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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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 |

Love

Love.

Takes you places.

Places you’d rather be and places you don’t want to see.

Places of your dreams and places that make you scream.

Places dark with a ray of light, places bright with a storm in sight.

Places you never want to leave, places real yet so make-believe.

Love.

Changes you.

For better and for worse, without a chance to rehearse.

Makes you a Demon and a God, makes you fight wars uncalled for.

Makes you laugh in your misery, makes you cry when you’re happy.

Makes you a saint. Makes you a sinner.  Makes you lose all and still be a winner.

Love.

Kills you.

Drives a knife in your spine and kisses you a sweet kiss goodbye.

Squeezes your heart dry and leaves you to die.

Rips you apart from a gaping bullethole to leave you a corpse without a soul.

Makes you hate life and welcome death. Makes you pray for your final wreath.

Love.

 

DELTA 1

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

Cup’s Home.

Back after a wild party on the street. No one knows anybody else out there, but everyone is everybody else’s best friend tonight. The one thing that binds this country together, has also brought us our biggest joy in recent years, and the biggest festival of any of the numerous religions followed here. But then again, if one has to look closely, it will be clear that the real religion is, cliched as it might sound right now, CRICKET.

We are a country that is pulled apart by ideologies that are in stark contrast to each other. We are a nation where everyone is looking in a different direction, of their own choosing or ignorance, and lack a leader who can point out the right direction and make everyone look there. But come match day, everyone is a follower of cricket. Race doesn’t matter, religion is forgotten, social class is banished, gender is ignored, all that remains is the pure, unadulterated love for the game. And tonight, that love for the game has reached it’s crescendo.

2003 was a heartbreak. 2007 was a shame. What followed was a painful rebuilding exercise. Stung by a divisive coach who ended up ruining the careers of two of the finest players of our generation, we knew this was not the way to build a world conquering team. We got a young, unknown face to replace a veteran as the captain – wicketkeeper. A mild mannered South African took on the stressful job of the coach. We found talent from the under 19 team, and also began grooming the youngsters from the regional sides. Somewhere on the strategy boards of the dressing rooms, a team was taking shape.

In the meantime, we started winning. And we started winning big. The Australians were ridiculed at their home, and only an apology of a match at Sydney meant we didn’t come up aces. But we crushed them at Perth. Other championship material teams were also ruthlessly taken care of. We became a force to be reckoned with. A team that had suddenly found its killer instinct. A team that had the brashness and ‘in-your-face’ attitude of the Australian team, but not their arrogance, and certainly not their foul mouths and dishonest ways.

More knowledgeable people than me will always maintain that the recently retired Australian captain was a true legend of his craft. I would politely, but strongly disagree. He had the privilege to lead stalwarts, absolute masters of their trade, against sides that were in awe of the sheer mountain of skill and talent that was facing them. He himself was always a top notch batsman, but nowhere near to the gentleman in the ‘Gentleman’s Game’. The truth is he was handed a champion team by his legendary predecessor, and also received tutelage from the master. Whereas our captain worked from the ground up. He actually built a group of players that could be depended on to perform on international stages. Players that had nerves, and could hold on to them, even to the very last one. He put on an icy cool exterior that was never confused, never flummoxed, never worried, never angry, even if the world around him was falling to pieces. That personification of composure was what gave his troops the confidence to pull out victories out of hopeless situation, something our team was not known to do. If history should ever judge the greats who toiled as captains, I daresay it will stand on a desk, and call out to the Indian team captain as ‘O Captain! My Captain!’

Through all this, one player, who had crossed every line, every statistic, every hurdle had carried on with the dogged determination of a mountaineer on a mission to conquer mount Everest. He was not playing for himself, for that would be too easy. He carried on his shoulders the expectations of an entire nation. In a nation  that  treats its favourite game as a religion, its favourite son was its God. Considered in a class of his own, even by his own equals, he was slowly finding a new level of performance, even at this late stage in his long walk. The early part of the new millennium was not very kind to him, and there was a repeated speculation about his eminent retirement. He never found it necessary to reply back. His own famous words after a match winning effort succinctly summed up his attitude towards everything – ‘When someone throws stones at you, you convert them into milestones.’  He found his second wind, and he just blew everyone away.

It’s 4 am on April 3rd, 2011. The feeling hasn’t sunk in. I was on the street and it was mayhem, chaos, insane. But none of it was disturbing. It all felt right. It all felt natural. I shouted slogans and hooted so loud I must have torn my windpipe. I bled blue, needless to say, but such was the intensity that it must have healed by itself. In any case, I was too busy reveling to notice it. If any country has malicious designs on my country, just look at the celebrations today. This is the united India. We are an unstoppable force when we charge. We are an immovable object when we shield.

In a nation besieged by corruption, social inequality, religious divide and political opportunism, there is one game that rules us all, one game that binds us . One game that makes Gods out of mortals, and followers out of fans.  One game that makes a nation realize that we PROUDLY bleed the same blood, red or blue. One game that makes us insane, makes us laugh and makes us cry. One game, that makes us dream, and lets us live them.

For what are we, if we can’t dream, or live them?

 

DELTA1

 

 

 

One Little Heart

Random noise of an empty mind…

So much to do, so little time.
So much to yearn with one little dime.
So much to save, so much to spend.
But just one little heart that cant be mend.

So much to remember, a life to forget.
So much to be proud of, and lots to regret.
So much to fear, much more to endure.
But just one little heart that cant stop a tear.

So many values left unused.
So many mistakes and a single excuse.
So many feelings and a handful of words.
But just one little heart that can’t be heard.

So much to say in a single breath.
So many graves to cover in a wreath.
So many virtues in a life lived in vain.
But just one little heart that can’t love again.

DELTA1