events depicted in this piece are fictitious. Any similarity to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.”

Mr X has been scratching his head for the last few years, not that he didn’t scratch it before or wouldn’t afterwards!!!! Situations & turn of events have often found him dumb-founded….

Being the guy he is….soaked, marinated & fried in a middle class upbringing; a mishmash of Doordarshan & INOX influenced aspirations; a mindset composted by a ‘morbid-bordering-on-pathological’ abhorrence to metrosexualism & equally / horribly contradicted by a vivid vision of a life & family in a metropolis….Mr X is but an Indian ‘millenial’ with a hallmark confusion that reigns supreme. Yet, all said & done, like every other corporate KRA he saw & survived, another KPI had to be ticked….get married  & ensure a series of Facebook posts about the happy life. In his personal sphere, while rebuking & making fun of the Lalita Pawar/Ashok Kumar/Om Prakash/Nirupa Roy philosophies deligently made him think ‘millennial’, what he was about to encounter was infact ‘millennial’ at its very best….divorce, the new normal!!!!

THE PROLOGUE….

Act 01, Scene 01:-

– A not-so-big but fat Indian wedding & few months later, he is devastated, he is yet to decide whom to blame although the need to blame someone & seek solace in the ‘victim’ card is playing wide & thick in his mind.
– He is prone to not eating for long, remain unhygienic, behaving weird enough to drive out the ‘Kaamwali bai’ (Devdas would be proud in heaven, proud enough to gulp a few more pegs out of sheer delight….), guess the ordeal just began….all this while the primary struggle remains hidden….

coming to terms with a loss, a stinking void….

Act 01, Scene 02:-

– Some passionate advice from relations, a few tears shed….
– Vindication of predictions by “well wishers” who can’t control their happiness in the veil of empathy/sympathy (a bit confused, which one would apply really, if at all??!!)….
– The prime mover amongst all the motley bunch, the ‘Kaamwali bai’ & her very plain & simple concern ‘Should I look for another job or my salary remains same?’….May be the ‘Kaaj-er Didi’ was the last string holding the pieces of Mr Xs life together….
– Ample no of “I can’t believe it, how could this happen to you?!” later, all he could see in the evening is an empty almirah….nothing prepared him for this, not even his boot camp

coming to terms with heartbreak, with a legal twist….

Act 01, Scene 03:-

– He can’t think, all the world seems to have crumbled….
– There’s no ignoring the job at the same time, its better to be ‘sad with money’ rather than ‘sad & bankrupt’ is the philosophy in vogue….
– The only solace seems to be a shrink & guess what!! diagnosis of depression, series of ‘inferences-which-question-your-sanity’ & a hefty bill later, medicines just put him to sleep….
– Life went on, job continued, everyone lived, questions kept coming (answers didn’t feel simple yet, just the routine got old….)

coming to terms with something he never expected, would happen to him….

THE BODY….

Act 02, Scene 01:-

– The questions have reduced now, only the odd sly comment here & there….
– Have the medication did him in or not, he isn’t sure, but a illusion of self control which everyone lives by has gripped him back, welcome to the ‘normal’ world he would say to himself….
– The proverbial choice between correct opinions & honest lawyers has always been a nasty one with more than unexpected results….unusual discussions later, maybe light is in sight….still Mr X is grappling with the dilemma….is it about fleecing money or rendering quality service, scratching the head has never been this good….
– Other realities keep shuttling within the life’s conundrum….financial setbacks & what to do about them, a continuous chain of myth shattering eye-openers, health of the elderly & its pain….the barrage seems relentless….

coming to terms with normal life when everything is anything but normal….

Act 02, Scene 02:-

– The proverbial dilemma….the need to progress, the need to be needed, the need to want someone, the need to get ‘more’ out of life then what the mundane offers. It’s a long wait & the mind needs avenues….
– Mr X is the perennially confused man, but, within all this mayhem, it seemed as if he now knew something about himself that he didn’t know before. However, it wasn’t about the things he wanted in his life. Like a true Woody Allen movie impersonation, he was still certain of only the things he didn’t want in his life….
– Casual dating (only to find even weirder people….), binge eating (something that makes him go around but also shoots his cholesterol….), travel & clicks (the only bright spot….) & social networking (the millennial addiction….) later; the intellectual within Mr X decrees that this is not what he is all about, life has to change & for a definitive direction separate from what the journey’s been so far….

coming to terms with ego, self-gratification, a compulsive need to pretend ‘altruistically accepting’ of the events gone by & all the ills that Mr X would not like to acknowledge but he knows he needs to deal with….

