Sunday, 30 September 2012


‘What the heck do you think you are doing ?’ a furious Anand raged. ‘Flee or stay till I thrash you into pulp’ he warned.  The neighbourhood bullies scurried away. The scoundrels had resorted to their reprehensible antic of pulling down the dangling trouser of the harebrained Jaga. The target of their mockery stood shell shocked, stuttering hard to mouth the right words. Unlike the brain inside his head, his perfectly normal legs were trembling out of weakness. To his childlike wits, pulling up his pants at that moment seemed as complex as building a spaceship. So his fallen pants remained vanquished at his feet and he began to weep like a toddler. It provided for a perfect dose of laughter for the gathering around him. The customers of the nearby betel shop and grocery store were visibly amused by the sadistic hilarity in Jaga's humiliation. All  laughd in chorus.

Anand rushed to Jaga's aid. He placed his briefcase by his side and bent down to lift the latter’s pants, which sat crumpled on his feet screaming to be restored to its proper position.  Anand never tolerated anyone tormenting or ridiculing Jaga. Nor did he ever reply to the hackneyed question as to why he was so protective of Jaga, causing a pervasive suspicion that he was privy to some covert cause. But the truth simply was that Anand felt so outraged over the disgraceful repetition of such insensitive query that he invariably chose to stay quiet, instead of spitting on their faces the simple answer that as a man it was his rudimentary purpose to prevent undue harassment to another, more so when that poor soul was one who could not tell the difference between sun and moon.

A year ago when Anand had arrived at Sunrise Colony, with a truck load of furniture, surveying the area for the correct address of his soon to be home and to join his first employment, he was quite affable to the people of the locality. At thirty Anand had no intention of getting married and starting a family. He had made up his mind that, unlike his friends, he was going to devote his life to the upliftment of the needy and impoverished, instead of reconciling with the unexciting and commonplace way of life. As a first step he had offered to serve an organisation which had similar goals. They pay was minimal but he didn't care. Money wasn't a problem. He had been bequeathed dizzying amount of wealth from his industrialist grandfather.

In the beginning, Anand was not so acerbic on the tormentors of the social pariah that Jaga was. But soon Anand repeatedly noticed that almost every passerby  somehow considered it his inviolable entitlement to deride Jaga in one manner or another. It wasn't as if he didn't suppress his natural revulsion against the whole affair. However, when he confronted his conscience he held himself equally guilty for not raising his voice in protest.  That moment onwards, Anand dutifully stood between Jaga and anyone who purported to trouble him. He even tried to reason with the incorrigible frolic mongers that it's unkind to treat anyone in their manner, hypothetically putting them and their family members in Jaga’s position. He realized that he was wasting his time.  The only difficulty was that Anand could not remain around Jaga at all times.

Anand was most disturbed upon knowing that, though the plight of Jaga was a household tale of the whole community, none treated him with the love he deserved. Forget love, on the contrary they made him their amusement toy. The priest of their temple, Madhav Babu, had found him as fragile as a sapling, fully wrapped in a thin white linen sheet of cloth, leaving his pink face adorned by his gem like eyes and his pursed lips, hanging to its life by a thin thread. Madhav babu was strolling down the flight of temple stairs to make his customary walk around the deity chanting hymns of dawn puja, when for no apparent reason he felt like peeping inside the small dark chamber just around the corner. The murky cavity which was used as a dump yard for unused material had sheltered a newborn life. The priest forthwith took Jaga in his arms and strolled out under light and checked for signs of life in its tiny form. He was assured of it when he noticed his furtive breathing. He wasted no time in taking him to their community health centre where the Lord Almighty not only restored to him his life but also ensured that the child would have the love of a father. Thence the priest and Jaga lived under the same roof provided by the temple committee where the former became inextricably entwined to his fate of being a devoted father to Jaga, who was given up for dead by his own. As time passed Jaga's frame grew stronger and he looked healthy and fit with no hint of his endangered infancy presenting itself about his appearance. But it didn't take long for his kin to discover that he wasn't mentally able as other children. His mind hadn't kept pace with his age. At fifteen he had the brains of a five year old.

Many blamed it on providence, many on past life sins and many figured that it could be the result of the lack of mother's milk. Madhav babu was unable to cope with this misery. He had invested his dreams of being succeeded by his adopted son but that hope was reduced into a mirage with his son's newfound disability. It was too much for the ageing man and he took ill. A man's old age is perhaps livened by his family and his children's prosperity. That was not to be in the priest's case. Dark imaginings and sorrow took their toll on him. He reduced into a living straw and finally one stormy night he breathed his last. The whole night Jaga sat besides his father rambling to him unsure of what to make of his still lying frame. The next day his body was cremated on the banks of the Mahanadi. Everyone returned except Jaga who sat their for two days clueless as to where his father had vanished from the pyre. When he strolled back, life was not the same for him. The pitiless society blamed him for the priest's demise. They ostracized him. The doors of the temple room were forever closed for him. He was banished, back to nature's lap. He found shelter under the large Peepul tree in the center of the colony where he remained resigned to his dreadful fate, surviving on scraps thrown in by a kind few. Till the powers that rule providence sent Anand as his saviour.

On a bright autumn morning as Jaga lay gaily immersed in his senile delusions , Chintu and his partners in crime hurled a bagful of cow dung at Jaga. The poor chap was startled from his sleep as if earthquake had jolted him. He woke up to find the smelly waste smeared all over his shrunken belly. Anand saw this. Outraged, he threw his handbag where he stood and rolled up his sleeves readying himself to catch hold of the rogues and give them the beating of their lives. But being alien to the geography of the area, he looked helplessly as the scoundrels melted into the myriad lanes and by lanes of the neighbourhood. The next day he ensured that Chintu’s pristinely shining white school uniform was given the same treatment that its wearer had meted out to the innocent Jaga. He waited till Chintu got down his father’s scooter, waved him good bye and sauntered along the pathway towards the school gate. Just when the rogue was about to step inside, Anand took a perfect aim at him and forcefully flinged a polyethene bag brimming with fresh manure at him. It landed exactly where it was supposed to. The dung lay plastered on his spotless shirt, partially dripping down to his feet. The whole gathering around him broke into laughter. Anand emerged from his hiding and strolled towards a stunned Chintu.

The gang was never going to take this insult of their leader, lying down. So they beat Jaga black and blue, a night later. Leaving his arms and face swollen beyond recognition. When Anand saw this he swore then and there that he wasn't going to leave Jaga at the mercy of his tormentors. He took him in, & let him live with him. He held his hands and guided him inside his house. He fed him warm soup and boiled rice. He took a close look at his wounds and applied ointment on them. They stayed together from that day onwards. Anand purchased a set of toys for Jaga to keep him from straying out of his house in his absence. He didn't feel embarrassed at all when he bought those in a large transparent polythene bag for his seventeen year old friend.  Jaga fell in love with the toys. He would play with them for hours when Anand was away. When he came back from work, he would take him out for a stroll under his watch.

Soon the neighbours stopped troubling Jaga. Word of Anand and Jaga's friendship spread far and wide. People in the locality began to revere Anand. Persons who dismissed Jaga as a madman began inquiring from Anand about his well being. Such was his unadulterated and unpretentious sincerity in caring back for Anand, that the latter claimed he'd found a true friend in Jaga. People started paying visits to Anand's house and many even wanted to say 'Hello' to Jaga. When summoned by Anand, he would come out and offer a perfected namaskar to their doting guests, and quickly amble back into his room. Women prepared special dishes and sent them over for the friends. At times when Jaga remained adamant not to open his mouth for a morsel, Anand would announce that he too wouldn't touch his food and conjure up an act of pain in his stomach. Within moments, Jaga would surrender, assume his favourite lotus position ready to be fed. During idle Sunday noons a relieved Anand would loudly sing songs of friendship and Jaga would incoherently join him.

At times when Jaga would be engrossed arranging and rearranging the plastic puzzles Anand would confide in him about his inner feelings. He would tell him that he understood his destitution as he himself was an orphan. He would often caress Jaga's head when he'd be fidgety and scared for no reason. Jaga would wake him up in the middle of night pulling his hands demanding him to take him for a walk outside. It would take a great deal of explaining and cajoling for Anand to convince him against his wish. Despite many inconveniences and annoying antics of Jaga, Anand never regretted having brought him along. When it would rain with gurgling thunder and blinding flashes of lightning, Jaga would hug Anand tightly and sit close to him. Anand would always quickly return his embrace. With passing time, Anand discovered certain remarkable traits in his friend. He came to know that Jaga was an avid observer and a quick learner. Whenever he had to hurry for his office without performing cleaning chores, he often returned to notice that his bed and other places were pristine, his dishes and sheets put exactly the way he normally kept them. Jaga remembered the names of birds and animals that he'd told him. The two friends would secretly make fun of a few chosen men of their colony and their peculiar funny habits and mannerisms. In the best of his days, Jaga would even mimic the most funny ones, whatever he remembered of it. He often pleasantly surprised Anand with his ability to remember about the latter's most annoying habits. Anand was elated. He couldn't have asked for more.

