Monday, December 30, 2013

Caution, it says

The orange beacon has begun to blink.
Slow, steadfast, determined. Silent.
Caution, it says. 

Don't rush, it says. Don't hurry.
Don't pause. Don't worry.
Just be careful.

There's a junction ahead.
And it's dark out there.
Take a deep breath. But don't close your eyes.

You know what it means.
You've been there before. 
You know the place.

But look again, something is not what it was.
Wait - it is you. 
You've changed.

You're approaching a crossroads.
Better be prudent. 
Better be safe.

You don't want to make the same mistakes you did last time.
But some errors can't be avoided. 
Some bruises have to be borne.

Caution, it says. Be alert.
This is not the place to relax.
This is not where you let go.

Cross it first. 
It shall pass. It has to.
Then you have all the time in the world to unwind.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Where's that Year again?

This Year...

... I saw ...

That hope can take you far, but it dies; optimism can take you far, that can die as well; a good, kind word can take you far, and its effect can die too. What really pushes you forward are results, small, significant, frequent.

That none of us are ever content with what we have, we want something more and it is this desire that makes us strive forward, it is the fire that sparks ambition, it is the strength that makes us live.

That trust, once shattered, can never be glued together to its original form.

That giving up is so much easier than fighting to make our dreams come true; but we fight because giving up kills us.

That doing something on an impulse is a good method to self-motivate, but impulsive decisions involving others is a terrible idea.

That everyone who enters our life is a memory to treasure, like a new book that we add to our bookshelf. They may gather dust or be eaten by insects if we do not take them out frequently, and the pages become yellow with time; but they exist nonetheless. We could pull them out one at a time and read the blurb and remember, oh that was a horror story - that was a comedy - God, that felt good - I don't want to remember this one, it is too painful even now....

That it would be a great idea to introduce Parenting Lessons in schools, rather than be surprised and lost every day of being a parent.

That there are walls you can scale, bridges you can cross and mountains you can climb, if you put an ounce of determination and dedication into it.

That there are times, though very very rare, when you find a tree in your path or a gate or a closed door that you cannot get past. However much you hammer or axe or plead or cry, they refuse to budge. And there comes a time when you realise that you are not fighting for what lies ahead, you are fighting merely because the thought that this structure has stopped me on my tracks, after I have come this far, after I have fought all the powers of the world, is too unbearable for your ego to handle. You have to bring it down at all costs, though you know very well that once the obstacle is gone, you would only walk back and not forward.

That there is nothing like going home.

That however much we plan for an event, when it happens, it takes us by surprise.

That it is difficult to choose between waiting for good things to come to us and going out to get them.

That ignoring someone is the worst punishment you can give; being ignored is the worst you can receive.

That we need to walk on fire to convince ourselves that fire could hurt.

That what we wish to remember evades our memory and what we wish to forget remains at the tip of our thoughts.

That communication separates humans from other living things, and our ascent as a species spins on our ability to communicate intelligently, and yet that is the one skill where we fail miserably.

That there are several ways you can support others, one of which is to step back and walk away.

That there are feelings that we can control, and there are those we cannot.

That the heart keeps the brain from making too prudent-and-practical decisions like a robot; and the brain keeps the heart from behaving like a child.

That if the trail looks difficult and impossible to cross, then that is the one intended for us. But if we do not want to take it, we only have to look closely to find a smaller path by the side, leading elsewhere.

That sometimes running away like a coward saves our lives.

That there is always time to watch a good movie or read an interesting book; there is always time to go out for a walk with your child; there is always time to chat with your friend; we can always make time, but only if we want to.

That it is possible to appreciate good art without thinking about the Who or What behind it.

That it is easy to believe we alone are responsible for our successes, whereas in reality each one of us is standing on the shoulders of giants.

That it is better to feel sorry about having done something than feel safe with a bunch of regrets for not doing it.

That sometimes guilt is a petty price to pay for stolen happiness.

That misfortunes do not knock on their way in.

That there is a huge difference between wanting to do it and doing it.

That there are many doors disguised as opportunities and if we need to find the right one, we need to keep knocking and keep trying.

That having the knowledge is one thing; putting it to practice is entirely another.

That, after all is said and done, if you don't take care of your life, no one else can.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Once Again!

Once again, I give up
Like I've done, only
A hundred times

Once again I forget
Or tell myself I do
Until the next wave

Washes over my efforts
(Cleans them spotless)
As if they never were.

