Tuesday, December 24, 2019

How do you think the world's going to end?

According to my early morning dream, it's alien invasion. Not your regular, creepy, six-tentacled, three-eyed, human-sized alien. These are insect-sized. Of all shapes.

Small they may be, but they arrive in large numbers. And we have no escape. Our planet is doomed.

The story begins deep in the heart of Kerala... Actually I've no idea where I am. I've forgotten the backstory. I just remember I'm there for work. There's a mountain range at a distance. And the place looks like a Kerala village. Somewhere I've been, in some forgotten past.

I know the name of the mountain. (But I've forgotten that too, now.) We know everything, in dreams.

As we stand there admiring it, one side of the mountain goes up in a tremendous blast. It's too far away but we feel the tremor.

We've no idea what happened.

A little later, probably hours, as we stand watching, a building closer to us explodes as if a bomb was dropped on it. This time debris fall towards us... We are thrown backwards.

With an eerie instinct we have in dreams, I realise what's going on.

I pick up my phone and call my mother.

I know she would see the news and be worried.

I tell her that this place is going up. I know it's goodbye. I can see her in my mind, holding the phone and staring at the TV, too shocked to even react.

More time has passed... On the river close to our place, we see small boats, thousands of them with colourful sails, they just keep coming...

And I remember, again with that knowledge we get only in dreams, that I've heard this somewhere:

They come in boats.

The next part is sketchy. We run, we hide; we see small insect-like creatures crawling and rolling all over the ground, over everything they see. They have eyes, but pretty much nothing else, except an urge to crawl over and destroy everything in their path. Just swarming everywhere.

A few of us escape from view, acting dead... And dash to an abandoned shed.

We peek through the window, it looks okay.

We go in and close the door. We turn around...

only to see, the room is already filled with these creatures.

It's over. There's nowhere else to go.

Nothing else to do.

We look at each other, my friends and I, smile knowingly, and we hug. At least we have each other.

We're ready.

I feel them creep over my feet.

I hold my friend tight.

And I wake up. Here, in this world, in my bed.

(It's just like Inception. If we die there, we wake up here.)

I remember the feeling. I was ready. I wasn't afraid. I knew there was nothing else to do.

It was time.

Thursday, December 5, 2019


Not a leaf moves.

Not a stone takes it upon itself

To roll to a side.

Not a tree desires to sway.

Not a vehicle arrives.

Not a human decides to stroll this way

Nor a pet or a stray.

I open my eyes.

Leaves are rustling.

Trees are swaying in the wind.

Cars swoosh past,

Flinging pebbles to the flanks

Cats meow eerily

Busy dogs sprint along

For no purpose

The world moves on.

I shudder and I...

close my eyes again.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

When you scroll down...

If you are going to scroll down the pages

Know that you will encounter my Life

What you have known, what you haven't

What you have felt, or haven't suspected

What will shock you, send you reeling

What will calm you, or astound you

What will make you nod and say

I have known this all along

What will make you marvel

Or will disappoint you

You'll find philosophy

You'll find silliness

You'll find half-cooked thoughts

You'll find abandoned efforts

And promising plot-lines

That never quite made it anywhere

You'll see my dreams

Concealed well or peeping out

You'll find reminders

You'll find secrets

You'll find almost everything.

But there will still be a part of me

That I haven't written down

That's mine alone

To die when I'm gone.

They don't emerge from between the lines

They're buried deep in my mind.

When you scroll down these pages

And encounter my Life in words...

Make sure you treat it with care

Because you now hold

My living, beating heart in your hands

Thursday, September 5, 2019

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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Quirk of Fate

​The only reason
You're scrubbing
The floors outside,
On all fours,
While I'm seated
Before the TV
Relishing a delicious meal...

Why you're seated
Beneath an unkind sun
Burning your shoulders
Begging for alms
While I sit in a cab
Ordering food through an app...

Why your child
Doesn't know school
Whereas mine speaks
Of higher education
And choices
And contentment...