A year had passed since the day Jaga was ushered into Anand's house And the latter was always curious to know about Jaga's actual date of birth. But he never asked anyone. He'd been toying with the idea of celebrating his pal's birthday and once when the two friends were lost in banter, Anand declared  ' I don't know when exactly you were born, but let's just celebrate the day we began to share this roof over our heads, as your birthday. It'd be a celebration of our friendship too. What do you say ?' Anand wasn't quite sure if his friend understood his message. The latter simply looked out of the window and said "Sky.. Big Sky". 'Yes, that's a big sky my friend just about as big as your heart.'  replied a smirking Anand. He got ready in a jiffy and announced to him that he'd be back in an hour with his favourite cartoon toys from T.V. and ofcourse unputdownably delicious snacks. Jaga was unduly adamant that Sunday evening to accompany Anand. Anand had to speak a few harsh words to quiet him down. Something he regretted all the way he walked to their town's most busy Chinese restaurant. He would make it upto him when he got back, he assured himself.

But the delightful soul that Jaga was, soon forgot his savior's chides and became busy in conducting a fierce talon fight between a rubber dinosaur and a plastic dragon. A few hours later when Jaga was in the loving arms of sleep which had rescued him from boredom, a relentless rapping on the door jostled him out of it's embalming hold. When he opened the door he saw two uniformed policemen posted outside like twin poles. He quickly dropped his toys and raised his left hand to salute them. Realizing his mistake he immediately put down his left hand and raised his right. He'd learnt  about it during the Republic Day parade at the town gallery, where he had accompanied Anand. He remembered how uniformed men like the ones standing before him gave and took salutes. He was a bit perplexed when no salute was returned by them. Even more puzzled were the two gentlemen who received the honour. One of them strolled inside after important queries by him weren't replied with any rational answer by Jaga. His eyes fell on a framed photograph of Anand, which he surveyed it with rapt attention. Then he turned around to show it to his colleague, who took a deep breathe after taking a good look at it.

A police van in an untimely hour in front of the most unlikely house of their peaceful colony had naturally attracted a small crowd. The elderly men of the locality curiously gawked at the Policemen and the women stood far behind them trying to figure what was going on. Why had the Police come to Anand's house ? they wondered and exchanged hisses among themselves. The Officer came outside with Anand's photograph and quickly swapped his glances between it and what looked like a small card sized document and asked the crowd aloud

'Is this man Anand Majhitia ? And does he live in this house ?' 

'Yes..yes' came the half hearted chorus reply.

'Where is his family ?' he continued probing

'He has none Sir' replied the grey bearded man standing just near him.

'And who is this man ?' the officer asked pointing his finger at Jaga.

'That's Jaga Sir. But he's not Anand's relative. They are just fiends, living in one house.' the same man answered gleefully.

'I need to take him to the Police Station' said the officer.

 'He's of no use Sir. He's a lunatic.' someone objected.

The officer took a good look at Jaga and nodded his head as if he now understood where the salute came from.

'' Someone has to come to the Station' he announced with pretentious regret

'But why Sir ? What's he done ?' the same old man asked

'Just come.' the officer blurted dismissively.

The van roared to life as two of Anand's neighbours hopped inside it following the officers. It sped away with the rest of the onlookers trailing it's dwindling form swallowed by smoke and dust. Jaga strolled back inside the house and shut its doors.

At the entrance of the Police Station a white mini van was parked. The men got down from the vehicle and were led to the back of the mini van. A constable rushed and flung it's doors open. The two men who had accompanied the officers hissed and damned and turned their heads away aghast. Anand lay still inside it, on a decrepit stretcher covered with starched white cloth upto his neck. Had it not been for his still chest, one could not have said whether the man was in slumber or asleep for good.

What happened Sir ? asked one of the men in between stutters.

'He was hit by a speeding car. Probably died on spot.'

This time Jaga was inconsolable when he saw his friend being torched. When his adoptive father had left him, death was not an idea that his mind had known then. But today, even for a feeble minded fellow like him, flaring up the body of his friend was beyond his tolerance. How could he stand and watch while they burnt his friend. It took three sturdy men to subdue his relentless attempts at salvaging his friend's blazing body. Only when it had been fully devoured by the insanely dancing flames and the bits of his flesh and bone had been reduced to smoking ash, Jaga was let off. He howled for an hour, sure of his loss. Like an infant deserted by his mother, thrown into the dark confines of nothingness, with no light to guide him, with no hand to caress him during hopelessness, no gentle voice to reassure him and no one to shelter him from his fears, forsaken and forlorn he cried and cried till the source of his tears dried up. Someone saw him lying unconscious and brought him to his residence. People feared that miseries would return swiftly to Jaga's life, when he would open his eyes, now that his friend, his liberator had abandoned him, once again leaving his survival to the mercy of the cruel. But Anand didn't abandon his friend. To even think of such a thing was to disgrace the great soul that he was.

Anand had made his friend the nominee for receiving twenty five lakh rupees of his insurance policy. But confident of the fact the he'd be swindled, he had put all of it in a trust constituted in Jaga's favour and made its trustee his mentor cum boss Mr. Bimal Mishra, the man who also ran "Sharan', a philanthropic organization for the care and upliftment of abandoned and forsaken children. The fifteen paged 'Trust Deed' stipulated that the money could only be spent on his treatment, education and if need be other of his necessary expenses. So that he could attain the best flight to his destination with  dignity. Anand had never disclosed that he'd purchased the house where they lived and that he had made a will whereby it now stood tranfserred in Jaga's name, also protected by the trust, in case Anand's allies turned against him. At no cost he could have gone without ensuring a roof over his beloved friend's head.

A week later Mr. Bimal won over Jaga and convinced him to come with him to 'Sharan'. Jaga now resides there in a cozy quarter allotted to him. How soon time flies. Jaga has managed to find his laughter. He is adored by all his mates at 'Sharan', as much for his affability as for the fact that he was the great Anand's friend. After all Anand had been Bimal babu's most hardworking deputee in building 'Sharan' from scratch to what it is today. He deeply connected with all the teenagers living under 'Sharan's roof.  Though many times Bimal babu asked him to bring Jaga there, Anand had respectfully denied saying that he needed his personal care, concealing within himself the truth that he too needed Jaga's company.

When Anand is reminisced at 'Sharan', Jaga keenly listens to the tales of his dear departed friend and smiles over whatever he understands of it.  They also ask him about their friendship. He is unable to answer, yet. Many have spotted him staring infinitely at the garlanded portrait of his friend, put up on the wall of the auditorium. As if the two are engrossed in a clandestine communication.  Memories of his friend are not hard for him to recall. They are the only good memories he has in his life. They are immortally etched in his mind just as the eternal sun and stars painted on the heavenly canvass.

He has recently begun his lessons on English alphabets and he enjoys it to the core. It's fast sharpening his mind. Someday he'll find smartness. He has abundant good wishes pushing him ahead to that goal. He loves being at 'Sharan' but misses his home where countless memories lie bundled. They await for him to return to them. He plans the same.

**   ' Timeless ' is a work of fiction.and any resemblance in it with any person, place or incident is purely coincidental. 

Thursday, 27 September 2012


I love you Sir’ she sighed.

What ? You do ? he queried with unconcealed sense of victory.

She nodded shyly.

Come’on Zoya. You know I’m married. ‘ he tested her

I don’t care. I just..I just love you’ she reiterated, unfazed.

‘You’re so beautiful and smart. What can a middle aged loser give you. You can get any dashing man any day’ he replied, intending to corner her.

‘I want you’ she fumed

Ok tell me why?’ he queried with apparent sincerity.

She fell on his feet and raised her head like his devotee, demurely receiving his glare and said ‘What do you want to know Sir. That I have been fancying your admiration since the day you walked into our branch office as our new Manager?. That I’ve been, ever since, dreaming to be cosseted by you. That your eloquent introduction to your own self still reverberates in my ears ? That you’ve unparalleled intelligence, besides an incredible personality and looks that tell of a boyish allure about you? A combination which is dwindling faster than the ozone layer. That you’ve managed to make me want you by staying away from me when every other man under this roof has made elaborate attempts of winning my heart. If that was your grand plan to keep me interested, then my love, it has worked wonders. For my heart pines for your love. It has abandoned all indulgences that ensured its gaiety and embarked on a quest to forever become yours ’ she explained.

