A beginning!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pebble by the beach

Its twilight but not quite dusky yet. With vastness of ocean stretching by my side, I wander off on a path delineated by coconut trees. I pretend that this path has no beginning, and no end. Just for a while, I live in ignorance. Just for a while, I live in cognizance. For once, I live in complete incompleteness. For once, I live in unfulfilled fulfillment. The worldly matters can wait, or not. For once, it doesn't matter. I ramble on; mesmerized.

I stoop to pick a handful of sand. The fine particles fondle with my palm, then jostle, but can't escape. I unclench my fist. The gentle breeze sweeping over the ocean sprinkles the sand back on to the beach. Its gone, all of it, but for one little pebble.

Hundreds of years in sea tides have eroded it. It has lost its originality. But it has also shaded sharp edges of inflexibility. The pebble, or whatever is left of it, still shines, even in the sinking sun. I stare at it for a while and then throw it into the sea, as far as I could. I turn my back towards the sea and start walking.

I will never see that pebble again, but when the tide rises tomorrow, and rise it will, it will bring the pebble back on to the beach.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


"I will call Dad", said the young man as he held the door ajar. Though scars crumpled his smile, there was an air of pleasantness as he beckoned her towards sofa.

She must have been her thirties, but looked much older with those wrinkles. Last week's unfortunate events had left impression on her face. She walked slowly and uncertainly across the living room and finally sank into the sofa.

Few minutes passed before the young man came back with his father. He was an old man with a slightly stooped posture. But he walked in rather briskly for a man supporting himself with a cane.

"We talked over phone", she began rather impatiently.

"Are you sure you called the right guy?", the old man interjected, "how could I possibly help?". He was as puzzled as you would be if a complete stranger called and sought your help in her family matters.

She shifted uneasily, crossed and uncrossed her legs before finally reaching for her purse. She fiddled for a while before finally pulling out a diary. "Does this diary mean anything to you?", her tone almost expressionless, but her face betraying the anxiety underneath.

The old man bent over to take the diary from her outstretched arm, took a quick look, and looked even more perplexed than before. She has my old personal diary? When did I stop writing dairy? 10 years ago? 20 years ago? more? I thought this was lost when we moved out of that house.

"Where did you find th...", But before his son could finish the question, she broke down, sobbing uncontrollably.

Confused, the father and son sat motionless, not knowing how to appease her. They weren't even sure why she was crying.

"It matches, it matches in every detail", she finally spoke, with her eyes still fixated on the diary. "our little family, our little world, my husband, his education, job, even his interests, our little kid, everything, everything that has happened to us is exactly like what you describe in this diary. Even to minutest of the detail".

She paused, drew a breath and then rumbled on, "our destiny is exactly as your family lived some 20 years ago...
until... until... last week."

"My husband picked our kid from school gathering and was driving home late that evening. And then it happened.", She continued, in a tone that was now frequently punctured by sobs, "They say a truck jumped red light and rammed into the car.... My husband and kid are lying... in ICU. Doctors say they will try.... this diary, this diary.. talks about picking kid from school gathering tomorrow.. and then.. then... blank pages.. not a single entry after that... ".

"Oh my dear lady", the old man jumped up from his armchair, "don't you worry at all, this is indeed my diary! and this is my son! We were operated but we saw through that phase all right. I escaped with this little arc, he gestured towards his back, "and my son has to live with these facial scars, but it turned out all right. I had a successful career before happily retiring, my son graduated. He is now working for MNC and drawing handsome salary. "

For next half an hour, the old man spoke. Answering her questions, soothing her. She felt like tonnes of weight being lifted off her mind. Relieved and still thanking profusely, she finally got up to leave. "I must rush to hospital now, and share this with all my relatives", she said.

Happy and cheerful she waved goodbye, but not before she looked painstakingly at the permanent scars on the young man's face.

"Dad, you have not been completely honest", said the young man after he closed the door behind her. "What do you mean? We saw it through all right, didn't we?", The old man's voice sounded hoarse and tense.

He turned around and looked at the photo hanging right above the sofa as he spoke softly, barely audible to himself, "Mom had heart-attack just before our operation".

Disclaimer: I do not take credit for the originality of this concept, but the treatment is solely mine. I came across this theme several years ago through a Marathi serial. Would be glad to give credit for conceptualization if anybody points me to appropriate source. Would also pull out this entry if need be.
Also, special thanks to Devendra.

