Sunday, November 1, 2009

Insignificant Victories

Dung-Dung had just gone out to deliver a pizza when the end of days began.

It started with a small tremor, barely noticeable at first. Then it started to grow, accompanied with a citywide sound rattling glass (The story is set in a city, genius! Of course in the villages there was no such sound ). Cracks then appeared on the ground, through which the forms of unknown horrors below could be glimpsed (The horrors remain unknown, because everyone died that day). As the first drops of a red rain started tippering on the stranded cars, the sun went out.

Dung-Dung found himself on the highway to hell, still astride his pizza delivery moped. There was a huge traffic jam at the entrance to the netherworld. Apparently the hellspawn were staging a protest march against the sudden increase in work (They were actually singing The Internationale, accompanied by posters which read 'Demons of Hell, Unite! You losers have lost everything already and wont be getting anything in return, but wtf!') . Dung-Dung suddenly realized that something was wriggling in his pocket. He felt inside and saw that his delivery address had changed to "13/2012 Beelzebub Avenue, 9th Circle"

"Hey, thats the boss himself!" A hoarse voice croaked behind him. A small demon had perched on the Pizza Box, and was trying his best hide a pizza slice behind his wings (It had a potbelly. Not that it matters anything to our story, or for that matter to anyone).
"Give that back, freeloader!" Dung-Dung cried indigantly. Then he sighed desolately, "Naah eat it. Whats the point now?"
"Thanks man!" the demon beamed at him, showing his stained and broken teeth. "Its not everyday we get to eat some cooked food you know. You wouldnt be having some ketchup would you?" he added hopefully.
Dung-Dung tossed him a sachet of ketchup (and some chilly flakes and oregano, because he was basically a nice guy), and then helped himself to a slice of pizza (one with lots of pepperoni).

He was chomping thoughtfully when suddenly there was a bright bang (Notice how the rules of grammar start breaking down with the advent of apocalypse). Lucifer appeared before him, in blazing red and wielding fireballs, looking mightily pissed off.

"Whats the big idea, Dung-Dung?" he boomed, freezing the small demon (My sources tell me that its name was Mr. Anderson, once again an unverifiable, and completely useless fact) as it tried to scamper off on Dung-Dung's moped." I wanted this pizza for myself, and you two are guzzling it down here. There is only one slice left! Nice going, I must say."

"Err.. Umm.. Sir.. I think.. "
"IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT YOU THINK!" roared the Morningstar. "I want my Pizza now, or else you will be spending the rest of eternity wandering in the Serbonian Bog (Go on, look it up on the wiki.. go on). I will personally give you a tour of the nine circles, and will oversee a Cain Category welcoming committee at each of them.  Irresponsible idiot, no wonder your species got doomed."

Then Dung-Dung did something he had never done before. Very slowly he picked up the remaining slice of Pizza, and proceeded to devour it with ghoulish relish, all the while giving the devil the one-fingered salute.Lucifer looked at Dung-Dung with a surprised scowl, and then flew off without a word.

Dung_Dung started his moped, and moved on, feeling a strange sense of accomplishment.
The demons kept on singing The Internationale.
The devil ordered a pizza from the shop opposite to Dung-Dung's (Maybe his order went into the voice mail. What do I know?).
And the world kept on burning.

Monday, October 19, 2009

An ode to sleep (A lazy man's rationale)

There are many ways in which people can waste their time. Sleeping is NOT one of them. I strongly believe that if people slept for more hours every day, the world would be a much better place. In fact, an ideal world would be something where people do nothing but sleep. In short, something like this -

Now I know what everybody is thinking right now! "What a lazy bum! What price to human knowledge and progress? What about staying fit and working? What, if we might add, about enjoying life?"

And I say to you all, what about them? All human endeavors, throughout history, have been essentially been directed towards improving the human condition, selectively or globally. From Edison's bulb to the Wright Brother's  planes, from Pax Americana to the quest for Lebensraum, the ultimate aim for any project has been to improve the quality of life for certain individuals. And it has brought the world to the brink of destruction. It seems that our society cannot exist in a stable equilibrium with the rest of the planet, and ours is a race destined to be a disruptor. The only decent thing to do, if we really love our beautiful blue planet, is to get ourselves extinct before we do anymore harm. The most enjoyable way of doing that is to sleep indefinitely. Let me elaborate on that.