The only reason
I'm here
And you're there
Is a strange
Quirk of fate...

Something carried over
From an earlier life?
Or someone's cruel joke?
A game of life
where some always lose?

Who decides
Where I go and where you?
Nothing I have done;
Nothing you haven't done.
Our paths have been drawn
Before we were born.

It's as though I was
Given a head start.
For reasons
Neither you
Nor I
Could fathom.

You and I are
through mutual need,
across the closed doors
and thick walls
And the chasm between us.

I'm given the chance
To give you a hand
And raise you
To your feet
Or to turn my back on you
And abandon you
To your fate.

Saturday, August 10, 2019


I opened the door and peeped in. I had gone back to get an umbrella.

She wasn't there so I called and asked aloud for an umbrella.

Still no response, but the balcony door was open so I stepped out. She was there, in her favourite chair, watching the drizzle. I had left her just a moment ago, but the face I saw was not the same.

She looked bewildered. As though the raindrops perplexed her. As though they were not supposed to be there. As though she was wondering what they were.

"Hey," I said, and explained why I was back.

She looked around, blinked and came back ---to this world.

A shiver spread through her. There was a breeze, and it was cold, but not that cold. She looked frail to me, all of a sudden. Frail and weak and... unprotected.

No, she wasn't. The shiver had given me that notion.

"Umbrella," she said and began wandering through the rooms. "Umbrella."

She doesn't have much use for one, I realised, for she rarely went out. Perhaps to the store nearby, or to get a haircut. She could choose her time. She need not go when it was raining.

"It doesn't matter," I said. "Don't bother."

But she was on the prowl and nothing could stop her. Muttering to herself, as to where she had seen it last. I just stood there, watching. Thinking. She was like a tiger in a cage. Searching, seeking, restless. In her eyes, the memory of wilderness lost, never to be found again. Wrapped in a cloak of solitude. Isolated. Desolated. Neglected. Abandoned. Forgotten. Yet living, as only some can.

She found it finally, but by that time the rain was over. It was just a drizzle after all.

She went out again and gazed at the light. She took a cloth and wiped a few drops off the railings. Had she forgotten my presence already?

I wondered if I should stay a little longer. She still had the wild look in her eyes. Just a few minutes ago we had had lunch together and she was a different person.

Now she was enveloped in this shroud.

It was strange.

But was it, really?

I had been conscious of this quiet transition. The shadow had been gaining on the light, in small steps. Today, my reappearance had brought her back. Tomorrow, she would wade into it for longer, and the next day, even longer, until one day she would pass entirely into the darkness.

We all lead two lives, a day and a night. As long as they exist in their own halves, we appear normal. For some, the light chases away the darkness; for others, the darkness shadows the light. There's an overlap that's normal; a shadow region with varying depths that's acceptable. And solitude, an overdose thereof, often lets the darkness in, gradually. We may even allow it to grow on us. The dark side is like a thrill - we know it is leading us astray, that it is shattering us to pieces, but we need its trance, if only to dampen the effects of our inexorable righteous thoughts.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

We (Must) Matter

The one thing we are all afraid of, deep down - however we try to mask it with trivial and flashy occurrences of daily life or by exposing ourselves to desperate acts - is being irrelevant, becoming insignificant. Of passing through life without achieving anything of significance, without leaving a trace behind. Of reaching the end of our journey and wondering what we had done with the time we were bestowed. What extraordinary thing had we done that justifies our time on this planet? Or even, how exceptionally well did we perform the ordinary tasks of life, if at all our life wasn't meant to be remarkable? Something must stand out. We must be content at the end - that is our expectation. We must have mattered, to someone, somewhere. Our presence must have made a mark in someone's life. Preferably for the better. Sometimes even that is not enough.

All our antics are aimed at proving to ourselves and to the rest of the world - whoever be watching, whoever be remotely interested - that we are not immaterial, that we do leave a scratch behind, deep or negligible, that a grain of sand has shifted because we existed...

