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?

 

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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.

 

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The Importance Of Being Nolan

That Christopher Nolan is a Genius needs no discussion. One simply has to look at his portfolio of movies to understand why he deserves this accolade, and many more. But more than that, he’s a magician. Because only a magician could have rescued an icon like the Batman from it’s lowest point in cinematic history and take it to stratospheric heights in the span of a trilogy. To understand how he accomplished this impossible feat, you need to look away from ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy and at another one of his mind boggling movies, ‘The Prestige’.

‘The Prestige’ talks about the rivalry between two magicians but that is quite besides the point. During the very first scene, which sets up the tone of the movie, Michael Caine explains that every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. ‘The Pledge’, ‘The Turn’, and ‘The Prestige’. That’s it. If you understand this, you understand it’s manifestation in ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy.

‘Batman Begins’ was ‘The Pledge’. Nolan adopted an icon that was nothing but dead. After the disaster that was the George Clooney starrer ‘Batman and Robin’, the caped crusader was written off and no one dared go down the path of resurrecting and flashing the Bat Signal again. Nolan dared. He also made a solemn promise to the Batman faithful. He would keep the movie true to its character. Batman would be dark, gritty, brooding, and the criminals’ absolute worst nightmare. The first movie would do what ‘The First Year’ did. It would establish Batman as the giant bat in Gotham who struck fear in the criminal mind with so much of a flash of the Bat Signal. Nolan made sure Batman’s legendary status in superhero folklore as the greatest detective was also revived in the process. Nolan showed us the original Batman. The Batman movie that should always have been. He asked us to check if this was correct and that he was faithful to the comic character.  He kept things basic and concentrated on building the foundations. Simple things like the tumblr jumping from roof-tops, the ‘back-up’ in Arkham asylum. Nothing that was NOT in the comic. He kept things ordinary, simple till the last scene.

The last scene in ‘Batman Begins’ truly defined his pledge – that he will take it to the next level and bring back The Clown Prince of crime. Gordan handed over a playing card in a ziplock plastic packet to Batman. He turned it over to find it’s a joker. That one moment was enough to send shivers down the spine, with your mind already fantasizing over the countless possibilities that hell would break loose in the next part of the series.

Nolan kept his word. And how! Heath Ledger’s Joker exploded on the scene and made ‘The Dark Knight’ his own. He unleashed anarchy without pride or prejudice. He turned Gotham upside down. He created doubts in the minds of the bravest and strongest believers. He took a city with a fearless D.A. and turned him into a psychopath murderer who decided a man’s fate on the flip of a coin. He took away hope and replaced it with despair. He took away law and replaced it with chaos. He made Batman doubt himself and  almost give himself up to save people, such was the brilliance of his schemes. He pushed Batman to go to the extreme step of illegal surveillance of the entire city, all the while teasing him to break his one rule, safe in the knowledge that Batman will never break it. By the time he finished with the city, he almost blew up half the population, created a monster and forced Batman to become a fugitive wanted for Dent’s murder to save his identity. In the span of two and a half incredible hours, Nolan turned Batman from the one ally Gotham’s bravest could trust to the most wanted criminal, answerable for Dent’s murder. He turned Batman to a hero that Gotham deserved, but not the one it needed. Nolan had just executed the most brilliant Turn in the history of magic.

‘The Dark Knight Rises’ was always going to be ‘The Prestige’ in Nolan’s magical trilogy. Simply because the next antagonist to step into Heath Ledger’s Joker had to be more than any ordinary goon. It had to be someone who knew Batman more than Batman himself. Someone capable of turning the tables on the Bat and beating him to pulp. Enter Bane. While the Joker was Ledger’s creation, Bane was Nolan’s. Tom Hardy just played that part to perfection. Not only was the character well written, but Hardy’s expressive eyes (remember that most of his face was hidden behind his ominous mask) and his beefed up physique took Bane to a whole new dimension. And he broke the goddamn Batman’s back. He fucking broke his back! If you didn’t feel all hope deserting you when you watched a crippled Batman being dragged away, you were just watching moving images on a screen. You never connected with the magic. Nolan took everything to an epic level in this movie. In TDK, Gotham was held hostage. In TDKR, Gotham was under a siege counting down to it’s death. In TDK, Batman had to come to terms with people dying around him just because someone wanted him to show his true identity. In TDKR, Batman had to come to terms with not only death, but loneliness, betrayal, bankruptcy, and near complete mental and physical breakdown. Batman had to start from scratch, resurrect himself from the pit of hell and take the fight to Bane, no matter the cost. He did just that. In the most epic way possible. And then just you felt like you were in a vacuum created by a mushroom cloud on the horizon, Nolan played a masterstroke and restored everything back to normal. Despite the inevitability of the end of this trilogy, enough seeds were sown for another one to sprout, if someone cared to nurture them.