Act 2, Scene 03:-

– Having bashed himself & almost accepted himself as the reason for all his failures, Mr X had almost started believing in the failure of his successes & the success of his failures.
– However, every now and then there would be this life changing sunset, a pleasant cloud formation, a humbling death & the following cremation, a villager in the remotest corners narrating his/her take on life, an 80+ old women still selling her fare at nine in the night, a long walk down a secluded beach, the fervent bargaining at the morning market….Mr X was a witness to all of this, but then, he realized one day….he was also a party to it, life never left him!!!
– The off-roader he so relished had gone silent for sometime, he hated it in the metro mileau where crossing each signal & junction was a struggle; but, one day the vehicle revved, he did a thousand kilometers….he knew he could still do it, His muscle memory had lasted longer then his own, his ‘beast’ was purring just right, life never left him!!!

coming to terms with the need to get back on the feet….one step at a time, one punch at a time, one duck at a time, one swing at a time….

“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean & nasty place & I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees & keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But, it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit & keep moving forward, how much you can take & keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!!! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out & get what you’re worth. But, you gotta be willing to take the hits & not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him or her or anybody!!! Cowards do that & that ain’t you!!!” – ROCKY BALBOA

THE EPILOGUE….

Act 03, Scene 01:-

– Mr X knew he dreaded it, the day in court, the proverbial question by the judge “What do you want?”….
– Mr X knew he dreaded it, seeing the face which, was until recently the subject of all his affections & seeing which now, he didn’t know, whether he is happy, seeing it after so long, happy seeing it for the last time, sad seeing it go away or sad that it was a source of agony & heartbreak….
– Mr X knew he dreaded it, receiving those final pieces of paper that broke a bond he wished to relish all his life, the final lines of ink which severed all ties, the final stamps of legality which so called would render him ‘free’….
– Mr X knew he dreaded it, he didn’t want to answer the judge, hold the papers or avoid contact with the eyes which brought him happiness & yet….
– He goes through the motions, clinches on to the shreds of papers, walks away to the dark of the evening….as the distance grew wider, Mr X all but wanted to turn back & rush, to turn back time & tide, but, nothing as such would happen, he walked on….

coming to terms with the inevitable, a pain to carry, a sigh of relief to accompany, a bewildered sense of relief, a scar forever in memory….accepting that what was not to be isn’t there anymore, two years are over, life, time & tide have all moved on & so have the other people….

Act 03, Scene 02:-

– A few pebbles thrown in the stillness of the river & a few memories refreshed every now & then….the chain broken only by the occasional rasp rhythm of the shutter, another snap for posterity….
– Mr X finally accepted that scenarios were not where they had been a couple of years ago; belief & perception wouldn’t be the same as a couple of years ago; in the inevitability of life’s dynamism the people won’t be the same (except a few….) as they featured a couple of years ago….Mr X cannot be what he was a couple of years ago….
– The shutter snapped again, the setting sun had still some redness to spread & as the traffic buzzed on the distant bridge….he kept looking on into the river & the twilight, life wasn’t bad after all, just different than what he had anticipated. Life differed from expectations because, probably the expectations differed from actual life. Destiny meandered away from the aspirations because, probably aspirations are meandering towards the ultimate in destiny
– Mr X picked up his kit, walked down the lane to the street ‘chaiwala’, the solace of the evening tea, buzz of the vibrant traffic, peace in the thought of being just another in the crowd….

WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE, MR X ASKED HIMSELF….’HOME FOR NOW….’, PAT!!! CAME THE ANSWER, ten bucks for a ride home….

coming to terms with the chaotic traffic, whether on the road or in life….

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Time to walk again….

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For all the impressions and dust settled….
For all the dents and scratches….
For all the stains and shrapnel encased….
For the remaining scars and cuts….
I pretend strong….
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.
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For all the innuendos and the sarcasm I throw….
For all the memes and acts I pull off….
For all the razzmatazz people are envious of….
For all the narcissism they hate….
For a fleeting moment….
I do start to believe….
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.
.
Then the wind blows, the impressions are visible….
The dents and scratches are all but ugly….
The shrapnel aches my soul to a scourge….
The cuts burn again….