If everyone shifts the same old grains of sand, our efforts become ordinary, compelling us to begin again, a short distance from where we had started, and add to our efforts to edge forward, rolling up huge globes of clay without seeming to, pushing them up the hill and letting them roll back down... often without a spot of hope. Because each life matters; must matter... we must make a difference...

Everything we do boils down to this unconscious, and sometimes glaringly conscious, dread of being moored, through the relentless passage of time. Of being motionless when the World, in its infinite hurry, passes us by.

A Fear of Having Done Nothing.

A Fear of Not Making the Best Out of This Life.

A Fear of Not Grabbing Opportunities as They Flashed Past.

A Fear of Not Having Knocked on Doors Hard Enough.

A Fear of Regretting Doing Nothing.

"The Cab is at the Door. The Letter is in your hand. All you need is a touch of Courage..." 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019


Death knocked on my doors unexpectedly that day. 
Let me take a moment to consider the word. 
Was it really unexpected? 
Is death really unexpected?
Don't we know we will all die?
I knew she will die. Not that I had thought of it, even once. 
Some day. (What a wonderfully optimistic word it is: "some day".)
It is an awareness. It is not a conscious knowledge.
Not something we spend even a minute on, unnecessarily.
On the other hand, it was her husband who had been sick. For whose treatment she used to borrow money.
So that's why it was unexpected. 
Subconsciously perhaps, we expected him to pass first. As though... 
It's unpleasant when we put it into words like that. We never expected him to die either.
That had not been a real thought we spent our time on, either. An consciousness, a belief, somewhere deep within.
But if that had happened, we would have nodded. Yes, he was sick. It was bound to happen, sooner or later. 
She had been missing for a few days. Gone away, we were told. Which was true. She fell sick during her final journey. A pilgrimage? A vacation? Or a final duty to fulfil?
No one really learned when the transition to a hospital happened. A surgery followed. 
All in a matter of days. 
The next thing we see is her body wrapped in a cloth. Cotton in her nose and ears. Bloated face.
A mere shadow of herself. 
Because we expect nothing to change. 
We expect tomorrow to be just as uneventful as today.
We complain about its uneventfulness, mundaneness, stagnant boredom - even when, in a way, we're grateful for it. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Primitive Art of Conversation

I have been walking around with a list for a while. Taking deep breaths every now and then. Putting the piece of paper down, and picking it up again. Fiddling my fingers and contemplating running away. You may suspect it is a list that could shatter a few worlds, or something as powerful. Sorry to disappoint you: it's my grocery list for the day. Or week, if you like, if you are a systematic person. Me? I just call up the shop whenever I remember an urgent item or two to purchase. And they deliver. I can pay with my card; they don't insist on cash. Easy-peasy. I have been calling them for over ten years. They know me now. The people who pick up the phone, if they have a moment to spare, ask about my well-being. I ask about theirs. So why am I trying to postpone the very simple, delightful task of ordering a few items which will be delivered to my door within the hour?

The answer is: I don't know. I try to put off calling the shop as much as I can. Almost until every necessary item in the kitchen has run out and there is no more escape if the family has to survive.

I have been doing some thinking and it occurs to me: I don't want to talk. Sad though it sounds, it is the truth. How much do I talk to people now? Very less. Everything happens via the phone - the very device which was invented for people to converse, is being used these days to do anything but. Almost every task gets done with enough amount of punching on the keypad or screen, not a word needs to be spoken.

Think about it: Family updates come via group chats. News from around the world pop up as messages; friends send their updates through social media. You can check at your leisure. You can reply at your convenience. Or ignore altogether, if you like. Food gets delivered, cabs line up at your door, books can be read, movies can watched - if you just know where to click. If you want to report a faulty telephone or know your bank balance, you don't need to say a word. Just dial, follow the recorded voice and keep pressing the keypad for the right amount of numbers. If you want to ask your neighbour something, send her a message and wait for her reply.

