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

Ever since her husband had deserted her, right in the first few days of their marriage, probably for another woman, Vinodini had not trusted another man. She would roar in disgust anytime a man came anywhere in her vicinity. It was like she had an allergy for them - those hairy creatures that stank of lust.
She saw men as dragons breathing the fire of lust.
As a result of her hatred towards men, Vinodini ended up becoming a part apart. She could not venture out into the market where men would brush past her every moment, could not visit her relatives as there wasn't a house in her village without men, and could not even join those of the gossiping housewives - because they mostly talked about their men.
The village saw her hatred for men as overindulgence, dismissed her as a cantankerous outcast and banished her from their social circles. Thankfully they did not go so far as to brand her a witch.
Vinodini liked her peace and solitude. She lived, happily, in that shanty on the edge of town surviving on the berries she gathered in the forest and with a little income that she earned by selling handmade incense sticks to women in her area. She slept hungry most of the nights, but still did not complain as it was easier to tolerate the pangs of her own hunger than being forced to satisfy the hunger of  male flesh.
On some nights she would wake up with a scare when she heard swishing and rustling outside the door. "What if its one of those drunk men?" She knew that sane men avoided her vicinity due to fear of her loud temper and shame for her unkempt looks. But the drunks could never be trusted. There was a liquor shop on the hillock and drunk men hovered around in the evenings, ogling at the women of the village. They would ogle at Vinodini too. She always made it a point to get indoor by afternoon and locked herself up till midnight. And then an hour before dawn, she would venture out in the dark to relieve herself and wash up. That was the best she could do to stay out of the radar of male lust.
For the villagers, Vinodini never really existed. She was like a tree - or more appropriately some weed - that grew in the forest. She did not bother them, and they did not care about her.
Until one day, some villagers caught a strange smell emanating from a pit in the forest. When they investigated, they found Vinodini's body lying in a pool of blood. She had been killed, right in the spot where she daily went in the dark to relieve herself. The police came and asked if anybody wanted to investigate the cause of her death. None intervened. After a brief silence, they dumped some mud and leaves in the pit and left Vinodini to rot in her own shit...
Many centuries ago a great saint from India, called Shankara, had logically proved that human soul is in a cycle of birth and death. It is unjust, he had said, that humans are born unequal. So if there has to be justice, then all have to get the same birth at some point, thus there has to be rebirth. It had probably missed Shankara's eye that, just like in birth, there can be great injustice in death too.


In memory of Vinodini, who passed away few days back. They found her body nearly four days after she had been killed. The body was gagged, with its hands and legs tied, and had badly decomposed. In a society that gagged Vinodini's spirit and tied down its flight, it is possible that her soul had decomposed much earlier.

If you had chosen someone over me, I would never have come back to you for any help. Even if I was dying.
That is how much I respect myself.

If you had chosen someone over me, I would still be there to help you.
Even if I was dying.
That is how much my love respects itself...

They were all droplets, or so it seemed, that swam around in the primordial broth, the oceans of the netherworld, until, one day, the sun of knowledge shone upon them and evaporated their essences into thin air. It felt like liberation, as they emerged from their primitive milieu and rose, probably triumphantly, towards the heavens.
In the queer summers of the world, water drops rose from the firmament of the oceans to dance with the winds and silently whisper their way into the nimbus omnibus.
They rode the stratospheric highway until their flight hit turbulent mountainous terrain and the droplets crashed down to Earth. The drops descending into their earthly incarnations - the ponds, lakes and rivers of the world's society.
From then on, their life was guided by Natural forces. The rocks gave them direction, gravity gave them force, until they hit the dams. At the dams, they stopped and floated and waited in the womb of the dam's reservoir until their turn came to slip through the tubes into the world of men.
Once into the tube, they laboured towards a new life.
The drops flowed through various channels - big and small, straight and twisted - some warm and some cold, but always in pitch darkness. The darkness from a knowledge that had abandoned them. They could feel an invisible force pumping them as the pipes carried them far and wide into various corners of the world.
Drops that had emerged from meaninglessness, seeking meaning, and now flowing into dark endless conduits for having taken the leap of faith into the dark.
The leap of faith carried them, round and round, up and down, sometimes gushing sometimes placidly flowing. Yet they moved on, in the hope (not faith now) of light at the end of the tunnel.
Then, one day, after miles of journey in the darkness of ignorance, they saw light. The pipe opened into a tap, and Someone had left the tap open. They rushed through, giggling and gurgling, towards that light...
The droplets emerged into the open, falling gracefully and, each one of them, sparkling and gleaming as they tasted the free air. It was, though, only a momentary flash, like the call of death, as they careened into the open drain right below the tap of life. As they made their way into the drain, yet another arduous journey lay ahead, through bent pipes, twisted channels, all dark and dang.

Until they would merge back into the primordial ocean from where they had started with the faith that they were actually drops with individual identity. They merged back into that restless ignorance where if the faith could give them enough buoyancy, they would probably set out on the entire journey all over again...
.. But Guruji, I can't get my head around this live-in-the-present-moment thing.

What is so tough about it son?

I mean, can we just relinquish the anxieties of the future and focus on the present? Then what use is all those sustainability discussions happening all over the world?

You are mixing up the concepts son. Sustainability is the preoccupation of the material people focused on economic stability, while living in the moment is for the spiritual people who seek everlasting bliss.

But Guruji, aren't the two... ?

Calm down son. Look! you get one chance to live. Do you want to make it worthwhile or just waste it away running around anxieties?

Are you sure, Guruji, that we get just one chance at life?

Why the doubt son?

Because I feel like I have lived so many lives already. For example, I cannot identify with my stupid childhood or that useless phase of youth I had been through. And I cannot imagine getting old some day. I feel like those are different lives I lead, not connected with how I am living now.

Son, that is exactly why I say leave the past and the future, and live the present.

But, Guruji, even in the present I feel I am living two lives.

What two lives son?

One material life which focuses on economic stability, and one spiritual life that longs for everlasting bliss.

