Saturday, December 29, 2012

An illusion of Absolute Power

My son does something naughty, unforgivable by a Mother's standards. I yell at him, and raise my hand to strike. He cowers in fear. His eyes are wide, they plead, "Don't". For a fleeting fraction of a moment, when my eyes full of rage locks on his terrified ones, what passes through my mind is a wild pleasure. Someone is afraid of me! The Me that no one was ever afraid of. The Me who never could bully anyone and was forever bullied. The Me who was a weakling. And now here is this little being that is afraid of me. The fraction of a moment when I became the boss - the tiniest instant when I had the Power. Then the moment passes, and a flood of motherly regret and love washes away the illusion.

I look closely towards that smallest possible fraction of a second when I lost my head and imagined I had the Power. I zoom into it and magnify it into a window as large as Life. When I look in, I see myself in my second year at college, asking my juniors in the rudest possible manner, 'Where're you from?' (and more unfriendly questions) in the name of ragging. I see myself at the door of my classroom looking insolent while my classmates brought an embarrassed guy from first year and asked him to 'Salute Madam.' Yes, these slightest instances of Power over Weaklings did feel good. (These juniors later became friends, and we laughed together at these instances, but that is not relevant.)

The appearance of power is merely an illusion.
The boy who saluted me wasn't weak.
The girls who replied politely to my rude questions were not weak.
My son, who looks at me on the verge of tears, is not weak.

Everyone has a moment in their lives when they feel they have the Power over others. But there is a world of difference between having Power and using (abusing) it.

Where does this illusion of power come from?
Rage? Complexes? Money? Desire? Lust? Temptation? Availability (of a weakling right before one's eyes ready to be reduced to ashes)? Hatred? Revenge? Absence of Fear? An Urge to Destroy? An easy way to silence the overpowering Beast within? A cowardly instinct that refuses to suppress the urge to destroy? The momentary blindness that clouds all reason?
So many reasons to do wrong. And only one against - that you mustn't. That the only thing you are allowed to do to a person who appears weaker than you is help. Or walk away, before the Beast roars.

Despite a thousand admonitions from his mother to the contrary, a child throws stones at stray dogs. And when an explanation is demanded of him as to why he did that to an animal who did him no harm, he says, 'My friends challenged me to do it. If I don't, they will call me a coward.' The phase may pass but the temptation to fall for a dare (lest he be called a coward) remains. The "collective wisdom of the Gang".

We ask little boys who cry, "Why are you crying like a girl? Aren't you a man??" Of course, girls are weaklings who cry.

As a nation, we are lost. We do not know where to begin, what to do. What are the symptoms, the causes, the signs, the answers, the solutions? Who to blame?

Parents of little girls shudder, afraid of the kind of world they are bringing their daughters up to face.
Parents of little boys shudder, afraid of the kind of men their sons would grow up into, despite their best efforts.
As parents, we are confused. Are we teaching our children the right lessons?
What in the world are the right lessons?

The End

The End.
A Year. A Life.
A Light.

A curve in the road
Of Destiny

Skidding off the lane
Bruised, battered,
Out of existence...

Is the Balance of Life.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

To 2013. And Beyond!

And thus, we have successfully crossed to the other side of the dreaded and much anticipated Dec 21, 2012.

Whatever we may have said, however confident we made ourselves appear that the Mayans were a bunch of crackpots, however we rubbished the Doomsday predictions, most of us have had this inkling of doubt that maybe, just maybe, these ages-old wise men did know a thing or two. Maybe there was indeed a huge meteor headed our way. Maybe the sun was going to turn nasty, and pull us harder into its mouth. Maybe there was a very secret volcano brewing under our feet all this while which was going to hit expiry date this week. Maybe this was going to be the first - and the last - predicted earthquake (of literally earth-shattering magnitude) in the history of the planet. Maybe our space watchers and scientists knew it all the time and kept it from us, to avoid a collective international panic and stampede.

But, whew, thank goodness and all that, the day is now behind us. At least, if there is a real doomsday lurking around the corner, it will catch us unawares, which is much better than waiting for the hangman's loop, really.

The world as most of us know it, did not end as predicted.

But the sad part is that for many people, their worlds did shatter and crash and come to a tragic end this year, and not necessarily on Dec 21.

In the first half of this year, I lost people who are very dear to me. A few of my dear friends lost their loved ones. There were also people whom I did not know closely but their departure left voids all around. Whatever little achievements I may have had this year, whatever big hurdles I managed to cross, seem to fade in comparison to the enormity of these losses.
For each one of us, a part of our world did come to an end, like it does every year. For others, the rapid corrosion had begun.

The world proved once again that it is not a great place to live in (and our own continuing contribution to that situation is enormous), but, as usual, we really do not have a choice but to keep on living.

