Sunday, March 31, 2013

Death March

My son often asks me, pointing to two of his toys, whether I like this one or that. His red car or his black car. His cricket ball or his football.  Sometimes he asks if I like Wednesday or Thursday. I would tell him, I don't know. I don't particularly like either.
He would raise his eyebrows incredulously: You don't like them?
Of course I like them, I would reply. I like both.
But which one do you like better?
I do not know how to explain to him that I do not hold any sentiment for this car or that, this ball or that, this day or that (except Fridays of course). I like them if he likes them. So I would choose one, with no reason or emotion or thought attached to it, though as soon as my decision is made public, he begins to analyse my choice. Which is a story for another day.

But if he were to ask me which was the month of the year that I disliked the most, I do not think I would hesitate much before answering.

March is one of those months that was born at the wrong time, and is much despised for no fault of its own. One could almost feel sorry for it. (Just as one could feel sorry for Mondays.)

Since time immemorial, March has been associated with exams (at least in this part of the world). Children dread it even while they look forward to it because it means the end of school term and a long, sprawling summer vacation ahead - filled with games and fun with cousins and splashing in the river and crawling in the mud and slurping on ripe mangoes and munching crisp banana chips.

But wait - all this fun and chips and mangoes and cousins and splashing come in April and May. After March. March is the final hurdle, the big, thick, high, unkind, brick wall that you have to climb over first (there is no escape, no hole to scrape through like the wooden hedges in your village where you would be heading, come April).

After the end of that phase, the exams and school and college behind us forever, the month would continue to make its appearance every year (grinning in a sadistic way) with a test of a different kind. Called Appraisals. Which are nothing compared to the terrors experienced so far in life; which for most of us, most of the time, would signify no up-raising, it would be more like a down-fall. Long gloomy faces, teary eyes, angry words and a few, rare, proud happy giggles (invoking a lot of jealousy around) would be the sights that greet you along the office corridors.

For some, March is also synonymous with the woes of financial year ending. One could almost hear the crescendo - rising to a pitch, the pounding of the drums, the screech of the violins, the boom of the saxophone, (I know I have messed it up, FY ending is indeed a mess) - and then all of a sudden at midnight on the 31st, all fall silent as though someone has died, which it certainly has - at the stroke of midnight, the eventful month (dragging the financial year with it) falls to its grave.

Every year, we know what March means, we prepare ourselves for what it could throw at us, we expect the worst, really, but March would never disappoint. It could always brew a dose of something nasty, something never witnessed before and it would hold it right before our eyes, making us drool, making us hope, making us dream, making us optimistic beyond our wildest imagination, and then - it would toss it at our cheery visages, casually, gently, even lovingly, and perhaps chuckle to itself while it watches us burn under the acid-like attack, scarred for life, shoving us one more inch closer to the beasts we will eventually become.

It has that power to give us hope, the hope that keeps us alive, the hope that kills us when it dies. It has that super power, one would think, to trample over one's destiny as easily as if it were strolling on the beach.

I, for one, am glad that March is taking its final breaths of air.
Rest, March, for the time being, in Peace.
For you give us no Peace while you're here.

Monday, March 25, 2013

When the pin drops

The seas end their ravaging
The skies roar no more
The ground stops trembling
The silence turns eerie

They wait for the shock
The rumoured pin to drop
The trees would rustle again
But Life can't be the same

Not a stone, not a rock,
Is the pin when it drops,
Big, loud and destructive
A bomb to quake the earth.

To shatter the doors of confidence
To crack the walls of trust
To wrack the nerves of men
To crumble faith to dust

To break the bonds of love
To turn their hearts to stone
The tremor of aftershocks
Scurry the frightened mice

The ones that see the mist
And look further beyond
See the door has opened
New ventures yet to launch...

Sunday, March 17, 2013


There was this Russian movie I watched about a million years ago. That was the time the Indo-Soviet collaboration was at a dizzying peak - remember the "Festival of the USSR in India"? Yes, those times. Those unreal, exciting times when cool Russians walked down the streets in small town Trivandrum amidst wide-eyed naatukar, and you got to enjoy their amazing (read, eye-bulging) performances every evening for a week or so as they travelled from city to city. Remember the breath-taking Swan Lake? Remember the graceful Cossack dances? I had never before seen such perfection and coordination in any dance form. Their magicians performed unbelievable tricks I thought no one else in the world knew. I dreamed of nothing else for months afterward. That was (I believe) the first time I got to watch real foreign movies (we never considered English movies as foreign) dubbed into English. Amazing times.

As I was saying. This Russian movie was titled "The Great Space Journey"* (unfortunately, I cannot find a proper mention of it anywhere on the Net, and I do not know its Russian title), in which a group of kids go on a space trip. There is only one adult with them, but he stays away from them and when they need urgent help, they find him reading a book. He says, go and solve your problems yourself. At least I guess that's what he said. (I knew English a little more than I knew Russian, if you know what I mean.) So the kids go on to solve their problems themselves.