The Hide and Seek of Life

They showed the visuals on every news channel of the nation. Throes of her supporters wailing and lining up to pay their last respects, as their beloved leader's body lay in the casket. Some had even fainted on the streets, while some just squatted with blank faces. One of the women... <Switch>
The kid had walked into the room, silently picked up the remote and, as was his habit, switched on the cartoon channel. He did not care what others were watching. When he walked in, the TV belonged to him and everyone had to watch whatever he liked.
So Oggy and the cockroaches filled the TV screen. Oggy ran, and the cockroaches chased him all over. They never seem to get enough of Oggy or get bored of him. It was like they did not know a life outside of him.
I managed to grab the remote from the kid and... <Switch>
They were now showing visuals of the leader's past - her hey days. How she climbed the ladder of power in a male-dominated society and swayed the masses. How the people ran after her, prostrated in her presence. She was larger than life for them. And they just never seemed to get enough of her.
Kid grabbed the remote back from me and.. <Switch>
Oggy and his brother Jack were holed up in the room, discussing intensely, while the cockroaches huddled outside the door making their own devious plans.
The remote war continued.. <Switch>
They showed videos of the leader and her trusted confidante together on stage. The two kept whispering to each other while the masses huddled below the pedestal eager to hear her words...
Oggy was laying out a dinner table full of delicacies and sweetmeats intended to lure the cockroaches into a trap he had set for them
They were playing a soulful music while showing pictures of the leader's magnanimity where she was seen donating several items free to the grateful public that came in droves and queued up to receive her grace
Cockroaches were chasing Oggy all over the house, teasing him and beckoning him to face them.
Masses ran behind their leader, cheering for her as she embarked the helicopter after a public rally
The remote war intensified and the kid began to throw a fit. I could not fight anymore, so gave up the remote and let the kid enjoy his show. Anyway, there did not appear too much of a difference between what was playing on the two channels...

How do you not see it man? God is an inevitable factor and cause in the creation of this world...

Sorry! Science does not accept any of your baseless theories. Can you prove the existence of God? The world was created through Big Bang. Not by some God that you are trying to force on me.

God was that big bang, my man.

Can you prove it?

How can I go back into the past to show it to you? You have never met Gandhi and Tagore, but don't you still believe they existed?

That's different my friend. History books are replete with their stories. Everyone around believes Gandhi and Tagore existed.

Everyone believes God too, my friend. And there are more books on God than on Gandhi and Tagore, isn't it?

But Gandhi and Tagore's stories are fact. God's stories are fiction.. or rather, faith, at best.

Is there any fact without faith? Geocentric theory was a fact as long as people had faith in it.

Don't you confuse me buddy. You show me the proof and I will believe in God. I can probably find some museum which will hold some part of Gandhi's body and I can get its DNA fingerprint to prove that Gandhi existed. Can you get the DNA of God?

How does DNA prove anything at all?

Don't question the established methods of science now. I am fed up of this discussion already. I guess we should stop now. I am getting a bad headache.

You have a headache, is it?


Prove it!

He was a crusader of nonviolence. And it wasn't that he just preached; he led by example. Millions came to hear his discourses. "Violence is only in the mind. It is a negative energy that entraps us and tries to make us lesser beings," he would often advise his followers, "there is no place for violence in God's world. Look at Nature - the gentle wind, the patient tree, the calm mountain, the silent earth - is there violence in any of them? Let us celebrate Nature through acts of nonviolence." The audience would sway to his words.
One evening, after a long day of many speeches, he felt a sore throat and retired to bed early. It was flu - the usual one which gave quick bouts of cold, fever, and went away. Lay people would get an antibiotic course to hasten recovery, but the ahimsa-wadi that he was, he wouldn't use medicines that harmed the germs.
So off he went to bed, with a prayer on his lips.
That night the fever ravaged his body. The pathogens swam his bloodstream, bruised and battered everything they could get to. They clouded his lungs and made him convulse in episodes of sneezing. They gnawed into his glands and made him sweat. They climbed into his head and toyed with his brain, drawing a pale flush all over his face. They especially played with his face - flushing one cheek, and when he turned, then flushing another, and going on jumping every time he would turn the other cheek...
All night the battle waged on, with the pathogens revolting and his immune system militating against the attackers. By dawn, the pathogens had tired out and began to retreat. His health was almost back. As he prepared to get up and start the day, the dead soldiers from both sides were lined up in his intestine to be flushed away. He got out of bed and prepared for yet another day of crusade for nonviolence...
Nature was just clockwork; violence or nonviolence is, after all, only in the mind.
The president and his son assumed office at the same time. The president busied himself with setting up his cabinet of ministers and their secretaries, while the son was given a Lego set and a cosy corner to play in, under the watchful eye of the house matron.
Ideally, the children would not be allowed into the main office, but this was the president's darling and none dared to make the child cry, for fear of angering the new president (who was known for his short temper).
The kid opened the box, spread out his Lego pieces and looked around, contemplating the structure to be built. All the president's men gathered around the desk, while the president opened the packet and spread out the portfolios of all his key men. They pondered on the structure of the cabinet to be built.
The kid saw some shiny pieces and began by picking them up first. These pieces would be the foundation of his structure. The president noticed some illuminating resumes and picked them up first to assign his main cabinet positions. They would form the bedrock of his government.
Once the 'basic structure' was in place, the kid began picking up complementary pieces from the lot and adding them to build his structure. The president, having established his key ministries, began sorting through the pile for other suitably qualified candidates for the remaining vacancies.
The matron intervened occasionally to hand over the kid some pieces that lay out of reach. The president's men pitched in from time-to-time to promote candidates from their circle, which they felt the president was overlooking.
At some moments, both creators - the Lego-builder kid and cabinet-builder father - wished they had better pieces to fill some gaps. But as the 'system' would have it, they had to make do with whatever was at hand. The fact that Life was not an orchard plush with rich harvest but rather a basket with limited choice struck their unconscious, but they did not delve deep enough to realise it. They just picked up whatever pieces were available and built the best structure they could.
Once done, both creators - small and big - stopped for a moment and beheld their creations. Then, satisfied with a good day's work, they patted themselves on their backs and decided to call it a day.

The proud president beckoned his proud boy for a hug. Both creators ran towards each other, leaving their creations behind. As they walked back home, hand-in-hand, the matron dismantled the Lego building and put the pieces back, so another day another kid - from the basket of Life - could come in and rebuild it again, from scratch... 

