रिश्तों की कीमत

रिश्तों की कीमत
दाम लगा के देख लो
रिश्तों की अहमियत
अनुमान लगा के देख लो

पहचान पाओगे
तो उसकी पहचान है
महसूस कर पाओगे
तो भावनाओं का मान है

नहीं तो क्या
रिश्ते तो एक नाम है
मौका, दस्तूर
या कभी, किसी का कोई काम है

सच्चे रिश्ते
रिवाज़ों के मोहताज़ नहीं
रिश्तों की पहचान
दुनिया के रिवाज़ नहीं

एक रिश्ता
अपने से भी है मेरा
अपनी पहचान
और विश्वास का है सेहरा

एक रिश्ता अब
बनाने निकला हूं
कुछ गुफ़्तगू हो जाए
आईने में उस अंजाने चहरे से

The cone of Anxiety

It was another one of the days of chasing the deadlines. The misses of the previous dates were accumulating into an astronomical wave. The baggage of the ‘Could Nots’ was weighing me down as much as the expectancy of the exit through this competitive tunnel.

The meeting tomorrow was a make or break one. I had heard myself saying this before, but this one seemed more real than the real.

My mind worked simultaneously on the multiple possibilities and worst case scenarios while remembering the previous mistakes from which I seldom learned. My thoughts,  while flipping between the two divergent ends of past and future, seldom rested on the presentation at hand. It was lonely and restless for the head that wears the crown. I was heading the marketing for the largest region in India. With great powers, I realised comes much greater responsibility. And the HR at the head office had knowingly skewed the ratio,  far in favour of the responsibility vis-a-vis the power.

I had many things to prove.

The disapproving look and the dismissive attitude of the CEO wasn’t something which escaped my empathetic eyes and the eyes of the competitive compatriots. They waited for the fall. I hung on to the cliff edge with my nails. In times such as these, even the shadow wasn’t part of the inner circle of my trust. I couldn’t rely on any one else. I had to do it myself. One thing that many of them wanted to share, and I was not letting it be shared was – The Credit.

So I remained glued to my PC in my lonely cell. The radiating illumination from my PC escaped my cabin into the dark vacant office space outside. The same office space was to transform itself into the battle space – the Kurukshetra, where my battle of survival would be raged tomorrow. The battle was part of the endless war I fought in the bid to stake my claim of existence. It formed part of the war which I raged with myself and my many contradictory roles jostling for the same click of the needle in the turning clock.

I had made my choices well, as I moved up the ladder of success.

The doting father, the romantic husband, the dutiful son and the fun-loving-butt-slapping friend were put on the waiting list as the deligent bullock went round and round turning the wheel of time. I was racing against the time. I perpetualy remained two moments behind, slowed by the baggage of the past and pushed back by the incapacitating dread of the impending future. There was so much at stake.

I flipped the hour glass over. The ritual of keeping time was being repeated. The hour glass remained the measure of time as I moved from the expectant past to an uncertain future. In this state of distress the senses were at highest state of perception, ready for the fight of flight eventuality. In this state of heightened sensory state, I noticed the sand slip down. Time moved forward.

The sand slipped in a heap at the bottom. Each grain of salt jostling with the other to cross the stem of the time. The narrow stem of the hour glass differentiates between the space above filled with sand at the beginning of the time with the eventual resting place of the sands of time at the bottom.

The benign hour glass was silently trying to tell a sacred wisdom as it emptied it’s last grain of sand into its eventual resting space. It waited to start the same cycle once more. Move the grains of sand from the upper past space to the lower future space. The combative competition keeps getting repeated in an cruel cycle. The stem dividing the past from the future. In the rush of the grains through the stem, the moments pass. The time moves a notch as each grain moves through the stem. That place in the stem is… the moment. Unnoticed, it goes through the fog of the worry. Remembered, only on either bulging sides. The worry and urgency of squeezing through and reaching the other side misses the experience of the moment.

I looked up at the pendulum as it struck midnight. It moved back and forth, back and forth…past and future. Between the swings from the past to the future, I observed, it missed the present. Swinging…swinging…perpetually in motion. As the pendulum rises from the nadir of the swing towards the zenith, the urge to return back to the nadir increases. It pauses at the zenith temporarily only to race back. However, as it races back to the place it seeks to be, the very same rush takes it helplessly past it. Never able to pause even for a moment at the moment. It moves rapidly past it towards the next high. And the cycle continues as it chases time.

Like the grain of sand, the pendulum remains precise in keeping the time interval.  However, missing the sweet spot of the moment while flitting between the regrets of the past and the worries of the future. Always anxious to move to the other side. Like the grain of sand, existing either at the top or the bottom of the cone of anxiety.