Here I must pause a moment to acknowledge people who still like to hang from their phones for hours on end, talking, talking, talking, dissecting every little detail, regardless of whether their curry is burning in the kitchen or whether the world stopped spinning on its axis. Off the top of my head, I can recall at least five acquaintances. Thankfully, not everyone is afflicted with my strange illness. (I shudder at the thought of having to call these acquaintances.)

Except for this grocery list, most of my purchases are the outcome of my punching on their respective apps. It's like magic, isn't it?? Tap, tap, type, type, click and voilà! What you seek is in your hand. (Accio Firebolt!)

The only reason I haven't moved my grocery purchase to a very inviting app (of a different shop) that does not require a reading aloud of my list, is a sense of loyalty to this shop, a loyalty which is at its flimsiest at this point of time - just because of the painful job of having to say, "Hello, I am calling from... Can you please send me..." I am impatiently waiting for my shop to develop an app: they are still taking baby steps. Perhaps it would be a clever idea for me to remind them: "Business isn't bad even without the app; but for how long?"

If this trend keeps up, people might find a method to avoid talking even face-to-face. Perhaps a technique would develop wherein we could just fiddle our fingers and the thought appears before the eyes of our spouse. We won't ever have to look anyone in the eye. Reminds me of the world of the future as depicted in the movie Wall-E.

Just as I begin to worry over the vanishing art of speech, comes the newest kid on the block: the talking / responding / obeying box of an assistant, currently immobile, but a precursor to the metallic dwarf-like creature that would soon trail after us and bring us tea. As of now, the orders are to be given via voice. Alexa, for God's sake call up the damn shop and order groceries! What am I paying you for! On one side, we are getting rid of conversation with humans; on the other, we have to parley with the non-living, to get things done. I am quite speechless at human progress. The future holds so much promise in the art of making conversation, don't you think?

Meanwhile the grocery list beckons. So what if sugar and salt and rice have run out, and the kitchen is empty, and the family starves? Perhaps I should throw loyalty to the wind and install that promising app of the other shop.

Loyalty prevails for one more day... I pick up the list again and gather courage to make that one dreaded phone call...

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Remember, they don't get paid...

This Mothers' Day... Show some support - to the women in your life.

Look around, what are they doing? The mothers, wives, daughters and sisters...

Do you only see them relaxing on the sofa or catching a show on television?

Or chatting with friends on Whatsapp, or gossiping and laughing?

Do you think they are enjoying life, just as free as you are?

Do you think they are taking life too casually?

Look closer: are they not doing something more,

Something right before your eyes, but always out of your sight ?

Things you always knew, but never gave a thought to:

And if at all you did, it would be to say,

"God, I'm glad I don't have to do this!"

Who dusts the shelves? Who cleans the table?

Who picks up the clothes you have strewn around?

Who switches off the lights after you've walked out of the room?

Who reminds you to pay the bills?

Who washes the clothes, hangs them out to dry,

And folds them so you find them ready to use?

Who makes the bed, who waters the plants?

Who takes the garbage out every day or the dog for a walk?

Who makes sure the maid cleans the room every day?

Who ensures the family has a meal on the table daily?

Who teaches the kids to do the right things, over and over again?

Who keeps track of school activities, homework and exams?

Who balances the finances of the family?

Who buys the grocery? Who cleans the toilet?

Who do you blame if any of this is not done?

And if this were not enough, most of them have

A job to keep up with, and its own share of pressure.

Are they not doing most of the above, if not all?

And if the best you can do is say, "I am grateful

I don't have to do these", then think again:

At least pause a moment. See what they do.

Acknowledge their efforts, help when you can,

Because they may be too proud to ask for help.

Or they may be tired of asking and not getting any.

Don't mock them, don't ignore their cries if they complain.

Stop what you're doing and appreciate their efforts

For they're doing what you hate to do.

