Sunday, 27 April 2014

Strayed

Courtesy - The Mag


The carefully stacked books
and all the disarray leftover,
Her clothes; still smelling almonds,
The room - sour and bitter!

A vivid screen shows smiles,
Life - hidden unredeemed
inside my memorial chasms,
Where her body is laid to rest.

Loss - dire and complete,
Eats my perpetual joys,
Mutilates my clarity of thoughts,
And leaves me alone every time.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Lust

The repelling odor of ammonia dispersed evenly into the thick and humid air. Converging upon the public toilet were three lanes, one from the vegetable market, another from the bus stand and the third from the oblivious ardor of the 'Prostitute Street'. When Hamid zipped his pants and came out of the toilet he could have gone through any of the three lanes. But the choice to embark onto the 'Prostitute Street' was his ritual, a ritual he barely compromised on.

On that day, visibly furious over an argument with his wife over some petty household mischief, he would have performed well on bed, he even would have produced the fury which his marital relationship lacked. 'I f**k her by habit', Hamid once divulged to his friend at the helm of alcohol. He said it with a derisive laugh which fit ever so naturally on his face. But today running low on money but certainly at the pinnacle of passion, Hamid walked the streets and eyed every whore with genuine yearning and intense adoration!

Every second he spend in the street, he felt a suffocating heaviness in the air, and found his stomach churn and imagined butterflies inside his stomach making love like mad dogs. He couldn't watch another woman and almost ran back to the public toilet where all lanes converged. After a brief repression of the overwhelming desire, he came out of the toilet and watched the clouds over flow with their fluids. He felt a sudden empathy with them, and stood for a while facing the skies. Droplets hit his face and disappeared into the air as a thousand sparkling gems, created in genuine amor, for the Earthen land!

After his initial curiosity ebbed away, he took the lane that curved on like a serpent to the bus stand.

Perhaps due to the expansive nature of the world, or mostly because of flocking population (towards the mirage called city), small towns like this seemed increasingly empty. Apparently all the pangs of being a love-starved monster would have made Hamid even more distraught that night which made him see the bus stand as a graveyard. A graveyard which seemed to still have the air of a burial, but one in which all the friends and relatives of the demised have gone away. Hamid searched for the bus which would lead him home, but found none. The only bus waiting in the yard was towards Kochi. He was always intrigued at Kochi's night life. He knew all large cities woke up at night. For once he thought of climbing onto the threshold of abundant dreams, onto the queen of Arabian sea, but obviously thought otherwise when he checked his pocket.

He knew the only practical choice was the forlorn habitual love with his wife, which he knew would be strenuous considering the time (nearly midnight) and also the bitter argument in the morning. Yet Hamid knew all wives are slaves to her husband, a husband could manhandle his wife in whatever ways he please. A friend of Hamid once commented during a bachelor party, 'Wives are made for two reasons. One - to satisfy passion. Two - to wash our underwears!' Hamid smiled, he knew it was true.

Just when he was about to take the two kilometer walk home, the bus to Kochi came alive. It opened its eyes and shone light. The engine, like an angry grizzly bear, yearned for the injection of gas and murmured on in visible distaste. The driver sensing the rage of the untamed beast kicked the pedal, as if it were his own wife, and moved the large beast, took a turn and disappeared around the corner. Hamid could still hear the growl of the vehicle when he saw her running towards him.

Hamid couldn't discern reality and imagination for a fraction of a second. He knew that his mind would play tricks on him because it needed comfort. And before him the image of her, barely 23, made his heart beat a tad faster. His breaths became heavy. He knew she was running to catch the bus. He knew she wouldn't catch it. He calculated his moves. He watched the surroundings. The last family who came to bid their kins farewell have already entered their cars. He will be alone with her, in the middle of a sultry old stand, with no chances of another bus to anywhere till sunrise.

'Has the bus to Kochi gone?',she asked catching her breath.

Hamid took a while and swallowed a mouthful of air to check whether it still had the piercing smell of garlic which his wife so detested.

The moment he was sure that the smell have faded away, he replied,'Yes mam. You just missed it!'

She seemed petrified for a moment, unable to gather what she had just heard. Her face turned white, her hands shivered in angst, and began sweating profusely which turned her beautiful all the more!

'When would be the next bus?', she asked with no tinge of hope.

'I am sorry, but that was your last bus'. Hamid gave a faint smile which was immediately captured by the woman. She felt afraid for the first time.

'You would get the first bus tomorrow morning at 5. Till then why don't you rent a room at a hotel. I'd show you one', Hamid felt that he almost convinced her.

'I need to reach Kochi by 4 am', replied the woman.