I looked nostalgically at a picture of my nephew on the wall and admired its infinite cuteness - those round innocent eyes, soft curly hair and the naughty smile. I recounted how, as an adolescent, he would seek me out and come running to my room, climb on the bed and jump on me. The boy was such a hugger, so physical in the display of his love. He would sit on my back, roll on my thighs, and play with my hairs. He would hug and kiss my arms all the time. I yearned to see him become a baby again and redo all those cutesy acts that made him so adorable.
I would feel so special whenever the boy would come running to my room, seeking me out, even when others were in the house. Like I am the only one who can give him what he wants..
Right then a cockroach streaked across the floor, and scurried under my bed. I jumped up in fright. I hated these vermin - scrawny beings with thorny legs and scaly bodies. Oh! so obnoxious. I was sure it would climb on my bed and try to jump on me. It had happened many times before. I was terrified at the thought.
"I wonder what is it in me that these creatures seek me out. Is it because I sweat a lot? I feel so filthy.."
While I am fretting over the cockroach, I see two mosquitos buzzing into my room. Bigger ones than normal. The mosquitos too seek me out like crazy. I knew it was because my body temperature was higher than normal. More so, I had not taken bath yet. I hated the sight of these pests - these pesky creatures that come running to me, even when others were in the house.. like I am the only one who can give them what they want.
"Bloody pests," I shrieked, as I jumped out of bed to get the pest repellent.
I had observed it over a period of time, and recently, when some relatives mentioned it to me, it was confirmed. My mother, since her retirement, seemed to spend all her time in the kitchen. She would either be cooking, or doing the dishes, or arranging and rearranging stuff, or just preparing for the next meal. It was like she went into a shell, called kitchen.
She chose the kitchen so that she could conveniently - in an undisturbed space of her own authority, amongst the mute spices and condiments - slice and dice her long drawn lonely hours, cook and roast them into mechanical activities, to satisfy the soul's hunger for productivity.
This is what a 9-to-5 job does to people. My mother had worked all her life in a desk job that needed her to clock-in at 9, review and make register entries all day long, and clock-out at 5. At the end of her career, she was a robot that did not know anything else.
I looked at my mother, slaving away in the kitchen...
I was determined to get her out of the 9-to-5 kitchen job she was trying to settle into. There was so much else she could do. She just had to be taken out of that culinary cage. So I went up to her one day and protested, "Mom, you got to get out of the kitchen and do something interesting. You are not a slave of this house."
She sarcastically retorted back, "Son, is there some dish you did not like? You can tell it to me directly."
I did not want to debate with a robot, and got into action right away. I would not let her rot in the kitchen. She had to use her time. So we hired a maid to do all the kitchen work and forced our mom to go live her life - visit temples, relatives, and just travel around. The maid would come in at 9, stay in and do all the household work - mainly kitchen stuff - and leave at 5. She would come with her adolescent son who would play in our backyard till his mother was done.
This went on peacefully for several days. Then one day I noticed the boy reading a comic. I went up to him and asked if he went to school.
"No. My mother cannot afford the fees," he said.
"Then how come you can read and write?"
"My mother teaches me. She used to spend the whole day with me showing me objects and teaching their names. She taught me to read and write. Actually she can be a great teacher for other kids too. But look at her now, she sits in the kitchen all day."
I turned around and looked at our maid. Yet another mother, slaving away in the kitchen...
The two snakes slithered through the shrubs - him accosting her in playful courtship - crackling many dried leaves as they slid past but taking care not to swish too loud and wake up the people sleeping inside the house. If people got up, it would ruin their romantic night.

People are stupid on two fronts: firstly, they cannot do anything silently; their mouths would constantly churn out noise and disturb the romance of a silent moonlight night, and secondly, they were so paranoid that they would instantly kill a snake on sight, without any regard to whether the snake was intending harm in the first place. It was like humanity carries a universal 'shoot-at-sight' order towards the snakes handed down across generations.
Nagaraja amorously followed his bride wherever she went - the queen snake he had courted for centuries and fought many a male competitor for her sake. He had two stars under his hood - which represented a royal lineage - and she had two stars under hers too. That had made him believe they were made for each other, yet she had kept him at a distance for so long.
Nagaraja had courted her patiently, not giving up or getting distracted. He would jump at every opportunity to stake his claim for marriage, to profess his love, to exhibit his undying dedication, and she would playfully reject him.
Nagaraja never understood why he was so deeply attracted to her alone, when there were other attractive snakes around, and especially those that wanted him. He felt maybe the stars in their hoods had something to say, or maybe it was just destiny.
Or maybe just the way how love worked.
Finally, she had given in one day, and they married in all pomp and glory. And today was their first night together as snake and wife. He followed her as she evaded him in the thick undergrowth. He hissed gently and she hissed back. Finally, upon reaching a small puddle of rainwater that danced with gleams of moonlight of the sky above, she stopped and turned around. Nagaraja slithered up to her until he could feel her warm breath. The snakes closed their eyes and contemplated the eternity of love that had worked its way to this ominous night - the climax of passion and desire.
They straightened up for a moment - like dancers preparing for a salsa - and began gently twining and twisting around each other. As their wet scales brushed and throbbing bodies intertwined, they felt the kundalini of a longing for life rise between them and envelop them in a bundle of joy. That moment they realized it was not a climax of a love-long-fought but a beginning of a new life that was taking birth in this world. The stars in their hoods began glowing...
Millennia ago, in this very same world, two strands of DNA swimming for centuries in the undifferentiated broth of the oceans had met on a similar feisty night and had curled up to bring forth life on Earth.
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?