I realise we also live trapped in a similar Cone of Anxiety. Proudly carrying the cross of the privilege granted to the wise humans. The privilege of remembering the past and to imagine the future. These form the bulging sides of the cones – The cone of the future and the cone of the past. The cones intersect at the moment – the narrow stem of the hour glass. As we move into the cone of the past we are engulfed with the gloom of regret. The future cone floods our minds with the worry of imagined scenarios. As my mind moves back and forth in this cone of anxiety, I am a co-sinner with the pendulum and the grain of sand. I commit the similar unpardonable sin…I miss the moment.

I grabbed the pendulum to a pause. I placed the hour glass on its side. They resisted for a while, till the string no longer pulled, till the grains settled in stupefied motionless state. The clarity occurred. The realisation dawned. Now is the only truth. The past is merely my flawed interpretation of event that already occurred. The future is a only an abstract speculation. The only truth is in the Now. Everywhere in the cone is the source of anxiety. There is no anxiety of judgement in present moment as it lies in the future. There is no worry in the present moment as it is left behind in the past. The moment of now is pure and unsullied.

The realisation of the moment cleared the mind of worries and regrets. The vacuum created was soon filled by clarity of thoughts.

As the illuminating screen of the PC shut down, I felt radiant and sure. The past would not be allowed to sully my present. The future would not be allowed to steal the moment

I would live pure.

Gravity of Death

Someone just died.

I took the news, as just another tragic news on TV. But then, what seemed surprising, was this was the death of a colleague. It wasn’t someone who I knew personally, but stayed and worked under the same roof. We belonged to the same institution. I thought, it was reason enough to form a relationship. But my lack of true grief was surprising. The way I have wondered, on the source of my happiness, likewise, I searched for clues on the source of my grief.

If death of a human is a tragedy, it ideally should be a source of grief. But in this very case, there was no true grief. The news was discomforting and possibly could by far be judged as threatening rather than sorrowful. It was discomforting, for the fact that it wasn’t something I was accustomed to hear first thing in the morning. Threatening it was, for tbe fact that it warned of similar consequences for me too. In crude terms the death was not sorrowful but the possibilty of such an event occuring was discomforting and threatening.

The next question was whether we grieved for the death or for the deformation of the mould of life we had prepared. The mould of life we believed, was there forever. The mould of life stood for the certainty associated with the occurrence of our daily lives. The death by itself seemed to be only a cause. However, the greater influence on our minds was the effect of the cause. Greater the effect of the cause on the present way of things, far more was the grief over the cause, i.e, the Death.

It was as if the gaping hole in our fabric of life pained us more than the part of fabric which was lost. Larger the piece of fabric of present life that was lost, greater was the hole and therefore, larger was the consequent grief. The larger hole also had greater and wider effect on the connected weaves of the fabric. This analogy, explains to me, why more number of people grieved an important or an influential person’s death. Greater the influence of a person, greater is the piece of the life fabric he takes away, and therefore the grieving ones are more. It explaines the extent of influence and not the depth of influence. The explanation of the depth of influence of death is observable in the intensity of grief which is inversely proportional to the distance of the relationship. Greater the distance in a relation, lesser is the grief. Or in other words, closer the relationship, more intense is the grief. The quantum of grief is directly proportional to the size of influence of the departed soul and inversely proportional to the closeness of the relationship.

The analogy strikes me as a tragic Eureka. Grief is like gravity. The postulates are similar. Greater the mass (influence or Size of Personality) greater the grief. Farther the distance in relationship lesser is the grief.

Like gravity, grief also binds us together. The threat and discomfort related to the consequent grief of losing something or someone, make us gravitate towards those very people or things we love. The larger the mass of the personalty, greater was the effect on the fabric of life in terms of the hole created. Death is the cause of that gaping hole in this fabric of life which gives rise to the intensity and extent of grief. In congruence with the Gravity – Grief analogy, effect of death in the fabric of life is just like a the effect of black hole in the fabric of space-time. Like black hole, nothing comes back from death. The black hole has enormous gravity, likewise, death is also associated with enormous grief. Death likewise has no effect on itself but has profound effect on others around it.

I rely on the Gravity – Grief analogy to give me answers to my quest of the source of grief associated with this inevitable truth of Death.

The obvious question is what should we do about it? How do we reduce the grief associated with the Death? Well for once, as with gravity, we can do nothing about it, till we are in this world. It is inescapable. Grief is felt by those who remain in the world and not surely by the one who has left this world behind. So when we are worried for our death we are actually worried about others. It is not the occurrence of death, but the grief associated with it that worries us. The anxiety and grief associated with death is accentuated by the connections or attachments we have on people or things in this world. It has a implosive effect like the self implosion of a star as it consumes itself under the crush of its own gravity. Therefore, what we need to reduces is grief of death or in the analogy of gravity…the Gravity of Death.

