Redemption

What is this? What have you done? What have I become? I look at the mirror and see organs, blood, muscle, tissue under a layer of skin covering up a hollow, endless abyss where my soul and spirit once used to be. There is a mechanical overtone to my movements, a clockwork precision that masks my aimless existence. Are you to blame for this vegetative state I’m in? Or should I curse myself for the rot that has set in?

Perhaps I didn’t see it coming. Hindsight is a bitch and introspection is a cunning bastard that keeps scratching your raw wounds and stuffing coarse salt in them. Flirting with you was like opening my front door in a tempest, impossible to close once the violent winds of your attraction lashed at my heart. Courting you was courting Death. Like Love injecting a potent, invisible poison of passion in my veins. When did a harmless intoxication turn into a lethal addiction? I don’t know. It was inescapable then. It is inescapable now.

I frantically thrash about. A man out of his depth. A fish out of water. Gasping, with hopes of water gushing in and calming me, only to take in more air and feel my throat drying up. I freeze in my tracks like a deer in headlights. There are moments of sanity when redemption looks possible, when I scavenge the depths of that hollow abyss and try to find traces of the lost soul I once had. Madness returns mostly in the form of the same mechanical existence and the abyss swallows me whole. I am lost in the depths of my own despair.

But redeem myself, I have to. There has to be salvation somewhere, in some form, waiting for me to claim. I could forge a raft of logs, hoist sheepskin as my sails and obliterate the monstrous hurricanes of the seven seas. I could lead a revolution and topple governments. I could dismantle the Colosseum and rebuild it, brick for brick.  I could be the conqueror of worlds wasting his spoils of war on the lepers in the street without waiting for their blessings and marching on to my next conquest. Something, ANYTHING to feel a fleeting semblance of the life I once had.

Would it be enough? Would I have lived?

 

DELTA1

 

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A Petrol-head’s Dream

Forgive the clichéd title, but being a petrol-head and admiring those metal beauties zipping around on rubber on black tarmac since my childhood, my share of driving one came too late in life. The start of my thirties to be precise. And so I believe I must be allowed this indulgence.

Anyway, I grew up in an era when the choice of tourist cars was the grand old HM Ambassador with windows that wound down manually and a sort of igloo shaped cabin that magically expanded to hold as many people and stuff as you needed it to. I enjoyed my vacations to different holiday destinations in my state in this car and every trip had some breakdown or accident that was worthy of being retold generations later. It was but natural that my curiosity would gradually turn into an avid and keen interest and admiration. A part of it was also due to the changing passenger vehicle market. Tata Motors gave us icons like Indica, Safari and Sumo – timeless cars that still have a soft corner in my heart. The Daewoo Cielo, that loooong sedan majestically advertised on the glossy pages of The Sunday Times, Ford concepts splashed across some glossy magazine that I got for free while rummaging for comics at a local bookstore, all added to the awe and I was thoroughly smitten by these divas. The impact these harbingers of the history of cars to come would be indelible.

Fast forward to about 20 years and the car segment in India has drastically changed (and for the good, of course). Consumers are now spoilt for choice, car makers are busy releasing new design languages, models, variants, refreshes or outright creating new segments! What a time to be alive!

It was high time I grabbed me one of these beauties and check off one item from my bucket list – owning a car. The first challenge was to learn to drive. Since we didn’t own a car before,I never really got a chance to lay my hands on one and learn driving. And as I always fell asleep when I rode shotgun I was scared if it would happen while driving as well. 2 days into my driving lessons and I was hooked! The acceleration, the awareness that you have the power of a hundred horses at the tip of your right foot was exhilarating to say the least! I knew then that I would enjoy being behind the wheel come highways or twisty narrow lanes choked with traffic. Falling asleep at the wheel was the monster under the bed I had already vanquished.

Driving tests done and dusted, I then turned my attention to buying the best car my budget could allow me to. For me it was a simple decision, the new compact sedan Zest from Tata Motors. The buying decision, my thought process, the pros and cons warrant a new post altogether but the bottom line is that in my humble opinion it’s the only car in its class that gives the most value for money. For me that had a significant impact on my buying decision.

And so during the auspicious Ganesh festival last year as I grinned from ear to ear while accepting the keys to the metallic grey petite beauty, I fulfilled my dream of owning my first car and checking off an item off my bucket list and added some much needed ‘Zest’ to my life.

That grin still comes back on every time I take the wheel.