I need an escape from society that traps me - every single time - in frames of right and wrong; that squashes me under heavy books of law, that forces me to sell my time in exchange for food and shelter.
I need an escape from family that becomes an island of peace in the boisterous ocean of the outside world and preoccupies me with protecting it in return; that showers unrequited love and conflicts the well-developed notion of love as a deal, which is to be found everywhere else, and ends up messing my orientation of what version of love to actually believe in!
I need an escape from writing that binds me into using words whose meaning is sometimes dichotomous, like a double-edged sword, and sometimes so narrow that cuts and shreds my ideas to pieces.
I need an escape from reading that bogs me down with persuasions which inhabit and haunt the inner domains of my mind; that serves me with an overdose of sentiments to the point of intellectual obesity; that disturbs my sleep with its pushing and prodding and constant rattling of opinions.
I need an escape from my body so vulnerable to disease; from my skin whose colour categorizes and classifies men; from my hairs that change colour with age; from my mind so prone to belief.
I need an escape from light that limits the speed of the entire universe, from sound that is imprisoned in the atmosphere of the Earth.
I need an escape from the air that jumps from lung to lung carrying germs; from water whose cycle plays truant with the lifecycle of all living beings; from the soil that gets harder as you dig deeper; from the fire that is never satisfied; from the ether that is so difficult to identify.
I need an escape from my God so tough to catch; from the devil so tough to elude; from prayers so limited by language; from wishes that are no more than castles of smoke.
I need an escape from my senses which are just five in number; from common-sense which is so uncommon.
I need an escape from eating that is so inescapably repetitive - even during a day's time; from breathing that is a regiment upon my soul; from talking that invariably makes me look like a bigger fool than I really am; from thinking that lifts me to scary heights.
I need an escape from dreams that disappoint reality; from reality that forces me into dreams; from waking that breaks the dream cycle; from sleeping which abruptly pushes me into yet another new dream cycle but then wakes me back into the same old reality again and again...
I need an escape from the day whose light is more hot than warm; from the night whose artificial lights shame the Sun.
I need an escape from love whose purpose is unknown; from hate whose basis is unfounded; from lust whose intent is selfish; from austerity whose nature is empty.
I need an escape from art that the blind can't appreciate; from music that the deaf can't dance to; from dance that the paralyzed can't perform.
I need an escape from faces that wear so many masks in a day; from hands that wield weapons of destruction; from smiling, crying, laughing, and all such monkey-faces.
I need an escape from my name, which I never chose; from my blood, whose group I don't share with my friends; from my ancestors who never expected me; from my progeny who never anticipated me.
I need an escape from life's final failure that decimates all of life's victories, or perhaps the final victory that belittles them all - I need an escape from the not-knowing; I need an escape from the delusion of knowing and the self that builds around it; I need an escape from unknowability.

I need an escape from the need to escape.
"Look, children should listen to what parents tell. You should learn to control that hyperactive curiosity of yours boy," ordained both parents in unison as the boy sheepishly looked at them from behind the rock. "Stop hiding behind that rock and get inside the cave right now," the father ordered as he extended his trembling hand to pull the boy in. The boy reluctantly thrust his hand and was hastily dragged inside the cave.
"See my child. This cave is our home and it protects us. That thing out there is dangerous. It is ferocious, eats anything it can lay hands on. It has killed many of our ancestors. It is cursed. It's touch is so bad that it does not leave anything behind. It's victims get powdered."
"Powered?" shrieked the boy in disbelief
"Yes," continued the mother, "that's why we all stay as far away from it as possible. Haven't you heard how it roars when its hungry?"
"No ma," replied the boy, with his curiosity germinating again, "actually I only hear it whispering... swishing and hissing, and I even felt it called my name..." and he started craning his neck to look outside.
"Hissing, right?" interrupted the mother and pulled the boy inside the cave again, "that's just like the snake isn't it? It's as poisonous as the snake, they say."
The boy wasn't to be convinced. He kept peeking outside and kept getting reprimanded by his mother. Father sat at the mouth of the cave observing the movements outside and making sure his family was safe, while the swishing and howling continued outside. The boy had felt a strange warmth when he had been close to it for a brief moment, until the parents had pulled him back. He could not sleep that night, wondering if his parents were right, if that "thing" outside was really harmful at all?
Sometime in the middle of the night, with his parents fast asleep, he sneaked out of the cave. He walked out to see it was still there. He saw it everywhere. It seemed like the mother had littered babies;  they were scattered all over the place. He saw the little ones running all over the hill - playing on the grass, climbing the trees. They had killed the birds and the rats. They had even begun devouring the farm and its plants. He threw a stone at the farm, but they went about their munching without regard to him or his stone. "If they don't care about me, then why did mama tell me they are dangerous?"
He inquisitiveness peaked and he walked towards the farm to look closer. One of the babies was munching on a broken stick. He grabbed the other end of the stick and lifted it in the air. The baby continued to munch from the other side. He shook the stick but it would not fall - it kept munching and hissing. He hissed back at it; it did not care. He held on to the stick, turned around, and ran into the cave to show it to his parents.
That child, that boy, that day, was when humanity discovered fire.
an impassioned panellist on the news-hour debate today.. "It is a body-blow to terrorism. Let me tell you. The people have delivered a strong message to the terrorists. They have elected the leader that will end terrorism once and for all. And that latest decision by the prime minister? Oh! what a master stroke by our leader. The ball is in our court now. We have the will, the support, and the political power. We will fight these terrorists - these forces that disrupt our lives - and terminate them. We will pick up arms and fight, and lay down our lives if needed... "
They had done so many journeys together - long car journeys of fun and frolic - but today was so different. There was no song or dance, no jollying or teasing, there was only a solemn silence. It was indeed such an occasion; their adorable daughter was flying abroad and they were all - the family of three: parents-in-love and adorable daughter - going to drop her for her flight. The same car that was filled with the scent of good memories, today smelt of moroseness. The parents cast distressful looks at their daughter in the backseat, but she returned none of that sadness. She just sat there silent and expression-less.
With such an attitude, they doubted if she would keep in touch. Oh! what a repayment for all the love they had showered on her!
It did not dishearten the parents to see their child go away. They knew it was one of the laws of Nature. Every bird leaves its nest someday. It has to, else what use were those wings? And, isn't that what they did to their parents too? When they got married and settled down in this country, they had bid farewell to their parents too. The cycle of life: what goes around, comes around. Today, they realized the anguish that their parents must have been through. And their hearts bled and guts wrenched.. Both wanted to shed tears but they stopped short. They did not want to create any bad omen for their daughter on such an important journey of hers.
When the time to bid farewell has come, and there is no turning around, it was always good to do it with a smile.
Yet that smile failed to reach their face, it was interrupted by the worry if their daughter would keep in touch at all.
As they drove, they silently vexed over how their daughter would survive without their care and support. They had read about the challenges faced by kids who stayed away from parents. The financial issues, bad friendship, sharing room to save rent, undisciplined food habits and, then, drugs and stuff! They wished they could go with their daughter. At least they prayed God would take care of her.
They prayed she would keep in touch... but the kind of carefree kids that today's youngsters are, they doubted if she would even think of them. In that new world, she would find many new things to distract her, strange forces that would cling to her bosom and suck her love. Maybe some new love that would completely replace them in her heart. They wanted to tell her how much they would miss her, and that they would eagerly wait for her call. But they doubted if she would keep in touch.
Finally, after a short silent drive, they stopped. Their destination had arrived. They parked the car under the tree, looked at each other and cried. Their daughter still sat there, in the backseat, with no sound or sign. Then they got out of the car, picked their daughter up from the seat, carried her to the river and scattered her ashes into the water.
They held hands and cried as their daughter took her flight, with the forces of Nature, into a world that lay far beyond. She did not turn back... they doubted if she would ever keep in touch.
Vinay's was the perfect life - born to celebrity parents, and himself healthy and extremely good-looking. Born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, there was nothing more a baby could wish for. Right from the first day, he occupied that exalted space: as the cynosure of his family's eyes and the object of envy of all his friends. On his first birthday, the entire film industry had come, to see and wish the lone child of the superstar - the heir to boundless fame and fortune. Oh! what a life!
In school, Vinay turned out to be a prodigious kid. Adept at calculations, good with facts and figures, skilful at the games, and excellent with arts. Anybody would say that a kid like Vinay would reach great heights in future.