I believe ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy was one the most spectacular things to happen to cinema in a long time. And in hindsight, I don’t think any other director could have done the caped crusader more justice than Nolan.

He became the magician Batman deserved, and needed.

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O Captain! My Captain!

Dear Balasaheb,

Rest in peace. Being a father to a state like Maharashtra for more than 4 decades must be very tiring. Standing up for the weak, helping the lost find their self esteem, taking up issues every one else was shit scared of even talking about and above all, being relentless in the pursuit of establishing, nourishing and propagating your ideology must be a hell of a job to be accomplished by a single man. Just imagining all this makes me want to quit and leave town. And yet, you did all that, and did it in a way that made you larger than life for us,   a Demi God of sorts.

The reactions to your death were polarizing, to say the least. People are saying that we are being ‘forced’ to mourn. How can you ‘force’ a son to mourn for his father? How is it possible for us NOT to feel it’s the end of the world when one of the pillars of our identity crashes? How naive can people get in their assumptions of others? As I’m typing these very words, there are an estimated 2 million people on the streets in Mumbai, just to pay their last respects to you. Are they being ‘forced’ to do that? Is it ‘fear’ that is driving them? Did someone stuff their pockets with a wad of notes and the promise of alcohol? Can people be this fuckwitted to question our emotions for you? I guess I can only answer the last question today – Yes.

The apathy today has reached a point where a person who’s just been in Mumbai for 2 odd years thinks he understands enough about you and the Shiv Sena’s ideology and Mumbai’s fabric to comment on your influence on us. For him the Shiv Sena is all about V-Day hooliganism and vandalism of controversial arts. Shiv Sena starts and ends there. He derides your politics because having a cultural identity is bad according to his highly developed, cultured, ‘liberal’ intellect. I don’t even pity him. He has ignored the most important fact of your life – fighting for those who couldn’t. He has ignored your fight to help regain the self-esteem of the ‘marathi manoos‘, who was being ridiculed in his own home as a ‘ghaati‘. He has ignored the fact that right at this moment, Kashmiri Pandits are mourning your death as much as we Maharashtrians because they revere what you did for them. He has ignored that had it not been for you, Mumbai would be run over by Bangladeshi illegal immigrants and he wouldn’t have a place to dry his underwear. I bet he was shit scared when Mumbai was attacked on 26/11. I bet his dimwitted, warped intelligence and pathetic grasp of the situation won’t allow him to understand the havoc those illegal immigrants could have caused. For him, all these issues are irrelevant because they don’t affect people like him living in high rises. For him it’s just a matter of opposing anything anyone does which is outside the established and approved thinking and actions, benchmarks of which have been decided by a handful of elitist socialite columnists and ‘intellectuals’. Like these people, he doesn’t understand nor care about the common Mumbaikar who actually goes through this. And when the time comes to right the wrongs, these elitists are nowhere to be found, even when people bang on their doors and beg them to come out and do something as simple as cast their votes. He, like the people he draws his twisted view of the world from, are willing to defend defamation of my Gods being passed as ‘art’, but is cold blooded enough not to feel anger that my Gods were made the subjects of said ‘art’. Little does he realize that had that artist used his own religion’s prophet as a subject of his paintings, the backlash would’ve been near fatal. He prides himself in Hinduism’s freedom, and yet does nothing when that very freedom is abused and humiliated.