Monday, June 08, 2009

... death is still a spectacle

The boat quivered as the engine squeaked into life. It continued grumbling for a while before setting into smooth rhythmic motion. We - a group of over 50 people from different backgrounds, cultures and age groups - were off for jet boat excursion.

The boat cut through the waves as it veered through the water. Every once in a while, our captain would take a sharp U-turn or deliberately drive through the welts drawn by other boats. Waves would hit our boat with a thud splashing water all over us. We would shout, cheer, and encourage our captain further.

Our captain was not just an adept sailor but also an expert anchor. He kept us busy with anecdotes, wisecracks and interesting local information.

... and suddenly our captain pulled across a fishing boat. His trained eye was quick to notice the tiny wobble of the fishing tackle.

Everybody in the boat wanted a closer view. The excitement in the atmosphere was palpable. It took efforts. The little over a foot long fish, even with a hook stuck in its jaw, put on a brave fight - fight for its life. It ended as it usually does. Without letting the fish go off-hook, the fisherman expertly pulled the tackle inside his boat and carefully released the fish onto the net. Wounded, and struggling to breath, the fish gasped for a while before finally giving in.

Everybody in our boat stood and clapped and cheered the fisherman. Feeling proud and satisfied the fisherman half bowed in acknowledgment.

In 21'st century's civilized world, death is still a spectacle.

... And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all... They refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know...
- J. K. Rowling

Monday, April 06, 2009



The alarm clock squeaked. Still sleepy, he dragged himself out of the bed reluctantly. With eyes still half closed, he would barely see his reflection in the bathroom mirror. His hand stretched out for toothbrush. Something felt different. What is it? He looked towards it, trying to force his eyes open. Two toothbrushes? I had one. When did I buy another one? And when did I put it here?

He had forgotten about it when he entered shower few minutes later. Breakfast, drive to office, meetings, chat-by-coffee-machine, a day like usual....

He would have gone about his life perfectly without ever remembering the little morning mystery if not for the near-empty milk cans he noticed in the fridge that evening. How could that be? Didn't I pour milk out of only can this morning? Am I losing grip? Has my memory started failing me?

It lingered over his mind a bit. He might have let it pass too, but perfectly identical cell-phone chargers on his computer desk meant that he could no longer ignore it. Tossing and turning in the bed late that night, he wondered: what is this? are these seemingly benign objects duplicating themselves? Oh, thats crazy. I watch too much science fiction. If this pattern continues, may be I will seek medical help!


The alarm clock squeaked again. Why did it sound louder?... He was shocked. Two identical alarm clocks buzzed from his desk in unison... Scared and barely in his senses, he hurried off to see his family doctor. As he recounted the peculiar events, the doctor nodded sympathetically and suggested couple of days off from work. “Rest a bit, and take these medicines, come back again next week”, he said, sliding prescription across the table. He could see that doctor did not believe his story. The medicines were perhaps just placebos, he thought.

He took those medicines nevertheless, but forced himself through another work day. Barring two identical staplers by his desk (Oh, I think I had two of them all along, he told himself), nothing stuck out.

He decided to hit the bed earlier than usual. No alarm tonight, I need rest, he told himself. Did he fall asleep? or was he awake all night? Seemed awfully long time but it was bright and sunny outside now. Feeling bit jaded, he tried waking up but felt something move on his left. He turned around. To his horror, a man exactly identical to him was waking up besides him... he let out a scream in terror...

"Heart Attack", the family doctor said shaking his head as the victim's neighbors gathered around the body. The doctor pulled stethoscope out from his ears and let it hang loosely around his neck. He was summoned by a panic-stricken neighbor who heard the horrible scream. They had to force the door open. It took a while, but even if they had key, it was too late anyway.

“I suspected hallucinations, but did not expect things to worsen to this end. Ambulance, must take body to hospital. But of course call police before that”, the doctor continued as he opened his briefcase to put stethoscope back.

To his horror, there was perfectly identical stethoscope inside.

Disclaimer: I do not take credit for the originality of this concept, but the treatment is solely mine. Heard this theme from a friend years ago. Would be glad to give credit for conceptualization if anybody points me to appropriate source. Would also pull out this entry if need be.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Two AceS

As an avid cricket follower, I feel lucky to have witnessed the era when careers of two of the finest Indian cricketers coincided. Even as Saurav walks in the eventide, ageless Sachin marches on.