To reduce the Gravity of Death we need to start by eliminating the very reason for the gravity or grief. The first factor was the mass or our own influence. It would be prudent to reduce the dependency of others on you. Empowering people around us would reduce our mass and thereby the effect of the gaping hole that we leave behind. Severing of the threads of our attachments to the objects of desire, would make us lighter. It would free us from the pull of Gravity of Death and allow us to live a fulfilling and free life.

The Spark

If its breathing its alive
If it bothers me it’s alive
If it sparkles in the darkest night
it’s alive

It carries the essence
It cannot die
It is the spark
It cannot die

Every time I look away
When I know I should not
I feel its flicker
Every time I hesitate
When the voice within says I should not
I feel its flicker

Every time I ‘do’,
irrespective of ‘why’
It glows within
Every time I step up,
irrespective of ‘who’
It glows within

The darkness will melt
as the sparks ignite,
Yes, it will continue to glow,
Till the man in the mirror
meets the one on the other side

My Dog is my Happiness

My dog is my happiness. He fills me with the fuzzy happy feelings. The wagging tail, the twinkling eyes and the unabashed grin is a deadly cocktail for a happiness potion. He has instant effect on our mood. The entire focus of our household revolves around this canine. He is so central to our well-being that it is unimaginable how life can be without him. Our happiness was like anchored with this sweet drop of life. The story of this happiness started six years ago with a stroke of profound unhappiness.

It was six years ago, yet the memories of ‘Simba’ lingered as a distant but vivid images in our minds. The feelings were muted as we felt, we had moved on. We felt, we had lost a source of happiness, as death took him away. Many memories, happy and sad had piled up over those memories, obscuring them to their best. There was a gaping void which we all felt. We were painfully reminded of the loss by the uncanny habit of the Facebook, to bring back your memories on your timeline. As the memories broke the barrier and entered our conscious mind, it became a source of motivation to look for another pet. Our search was futile as nothing seemed to be matching our memories. We were kind of looking for our old memories in the present. The search was on the internet, through the circle of friends and strangely even on OLX (an online portal for selling your old stuff). The irony was classic, here we were, looking for our old memories and here were some people selling the same.

The search culminated in a quick succession of events. During a casual talk with one of our friend the topic got triggered. The topic of getting a new pet had become a favourite line of conversation, driven by an ever increasing obsession. Well this time it was a concrete lead. There was a vet, who had confirmed availability of a set of cream coloured pups.

My younger daughter, the insistent factor in the search was at her insistent best as she did not allow us the usual afternoon siesta. We were revving up our car’s engine when we received the call from the vet informing us of a possible delay to get the ‘other party’ to the rendezvous. We could not step inside the house, therefore we decided to take a drive a do our long pending household shopping.

As is the norm, the shopping list has was devoid of any limit cast in stone. It followed the Hooke’s law even beyond the yield point. And, this day wasn’t beyond the normal. The shopping which started out as an activity to fill in the time, ended up filling more time, than required. We, therefore, ended up being late.

As we reached the clinic of the vet, we could see the basket being carried by the representative of the breeder. we could see two fuzzy bundles of cream through the mesh of the cane basket. The tug on my hand was urgent as we crossed the street. The tenets of negotiations were all systematically ignored and violated. The eagerness was visible to the least perceptible.

The breeder, flipped the cover open to reveal two furry siblings. Cushioned by the soft quilt the duo seemed comfortable and cosy. We fashioned the notion that we would be the one to select our pet, but the selection was done by the pet. The furry ball hopped over the rim of the basket and wobbled towards me. It was a rush of emotions as the afterlife connections on metaphysical level seem to emerge and the deal was done. The decision was made. We had found our happiness. Or, to be more precise, the happiness had found us.

The bundle of happiness reached our home and the entire locus of attention shifted. There were giggles and awwwwws as the mobile phone memory recorded each moment. As the memory of our mobile filled and spilled over to the hard disc storage, our source of happiness acquired a new name – Marty.

Our elder daughter, oblivious of this momentous happenings was battling her wits on a outstation quiz battle ground. She returned triumphant, however her happiness got dwarfed as she carefully uncovered the radiating piece of happy radioactive material lying hidden in a gift wrapped basket.