Sleeping is the state where the human body expends the least amount of energy. By spending less energy, we shall be in turn consuming lesser overall energy, and thus killing our planet lesser.

While sleeping (and by that I mean sleeping only, naughty), we cannot reproduce. Thus this will solve our population problems. 

While sleeping, we can not offend each other. Also we can not indulge in the pastimes typical to our species, like  invade, kill, steal and rape. Thus peace process will not be a process anymore, and become a reality.

While sleeping, we cannot see other people. This will cause the fall of all racial and social divides across the human society.

Also the need to sleep more can induce the more brilliant leaps of logic the human brain can aspire to. I understood this during my engineering days, when every morning I used to convince myself about why I needed to bunk the lecture and sleep a couple of hours more. Unfortunately, this benefit is not so helpful, since as per my suggestion we should be sleeping all the time, and not needing brainwork at all.

Finally, its an observed fact that death during sleep is the most peaceful of all. This is primarily because while sleeping, people don't fear death! Thus, in one swoop, all religions will cease to exist, if we just sleep all the time.

Hmm.. now that I have expended so much energy into writing this post, let me go back to my ground state, and balance my energy expenditure :) 

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Freedom of speech?

I love the internet. I truly cherish the times when my mindless trawling on the World Wide Web dredges up something so hilariously dreadful, comically depraved, stupidly fascinating and at the same time so damn sad that even some one as zombie-brained as me can do nothing but just sit back and stare at the monitor.

Welcome to the Westboro Baptist Church.

And say hello to the Phelps family.

This man is legally SANE.

This charming group of people hold the belief that the world is in the sorry state it is today because God almighty is pissed of at us. But why is God so pissed off? According to ol' gramps Phelps, God is going all old school (as in a totally biblical old testament sense) at the society at large because our culture condones, hold your breath, "FAGS." Thats right folks! 9/11, hurricanes, tsunamis, car crashes, electrocution, flood, herpes EVERYTHING, blame it all on the homos!

So they go around the USA displaying placards which carry charming ye olde world messages like-

and demonstrate at the funeral of fallen soldiers! Thats cold in more ways than even I can imagine :(

For more such gems of wisdom and sublime comedy in multiple levels, check out these links -

Sounds almost like a school kid, doesn't he? And his favourite word, as you can guess is... "FAG."

Now this dude, apart from getting all shook up on gays, also has a website, where he puts forth his extremely interesting views on almost all countries, including India. That part of the website has different sections, where he blames the Hindu religion for being gay friendly (I know. Its surreal!) and puts down all the misfortunes that fall on this part of the world as so called Divine Vengeance.

Now normally I don't have an issue with zany ideas. Infact, I rather enjoy talking about them and love to rate my own crazyness against others. But I draw the line when a psycho turns his family into a cult which corrupts little kids. This guy has 13 children, most of whom are as loony as him. His family (children, grandchildren, great grandchildren(?)) actually forms his cult, and little kids, as young as 7, carry around these obscene placards in their pickets! These little kids are taught to say stuff like "Fags are basically jews!" By their own mother! WTF!

This raving lunatic is a perfect example of what religious extremism, coupled with an obvious god complex and a thirst for publicity, can turn a human being into - a disgusting, hate filled, brain dead moron.

So the core question arises, how far does the right to free speech and expression protect locos like these? At what point does society say, enough is enough, if at all? Being a liberal atheist myself, I should say, Never! But the world is full of crazies who wish to turn other peoples grief into their own personal opportunity. In a society like India, these guys would be mobbed the moment they would start their vile blubbering, but that is as much a reminder of our intolerance as their message of hate. There will always be people who will take advantage of any fundamental right, but that does not make the humanism behind those rights any less valid. There will always be creeps hidden in the woodwork. That is the sad truth.

Friday, September 11, 2009

And there was...