He was elated. All his senses reveled in a peculiar contentment of having won desirability.
He suppressed his expressions and wearing a grim smirk retorted ‘What about Arnav? The whole office knows that you guys are seeing each other. You can’t fool me there. He makes for a very suitable option anyway. He's handsome and has a promising career’ 

‘Arnav ? !! He’s an infant before you. A thousand Arnavs cannot equal the masculinity of your little finger's tip. I doubt whether even after taking seven births he’ll be able to stand face to face with your shadow’ she teased him with tantalizing grace.

He gulped down his pride and blurted out nervously ‘You..really want me to believe that. From what I hear, a dozen of our ladies are devoting crucial working hours into devising sure shot schemes of becoming his wife..err..girlfriend..whatever. And you, being the most pretty and sensible woman that I’ve ever known, wants to tread in the exact opposite direc….”

Oh Sir, did you just call me pretty? Oh, my!!!Thanks Sir. Lucky me.. Everyone calls me 'beautiful’, but the way you remark of me as 'pretty'... it's much more.." she interrupted him and blinked like an anxious bride.

‘Ok ok. Tell me truthfully. You and Arnav never had an affair ?’ he probed again

Sir what should I do to evoke trust in your suspicious heart. It harbors fears of a teenager. Tell me Sir, had I had anything to do with Arnav, wouldn't I have been in his arms instead.' she emphasized.

The picture of her in Arnav's arms brought a stark bitterness to the velvety ambience and he shut his eyes to prevent further imagining.

 'Arnav may claim that he’s mad for me, but I’ve always told him that I belong to Sir and that only he holds claim to my body and soul’  she continued with a hint of impatience.

It was enough for him. He wished to confess about his hurting beneath his rugged veneer

'You know my wife always loathes me. She leaves no stones unturned in convincing me that I'm a man who has since long, lost all his charm and attractiveness, to be precise, within a couple of years of our marriage. That even a promiscuous lady who is offered with my company as her only option, will prefer to die single. That I'm pot bellied, more suited to do chores than flirt around. She has absolutely no fear that someone may find me attractive or may make indecent propositions to me. She's more confident of never losing me to any woman, than she is about the taste of her delicacies which she's been cooking for a decade. Even my friends think the same. And you want me to believe you ?' he sighed and sank on his thickly cushioned made to order revolving chair.

'Believe it Sir. You're everything that I've always wanted fact you are the ideal man for every sensible woman out there. Witty, good looking, kind. Your eyes speak the agony of your heart, ages before your lips do. They draw me like a charmer draws his victim. I'm the victim Sir. I've chosen to be their victim.'I've been waiting for you since millenia. If it be your wish then let's walk out to the world and show them how wrong they are about your persona and popularity. Even to your wife so that the dumb woman talks to my Sir with some respect the next time around.' she suggested earnestly.

He delved in her sparkling blue eyes, mysterious as the deep blue seas themselves. They inspired faith in one moment and in the next they challenged it. For him, the biggest truth now remained that she had fallen down on her feet and begged him to take her as his beloved.  It’s time he called his old mates who, unlike him, would have lost their gloss and charm to time. He pictured them hiding their ageing forms behind the fa├žade of expensive dressing and relentless makeovers. Coy to accompany their wives in public gaze.  And here he was, rendered the ultimate object of desire by the most desired woman herself, despite his marriage and all his listed inadequacies. It was time he reminded his detractors, that he may be old but magnetic nevertheless. It’s time he told them about his charisma.

‘Karishma ?! Who’s Karishma ? I demand to know.

He opened his eyes to the intimidating stare of his round faced, nagging wife, infuriated at the hint of another woman’s name on her husband’s lips. The pressure cooker’s loud whistle went off  in the nearby kitchen, announcing the prepared brunch. The radio in the living room had been long singing devotional songs. Countless chirps of busy birds broke the peace of morning. He lay still on his bed, evading his wife’s persistence to know about the lady whose name, she thought her husband was chanting in his dream. Aahh !!, the dream. He reminisced his dream. Its glimpses reminding him of his inescapable reality. The lady from his office was gone and he lay with his sagging belly and impending oldness on his cot as the 'Inverter' powered table fan hummed monotonously near his ears. He looked at the air conditioner. It hung dead stripped of electricity. Someone yelled 'Damn these early morning power cuts. They never let you finish your dreams.'

**   'Old' is a work of fiction.and any resemblance in it with any person, place or incident is purely coincidental. 

Tuesday, 25 September 2012


She pledged being by my side 

Forever and ever in dark and light 

In this world and the life above

She assured me 

Of her selfless love

Once in passing, just a mere musing

I pined   'In your lap I want to die'

She sprang -  .'How dare you ' she cried

'It's my right that before you, 

In my grave I shall lie '

I grinned bemused

For I saw glimpse of both

The truth and margins of her selfless love

Monday, 24 September 2012

Versatile Blogger Award . Do I Deserve It ?

The"Versatile Blogger Award" was first passed onto me by Gayathri(  back in April. The generosity was graciously reiterated by the very kind  Jayashree (,   Saher  ( ), Jasmeet Kukreja ( ) and Vijayabhaskar Siddareddi ).

Rehya Bond who blogs at Ik Life. Ik Chance. has since my nascent days of blogging, kept me encouraged by her feedback. Today she has become the latest conferrer of the Versatile Blogger Award on me. She is an amazing blogger and she herself has been awarded this award simultaneously by three persons. I congratulate Rehya for having bagged the award and I heartily thank her for passing it onto me.

Since the second time onward, I've found it quite embarrassing to dedicate full posts with regard to the award. Frankly speaking, it's like blowing my own trumpet. But I've always gone ahead and written a post about the tag anyway, since I believe that every blogger who conferred me this award is in no way less important to me than his / her predecessor. And that I have no reason to discriminate by writing with regard to being tagged by one blogger and not doing so when I'm tagged again by another. This may sound classically naive, but that's the truth.

The back to back conferment of the award has not by an iota diminished its charm and even today I experience the exact excitement that I'd felt when I was given this award for the first time. A writer is what his readers say he is. So I'm delighted by Rehya's adulation. Many of my readers may agree with the decision of Rehya and all others who have awarded me 'The Versatile Blogger Award' and yet there may be many more who may not do so. Since I can't help asking myself whether I deserve this award, I'll leave it to the judgment of the readers who dedicate their valuable time to read my blog regularly. My admirers make the writer that I am as much as my detractors.


1. Thank the Person for nominating you for the award and provide a link back.
2. State 7 random facts about yourself.
3. Answer the questions asked by the tagger(s).
4. Generate 10 random questions for the bloggers you nominated.
5. Pass on the award to inform them.

 7 facts about me

1. I believe in God.

2. I love writing

3. I love reading

4. I adore mavericks.

5. I can do anything for my family. Its my biggest strength. 

6. I like people who are opinionated.

7. I tend to lose my temper easily.

Rehya's questions

1. Would you classify yourself as a Reactant, Enzyme or Product?

None of these

2. What's your favourite eat-out place?   

'Tangerine 9' 

3. The funniest thing you've done to save on budget.  

Nothing. I'm an incorrigible spendthrift

4. Describe the hair on your scalp. 


5. Describe a lucky charm that you keep/have kept when writing exams. 

Varies from time to time

6. What kind of footwear do you normally wear? 

Light and Airy

7. A request for your next post to be about an item that you've held onto for a long period of time, but have had to let go. 
I'm on it.

I pass on the same questions to the persons I've nominated.