His conquest was complete. Everyone had attached their cable of happiness plugged to him. It not only covered the household but went beyond to engulf few regular visitors. The garbage collector, the newspaper guy, the washer-man and our friends. All were under his spell. The enthusiasm he displayed in each meeting was similar and fair in quantum and quality, irrespective of gender, race, caste, religion and affluence. Each one plugging into this unending source of happiness.

That set me thinking. ‘Thinking’ is an evolutionary advantage that I have. So I ‘thought’ of using it.

How does this creature, far lower in the pecking order of evolution manage to be an abundance of ‘the only commodity’ that the human race (sitting at the top of the Darwinian ladder) of evolution seeks?

Where did the source lie of this ‘abundance of happiness’? Is my dog my happiness? Or do I look for happiness in him? Or does the happiness lie somewhere in between?

That became my line of thought as I observed this super being in action, trying to pry out some secret recipe of the happiness potion.

First thing that was evident was that Marty was unfair in giving. There was no relation of his “giving” to the merit of the “receiver”. His ‘giving’ was same for any of the receiver irrespective of gender, race, caste, religion, affluence, etc. There just wasn’t any criteria of fair distribution. He was just unfair. The only consistent factors was that of attention and affection.

The other thing that troubled me was that he would give attention and the pricey wag of the tail to just anybody – the garbage collector, the maid, the courier man, so on and so forth. There wasn’t any sense of gratefulness. With no ambiguity, I wanted him to know, that I was his owner who provides him his food, his security and his identity (on the collar). I experienced that immense happiness whenever he came wagging his tail expectantly for the treat in my hand. It was a sense of elation I felt on the control I could exercise on this being as he stayed riveted to my hand (or more accurately to the smell of the treat that lingered on my hand). The wagging of the tail, the expectancy in the eyes and the imagined smile on the wide open mouth brought me my happiness. I would gloat over the affection or the attention I was given and would seek to own it. Therefore sometimes I do feel bad when the same tail wags and the eyes twinkle at these ‘other’ people. But what really got be wondering was that, when the same wag of the tail and grin on the wide open mouth is directed to these ‘other’ people, wby did it not have the same effect of engulfing happiness on me? On the contrary, I felt wretched, hateful and sad. An absolute opposite set of feelings from the same set of behaviour by the dog. It astonished me. And somehow, strangely and ironically, I felt greater anger towards Marty than towards these ‘other’ people. As if he disappoints me. As if he fell from the grace. Stranger is the irony, when I realise that at times like these, this bundle of abundant happiness was actually the source of my anger.

I also observed that the dog wasn’t so smart after all, because all he ever did was to mimic my emotions. He would get super excited if I showed excitement. If I was pensive he would be listless too. And on the other hand sometimes he would be exactly the opposite. There were times when I reached back home and just want to fling my work and chill. When I just wanted to dig into the abyss of social media world with my swiping fingers and punching thumbs. Or when I wanted to jog the remote till the mind got from dumb to the dumber. At times like these, Marty conveniently forgot his default wiring of mimicking emotions. He discovers his shriekiest bark and the most devious ways of gaining your attention. He just doesn’t realise, at such time the ‘most important’ thing for me is to relax and not spend time with him. He is actually dumb and irritating.

These observations were not helping me in anyways of extracting the holy grail of happiness. My observation seemed to point towards the contrary. My observation was creating this grave cognitive dissonance with my awareness and belief that my dog was the source of my happiness and at the same time the source of my anger and irritation.

It was a researchers sense of betrayal, to see his hypothesis not being supported by his own observation. The distress was palpable. The limits of thinking (which I was so proud of) had hit its keel on the walls of the horizon.

As I sat brooding over a blank screen, thoughts were no longer giving me solace. In my time of despair, in the most cheekiest Bollywood way, I felt Marty’s paws on my arm. For all those who have a dog, know what I am talking about. It is that placing of the paws which has a kind of therapeutic effect. With the paws on my arm, Marty face was resolute, sombre and yet expressionless. It allowed me to interpret any expression which I wanted to have. It was a blank canvas on which I could paint any thought.

I toyed with the idea which I started with ‘My dog is my Happiness’. Somehow the analogy of my dog being the happiness seemed to be a metaphoric explanation. As my thoughts rested resolutely on the metaphor it somehow transformed and rearranged itself into – ‘Happiness is the Dog’. The clarity emerged. The metaphoric shift replaced the abstract feeling of ‘happiness’ with a ‘physical entity’ which could be described.

And as I proceeded to describe the dog as happiness the clarity emerged. I use the word Marty – my Dog as a replacement of the word Happiness to derive understandable meaning.

