Wednesday, August 24, 2011


The night seemed mild. It wasn’t the usual. And I walked down the dingy aisle. She saw me. I walked.

Somewhere in the distance was a van. The headlights flashed straight into my eyes. And as I walked I spotted an old weary man. I figured he was the driver. He got off the van and greeted me, ‘hello’, he said. I don’t know why but I paid no heed to the greeting and walked right ahead and sat in the bench overlooking the lake. To my surprise the old man came and sat right beside me. ‘Hello’, he said. Astounded by the intrusive act I gave a stern look. ‘The night has never been better’, he said in a crude accent. ‘I’ve lived here for as long as I can remember’, he said, ‘the night has never been better’.

‘I love this place’, I said, ‘and even more, I like my privacy’. ‘I need some money’, he said. ‘It’s Christmas Eve and I have nothing to present my daughter, give me some money please’, he said. I looked at him, ‘you have a daughter? I asked. ‘Back there’, he said, ‘she sells bread’, ‘and what about you’, I asked.

He stood up and walked down the damp road. While I sat back and enjoyed the exquisitely lit lake. Just then a little girl came by and offered me some hot bread. ‘I didn’t ask for any’, I said. ‘These didn’t sell today, I can’t waste these, you can have them’. ‘Feed the dogs, I said. ‘They’ve gone to church’, she said, ‘you can have it, I’ve heated it and stuffed it for you’. ‘Are you the old man’s daughter?’, I inquired. ‘What old man?’, she asked. ‘The old man who just walked down the road’…’He spoke to you?’ she said. ‘Yes he did, he kept asking me for money, said he wanted to buy you a gift’, ‘oh, he always wants to buy me one’, she said, ‘did you give him any’, she asked, ‘no I didn’t’.

She came and sat besides me. ‘You should show some concern for a young women on a secluded lane you know’, she said. ‘Your eyes look pale, you running a fever?’ she asked. I looked at her and smiled.

The driver walked up the damp road and sat besides me. ‘Are you going to be up all night? It’s getting cold, and I don’t think you prepared for a brief snowfall’.’ Get back to your room visitor; this night is dark and dodgy’.

And then it snowed.

‘You are not prepared for a brief snowfall sir, it will soon get quite harsh…get to your accommodation sir, the ruthless night is awakening’. ‘You got her a gift?’, I asked. ‘I’m a murderer sir, I’ve murdered her father, and the dogs have gone down to the church for the funeral; the night is getting violent sir, get to your accommodation’.

‘Would you like a hot stuffed bread sir, it will keep you warm’ … ‘you running a fever’… ‘get to your accommodation’.

The sun shone at dawn and the lake glistened in exuberance and the enthralled birds fluttered under the orange sky.

The girl found her way to the seat with hot bread in her hand. ‘You look tired sir, but I’m glad you survived the night, here’s hot bread for you, it isn’t one of those leftovers, I baked it specially for you’.

I looked at her with gratitude…

‘Feed the dogs’, I said, ‘they had a hard time dragging me down to the church’.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How we got our hands dirty…

After having explored some of most mesmerizing forests for over a week, something about the first glimpse of civilization told me the ‘nature trip’ was approaching its end. The drive from Kalakad Mununtharia took us through narrow alleys and crowded streets. And as it did, somewhere I felt more like a tourist. A feeling I entirely despise. More so, to my disappointment, the itinerary reinforced this sentiment. ‘Visit to the Memorial’ it read and ‘shoppers’ were already making plans. And then, I asked myself, was any more ‘nature’ left in the trip? Was it an unconscious attempt to acclimatize us to the ‘city life’? Or did the COM really have something on his mind, “Shut up and enjoy the ……”, I really wonder what would he have said!

Following a long, tiring journey all the way from Kalakad Munnuntharia, we reached Kanyakumari in the evening. 6:00pm, if I remember correctly. The COM in his deep, husky voice announced, “Session at 8”, or 7:30, I don’t quite remember, but then as COM would have said, “How is that a matter of consequence?”. So we quickly freshened up and scurried to the venue. Now for those who don’t know COM, and are not familiar with his uncanny ways, you never really know what he’s up to. After a session that tested our survival instinct (on paper, thankfully), little did we realize he was all ready to get down to dirty business. A plan to carry out a ‘cleanliness drive’ was underway!

I nearly jumped off my seat. Cleanliness drive on the Kanyakumari beach!!! “What rubbish!!!”, I wondered for a fraction of a second. After which I realized it actually was about the ‘Rubbish’. About plastic, waste paper, ice-cream cones, and a lot more strewn around the beach which degraded it as each day passed by. About hundreds of people who visit the beach, and unconsciously contribute towards making it a dirtier place. And then I thought more deeply about the entire activity. Was it simply an hour long clean-up drive?, I wondered. Or was there a lot more to it? I would find out in due course…

The Drive was to be organized sometime on Friday. That would be after the visit to the Queen’s Palace and the Vivekananda Memorial. It dawned on us that we were running out of time. So then we’re up on our feet and got down to plan the activity. We wasted not a second. As the bus took us from one destination to another, it acted like what many in the professional world call, “Ideation Room”. Ideas and thoughts were exchanged. Feedback was collected. All-in-all it was sheer chaos. But the plan kept us up and going.

