"Love, it seems, is not without a sense of strategy"

After months of frustration, I could not take it anymore. I was boiling from within. That night, I felt the boiling point had been reached..

That morning, while riding to work, passing by the usually frustrating garbage dumps and reckless drivers, I had an unusually gut-wrenching experience. Not that I had not seen such scenes before, but it seemed they all came together like a wave of tsunami. I saw an unusually messed up traffic jam, owing to a bus that had broken down and abandoned on the spot. The jam made worse by haphazardly parked vehicles, and insensitive riders who would not wait to let others pass.

Further ahead was a traffic signal stuck in a gridlock. There were drivers honking and shouting, as if to celebrate with cacophony. Then some beggar kids, then some eunuchs, then some sellers of baubles and trinkets, then some flower sellers, all passed by mostly mouthing consternation. Then came a young girl dripping in sweat and disheveled. She held out a long pen which I probably had no use of and begged me to buy it from her and told me she had not eaten the whole day. I recalled that morning when my mother had begged in much a similar manner to have my breakfast before it got cold. I had been busy clearing some mails and had grabbed the breakfast just before I rushed out. It was not so hot so I had managed to eat a morsel extra, though I left more than half of it back in the plate. So here was this hopeless girl trying to exploit a careless guy as a bait to survive.

Then, later, during the day I witnessed more such frustrations: wily colleagues, insensitive bosses, tasks of self-proclaimed utility, all in an air-conditioned office that used artificial lighting even while bright sun glared in the day outside. The frustrations continued with people cramming into lifts to avoid a mere flight of stairs, haphazardly piled lunch plates with leftover food on canteen tables, and nearly everyone engaged on their telephones blissfully unmindful of their immediate surroundings.

That evening when I reached home, I felt a sense of being increasingly unhinged from reality. I felt alienated from the world I inhabited. It was like the world "out there" was going down and nobody cared. The social fabric seemed all knotted and torn; values seemed like a mirage; humanity looked like a grand castle built in the wind; and, humility seemed like footprints of birds in the air.

I had always rued over the disorganization and indiscipline that plagued our society and lives. I had ruminated long over it and rummaged through it in different ways - through vociferous writings that sparked silent debates in the mind.

Deterioration owing to disorganization, I firmly believed, would show up as cracks in our systems at some point. Mounting garbage, rising crime, increased volatility of our economic systems, increased fragility of our relationships, falling levels of trust, increasing health-related issues, and natural resource-related crises were all those widening cracks due to the inveterate (and sometimes, arrogant) lack of discipline on our part. I had tried to implement much of that discipline in my life, but seeing a huge lack of it all around me made me detached from the world.

That night I was particularly disturbed. I felt emotionally famished and intellectually burnt out. I wanted recourse to something I can hold on to. I felt like a sinking person desperately trying to hang on the last piece of wood he can grab. I looked around and found nothing of substance. There were only people around, and things they had built - hollow structures standing on paranoid walls. I decided to do what I had always done, go where I always went. I walked up to the terrace and lay down on my back beholding the night sky. It had given me great solace all these years. Countless times I had resorted to this act of watching the night sky and whispering my rants, questions, concerns, or ideas to it. The sky never talked back, mostly just a cold and silent fa├žade. On rare occasions it would wink back with a small twinkle...

Tonight, it was uncharacteristically dark. None of the usual twinkles, just extremely still and unfathomably deep. I started my whispers, narrating my disturbances from the day. Questioned the sky, and any being up there, why was the world such a messed up place? Why was it set up with such insufferable complexity that ran intellect aground? Is any solution possible for it at all? Can we help it or do we merely watch the world run itself to ruin?

I had questioned my night sky these very questions very many times, but tonight I posed them with infinitely more helplessness and anguish. The night sky, as was its habit, stayed cold and silent. Tonight it seemed a bit too cold, a bit too silent, and really very dark.

Is God going to do something about the world at all? Why is the sky so cold and dark? Did the sky abandon us too?

Dazed and lost, I made my way back to my room. I sat myself down, and stared blankly at my computer screen. Then opened the news, just to browse as I had no idea what else to do. Amidst all the chatter and blabber, in one corner of the screen was a small news item claiming that some new strain of virus had been found in China. I did not quite notice it. It was the 17th of November, 2019, and I felt the night was unusually cold for that time of the year. I headed to the refrigerator to grab myself a drink...

I hoped to drink the dark night away!