The winds….
Turn me all but naked….
For all the belief I had, I am the broken one….
Scavenging for the panacea to mend the soul….
The eyes gouging out in the search….for strength….
To survive the winds, to rise again….

A quaint corner of the alley….
On a rusted post….
There is still the lamp….
All shaken and noisy, still holding its glow….
I look up, its still glowing, noisy & shaky in the wind, but still glowing….
Shrapnel & cuts, scars & dents!!! they are there, but the lamp glows….
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.
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Its time to walk….
The winds have their schedule….
The scars have their….
The sores under the feet have theirs….
So do the pain….but the lamp says….
I have mine….

Keep walking….

The Empty Bench….

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The empty bench…
Succor for the tired knees….
Playground for lonely hearts…
Heaven for the holding hands…
Forum for the hard talkers…
Refuge for the odd couple…
And yet…
When the day’s over, everyone’s moved, it is left to its fate…
To tide over the elements and secure it’s life for the next day…

I had written this stanza addressing the theme of this picture on Instagram, little did I know that an unlikely incident would suddenly render my focus back to this empty bench and redraw my thinking, to the extent that suddenly I find the motivation that I had been lacking for quite sometime to write and touch upon everyday life.

There is this uncanny old man, part of my team…a stout old guy with impressive mustache and somewhat an irritating demeanor. He has served in my team for the past few years and I would not like to define my relationship with him as a very healthy one. Differences of opinion cropped up every now & then and sometimes egos & perceptions got the better of logic and reasoning. Yet the unspoken consensus was that if activities are on an even keel, put the other aspects to rest.Years have gone by and the uneasiness exists, I often spoke to myself that I wouldn’t probably be the guy to bemoan if he leaves.

One fine morning, I hear that he is dead….cardiac arrest the previous night, everyone at his home gave their best shot but he wasn’t to be resurrected back. I am suddenly engulfed by this dilemma….

“Good riddance, one less irritant in my job…”, this should have been my ideal reaction!!! In a way it was!!! I am a corporate professional meant to ‘get things done’….remorse, feelings & silly melodrama does not weigh much against ground reality, pragmatism, efficiency, work needs & professional responsibilities….

Yes!!! I know I would fill up this vacant position, some other guy would eventually replace this old man, life at the site would resume like every other day…. Few people would inquire for a few days and then everything falls silent & in-place; the new guy adjusts, the people needing his services adjust, I would adjust my responses….the whole world would adjust….

What’s the fuss about writing? Why even this discussion of guilt/dilemma? Why this self induced melodrama? There’s no logic and there’s no point….dragging an eventuality & postmortem of thoughts is idiocy!!! You do what you can, ensure the guy gets his financial dues, the family knows that an honest & impartial effort was made to provide what the guy owed….that’s it, where & how do you figure anymore then that??!! Your job is done buddy….

Guess, life & thoughts are never that simple. I kept thinking about the old man for quite sometime; asked my assistant about the guy’s family, turns out that he had a lively family of wife, two son’s, their families & scores of grandchildren; every basic requirement of life met and a little more; nothing that the old man struggled for at this age but a willingness pitted against his health to stay active, the soldier in him still defeating his heart and knees to go on….

The next day, I am sending an activity report of the previous week with photos and the old man figures out in each of them. Pausing for a moment, I take a walk to the office where he sat. As I stood I saw an empty bench, the exact location where he would sit for his tea breaks…all encompassed in his sip, often a question asked between the sip would go unanswered coupled with a terse expression. I kinda felt the terse expression as if imprinted in the wall right behind (boy!!! did I hate it….) but the bench was empty….

Life is a great leveller but then death is even a bigger one….draws back to the empty bench, so many similarities….

it’s been sometime…

– I just sat down on the bench looking at the gate ahead….every job was just going on in the exact same manner as it had been for weeks, months and years, nothing had stopped, just the bench was empty….

– The concluding rites being performed, few of my team members attended it, everyone reported that it went off great, to everyone’s satisfaction, the family members are alright; the sons (both in the army) are reporting back in a week, grand kids ask about their grandpa but school & frolic pretty much occupied their mind-space in the last two days….and yet that terse expression with the sip is missing from the bench….the wall is just plain white again….

