Sunday, November 30, 2008

In a terrorist's mind..

To begin with, I have absolutely no idea about criminal psychology as the title of the blog would induce you to think. But it’s one of those times when you just sit back and think why. Why would guys, my age, put their life on the line for vague and abstract ideals?
The Mumbai Mirror this morning carried a picture today of the last terrorist to be smoked out of the Taj yesterday. Without the caption it would have taken me a few moments to realize it was a human body. Seeing these images, what induces people to continually subject themselves to years of rigorous training finally to end up in a heap of unloved and uncared for flesh and bones. Maybe unloved is too mild a word. They got people to hate them, despise them and wish them dead.
I know I speak for most people when I say that the mere thought of being hated by anyone is definitely not a very pleasant thought. And these guys work hard for it. Really hard. All their lives, in camps, without their families, with a lot of death, or the idea of death. And of course, religion. But that’s a different story.
Is any feeling so strong that it can overpower every other need? The need to love, the need to be free, the need to be happy and not angry?
I often wonder what they did in there, holding fort for so many hours. Beyond a point there was no television, no communication with the outside world. They couldn’t have known for sure what was going on outside. Imagine being in such position.
There are hundreds of soldiers, armed, just waiting to kill you. All around you are dead people, and their blood. You killed them. Some of your partners are dead too. The place is on fire. How do you keep from going insane? How do you ever prepare for that?
Does a terrorist feel the terror? Did they feel really scared, sitting there with enough ammunition to blow up the city? And what did they do then? Pray? Cry? Regret? Or just the all consuming passion to go on?
I probably will never know. Nobody will. Except them.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Zara hatke, zara bachke…

I am a proud mumbaikar. And I know there are many more like me in this city. But I wonder how many of us still have faith left in this place we call home. As I type this in the confines of my safe house in suburban Mumbai, I know this city is going up in flames elsewhere.
I must have been a toddler when the ’93 blasts happened. But I see the memory relived by many in the city. The news channels for which I shall not use any expletives are going from bad to worse when it comes to yellow journalism. Insensitivity to an event so horrifying is beyond my understanding.
I am losing faith in the city, the government, the world, even myself. People are dropping dead before the camera as the cameraperson zooms in on gory images of blood and massacre. I see the crowning glory of Mumbai- the Taj burn like a bonfire.
It is not even painful. It is a feeling so personal, that I can’t explain. Yet I know many others in this city can feel it. The names are familiar- Metro, Leopold’s, Cama, J.J….the list goes on…
It is something that is a part of my life. A part of all our lives. And this part is burning.
I have no words left to describe how horrible this is. Patients, doctors, nurses, held hostage. Foreigners crying for help. Standing on the rooftop of twenty storey buildings.
A taxi exploded in Vile Parle. There were two people inside. They are not to be found..Atleast in a recognizable form. This is what we have reduced ourselves to. Somewhere in all of us a human element has died that we didn’t shed a tear at these news bytes. We didn’t cry to see our city die, bit by bit. The whole of America, in some way or the other is still reeling from the impact of 9/11. We have even forgotten the dates when terrorist struck.
I am probably too messed up right now to make much sense. But I need to get this out of my system. And I send out a prayer. A prayer for all those who died. Policemen, civilians, or even the misguided souls responsible for this. I pray for you.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Silent? Valley….

It’s one of those days when if you’d say Good Morning, you would really mean it. I mean not just the usual sun-was-shining-birds-were-chirping routine, but a really nice quiet walk in the forest. And what better name would they have found for this place other than Silent Valley.
After a long jeep ride through the forest and short meal of curd rice, I was all set for a good walk. We walked for a short while and reached the river Kunthi. Several members of the group even had a great time shaking the uncertain wooden-iron-rope bridge across the river and testing its strength, and theirs. Fun.
We sat there for a while looking over the river which we were forbidden to jump into. We were about 3 days into the camp (inclusive of train journey) and this was the first real water body in proximity. I am sure more than one of us had resisted the urge the jump out of clothing and plunge in to the water! So as this joy was sacrificed, the youngest of the troop plunged headlong into a photography session by the bridge, soon to be joined by the rest. It is believed that Silent Valley has ever since been echoing of clicks and flashes.
On the way back however, I began to wonder how much longer the name of this place would stay. We were told that one of the reasons for Silent valley being so silent was the absence of a certain insect called Cicada which happens to be very noisy and compensates for the rest of the insect world being largely mute.
We came to a point in the forest on the way back where it was resounding of Cicada. Not one or two but several of them. The sheer vibration the noise was creating in the air would put a Nokia 1100 to shame! Had Shakespeare been alive, he probably would have used this case instead of the rose to prove his what’s-in-a-name jig. But then again, the forest was good, so you don’t really care about the cicada....or for that matter, Shakespeare or Nokia 1100.
We even sat down at a nice little leech-free zone to pen things down before continuing the walk. Not so bad for a good morning in a not-so-Silent Valley.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Maybe, Maybe Not

