Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Death Of A Dream

At the tender age of 14, Ashutosh was pretty much convinced about what he wanted to do in his life. In fact he was so much into doing that for the rest of his life that when people asked him about his career ambitions he would shoot back with conviction that he wanted to be an author. It took him some time to get used to the perplexed reaction that his answer almost invariably drew. Most would ask a subsequent question "No, I mean what do you plan to do for a living". Ashutosh would pause, wondering quickly the reason why the good man rephrased his question. He would simply restate what he had uttered a moment ago. Half would be totally forthcoming regarding their denigration of his idea. They found it totally unacceptable and they would put it forth in no uncertain terms. The other half would be slightly subtler. They would wryly comfort Ashustosh as if they knew the fate of his dream. Their wryness being ostensible even to a 14 year old. His parents, especially his father, never spoke, forget discuss, a word when the topic of his son's career was raised. This left quite an innocent impression on Ashutosh's mind that he had his father's support.
Years passed and Ashutosh stepped into more decisive stages of academics. Ones which significantly mattered in preparing him for the battle of job-bagging. His parents had blissfully forgotten about their son's aspirations. One might call it a natural outcome of the sincerity and fervor with which Asustosh pursued the subjects of his syllabus.  This camouflaged, much to his own detriment,  his true craving. Not many understood that his academic sincerity owed itself to the simple fact that Ashutosh was inherently an honest and sincere lad. He miserably lacked in abilities required for being deceitful. He did with verve whatever he undertook. Hence nobody cared to see through his surface to find his inner cravings, the true destination where his heart aimed at. Ashutosh's family struggled to make ends meet. His father had been an eternal struggler in finding success, hence wealth. His mother took temporary jobs in schools of the neighbourhood. But they caused more harm than gain. She would toil there mainly because she liked teaching. But the salary was always paltry. That defeated the whole point. Passing a single day seemed impossible. Nothing seemed to work. He would often overhear relatives comforting his parents by saying that their son would definitely salvage their future. The hopes of everyone cast on him a palpable burden. Everything now rested on his shoulders -  the future of his family, his own future in those terms and hence burial of his vision of being a writer.  Unfortunately for him there was no middle path, no way which led to harmony between his aspirations and the world's expectations. They were clearly mutually exclusive.

Usually on weekends Ashutosh would take to creative writing. He penned short stories, sonnets, articles anything that seemed flowing in that moment. His pieces were not without admirers. He heard everything starting from "You could make writing your full time work!"  to "We feel sorry that your gifts shall remain hidden from the world." Hearing all this, Ashutosh would decide, for a fleeting moment, to rebel against all who stood in the way of his fulfilling his yearnings. Within moments, a part of his aggression would have subdued under recollection of promises made to his mother, and the remaining would give way to undisputed reconciliation when he would see the melancholy prevailing in the blank eyes of his father when he would open the gates late at night for him. Matters became more difficult for him when he read illustrious stories of great men who fought all odds, taking the risk, to pursue their dreams instead of being told what to do by the world. The unforgettable part for him was that they had succeeded in the end. He would often under the starry night sky, wonder whether some miracle would deliver him from the dilemma. Nothing happened.

Time flew. Soon he graduated with decent scores. He applied for jobs. Within no time his credentials brought him interview opportunities. The Lord Almighty indeed blessed his family for He landed Ashutosh in a well paying job in a multinational corporation. Congratulations followed without any delay. Suddenly he saw happiness engulf his home within its blissful white wings. He noticed dazzle return to the eyes of his parents. It did not therefore take him long to realize the value of his present success for his family. Neighbours who did not seem to even notice his mother now flocked around her all the time. Men of social repute residing in their locality started dropping in to say "Hello". Intermittent talks of his matrimony also started doing the rounds. He was astonished at the swiftness with which his father's body language changed. The once depressed man was now in his original form infusing joy and humor wherever he went. Ashutosh would visualize how his father's college days must have been. He had heard tales of his father being vibrant and dynamic in his youth. He felt somewhat satiated notwithstanding his belief that his salvation lay somewhere else. They moved into a new house where they did not live amidst cheap lime paint and the constant fear of rain water entering their living room and nights were no more accompanied with curses and swearing flying out in all directions of drunken brawls. Scorching summers were not worsened by ridiculously unaccountable power -  cuts and his family members did not have to carry in turns, water from the colony tube - well owing to the irregular water supply.

Marriage propositions started arriving for his sister. In no time, providence gave her hand in marriage to the boy of a respectable family in the city. Ashutosh's mother remarked "Son, do you see now what the blessing of Lord Almighty has brought us! It is only because of your engagement in a reputed service, that all this has happened. Never throw away what He has blessed you with. God Bless You!"  She was correct. Without the job, changes that were occurring in his family, could not have occurred. That's the way this world works. Before a further year elapsed Ashutosh heard marriage bells ring for him too. His marriage was arranged with Namita, as his parents found her in possession of qualities that made her their son's soulmate. Work and family now constitute all of Ashutosh's time. In fact they make him what he is today. He has no time anymore to feel the throbbing urge to break away from all this and walk on the road not taken.  It has been two years since the last time he felt anything close to staging an opposition in a bid to save his true will. There's something about him which suggests that he is afraid of testing the strength of his wish that once was. Life appears to be in a sort of equilibrium. He is not complacent. He knows nothing will last forever. But that alone cannot provoke him to throw away all that the Lord has given him. He thus walks on, without complain, without nostalgia. Strangely, at times, he gathers his wits to write. But when he is under the starry night sky, which is one of the few things that seems to have traveled unchanged, with him in his journey, he mourns the death of a dream.

("Death of A Dream" is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person (alive or dead), place or incident etc. if any, is only coincidental.)

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Beggars & Alms

While growing up as a child I have always adored and revered souls who stretch their arms to drop few coins in the hands of a street destitute. I have always found it very relieving and encouraging to see that there are people who genuinely believe in donating their money to the apparently needy ones. So when I began possessing money (none of which i had earned) I did not waste the opportunity in doing what I have admired about others. I started giving alms too. I have always satiated my 'Samaritan' urges each time i gave away something in charity, especially to destitute children and women. 

It was therefore disturbing to be informed that beggars whom I hitherto considered destitute and helpless, own considerable wealth. They seemed to have amassed wealth by means of uninterrupted begging at opportune places. There was this clandestine media effort to expose "rich beggars" and so was the show titled. After the title of the program flashed in my TV set, I remember explaining my younger sibling the meaning of an oxymoron. Be that as it may. It almost felt like a pang of betrayal and when the piece of news was shoved at me. Beggars have associations, meetings, plans, area / profit sharing schemes. They have bank accounts too. At the end of the telecast I could not help but feel that I have been this ignorant novice in a business plan. 

My heart goes out for daily labourers who earn what they toil for. I am furious because of my misplaced empathy. I have no intention of causing prejudice against all who are impoverished and beg to live. But I am definitely improving my perception about the real & the apparent. I have not given up on my efforts to do charity, I cannot. Maybe it is because of an inherent belief that the only difference between me and the poor and penniless is the will of the Lord Almighty. I find that to be reason enough for my not being indifferent to the poor's miseries. I wish I could get all those pennies and monies I gave away to the rich beggars and give 'em all away to poor beggars.