You have them to fall back on: they may have no one.

Remember, they don't get paid: not even with a word of gratitude.

Yet they have to do over and over, this cycle of boring chores.

Neglect may break a woman's spirit, and so would ingratitude.

She is not quiet because she is content,

She may be quiet because she has lost her confidence.

Spare a kind word, a thoughtful gesture,

Show some gratitude, make her smile.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Fear of Change is worse than Change itself

It's not that you were not expecting a Change. You have been, for years. Even so, it must be admitted that you were not exactly "prepared". Even when you know what's coming, (and you hope it isn't) you deny the possibility of it ever happening, and so you're never quite sufficiently ready.

You knew it was bound to happen. Eventually. Eventually was so far away that, when it did happen, you were almost taken by surprise. 

All these years you had scraped by, because you had fallen between the cracks and gone unnoticed. 

Suddenly the Change you feared looms before you like a huge, dark, undecipherable shadow. All you want to do is turn tail and vanish. But running away is not an option. 

The only way is forward.

A long dark tunnel appears. You don't know how long it is going to take for you to emerge on the other side. Perhaps days. Perhaps years. Perhaps this lifetime. 

You lived your life right, according to principles. According to morals. You held on to integrity. Honesty. You followed all the rules. If there is such a thing as Destiny, then maybe the tunnel will not be that long. Because you lived right. You can only hope. 

You see clearly before you - how your own choices in the past have brought you here. If anyone is to blame, it is yourself. With the veil before your eyes that prevent you from seeing tomorrow, you did the best you could do. If one could see tomorrow, one's choices may be different. But then, the tomorrow you foresaw would no longer exist.

In spite of your correct decisions, you were taken by surprise by the twists and turns of life. 

There is nothing to do. Pause; and reflect. Are you making the best decision based on everything you know, at this moment? Then, open your eyes wide and step into the darkness. Your eyes will adjust. There will be a light at the end. (There has to be. If not, there is nothing you can do, anyway.) You can take that crucial step only by telling yourself that you did the best you could. Courage comes from that firm belief.

From there on, there is only one thing left to do. 

You keep going.

One step at a time.

Monday, April 8, 2019


​There's no escape
From the frightening
Circle of life
A chaos of terrifying routines
One falling over the other
In senseless abandon...

We're all prisoners
Of our own conscience.
Addicted to sacrifice,
Brought up to believe
In selflessness.
To break away is to be Free.

Hanging ourselves
From the rigid
Ceiling of expectations
With the rope called love;
The noose called duty
Shrinking daily...

Freedom comes with
Tiny doses of
Courage and recklessness
You may be born with
Or you learn and develop
With awareness

One almost begins to
Long for a morrow
That brings Disaster!!
If it would make a dent in life
A hole in the ground
For weeds to spring forth...

I'm a slave to Routines...

Tuesday, March 19, 2019


How difficult Goodbyes used to be... for those who remember a time before the gadgets of today. You meet someone, make friends, and then it is time to part. As the last day approaches, you realise that there is nothing you can do to push it a little farther. You have to go your separate ways. You exchange postal addresses and landline numbers, and promise to keep in touch. And it happens too, for a short while. Then one day it stops.

Today at least we have the luxury of knowing they are always at the other end of our phone. If we miss them, all we have to do is ping. Text them, call them, video call them. Or read up their updates on Facebook.

But how does one bid farewell to one's Dreams? There does come a point when, after much deliberation and struggle, we realise that it is time to give up. Stop, let go, and move on. For reasons that cannot be generalised. Or explained. Or even understood. Not a screeching halt, perhaps; a sputter, a jerk, a roll and... it comes to rest. The decision may not be made lightly or quickly; it could happen over the course of months or years. If we are unlucky, it would just snap out of the blue, leaving us unprepared and flailing.

There is a Goodbye looming in my horizon; and there is nothing I can do to prevent it. I have been fighting tooth and nail to keep it away. But there is only so much one can do - what is bound to happen will happen. You can only try to find satisfaction in that you tried your best. It doesn't work all the time.