Arguably, both were in the best form of their life during late 1990s and early century. Sachin's Desert Storm, Saurav's Toronto heroics with both bat and ball, World Cup 2003 and the innumerable great starts the flamboyant pair provided in ODIs for years... the list can go on and on... Scores of newspaper columns have been written in their praise. Much has been said about how Sachin's attacking batting and Saurav's batting (to some extent) and captainship (to larger extent) represents the face of emerging nation freeing itself from psychological shackles of colonialism that transcended generations after Independence.

If one is to compare (can one really?), then Sachin wins hands-down. He was always far superior technically. Discipline, determination, balance, modesty. He has it all.

Saurav was never perfect - as a player or even otherwise. Struggling to short pitch bowling, refusing to carry drinks as 12th man, crossing path with opposition players, dancing shirtless on Lord's balcony, getting on odds with then coach Chappell (finally resulting in his ouster from team)...

While Sachin was a monk-like perfectionist, Saurav was always more human. He never fully managed to master his shortcomings. Who would forget Sachin's Sydney double hundred where he exhibited supreme self control and refused to play cover drive till he crossed 150? Could one even dream of something similar from Saurav?

But Saurav had his own flair. He always managed to hold on to his own even while batting together with Sachin. Unlike Rahul, who always played second fiddle to Sachin, Saurav played his own game. As a caption, he instilled self-belief in his players to compete against the strongest of the oppositions on their home turf. He was never as modest as Sachin but usually managed to channelize his aggression well to have positive effect on team performance.

While I would continue to worship Sachin like all fans, Saurav would always find a special place in my heart as he hits something closer home! He is more like us lesser mortals. Just like we know our shortcomings but never fully manage to fix it, Saurav had his share too. What makes him hero is that while he could never overcome them fully, he had the right attitude and mental strength to see it through and make it big. He was a great survivor and succeeded against odds and finds place in same bracket as some of the greatest.

He might be the lesser gifted amongst the two, but if I were to pick a batsman to hit a last ball Six to win the World Cup, I would pick Saurav over Sachin!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Let the summer come, I will ...

It was raining. Drenched and shivering the Monkey muttered, “Enough is enough, let the Summer come, I will build myself a house on this tree".

It rained everyday, and each passing day made the Monkey's resolve only stronger. Months passed... One such rainy night, weak and quivering, the Monkey fell asleep cuddling a tree branch...

Sun rays, albeit filtered by tree branches, fell on the Monkey's face. He woke up with a startle. Birds were chirping around. It was sunny and pleasant morning. Monsoon was over. The Monkey jumped across trees, played with his tail, troubled the birds... he thought, "Life is Fun!". Days passed, weeks passed and so did months! Life was indeed fun!!

One day, it rained heavily. Drenched and shivering the Monkey muttered, "Enough is enough, let the Summer come. I will... "

Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.
- Sir Francis Bacon

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Don'ts versus Dos

Dusk fall. Sun rays that had relentlessly set the desert ablaze all day were losing ferocity like retreating army. But the sand still burned. The green little patch bore the sole testimony of habitat across sea of sand that stretched over thousands of acres. It was lighthouse for sojourners lost in myriads of sand. Few families resided there, mainly earning their livelihood by selling stuff to the travelers.

As the heat grew lesser, kids came out of their huts and started playing. They climbed and jumped across the trees. Their parents, tired from hard day’s work, rested at a distance, looking aloof, albeit fondly watching their kids play.

It looked all serene till the storm hit. The slow humming wind suddenly hit the little town with force of hammer. Dust filled the town like water swallowing wrecked ship. Kids started running everywhere in panic even as their parents screamed for them.

In the midst of this hubbub, two boys, perhaps too scared to act at this unexpected eventuality, got stuck on tree branches. By the time their fathers realized, it was too late to even keep eyes open let alone climb down.

One boy’s father shouted, “Son, no matter what, don’t let your hands drop off the branch”. Other boy’s father shouted, “Son, just hold the branch tightly”.

As the storm hit, the first boy lost his grip and fell on ground. Second boy clung on till the wind abated and then climbed down.

It’s a simple story, and my rhetoric experimentation means it is perhaps packaged with more preface than it warranted. But the message is subtle.

‘Don’ts’ can clutter mind to the extent that one often walks into the very trap it is trying to avoid. ‘Dos’ are lot more effective since they help focus only on what needs to be done.

As the second boy’s father shrewdly expressed, every ‘don’t’ can be phrased into a ‘Do’. A point to ponder: how many times in our day to day life do we think in terms of Dont's rather than Dos?

[The story pages of Reader's Digest where I read similar story few years back are long lost. But I haven’t lost its gist though I cannot possibly recount it verbatim].