Marty wags his tail and focusses his attention to the one who feeds him. He focusses his attention to the one that gives attention to him. He goes to the one who truly wants him and makes him feel important (more important than anything else). The next time Marty does not come to you ask yourself, whether I feed him or whether I give him attention? Do I want him? Is it really the most important thing in my life? Now replace the Marty with the word ‘Happiness’ and see the clarity emerge. Do we really want to be happy? Do I give happiness the required attention? Do I even try to be happy?

What I actually try to do is to own happiness, extract and store happiness. Just like I would like to maintain the stock of treats to buy myself the attention of Marty. We try and own happiness and control it. Leash it and not share it with the ‘others’. When I want to control it, leash it and am unwilling to share it, its core essence of happiness transforms into despair and anger. It diabolically transforms into a gruesome source of misery.

The clarity sends shivers of relief and bliss through my core. It seemed to lift a heaviness from my chest. As clarity swept through my being, the ruts on my neural pathways smoothened out to welcome this new belief. I felt actually happy.

That’s when I felt the wet licks and the insistent playful prod by the wet nose of Marty. It was time for us to play, share ourselves wholly to each other and extend our identity to ‘us’. It was time to brew happiness.

Cuppa Coffee

Is the morning fresh,
or is it the coffee?
Is the world blurred
Or am I still groggy?

Impatient morning beakons me,
Hurry up!! match the schedule
Wait!! I tell the clock,
Let me shed the shackle of your rule

Its with my love
I am engaged, in a talk
Wait!! I tell the clock
Shut your incessant tick-tock

Let me savour the moment
Let me sip the coffee
This moment shall only pass
When I have had my Coffee

मैं


कुछ दिनों से
मैं ये सोच रहा था
एक कहानी
कह दूँ

फिर कल,
हुआ कुछ ऐसा अलग,
सोचा नहीं
कह डाला

खुशी जो अंदर थी
अब बाहर भी है
और हैरत की बात तो ये है
कि मैं उनके बीच में नहीं

किसी और का मैं
आज मोहताज नहीं
किसी और का मुझे
इन्तज़ार भी नहीं

मैं मैं हूँ
मेरी कोई और
पहचान नहीं

Hi Anonymous – I remember your name!!

He felt the fresh air sift through the vestibule. He bent down to peek through the double glassed tinted window separating him from the pouring rain and the vast stretching landscape. He fished into his shirt pocket for his packet of Cigarettes. He opened the pack to find two cigarettes left. He picked up one and started to light. He decided not to do so, considering the closed doors of the AC compartment. The fresh air came as a welcome change from the stifling artificially monitored atmosphere. He always felt stifled by the closed AC compartments, yet he always traveled AC 1st class. It did give him the necessary privacy and the additional time to work. Well he couldn’t afford to travel in anything else. He was Amit Deshmukh….The Amol Deshmukh…owner of half of the country’s annual budget plan. He was rich, famous and a very important man.

He moved further across the vestibule, purely based on curiosity or possibly the childhood desire to travel the traverse of the train and watch its entire spine turn. The train was sparsely occupied.

The remote countryside destination had not reached the levels of popularity in the touristic circles. But Amol could see the value of the place far beyond what is seen through the amateur DSLRs. He was looking for a site for his expansion plan. This factory would cater for the growing demand for his product. He always called it the OH revolution. And he was the king of the “spirits”.

Lost in his thought he never noticed that he had crossed over another vestibule and entered the 2nd class sleeper compartment. Realization dawned on him as the strong gust of wind mixed with spray of water hit his face. It was rejuvenating. He paused to light his cigarette. It was proving to be a difficult task considering the heavy wind that blew into the train through the door. He drew a long drag from his cigarette, savouring the smoke filling his lung, mixing into his blood stream and numbing his senses. One more cigarette and he promised he would quit. But right now it was serving the purpose as it transported him away from the everyday grind. Away from the dreary financial details of their investment plan that his staff was working on, back there in the AC 1st class.

The gaping door of the train inviting him to it. He gingerly moved towards it. It had been some time since he had hung over the open door screaming at the wind, which tore at his face to match his passion.

That was a long time ago. He had grown up and there was so much at stake.

He glanced at the coach. It was deserted. The empty coach rattled, labouring unwillingly, as if unhappy with the lack of sponsorship. Amol found the solitude comforting. The warm cloak of anonymity, comforting him amidst cold and wet breeze. The solitude emboldening him to move closer to the door. Edging dangerously closer to very edge of the floor. He grasped the handle grip hard enough to make his knuckles turn white. He resolutely placed his foot against the door, making sure it did not close in on him.

Things were under control. That was the way he liked it.

He could hear his own heart beats over the din of the train playing a drum beat on the rail. He sheepishly looked around if anybody else could hear it too. The empty coach stared back at him. He smiled at himself. He was feeling increasingly comfortable, increasingly closer to himself. It was some time since he was alone with himself.