She carefully placed all the dishes on the dining table. She set two plates. Two scented candles in the centre. Perfect. She walked back to the kitchen to get the glasses. On the way she looked into the glass of the cabinet. She was looking stunning. She smiled and continued to set the table. He would come any moment now. She had been planning this surprise dinner for weeks.
It was eight o’clock. He was a little late. She didn’t worry so much. Better give him a call. “The number you are trying to call is currently not reachable. Please try again later.” said the polite recorded voice. For the twelfth time she kept the phone down. It was nine o’clock. He was really late now. Where could he be?
“I know!” she thought. “He’s probably lost his job. The boss was giving him a lot of trouble of lately. He must at the bar now. He must be sulking away. I wish he would come home. As of now, my salary should be enough for the house but I hope he finds a job soon. Our investments should last us till then. I wish I could talk to him. Why can’t he just come home……”
Just then the phone rang, breaking her chain of thought. “Would you be interested in a car loan madam? Our bank can give you a great deal.” said the telemarketer.
“No, thank you.” She said with a sigh and slammed the phone. She sunk into the couch again. It was nine thirty.
“He’s gone to get a car. Yes! That’s why he’s late. He hasn’t lost his job! He was insisting on getting a new car for the longest time. He must have bought it without asking me. I told him we don’t need it, the old car is fine! But who listens to me? He went straight to the showroom after work and he must be driving it around town right now. He’ll come home with that sheepish look on his face. How dare he buy the car after I told him not to! Hasn’t the decency to consult me!”
Suddenly she got startled when the windows shook in the wind. Within a few minutes, thunder and lightening burst over the city and it began pouring buckets. She stood by the window and saw several people running about to shelter themselves from the rain. She looked at the clock. It was ten. She was getting even more worried. Just then a car on the road came to a screeching halt and narrowly missed a fruit cart on the road. She watched absent-mindedly from the window as the fruit seller and driver bickered.
“He’s had an accident! Oh my god! I hope he isn’t very hurt. Maybe he skidded on the road in the rain. What if someone got killed? He must be in a hospital right now…or maybe a police station! Why can’t he call me? I should do something to help him. Maybe I should call the police.”
She went to call the police only to discover that the line was dead. Just then another thought came to her mind. “He couldn’t have had an accident. It started raining just an hour ago. He should have been here by eight! Where could he be? Oh I know! He’s having an affair. He hasn’t been himself of lately! I bet it’s that new client that he keeps talking about. He must be having dinner with her right now while I’m waiting for him like a fool. Let him come home! There will be a showdown today. How can he cheat on me!
She waited impatiently for the next half an hour. It was eleven now. She was very angry. She couldn’t wait to lash out at him. Then the bell rang. She rose slowly and opened the door. He stood in front. He was soaked to the bone. His clothes were covered with mud and grease. In his hand was a bouquet of wilted and almost smashed roses. She was completely startled by his appearance.
“Where have you been?” she asked, still in a state of shock.
“You won’t believe it! I got promoted today.” He said, handing her a soggy letter from his pocket. “I decided to surprise you. So I got these flowers, but there was this horrible traffic jam on the way. I was stuck or over an hour. As if that wasn’t enough, that stupid old car broke down. I had to walk two kilometres to find a mechanic. It started raining on the way. My phone got wet and stopped working. I tried calling you but because of the rain, all the public phones were also dead. This is such a bad day! So what have you been doing at home all this while?”

Lyrics I Love

These are parts of songs I really. Not in any particular order. Don't really know why I am posting it, but I listen to the whole song only for the couple of lines...

1. दफ्न करदो हमें कि साँस मिले,

नब्स कुछ देर से थमी सी है।

2. बावरा सा हो अँधेरा बावरी खामोशिया,

थरथराती लौ हो मद्धम, बावरी मधोशिया,

3. The touch of your hand says you'll catch me whenever i fall,

You say it best, when you say nothing at all.

4. I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,

Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens.

5. ..And the silence makes a beautiful sound...

6. ...and you never ask questions, when God's on your side.

Through many dark hours I have been thinking about this,

That Jesus Christ was betrayed by a kiss.

But I can't think for you, you have to decide,

Whether Judas Iscarious had God on his side.