 

DELTA 1

NOTE:

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

माँ

अब नींद नहीं आती तो थोड़ा धड़कन को सुन लेता हूँ,
मैंने दिल में माँ की लोरी छुपाकर रखीं है |
सर्दी में ओढ़ लेता हूँ एक पुराना कंबल,
मैंने माँ के आँचल की गरमाहट बचाए रखीं है |

माँ के आशीर्वाद से बड़ा फ़ायदा क्या?
माँ की नसीहत से बड़ा क़ायदा क्या?
मंदिर के तीर्थ में कहाँ मिलता है अमृत
मैंने माँ के आँसुओं की नमी बचाए रखीं है |

कौन बताए सही ग़लत किस राह पर चल पड़े?
कौन बताए दुश्मन दोस्त जिससे हम लड़ पड़े?
खामोशी की चीख़ हो या शोर में सन्नाटा
मैंने जेहन में अब भी माँ बसाए रखीं है |

The Fog

It wasn’t a typical cold winter’s night. And yet just cold enough for a walk. The first fog of the season rolled lazily over the dim gas lit streets. We were strolling, wandering really. We didn’t know where the road was taking us, and didn’t need to. She looked splendid enough to make me forget journeys and destinations. Her face glowed in whatever little light the street lamps shared with the world around them. I was mesmerized. She was bewildered. Her beauty and modesty was as beautiful a potion as it was toxic. And my heart was already feeling the first pangs of its power.

I deliberately stopped under a lamp to slow her down, just so I could soak in the radiance of her face. The fog rolled past the lamp as lazily as ever, but it danced across her face, caressing it like a lover and making me jealous. And in that jealous, love filled rage, I touched her cheeks, almost as if to wipe those shadows off her face. Startled, her eyes questioned me as fleetingly as they found the answer. She smiled and something in those eyes assured me the fog could never touch her the way I did. Her eyes laid bare my insecurities and covered them in a blanket. I was lost in them, and would’ve paid a fortune not to be found again.

Something did find me. A noise somewhere in the distance perhaps. After the moment I took to recollect my thoughts, my eyes sought her again. Framed and behind a thin veil of glass, her eyes still fixated me and pulled me away from the banalities of existence. The memories started flooding my mind again, making my head throb with the sheer collage of images of an unforgettable yesterday, and making my heart ache with the feelings each moment held within itself. The brain defense mechanism made me involuntarily reach out for some book on the table, and open the first page.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

DELTA1

The Guardian

I’m late for this. It was long overdue. But it’s never too late to make amends. The following short essay is a pathetic attempt to pay tribute to a guardian, grandmother, friend, philosopher, sage, comic. I wrote it as a part of a contest in my office and it found approval from some people. When I had envisioned it earlier, I would have perhaps written a lot more. But this is perfect.

 THE MOST INSPIRING WOMAN IN MY LIFE

 Every. Single. Morning. She wakes up to open the door for the maid, sharp at 6. All 80 years of wrinkled skin and creaky bones. The winter chills don’t freeze her. The warm blanket has no power over her. The monsoon dampness cannot peg her down. Each slow step has a resolve and a purpose. The arched back has an unknown source of strength. The hands find their support without the help of the weak eyes further weakened by the darkness and dim lights. Her day begins in this darkness, almost mocking the Sun for rising later than her.

At an age when she should waste her time savouring the sweet fruit of a tiresome life she has led, she has come out of retirement only to fulfill the promise she made to her dying daughter. Her solemn word was not to let her grandchildren ever feel orphaned or straying nomads without roots. With every small action, every small word, every small gesture and blessing, she still strives to fulfill that promise.

Her grandchildren use her as a punching bag; an outlet to their frustrations and disappointments. And when all is said and done, they still seek solace in her embrace, and peace in her quivering hand in their hair. Gods will be worshipped. Heroes will be praised. My grandmother will still remain far above them all. She will forever remain the benchmark against which I will measure myself.

DELTA 1

Death Be Not Proud

Death be not proud
There are those who conquer You.
For it’s foolish how You think You own
Souls who have stopped fearing.

While you cast Your unseen shadow
Over the unsuspecting heads of peasants,
Your naivety never lets You realise
It’s but a moment’s clarity to salvation.

A body that gives up the fight
But a mind that stays sharp to the end
Is always invincible even in defeat
For You’re not mighty enough to break it.

So live in Your delusion while You break hearts
And celebrate Your false victories
You are but an urn full of ashes
About to be scattered on their next journey.