– Evening before I leave, I crossed the gate towards my residence, that grumpy old man waltzing along the perimeter is just an after thought now…I stare at the road, a different guy walks…I turn and keep going…

Everybody can be replaced, I will be too….somebody else would sit on the empty bench, the bench would have a new story to witness….

I had sat on the bench for a while but got up, it’s getting late, have to move for dinner and home….tomorrow I have a new day at office, tons of work awaits….

Book, Beer, Terrorists & their f****** rights…

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This was a movie day, reached early at the multiplex and had a solid hour to spend…running out of wit, I decide to grab a couple of beers at four in the evening!!! So here is this beautiful cafe cum bar representing everything chic and uber, running with the times, hip layout and suave presentation. As I breeze through the layout, I am in admiration!

Suddenly in one of these book shelves they displayed, I encounter a name I am very less conversant with but which is probably, the biggest viral media phenomenon of the last hundred years. Even when newsprint was not as permeating leave alone the net and electronic media, this name and the glance which owned it, was, “The Cultural Icon”!!! Yes, I am talking about CHE. The Argentinian doctor was clicked with a glance adorning a beret with a star. Whether its the mural in a management institute’s cafe or the sixty bucks worth of T Shirt, Ernesto Che Guevara seems to be everywhere. A revolutionary, a communist, a Marxist, a cultural icon, a hero, an Irish rebel (by his father’s admission)….et all; several monikers have been associated with this person.

So what the hell is the connection between me grabbing a few beers & a Cuban revolutionary…heavens know, that there is a hell of a connection between beer & opinions / philosophy…but, this is quite a few days later, so, sorry to disappoint!!

While THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES was a very romantic read for a young teenage mind, today as I finished reading the book again after many years, I also recollected another page from the history. Commandante Guevara (only his favorites were allowed to call him Che…) was responsible for God knows how many executions (even the Cubans lost count at one point of time…), the gruesomeness of it not exactly known (unlike Jehadi John & Jehadi John 2… whom we keep seeing on net every other day slashing people). He was ultimately executed in Bolivia when he got tired / bored, of the stuff he did in Cuba and looked for some more fun & revolutions to be brewed across other Latin american / African nations (the only other famous picture associated with him, his bullet ridden body again with an open eyed wretched stance lying on a table…). Did he have to die in spite of his deeds in the manner in which he died?

What about some rights to go along?

COMING BACK – a friend of mine threw a question on Facebook the other day. Do terrorists have rights? Here’s what I had written…

“1. As a human being, YES (well surrounded in a wide spread & well fortified fencing of rights)
2. However, the moment you enter into the threshold of rights of fellow human beings, the space & threshold of the fencing keeps getting squeezed.
3. When you are a terrorist (purely from the defined version of a democratically elected Govt/executive of a well defined nation state) and have killed people, you have reduced the threshold right to the limit of your being.
4. Then, when the gruesomeness, nature of killing, victims, the context (again defined by the democratically elected executive) crosses a certain limit (eg: killing innocent / children or ISIS like acts) you have pushed the threshold well beyond your existence….
Question arises: for fairness, even after all this they have the right to be shown the light, to reform, to be brought out of the mess/disillusionment…
One probable answer: How many lives form an equitable trade off level before you don’t think about the above question anymore….
As you said it’s an open ended question, this was an answer partly from an individual perspective and partly from the clouded ethos & ideas of civilization entrenched in a soldier’s being….”

Some people will hack me for just discussing Che & the above question in the same note, but, still it puzzles me how a few changes in description, a few different monikers & the blessings of the media later…a person with a similar chequered past ceases to be a terrorist and translates into a romantic euphemism…now I remember, on the same friends question, I had written this also…

“It just hit me while writing (since I have to deal with politicized idiots / scumbags who feign/pretend to fight for the villagers’ rights) that all said and done about this question, there are ‘n’ no of arguments & counter arguments / philosophies which can turn most of the terrorists into cult figures / revolutionaries / heroes / freedom fighters, blah blah….I was wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt long before I read about his countless executions in the name of treason against Cuba…. he’s said to be a revolutionary and so entitled to all the rights in the world, but if I dare to term him a terrorist also, quite a few ‘rights issues’ are off the table (maybe someone will kill me for this) again quite a few interpretations and fine lines of demarcation….quite a difficult question you threw!!!”

