Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The picture

A plain paper it was
A few months ago..
Few strokes..
Then more
and more and more..
There it was.. His master piece..
The proud artist beamed..

Oh! what a beautiful picture
A picture so charming
A picture so serene
A picture so peaceful
A picture so full
of his dreams real true...
A picture so full
of beauty joy and cheer..
A picture representing
days and days of dreams..
His very special dreams..
A picture he wanted
to badly show off
The proud artist..

With glass fragile
he covered it too
Alas! The foundation too weak..
He watched helplessly
as it fell..
Just a few inches down
to break into fragments too many..
Few cutting into his master piece.
The tears from his eyes
washing away the colors
he had so carefully mixed.

He collected the fragments..
Were they that of his heart?
The washed colors..
Was it towards this end
He had worked so hard?
His pride.. Was it why
his creation had been destroyed?
He just stood
unaware of his bleeding hands..

Some dreams come true
just to die away
real soon..

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The wait.

It was always like this. The long wait. The expectations that rose with every passing moment and then the disappointment. He was used to it. But then, to be human is to hope. As much as his expectations rose, so did they drop. In another corner of his hear. The neighborhood kids were all playing together. The noise was so irritating. Sometimes he wanted to go tell them to shut up. But then, he was not all that hard hearted. He did not like kids much. He hated the unnecessary attention they got.People always fussed over them Handled them with care. Never spoke important stuff before them lest they be burdened by it.

He walked around wiping the dust off the old mirror and the rusted photo frame. He did not have work today. His master was out of town. He had gone to his daughter's school function.Work, to our hero, was not a burden. It was a distraction he welcomed. He could throw himself into his job and forget about his seemingly unending wait temporarily. He had no emotions about his job. He could not understand why others said it was taxing. He just did it. It was better than going hungry to bed.

His master was not an embodiment of kindness. But he did feed them well. They got his sons old clothes once in a while. He had never gone hungry since he had joined here two months ago. The major reason he stuck to the job was not the food but the proximity of his master's house to his own.He could always keep an eye out for the post man.The expectation did haunt him even when he worked.He was cursed with it. The invisible weight he carted around.. Like the pilgrim in pilgrims progress.
Today he had time to think. He hated to think. So many moments came back. oh! The last day! Again this wait. He preferred working his usual 18 hours a day with the ten minute break.Physical labor numbed his pain. He was too exhausted to think.

Roopa was looking at him from the opposite house. "Dont you think we should tell him?" she asked her husband who was entering the house. " He works so hard for you and is so loyal.The pain i see in his eyes makes me feel guilty"Suresh was somehow deaf to her pleas. Why wont he be? He did not want to lose a loyal employee who came so cheap.

Pratap took the rusted photo frame in his hands. It was the picture of his mother taken a decade ago. He was there on her hips. A mere two year old.She had worked so hard to feed four mouths since their father had died of tuberculosis. She had left her 'big man' to guard the house when she went to work that day.She never came back. Ashok and Ajay were also with her.He remembered a movie they had all watched together once. An old woman loses her memory and gains it back after unintentionally walking into her house years later. The twelve year old in him, the one not yet a big man, somehow lived with that story in his head.

"But her body was never found!"Suresh was trying to convince his wife."The bomb blast wiped everyone out. Remember Ramaswamy's wife recognized him only because he wore that ring that day? She just found his finger."Roopa said trying to remove the image of the place from her mind."He deserves to know his mother is dead." Roopa was reluctant to give up. But then, she was a good wife.

He meanwhile continued his wait.

Prahlad..

It was a brilliant day. He was sitting in the bus enroute to his office. Prahlad had been highly dissatisfied with his job for a very long time.To be exact, since the day he had joined the private IT company some 5 years back. He had wanted to be a writer ever since he could remember. The numerous rejection letters he received in college had succeeded in killing his desire.In his final year,he settled down to a career in IT.The one thing he never had wanted to do. "The pay is good. So are the incentives. You have your own house now. You have saved enough for a car. Why do you crib?It is not a crime to do a job you dont like. Everyone does that. Why care as long as you get paid well?" He remembered Prakash's long lecture a few days back when he had considered quitting his job.

A new project had come in that day. They were given a month to complete it. He knew it was going to be a tough one. His incentive depended on its successful completion. Maybe, he could get his car earlier. Somehow he could not get himself to code.Four frustrated weeks later, the project was completed. Full thanks to the mercy of his colleague who helped him out.