I too have demons of my own to slay. I didn’t agree with your protests and vandalism of V-Day. What Marathi youngsters today lack are a proper education about our culture and it’s strength, virtues and values. That is just bad parenting, more than anything else. That coupled with how V-Day is marketed (a way to express your love for your girlfriend / boyfriend, rather than a universal expression of love) is why that day is eagerly waited upon by youngsters. To target them physically won’t solve problems. And yet, more than that, I’m eternally grateful to you for often doing what I was too much of a coward to do. Like when I wanted to but couldn’t defend my religion, or when I wanted Mumbai to breathe again and not be subjected to the hordes of illegal immigrants. That is my solace. That is my redemption. Knowing and understanding what you did, and being able to see what it meant for the average Maharashtrian. Perhaps that’s the reason why today out of the 2 million grown ass, hardened people on the roads that are crying their hearts out for you, none are the typical page 3 mourners. On your last journey, you’re surrounded by the people you loved and fought for, and who loved you back. For all of us, you are the hero we needed and the hero we deserved.

I have a sneeky feeling that people hate you just because all your life you said and did what they could say in the comforts and anonymity of their living rooms and the internet. They too wanted to use cuss words in public, berate the corruption riddled, blood sucking government, but couldn’t find an ounce of courage to do it. And when you did it, their coached civility and the shepherds who herded them forbade them from applauding you, and their instructions manual asked them to condemn you. Such is the inbred hypocrisy around here that while you were targetted as being communal, MPs in Hyderabad walked, and continue to walk scott free after giving hate speeches on a daily basis. Such is the sycophancy today that while people worship the feet of the family that was forced down their throats, your’s is called a Mafia family and we, your followers are labelled blind whose ‘intelligence is hijacked by hormones’ (sic).

A hypnotist who ruled the subconsciousness of an entire state, a strategist who fought in the trenches and checkmated kings in their own courts, an orator who mesmerized millions, a leader who was as relentless as he was astute, Maharashtra’s Tiger who when sprang his claws drew blood, without the slightest care for opinion or votes. Words fail me to describe what you meant to this state, how burdened we are by your debt to us, and how disturbed at the thought that try as we might we won’t be able to fully repay you for what you’ve done for us. To quote Walt Whitman –

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

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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.

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In What UNIVERSE Is ‘NOW’ Better?

20 YEARS AGO…

I woke up. Depending on the time and my parents’ mood, I was either pampered or spanked to the bathroom. My school bag was prepared. Dad dropped me off at the bus stop and waited till I boarded the bus and took my seat. I carried a heavy school bag. I sat through boring classes. I had the option of an open window and fresh breezes during boring classes. I fought off sleep in the afternoon. I carried my lunch. My school had 2 breaks, one for 15 minutes when we ate our lunch, another for an hour when we played our socks off. I came home by 4 p.m. I got to play in the evenings until even the players, forget the ball, were invisible. Homework was easy. Pocket money was ‘on-demand’. Financial freedom and independance didn’t exist, and I couldn’t care less. Weekends were crazy.

TODAY…

I am woken up by concerned voices about how late I’m going to be for office. I drag myself to the bathroom. If someone is available, I get a drop-off to the cab pick up point, or I haul my ass off there by myself. I carry a heavy bag. The books have been replaced by a laptop and a diary. I sit through boring meetings. I sit in a cozy, centrally air conditioned office, with no open windows or a hint of fresh breezes. I fight off sleep in the afternoon. I carry my lunch. I get just one, 1 hour break. Office is for 9 hours, and I have to log my time spent in it. I have to be on call, on demand. I come home by nightfall. There are no friends I get to meet after office. I have to haul my ass back to home with that heavy laptop on my back. I’m my own ATM. Financial independance is comforting, but scary if you look at the future. Weekends are fleeting.

I cannot crib. I’ve chosen this life. Makes me wonder though, the first 15 minutes of ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy’ were probably the truest appraisal of the human race.

 

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Sometimes

Sometimes,
When I’ve wisened with age,
and the past seems to be full of mistakes,
my heart still cringes at the thought of that one mistake
that I wish had remained uncorrected.

Sometimes,
When I’ve been places,
and have lost track of where I began,
my mind still wanders off at the scent of wet earth
to that playground that made my childhood.

Sometimes,
When I’m done counting scars,
and wiped off the tears that rolled while counting them,
a stubborn tear refuses to leave my eyes,
because that one beautiful scar was worth every drop of blood shed.

Sometimes,
When I’m all alone,
and silence has the loudest noise in the room,
a little voice echoes in your ear,
and tells me there is one soul who still prays for me.

Sometimes,
When life takes me down the road I never wanted to go,
and destiny and fate swap places,
a frail, wrinkled hand runs through my hair,
and gives me the strength of mountains, and the lightness of winds.

 

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