When I gained consciousness, I found myself alone on the edge of an unknown precipice. Of course, I did not know it at that time, for it was all dark around me. It was my first faltering steps who threw me down into this unseen abyss. The sensation of falling lost all meaning after some time, as my idea of reality adjusted to the fact that solid ground was, in fact, an illusion. This realization was strangely liberating, until I realized that I was alone, and thus already liberated. It was strangely disconcerting, for I found the feeling of absolute liberty to be quite underwhelming. Slowly I lost all feeling of kinesis, until the moment came when I found myself to be suspended in space.

It was pretty boring.

I mean, there didn’t seem to be a purpose for my being there, alone, floating in nothingness. It seemed totally pointless, not to mention ludicrous, that I should be left hanging out in the middle of nowhere for no apparent rhyme or reason. Then the fireworks started.
A tiny speck of light shyly appeared above me, and I named it the North Star. It grew brighter and brighter until I could not look at it anymore. Then it suddenly exploded into countless particles, each more bright than its brother, and my senses were filled with a cacophony of light. After a while it all calmed down, and I was overwhelmed with a feeling of expectation. Now I regained my sense of motion, as I hurtled past massive churning nebulae and feeble starspawn and extravagant supernovas – and counting milestones in emptiness.

It was good while it lasted.

After the lights went out, I was once again suspended in space. But this time I had the memory of the cosmic dance burnt into my consciousness to sustain me... for a while. It was like this one event had put in a glowing marker to my aimless journey. Now that I knew of light, the darkness was oppressive to me, and not liberating. I still do not know why the light appealed to me so much. Perhaps I will always yearn for something that I cannot get…

Anyways, I waited patiently for the lights to return. But waiting has no meaning when time stands still. And thus was born the first active flicker in my passive existence – a yearning for the return of the celestial spectacle that I only vaguely remembered. This flicker of yearning grew and grew, like an ache in the chest and unwept tears in the eyes, and it struggled, like a titan in caught in a net, and it grew and grew… until my hollow shell could not contain it any more. I cried out, “Let there be light”, and there was light.

The last thing I remember before losing consciousness was a voice telling someone, “Congratulations my dear. It’s a boy.”

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A nut between two wheels

Biking is one of the few things that keep me interested in my day to day business of living. Yesterday I got the delivery of my new steed, the Yamaha YZF-R15. I envision the coming few days as a challenge as I need to find out the optimum routes of travelling to my office, which is situated at one of the most psychotically congested areas in Mumbai. At the very least (I hope) the bike will grant me the freedom from the autowallahs, those scourge of the common men in most cities of India. I had planned to call this bike Nidhogg, after the mythical Nordic beast, but a friend told me it was silly and kinda childish to name a bike. So it is just "my bike" for now, plain and simple :)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Fever Dream

I am standing on a deserted island, alone in the middle of the ocean. The moon shines down upon the black vastness, its deathly pale light reflected on the backs of the hideous predators that splash about these forsaken waters. I have a raft with me, but do not know how to steer it. In desperation I push the raft into the water, only to see it snapped between the jaws of a narwhal. I am forgotten in my deserted island, digging a grave with my bare hands. I lie down in my grave, and look at the stars until my eyes close.

I am standing at the foot of a spiral staircase, dwarfed by this singular structure. I look up, and my dreams beckon me from the point where the stairs fade into the sky. Yet I cannot make up my mind. I know that I have just finished climbing the same staircase, but my dreams still lie at the end of the rainbow. The ground crumbles beneath my feet, and I jump on the staircase. My life spirals by down below, the same memories coming into focus again and again, and then moving farther and farther away. Are my memories fading or am I walking away from them? Unknowing, I climb up because I have nothing else to do.

I am riding a wild horse, clinging on for my life. Rushing through the middle of a jungle, I am scarred by branches that hit me everywhere. Beautiful vistas pass me by, but I do not notice them. I close my eyes to numb myself, but it does not make any difference. I am too scared to jump, for on the horse I have a direction to accompany my pain. My wild horse is galloping towards the edge of a cliff, and still I am more afraid of falling down than dying. The horse jumps down into its doom, and I accompany it, still clutching its fiery manes.

I am flying away from my land. Thunderbolts strike me down.

I am hiding in the deep blue sea. A maelstorm smashes me against a cliff.

I burrow down the earth. A sea of lava incinerates me.