When he was born, it was prophesized that he would be an extremely smart kid but would live only a short life of 12 years. His parents could not digest it in the beginning, but as time passed and it sunk in they began to prepare for that fateful twelfth year.
Though they did not believe in prophecies, they did not want to leave anything to chance.
So they prepared... the boy was fed utmost hygienic food with a bunch of nutritionists advising them all the time. He was kept under constant medical supervision - doing frequent tests and diagnoses to keep his health always in the best shape. He wore new garments every other day and lived in a moisture-controlled room. They made the tutor come to his home so that the boy was shielded from any risks from the health outside. They rarely travelled anywhere so that the chances of accidents was greatly minimized. The house was built with modern technology so it could resist earthquakes, cyclones, and even the biggest of thunder and lightning.
All this went on for twelve years and then... the twelfth year came!
The parents wanted to do additional protection for this year and, so, they left no stone unturned. The boy was locked up in is room, not even stepping out. Hi-tech scanners were installed all over the home to scan the food, the air, and every person going in or our, in order to kill even the minutest of microbes from getting near the boy. All this setup was to stay till the 12th year had passed, after which the prophecy would be proved to be wrong.
The boy continued to live in abject isolation. No more friends or tutors coming home to meet him, no television that would hurt his eyes, no games that would injure his body. As weeks passed by the boy began getting bored. He began cribbing to his parents but they would not relent. They had to protect him from the prophecy.
Finally when he requested from some books to read, they agreed. No harm coming from the books anyway!
They got him novels and comics. The 12 year old was way too smart for that. They got cookbooks and travelogues. It did not suit his taste. They got him subject related books, but he consumed them in an instant and began asking for more. In a few weeks, they began running out of books. Then they started getting random books on various subjects - astronomy, sports, music, gardening.. until finally, in a few weeks, they came down to books on philosophy.
Then, one fine day, while still in the 12th year, a book on Bounded Rationality made its way into the boy's hands. Just like all the other books, this one too had been scanned for microbes and sanitized.
That afternoon, after lunch, the boy sat down with the book. He began reading about the limitations of human life - about its inescapable boundaries of time, space and capacity. The book spoke about how life was merely a chance event littered with transitory accomplishments. He learnt about how passions and ambitions come and go like passing clouds. In about a few minutes, the aura of "life" began to fade away, and it dawned that the light of knowledge would never shine upon him.
That day, in the 12th year of his so-called "life" the boy put his first steps towards nihilism. The meaning of "life" changed for him. The zest and hope that "life" stood for was dissolved into absurdity. Life, as we know it, ceased to have anymore interest for him.
The prophecy had indeed come true...
Sometimes I feel like something is gone here
Something is wrong here, I don't belong here
- Matthew Shafer, "In a Little While" (2002)
How does one belong?
In a world where identity is composed of name, face, and voice. How does a disfigured face belong? How do funny names chosen by imbecile parents belong? How do squeaky and whispering voices of inadequate larynxes belong?
In a world where speech holds power; even in democracies where dialogue and discussion is the basis of participation, how can a stammerer belong?
In a world where contacts are imperative, where nothing is accomplished alone and every task demands a network of influential and/or resourceful contacts, how does a loner belong?
In a world where knowledge is socially constructed, how does solitude belong?
In a world, where living necessitates buying and selling within transactional systems that invariably interconnects everyone - both the opportunists and simpletons - into a joint system of trade, wherein offenders easily transfuse themselves into the social milieu with such seamlessness that processes to flush out the guilty cannot be implemented without unduly troubling the innocent, how do the law-abiding self-respecting clean citizens belong?
In a world where courage is the basis of respect, how do the cowardly belong?
In a world where eating and breathing necessarily deal with violence of some kind upon some form of life, how do the perfectly non-violent belong?
In a world where Truth can never be unarguably verified, how does knowledge belong?

In a world of creations, how does the Creator belong? Thus, in that world bereft of the Creator, how do the creations belong?
In a world filled with imperfect bodies, how does the perfectionist mind belong?

Every being necessarily and invariably behaves according to its inherent nature
- The Natural Law

It was ordained to be amongst the best of nature's creations. A healthy acorn from the most royal of oaks, it fell from the tree that stood highest on the most sacred part of the temple backyard. Helped by the wind and the ground contours, it rolled over to the soft part of the mud and, soon, buried itself, all set to shine forth as a beaming oak someday soon. The rains, too, fell with a chatter that applauded for its germination.
But as fate would have it, the acorn was buried right above a burrow of rats. Sensing the nutty flavor, the rats soon built a small mole-hill usurping the acorn completely into their territory. Its shell was hard yet so they, too, with their squeaking, applauded for its germination.
In due course of time, just like the other saplings strewn around, our acorn entered into labor. Its endosperms gradually opened wide to let the cotyledon emerge through a slit in its coat. A sweet nutty aroma filled the molehill, but unlike its siblings this sapling wouldn't see the light of the day, not yet. It sprouted in the molehill, enveloped by a gloomy haze,  struggling helplessly against the saliva hardened walls. The rats waited patiently for more leaflets to emerge.
The poor 'oak-ling' knew nothing of its antecedents. It didn't know of its gigantic mother that never failed to scrape at the passing clouds, it had no inkling of the dainty squirrels that would mate and breed on its woody arms or the stately woodpecker that would poke a tickle at its scaly pits, it knew not of the delicate fabric of the snow or the hooting opera of the wind. All it knew was only what it saw around, the filthy pit of rodent-hood. It assumed this was its family, that it was a part and parcel of them. The burrow was its home and the rats its brethren.