Yes indeed a difficult question that has created an even more difficult question in my mind….forget about rights, where’s the thin line that exists between the way you define someone as terrorist & a revolutionary leader…

…it was not long ago (two decades maybe at best….) when so many Europeans & Americans were so worried about human rights violations in Kashmir; Fidel Castro & his bunch were the demon on earth; did I just hear someone define the same bunch in Kashmir as f****** terrorists & opening hotels / resuming trade with Fidel’s Cuba ain’t so bad???!!!

…the myriad world of convenience and changing perceptions / equations…forget rights & other blah, blah…its always the equations & their enormity, numbers & relevance which dictates what you brand someone & what rights he/she/it has got…only the equations win it seems!!!

MAGGI philosophies….

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It was a writer’s block or was I gathering the wit and courage not to be repetitive this time round or perhaps a serious lack of different topics or simply the absence of a suitable metaphor….I really don’t know but wordpress tells me its been two months and I haven’t written anything!!!

Why Maggi….simply nothing else but the fact that I grew up eating tons of it….as a cadet in the academy it was a lifeline….as a soldier last recourse to any situation….as a corporate warrior & single guy in the city, the shortest way to salvation….and all said and done I could never have enough of mom’s interpretation of the two minute noodles with veggies and what not!!!

However, what hit me in the last few days was the journey of the bowl of noodles through the various stages of my life and the ways I find it as a metaphor of my existence & journey. I have repeated myself time & often drawing similes with sundry objects but Maggi beats them all. At stone throws distance from middle age, I couldn’t appreciate more, the ways in which, it has affected my life & troubles and how I relish it more than ever!!!

Scene 01rush hour – to school, a bowl full of Maggi by mom and some more in the tiffin, ‘Paratha’ and ‘alu-bhaja’…Ohhh!!! its so not happening

Scene 02exodus out of classroom, its tiffin time….c’mon if its Maggi I am sitting alone, no sharing….the box is spanking clean, not a trace of noodles or gravy, nobody needs washing it, licked it ready for the next day!!!

Scene 03study time, college time….for all the midnight oil burnt, so many empty yellow packets in the dustbin the next day, still famished for another two yellow packets, all the chicken flavour ones are out during the night, only masala remains….with a heavy heart I reconcile with my fate, it will be all masala flavour for the rest of the next day…did
someone just say “to the grocers”??? No ways, I need time to digest the last ten packets…

Scene 04 – Chennai and the barracks….military training ain’t easy!!! the DS just left, its way past midnight & after a rogering session (touch-&-back, push ups, camel carry, front roll, cream roll, star jumps, helicopter, patti-parade….the works); all you ever need is a steel mug worth of Maggi cooked with a mini immersion water heater, masala or chicken flavour, who gives a shit!!! it tastes awesome, three packets at a time….not a sweat

Scene 05middle of the jungle with an AK 47, the backpacks have bullets or Maggi; soaked, braving rising waters & animals…what on earth could you possibly digest in the middle of a rain forest with leeches sucking your blood dry….yup, Maggi again, people and animals wanna kill you alike, but, always had time for two more packets…

Scene 06Ohhh, the vultures of the corporate world!!! didn’t find the energy to buy something, have to cook at 2200hrs….well the tried and tested Maggi does just fine. Again! masala or chicken be damned!!! just wanna gobble up two packs straight, maybe a couple of pegs from the leftover Black Dog with it eases things…

Scene 07times are better, have a cook at home & a mom who wants to cook anything for me out of sheer boredom….for all the veggies bought, its still gonna be guess what?……Maggi, although now I try to be sauve and uber, not the normal
flour ones…ATTA or OATS NOODLES can do…

From six bucks for a gigantic one to fifteen for a tiny-winy pack, its not just about the food or the association or the memories, Maggi sort of just proved something about the will to fight within us (similes, similes & more similes!!!). No matter what they did, it keep coming back and right on top….it evolved, diversified, had an eye on the ball, the same
yellow pack stays no matter what others do…wish I take a leaf out of the book….

Really don’t give a damn about being politically correct….

HELL YA!!! I LOVE MAGGI…

What Do I Do Now???