Yes! Vinay surely would go far one day, by why exert his intelligence for that? He was the heir to his father's stardom anyway, wasn't he?
Whenever Vinay went to the teachers, they would put his notes aside and make him narrate stories of the film shootings he attended. When he sat for combined study with his friends, they would end up talking about Vinay's father and his success stories. On several days, Vinay would bunk classes to accompany his father to the sets where he played child roles in the movies. And when he was back to class, the whole day would be spent in narrating the shooting incident to his classmates; teacher included.
Over the course of time, studies took a backburner. Yet it did not dismay Vinay, because fame was his to claim. "Why work hard to achieve greatness, when I can get it without any effort?"
Vinay grew up and became an actor in his own right. He took up independent assignments and his movies always fared well. There was no dearth of mass audience for his movies, many of whom had merely carried over their love for Vinay's father on to Vinay.
There were inevitable comparisons. Though Vinay had emerged from the shadows of his father, he could never leave the legacy behind. They commented that his expressions were not so emotive, that his height was a let-down, and most of all, they felt his flat nose and slightly bulged lower-lip took the grace out of the otherwise copy of the superstar. Many of Vinay's friends had suggested he get a plastic surgery, but Vinay refused. He may have towed the dynastic line, but he had his own style and substance. "I am the superstar's son, not his duplicate. I have my own identity. And despite the comments, aren't my films doing well?"
Vinay's films were hits, indeed, but not comparable to the super-hits of his father. 
On several lonely nights, Vinay would ponder if his career choice was right; on whether he should have taken his academics seriously and used his intelligence. But the answer would come immediately to him - "What do I lack today that I should desire for some other career? After all, finally at the end of the day it is the success that counts. I have achieved so much fame here. Who knows if I would have got something like this in some other field? And by being born as the superstar's son, wasn't I destined to be here? It was my fate, indeed my Godsend luck, how can I even doubt it now?"
Vinay never pondered again. He just focused on his films, delivered hits after hits, went from success to success. However, the comparisons with his father never stopped. Every time a movie fared a little low, fans would find something new to compare. Vinay had learnt to take it all in his stride. "It is just a part of my inheritance..."
Several years later, after a thousand moons had shone upon the Earth and a million summer breezes had whispered by, Vinay met his end. Thousands attended his funeral and a state of mourning hung about for a few days. It was said that his memories would live with his fans forever. Finally, when things got back to normal, and other actors rose to take up Vinay's place in the hearts of his fans, his tomb fell silent.

Once people stopped visiting, some naughty kids stuck a note on Vinay's tombstone:
Born to a superstar father, how easily to fame he rose,
But he never shone well, thanks to that funny flat nose.
Far to the north, across the seas, somewhere deep in the gorge of the great Colorado river a tribal family gathered around a bonfire. Eager children listened to their leader narrate a story he had heard from his ancestors. He spoke of the days when his forefathers had met Christopher Columbus and the great stories of his expeditions he had told. Columbus has discovered America and in the greatness of that great nation, had immortalized himself. Yet, at the end of the story, the tribal chief asked the gaping kids, "Just imagine what Columbus could have discovered if America hadn't got in the way." He turned his gaze at the starlit sky and the kids looked up too. The moon shone down and the summer breeze whispered by...
Try as she might, she could not forget the ordeal. She tried to cuddle her young son and distract her mind, but the tingling in her womb - the bastard growing inside - would not let her digress, not even through sleep. The pain she felt in her private parts, the bite marks that bled her breasts, would take away every semblance of goodness that she was taught to respect life for.
Tired, dazed, hungry, she slumped - unconsciously - into a brief nap but the horror came back to haunt her dream - the kidnapper dragging her and her friends from school, miles of travel in dark trucks, being hostage in some deserted underground bunker that crawled with roaches, and then being pulled out many times a day just to be raped by different men over and over again. Sometimes she would reject the food, to attempt to die away but the friends would eventually console and feed each other; to live for the hope that they would be rescued. And then the guns and tanks sounding one day, of military rescuing them to a safe house, of being united with her son and peace for a few days. Of nice soldiers that guarded them; of soldiers who were being nicer than needed, of doctors who touched and groped them on the pretext of medical tests, of cooks who served more food to the ladies that smiled at them... And then it came back - the events of previous evening... the warden calling her to his room to discuss about her resettlement. His speaking of her remarriage and offering her tea. Then she had sipped the tea... and the next thing she remembered was waking up in her bed with body in pain and clothes torn in several places...
She woke up with a shriek. Her body pains had come back. And so was the warden, smiling gently as he passed by her room. The hungry smile.
She wished she could escape, but in the war-stricken country, she had nowhere to go. There was no family, no home. Only camps filled with monsters. It was not clear if the war created the monsters or the other way round.
It was not fair of God to expect her to live on like this - a life with no choice. She wept. Wasn't it a human right to enjoy freedom to live how one wanted? Was it wrong to expect happiness? She did not aspire for riches or luxury, just peace and quiet. And there did not seem any sanctuary for it.
Of all the good things of life, she saw none. They spoke of ideals, like justice, harmony, wellness and brotherhood. Where had it disappeared?
'Justice' - could she find that? The social justice they spoke about was just a pompous abstraction - the only real justice was what each made for themselves. And that wasn't something she had to wait for; she had to go and get it herself, isn't it?