Kochi and its night life, Hamid thought. Probably she was some high classed whore who had an important contract, or maybe just a silly youth who didn't know the dilemmas of night life in a village. Either way she seemed a perfect target for Hamid. Butterflies were forcing love inside his stomach. All his contained passion was about to break its shackles when she said,

'My mother is sick. She would be operated tomorrow at 4. I desperately need to reach in time.'

For a moment Hamid paused. Mother. How beautiful a word! Hamid lost his mother when he was 4. His father would rape her every single day in front of him and she wouldn't raise her voice. Maybe she died because of it. In India, marital rapes are as common as sunsets. Hamid would think his bizarre love-making with his wife was no different, but there was a certain thrill to it which would lure him more and more into forced love.

But tonight, the way she said the word mother drove Hamid into a frenzy. The butterflies suddenly dropped dead and turned into ashes. He knew the pains of being separated from maternal love. And unimaginably, even to himself, he sympathized with the woman. He asked him her name.

'Akshara', she said.

'Don't worry Akshara. Let me call a friend who has a cab. He could help you', Hamid's words seemed genuine to Akshara. She sighed in relief. But the relief was soon capsized when Hamid made the call.

'Come over to the stand bastard, you'll get a trip' and just like that he disconnected the call.

In a matter of minutes a cab arrived in the bus stand. An aged driver, who looked devoid of sleep, shouted all sorts of blasphemies at Hamid. Hamid laughed.

'Calm down Dada. Drop her off at Kochi. She would pay you well'

'I don't need the money, I need sleep, you rascal!', he shouted even more.

'He is a bit eccentric, but you can trust him as long as you have money!', Hamid calmed Akshara who seemed tensed in the midst.

'Who is she?', the driver quizzed Hamid.

'A sister', Hamid said with a smile.

'Quite a pathetic brother you have memsab', Akshara tried to hide a smile which eventually came out.

After getting into the car Akshara could see both the men chatting outside. She saw the driver handing five 100 rupee notes to Hamid, and both laughing wildly. The innate fear rose again, and would be curbed only after she reached Kochi one hour later. The driver asked for a fare of 1000 rupees, claiming she not only disrupted his sleep but also made him hear the vilest sh*t he could think of thanks to her brother! She would have given him a 10,000 if he would have asked it. She rushed into the hospital. Her mother awaited her with tired eyes.

Somewhere far away, sometime before, Hamid would reach the toilet where all lanes converged. He took the lane towards the 'Prostitute Street'. Clouds were building up once again in the skies. He thought of Akshara, Dada would drop her off safely. Sister. How beautiful a word! And for a moment he pictured another Hamid in the story. A love starved Hamid. How the story of Akshara would have changed! He looked inside his pocket - 500 rupees. He didn't borrow it from Dada, he asked to add that to the fare.

500 rupees was price for the chastity of Akshara, it would now be fee for the immorality of a prostitute!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Gracias Gabo!


A part of me bitterly dies!
Solitude with Gabo was less poignant,
Sunsets I shared with Aureliano Buendia
Planted more revolution than my thoughts,
Along the way Marquez's whores, his unrequited loves,
And his inflaming passion became my own!
Oh, when Marquez leaves behind his words,
He leaves behind every deep thought,
Every apt musing, every intense emotion,
And every nostalgia words could bring,
There is nothing that cannot be expressed in words,
Certainly with Gabo you knew it was true.

However I try to console myself, it just wouldn't suffice. The world has lost a legendary storyteller. And I have lost a person whom I loved deeply. I know that Gabo's words shall live on. But my universe has dropped into deep oblivion after his demise.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Convicted

This is the story of Amar, who knew, when he was just 7, the irony of his name. Like most rural Indians, sadly, he learned it the harder way.

Amar in Hindi meant 'immortal'. But on that August evening, when his mother was wailing in evident pain emanating from what he later found out to be a lethal tumor, he saw his father drinking poison and vomiting blood. Two uncomfortable understandings of life would dawn upon Amar's intellect:
1. People are born to find ways to die
2. What the GOD in the attic could do was smile like he always did!

Practically one wouldn't count Amar to be talked about in third person, left aside him being the theme of a story. But as you can plainly see, what happened was quite the contrary. Amar never fared well in studies, after the death of his father he needed to run the house chores while at the same time tending to his ill mother, who became more fragile each passing day.

He used to say that at times he needed to handle her like a water-drop, carefully and with utmost devotion. He remembers that day, when his mother would have begun seeing the credits rolling up on the screen which portrayed her life, when he left her in her bed in the morning while he went to work and on coming back in the evening found a stray dog almost eating her up alive. Amar knew quite a many people who became food to dogs in his slum, in fact the person next door died after a group of scandalous dogs tried to loot him out of his dinner. But for his mother another climax was written. On a day when even the weather became sombre, probably to pay homage, his mother wailed for the final time in her life. And for the first time death brought a sigh of relief to Amar, a relief that could only be understood if you heard how his mother would cry in pain.