He decided to go to his parents house to celebrate his week off. There, he knew, he was always welcome and loved. They did not know of his sorrow. He masked it well in front of them. They were very proud of their hardworking son. He was surprised to find his sister and her kids there. "It is vacation time busy body" Prathima said with a grin on her face. He loved his nephews. They reminded him of what he was once. Noth had an insatiable lust for mythological storied. Prahlad was bad at telling stories. He hardly remembered any. "I am now just a machine." he thought sadly and decided to be as human as possible this one week.

"Tell us about Prahlad"His nephews were bugging his mother. Prahlad sat down with them to listen. Frankly, he had forgotten the chap after whom he had been named. Was it the elephant chap?The king of something? "Prahlad was the son of King Hiranyakasipu."He heard his mother narrate."The King was very pious before his son was born. He performed severe penance and got a boon from Brahma. He wanted immortality. But Brahma could not grant anyone immortality. The clever king said,"I should not be killed by a man or animal or bird. I should not be killed in the morning/afternoon/evening/night. I should not be killed inside or outside the house." Brahma granted his wish. The king became very proud as he was now an immortal.Entrusting his pregnant wife in the care of Sage Narada he set out to conquer the three worlds. The immortal king returned home successful and was happy to see his infant son prahlad.With a new energy, he set out to rule the three world. He ordered that only he should be henceforth worshipped as God."

His mother was droning on."Anyone who worshipped the king was granted everything. Prince Prahlad, maybe because he was taken care of by a sage, was pious from his childhood. Much to the agony of his mother, he worshipped Lord Narayana. When the king got to know of it, he ordered that his son be thrown into a dark room without food for two days. The starvation and the darkness had no effect on the kid. He still held on to his conviction that Narayana was the Lord Supreme."

"Just the kind of kid who would irritate everyone around.Spoilt Brat." Modern Prahlad told himself.

"The king sent the kid to the torture chambers. Every blow that fell on the kid was hard. The torturers were merciless. But, much to everyone's surprise, Prahlad was not hurt a bit despite the torturers hand becoming chapped thanks to the whip."

"Iron will. Nothing can stand against it. Sometimes when you are in a frenzy, you cannot feel a thing. Even severe pain" remarked our hero. His mother glared at him and said,"The lord saves those who believe in him."

She went on with the story about how the kid withstood other tortures and how finally Lord Narasimha, (half man, half lion) the fourth avatar of Narayana came out of a pillar and killed the king on his door step in santhyakaalam(neither evening not yet night.)Neither morning nor evening nor night. Neither outside nor inside the house. Neither man nor animal. His mother droned on.

Prahlad walked out of his house. He was pondering about the story. Sitting under his favorite tree, he looked up to the sky above. All those beautiful fluffs of white scattered around! Despite being brought up by orthodox parents, he was a strict atheist. He refused to believe in lords or avatars. But these stories fascinated him. In them he searched for the moral, some kind of deep inner meaning.

Belief, Trust, Confidence. Thats what the prince had. Belief in his vision. Trust in something he thought was real. Confidence in his trust. The very qualities he lacked. His rich, comfortable self fed by the software he so detested. The hiranyakasipu. His love, His real God, His narasimha,his was writing the work he so wanted to do.He lacked the belief the prince had in his God. He was like the rest who had decided to worship hiranyakasipu for comfort sake.He felt a deep shame.

He rose deciding to send in his resignation that very day. He rose as the Prahlad who will stick to his conviction no matter what. The Prahlad who will struggle, who will suffer, who will accept failures but still stand tall and worship his real Lord. He will live up to his name.

Friday, November 02, 2007

She was excited. All set. The road ahead was long. But then.. the journeys end.. She loved it. She was waiting to go back.This is it she thought.. A pleasant walk down memory lane. She remembered her childhood.Those happy carefree days. She was an adult now.. True.. But then, somethings never change. This to her was like time travel. As close to it as she could think of. The train was almost there. Pradhija placed her books back in and expectantly peeped out of the window. The train finally came to a halt. The station was empty. Maybe they dint receive my email she consoled herself and hid the sharp disappointment from herself. The station looked just the same. How many times had she come here to board her train home! The sweet shop in the platform.. Oh! it was no longer there. The shop keeper had been old. He was the typical old man who always looked like a shop keeper. She could not think of him fitting anywhere else except in his shop.She smiled thinking about his antics in an effort to chase flies away.They never disappeared but. They always were there. The shop the flies. They were fresh in her mind. Its absence made the station seem alien. Some things, she wondered are missed only when absent.. You hardly appreciate their presence.Their absence gives them an importance their presence never could.Oh! this sounds like philosophy! She could go on for hours once she started thinking. How her thoughts jumped from one place to another. Their logic none but her could follow..