Finding justice could help her make peace and quiet the currents in her heart. Yeah! finally she could find the peace and quiet she so much desired.
She threw a glance at Mark - that decrepit man lying by the toilet. He was a terminal AIDS patient and everyone despised him. The soldiers enjoying kicking him whenever they passed by, and the doctors hurled abuses at him. Nevertheless, Mark had gentle eyes and never retorted back. In Mark, she saw a human being that was missing in all the others. She made her plan - she would go to Mark that night, cajole him, caress him, and sleep with him. By giving him a fully loved sex, she would bring a momentary joy on Mark's face. A parting gift. Yes! she would get the AIDS, but what use was a healthy life for her? Then she would happily go back to the warden, and to any soldier that lusted for her body. And she would give them everything, the body and all its afflictions. A vengeful lesson.
She needed a weapon to fight the injustice - her body would be that weapon. She sought a weakness in her assailants - their lust would be that weakness. Thus, she would find her justice - in giving life to a dying man, and death to uselessly living men.
In shameful acknowledgement of the unimaginable suffering that ladies go through in various lawless parts of the world - like Africa, for instance. The monstrosity of the lust in men seems like a personification of the wrath of the God himself.
Allwin was a child prodigy, adept at general knowledge and excelling at mathematical calculations far beyond his age. Nearly every weeknight, and customarily on the weekends, he would regale the slum dwellers - his only friends - with weird facts from the world, almost enacting a street version of Ripley's Believe it or not. The elders would often remark how Allwin had it in him to go places, yet none tried to help him. In the city, the poor never tasted success, and Allwin, an orphan, was too wretched to have any hope.
The mosque is too far from home, so let's do this,
Let's make a weeping child laugh
- Nida Fazli

Dad the rational guide, mom the emotional support. Mandar, the kid, a tabula rasa.  
There was always a difference of opinion at home. Never did Mandar see a peaceful discussion or a calm demeanour from either of his parents. Dad would take a stand, and mom would wantonly refute him, and vice versa, as if it was a rule to break each other's hearts. Was it an ego-clash? Or was this the way families ran? It didn't seem so. Many of Mandar's friends at school spoke so well about their parents. They spoke of love and care, and parents that held hands and smiled together. Of parents that joyfully recounted good old days, laughed together, cooked together, and surprised each other with gifts and pleasantries. Of parents that locked their bedroom door at night so the kid would not barge in. Mandar's parents slept in different bedrooms.
His friends told stories of how their parents would guide the children, holding their hands and walking them through the path of life. His parents guided him too, but in competition. Dad would ask him to get good grades, while mom would ask him to focus on his behaviour. Dad would push him into sports, while mom ushered him into music classes. Whenever Mandar came home injured, dad would pull him aside to berate his carelessness while mom would drag him aside to dress his wounds. They never did anything together. He was not the focus of their attention, but the pivot on which their see-saw played. He was the lever they pushed and pulled until their egos churned, spurned and burned.
Mythology has it that one day the Gods and Asuras had a competition. A tug of war to find out who was stronger. It was arranged in the ocean, where a mountain was placed and a giant serpent wound around it. All the Asuras gathered on one side, while the Gods on the other, and began tugging at the serpent, trying to drag the mountain towards their side. The tug-of-war continued for a long time, with each side pushing and pulling. The mountain stayed where it was, not moving an inch. What the competing parties did not know was a trick the plucky Vishnu was playing on them. As the mountain twisted and turned, it churned the sea beneath it, and out came something wonderful. Vishnu had tricked the Gods and the Asuras into samudra manthan (churning of the ocean) so he could churn ambrosia out of the ocean - the clear sweet nectar of everlasting power and life.
Mandar's friends all grew up to be successful. The business man's son became a bigger business man. The politician's daughter became a minister. The actor's children became celebrities. Mandar, whose parents were both successful industry icons, became a philosopher.
"Stop those stupid philosophical questions, and just do your homework," boomed Dad's voice from behind the newspaper, "philosophy is the occupation of lazy people. Real men go to work and get their hands dirty, not sit around and try to clean their minds."
"But papa, I just wanted to know why such education was needed..." the son tried to explain.
But how will it be happy in such a small space?

Okay, make the cage bigger then.

But as it gets bigger, it gets heavier. How will it move the cage around?

Okay, giving limbs to the cage - two hands, two legs. Now the cage can move itself around.

But still, it's so dark inside the cage, and the air stinks.

Fine! making two holes in it - let's call them eyes, they'll let the light stream in. And two more called nostrils, for inlet and outlet of air. Now you would say it's so silent inside? That's taken care too. I gave the cage two ears too! Happy?

I don't know. What if the cage feels small someday, and there is a desire for an even bigger one.
Okay, here's making the cage to grow over time. Every day it keeps growing and gets bigger.

But still... what if?

Go on! I am not angry. You can ask!

What if the bird does not want the cage at all and just wants out?

That, my friend, is a choice for the bird to make. It's not for us to decide. We are just cage-builders.
...this is what you always do, just taking me for granted...

Yes, because you are my wish granted

There you go! grunted something to confuse me again...

Will your pet dog be happy,
to wear that designer leash?
Or your pet parrot be glad,
to chirp within that golden cage?