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At 35, the question “What do you do now?” isn’t as cool or suave as it is at 15 & 25. Ten additional years and tens of thousands of moments of pure judgment call later, this question looks a bit out of place, one is supposed to be a bit “matured” by now (another word haunting my daily communication these days!!), but then, this is one question that haunts me now more than ever….

The world both in the personal and professional sphere is more competitive than it ever was, the home competing with the job and the job competing with the jealousy of other’s progress and other’s progress competing with one’s own stability and one’s own stability competing with thy peace of mind and thy peace of mind competing with the home….the vicious cycle of a life barging into several fronts….yet still at 35 when the above mentioned is more pronounced than ever…”What do you do now?” is soo diplomatically wrong.

Why can’t I really qualify to ask this question over and over again even now….’cause I am in a steady profession with responsibilities, a home to look after, people who abide by my decisions, a built of a senior person heading to middle age….or rather the temptation to judge that I have learnt all that’s “essential” to lead a straight life….all the lessons to not make “major” mistakes imbibed….or the fact that because certain milestones are achieved, its not important that one is still vulnerable to judgmental errors.

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No matter what is said or judged, at 35, I am nowhere near the point where I think I have stopped asking this question “What do I do now?”

….life is still very much a “maze in a thick haze”

….every turn taken is a judgment call and every mistake made is a lesson learnt; the greater the lessons, the next lesson makes it look small….

….passing through life every next day is a discovery of a new turn only to lead to a dead end or a treasure urn….which one’s in turn is hard to tell….

….some money made, some relationships lost, some smiles gained, few memories lost, many a bruises earned, a scar or two ignored….

….”it’s just a passing phase” I try convincing; only to realize a mistake made here and there….and here I am asking myself if it was a mistake, only to realize, “Yes!!! It was”….

….made on your own, the path trodden by your feet, the error ignored by your senses, the ignominy borne by your ego & the failure hammered into your consciousness….

….I do end up asking every now and then “What do I do now????”

₹6 ticket route to narcissism

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I wrote this heading for a long time now, but, could not bring myself to overcome my mental block to write about it. It is rather impossible to be honest & not admit that you are also in the same trap as any other person on the road…it was pointless to write if I can’t be honest here…

Scene 01 – Every time I spend a few hundred bucks watching a movie in a multiplex, I return on the bus or auto & board my metro train home. Convenient & some sort of a consolation for the guilt of splurging on 3D…it became an habit to see this ticket being handed over to me & me forking out six bucks for this 10 minutes trip. Like all things Kolkatan, it has turned into an “entitlement”. However, here was a day when, I decided to watch a late evening show & to my surprise as I came out of the mall, there wasn’t anything available to the metro. Realizing my goof-up & after a half-hour, half-hearted try; I started walking…quite a bit later, after a few changes, I reach home…agitated less on my error, more on not receiving my “entitlement”….the bus & auto. It seemed for a while that my movie watching hinged on the six bucks for bus ticket & five bucks for metro & God save the city for daring to take away my entitlement!!!

Scene 02 – I work, I play, I go out with friends for a beer, I watch movies, I get up at ten on holidays, I am buzzing on the social media, everyone’s remarking / liking the latest photo of the “fisherman at the ghat” I posted on Instagram or the previous article I wrote here. The thirties are feeling like the twenties again or rather in some ways teenage years. Here’s a day, the data’s exhausted and I go on 2G instead of the usual fare, no social networking…Here’s a month when I haven’t gone out for beer, got lots of work at office…Damn!!! a frustrating life…Can’t a person get his bit of relaxation these days!!!

My house, My career, My work area, My goals, My vacations, My aspirations, My creations, My issues, My family, My friends, My contacts…we are all too entrenched into this trap especially in the urban milieu, so much so that we are not ready to compromise even the slightest of ground for anyone or anything, sometimes, even for the people who comprise our life!!!

Here’s a few questions to myself…
– What’s with the girl at the counter at the multiplex, whom I spoke to in the morning while booking the ticket, met at the counter while receiving the ticket printout in the evening & saw closing the counters as I exited.
– What’s with the metro train driver? Shirt button’s mostly out, the cabin door opened to counter temperatures, every now & then cleaning up the mess below the wheels when someone decided to end their life in front of the train. Does his family spare him from the rituals when he is home?
– What’s with the bus conductor (“you know….kinda rude!!!”). All kinds of notes tucked between his fingers & ticket rolls floating. Why is he kind of the God of this route….Omnipresent, Omnipotent & Omniscient throughout the day?