There is no escape.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Every instant of existence gives rise to infinite probabilities, and each of them spawn their own time lines. Infinite branching occurs again at each instant these time lines, and continues till numbers become meaningless; the intersecting lines forming a thick fabric of what we call reality.

The great knot at the end of time houses the most exclusive of all clubs. It is known simply as the Terminus. In order to be a member of this club you have to be a god. Of course, you cant be just a run of the mill ordinary god to be a member of club Terminus. There is a stringent qualification criteria which must be adhered to before a god is considered for full membership. Snobbery, after all, is more common among the "Dei" than mere mortals.

Inside the plush interiors of the club, Mr. H and Mr. B were mildly flirting with Miss Gaia, the barmaid. Everyone at the club wanted to marry Miss Gaia, but she showered them all with equal attention. To the more perceptive it seemed that she didn't really care for any of these gods. But of course no one said something like that aloud. The really old members remembered when she was a fresh faced young beauty, always happy and smiling. Now her smile seemed a trifle put on. Maybe she had consigned herself to eternal spinsterhood.

Mr. H sighed. He was an old timer, and missed his old pals Ra, Zeus and Odin. The four of them once ruled the world, but the wind of change blows in the celestial gardens too. Not many of the old folk came to the club anymore. Only Mr J was there, tough and doughty as ever, sipping wine at his favourite corner. A respectful cough brought Mr. H out of his reverie. It was Dogface, the valet. "Sir, its time for the special meeting."

The gods sat round a huge table in Mentis, the conference room of Terminus. It had 5 thrones, one for each member of the governing council - Mr. J, Mr. H, Mr. B, Mr. C and Mr. M. T. However, contrary to popular belief, the council was not democratic. Any member could veto a resolution, without giving any grounds for doing so. The faithful call this the divine logic - essentially a deific for "meaningless". Thus the five gods sat, sipping the nectar served by Miss Gaia, each of them sunk in their own thoughts.

"I propose that we terminate the Miracles treaty," Mr. M went directly to the agenda. The atmosphere of the room tensed suddenly. The Miracles treaty was drawn out years ago, to reduce divine interference in human affairs. As people from all over the world started mingling with each other, devotee poaching became a serious issue among the gods. The Miracles treaty put a moratorium on altering the reality fabric by any divine intervention. Mr. C and Mr. M, the new gods, had long been campaigning for the treaty to be repealed, citing that the world is going deeper into chaos because of divine non intervention.

Mr. C took up the theme. "It is upon us to save the world of men, for our own benefit if I may add. It is our devotees who give us strength, as you all know. If the world fails, so do we. I propose that we unleash a catastrophe on the world, and work on through a series of small miracles to restore the balance in the world."

"A balance favouring you my son?" said Mr. J bitterly.
"Its every God for Himself, dad."
"Besides what is the point of being a god if you do not exercise your powers ? These human sheep needs to be led for their own safety." added Mr. M.
"I will veto it, you know I am strictly against intervention." Mr. B added softly.
"Then we shall break the treaty unilaterally."
"Then prepare for war!"
"We already are at war!"
"I call upon...."

The room suddenly quietened down as Dogface and Miss Gaia came in without asking for any permission. Everyone looked on in shocked surprise as they proceeded to shut down all the doors and the windows of the room. They then took out big guns and shot all the gods.

"err, Miss Gaia, you sure its OK to do this? I mean this can cause a lot of trouble among the people."
Gaia smiled. "Let me tell you a secret Cerberus. There were no gods. Not really. All these beings you saw here were just images of mass delusion. Its just that people refuse to grow up - crying always for macho daddies and super mommies. What we have done is give them a free will. For the first time."
"umm... what do we do with the bodies then?"
"Leave them. I am sure no one will be able to tell the difference between a live god and a dead one."
"I sure think you are assuming too much Miss Gaia. I don't think the people want free will that much." Dogface was closing the door from outside.
"Then they don't deserve to live, Cerberus."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The salesman of change

I once met a man who claimed to have the power to change the world.