DELTA1

Hero Worship

A footballer, not particularly well known, falls on the ground in a match. he’s taken to the hospital, in critical condition, where it’s announced that he’s fighting life and death. Over the next few weeks during the course of his recovery, people fall over themselves on Twitter and Facebook in showing their support for him. It’s boils down to who has the most eloquent, soul stirring, inspiring 140 characters to show support on his path to recovery. All this time, the true test of character is reserved only for him and his family as they grapple with this adversity. As he completes his recovery, people lose interest, and he fades into the same normalcy from which he was pulled into the cold limelight. Within a matter of days, a quarter of a turn around the globe, an unknown footballer falls on the ground during a match in a city, and dies due to the lack of the most basic of medical infrastructure needed to take him to a hospital. His death goes largely unnoticed. Later, on a Facebook football forum created by some friends, a supporter of an English football club from that same country shows his solidarity with families and friends of 96 fans who lost their lives in a tragic stampede at an English football ground many years ago. Chances are he wasn’t even born at the time the tragedy occurred, leave alone know about the club he supports. He doesn’t make any posts related to the death of that unknown footballer who died less than a 1000 kms away from him.

A cricketer, once a rising star, then branded arrogant and wasteful by some, regains his stature in the World Cup, only to be diagnosed with cancer immediately afterwards. People take it as their duty to encourage him, re-tweet and favourite his tweets and shared photos. A processed foods company comes up with their signature adverts saying ‘We’re in this together’. He finds a new meaning to life as he fully recovers and claims his stake to his position in the starting line up of the national team. The media finds a new darling – a hero that can inspire millions fighting this monstrosity of a disease. Meanwhile the fact that a majority of those millions don’t have the financial means to fight this disease is conveniently ignored. Even more ignored are those countless success stories in which ordinary people go broke in winning this fight and come back from the worst stages of cancer, and live.

A guerrilla group’s leader hits global consciousness as his heinous acts are publicized and authorities are pressurized to act with urgency. College going kids take an oath to make him famous by showing what horrible acts he has committed, and everyone jumps on the bandwagon. Engineering students from a city nicknamed ‘The Oxford Of The East’ are interviewed by the leading local newspaper where they share their plans to stick posters about the leader on the college walls to ‘make him famous’ and draw attention to his atrocities. Ask them about the number of infanticides in their city in an year, and chances are they’ll be dumbfounded.

The heir apparent to a nation’s Prime Ministership consoles a 10 year old boy who lost his father, a police officer, in a Naxal attack by saying, ‘I know how it feels to lose a father.’ The nation swoons. The subservient media glorifies the politician’s statement even further. Tons of ink blackens paper in singing his praises. Not one self righteous journalist comments on the fact that the politician has a last name that opens locks of the nation’s treasury and is the only qualification required to rule the political party and country. Whereas the little child will perhaps be forced to beg on the streets before he receives even half of his father’s ‘Full and Final Settlement’ amount.

The bravest woman I had the privilege to know saw her husband go from a healthy man, without any medical history, to a corpse in the matter of 14 days, while she herself fought a losing battle against her arch nemesis, cancer. There are no records of her bravery, no songs of her valour when she confronted death twice – once of the only man she ever loved, and when it returned to claim her. Her memories only linger on in the hearts of her children, her mother who watched her lose, and her awestruck family. Her story is perhaps more inspiring than the hyped up battles of those with the means to fight them easily and yet she remains a statistical number. There are countless others like her, who displayed human will at its magnificent best, braving the odds to fight such wars without caring about the consequences, only to be relegated to the shadows of the unknown, no matter what the outcome.

Hero worship is not what it used to be. Heroes are no longer defined by their character, their actions, their ability to inspire the commonest of the common. They’re instead defined by the visibility they receive through the manic tweeting fingers, perpetually in a race to outpace everyone else in being the first to post about that perceived heroic act on social media. Everyone knows everything about the chosen heroes, and yet no one is truly inspired by them. The only return sought on this investment of characters in a post is the visibility that post can receive, gaining likes, re-tweets, followers and shares in the process. The man who walked thousands of miles against the atrocious policies of an empire is etched in immortality, and yet the hundreds of thousands of ghosts who followed him to make his agitation a success receive not even a footnote’s worth of space in the annals of history.

When the ashes turn cold and the dust settles, the people who trend on twitter will always be forgotten. Facebook likes will become meaningless. Inspiration will remain a buzzword associated with posters with abstract images and fancy quotes.

What will persist is our failure to recognize true heroes, without the crutches of the instruments of hype.

DELTA1