Then sometime late in the afternoon, after having visited the Vivekananda Memorial, the ferry transported us back to the beach. The gang congregated at one place and decided, How, Where and When. Yes, we were still deciding. Nevertheless, it didn’t take us long before, Anish gathered one and all. And sketched out the ‘plan of action’. The ‘cleanliness drive’ was to assume priority. But somewhere we all knew it had to end it with a BANG! And what better way to do it than with a song that was close to most of our hearts. ‘CLAP CLAP SMACK, CLAP CLAP SMACK…’ the rhythm began to build. The lyrics wove itself around the music. We were ready.

Now without wasting another second we formed groups of 5, 7 groups in all, and dispersed. Gathered everything that we felt was taking away the very beauty of the beach. Plastic bags, ice cream cones, pieces of paper, everything. Our eyes missed not a speck of waste. And soon we realized there were many eyes on us. Some watched in sheer wonderment, some in appreciation. Some in scorn and some in doubt. But in actuality what made the activity meaningful was when someone (to our sheer delight) actually lent us a helping hand. Truly enough, it was the defining moment. A moment we all knew difference had been made. We had all touched someone’s heart. Someone who we hoped would influence another one. And the wheel of change would be set in motion.

Then as the activity came to end, we gathered at a pre-decided venue, with bags full of waste. Never before had such a lot of waste made us proud. We clapped and cheered. And as we did, the sound echoed far and wide. Soon we realized we had company. Form the farthest corners we saw people clap in appreciation. We were moved. But there was one last thing we had to do before we dispersed. CLAP CLAP SMACK, CLAP CLAP SMACK…’ the rhythm began to build. The lyrics wove itself around the music. And the song erupted from the bottom of our hearts. ‘Hum hoge kamiyab’, we sang Nature Club style. What a spectacle it was, as a few onlookers cared to join in.

The event marked the end of a long memorable trip. But as we dispersed somewhere we believed it was a beginning of new change. Change would take place, one man at a time. Over a period of years. Till one day the whole world would be a more beautiful and cleaner place. We hoped.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Change is critical

When i say change I'm not talking about the 'change' everyone's blabbering about these days. Including our very own Barak Obama. But the 'change' that clatters in your pockets and vanishes into the deep crevices of your wallet every now and then. Until it finally sees the light of day, when the cab driver throws a scornful look at you or more so denounces you for flashing a R. 500 note for a minimum fare. During such times, how the inconsequential 'change' that lay deep under the weight of countless credit cards and crisp hard cash saves your honor is truly and surprisingly commendable. It just goes on to say, 'little things in life really (really) matter more than anything else'. I don't know who said this, but seems to me perhaps he at some time did lose his honor to some irate cab driver.

Well, for me, I learned the value of this inconsequential 'change' a few days back when it made sure i didn't go home hungry. The samosa vendor not realizing i was on a strict diet (thanks to jugs of beer i guzzled down and all the thrash I'd hogged on) and all i craved for was a samosa to satisfy an occasional burst of hunger, refused to sell me a single samosa for the lack of change. "DO SAMOSA MILEGA", in a crude, unsociable tone he kept muttering to the likes of me, "CHUTTA NAHI HAI". How insensitive i thought to myself. Then without getting into another spat of argument i desperately rummaged through by wallet, pocket, bag, while the vendor simply kept staring at me dubiously. Seeing how eager one can get to bite into his Samosa might have surely made him the proudest man on earth. So much so, I think he even considered arranging for change until i finally reached for a few coins that had be lying around for what seemed like 400 years. My happiness knew no bounds.

But thinking of it, with the onset of credit and debit cards we have gradually lost value for these immensely handy coins. More so, as i once went window shopping, i was amazed and quite intrigued as i picked up a wallet which had no provision for keeping coins. It was priced over a grand. So realizing that wasn't meant for the likes of me, i gave it a look of admiration, placed it back on the counter and walked by. And then I gave it slightly deeper thought.

Here lies a valuable insight. Change of any kind, or the adoption of a newer set of values more often than not begins at the top of the pyramid. After this stage it gradually filters down to the lower strata of the society who are forced to adopt these values and adapt to the changing times. Which means in a couple of years from now I'd have to use a card for the smallest purchases i make. So back home everytime i receive my card statement they'll know of how many cigarettes i smoke, how many jugs of beer i guzzle down and that i prefer Cafe Coffee Day to Barista!

I vote for change!!!