"Change what?" I asked him.
"You know, anything. All the bad stuff... stuff that dont work." He seemed genuinely concerned about all the shit that is wrong with this world.
"Well why havent you done it already?" I asked him. You see, even I wanted the world to change.
"I am just taking a general survey first. Then I will change it all at one go." He took out his dictaphone, "I normally use this for my system study."
I was very impressed. "Here is a true professional," I thought to myself.
"Tell me ONE, only ONE thing that you want to be changed in this world," and he thrust the dictaphone at my face, quite aggresively, I thought at that time.
"mmm hmmm... more hot... no no.. cheaper superbikes.. naah... just make me... i mean everybody rich." I said.

He switched off the dictaphone. I could see that he was pretty upset about something. "Idiot," he said to me, "all you people are the same."
He reminded me of my girlfriend when she is angry. "All you men are the same" she says at those times, and I very tactfully refrain from asking her how she knows about 'all men.'
The guy was making some notes, with lots of graphs and charts, scowling deeply. "What happened man?" I asked him, "Do I get another wish?"
He did not answer me. He took out a satellite phone from his satchel and was soon talking to someone who was obviously his boss. I could hear some snatches of their conversation, "hopeless... no sense... wipe out all of them.. but sir, they dont care about anything... ok sir i will look for someone else," he put down the phone resignedly. It seemed like his boss had asked him to rework, or atleast do overtime without pay.
"You in for a long night brother.. hehhehheh, are you new to this job? Was that your manager?" I asked him, since we IT guys can understand such problems better than the rest of the species.

"That was the Lord and God of all things, Master of the Universe, Yahweh, Jehovah, Baal or whatever other name you may know Him by" he replied testily. "Silly old geezer! Does not know when to give up. Some idiot in this plane writes that He made man in His own image, and He takes the insult personally. I keep telling Him, Boss, men will be men, but does He care? He just wants to prove that men are actually better than they really are. Damned fool."

I was dumbstruck."Dude what are you smoking? Give me some of that shit will ya."
The guy looked at me with a pained expression, sprouted a couple of wings and flew away.
What a humbug! Obviously the guy was loony as a coot, though I dont know how he got hold of those wings. Maybe a marketing gimmick of some type. I should have said "I want my mobile connection changed" or some shit.

Damn I blew it!!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Sanskriti circus

Valentine's Day is coming, and India is getting ready for one more round of pure black comedy on the national television. For it is on this day the self styled moral police of our country goes Rambo on all those westernized youth who (gasp!) hold hands in public, drink at pubs (egad!), or (dear god!) get pregnant (How is it possible??)!!! Evidently women consuming alcohol was an unheard of proposition in India 3000 years ago, and as for love, ha ha ha, you must be kidding me!! Love is a totally western concept, forget whatever else you have read in the Mahabharata.

So these moralists, ignoring every other serious socio-economic problem facing our country (dowry deaths still occur, domestic violence is on the rise, the sex ratio in most of the states are horribly skewed, the girl child still do not go to school), protest against what has got to be the most miniscule section in the society, all in the name of upholding some vague corrupted concept of culture. The bare fact is that less than 1% of the total female population in India actually go to pubs.

But who wants to tackle real problems when you have the irresistible gift of making a nuisance of yourself and generally irritate others without leaving the comforts of the city? No sir, these guys are clever, you see. They will stay in the city and get maximum media attention by beating up girls in front of camera. In their hubris, they break every moral and ethical code that the vedic civilization stood for. What culture are these fools upholding? People who cant even articulate their own thought processes coherently are now the custodians (self appointed of course) of our morals?

That India is essentially tottering towards being a failed state was proven the day Muthalik got bail.
Now this guy plans to make even more violent protests on Valentine's Day, and wants to make India a Hindu state in the long run.

The tragedy is that these deluded, uneducated fools have forgotten the most basic Indian trait of all - that of tolerance. Throughout the recorded history, when the entire world languished in the dark ages, India was a guiding light of reason to the world. This was because our society was always open to new ideas. Many came to conquer India, but she embraced them all to make a unique composite blend of all thoughts of processes. The Indian psyche as we know it is not made up of any one religion or any one ethnic group - it is the amalgamation of centuries of exchange of thoughts between different cultures - a true melting pot. The fall of the ancient Indian civilization started once we became a stringent dogma driven race.