So we gingerly step into 2013. Without having a say in what comes our way. We do not have the luxury of staying back in the comfort of our past, in the safety of places and things we are familiar with.

We have to put our best foot forward and take each day as it comes.

Friday, December 21, 2012

It's okay to be weak

Some people are so afraid to appear weak. You don't hear them say, "I'm worried" or "I'm tired" or "I am desperate" when there is a real crisis. Oh, they say that all the time for non-reasons. But when there is a real situation in the offing, they want others to think 'He's taking it so well, he is so brave and capable.'

Right before me is someone who is terrified of what's going to happen. Scared if his little world is on the verge of a collapse. Yes, he is capable and brilliant enough to rebuild it - and he has faithful hands to help him, people who would stand by him no matter what. Nevertheless he is anxious. So would we all, in his place.

But he refuses to acknowledge it. He keeps repeating, 'I'm fine.' I want to tell him it's okay to be scared. Let your guard down for a moment. Relax. It doesn't make you weak. Even if it does, the weakness would only lead to more strength and courage.

Maybe he doesn't know how. So he continues to struggle with himself.

And we, some of his closest, wait silently, for we want to be there for him if he ever wants to lean on us.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Just finished reading Persepolis: The story of a childhood and Persepolis 2: The story of a return by Marjane Satrapi.

I don't have any words to describe them. If you haven't read these books yet, you should.

The books were recommended by Cartoonist Sunil.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Time passes you by

A chapter is closed
And long forgotten;

A word, tossed out
Against one unspoken.

For the right time,
For the right words,

You wait to speak;
Time is passing you by...

Young suns rise
When the tired ones set

Yet another day,
Yet another time;

Seize the chance-
Before it's too late!

Do you not see
Time passing you by?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The President of India

"Do you know what I will be when I am big?" my son said to me in utmost confidence one day at lunch.

"What?" I said, without much interest. So far he has wanted to be an astronaut, a football player and a skating teacher, among other things I could barely remember.
"The President of India," he said.

I raised my eyebrows. That was definitely a new one.

"Yes," he said, seeing my surprise. "You know why?"
He asks too many questions, believe me. More than that, he wants me to ask him the right questions. "Why?" I said.

"Because I know what is the most important duty of the President of India." Then he waited for me to ask.
"What is that?" I duly obliged.

"To save people and protect people." He launched into an explanation of the save-and-protect clause. "If someone gets into trouble like, like, like, if they fall into the sea or a pool or something, he should help them, right? Like that. He should help people."

Pranab-da, I hope you're listening.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

When you take up your tools

They say writing is a lonely job. I have seen enough of it to agree. No one can chip in and do it for you, nor can you delegate it. You do not even want anyone to help you with it.

No one knows your story like you do. You raise it like a baby. You nurture it and care for it and prepare it for life. When it goes out to face the world, you fear if it is going to fall and get hurt.

You toil alone, for the most part. You fight your battles alone, you face your demons alone, and, win or lose, you endure alone. Friends can only stand to one side and say, 'I hear you.' They can inspire you, encourage you, motivate you but they cannot share your frustration. When you want to bang your head against the wall, you don't want them to bang it for you.

You try to see through the eyes of your characters all the time that sometimes you forget to see through your own. And you most definitely fail to see through the eyes of the real people around you.

Real problems are not problems any more unless they serve the purpose of appearing in your writing.

You force others to find their solutions, and inadvertently look for yours within your own world.

You sometimes feel the pain of your characters more than your own.

You abandon things and desert people, and feel guilty for doing so. And it's no fun feeling guilty.

Writing isn't all about writing. It isn't only about writing. It's a whole lot of things apart from it. And not all good.

But, when you take up your tools and begin to create, it makes everything worthwhile.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

4 one-liners to live by

1. No harm in asking! Poochne mein kya hai?
Seriously! If you don't get the answer you seek, that's that. It's over, and done with. But by all means, ask. What's the harm in asking?
(Poochne mein kya hai is a famous tagline in an advertisement. That did inspire, though I didn't buy the product, whatever it was.)

2. What do I have to lose? Mera kya jaata hai?
This is a corollary of the first, but it does have its own existence.
When I desperately need the courage to do something, that's what I tell myself. What do I have to lose, dammit?

3. Who cares, anyway? 
My colleague (alias friend) and I often spend a long time after preparing a sophisticated email, asking each other, "Shall we send it?" "Shall we send it?" We're terrified that we may not have verified its contents properly, and may have overlooked something.
Finally when we are tired of procrastinating, and are ready to let go, one of us tells the other, "Who cares, anyway? No one's going to read it."
That statement kind of releases our tension like no other.
Until the next time we have an email to send.

4. Better to have tried and lost than never to have tried at all.
So that, at the end, we can tell ourselves, at least I had the courage to try.