As per the norm, I have also tagged talented bloggers, who in my humble opinion equally deserve this award. But for well founded reasons I'm not listing their names. I'll individually inform them.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Song Of Dusk

The mellow mood returns
Brings along many lore
The winged ones teeming
Velvet heavens fling their door

A planter breaks the lull
An ode he joyously cries
His swinging face & palm
Painted in earthen dyes

The mangrove in the backyard
Lively with chirps galore
When the world refolds tired
All their words come to fore

My neighbor paddles homeward
He hides sundry candies
He schemes to daze his son
So that a crushing hug he can earn

The distant mill lets off
The last siren; For the day is up
And the haggard milieu 
Is dotted with walking figures  

The local playground is deserted
One by one all its heroes fade
Into the darkness it goes
Embracing glimpses close

The conch rythms and hymns 
A homage to Maker of things
Echo from under roofs one and all
Sprinkled with prayers big & small 

Away from the roads and human sound
In the meandering clay, home bound
A gaggle of wavy figures 
All waists stacked with pitchers 

The retreating sun drives
Asunder the stronghold of clouds
Smearing its best about
As it leaves for a fresh bout

My grand old father strolls out
The health of nature makes him stout
He comforts himself on mahogany husk
And hums his cherished songs of dusk

It's the peacemaker
It's the twilight
It's that thread that binds
A passing day and a charging night

Friday, 21 September 2012

Angel Eyes

Pranab frequented 'Sip' more than he consciously wanted to. His desperation to indulge in romance puppeteered his volition in arduous and often unabashed pursuance of that ambition. Pranab's visits had earned him the glorious distinction of a 'Royal Guest' in an eatery where perhaps one would only rarely find a second visitor of his age group. He stuck out like a sore thumb in the vibrant and juvenile gathering. But for the fact that waiters always kept hovering around Pranab, the guests would have found out his motives. Most passed him off as someone related to the business of that eatery. It's a good thing that a clandestine scheme had been devised between Pranab and the floor manager of 'Sip' owing to his apparent customer loyalty. The waiters had been instructed to keep the table at the southern end of the lounge always available for the man. He was never to be returned for the lack of accommodation. That was the instruction.  Also the waiters of 'Sip' memorized Pranab's choices in the menu card like their bed time prayers. Ofcourse it had more to do with an edict of their immediate boss and a habitual repetition of the same servings, than any truth about the analogy 'Customer Is God'. In those countless times Pranab ordered the 'cappuccino', 'apple's ale' or 'grilled chicken sandwich', the waiters broke into hiss hiss disgusted by his repetition of the same old treat for his tongue every day, day after day.

"Sip" had bagged itself the niche of being the most visited frolic zone for youngsters of the near and far corners of the city. The distinction was not however equally welcome among elders of the town. All kind of foolhardy indulgences were heard of being encouraged inside the place. Be that as it may it held its pride for being an addiction among the adolescents of the town. It was often remarked by it's most avid admirers that one must personally visit the place and spend some moments there to get a real sense of why the place is such an incredible rage among teenagers. Pranab never cared about or met with those reasons. He had his own reasons. It was in many ways the most fundamental of all. He looked out for meeting some girl and befriending her, with no dubious intentions whatsoever. He considered himself purged of all evil motives, especially ones with which those boys in the darker parts of the eatery pecked away at the necks of their female companions.

The eatery had two distinct zones tailored to cater to the desires of its two 'most visiting' categories of guests. The bedazzling lighting buttressed by vibrant upholstery and airy spacing among the tables in the eastern part of the cafeteria, just around the entrance, made it the 'look -no-further' preference of the friendly gangs. They flocked there, treating it like some extension of their living rooms, with their legs mostly not on the ground and their words mostly heard by even those to whom they were not spoken. Everyone moved beyond their personal grudges and remorse in the embrace of the enveloping aroma of the bakery. Much unlike the farther part of it where the lighting was near dark and the whole zone was cut off from the rest of the place by a huge wall of translucent glass, allowing partial imagery from the other side, just ample to tease one's imagination. The glass separation allowed it all the exclusivity that would suffice to entice pubescent hormones. They said that the ambience beyond it was euphoric forever. Glimpses of the alluring ecstasy stole its way out, the maddeningly loud decibels escaping everytime someone opened the glass doors. It'd gradually die down with the gradual closing of it. It was amazing how the two spots, sharing the same roof over their heads (not the ceilings for they were strikingly distinguishable from each other) shared nothing when it come to their purpose and their occupants.  

Pranab walked into 'Sip' on a Thursday morning, something which he never did. His homemade brunch was his favourite. He wore a fade proof smile. He drifted to his designated couch, simultaneously eyeing for promising tables. He noticed none. His grin left him like a disgruntled ally as he settled down. He closed his eyes and thought of his dream of dawn. He sat on the exact same chair where he was seated, staring  away at someone. Everytime he tried to make out who he was looking at, a power cut would ensure that everything turned to blinding dark. Power would resume the moment he would turn his head somewhere else. This went on for an uncomfortably long time before he saw two people walk out hand in hand. By the moment he was summoned by his senses to the real world he had managed to discern a beaded bracelet on the girl's slender wrist which had the words ANGEL EYES embedded on it. The climax of his dream was the cause of his chivalrous smile. He'd been led by it to expect that it was a sign of soon to be found romance. The smile had of course faded when he'd noticed that 'Sip' was teeming with couples that day. He hadn't noticed carefully.

The table fork slipped out of his fidgety fingers and met the granite floor with head turning levels of clink clank, jumping on its four pointed tips and turning over its head and musically tossing itself around before it was finally disciplined by Pranab. When he resumed his seat he discovered that his fork had distracted many eyes. He quickly nodded his head gesturing at all of them, his wordless apology. As he was steadily shifting his pleading eyes from one table to another, unlike the usual fleeting glimpse he affords himself, that he saw her.

He was fairly surprised on having missed her the first time around when he'd surveyed the tables and their claimants. No one could miss noticing her even in the most congested throng swarming with distracting faces. Pranab was seated at about ten feet away from her just in the mid of her right and her north. She didn't seem to have noticed Pranab, much less his toddler gaze fixed on her. Pranab savoured the glimpse and sat stunned under her spell. He didn't mind. It wasn't easy to penetrate beyond the reflecting surface of the goggles she'd worn. Somehow he caught her as she blinked her dreamy eyes behind the transparent glares and with each blink something inside Pranab succumbed to her allure. She looked lost in some distant by gone land of fairies. Her gleaming hair cascaded on to her perfectly broad shoulders and lay collapsed like benevolent admirers swooning about her angelic face. When she closed her eyes momentarily, everything priceless turned worthless. He was fixated on her visages like a infant glued to the plastic spinning merry go round, suspended right on the top of his cradle He had no doubt that her face was the most unblemished formation of the Lord's hands. Her faultlessly carved nose ran for just the adequate length, before silently surrendering it's feet to the depths of her face. Her moist lips reminded him of unplucked fresh red berries in dew drenched gardens. For a moment he felt something gentle flutter inside him and challenge the calm of his heart. It made him weak.

Pranab guessed she must be averagely built, may even be petite. Her fingers seemed like unbloomed lotus petals, supple and fragile. Her nails were prominently polished in magenta and portruded non menacingly from her fingers, a feature he hadn't seen about many girls. As his eyes roved along her contours and were on their way to her heaving bosom, they were distracted instead, by glimpse of a  open book on her table, besides the other usual lady stuff. She kept reading its pages and looking at the glass walls over at the entrance in alternate turns. She did it in infinite pattern. Pranab was amused. He wondered. What precisely was she doing ? May be she was learning by heart something for her exams, or memorizing vereses of her favourite poem. She did it in such kiddish fashion that Pranab found himself giggling, something he was not accustomed to doing in 'Sip'. She put her index fingers pin pointedly at the words and glided it across the page row by row,every page. Pranab was rapt by her elementary mannerism. He had been lured to inadvertently break out of his self imposed grave disposition, A smile had long dropped by and remained hung to his lips. Pleasantly startling the staff of 'Sip' who had concluded that their place of employment and Pranab ji's joys were mutually exclusive naturally doubtful therefore of his intentions behind his unusually recurring visits to their restaurant.

His eyes were keenly anticipating her next move. The palpable curiosity in them, was like that of a twelve year old. God knows what she read. A glittering smile consumed her face which in turn infused in Pranab such ethereal bliss that he was transported heavens apart in a moment and in the next, pulled back by her magnetism. Pranab sat charmed just like he'd figured he would be, on his first encounter with the fairy from his treasured fable, one whom he secretly planned to marry and make his beloved wife. The waiter in maroon costume brought her a glass of fizzy carbonated liquid teeming with restless bubbles, eager to swim up to the brim and find their freedom. The waiter didn't stop to take her gratitude but simply turned and marched away. The girl slowly moved her hands in the direction where the glass had been placed without taking her left hand off the pages she seemed to be engrossed in. All along she kept her eyes shut and chanted something. It all seemed weird.

Her cellphone began to buzz aloud. Thrice, four times, six times. She didn't pick it. The ring died. It rang again within seconds. Her hands didn't leave the surface of the pages. Pranab was getting restless. A waiter passed by and Pranab caught hold of him and commanded pointing his finger at the girl 'Could you please tell the lady over there that her phone is ringing ? The man resumed his erect posture and exclaimed with spotless politeness 'Sorry Sir, Can't do that...can't disturb her like that.

'Can't you see, she is not picking up her phone.

 I think Sir, maybe she doesn't want to take the call.'

'What ? Are you kidding me ? She's in a restaurant, chilling out, why wouldn't she take a simple call ? ' Pranab shot back in purposeful tone.