Does it give them the space
to dance, to feel their niche,
and the air to cool their heels,
when in their hearts passions rage?


Mother and kids watched the TV with horror as Titanic hit the iceberg and started sinking. They watched the lower-class passengers realizing the mishap and trying to get to the upper decks. They saw the first-class passengers given a chance to escape as the lower-class travellers were barricaded and locked up. Then came the scene of a mother putting her two kids to bed.
"So children, we shall quickly discuss a chapter in Greek mythology today, and then you will all sit down to complete your project work, okay?" exclaimed the teacher as she surveyed the classroom to make sure all heads nodded.
Present Day:
People gathered around the railway tracks where a couple lay dead, their fists tightly clenched. The (dead) guy wore a striped sweater and the (dead) girl a floral salwaar.
Vatsal was the brightest kid in her tuition class. He had an amazing capacity for logical and creative analysis but lacked focus and attention. The teachers at school and his elders at home could not get him to listen and, hence, they sought the service of the tuition teacher. The tuition teacher was a middle-aged lady who herself worked as a teacher in a school, and took tuitions in the evening.
There was a soft explosion outside. The plane experienced more turbulence than usual. Seat belt signs turned on and it seemed like the plane had started its descent several hours before arrival. There was no announcement from the pilot and the airhostesses were asleep too. He knew something was wrong.
Sometime in the futuristic years, a manned mission to Mars hit rough weather and the crew had to fly out hurriedly, leaving one of the men behind. They thought he had died in the storm, until ground station back found out he was alive. It was too late to go back to fetch him. Earth staff watched him through their satellite images, rearranging the solar panels, trying to scavenge whatever food supplies were left and trying to survive day after day in the harsh Martian weather. Mission commander Mr. K watched the giant computer screens, at the desperate man trying to survive even when he had no hope of being rescued, and thought, "Abandoned and isolated... what must be going through his mind right now?"
Somewhere in muddled heart of a maximum city in south-east Asia, another Mr. K focused his telescope to voyeur upon the slum next to his building. He peered through a gap in the thatched roof of one of the huts. It opened into their bathroom where he would watch the house lady bathing on several evenings. She was in there today too, but not nude, rather with clothes torn and cowering in fear. A crowd had gathered outside her house and he saw people trying to restrain her husband who constantly cursed and wildly swayed a machete about. K looked at the frightened woman - his woman - and thought, "Scared and closeted... what must be going through her mind right now?"   
Jostling amidst the crowds thronging the city-square somewhere in the middle-east of Asia, a certain young and bearded Mr. K watched as the terrorists kicked a hostage and butt his face with their rifles. He watched them shouting slogans and appreciating a merciful God for his benevolence, for having exposed the traitor in their midst. K knew that hostage. He wasn't the traitor they made him out to be but it was a society whose conscience was drowned in gunpowder. As they lifted the hostage up and pointed a gun at his head, K looked at the crestfallen hostage and pondered, "Battered and dying... what must be going through his  mind right now?"
Somewhere out in the thorny outback of a continent down-under, an aboriginal Mr. K watched his companion in the fading bonfire. After a long day, they were lucky to chance upon a good hunt. They had munched on the fresh meat with glee, and then laughed aloud and danced around the fire. Finally, as their backs wore down, they lay down on a patch of soft grass. Any other night, they would be asleep by now, but today the sky was so starry that it bewitched their minds and bedazzled them into silence. K had a feeling of being in a large, dark cave whose roof was studded with diamonds. He looked askance at his partner and wondered, "Bewitched, bedazzled... what must be going through his mind right now?"
Out in the glamorous city, paved with style and fashion, amidst an endless parade of traffic converging at a certain Champs-Elysees, a middle aged Mr. K and the infant in his arms watched a gigantic steel tower glittering with lights and piercing the night sky. K watched his son agape in amazement and  wondered, "Amazed, Excited... what must be going through his mind right now?"  
In the suburbs of a certain metropolis, with the cool sea breeze howling outside the window, a middle-aged Mr. K watched his parents in the hospital room. His old father held the hand of his mother as she lay on the hospital bed. The time for her surgery had come. Though the surgery was a major one, they had signed up for it as it was the best possible solution for her medical condition. It promised to end her days of chronic pain and bedridden life. As the doctors carted her out of the ward, into the operation theatre, K watched the old couple hold hands. The father assured and the mother kept smiling back with affection. K watched this scared, but hopeful, couple and wondered, "Scared, hopeful... what must be going through their minds right now?"  
Up, up, and away, in some seeming heavenly abode, a heavenly being beheld the world he had created. Today, he picked on some random creatures to look at - all certain K's in different parts of the world. He looked at their faces, transfixed and dazed, and prided upon the complex tapestry of interplay he had weaved into the web of his creation. It was, now, his time to savour it - to sit back and enjoy the show. He intently looked at each of the K's and wondered, "what must be going through their minds right now?"
It was his first day at the new job as a teacher. The entire morning, as he got up and got ready, he cherished every moment of that joyous feeling of having achieved his dream. The dream he had fought so hard, and made so many sacrifices for. If he had walked the beaten path of lucrative careers he would be earning well and living a posh life, but his heart had prodded him otherwise. He had taken to his passion for knowledge, to serve knowledge, and decided to become a teacher.
"Every man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind." - John Donne
"Once human beings - we, the Homo sapiens - developed language and created a system of sharing and, hence, cultivating knowledge about 70 millennia ago, we became an invincible species," said Professor Nath as she looked around the class expecting some amused faces. "We are the dominant and ruling species of this world today solely because of the way we process and utilize knowledge."
By broaching the topic, Nath hoped to impress upon her students the importance of education system and the need for students to develop an interest in learning and knowing, because that is how, she believed, our species could hope to stay at the top of the pyramid of life - as the pinnacle of all creation.
Notwithstanding the sobriety of the class, Nath continued, "Every ecosystem of the ancient world was teeming with a diversity of species, especially the ultra-large fauna, for millions of years. There were the mammoths, diprotodons, giant rodents, and so many animals weighing hundreds of kilograms. These large terrifying creatures had lived all their lives without any fear of predators, until we stepped into their world." And a sense of pride came of Nath, akin to a conqueror.
Her chest swelled with pride as she fantasized the hairy Sapiens of 16,000 years ago, crossing the Arctic glaciers and setting foot into the American heartland, wielding their dexterous hunting skills and decimating one monstrous species after another.
"In barely two thousand years of us entering America, we had settled the entire continent from north to south, ridding it of all its gigantic beasts." she surveyed the looks on her students' faces, "But no! don't think of us as monsters. We were just a frail hairy species, destined to be giant killers. We were the Davids, slaying the Goliaths of the ancient world, and making the world a peaceful and safe place."
The bell rang but before she dismissed the class, Nath reminded her students, "Tomorrow as we discuss about the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions, you will see how humans have taken control of this world and, like a true leader, cogently arranged it to serve everyone's benefit."
Class was dismissed. Nath packed her bag and took the flight of steps down to the parking lot. On the way she met Professor Khan who was her usual chat companion.
"So what's the plan for the evening?" inquired Khan.
"Oh don't remind me. Today is a messy day," said Nath, "the whole evening would be spent in laying those cockroach pills all around the house."
"But you did that a few months back, isn't it?" asked Khan, "the roaches didn't die kya?"
"Oh those bloody irritating creatures," replied Nath in frustration, "they spread so fast, and infest everything in the house. I wish they became extinct yaar. They have ruined my peace of mind."