How does one say Goodbye to a Dream, and to the people that come with it? Only Time can tell. Only Time can heal.

Or so they say.

Friday, March 8, 2019


Yesterday, it was too far away.
Now I am closer by a day.

This moment is beautiful - the anticipation:
The dreams, the possibilities, the expectation

For which I have so yearned;
Not yet arrived, nor been ruined

What I desire may come out well
Or, if luck so desires, go downhill

There is yet hope, at this instant -
Tomorrow may bring resentment

The precise point in time to find
The courage it leaves behind

To face the result, come what may -
To rise afresh in the dawn of day

Not a moment too soon, not one too late
What is life, if not an endless wait

For what the morrow brings?
The heart must take to its wings...

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Spare me the wisdom...

Dr House was right. People don't change. Our attitude to things or approach to certain circumstances may change over time from experiences or from the right type of upbringing, but our deep instincts, never. At best, we learn to pretend that we are not thinking what we are; or to smother our raw emotions; or to present a polished exterior while dealing with our inner wilderness.

At certain moments, however, under the right amount of pressure, the real 'we' that with difficulty we had kept suppressed shatters the mask and springs forth...

If we are prepared to accept that people are like that, and they may open their eyes but will never really change, it puts us in a better position: for one thing, we realise our efforts to change them aren't going to work - which is frustrating of course, but then it is relieving as well. It sets us free.

I have been battling a demon of my own for many years. All this while, all these encounters, always the same outcome - and yet, I have not tamed the beast nor trained it nor brought it into any kind of control. It deludes me into thinking it is asleep or even dead; and when least expected, awakens with a roar, and rears its head, completely overpowering me. A battle of the brain and the heart, one might call it. The one, always pragmatic, always ready with wise counsel, eventually bows to the other, foolish, impulsive, adventurous. Every now and then, the cycle repeats, over and over. Tossing me up and down; and from north to south.

A string of disappointments follow, but interestingly, no regrets. Experiences, aren't those what we live for? Memories of adventures past, aren't those the only things that remain with us, when all else is lost?

There's no escape - ultimately I have come to terms with that fact. One can resist only for so long. The only way forward is to walk through the fire. Because there definitely is reprieve, on the other side. Besides, I know the road. I have taken it countless times.

I pretend that no one knows of the existence of the slumbering beast but I. Honestly, I have no idea. It must show, somehow or the other, a sudden flash. Our true nature cannot be hidden for long. I cannot change, but now that I know it, I can better equip myself for the stroll through fire.

I suppose I am grateful though. But for the existence of the demon and the unrest it drives me into, I would not be writing nonsense like this at all. Any writing, whether to a specific purpose or otherwise, is fuel to the fire of creativity. When the war rages on, as it takes me through its ups and downs, and stifles me with its maddening persistence, I find an outlet, an escape, an energy - in words.

This demon... this sleeping giant... and the battle I have to wage every day...

Thursday, February 7, 2019

We are capable of magic

Why do we read stories?

For entertainment? For a distraction? For learning something new? For living a thousand lives without moving an inch from our seat?

All of the above, of course. And more.

But we also read to find answers. It's like opening an holy text when you're worried, and finding the answers you seek, on the random page you chose. Even in a depressing novel that ends in tragedy, you might find what you are seeking. A sliver of thought, a fragment of philosophy, a shred of an idea. A ray of hope.

Lately I have been finding answers everywhere, in every book I read. Every author has something new to show me. No, they don't solve my problems - if only they could! I've to do the solving all on my own. But they shine a new light on the darkness. They show me something I have forgotten or I have never known. They don't help me with my choice, but they stand by me when I make mine. They expand our horizons and remind us of possibilities.

But when we write, we cannot think of the lessons we ought to leave behind for the reader to find. The moment we do that, the purpose is defeated.