'I wouldn't know why Sir'  exclaimed the poor waiter

'Well then just go tell her and we'll find out'

'Sorry Sir. I don't think I can do that'

'Alright I get it' Pranab remarked with a half grin and reached for his wallet. He forked out a twenty and pushed it right into the hand of the waiter, whose palm had by now fully blossomed for receiving the nourishment it sought.

After offering a bow of obligation, the man went straight to the table where the unsuspecting lady was lost in her own world of words, and spoke to her. She didn't budge. She was simply seen making some serious facial expressions followed by some rapid movement of lips. The waiter was struck with nervousness and scampered away, not to be seen anymore. Poor Pranab could not even know what was happening. She wasn't raising her head from the 'God Knows What' book she was drowned in, she wouldn't take her calls and even won't look at the glass when she drank the blue liquid inside it. Pranab decided to himself unravel the mystery. He got up and began walking towards the washroom. She was settled on a table en route to the loo. He planned to steal a swift glance at the book. He had a good twelve feet to cover before he crossed her table. Just when Pranab had reached midway, she shut her eyes again letting out a steady gasp right from the depths of her lungs and began sinking back in the chair, her spinal frame falling towards the wooden support. In a lateral movement of hand she flipped the hardbound cover of the book and closed it in one go.

'Damn', a frustrated Pranab murmured to himself as he crossed her seat exasperated. He caught her fragile musk laden fragrance. It spread in his veins like a rising ecstasy. He strolled away hastily on his path.

Fiercely committing himself to the task of starting a conversation with her, Pranab strode out of the washroom. He'd spent a good fifteen minutes before the mirror in there, choosing and picking from the innumerable introductory expressions that he knew of. Nothing had changed about the lady. She sat embraced by the same enticing aura about her.

Pranab summoned one of the attendants and instructed him to serve the lady with a glass of their best mocktail. He specially instructed him to make it visually enticing. He thought of the colorful glass of whatever she was having a little while ago. He also tutored him to politely point at him and hand over the piece of paper to the lady if she wanted to know who bought her the drink.

Off went the waiter. He was trembling. It was his first day on job and to add to that this tricky deal. In five minutes he returned with a frosty glass of orange colored fluid with tits and pieces of yellow solids floating on the brim besides a diced lemon eating the rim of the glass. A rainbow like straw bobbed up and down the mocktail as the waiter lifted it off the tray and courteously placed it for being savoured.

There was no response. The waiter stood dumbfounded waiting for his cue. He could not decide whether to stay or leave after saying 'Enjoy your drink'. How about giving away the piece of paper anyway ? ' he thought. How would it alter the scheme of things ? he feared and stopped.

What's this ? the lady asked without even opening her eyes.

'That's your drink Ma'm. Sent over by the gentleman over there' came the waiter's reply as he turned around to slightly raise his finger towards Pranab.

Pranab's fingers were restless to gesture a 'Hi'. That would happen as soon as she would turn about, under the guidance of the attendant. That moment never came. The waiter stole a glance at him and sought his order regarding the scrap of paper. Pranab signaled at him and he placed the neatly folded piece on the table and walked away. Pranab looked on, as she neither touched the condensing walls of the glass nor inched her fingers towards the note which was fluttering in the breeze waiting to elope with it from under her ignorance to some place better. Pranab was flabbergasted at the inexplicable non chalance of a seemingly decent lady who'd just been shown a gesture of interest by a man. He would have considered himself fortunate if she would have responded invitingly, but admittedly he was expecting  resentment, some resistance, at least. She didn't even care to read the note which he'd sent along. Pranab decided that he must approach her personally. May be she doesn't believe in indirect propositions, he convinced himself before hand pressing his tousled hair and rectifying creases on his shirt. He got up nervously.

Lost in scheming Pranab didn't notice that a man, about his age, had come up to her. He bent over her table and began picking up her articles. Pranab saw him plant a gentle kiss on her head and take her hand in his. Pranab froze. They began slowly walking out of the restaurant. A speechless Pranab followed their leaving figures like a statue with roving eyes. The moment they stepped out, Pranab noticed that the woman slipped her hand out of the man's grip and pulled out a pair of dark glasses and put it over her eyes replacing the transparent goggles. A moment later she took out a steel rod and stretched it to full length. She began walking beating the rod on the path, partly announcing her movement and partly making out her way forward. Every time the man would extend his hand to guide her, she'd gently shove it away, claiming her independence despite her torment, though unable to make him give up. Ultimately, the man began to walk by her side, step by step, like a silent shadow, eagerly guarding her from any hardship that might fall on her way. Colour faded from Pranab's face

One of the senior attendants, who had been witnessing the whole event, walked up to Pranab and interrupted his thoughts

'Sir, She can't see.'

'What ?' Pranab broke out of his contemplation. 'Yeah'

'Her name is Kamla. The man is her fiance'.

A startled Pranab gaped at the waiter.

'Amazing. Isn't it ? They met at this place a year ago. Matters moved fast. They do when feelings are mutual, don't they ? Mr. Shantanu proposed to marry her exactly a month ago. She lost her eye  in a fire that broke out in her office. She surely lost quite a few things with her eyes. Love wasn't one of them.'

They have been coming since a year. Why the heck didn't I ever see them ? probed an aghast Pranab.

Your schedules never met, till today. replied the attendant.

Why the transparent goggles ? I mean why not the ones which she put on outside. Pranab queried out of perplexity.

Oh. That, Well, I had that figured out before anyone on the staff. 
It's because she doesn't want anybody to know about her handicap. She obviously doesn't want anyone's pity. She wants to live as normally as she can.. She doesn't want those unsuspecting vigorous noises around her to die out of sympathy for her.. Hence the normal goggles. the attendant explained with a warm smile

Someone yelled the waiter's name and he rushed off with the untouched glass of mocktail after shoving the small unopened note back into it's author's hand. Pranab unfolded it slowly. A smirk found its way to his lips as he read the words he'd scribbled for her.

It read 'Till this very moment I thought I knew who had the most beautiful eyes   :) '.


"Angel Eyes" is a work of fiction and any resemblance in it, to any person (alive or dead), place or incident etc. if any, is only coincidental.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Sign Of Love

Someone asked me 

"What's a sure sign of love ?"

We were at the beach and I was marveling at the serenity of the frothy waves that adorned it.

I replied

" I'm always awed by the great depths of desire which the waves hold for the shore. They know that they shall never be united with the shore, but they keep coming for it. Tirelessly, unconditionally, eternally. Destiny commands them to never hold the shore, yet they come again and again and again for nothing but to hold on to it. That my dear friend is the sure sign of love"

Monday, 17 September 2012

Did You Know ?

Privileged communications is an exchange of information between two individuals in a confidential relationship.  A privileged communication is a private statement that must be kept in confidence by the recipient for the benefit of the communicator. Even if it is relevant to a case, a privileged communication cannot be used as evidence in court. Privileged communications are controversial because they exclude relevant facts from the truth-seeking process. Generally, the laws that guide civil and criminal trials are designed to allow the admission of relevant evidence. Parties generally have access to all information that will help yield a just result in the case. Privileged communications are an exception to this rule. 

Privileged communications exist because society values the privacy or purpose of certain relationships. The established privileged communications are those between wife and husband, clergy and communicant, psychotherapist and patient, physician and patient, and attorney and client.

These relationships are protected for various reasons. The wife-husband and clergy-communicant privileges protect the general sanctity of marriage and religion. The psychotherapist or physician and patient privilege promotes full disclosure in the interests of the patient's health. If patients were unable to keep secret communications with psychotherapists or physicians relating to treatment or diagnosis, they might give doctors incomplete information. If doctors received incomplete information, they might be unable to administer health care to the patient, which is the very purpose of the doctor-patient relationship.

The following communications fall in the category of privileged communication under the Indian Evidence Act and they cannot be ordinarily disclosed to the Court by the person to whom they are made:-

  • All verbal & written communication made between husband and wife during the existence of their marriage, is strictly protected from disclosure. Neither spouse can be compelled or permitted in a Court of law to give evidence of what has been told to him / her by his / her spouse. For example if a husband comes and tells his wife that he has committed murder, then, even if the wife wants to disclose the said fact, her evidence cannot be accepted by Courts as her knowledge is based on 'privileged communication'. ( However this privilege can be waived by the party making such communication)        
         But if, say for example,  murder has been committed by a woman's husband in her presence, 
         she is free to give her evidence that she saw her husband commit murder.
  • No public officer can be compelled to disclose official communication made to him in official confidence, when he considers that public interest will suffer by such disclosure.
  • No Police Officer can be compelled to say from where he got the information as to the commission of any offence.
  • If a man, with the purpose of engaging an advocate to defend him in Court, goes and tells that advocate that he's committed a crime and he even narrates to him how he did it the lawyer is barred from disclosing what he told him. Meaning that the lawyer cannot go and tell the Court that actually his client has committed the crime since he himself confessed the same before him. This bar also extends to clerks and servants of the lawyer who ordinarily have the scope of hearing such communication e.g. typist, associates etc. Such a privelege can be waived if so chosen by the client
  • A legal adviser is also prohibited from disclosing information given to him by his client.

