April 25, 2011

Is Nothing Sacred Anymore?

One of my most surprising choices of music, even to me, has always been Meatloaf. Things happen. People, books, movies, music happen to enter your life suddenly without a warning and they hang on for the rest of your life. Meatloaf has been one such band. One night, in my first year, as I sat in a room in Bhag, trying to type in something for the Press Club, I wondered, who on Mother Earth was this band. The Floyd era in my life was yet to start. I still was a part of the rustic ruffians whose only understanding of Floyd was to head bang with “We don’t need no education.” But I digress.

As I grew up (not apparent to most people), I must admit and somewhere around 2005 I guess, I realized that getting old is biological. Growing up was not. And I tried to stop the degeneration. And I began to consider few things sacred, sometimes to the point of creating an idiosyncrasy out of each one of them. Calcutta was one of them. I have always felt a little lost when it comes to Calcutta. I am the prodigal son, the deserter. I left Cal for what seemed better opportunities and have never been able to come back. It seems unlikely that I will be back anytime soon.

And so as Cal goes to the polls with the results fated to be historic one way or the other, I find myself in a dilemma. I won’t be voting in this election. But the 85% of my electorate will as they decide their fate and a part of future history. When I was in college, dad ensured I voted in most elections. Luckily the timings aided his efforts. But this is the third I will miss after the Parliamentary elections and the last assembly.

As I moved around Calcutta trying to feel the pulse of the city before the much awaited elections, I noticed things that have changed over the years. The bookshop where I used to buy most of my books from is now a gift shop. Clearly the bongs don’t gift as many books as they used to. The street food vendors I had grown up with change slowly every time I visit my usual haunts. The changes in Pilani were at the blink of an eye, the changes in Calcutta were more subtle. And it made me ask again, “Is nothing sacred anymore?”

But then something happened. The memories came flooding in, the good and the not go good. But however different they were, they kept on reminding me of a life that was innocent and beautiful.

Memories – they are sacred and they help you keep the faith. Always.

April 10, 2011

And That’s When I Realized – Part II

continued from here...

  1. South Africa remains inspired by Gandhi in the vision of her Madiba; that’s what the common people call Nelson Mandela. And perhaps that’s why as the rest of Africa burns in their struggle, South Africa remains peaceful. And that’s because people like Rev. Desmond Tutu believed that he had the responsibility to forgive. Every guide in South Africa talks about the moment when Madiba came out of his prison and they knew that he would one day be the President. And that’s where I feel proud to have the man with a stick as the Father of My Nation.
And that’s when I realized, violence can never replace non violence.

  1. We went on the biggest culinary journey I have ever taken, more experimentative than any I have ever done before with food. It started with Nandos and the peri peri sauce. The signature spice burst in my mouth was like multiple instruments creating an orchestra at high crescendo and I had ordered just the medium spicy. For the first time I was crying in front of my boss and he had nothing to do with it!!! We went across tasting the lobsters and prawns and the occasional vegetable dish, all through figuring out which side of the Atlantic the fish came from. The Langoustine remains the best prawn I have ever had. One day, the Bongs of the World would count The Codfather as their ultimate culinary destination. And then one night we searched for home food and landed in Jewel of India. It was definitely not the best Indian Food in the World but then after a week of staying away from home, it tasted heavenly.
And that’s when I realized, the taste of home is beyond any in the world.

  1. We travelled like crazy in the only free time we had before we had to board the flight and we went ahead to view the most important spots of the country. The choice was between Nature and History and my city bred eyes have always picked nature without a second though when faced with this dilemma.  Table Mountain spread out an entire city beneath us, cradled between the mountain and the sea. The clouds did not descend on us but what we saw was worth it by itself. The sunset at Camp’s Bay, the Cape of Good Hope, the legend of the Flying Dutchman and the Chapman’s Drive, all of them took our breath away. I worked on my framing of my pictures and realized that slowly my own style had developed over the years. I have three distinct takes – portraits, which need a good camera and thus I need to wait for a good one; nature – I think I am getting better at it when there is no human interference and album – the pictures you want to show people back home. Now in the album art I know exactly how and where to focus on people, what should be the subject and how the background should look like and it was nice to go back to theory of photography once again. And all with a Point and Shoot. Good at least I have shutter speed and aperture to play with.
 And that’s when I realized, I never bought a digital SLR not just because I missed my old analog cameras but because deep down I knew a digital lens can never replicate what my eyes can see and hold in wonder.