She started her bike and sped away.
"That's how it mostly is, Amit," said professor Vinod in a consolatory tone, "only a few very lucky ones get to research in the area of their interest. The rest of us just have to make do with wherever we get scholarship."
"But pure mechanics?" rued professor Amit, "who works in that field anymore? Just because nobody else took that up, they are assigning it to me. It's a dead field Vinod. I don't find any excitement in working in it. There are so many happening subjects out there, and I deserve to get one of those fields yaar."
"Arey understand na yaar. This year they have released funds only in that subject Amit. Our dean is a kind man. You should trust that he is not being prejudicial," said Vinod.
"Maybe I will just let it go and try next year. I can't digest that dry subject sir. It is just not palatable. There is a limit to how tasteless the department can be," quipped Amit.
"I hope you don't do that. Why don't you use your creativity and try to turn that dry subject into something interesting?" said Vinod with a wry smile, "Okay leave that. C'mon sit down. Let's enjoy our lunch now and worry about your doctoral research over tea in the evening. Okay?"
Amit agreed and they opened their lunch boxes and began to eat. Vinod let out a groan as soon as he saw the lemon rice that his wife had packed for him. "Ugh!" he reacted, "who eats this food? Tastes like junk from a restaurant's garbage bin."
"It's home cooked food Vinod," said Amit, "and bhabhi cooks so hygienically. Sometimes taste and hygiene don't go together."
"Sorry man," said Vinod, disgusted, "I cannot digest this. I have seen the food she cooks for my in-laws. It's like, me, the head of the family, gets the leftovers."
"Hey c'mon man," Amit tried to defend, "bhabhi will never do something like that." 
"No, I am not going to eat this man. There is a limit to how tasteless a food can be. I will throw it in the bin and will go eat in the canteen. Do you want to join me or not?" asked Vinod
Amit, melancholic over his own bad luck, was in no mood to join. He gestured Vinod to go ahead, while commenting, "why don't you just fast today? It will serve two goals - like a punishment for wasting good food as well as a health exercise for reducing that tummy of yours!" And Amit smiled wryly.
"No way I will fast. I have a right to tasty food man," replied an upset Vinod, "when there are alternatives and I can afford it, I deserve to enjoy my right yaar." And Vinod stormed towards the canteen.
So you say that in a marriage the couple is meant to be bonded for seven lives. But then why do I see all marriages happening in this life itself? Where are those marriages that are carried over from the past lives?

Many of the marriages you see are just a formality. Several of those bonds are indeed carried over from previous lives of the couples. They were destined to marry the moment they were born. That is why we say (some) marriages are made in heaven. Got it?

Oh I see! So then some heavenly force must be working to make sure that a couple, once married, are reborn as male and female human beings for the next seven lives, na?

Why do you say that?

Because all the marriages I see around are between a man and woman isn't it?


But then what happens to that rebirth law you spoke of, where a person's next life is decided by their acts in present life? Can a married couple be reborn as humans again irrespective of whatever acts they commit? Does the continuity of marriage bond of the couple take precedence over karma-punarjanma cycle of the individuals?

Hey wait! Karma-punarjanma cycle can't be avoided. Maybe that is why we see some of those village marriages happening with inanimate objects, like between a human and a banana plant, or a frog, or a stone or something like that!

Yeah right!

Displacement: an ego defence mechanism in the Freudian system where an agent takes his/her anxiety out on a less threatening target. Ironically, the human unconscious is not intelligent enough to foresee the cyclic interconnectedness of human life and, hence, the failure inherent in the concept of displacement.
Midsummer Sunday afternoons, when the wife's out, are an abode of peace. After a hectic week, I couldn't appreciate it more that she decided to meet her friends and leave me alone at home. I needed this unwinding - a repose by the balcony on a calm afternoon after a sumptuous meal. I wasn't particularly sleepy so decided to pamper my poetic sense by indulging into the intricacies of the moment.


The child cried incessantly for three days, ever since its vacations began, with only a break at night when it slept. As soon as it got up in the morning, the weeping and begging would resume. He wanted his video game - his precious Gameboy console - and he wanted it really badly, so much so that he cried real tears of sadness in crying for it.
"I am so angry at myself for acting like a fool."

"Does getting angry make you less of a fool?

"You shut up! don't try to act smart with me."

<thinking> "Does keeping quiet make me less of a smart-ass?"
"Multiplying just for the sake of multiplying is the ideology of the cancer cell,"(1) claimed the sir in a thumping voice, so much so that all students in the biology lab were shaken into attention - not only those that were dozing but even those stealthily messaging on their cell phones.
"Abortion is always immoral," she said, continuing the debate they had started the previous night. She handed the glass of orange juice to her husband, and wore her apron to start making breakfast. They were having their favourite Sunday breakfast - scrambled eggs and bacon. Simple, but classic. Especially for the man, bacon was always a good follow-up after a night-long oral sex.