Information Courtesy :-

Indian Evidence Act, 1872

Friday, 14 September 2012

Guys, Go Watch Barfi

For a heart warming, memorable, bitter sweet, comical, inspiring and tear drawing experience, my friends, go watch "Barfi".

A Walk On The Shore

I decide to leave behind my fears, my worries, my affections, my prejudices and my hopes and expectations. I unload them all and surrender my self to emptiness. A void that, at the moment, has all the relevance that one could possible fathom. A void, that everyone evades, I embrace. I offer my deepest apology to it for having nurtured unfounded bias against it. For having abandoned it in the lure of glittering accompaniment, all of which now stand derelict.  It's kindness is immeasurable. For it warmly returns my embrace despite the history of betrayal.  We beckon a absent minded rickshaw puller. He is already past us. His good fortune makes him turn his head and notice us. We move like we will never arrive.

A half hour later, I settle his due and push an extra twenty into his fold. It's a barren business, a race lost even before it began. I might be the last customer to have summoned him for the day. He pours out his gratitude and even thanks his stars. He thrusts his weight on the creaking paddles to pull his non polluting three wheeler and rolls away like an exiled ally after man found better company in the aggressively scampering engine pulled  menaces. I turn around and face the sea. It's vast, full of water, of life, of opportunity, of promise and hazards. Though I sense nothing about it, I'm drawn to it like a poet is to plot. There's something about a somber shore that makes it pregnant with solemn musings, which rush into his head who steps on to the sands of it. I fail to think of happy things. I recall having concealed them at home. I tread ahead, struggling to find my feet, partially because of nonchalance and partially because of the frail sand. The strong breeze born in the breast of endless water rides to humanity on the kind waves. It get off the tides at the shore and offers itself generously to waiting faces. People relish its gentleness. But I witness a fickleness about it. At moments it is a sober healer and in the next it turns belligerent causing men and women to panic. It plays seductively behind my ears. I do not surrender. It's annoyed and roughs up my tousled hair, tousling them further. It sticks to its games. I walk on.

The face of the shore is lit up by a dozen laughing expressions and zestful shrieking and yelling. I see overweight frames clad in funny looking beach wear. I pause and muse. I wonder what's more hilarious, the beach wear or the frames. They are oblivious of my observation. They care the least. I steal away. I see unadulterated sons and daughters of the soil, going merrily around their brooding guardians. They offer the shore the respect that shores deserve. Unlike their mature companions, they know better than to dishonour these moments by busying themselves with troubles and worries. I learn from them as I move on.

I see a flock of gulls hovering over the confluence of water and land. They seem to lack the courage to travel beyond, into watery nothingness, where they will have no land to alight on, in case their wings fail them. They make a mess over our heads. All turn up to verify the source of all that squeaking and cawing. A group of tourists break into hearty laughter as one of the birds empties itself right on their mate's wavy strands of hair. He stands stunned. He isn't angry, only embarrassed. It's a good trait yet rare these days. I remember how people have turned inexplicably sensitive and intolerant. Men have lost their characteristic magnanimity and attributes which often distinguish them from lesser beings. Most can't stand a single gesture of dissent or tolerate even the slightest deviation from their expectations. Well it's all part of some grand scheme, I console myself to believe.

I'm fixated on the anguish of waves. If someone would have asked me then the cliche'd question about how does one know whether someone's love is true. I'd have quoted to him the commitment of the waves. I'd have told him " Love is a feeling akin to what the waves have for the shore. They know the "twain shall never meet and stay together, but they keep coming for it. Tirelessly, unconditionally, eternally. Destiny commands them to never hold the shore, yet they come again and again and again for nothing but to hold on to it." Must have been some irredeemable betrayal in some by gone era that the waves must have committed, I thought and shuddered.

My interest wanders off to a group of scantily clad fishermen with their symbolic jute hats on their heads. Such has been their relentless exposure to the sun of all seasons, that it is difficult to tell men from dark boats. They return from their expedition. A few of them shoot wail like verses. But they are happy. I know this because I see no one's head hung or heart laden.

To a bystander, to a tourist, being fisherman is the best way to live the seas. What he doesn't know is that the sea is but a battlefield for the poor fellow. Every morning he dons his best war hat and ventures into the deep of the blue, to its most fertile spots and he sails feigning frolic, yet his eyes belie him upon his return, particularly when he returns empty netted. I for one empathize with him because I remember returning home with no hope to share yet pretending a zeal for life. A fisherman frequents the much craved places in the infinite ocean yet has no eye to cherish its beauty, no heart to sense its ethereal significance and no mind to marvel at its profound mystique. His eyes vie for patches in water where schools of fleshy fishes swim, his heart beats anxiously each time he hurls his tattered net onto the skin of the sea, with his mind plotting and scheming for a profitable catch. Who has time for nature ? he thinks. Nature can happily remain a distant desire for tourists from concrete jungles, not for those who frequent it more than they run to their loo.

A loud wail disturbs my thought. I turn in its search. I spot it. A rebellious child is in no mood to give up his plan to ride the camel. The camel itself is unfazed by the commotion. May be it's used to such occurrences or may be it doesn't bother about anyone around.  Why should it ? It has nothing to be obliged for. If anyone should be, then it is us. We can't do without it. A child cries for it, couples wish to be frozen on it for eternity, its dealer depends on it for his morning bread. The pride on its gaunt face and the smirk perched on its gnawing lips are impossible to miss. The child's won over by some deception, a subtle art, easily and sometimes necessarily practiced on adamant kids. The dealer of the camel spits on the wet sand and grumbles in disgust upon having had his precious time wasted. The delight on the camel's face is resolute and the multi hued bells dangling across his neck begin to sing as he is guided over the spongy sand by his keeper.

I catch glimpse of a tired sun, done for the day, in this part of the world. Bracing itself for a quick dip in the distant water en route to the land where our western brothers and sisters await it. But there is some time left for that.  In the solemn velvety red scattered all round, I see tourists unpack their lenses and click away at the sun. I wonder if those pictures would be able to offer the same sensation as watching it in real.  I, for one, would rather walk here everyday to see the sun set, than hold the picture of it in my hands. Tired wings propel birds back to their aerial homes.

I come to the secluded part of the beach. I have lost the cacophony far behind. Except the gurgling and roaring tides nothing distract my thoughts. The beach is finally lonely. I humor my mistake. I see lovers. They are dispersed all over the place, like hued flora in the garden of intimacy. The serenity of their disposition is reassuring. They cuddle, they hold each other passionately. Some are engrossed in fervent kissing. The world can go to hell kind. Others remain content with holding hands. I even come across few who profess their adoration as they walk into the sunset. I see a lady. her fragile wrists laden with marital bangles thrice their size. 'Fresher', I whisper to myself,  in the path of commitment, sacrifice and tolerance. Did I forget love ? She seems to be feeling conscious about the attention she is inadvertently drawing by the amplified clinking and clanking of her bangles even at the slightest hand movement. But something keeps her unafraid and confident. She is with her man. Who is at peace on her lap, his eyes shut tranquilly, his chest rising and falling steadily, suggesting his soul's flight to another world where their union is independent of mortal sanctions. Suddenly he says something which I can't hear. I'm ashamed of my curiosity, for it seeks to violate their privacy. It's good that I didn't hear him. As soon as he's finished, his lady softly covers his mouth with her Henna adorned palms. He raises his hand and caresses her neck and moves upward with tantalizing pace. She can't prevent her giggles. She bends over his face and her breeze filled hair screens their intimacy. I'm glad it does.

Dusk arrives. I remember my home. I remember my wife. She must have returned from the 'hat'. She must be sulking over my absence. She must be a mess with those large paper bags, with no one to carry them inside from the auto rickshaw. She must have argued with and may have reprimanded the auto walah for looting innocent passengers. She must have yelled my name at least a couple of times before sinking onto the living room sofa. Grumbling over my detachment from chores and my lethargy in running the house, she must have looked at the antique wall clock thrice in two minutes.