April 08, 2011

The Last Wolevrine

He ran along the prairies confident and fearless. The world was his playground, the air his friend, the pine cones his playmates.

The moon looked down upon him and smiled. They were friends too. When on full moon nights, she rose with all her grandeur, even he would stop tearing apart the carcass of a deer and look up to greet her. When she was covered with her own demons, he bared his fangs and leapt at them and they slowly gave way and vanished.

Yet they always came back.

The moon was moody to say the least. She hid on occasions behind her veil of clouds and as he grew older he realized that the moon was selfish too. They were born just a few hours apart. He knew he was born during the day when the gold disc was high in the sky and then as he played with his siblings, the gold disc dipped behind the mountains and the moon was born. Since then he had taken care of her. She was his responsibility.

Then one day they came. Hairless apes riding on Monsters, tearing down tree after tree. Trees that were older than the mountain itself were uprooted and thrown away. The green faded from the valley. The mountain shook and there were gaping holes left in his side. The mighty hills were pierced and though it did not bleed, everyone but the apes could hear it cry.

The moon too was covered in a strange new mist. It was not the fog of the pine cones in winter. It was dark, smelling of the black water that one could not drink and he growled and growled and it did not go away. Then one day, he attacked one of the apes. Easier than the ones on trees, they only had a piece of branch that lit a spark with a deafening sound and threw a stone. They never could hit him with the stone. He was too fast for it. He killed and killed till the monsters stopped barking and the mountains were still.

But he had misjudged the apes. One day as he slept, he felt something pierce his body and then all went dark.

They pulled him towards the burning stake. He tugged at his chains and realized that they were unbreakable.

He looked at the moon for one last time and howled in an ecstatic delirium. The apes crossed their hearts.

The mountains died with the last wolverine and legends say a new star was born beside the moon.

(The piece is loosely based on movies, folk tales, news reports and my own reality. Sometimes the dividing lines between myth, legends and realities merge.)

April 04, 2011

Light and Darkness

He was born of light. That’s the first remembrance he had of the world around him. Bright light that was stunning, yet soft to the eye. Light which some said came from a thousand splendid suns and yet never burnt anything it touched. Light that dispelled all evil around it and filled ones heart with hope.

His heart rejoiced. The world beneath was full of possibilities and as he descended down the rainbow, he saw his work cut out. He was born of light; born to remove darkness; born to remove all the muck that had settled in on the world. He was born for greatness. And yet, he knew that he did not crave for it. Neither did it matter to him if the resounding roar of applause would be absent. He did it for Light.

He worked through the filth of mediocrity knowing at every step that his task was cut out in the future. The light reminded him of sabres slicing through ignorance.

And he never noticed the webs slowly ensnaring his legs.

After years of practice, he was ready, to fly, to reach for the heavens above and transcend into a new reality, taking everything around him to the Promised Land.

As he neared the end of his training, he noticed the black threads for the first time. The webs had gotten stronger but not stronger than his will. He was after all, born of the light. They could wait. He had to become the best first.

Then one day as he readied to fly away, a searing pain ripped his body apart. The chains were unbreakable. He pulled and pulled, but slowly the darkness crawled towards him, the light began to dim. He heard the combined gasps of people around, the ones who had waited for deliverance and the ones who he had failed. He sank, lower and lower, till the last speck of light was blotted out.

Epilogue: He woke up bathed in neon lights. The thousand suns had given way. The glasses were tinted with multiple colours. He looked around. There were so many like him, a room full of people with tinted glasses, accepting the neon hallucination for reality. They all felt familiar. He looked at himself and did not recognize the face he saw. There was an unspeakable void within him and his past was lost forever.

What he did not know that they were all once born of light. And they all had failed.