The point is, even though the man did not really say anything to help them, he did help them. Maybe just the fact that he was behind those doors was enough to give them confidence. When he didn't seem worried, their fears vanished. Maybe when he said, solve it yourself, he was actually telling them, You can do it. Try once more.

Everybody needs a mentor, you know. Even if he does not call himself your mentor, you know when someone is. Even if he isn't with you every step of the way, if you know he is around, your confidence soars sky high. Even in his absence you feel his support, intentional or not.

Without a person like that, sometimes you stray too much off the path. You may find your way back to the highway and learn a few odd short-cuts along the way, but you also run the risk of losing faith in yourself and giving up. Just because you are alone, disoriented and confused. And lost. You ask yourself, Where in the world am I? What in the world have I got myself into? You need someone other than yourself to say "Keep going. Try once more." Those words make you feel that the highway is perhaps right across that turning half a kilometre away, just out of sight. Your mentor might know, you think, which he why he asks you to keep going. He knows I am close. You are aware that he doesn't know everything either, but you tell yourself, as long as he doesn't give up, I won't either.

Your friends encourage you to keep going, too. But the difference is enormous when someone with authority, with experience, with knowledge, with confidence speaks up. Or doesn't.

You don't want him to point out the road to you. You don't want him to say, "Go North, cross the field, scale the fence." You can find your way, you can cut your own path. You can bear hardships and you can take disappointments and you can survive frustration. But sometimes you need a hand on your back, albeit for a second, to keep you from falling, a gentle touch that gives strength back to your body and courage back to your fraying nerves. He may read a book, or ignore you, or yell at you to leave him alone, but as long as he is around, you keep trudging.

You may never find the highway, but that's okay. As long as you don't give up and you "keep going", you may find a beautiful farmhouse and decide to settle down... or whatever that makes you happy.

Sometimes, all you need to get to the other side of the night is to hear someone - and not just anyone - advise you directly or otherwise to Keep going, try once more.

* Update: The movie's correct title is The Great Space Voyage, no wonder I did not find any mention anywhere. A friend found it for me.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Moonlight - oh, well!

I go to bed,
The room's well-lit,
Cool and warm and gold and white...

Midnight strikes,
It still flows in,
Embracing, Consoling Moonlight...

A gentle kiss
A soothing touch
To pierce the darkest night...

I open my eyes
Before Sunrise, and
There it is, the calming light...

I wish to see
What moon can last
Without fading the whole night...

Strange it seems,
Its persistence:
A sign to keep up the fight...

A mere moon
Can beat the dawn
Then so can I, with all my might...

And so I rise
To keep my goal within my sight...

At the window
Glowing, I see
The newly installed darn street light!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Thought for the week... Movies

No matter how many alien or monster movies we make, no matter how well the filmi citizens of the world group together (across cultures and races and nations) in the name of humanity to fight the disgusting beasts,...
... if ever a real hostile alien lands on the planet, we would still be grossly unprepared and bewildered and scattered and unorganised.

No matter how well the hero cleans up corruption or mercilessly throws the corrupt officials in jail,...
... the truth is that out here, corruption would remain for decades to come and thrive where it always had.

No matter how much the good guy tries to maintain things right and fair and and open and honest, no matter how well he earns the respect of the filmi public,...
... in reality, his slightest lapses get magnified and his biggest achievements get underplayed.

No matter how adamantly the good cop keeps up after the underworld or spites his crooked superiors to  get his way - and survives intact,...
... in the real world, the bad guys flourish and the good guys vanish into oblivion.

No matter how well-liked and popular a good man is in movies, no matter how he appears not to have any foes in life just because he is good natured,...
... a real such person would find enemies all around him just because of his goodness of heart.

No matter how much we know the movies are not real,...
... we watch them to see good prevailing over evil because the sight gives us hope, inspires us to believe that good things do happen, and also influences us to perform small, unconscious acts of kindness.

Because movies do invoke emotions deeper and real, sentiments that are concealed somewhere unseen within ourselves, beneath a pile of BS.

When the comedian delivers funny dialogs, we laugh and make jokes of our own.
When the hero feels sad, we cry. We find our own miseries reflected in his.
When a Mother showers love on her baby, we remember our Mothers and we remember our children.
When the nasty old man thrashes the little boy, we burn with rage, because we have known or experienced cruelty in life.
When the judge sends the terrorist to jail, we feel a sense of fairness and justice and peace wash over us.
When the hero ignored by his wife goes looking for love elsewhere, we feel his action is justified.
When a child misbehaves to his friend, we cringe because we have once done the same.

And if someone says violence in films does not invoke violence in us, they are kidding themselves.