So yes, change is critical. Even as some the world's top leaders talk about it, somewhere subconsciously, i'm sure they're speaking out of experience. As the change clatters in their pockets, i'm sure it did at sometime save their honor. Perhaps that's what made them who they are today. Barak Obama, I’m sure will agree ;)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Back from Vacation

Vacations, especially the longer ones are often considered to be an excellent way to rejuvenate and gear up for another spell of mounting challenges. Never mind if your boss doesn't think so. After all its he who has to do all the dirty jobs you were hired for. But what happens thereafter often is quite contrary. For instance, I have 10 briefs in my mailbox. But what the heck, i decided to write this piece. I know for a fact that my boss at this very momentcould barge into my cubical and make my life a living hell. But i really can't help it. For him unfortunately i'm not his ceiling fan he can switch on and off anytime he likes. In any case, i must admit he uses an AC.
Besides, everyone finds the needs to acclimatize. Especailly after a vacation. Like i remember having read how astronauts do so. After having taken a trip to space which i must admit is quite a relaxing one, at least they dont face problems of reservation, crowded trains and so on and so forth, they laze about in a pool of water for hours together for reasons which are way beyond my understanding. Nevertheless i love the idea. 'Wouldn't it be great to have one in office?' (a pool i mean) i asked myself. Resuming office after a long vacation, stripping off, getting into a pair of trunks, uncorking a beer bottle, ordering for kebabs and idling about amidst all the clutter and clatter. It would be great to go on like this for a week. Or two. Ok lets all understand that business ain't doing too well, so say 2 and half weeks. Then i guess it would be time to take note of issues surrounding you and be a part of business as usual.

So then I'd take my seat, click open my mail box, find ten briefs lined up, decide that there are surely better things to do and i'm not my boss's ceiling fan. Who cares if he uses an AC. And go about writing yet another such piece. Hows that?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tales from Togaland

Ted heard a knock on the door. And then another. He didn't bother to answer it. He wasn't expecting anyone. It was 11, his bedtime. And then, he heard someone call out, "It's me, I've been looking for you". "Am I expecting you?", Ted asked. "You've always been expecting me", the stranger answered.

The last time Ted saw his father when he was 9. He was 81 now. Or perhaps 79, he didn't know for sure. But there's one thing he knew, he knew he'd live to see his father. At least once before his maid finds him submerged in the bath tub. There's something he had to tell his father, that his mother wasn't a bad mother after all. She provided him with everything he wanted. Good education, a kind stepfather and left behind $35 after clearing off all the debts.

Ted lived all his life in a humble cottage amidst the mystical wilderness. Amidst wild elephants and the placid cheetals. Amidst scavenger vultures and charming peacocks. 'Civilization' he had only heard off. But he would never forget the day he heard the train blow its whistle. The day he walked miles and approached the railroad that flanked the forest. He remembered how he ran, petrified by the screeching sound. He pledged to never go back. And he never did.

The stranger knocked at the door another time, "Where have you come from?", Ted asked the stranger. The stranger was silent for a while. And then he answered, "It's called civilisation". That word rang a bell in Ted's mind. He was reminded of the shriek. He had never seen a train before. But he thought of it as a monster dragging human corpse. "And what is your business here?", Ted questioned. "I've come to take you with me", the stranger answered.

Ted had heard nothing about civilization. Apart from the shriek. He was sure there was more to it. He craved to know. Though, he never wished to experience it. So, he unlocked the door for the stranger. And when he did, he saw a young man with a pleasant face dressed in a black cloak. "Hello", the stranger greeted Ted. "What's your name?", Ted asked. "Well, lets save that for later", the stranger said, "Can I have some water?". Ted walked into a dark room and some time later came with a bowl of water. "Who sent you?", Ted asked. “Civilisation”, the stranger answered, “the crusade on a mission to conquer the world”. “What do you want from me?”, Ted asked. “The world outside longs for you Ted”, it was the very first time the stranger took his name, “the mortal world”.


Since then, it’s been 100 years. Ted has had many such visitors. Over and over and over again. His house, a speck in the endless forests, rests calm. An occasional knock at the door is possibly the only voice ever heard. The fear of civilization still causes a chill to run down his spine. But Ted’s glad that it’s the only facet of civilisation that has ever reached him. He still longs for his father. He still longs for someone he doesn’t have to call stranger. But stranger he is. Stranger to the world that calls him Ted. Stranger to those who have seen his decomposing self in the bathtub. And then they call him ‘dead’. They say, “Ted, are you dead?”.

Then Ted answered, “Dead - is that what civilisation calls their immortal selves?”.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Who are we?

Humans would be an obvious answer. We're definitely a lot more interesting. Think creative. Think of yourself as an alien. In another land. Think of yourself as being somebody else’s imagination. As puppets on this earth. A source of entertainment for the extraterrestrial.

While we busy created sources of entertainment for ourselves, little did we realise we could very well be a source of entertainment for the unknown world. Someone who possibly lives with us. Shares this planet with us.

Why do dogs bark, or rather howl in the night? There's nobody on the road then, and neither do they bark at each other. They bark at... I really don’t know who.

I just looked up the meaning of humans on the internet. Documented here is the first i came across, 'All of the living human inhabitants of the earth'. Very well. So what becomes of me when i cease to exist? I don't think the dictionary provides an antonym for the word 'Human'. It should. It'll help us define who we are better. It will define our scope of thinking. And our scope of existence on this planet. It will define the very motive of life. Expressions like 'ambition', 'hard work' and so on and so forth will be understood better and in the right context.

For now this is all that i have to say.

I've left you with a question. And myself. Till tomorrow.