She reached the entrance. No auto in site.There was a bus stand round the corner. She did not know the bus numbers. There had never been need to know. True there was a terminus near her place. But she had not been an observant kid. Her grandmother had taken her and her cousins out everywhere. She thought of the pleasant walks.. those hours of games sitting in the garden. The pleasure she felt recollecting those moments.. Nothing could equal that. Familiar with the local language, she was confident she could find her way home. She was no longer the little Pradhija. She was a grown woman now. Dragging her suitcase behind her, she reached the bus stop. The bus that rolled in, would take her to her home. Home.. Thats how she always called it. How many years had it been? Since they had all been together? 4..4 long years..She had been chasing her dream.... True. Thats what she had wanted. Now it had come true. She was now one of the very few women in a mans world. In her struggle for establishing her identity,she had lost touch with the people who had given her nothing but love.

Better late than never. She consoled herself. She watched the new buildings fly past her.How much the landscape had changed!For a moment.. a doubt crept in.. Would they have changed too? From somewhere a voice asked her to shut up. Material things change. Affection, love does not. It cannot disappear. It told her. The conviction the belief in the voice unmistakable.The same voice that had told her her loved ones could never be wrong. The same voice that told her she could reach great heights if she persevered. The same voice that encouraged her when the road ahead was long and she all alone..

The bus came to a halt and shook her out of her thoughts. Five more minutes.. and she would see them all again! She almost ran down the lane dragging the suitcase behind. The house looked just the same. Did it now! It had been much bigger in her mind. She opened the gates and stepped in. The rose bush got her eye. It was a new addition. It had such a beautiful hue. A different blend. Quite unlike the other roses she had seen. How different each rose is from the other? How similar sometimes.. Just like relations she thought.. Very similar yet too damn different. Just the name binding it all together. "so you also like the flower?" asked her grandma. No How are you. she noted sadly...But why does one need such words? Aren't words just the plain empty things one said? Aren't the wonderful things in life simply understood? The same voice again...

She left her suitcase in the room. Everything was just the same. The tv, the furniture, the rooms.. The people.. They looked just the same...Of course they had aged.. but gracefully she added lovingly..This is home.. she felt.. And happily sat down to have food. She had loved this sabji as a kid.Happily, she took a mouthful. oh! she did not like it so much now.. It tasted just the same.. But then.. "i got a new saree for you" her grandmother told her with a smile in her voice.. Your favorite colour..she remarked and gave the bag.. A blue saree.. "I like purple now.." she caught the words in her throat.. she dint want to hurt them. With a thanks, she kept the saree in her bag...The place.. her childhood heaven seemed so small..Her favorite couch now looked just like any other furniture...She had outgrown her tastes.She had never realised it till date.. From the way she wore her hair to her tastes in clothes and food.. Even colour.. Her cousin.. her partner in crime.. what had happened to the little girl who played with her? she looked so different. so sophisticated.. The same features true.. but someone else..

Somehow, everything felt different. The people the voices their actions the words....The few she had loved.. she did not know what to talk with them. The past was what they had in common.. Their presents too different. Their likings have changed. They had loved the little girl they knew. This adult was a stranger. Someone, they tolerated for the little ones sake.Someone they did not know enough to love.Stranger! Stranger! Stranger! All voices seemed to say in unison. Stranger! More so here than anywhere else. Somehow, the voice did not contradict her now. The sudden transition from being an insider to a stranger...it hurt.. Why did she have to come? Why had she held on to the child like conviction that people never change? True.. Love does not.. But people one loves does.. She looked at the place she had loved as a kid. The magic lost. People to be loved.. from a distance she told herself..

Memories better off when left alone..The past had been special. But it held no place in her present. Her present too different from the past. Her future she knew not. Memories she would carry around. To remember and laugh. Never to recreate. One cannot run forward when looking back. With a steady mind, she started chasing her new dream.