The freedom of the individual is the basis for any truly enlightened society.

A society which gives up even an inch of individual freedom to avoid unpleasantness from the lunatic fringe has already lost the war.

Wake up idiots! Or else this country will go to the dogs.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Coward, being a comedy in two parts - 2

This is the concluding part of a story I had started some time back. You can read the first part here

More than the victors, it is the vultures who love a battle. But vultures don’t swoop in on a body as soon as it fells. For they can sense the dead souls lingering about their bodies, not wishing to let go of life and all its pains. But soon the vulture’s hunger overcomes their fear, and the dead souls, seeing their erstwhile havens getting destroyed, move on with a sigh.

A desolate dusk arrives stealthily, the setting sun mirroring the blood split on earth. Then slowly night comes, soothing, blissful, oh so different from the raging day! It is at night that the newly released souls realize the full extent of their freedom. For death is the absolute – it is chaos and it is serenity, it is the land of do as you please. They rush about in the dead fields, laughing deliriously, and then dispersing, only to converge again when they suddenly see a survivor.

Ram Lal was terrified. When the train was attacked, the driver very cleverly started off without waiting for anybody. Many people were mowed down, many fell off. The result was that around 200 people were trapped in the station with about the same number of attackers. Ram Lal, who had gone outside to take a leak, was one of the trapped passengers. They fought tooth and nails, literally, for they had very few weapons. But what value is a piece of blade when you are fighting with nothing but an animal passion? For this was not a fight between ideologies, but survival, at its basest and vilest.

Something knocked Ram Lal over, and the next moment he felt a piercing pain by the side of his chest. A huge body, face contorted with rage, loomed over him, swinging a huge sword. Being so close to death surely gives us astounding clarity (or delirium, since both are the same), for Ram Lal thought that the person was the same monster about whom his grandmother used to spin her bed time stories. A foolish grin spread across Ram Lal’s face as he remembered one tiny long forgotten stupid story. Then someone stabbed the monster from behind, and he crumpled and fell on Ram Lal, suffocating him.

When he woke up, he felt that he was buried. Furious indignation swept over him as he contemplated this fact. “But I am a Hindu!!!” he thought. Then realization dawned on him, accompanied by choking and a deep stench of torn flesh. Using his shoulders he pushed back the nameless bodies from above him, to emerge like a ghoul into the night. They dead battlefield stretched before him, accompanied by howling screams, oddly silent. “I have gone mad” he thought gleefully, scratching his head, the weight of the world off from his shoulder.

Wandering about in the battlefield, Ram Lal came upon the railway track. Its gleaming moon surface attracted him strangely. “Let me walk along this track. Perhaps I will come upon some village.” And he started walking.

About a mile later, he came upon a dead body sitting on the tracks. “Don’t sit on the tracks,” Ram Lal advised him, “a train might come and run over you.”

“Don’t worry,” the dead body told him cheerfully,”I am already dead.”

“No harm in being careful” Ram Lal said. “By the way, does this track lead to any village?”

“Yes, but why do you want to go to a village?” The dead body asked him.

“Actually I am pretty hungry” Ram Lal said, and waving to the dead body, started off.

The village was like a typical Punjabi hamlet of those times, deserted. Ram Lal searched about for food, but the village was stripped of everything worth scavenging for. With a sigh, Ram Lal turned back, and came back to the dead body.

“The entire village is deserted” he sulked.

“You know, I think there is a village on the other direction,” the dead body said.

“But that is Pakistan!” Ram Lal exclaimed, the memories his recent misfortunes flooding his consciousness, and he started trembling with rage.

The dead body yawned, “Its getting late, why won’t the train come?”

“I will kill every one in that village and take revenge,” Ram Lal shouted, and picking up a stone, started running in the other direction, full of righteous rage. Visions of holy war filled his mind, perhaps his glorious tale of revenge will become a song some day. After some time, the stone he was clutching felt very heavy, and he dropped it. “I will kill them with my bare hands.” After some time, he grew even more tired, and sat down on the tracks, cursing which soon turned into sobbing. Ram Lal was very alone.