Once again, I give up
Hoping this time, my
Resolve would be strong.

Once again, I know,
It's only a matter of time
Before I'm pulled in again.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Walk on

A long dark tunnel,
no light at the end of it,
no end at all in sight...
outstretched hands
encounter no wall,
uneven floor
trips one's foot to
stumble and fall;
a glance over the shoulder-
pitch black, is it
blindness or an absence of light?
if you turn around once
you lose direction
you trudge on,
falling and rising to your feet
'cause there is nothing else to do,
you must trudge on...
the battle is worst
when there is no battle to be fought
the battle is lost
when the walking is stopped.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Character Study: Hypocrisy?

She is pleasant and easy-going. You can tell her anything and be assured of her perfect response. If you crack a joke, she would laugh dutifully. If you are sad, she would offer comforting words. When you need the hard truth, she delivers them in a soft way, so as to cushion the impact. When you are upset, she acts as the sponge and absorbs a little of your anger. She never walks away.
In other words, she is the perfect person to be with.

But in truth, she hates working with you. She hates having to listen to your never-ending whines. She hates being forced to laugh at your lousy jokes, having to offer condolences to your endless miseries. But she and you are forced to be with each other, so she bears with you. She does not want you to know that she despises you, because she knows that is going to hurt you, the loner that you are. Never in this life will she be able to admit to you or show you through the slightest hint, that she is bored of you. You do not suspect, even for a moment, her aversion to your tales.

When she is overwhelmed with the weight of your stories, she spills it over to someone else, her close friend, of how tired she is of you.
Is she a hypocrite?

*Disclaimer: This is a character study, and any relation to anyone you know is purely coincidental.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How (not) to Spread a Rumour

He must have pondered over this for long. I can almost see his face, just as it was in his late teens, a series of expressions marching across it before breaking into a vile grin, as he proposed the name to the others. My name. I suspect he must have been the one to come up with the master plan too. Why don't we-? he must have said. And the others, the less creative ones looking up to him, must have nodded in agreement, their eyes shining in admiration at the sheer brilliance of the idea.

Even in that age, they knew how to spark a rumour. These girls, they must have whispered among themselves, they don't know how to start a fire, though they know very well to spread it. We need to show them the matchbox, the match stick and then gently suggest to them without seeming to, that these two could possibly ignite a fire or two.

The call came one sunny morning (yes, it was a Sunday). I was surprised - I was not expecting anyone to call. I was even more surprised to hear his voice. After some preliminary dialogs (carefully scripted, no doubt), he began in the utmost confidence:
Oh it's nothing. I just thought I should let you know. I have been pretty worried, and I thought someone sensible as you would know what to do.
My red flag went up. I knew him of course. But for a moment, I admit I faltered. I wasn't even twenty, for God's sake.
It's about - (he named a girl we knew). One of the guys (he named one) has a crush on her. Like a deep, terrible, unbearable crush, bordering dangerously on love. He cannot eat or sleep or sit or stand or study. I was just afraid someone would start to gossip about them or something. Don't tell her. Don't tell anyone.
I said okay, dontchaworry, my lips are sealed, and put the phone down. The red flag was still up and I wondered why.

It is important to note at this point that the dude knew nothing about me. Yes, you had figured it out when he suggested my extreme 'sensibleness', but otherwise too. If someone gave me a secret for safe-keeping, then I would protect it with my life (except when I blog about it a few decades later). It is also important to note that I am talking about a period on the other side of Y2K, and someone having a crush on you was like a disaster that has befallen you.

I went back and considered this bit of news. I felt sorry for my poor friend. What had she done to deserve a crush who could not eat or sleep because of her? What will her parents say if they heard this? No, there was no way I was going to tell her or anyone else. I did not want her to panic. I should not allow the rumour to spread, or anyone in the vicinity to gossip about her. My lips were sealed.

In the days that followed, when I met the dude who called me, I pretended as though the conversation on phone had never happened. When I saw the guy who had a crush on her, who looked all set to grab the attention everyone would soon shower on him, I narrowed my eyes, but I would pretend nothing was amiss. All the while I was looking out for some signs of people talking about it, ready to quell it at its slightest indication.

One week later - he could not contain himself any longer - he came and asked me how things were going. I hope you didn't tell anyone about what I told you.
Of course not, I said shaking my head vehemently. Not a soul.