I'll soon be there and she'll meet me with unmatched disdain in her tired eyes. If I don't say a word in protest, she'll walk up to me and run her hand over my temple and look very worried about my health, desperately seeking my reassurance. Tables would turn. She'll rush to fetch a glass of my favourite lemonade which she'd prepare in a jiffy and quietly tip toe out while I have my eyes closed in contemplation and come back only an hour later to ask if I wish to have anything special prepared for dinner. I'll ask her to forget all that and let her sit near me. I'll slip my hand on hers and we'll eventually tighten our grip. She'll be on my chest in no time. I'll feel her warm breath crashing on my cold chest. I'll be tempted to run my finger on her cheek. She'll tighten her embrace and doused flames will rekindle.

I snap out. I feel impulsive, brimmed with urgency. I need to get home.  I can see Suresh, my chauffeur. He's waving at me. The sincere fellow is right on time. I hop into the vehicle. It roars to life and we move in the direction of my home.

I ask Suresh 'Is Madam home ?'

No Sir.

He adds, 'She's gone to her father's. You'd forgotten your cellphone at home.You should call her.'

'Must be some silly family congregation', I think to myself

The sound of the grunting decade old car engine hurtfully fills my ears as I watch in the rear view glass, the faint rim of the sinking sun making its way into the water.


**   'A Walk On The Shore' is a work of fiction.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Salman Rushdie's Speech At The India Today Conclave, 2012

Watch Salman Rushdie speak about religious intolerance, dissent, free speech, fanaticism and allied issues. Though I personally did not like a few things he spoke, especially what he said about Imran Khan in his absence, and the fact that even the sensible audience went ahead and applauded it , I laud what he spoke about relatively contentious issues.  

In the spirit of tolerance, I share this video and leave his deliberations to your judgment.

Watch The Video Here

Here's the transcript of his full speech (In case you have a slow net connection for the video to load).

First, I'd just like to say I'm very happy to be mentioned in the same breath as Saadat Hasan Manto, a writer that I admire enormously and who has been so well translated recently into English by Aatish. I have always revered the work of Manto and learned a lot from it. I have to thank India Today, because they have given me this opportunity, the last opportunity (Jaipur) having fallen away. They called me and suggested that we needed to put that matter right, and that this would be a way of doing it. I was really happy and grateful to be given the platform. So thank you very much to everyone involved with the magazine.

And so here I am. Two months ago, on Indian television I promised that I would be here and here I am; and you would have noticed the lack of protests or even interest from the people who were supposed to take an interest and protest. Even after various generous members of the press called them up and asked them why they were not protesting or interested. In spite of that, they didn't protest and they seem not to be interested. So that's good. Well, most of them, except for Imran Khan, and various politicians who appear suddenly to have discovered that their schedules were really crowded.

Actually, I have to thank Imran Khan for this platform, because I was going to speak at another session - a less important one. This was going to be his chance to talk to you; so I guess I have been promoted. So, I thank him for vacating the spot and allowing me to occupy it.

You know, there was a time when I would have felt very uneasy indeed to face Imran Khan… on the cricket pitch. I was never a very good player of fast bowling, or slow bowling, or any speed of bowling in between. But times change; and now it seems that it is Imran who is afraid of facing my bouncers. Maybe his hook shot is no longer what it was.

I want to make a number of points about this. One is that Imran has not been entirely straightforward. He has said that he only found out a couple of days ago, when the full programme was issued and my name was on it, that he realised he couldn't come. This is not the case. Imran was told by India Today on February the 28th, who the leading speakers at this conclave would be, and that one of those was me; and he made no negative response. He was given the list of speakers again four days later, including my name; and he made no negative response. So, it is not true to say that he was not told until the day before conclave that I was coming.

Let's be fair. Imran is a man of the old school. Maybe he doesn't understand how this new-fangled stuff called email works. Maybe he doesn't know how to open his email box and see what messages are there. Maybe he doesn't even have anybody to read it for him. Poor man. But this man wants to be the ruler of Pakistan! Maybe familiarising himself with these new-fangled technologies would be a good step on that road.

Also as Machiavelli could have informed him, if you want to lie to placate some mullahs you depend on, don't leave a paper trail that proves you lied. That's just careless.

Seriously: Imran said, or his spokesperson said on his behalf, that he wouldn't dream of being seen with me because of what he calls the immeasurable hurt that I have caused to Muslims. I would like to look at that phrase "immeasurable hurt" in the context of the real world. In the real world, I would say "immeasurable hurt" is caused to the way in which Muslims are seen by the terrorists based in Pakistan, who act in the name of Islam, including those who attack this country from Pakistan, backed by the Lashkar-e-Taiba, with whom Imran Khan now wants India to sit down and talk.

And "immeasurable hurt" is caused to Islam by the presence in Pakistan for so long of Osama bin Laden, and by the opinion polls which show that 80 per cent of Pakistanis see Osama bin Laden as a hero and a martyr for Islam; and by the recent evidence provided by WikiLeaks from the emails hacked from security firm Stratfor, which show that the Pakistan Army and officers of the ISI were in regular contact with Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.

"Immeasurable hurt" is caused to Islam by people like the fanatic who killed this young man (Aatish Taseer)'s father and by those who showered the killer with flower petals when he came to court. Immeasurable hurt, Imran? This kind of hurt is measurable.

In the real world, Muslims in both Pakistan and India suffer from enormous economic hardship, from bad education and shortage of opportunities. The repressive consequences of Islamic extremism on women and of mullah-driven politics on the freedom of the citizens; these things are what Muslims actually face in the real world. And Imran Khan would do well to speak of the "immeasurable hurt" caused by these things, and not take the demagogue's route of choosing instead to demonise a book written 25 years ago, and making its author a bogeyman with which to distract his audience from the "immeasurable hurt" of their actual lives.

And what is true of Imran is also true of seminarians of Deoband or any of the other people presenting themselves as spokesmen on Muslims' behalf who seem more interested in highlighting these culture wars than looking at the realities of lives of Muslims in the subcontinent.

By the way, The Satanic Verses is a book which I would be willing to place a substantial bet that Imran Khan has not read. Back in the day when he was a playboy in London, the most common nickname for him in the London circles was ‘Im the dim'. The force of intellect which earned him that nickname is now placed at the service of his people, and its enemy, it seems is my book. If Imran really wants to argue about the literary merits of The Satanic Verses, I am happy to meet him in a debate on that subject anywhere and any time. Well, maybe not anywhere.

If he is not prepared to engage me, maybe he should just pay attention to the difficult job he has set himself. He is trying to play a very difficult game placating the mullahs on the one hand, cosying up to the Army on the other while trying to present himself to the West as the modernising face of Pakistan. That's difficult. I would concentrate on that Imran. Trying to keep those balls in the air, it's not going to be easy.

This is what we call the exercise of freedom of speech. It feels pretty good.

This word, freedom. It's a beautiful sounding word, isn't it? Who would be against freedom? It's a word everyone would automatically be "for", one would think. A free society is one in which a thousand flowers bloom, in which a thousand and one voices speak. And what a simple and grand idea that seems. It's like that copper goddess standing in the harbour, enlightening the world.

But in our time, many essential freedoms are in danger of defeat and not only in totalitarian or authoritarian states. Here in India also, a combination of religious fanaticism, political opportunism and, I have to say, public apathy is damaging that freedom upon which all other freedoms depend: the freedom of expression.

I have to apologise for being one of the subjects of this argument. Ideally a writer should not be the subject. A writer should be an observer, not the observed. The writer should be the person discussing not the person being discussed. But circumstances once again dragged me onto the stage recently - or rather, in Jaipur, prevented me from taking it. As we now have a couple of months of perspective, it's pretty clear that what happened there was some predictable Deobandi bigotry pandered to by the Congress Party because of what turned out to be pretty useless electoral calculations by the Congress Party. It didn't even work, Rahul. Years and years of kneeling down to every mullah you could find, and it didn't even work. You must feel sick.

In the debacle of Jaipur it was suggested that for me to turn up at all was wrong. This is a case of the world turned upside down. What‘s happening here, tonight, is what I would call ‘normal.' A writer of Indian birth, who loves this country, who has spent much of his life writing about it, shows up to talk to an Indian audience about India. I would call that normal. What is abnormal is for that to be prevented. And we seem to be in danger of getting this upside down.

And it's by no means only about me. I was extremely shocked at Jaipur when writers who stood up for my work, were not defended by the Literary Festival, and remain, at this point still in danger of prosecution for what that they did. This in spite of the fact that people have read from The Satanic Verses in India many times since the book came out in 1988, without any question of prosecuting them. And despite the fact that the only prohibition for The Satanic Verses is a customs ban; a typically Indian piece of sleight of hand. Don't actually ban the book, just stop it coming into the country. In theory, somebody could print the novel in this country. There is no law against it. Any publishers interested? See me later.