The tug on his sleeve startled him. he was sure he was alone. He looked around but couldn’t see anybody. The tug returned. This time on his trouser. He looked down to stare at a young boy casually sitting on the floor with his legs dangling beyond the edge. He must be in his early teens. He was casually dressed, albeit on the shabby side.  A cap trying in vain to keep his overgrown hair from falling over his eyes.

 

His emotions moved from astonishment to irritation. Just when he had begun to enjoy his new found solitude, last thing that he expected was an unruly teenager to spoil the tranquility. He fumbled for his purse for some change to quickly get over the intrusion. He was irritated to find only 2000 rupee notes and he wasn’t sure if getting rid of this boy was worth as much in currency. His moment of indecision was interrupted by an irritating chuckle by the boy.

 

“Do you give money to everybody who tugs on your sleeve.” asked the amused boy.

Amol was infuriated. He arrived at his decision. 2000 rupees was worth spending. He took out the note and thrust it to the boy’s face. The boy looked up through his unkempt hair. The amused look stayed in his eyes. For an uncertain fleeting moment, the eyes felt familiar. He shook the note once more as if catching the boy’s attention to the denomination. It was an embarrassing. The boy turned to watch a passing bridge over a stream overflowing its banks. Amol had had enough of it. He fumbled with a single hand to put back the soaked currency note back into his purse as his other hand clutched the handle with great force.  It wasn’t the way he had thought this would turn out to be. He was finding everything irritating. He was even bothered about the 2000-rupee note being drenched…an amount, almost insignificant. He was clearly enraged.

“Why don’t you sit down; it will be easier for you” said the boy without even turning. The boy’s candor and his audacity made Amol smile in disbelief. He managed to put the purse back into his pocket with the wet note before he asked the boy “What do you want from me if you don’t want the money?”

“Is that the only thing you can offer?” asked the boy. Amol searched the boy’s face for mischief. He could find none of it.

Amol felt embarrassed. He wanted his solitude back.

“Well, I don’t have much of the time”, snapped Amol finding no other way to get rid of the boy.

“Ahhh, Time. That I am sure you don’t seem to have enough” said the boy. “Come to think of it, I have plenty of that. And that too of good quality. Couldn’t I just sell that to you in exchange of the money you seem to have in plenty.”

Amol was in no mood for jokes. “You don’t seem to know who I am” he scorned. No response from the boy did not stop him from continuing his contemptuous introduction, “Half the world knows who I am and I presume you live in the other half.”

“I am Amol Deshpande” he said, with a practiced ease. It was line, which would invite laughter from his audience at the futility of such an introduction of a household name. However, there was no response from the boy as if it wasn’t enough introductions. “You wouldn’t dream of meeting me, let alone speaking to me.”

“I am Amol too” said the boy unmoved by Amol’s extravagant introduction “And I am sure I haven’t dreamt we would ever meet.”

He extended his hand saying “ Well nice meeting you.”

Amol shook his hand hesitatingly. He was surprised at the boy’s audacity. His hand was warm and the grip longer and friendier in contrast with the official ones he was accustomed to.

He suddenly was enjoying the company. Wasn’t this the exact anonymity he was looking for. He had longed to meet somebody who would meet him just because he was just another Amol and not ‘Amol Deshmukh – The Liquor Baron’

“Why don’t you sit down” offered the boy “it would be comfortable.”

Amol hesitatingly sat down. He shrugged thinking WHY NOT? The cover of anonymity allowing him to shed the inhibitions attached to the persona of Amol Deshmukh. He was just plain Amol just like the boy. He could do anything.

“Since you are such a famous person” asked the boy, “you must have many friends.”

Amol started to list his partners or the Facebook followers, but he wasn’t sure if that is what the boy meant.

The boy went on “…friends you play with. The friends you are happy with. I have a lot of friends with whom I play.”

“No, there was no body” Amol could confidently answer the rephrased question. He felt a nostalgic tinge for all his close friends from his humble beginning. Those were the friends he played with. They were the ones he felt happy with. He was amused and surprised at using the same words the boy had used to describing his own friends.

“Why do you smile if you don’t have any friends?” asked the boy interrupting Amol’s reverie.

“I just remembered my friends of the childhood days.”

“Where are they now?” enquired the boy.

Amol wasn’t sure how to answer that. Neither did he care. He only had business partners or friends of convenience. The only game he played was power games.

The boy seemed to sense Amol’s reverie. He changed the subject.

“Where are you going?”

“Well me and my collegues are headed to Begampur”, answered Amol feeling relieved of the change in subject.