7. What if God was one of us, just a slob like one of us,

Just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home.

8. You were to close for comfort, too far out of reach.

9. दोस्तों से झूठे-मूठे दूसरों का नाम लेके, तेरी मेरी बातें करना।

10. जैसे झील में लहराए चंदा,

जैसे भीड़ में अपने का कन्धा

The Stuff You Write Poems About

Of drops of rain falling on the earth,
Of love and faith and joy and hurt.
Of fire in the night in a field somewhere,
Of pretty garden trees and eyes that stare.
Of a million stars shining on the night sky,
Of a spider trying as much as he can try.
Of walruses and carpenters and daffodils and all,
Of tigers and hunters and Humpty Dumpty’s fall!
Of dreams of believing you can fly,
Or maybe the scream of a butterfly.
Of hopes and dreams and a lonely night,
Of victory and defeat in the same fight.
Of strangers and wonderlands far away,
Of loss and love and growing up someday.
Of cold winter afternoons spent reading,
Of warm summers with friends singing,
And snuggling in someone’s warm fuzzy coat,
And sometimes of poems, other people wrote!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Meeting

When she saw the paintings first, she could never even explain to herself what she felt. It had been so long but her world stood before her again. A world she had left behind twenty years ago. A world on the street and a world she shared with him. The same streets, the same fort and the same people.
She suddenly knew that he was there. In the same room. So many times she had imagined seeing him in the crowd, on the streets, in her dreams. But she always imagined the ten-year-old boy she had known. In a flash the realization came to her that he too had grown up in the past twenty years. He would look different now, talk different, and behave different. Would he recognize her? Would they ever be as close as they had been? Was he there right now looking at her?

When he saw her that day, nothing else seemed clear. It was just her face in the crowd. A crowd of people seeing his paintings, analyzing them. They all had something to say about them. They all had their judgments. She was the only one who spoke to them.
As he stood in the corner, watching her, he heard her conversations. It was like she understood them. She didn’t need to analyze. She knew them. She had always known them. Them and the hands that created them. He watched her every move. As her pallu slithered over one of the vases in the corner, and as her hand reached behind her ear to tuck a disobedient lock of hair.
It was only a few moments before he recognized her. The eyes that had haunted him for years. The thick messy hair that he had reached out to in his dreams. The voice he had waited for so long to hear. And there she was. Two steps away from him, too far away. He was about to turn away. He still doesn’t know why.
He was afraid maybe, even awkward. He had expected this moment for the past twenty years. But now as it stood there, staring him in the face, he wanted to run away. He wanted to be away from her. He knew he was pulled towards it and he couldn’t stop.
As he stood before her, he was scared. Scared that she wouldn’t recognize him, scared that too much time had passed. Reality kissed him on his cheek, like a butterfly, and the truth stung. He was a painter, in his shabby kurta and unkempt hair. She was a socialite, Married to a businessman, Living in a sprawling house. She attended parties and featured on page three. He, at thirty, was still struggling to pay rent. For a moment he didn’t want her to recognize him.
Life had a way of causing him pain when he had thought that it couldn’t get worse. She did recognize him. Almost as soon as she saw him. Almost like she had expected him to be there.

They now stood before each other as the rest of the room spun like a whirlpool. Everyone disappeared. It was only them. They had known each other so well and so long ago. After all this time, they didn’t find words to talk to each other. Curled up under the railway bridge stairs, the two children had shared their fears and dreams. Today, even the handshake was awkward.

They spoke for a while about random things. Things that didn’t matter. The real questions lay hidden. He knew all about her, at least all that the media said and wrote about her. She somehow knew that. It had been years since then but she could still read his mind.
She stayed with him the whole day. After the exhibition got over, they went to the beach. Still talking. They were the two urchins again. Now with twenty years of baggage. He told her about his fragmented life on the street after she left; his unnecessary schooling and his messy life after that.
She told him her adventures in the past twenty years. Her perfect teenage, her perfect family, her perfect marriage and her perfect life. Perfectly incomplete. Perfectly unhappy. But she didn’t tell him that. He already knew. As they sat watching the waves jump up to swallow the sun, they spoke about a lot of things and read all that was unsaid.
As he saw her sit in the taxi, she looked at him with those same eyes as she had so long ago. She smiled at him and he tried to smile back. As the taxi drove off, she looked at him from the window. Just as she had before, but only this time, he saw the sindoor above those two eyes, and smiled to himself. Something told him they would meet again. They hadn’t exchanged numbers, but he knew he would find her again. Just as he had now, he only didn’t know how much later ‘again’ would be.