Which, for some reason, reminds me of the water beetle.

“The waterbeetle here shall teach 
A sermon far beyond your reach; 
He flabbergasts the Human race 
By gliding on the water's face 
With ease, celerity, and grace; 
But if he ever stopped to think 
Of how he did it, he would sink.”
- Hilaire Belloc

I come from a book crazy family. Everyone in my immediate circle could be found poring over a book or a magazine; always going to the library to discover something interesting; always talking of books, new and old. I never thought twice about it. I suppose I believed unconsciously that every family was like that. Much later, when I made friends with people who "never read much" I was stunned that such people did exist.

I leave you with a beautiful thought from the inimitable Carl Sagan: "Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic."

(Photo: Sapna Book store, Elements Mall, Bengaluru)

Monday, January 28, 2019


Sometimes life takes us to a pinnacle -
Just to show us the view:
How far we have come,
How far yet to go.

The treacherous climb we've undertaken
The barriers on our path we've broken

A rare glimpse before we walk on
Down and up the next hill
Of how our choices shaped our road;
How our lessons lead us on.

Thoughtless, impulsive decisions
Led to life changing situations...

Looking farther back; we'd see
The point where our life diverged;
We chose - yes, it was our own choice;
WE have shaped our future.

The lonesome, twisting trail did promise
The adventures we sought.

You break a twig, you make a way
You step on mud, You walk in rain;
You make your mark in history
Tiny, barely visible. Or gigantic.

Our choices have opened new doors
Our thoughts have led to actions

It's our eternal discontentment 
And our never-ending yearning
That fuel our search, push us on
They drive us up the hill...

Saturday, January 5, 2019


I wake up, over a hundred years ago, in a civil war, where I am digging the debris for the rest of my unit. We were blown off the face of the earth by the enemy who knew we had no choice but to march forward and be devastated by their canons... The handful of us who are alive are frantically searching, digging, without a shred of hope...

Sometimes I am on this side of the war, sometimes that. No one knows why they are fighting, but they are bound by duty and some by a misplaced sense of hatred. A few firmly believe the war is right. Most have no clue.

I am digging, and digging - I find a hand - torn from the rest of his body...

Now I stand at a critical moment in history, as an important declaration is made that would change the course of the world.

No. I am the one making the declaration - which is carried across the country and possibly the globe. Which is recorded and listened to, numerous times by the generations yet to come. "... and consequently, this country is now at war with Germany..."

Don't mingle with the natives, they say. A picnic at the Caves sounds like a terrible idea. East is East... "Make yourself at home, Aziz."

I am in the twenty first century. Looking out the window at a countryside I have never seen. Its beauty escapes me. Everything looks lifeless because I have lost everything. And everyone. The journey I have to undertake terrifies me and, in all likelihood, is bound to end in failure.

Slaves - I see them suffer. I suffer with them. I surrender before their eyes. I have no promise to give them but more suffering.

I've loved and lost. Go fight for it, says the dying old man.

I am travelling into space, far from the world I have known, searching for a new home. Searching for a man who had run away, a long time ago.

A country is born at midnight. I fling stones at my own brothers and sisters as I follow my people towards the border...

I've survived. Battered and bruised, but alive. Barely.

Bengaluru, 2019, and a Life I can barely understand. The hand I have dug out of the ground grasps my arm. I writhe and struggle and I declare: "Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny... " The slaves will be free. Tell them not to lose hope, it is only a matter of days. There is nothing to see in the Caves. Only darkness - and madness. My ship plunges into the stars looking for an ancient power to help us. "Make yourself at home, Aziz." "May I really, Mr Fielding?"

I am trapped - with mirrors all around me. I see a thousand versions of myself - but are they all me?

These stories... they consume me. They aren't stories, they are Life. They are Hope. They're Guidelines. They're Reminders.

I live and breathe in them.

When do I step out from there and step into this life - the one I call real?

Where ends reality and where begins the illusion?