Death of his mother gave a certain freedom to Amar, a freedom you would feel when you have been caged your whole life and got suddenly released. This freedom introduced Amar to the darker worlds both within and outside. His persistent struggle to attain wealth found himself mixed in all sorts of physical and mental conflicts, the outcome of which destroyed all sympathy and innocence that life had bestowed upon him.

At 23, Amar was the most sought after criminal in his city and had incredulous stories of organized crimes and barbarous killings, which included the killing of a pregnant lady to loot what was her 5 gram necklace. The secret to his still not serving a term for any of the crimes he committed were the powerful influences he had both inside the judiciary and the police. Almost during the same time he would learn two more enlightening thoughts on life:
1. Money gives a man identity
2. Power gives a man courage

Even after being generally considered as a merciless criminal Amar still thought he had a sane nature inside him. He heard his mother's wails each night and found his father's bottle of poison still standing proudly atop his desk. Every night he would resign himself into the seclusion, amidst his mother's wails and father's blood, he would draft the plans of tomorrow's burglaries. This brought a sort of satisfaction, because when he planned, the wails subdued and the bottle of poison became powerless.

It was his general motto in life to be successful. On the day we first met, Amar said to me, 'Whatever I am, whatever I am reduced to, was born out of my desires'. I believed this man. I believed that whatever he was scrutinized for, there was still something that stood out, like an exasperated sentiment!

Even when he was arrested for the first time in his life, all he did was smile. When undergoing trial in court he glanced around the court room and found the face he was looking for and murmured the words that he wanted to say to her, 'FUCK YOU!'. He never bothered to have a lawyer. He had this imaginative parallel world, inside which no force could harm him. But when that world was shattered with the judge beating his hammer, Amar knew that his life suddenly seemed worthless. In that courtroom facing the judge giving him capital punishment he understood two more things about life:
1. Money, power and all other physical prowess were momentary
2. When you see death in front of your eyes, you lose all sustained pride

'Don't try to help me', Amar said to me when I paid him a visit at his jail. He would need to spend 16 years in prison before he would walk onto the rope. He never stuttered as he spoke, 'Make sure you use the money to do what I say'. Yes, he left behind a fortune! The good thing with India is that even when a man is prosecuted for crime and is sentenced to punishment, his history of thefts are not recorded and the money is never retrieved. What Amar asked me to do with this money was to give it back to some 27 people from whom he either stole it or forced it out.

I went to the bank and withdrew all of what was left in the account. It amounted to some 67 lacs. At first the money made my vision grow hazy. I felt a force, a strange attraction that Amar might have also felt towards these paper strips. But then my sense of duty overpowered the attraction and the money was returned.

Almost 14 years later, I met Amar for the final time. He had grown old, older than me, haunted by prison life and the melancholy memories of his past. It was then he shared with me two final statements on life:
1. We spend all our life living and we don't even know why
2. The answer ironically could be understood only after we die

I thought a lot about what he said. Though, I never quite understood what he might have meant. On my way back I got a call from the prison saying Amar had died vomiting blood. I went back immediately. There I saw his lifeless body and the image of his soul migrating to a better place. I didn't spill a tear, this guy was a shrewd killer, one who would have slaughtered me if it pleased him. But quite simultaneously I remembered what he said to me that morning and thought about the destiny that made him walk through the path, the path of understandings, the path of depressive and unwelcome moments, the path of ceaseless struggle, the path which suddenly turned towards felonious extremes, the path which brought him to prison, the path which made him meet me.

'Sir, what shall we do with him?', the constable asked me. I couldn't give him an apt reply but continued my thoughts. 'He deserves a cremation', I replied coldly.

After his cremation I found Amar's diary inside his cell. I read his final entry in which he had written, 'If death levels the scores, then let my pains wash away my sins!', and then I found my tears spreading his ink, and my mind searching for essence behind all his artless words.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Paranoia

Before hanging up the phone I remember my voice going angry and hard. If you don't know me and would have first met me at that instant, you would have been of the opinion that I'm ill tempered and naive, which surely is a pathetic combination. But to tell you the truth, I'm far from a grumpy and senseless freak. In fact there are reasons why normal men behave in an abnormal way, reasons that would seem ludicrous if you lack the desired empathy.

I'm not guided by premonitions, but definitely I wouldn't bother telling that you have a certain empathy, a certain curiosity, because if either weren't the case, you wouldn't probably take the time to hear all my absurd intro into a seemingly cumbersome phone call.

I won't give you apt breakthroughs into the subject, but certainly you are going to get leads. Now I'm sure many of you would be aware of Hansel and Gretel, the duo who went behind bread crumbs. Think of yourself as Hansel, and if you are reading this with a friend, he could be Gretel, and I would drop you the bread crumbs.