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– What’s with the bar man & the waiter who attended to us at that Goddamned party well into the night constantly bearing the barrage of our beered-up rants???
– What’s with the customer care guys / girls of the innumerable BPOs who often turn lifesavers (if you choose to call reducing of the data speed to 2G as a life & death situation, especially in a city!!!)???
– What’s with the subordinate at office whom I pass quite a bit of my work or that colleague who lost his parents or that colleague who was unfairly sorted out in his dept appraisals or that colleague who could not attend his family members cremation since he has exhausted his leave during their treatment when alive???
– What’s with the nearly 65 yr old driver who picked me up from the airport for an hours journey to drop me home at midnight??? He has two more pick ups before he could retire for the night…
– What’s with that lady who at 87 feeds two of her grandchildren with her earnings, refuses alms, has become a star feature on social network & yet who does not get a consideration from most people or help in crossing a busy street???

I shudder to think of their conditions, in awe of their hard work & motivation & scared as hell to relate to their situation, perhaps because I don’t have time to see beyond myself & the aptitude to consider their conditions. I am too entrenched in my ₹6 entitlement & very happy to heave a sigh of relief “Thank God, its not me…”

This is my self centered cocoon & my ₹6 route to Narcissism…..

Role Reversals…

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I was watching this movie PIKU (which happens to be my pet name too…), yesterday was mother’s day, had a challenging session tutoring mom for using her new mobile (which by sheer coincidence (albeit totally unplanned / unintentionally…) turned out to be her Mother’s day gift…) & this latest pic I had posted on Instagram….I guess at nearly 01:00 AM in the morning I hit upon the latest topic I wanted to write upon…ROLE REVERSALS…

1986….a burly lady readies her husband for office, handles the kaam-wali bai, briefs her disciplined daughter for school & forces the shirt & pants for the only monkey roaming around (cause its his kindergarten….).
2016….the monkey straps on the seat-belts upon the burly lady (not so burly anymore….) as he starts his vehicle for the later’s doctor visits. He sermonizes her repeatedly for forgetting her medical file.

1985….the monkey without any clothes on roamed around the house, as his father clicked on gleefully & the burly lady with a bowl & spoon chased the ape to ensure a good meal.
2015….the camera has fallen silent & the monkey was rushing at his best to admit the burly lady, down with a medical emergency, it was the ape’s turn with the bowl & spoon now.

1990….the monkey survived the year somehow at school & managed to be promoted to the next class (involving a good dose of the class teacher’s generosity), something the burly lady didn’t hope for much….result – reward: kwality ice-cream & a ‘lattoo’.
2016….the burly lady has lost a bit of eyesight & hearing, so the monkey gets her a mobile with a loud ringtone & simple back-lit keys, the ape rejoices at his achievement….landed himself the simplest handset available.

1992….the monkey cribs to the burly lady regarding the partial treatment at class, the burly lady is the epitome of calmness & patience.
2016….the burly lady is infuriated after the morning doze of headlines / news in the local daily, the wiser monkey tries his hand at patience (although a trait not associated with him yet…) & avoids reacting much

It’s amazing how the role reversals take place, the very hands that once held you are looking forward to you for holding them.

In a “fleeting moment of few memories”, decades are covered & before you know the monkey actually grows wiser or rather circumstances force the monkey to…
– It’s a daily ritual now for the monkey to think over all the things during the day that he needs to do for his family & other responsibilities while the old burly lady (although still thinking to her wit’s end….) relaxes a bit knowing that there is somebody else to handle things too…
– Life is but a “fleeting moment of few memories”…& these role reversals ensure that we all get to watch & compare the transition…
– We all are here, present & alive with all the power to change the world & shape new things, experiences & lives but; it is just a matter of time, before those same hands would need to be held & the unstoppable legs of the monkey steeping each stone with a pause & maybe some pain…

The satisfaction I saw on mom’s face on seeing her new handset was nothing compared to the “fleeting moment of few memories” created tutoring her with great patience on how to use it, is this what they call “growing up”???!!! still trying to figure out…

NB: for all practical, literary & genetic purposes, the monkey happens to be me & the burly lady, my ever worried & fiesty (but utterly lovable…) mom…HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY MOM…