Unbeknownst to any, this was a special acorn. A plague had afflicted the oaks that year, and this acorn was immune to it. It was a natural miracle, and its survival was so crucial for the oak species, yet here it lay, belonging to a family of rats.
Blind faith, coupled with innocence, can be a gullibly potent combination, that stands antithesis to intuition. This is when "innocence" becomes "in-no-sense". Natural Law thrives on these occasions.

The rats were quick to nimble up the first stock of leaves. The acorn thought the pain of ratbites was natural. It had witnessed the rats biting each other too. And just like them, it came to accept the life amongst their faeces and slept in their spit. Sometimes, it would sense a strange desire to break the wall and grow beyond, and it was happy the rats protected it by eating away the new growth and never letting it in the dangerous open air. It didn't know why it felt a longing for the sun and rain, the same things which terrified its family. Somedays, the rats would have a quarrel and they would gnaw too deep into the acorn, pushing it to the brink of death, and the acorn never understood why it never felt anger like the rats, why it always felt a feeling of forgiveness towards its aggressors. The family of rats settled with this and never ventured out in search of more food. The acorn's patient innocence and the rats' instinctual frivolity setup a cycle that went on for days with no seeming end...
Somewhere up in the heavens, a God wondered when his plans would materialize. He had destined the acorn to be an imperial oak towering above the horizons of the world. Fate and Nature had conspired against him. He found it funnily tragic that the highest of flora was condemned to be subjugated and lay subservient to the lowliest of fauna. He sighed, but waited on...

PS: Though innocence makes one vulnerable, removing it too early in one's life can lead to disastrous consequences. One should wait for a strong intuitive conviction to develop before discarding the sheath of blissful innocence.
It was one of the busiest traffic signals in the city and I stood in a corner, watching it. I was just following orders - they said it was the best way to keep my year old nephew quiet and occupied. For the next 30 mins or so, both uncle and nephew watched the same scenes, but with totally different attitudes. 

I watched over the junction with disdain - my respect for human nicety dropping every minute. There wasn't a single sight to behold and cherish out there. The way motorists piled up at the zebra crossing, tripping on pedestrians, honking incessantly looked like hungry dogs on a leash. Eunuchs picked on the couples, Beggars were just happy to add to the mayhem. Hawkers made a market place shouting their wares, Traffic police always looking to make a quick buck. While I wondered how such a world could even exist, my nephew saw it all with excited curiosity. Nothing could distract him away from it. He watched it like a grand stage show was unfurling in front of him, the noise of the horns tickled his ears, he clapped everytime the signal lights changed and a new wave of vehicles rushed out, he even tried to shake hands with one of the beggar kids.

I can say my knowledge made me a better judge of the situation while the kid was just an indifferent observer. I was judging, evaluating, while he was just enjoying it. The toddler was not aware of the misery of being a beggar, of the selfish motives of the traffic police, of the rude impatience of the motorists. I had preset notions on the way of life, while the kid was just a blank slate. I was creating opinions and weighing the world around me, while the toddler was just accepting things the way they are. From the very same thing, one was getting depressed while the other was getting inspired.

A philosopher sees waste in everything, while a poet sees everything even in waste.

"Be like a Child, Look at the world with innocence, Always live in the present moment"
..the stuff they tell you at a weekend Art of Living course. They vouch for it too. Nevertheless, It does seem quite true that a childlike innocence creates a fertile ground for sowing seeds of a broad mind, which watered with curiosity and pure goodwill shall eventually bear fruit of an enthusiastic positive attitude. We all are (fortunately) born as kids and, hence, we do start our lives in the cradle of the same innocence that draws inspiration from all aspects of God's creations; but then our life shifts gears shortly thereafter. Our very own folks taint our minds, pollute our intellect and misdirect our lives. It happens right within our inner circles.. 

Did you get an A-grade in school today? why are other kids getting more than you?... Don't let anybody get ahead, you should always stay at the top... Its an age of competition, only the best survive
Never trust anyone in this world... All politicians are corrupt
Its a bad world out there, everyone is after your money... If you offer more money to God, he will bless you more
Our neighbor has a car, we should have one too... First think of your family, the rest of the world comes later
Stay away from the poor, they are dirty and sick
Dont ask so many questions. Just do what the priest says..
Poets, Philosophers and Artists are begging on the streets today.. Mera beta engineer banega!
... are just some sample words/advices that children heads are filled with. The same home that is supposed to teach charity, teaches the art of war (and the first casualty of war is Innocence). Home, today, is the first place where natural instincts are curbed, new and fresh thoughts are suppressed. The outside world just continues the decay process further. A child is forced to follow the train of thought whose rails lead to the world of the traffic junction that I was still sadly watching. A bud that was meant to blossom into a flower with its own uniqueness in God's garden would be hopelessly turned to a showpiece in the vase of the world.

When I turned to walk back from the traffic signal, my nephew started crying; made me wonder why all us adults were not crying - whose childhood was lost in the woods of this big bad world. A world where we ended as narrow projections of the broad dreams we saw as children. A world where we started off asking so many questions, and finally ended with a question mark stamped on our identity itself. The same world that has made our lives so hopeless, that we have even forgotten to cry for the right things..