Now that gets you all excited doesn't it? I know its just another phone call and all of this is a bit exaggerated, but here is the first crumb for you. I got the call from 3459, or some number like that, almost 20 minutes back and when I picked the phone up, the sound at the other end claimed in a severe tone, 'My name is Aftab, and I'm going to kill you.'

Now like you, I don't realize what these people have against me. Last week a guy named Thakur send me a letter asking to meet him at the railway station, and when I showed up, he came towards me and handed me a baggage and asked me to take it home and keep it in the refrigerator. He never said another word and disappeared. I still keep that baggage in the refrigerator. Maybe because of the blood stains and the smell of rotten meat, I never dared to open the baggage, ever! Now don't get too bothered about that, I'd like to think it was chicken or beef, but certainly not what you were thinking.

I pardon for dwelling on other topics, I'm so restless after that call, the paranoia is still prevalent. I have raced from bedroom to the front door a thousand times, checking if the gates are ajar or imagining a knock on the front door.

Now I haven't known many Aftabs to have solid enemies. In my childhood, I had a friend of the same name whom I used to mock, calling him a fool. Oh, indeed he was. He was so dumb that he used to think chocolates grew on trees. I also had a genuine repulsion to his pathetic outlook, and considered him to be the ugliest thing I've ever met. But I never dislodged any of the emotions upon him, nor have I ever behaved so as to give him even a hint of my hate. And after all these years it was highly unlikely that he would come in vengeance for a crime I never committed.

The second Aftab was the one I met at college. He was my classmate. But he wasn't the foolish old Aftab, but the eccentric genius of the campus. He had a habit of talking to himself, questioning his thoughts and fighting with his ideologies. On certain days, I even heard him swear so loud that you would run away in fear of confronting with him. The abominable fact of the world remains that they hate you if you are a genius and they would despise you if you are a fool (and yes I know John Lennon said that too). But this Aftab could never have been my caller, most certainly he had nothing to do with me. He would have most likely continued with his surreal existence and would have ended up in a lunatic asylum or became a scientist!

That pretty much sums up the two Aftabs I have ever known.

Now, I'm pretty sure it was one of them. Because through the phone he gave me a miniaturized portrayal of my life so as to make sure he was talking to the right person. He asked me things like, 'You're that hopeless wretch who dropped out from college ain't you?' and 'You had a wife and she left you because of your attitude, right?' Naturally you could guess that it were true, from the stutter as I speak.

But that wouldn't really give us the reason why he said he would kill me, right? Yes, I also thought the same. That was when my voice got angry. And sadly this was when you entered uninvited into my room and I had to narrate all of this treacherous tale before I am killed.

Now I would pause you to think, if you have Gretel with you, ask him. Who would have possibly called me? Wait, do you hear that? Yes, someone is knocking at the door. Probably it is Aftab. Oh my God, my head is spinning. You do hear the noise, don't you? Do you hear his boots kicking at the door and the creak of the wood? Do you hear his agitated breathing, discharging rage with every exhalation? You do hear them don't you?

Oh, it seems like you don't hear them? So you think I'm some of kind of jerk too? And you think that the person outside, perhaps with a loaded gun, is not going to hurt me? You certainly are as abhorrent as my doctor. Wait, you don't know my doctor? That means you have not opened my refrigerator. I believe his name was some Thakur.

Now, don't be afraid, it is I who should be afraid. I must confess the guy was a respectful doctor, but one fine day he wrote that he should come and meet me at the railway station, and that we should be going for a journey somewhere far. I arrived as asked. We traveled a lot that day. I had a habit back then to count the number of people I meet, and I met almost 3459 individuals who lazed around the world, which would probably speak of the volumes we traveled. I don't remember much of the places we visited but certainly I can still visualize the grave of Salma Aftab, whom when asked by the doctor, I blankly said I never knew about.

Now don't question me about Salma Aftab again, I swear I don't know her. But Aftab? I have known some Aftabs in my life. But not enough of them to have any significance. I must also add to curb your curiosity that I killed the silly old doctor with my 9 inch Magnum because he asked me too much.

Oh, the door is cracking, don't you hear? Do you see my hands shiver with fear? I have read somewhere that fear makes you do strange things. I've known a girl named Salma who was killed by a lunatic because she made him nervous. Fear never cripples you, rather fear controls you, monitors you and asks you to do impervious deeds which otherwise you would never do.

You see that telephone right? Call the police, ask them a person is about to get murdered at my home. Quickly! What? What were you saying? You are saying that the telephone is not working? But Aftab called me just now! You must be joking, right? Or, are you making me a fool?! A dumb lunatic who murdered his doctor?! You have played this game too far. Oh no! He is here. Look at him. Look at his gun. It is a 9 inch Magnum!