"A profound unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life"
- R.K. Narayan

When I was born, I felt so vulnerable. Whenever I tried to speak, I only managed to squeal. I hated seeing my mother naked, yet she forced me to suck at her breast. I couldn't even do my own toilet. My tongue wasn't twisting the way I wanted, my limbs weren't responding to me. People made funny faces at me, and I had no choice to ignore them. I wondered why man had to be born so helpless and fragile. 

And while I kept constantly wondering, it all changed. I grew up...
Oh God! All I needed was an answer, not an escape!

In school, my innocence was torn apart, and ingenuity raped. They forced time-tables upon us, while making me stand on the table all the time. I never ate my lunch in peace, it always had to be shared and fussed over. The only creativity encouraged was in finding ways to fool the teachers. Freedom was something we celebrated only on 15-Aug, standing beneath a tri-colored piece of cloth, which flapped so furiously that it literally slapped the wind. I pondered why learning had to be so tedious.

And while I kept furiously pondering, it all changed. I passed out of school...
Oh God! All I needed was an answer, not an escape!

At work, freedom, again, was only in the choice of beverage at the vending machine. Timetables changed into Project schedules. Friendships changed into partnerships, relationships were built over necessities. Deadlines petrified us more than death ever did! People didn't want to be racists, yet they all agreed life was a big race. I kept speculating why survival had to be so complicated.

And while I kept seriously speculating, it all changed. I got married and a wave of personal life swept over me...
Oh God! All I needed was an answer, not an escape!

Family seemed like an action movie in a dark room - the darkness of delusion lost in the blindness of the noise. Life became a two way traffic in a single lane road- while I made other's wishes as mine own, I also started imposing my own wishes upon them. I had to accept well-wishers that I never really needed. Every decision seemed like a broth made by many cooks. Happiness was a birthday cake that people scraped every bit of, and smile was its cream forcefully smeared on the face. Some joked it was like life in the wild - wild it was, but in a zoo cage. Marriage seemed like innocence getting marred with age. Every move had one of two purposes, either to jumble or to gamble. I questioned why things had to be such a frenzy.

And while I fervently questioned, it all changed. I got divorced and left alone..
Oh God! All I needed was an answer, not an escape!

Life still seems a mystery. Men still hungrily pursue the unknown, while frantically running away from the greatest unknown of them all, death! All our knowledge still seems like a drop in the unconquerable oceans of the world. I still have the same questions, the same perplexed and confused look that was stamped on my face the day I was born. I still yearn to peek around the corner and see what lies beyond. I still keep thinking if death holds answers to all of life's questions.

I am still crazily contemplating, and I don't know when and how it will all change.
But I beg you Oh God! This time, please, lead me on the way to answers, not on the path to escape!
The old woman lived alone, in the home she built with so many aspirations. Her husband had died long back and son was settled abroad with his young family. On many days, she would yearn for activity around the house; for grandchildren to run up and down the hall, for her daughter-in-law to try new dishes in the kitchen. Yet she never tried to pull her son back. He seemed happy with his life; and she still had her solitude to reconcile with.

But when solitude becomes imposed, it turns to loneliness.
One fine day, a ray of hope entered through her door. A blind boy, Santosh, from the boys’ hostel came knocking. She found him a charming boy, full of dreams. He had approached her to be a scribe for his exams. She eagerly accepted. He would dictate and she would write. He would speak and she would smile. He found a dedicated and excited helper in her, and she found a reason to smile again. They made a great team. She cooked for him and read his books aloud. They would sit in the garden for hours at stretch. In the midst of all this, she had totally forgotten to call on her son and it looked like he didn't care either. When she learnt Santosh was an orphan, she was heartbroken and started drawing up plans to adopt him.
But fate, its seems, is not without a sense of irony.

She received a frantic call from her son one day. He seemed greatly worried; his maid had quit and they weren’t finding a replacement. His wife was throwing tantrums and his family was falling apart. He was desperate to have his mother join him abroad. This put her in a dilemma. On another day she wouldn't have second thoughts. It was her own son after all, and she would have eagerly travelled, but now thoughts of Santosh held her back. If she would pack up, it would be like abandoning Santosh mid-stream. She had brought the blind boy out of his darkness, and couldn't see him slump back to his wretched life of misfortune. For her son, she was nothing more than a handmaiden in mother's skin, but for Santosh, she was a fairy god-mother. Her son would probably find another pair of hands, but Santosh may not find another pair of loving eyes.
On one side was a relationship built of blood, and on another, was a relationship watered by love.
A strange sense of despair crept over her. She couldn't sleep the whole night. She kept shivering and sulking. She repeatedly got up and walked around the house like a besotted ghost. Early in the morning, she buried her head in the pillow, and cried! In the evening, when she finally managed to open her swollen eyes, she called a cab to drop her to the airport.
And flying she went... leaving her heart behind; half of it for a borrowed son, deprived of the love that he lovingly claimed but probably never deserved, and the other half for the house, whose halls were built to resound with laughter but were now, probably, locked forever.
Whoever said blood is thicker than water, was probably a vampire that drank a lot of mothers' blood.
Breaking news
  • Series of co-ordinated car bombs heard across Baghdad. Iraq resounds with the wails and cries of relatives and friends.
  • Sporadic riots sparked across Syria. Rebels and army fighting on the streets. Civilians take cover from flying projectiles. 
  • Rockets and bombs rain down upon Turkey. Streets filled with rubble and bodies.
  • Mobs and crowds are out on the streets of Greece. All over Europe businesses are affected, offices and schools closed and normal life thrown out of gear.
It's time for despair.
Blasting news
  • Series of co-ordinated bombs heard across various cities of India. The streets resound with shrieks and screams of its children.
  • Sporadic acts of hooliganism sparked across India. Youth are seen chasing each other, shouting and booing. Elders and ladies take cover behind their house windows. Mongrels seen hiding in gutters.
  • Rockets and bombs spark under the Indian sky. Streets are filled with debris and garbage.
  • Crowds swelling in various towns across India. Businesses closed, offices and schools shut down, normal work life thrown out of gear.
It's time for diwali.
Person A: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Person B: Whose egg are you referring to?

Person A: The chicken's egg, of course...

Person B: There you go! you just answered your own question.

A moment of pride as I take baby steps into the league of published authors. Thanks to the belief and persistent effort of Nivedita (website, blog), from Nivasini Publishers (website, blog), who has been a good friend and a constant reader of my blog, my article 'Oh Calcutta!' is now a part of the book 'Celebrating India' (ISBN 9789350871157)

Celebrating India is an anthology- a collection of short stories, poems, and travelogues by over 50 different writers. Only a few of them are recognized faces; the rest (including me) are unknown names, unheard voices who, in their own way, participate in the dance and drama of this nation. This is Nivasini's attempt to paint the picture of India with new and unseen colors, an effort to see this country through the small eyes of its own common people.

Thanks to Nivedita, and all the folks that never stop inspiring me in so many different ways!

Click on the cover picture to go to the website for online purchase (and also to read details about the book)