When his face fell, it came to me in a burst of clarity, what my survival instinct had been trying to tell me all this while. He had been trying to point out the matchbox and the match-stick and suggesting fire. He had hoped the fire would spread and engulf us all. He probably thought he could watch proudly from the sidelines as the affair he had orchestrated hit a crescendo. On the one hand, I could not believe that I had been so used, on the other, (in the safety of my room) I could not stop chuckling. God, he had so chosen the wrong girl, poor dude.

I did tell my friend about it, a few weeks later, after I made sure the story about the crush had become too stale and not even the sootradhar and the 'crushed' were interested in it any longer. And if I remember right, we both had a good laugh at their expense.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Fall is Coming

"The Fall is coming, look."
"It's winter, already," you say,
"The Fall has come and gone."

"Look again," I insist;
"It's on its way. And we shall fall
Like the leaf, each alone."

"What's up with you?" you ask.
"The leaves shall spring again, of course;
The Fall returns next year."

"It's been coming for years,
Approaching slow and relentless.
It will be on us soon."

The leaf's always ignored,
for tasty fruits and pretty flowers,
Until it's time to fall.

The falling leaf is seen,
Colourful, melancholy, but
It's dead - and that's all.

Beyond the reach of words
That can hurt or prick or ignore.
The leaves will have moved on.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Like the Wind

Like the Wind*

When I slowly turned around, he still stood there, at the other end of the bridge, his hands thrust into his pockets, his face towards me. For the first time since I had known him, I could not read his face. I must have walked too quickly without realising it. My thoughts were too cluttered and clouded for me to notice how far I had come.

I tried to imagine what he must have been thinking: was it disappointment that he had failed again? Was it embarrassment for having spoken too soon, too openly? Was it pain? Was it understanding - did he know I would turn around when the shock passed, when hope dawned? Or was he just standing there, numb to all feelings, overwhelmed by a torrent of emotions? Was he thinking at all, in that moment?

And what about me? I was trying to shove away the choking emotion, by thinking of him. Why was I so concerned? Why was I shocked? Why had I walked away, like the wind? Was it because he had confessed his feelings so soon after my friend rejected him so shamefully? Was it because I hated to hurt my friend, though she no longer wanted him? Was it because I did not imagine him capable of such sudden shift of heart? Was it because he had been so surprised and so candid? Was it because I had known all along that he had been loving me and misunderstanding his own feelings? Was it because somewhere deep within myself, the ray of hope had always lain concealed, and it had darted to the surface at his words? Was it because it was unethical and wrong? Was it because when my friend did wrong, I was quick to admonish her, and now I was trying to pile up my dreams on top of her mistakes? Was it that I was trying to justify myself for feeling this way? Was it that I had been a stranger to happiness for such a long period of time that I did not know how to handle it when it came?

I was numb – with misery, confusion, desire. Everything had been so perfect – their life, as they had dreamed it. And in their perfection, I balanced my own. When they built their world, I found mine in it too. And all of a sudden, the accident and the strange change of mind of my friend. What it shattered was not theirs alone.

She seemed happy. And for a few minutes I had been angry. Her love had turned out to be fickle, and in her failure was my failure too. I had placed my trust on them, and how easily both had destroyed it! But now, as I looked back at him on the other side of the bridge, where I could barely see the wind playing at his hair, I saw my chance of happiness. I had played right into the hands of Love – unknowingly, unwittingly, like a fool. Love, from which I had run away; Love, in which I no longer believed; Love, which knew I would never approach it or allow it to approach; Love, that I thought I had seen in them; Love, that had shattered so many times than it had mended, and that still continued to spark. Love, whose existence I had denied.

In one moment, in a few words, a suggestion, a confession, he had turned my heart around. Where hope did not exist, he had planted it. Where love had wilted, he had blossomed it. Perhaps he was different, I knew he was different. But the fear would never leave. The fear would stop me for years from loving. And the fear of failing in love again would weaken the love. I feared it would all fall apart again, I feared getting hurt again. But I did not fear as much as I hoped.

As I looked at him, waiting, at the other end of the bridge, his pale face with the dark glasses across it unmoving, I knew it was better to hope than be hopeless; it was better to love than be unloving; it was better to desire than be empty of dreams; it was better to exist than lead a meaningless life.

Something must have showed in my movement, for I saw his chin raise slightly, as the evening breeze played harshly at the top of his hair, and he took a gentle, unintentional step forward.


* Inspired by a movie