Then the clouds passed over the moon, and he had a vision. Far away, he could see the village, the houses illuminated by the moon light. Painfully he started crawling towards it. As he drew nearer, human smells overwhelmed him. “Some one is living here,” the thought seemed to make him lighter, as he scurried forward on all fours. Arriving at the nearest house, he knocked on the door, feebly at first, and then more forcefully. The door was opened by a man armed with a knife.

Rahim Khan looked at the madman who had woken him up from sleep. He was filthy, covered in dust and grime and what looked like dried blood, and he was babbling something.

“Brother, give me some water.”

“Brother, give me some food.”

“Brother, it is so good to be alive.”

“Brother, it is so good not to be alone.”

The man smiled.

“Come in.”

And they went inside the house.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Coward - being a comedy in two parts

The midday sun shone mercilessly over the barren tract of land. The bleak dusty monotony of the landscape was only broken by the steel railway track. It was that part of Punjab where the desert winds from Rajasthan mated with the alluvium of the five rivers. Life here moved slowly and steadily; at a pace no one could detect.
At some point of time, black smoke in the distant horizon signaled the coming of the metal monster that men these days clung so desperately to get to the other side. Ah, these are troubled times, and a drowning man may clutch at straws. Especially if the situation has been brought about by their own passions, which, nurtured carefully by wordsmiths and mountebanks, opened a Pandora'a Box leading to an exodus unseen since the days of Moses.
The train, run by the Northern Railways, was from Lahore to Umballa.  The strange thing about it was that it did not look like a train. Like parasites or some quick spreading fungi, human beings stuck out from every side of it.  In some ways it looked a comical sight, the engine angrily rushing forward spewing black smoke, with thousands of people chugging alone, gasping for their next breath amidst that smoke.  It looked very alive, this metal-man apparition; ugly but alive.
Inside one of its crowded bowels sat Ram Lal. He was once a moderately well to do shopkeeper in Karachi. Some days ago, for he had really lost count since when his nightmare had began, his shop had been looted and razed by an angry mob demanding Pakistan.  What was the connection between him and the mob not getting Pakistan he did not know; for he cared neither for British India, Hindustan -Pakistan or anything. He cared only for his family. But his family was today an old photograph taken at the China bazaar. He shuddered as he remembered the thick black smoke coming out of the temple in his gully. So now he was alone on this train, going to the land of his ancestors, of which he had heard only fables from his grandmother.
Inside the sweat smelling bogey, every-body was in a stupor. In front of Ram Lal, there sat a man with his wife and five children. The youngest one, a toddler of about three started crying. In their stupor, no one paid any attention. After five minutes, the man turned and slapped him. The cry got shriller, and after some time, stopped. Kids are most irritating when they cry. It was better this way, a stifling silence punctuated by the regular chug chug of the train, some how obscenely soporific.
"God, it is this heat!" said the old man sitting beside Ram Lal, "and the times." No one wanted to discuss the times.  They were bad, no doubt.  But the times were a reality.  And in India, reality is discussed only in gossip, to be overheard and further gossiped about. Thus spread the stories of the various massacres in and around Punjab, in Bengal and elsewhere, each more vicious than the last one. Nevertheless, the old man went on. "They killed my only son.  My daughter-in-law jumped down the well to save her izzat", pride in his voice as he remembered the heroic deed.  Perhaps he sought comfort in this hollow protestation of valor, or maybe he did not care that his family was dead.  The only sound answering the old man was the humming of the flies that were feeding off the perspiration and the festering open wounds of the passengers.
Ram Lal scratched his stubble and looked through the window. A station was approaching.  It was one of those odd little places which had no real existence, except perhaps in the Bradshaw. Generally nobody even got in or out at that place.  But today there was a sizable crowd waiting. The train chugged to a stop and a cry arose that sped from the front to the rear of the train as fast as fear tingling down our spines.
It was a common cry these days. A composite of many cries, it symbolized many things fear, helplessness, grief, rage but chiefly, death. That a pack of wolves have attacked another pack of wolves, but the latter were temporarily clothed in sheepskin. Thus hindered, the second pack suffered some casualties before shedding its skin. Reader take comfort in this, deep inside all of us there exists a murderer!

Part 2 here.