“Begampur!!?  That’s my village. It’s a beautiful place. I am sure you would love the stay.”

“Why are going there?” asked the boy turning to face Amol.

Amol stared into the excited eyes for a moment. The eyes bored all the way to his soul. He looked away a fraction too late he feared. He was afraid. Amol Deshmukh was afraid of this frail non-existent boy in front of him.

It all started not so long ago.

Everything had gone as per plan. He was an instinctive hunter. He knew what to use as the bait, what would hurt and when to move in for the kill. He had earned his reputation to be ruthless.

The modus operandi remained the same, although the stakes had gone higher and the means were more devious.

The land was easily available at villages at the fringes of civilization. The resources were in plenty with nobody to share it with. The hunting team identified the man who called the shot, who they could negotiate with. The man was pampered, seduced into seemingly favorable deal. The man was forced to sell his soul and in turn was coerced to sell the diabolic idea to his followers. The land and their life assets changed hands on flimsy threads of fake trust. If ever the leader did find out the folly, it was too late. He would be too deep in the mire. He was an accomplice to the crime. He dreaded the consequence of the rest knowing the truth. The truth was far uglier to him and the consequences far more dreadful to him.

“Well if you don’t want to tell me that’s fine. You seem to hide a lot of things.” said the boy, bringing Amol back from his reverie.

Once again his voice seemed to slice through Amol’s thoughts. It appeared to echo from within, invading the fortress of solitude he had created for himself. His insulated space had been breached. It irritated him somehow.

“We are setting up a large scale production centre” said Amit trying to not react to the irritation “with the state of art automated bottling plant.”

Amol felt awkward about his urge to glorify his business as a noble cause.

“The project will bring jobs to the people of your village. It will raise your standards of living. We will provide you better place to stay. The place will be known to everybody in the world…”

“But our village is already the best place in the world” interjected the boy. “We have the fields that are green and bountiful. We have the stream that are full throughout the year. We have abundance of laughter in every house.”

Amol hesitated to interrupt the boy but he did not have the heart to tell the boy that the factory was looking to tap into these these very resources. He shuddered at the very thought and irony.

Amol sat next to the boy. His feet dangling beyond the foot rest just as the boy’s. He was no longer worried about his expensive clothing as it got drenched and dirty. He sat there as if he was once again a ten-year-old. He left happy and free. Irony seem to return with the vengeance. The boy was giving him a peak into his long forgotten childhood just when he was on his way to rob the same from the boy.

“… We walk all the way to the school, playing and fighting” the boy continued blissfully unaware of the impending doom. “We love our school. Patil master ji does so much to make us feel comfortable. But there are things even he can’t do.”

“Why? Whats wrong?” enquired Amol.

“The rooms are so dark and there is no electricity.” answered the boy in a matter of fact manner. “The building is crumbling which makes it safer to be outside in the open.”

The boy became pensive as though experiencing the discomfort.

As an afterthought he asked, “Can you fix that?”

Amol was speechless as he was confronted by the merciless irony. He was saved from the trouble as the boy continued as if he never needed any answers.

“… but we have a lot of fun in the open ground. And you must see the rock that is there at the pond. We jump from the rock and make merry in the pond after the school to beat the heat.”

“You know even I used to have a pond at our village where I used to play with my friends” said Amol remembering his own childhood. “…and there was a story of a killer crocodile which lived at the very depth of the pond. We were all afraid of it till one of the elder boys… oh, I forget his name…oh yes, Dilip dived deep and searched for the killer beast.”

“And, you know what?” smiled Amit remembering the past, “he had a frenzied fight with a piece of log which really looked like a dead crocodile (at least to our young eyes full of fantasy). He dramatically killed the beast. The jubilant kids danced and celebrated the conquest.”

Both the Amols laughed heartily together.

“Hey, this guy Dilip must have been a real hero” asked the boy.

“Who Dilip?” asked Amol.

“The guy who killed the crocodile” prompted the boy, “You talked of him just now”.

“Ahhh..Oh yeah, Dilip …yes, he was a hero.” Amol suddenly felt guilty of not knowing where Dilip was. He never cared to remember.

“Where is he now?” asked the boy not letting go.

“Dilip?…eh..Well, I don’t Know?” replied Amol almost apologetically. There were so many memories which flooded his mind. Names and faces of the young gang at his village haunted and prodded at his guilt even more. His eyes welled up with mixed emotions of nostalgia and guilt.

And they chatted on, sharing stories of their lives. One talking about the present while the other talked about the past. Both, talking about the childhood they savored. One who had lost it long time ago to the daily grind and the other, who was about to lose it to the vice of the world. They were oblivious of the surrounding…alone and free, enjoying the new found friendship, relieved of the shackles of the make believe world.