You can download the book. This ban is an absurdity in the electronic age. And yet it exists and there are four writers who maybe in danger of prosecution for having read aloud from the novel, while the men who threatened violence go free.

Jaipur itself is just an incident. But its important as an indicator of what's becoming more and more commonplace in India, which is a culture war, a war against cultural artifacts of all kinds, films, works of visual art, literature, all different kinds of theatre, and this is carried out well by the general public, mostly sits by indifferently.

At the time of the European Enlightenment in the 18th century, the great writers and intellectuals of that movement, Rousseau, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Diderot, knew that their real enemy was not the state but the Church. Earlier, when the mighty Rabelais was under fire from the Church, it was the King of France who defended him on the grounds of his genius. What an age that must have been, in which a writer could be defended because of his talent! After Rabelais, the 18th century writers of the Enlightenment insisted that no Church, even a Church with an inquisition at its disposal, could be allowed to place limiting points on thought. The so-called crimes of blasphemy and heresy were the targets because those were the methods used by the Church to limit discussion; and the modern idea of free speech was arrived at by defeating the notion that these were offences and that these could be used as ways of silencing expression.

Now, there is a tendency to say, "That's a Western idea. That's not how we think over here." But the Indian tradition also includes from its very earliest times, very powerful defences of free expression. When Deepa Mehta and I were working on the film of Midnight's Children, one of the things that we often discussed was a text dear to our hearts, the Natya Shastra. In the Natya Shastra we see the Gods being a little bit bored in heaven and deciding they wanted entertainment. And so a play was made, about the war between Indra and the Asuras, telling how Indra used his mighty weapons to defeat the demons. When the play was performed for the Gods, the demons were offended by their portrayal. The demons felt that the work insulted them as demons. That demoness was improperly criticized. And they attacked the actors; whereupon Indra and Brahma came to the actors' defence. Gods were positioned at all four corners of the stage, and Indra declared that the stage would be a space where everything could be said and nothing could be prohibited.

So in one of the most ancient of Indian texts we find as explicit and extreme a defence of freedom of expression as you can find anywhere in the world. This is not alien to India. This is our culture, our history and our tradition which we are in danger of forgetting and we would do well to remember it.

There was an article I just read in this week's The Hindu newspaper which reminds us that S. Radhakrishnan would talk about how many of the earliest texts of Hinduism do not contain the idea of the existence of God; and contemporaries of the Buddha, quoted also in this article, would say that there is no other world than this one, and would deny the idea of a divine sphere. So again, in the oldest parts of Indian culture, there is an atheistic tradition in which the ideas of blasphemy and heresy have no meaning because there is no divinity to blaspheme or be heretic against. This is our culture. This is not an imported culture. It's not alien to the Indian tradition. This is the Indian tradition, and those who say it's not are the ones who deform that tradition.

These ancient sages thought, and I think, that God is an idea that men invented to explain things they didn't understand. Or to encapsulate wisdoms that they wanted to capture. That Gods in fact are fictions. So when there's an attack by Gods or their followers on literature it's as if the fans of one work of fiction were to decide to attack another fiction. It's as if the revolutionary followers of Arundhati Roy were to take up arms against the old school charms of Nirad Chaudhuri and declare him to be… improper. Fictions should not go to wars. There is room on the bookshelves for all of them.

I remember within my living memory, an India in which my parents' generation were very very knowledgeable about the culture of Islam, Hinduism so on; but would nevertheless sit around in the evenings and tell jokes, satirise and poke fun at and debunk certain aspects of religion; and there was no sense that something shocking or wrong was being done. This was just normal, everyday conversation.

As a young person in both India and Pakistan (because my family was equally divided between India and Pakistan), I heard in many gardens in the evenings people sitting around having fun with the ideas of their cultures and of their faith. And this was not considered to be a crime.

The idea that this is somehow wrong has crept in much more recently and does great disservice to all of us. What are the weapons used to impose this idea of wrongness? Of course, the old weapons of blasphemy and heresy are still there. But there are two new weapons, which are the ideas of "respect" and "offence". Now, when I use the word respect, it means that I take people seriously. I engage with them seriously. It doesn't mean that I agree with everything they say. But now is that the term respect is being used a way of demanding assent. "If you disagree with me, you are disrespecting me. And I will get very angry and may even pick up a weapon; because that's my way when I am disrespected."

A culture of "offendedness" is growing up, not just in this country, elsewhere too, but very much in this country, a culture in which your "offendedness" defines you. I mean, who are you if nothing offends you? You're probably a ‘liberal' -- and who would want to be that?

The fact is that in any open society people constantly say things that other people don't like. It's completely normal that that should happen and in any confident free society you just shrug it off and you proceed. There is no way of creating a free society where nobody says things that other people don't like. If offendedness is the point at which you have to limit thought then nothing can be said.

Behind these ideas of "offendedness" and "respect", there is always the threat of violence. Always, the threat is that if you do that which that disrespects or offends me, I will be violent towards you. So the real subject is not religion, it's violence and how we should face up to the threat of violence.

Recently in India, there have been religious attacks aimed at many of the arts. We know some of the big headline cases. We know about the Hindu mobs who destroyed the set of Deepa Mehta's film Water, the production of which was delayed for many years and eventually took place in Sri Lanka. We know, as Aroon Purie mentioned and as I said two years ago, when I was speaking from this platform, about the shameful treatment of Husain Sahab, an artist who should have been revered by this country, who was instead driven out of it. We know the craven behaviour of Bombay University when some Senaapparatchik attacked Rohinton Mistry's novel, and the book was immediately removed from syllabus. We know the dreadful behaviour of Delhi University which withdrew the classic essay of A.K. Ramanujan, 300 Ramayans, because a few Hindu hooligans decided that it was anti-Ram. We see these things happening almost every day. We see a gay artist being attacked in a gallery by Hindu thugs. These are the cases which make the headlines. But it seems that almost everyday now somewhere in India there is a piece of bullying by Muslims or Hindus of creative artists whom they accuse of offending them.

Voices are being silenced. Publishers are more frightened to publish. Galleries are more afraid to display certain kind of art; certain kind of films would not be made that might have been made 15 -20 years ago. The chilling effect of violence is very real and it is growing in this country.

And the other part of this story involves all of you. There is a public apathy towards these attacks. We approve of the great technological and industrial and economic growth of our country but we don't seem to value our cultural artifacts in the same way, even though, the greatest thing about India history is the incredible richness of the Indian artistic and cultural tradition. The contemporary manifestations of that seems to be neglected; and these ideas, the ideas that you should not upset people, you should not upset religious interest groups, these have quite broad acceptance in the public mind. Who gives you the right to upset people? I would say "Who gives people who claim to be upset, the right to come and attack me and my fellow artists?"

I repeat: the subject is not disagreement. The subject is violence, and the threat of it, which prevents dissenting voices from speaking.

That's what is going on and people here are asleep, I think. Very largely asleep to what's going on and you need to wake up.

There is a line in my novel Shalimar, the Clown in which one character says to another, "Freedom is not a tea party, India. Freedom is a war."

You keep the freedoms that you fight for; you lose the freedoms that you neglect. Freedom is something that somebody's always trying to take away from you. And if you don't defend it, you will lose it.

I have this theory that the Indian electorate is smarter than the politicians and sees through them. Yes, people can sometimes be whipped up, as they were by the religious extremists in Jaipur. But how many people? How big are these mobs? How representatives are they? It seems to me that 95 per cent of the Muslims in India are not interested in the violence being done in their name. And that would be true of the Hindu community too. Because as I said, people actually have real concerns. Real concerns about their real lives. This is what preoccupies them. How to get an education for their children, how to have good homes to live in, how to get a job. These are the things that concern people in this country. Not these absurdly demonising attacks on works of art.

These attacks, whether upon my book or people's films or plays or paintings or whatever, these are not things that come from the bottom up. There are not such great public objections to this kind of work. These attacks are created from the top down. There people at the top who think they can get some benefits by whipping up and inflaming various situations, and who use their positions in order to do so.

The people are more sensible than their leaders. India deserves to be led better than it's being led. It deserves leaders who can bring her back to the non-sectarian, non-communal land which the nation's founders envisaged. And here, at the gatherings like this one, the idea of that India can be, not so much forged as renewed. Forged anew. And it can be done only if all of us have the ability to speak our minds. To speak freely without fears of religious or governmental reprisals. The human being, let's remember, is essentially a language animal. We are a creature which has always used language to express our most profound feelings and we are nothing without our language. The attempt to silence our tongue is not only censorship. It's also an existential crime about the kind of species that we are.

We are a species which requires to speak, and we must not be silenced. Language itself is a liberty and please, do not let the battle for this liberty be lost.