“… Mr Deshmukh!”

The call of his own name jarred him off the bliss of anonymity. It was one of his staff. They must’ve come looking for him.

He got up apologizing to the boy saying that he will returned in a minute. He did not want any of his staff to break this spell.

Mr Dixit was almost at the vestibule when Amol met him enroute. Mr Dixit was an accountant when Amol had started as a young entrepreneur long time ago. He had earned himself Amol’s trust to be one of the major decision makers in the company. He was known to have earned his place in the core group of the Company due to his meticulous and business accumen.

“Where have you been Mr Deshmukh?” enquired Mr Dixit “We have been looking for you.”

“Well I was just sitting and having a chat with this young boy.” said Amol trying to end the conversation.

Mr Dixit frowned to convey that he was unconvinced.

“What do you mean? Which boy?” asked Dixit, now clearly worried.”

“That boy sitting at the door” exclaimed Amol as he was beginning to get irritated with Mr Dixit’s mode of enquiry

“There is no boy at the door!”, Mr Dixit was calm as he tried to hide his concern.

Amol turned around. The boy wasn’t there.

Amol stood there staring at the gaping door. The rain had stopped. The landscape glittered in bright new sunshine. Droplets fell from the door opening at the place where the boy had been sitting. It had formed a puddle. It mirrored the green fields washed clean by the rain.

Amol smiled and turned. He started to walk towards his coach.

“Where is he?” asked Mr Dixit as he followed Amol. “ I can’t see anybody.”

Amol wondered as he smiled…

“Who was telling the story? And whose story was it anyway? “

The words fluttered and flew in the wind.

“He is there, Mr Dixit, he is there” mumbled Amit, without looking back. I know it, because I had left him there a long time ago. He is there. He has always been there.”

“But…” Mr Dixit protested.

“We have lot to do” said Amol in a business like manner. “How much will it cost for the electrification of the Begampur Village?”

“Er…um, we never planned for that” mumbled Mr Dixit in astonishment.

“Then lets plan for it” said the two Amols in unison.

 

 

My secrets spilled

And I saw the two tall building talk. I strained my ears but could not hear them. I realised they did not speak using sound. But i still strained to hear what they said. I wanted to hear if they spoke about me. Did they even know about me? Did they feel it when i banged the walls? Were their hearts as stony as the hard plaster that bruised my knuckles?

They are non living things. I was taught that. Who would believe that they could talk, even if i heard them. There were so many lives in them. How could they be not alive. How could they not share what they heard in those closed rooms, those lonely corridors and the claustophobic lifts. They were rooted and had walls within them. Walls which saved one being from another and yet seperated each one to their own loneliness.

I saw the tall building lean as the wind blew wild. Leaning closer to whisper to the the other pile of concrete and steel. I heard the whisper this time. It seemed to speak so many words together. Each life losing its exclusivity in the cacophony. It was the wind… yes, the wind it was. The one that spoke. Making the sound for our noisy world. Our worlds that needs the sound of the words to make meaning.

Building are created by us but they aren’t controlled by us. At least for what they communicate.

Therefore I strain my ears. I bang the walls and bruise my knuckles. I wait for the secrets to be spilled so that I can create more. As I imagine the buidings talk, I create more fantasy. Who will know the difference. If I couldn’t know the truth from the fantasy, I presume the building will not know too.

But who knows.

I see it clear

On the 6th floor
the blind rolls up with a whir.
Turbulence and calm, converse in silence
with a drunken slur.

The glass fights the noise
and wins
Allowing private space
for the divergent twins

Flashes of lights
leave a trail on the busy arrow of time
Reminder of the many scars
as the face meets the grime

Cacophony of noise
create a din
Numbing the senses
And I keep repeating the sin

Every noise startling
Every flash blinding
Every face threatening
Every face scared

The images speed up
while my anchors weigh me down
Each “Like” holding back a part of me
keeping me afloat, as I perpetually drown

I get split and stretched
afraid to lose any thread
Hoping these divine looms
will help stitch me back instead

Sitting on the 6th floor window
the glass screens the Cacophony of the Seen
The blinding flashes turn to glitter
and the chaotic images look serene

The elevation reveals the picture
hidden by the hectic sieve
The distance saves the real
from the elaborate make-believe

There is light beyond
these flashes so phoney
and there is the sound
beyond this cacophony

I am a speck
Entwined in the knots of the divine tapestry
I am a pixel
in the vast pattern of the grand canopy

The window allows
me to hear.
The blinds open with a whir
And I see it clear