Wednesday, February 9, 2011


They called it the new hope. They called it the dawn of a new era. They called it the end of oppression and the beginning of a better life. They called it the revolution of the people. They called it Democracy!

The people thronged the streets that night as they watched their new saviors promise them that finally their life will be their own. They cheered every statement, every pause and every nuance. They told us that freedom would finally be ours. The crowd cheered and shouted and screamed hoarse. They told us that we will get to elect over leaders, that every government formed will be of the people. The crowd cheered even more. 'By the people, of the people, for the people,' the saviors chanted and the crowd chanted back like 5th grade kids studying social studies for the first time. They told us that poverty will be eradicated and the enemies of the state eliminated. The crowd cheered even louder, delirious in their joy. They told us that every man will have a roof on his head and a job to earn with. We cheered and cheered some more. They told us that if the government did not fulfill its promises we could remove them from power. They told us that tonight, right now we call the end of any social disparities. That every citizen has the same rights and therefore the same responsibilities. And we cheered again. They told us every government is responsible to its people and if they fail those responsibilities then it is not a government of the people anymore. They told us that democracy was the way forward, that it would lead us to a glorious future we had always dreamed of. They told us that we, the people, now had the power. We cheered. And we even believed them.

That night, people danced and sang on the streets like they had been released from prison after several years. They probably had. Lyrics were invented on the spot and anything with the words 'freedom' or 'power' or 'people' could be called a song. 'We have the power', chanted the crowd over and over again. And when they got tired of singing that, they started chanting 'Freedom...Freedom of the people.' They went on and on all night. Alcohol flowed like water that night, people were drinking like they hadn't had a sip of beer in a dozen years. They drank on the high of being free from a supposedly oppressive regime, they drank on the high of their belief that now finally-their life was their own. And when they finally got tired and headed home, they made love to their wives like they had never made love before, passion filling every inch of them-passion to bring down evil, passion to cause mutiny and lead a revolution-and that's how they fucked their wives and girlfriends and whores that night-like they were the general of the revolution and if they fucked and fucked hard-victory would be theirs. Even their they could feel the surge of the power. And victory was theirs.

I heard the beggar on the pavement sing for the first time that night-"The damage is done...the damage is done...We are all like robots under the sun."

Democracy came upon us and we welcomed it with open arms like welcoming new brides into our homes. We heard politicians give speech and make promises as they lobbied and solicited us for our votes. Governments were formed on our votes and fell on our behest. We brought to power politicians we liked and those who failed to fulfill their promises were brought down just as quickly. We are the power, we repeated again and again, a chant that resonated all over the country. We are the power, we sand and believed as the politicians told us that they would give us the better lives we deserved.

But even then the beggar on the pavement continued to sing-"The damage is done...the damage is done...We are all like robots under the sun."

We had the right to protest any reforms we did not like, the government told us . And so we protested. We went to the streets and protested against corrupt officials. We protested against unsolved murder cases. We protested when the government refused to listen to us. We protested against the cutting of trees and building of dams. We protested against too much and progress and too little progress. We protested against war and against people who ate meat. We protested against terrorists and gangsters. We protested against the death penalty and in support of the death penalty. We protested against homosexuality and then we protested against those who protested against homosexuality. We protested against riots and race crimes. We protested against prostitution and then we protested to legalize prostitution. We protested against anything and everything we didn't like. We protested because this was a democracy and we had the right to protest.

The beggar on the pavement continued to sing-'the damage is done...the damage is done...we are all like robots under the sun.'

We wanted justice done against the rulers of the previous regime. We wanted those vicious, barbarous savages to be hung in the city square in broad day light in front of the entire city so everyone could finally look at them and know that justice had finally been done. It was the demand of the people and the people had the power. So our government let the people have their justice. They were hung, hung like the merciless criminals that they had been. The government invited every citizen to attend the executions and watch as the bastards finally got what they had deserved. Thousands thronged the city square that day. Giant screens were hung up all over the city so those who could not make it to the city square could watch it where ever they maybe at that time. The executions were broadcasted live on television and advertisers paid millions for their ads to be shown in between the executions. The government the declared the day to be a holiday so everyone could feel the joy and watch justice finally being done. Celebrities came and performed on the stage on which those criminals of the previous regime who had pulverized our nation and misused their power were to be later hung as a celebration of our freedom. The cameras flashed and the celebrities gave quotes on how proud they were that they were living in a nation where justice had finally come to the people. The people cheered. This was their day. They had the power. A small group of demonstrators stood outside the arena and protested against the executions, claimed that we were turning into the savages we had been led by and how this was a complete miscarriage of justice. But nobody cared. This was justice in its truest sense and these dictators deserved nothing less. Our President finally made his way to the stage and talked about how the subversion of justice finally has come to an end. That finally-our proud nation had a government which truly was of the people, by the people and for the people. The crowd cheered. The President talked about how this event, these live executions of such reprehensible criminals was happening because the people had demanded it. The people cheered on and did not want the President to stop. As an honor to be bestowed upon our president for leading us to freedom, he was given the responsibility of pulling the first lever. And so he did. With the crowd cheering, a cacophony of sounds going up like men who had never known what it was like to be free before. Every execution was met with a cheer even louder than the previous one had fetched. This was the people had wanted and this is what the people would get. This was democracy.

The beggar stood outside the city square and sang-'the damage is done...the damage is done...we are all like robots under the sun.'

There was a protest somewhere and then suddenly the city was engulfed in riots. The whites blamed the blacks, the blacks blamed the whites. The Jews blamed the Christians, the Christians blamed the Jews. The Catholics blamed the Protestants, the Protestants blamed the Catholics. Everyone thought someone else had started it but no one hesitated in cutting the other one up. This was democracy and we had the same rights as everyone else, they said. No one one knew what that meant but they continued to cut each other up. No one knew what the riots were about. Someone said it was over religion. Another said it was over race. Another whispered that it was because someone had raped someone Else's sister. No one knew. No one cared. This was a democracy and no one got away with cutting someone else up without getting cut up themselves. The city burned. The government tried to stop the riots. But this was a government of the people and if people wanted riots then the government could not stop them. So they let people kill each other and hoped that it would stop by itself. When it didn't and the death toll got a little higher than they had expected-they deployed forces and imposed curfew on the entire city. Anyone who walked on the streets was to be shot at first sight. And so the government of the people ensured that there would be no more riots. We were allowed to protest but not riot and if anyone did-he would be killed.

The government promised to remove terrorism from its roots, to remove the fear of terrorist from the people's mind once and for all. The terrorists will be brought to justice, the government promised and the people cheered. 6 bus stations were bombed one day, killing 300 people. The city was in shock. The city was angry. A Muslim outfit claimed the crime to be their own and said that all infidels will pay the price. The people screamed and shouted and demanded justice. Islam was a religion of violence they said. The feelings grew, the fervor spread and the people took to the streets. They demanded justice. They de-cried Islam and condemned their God. They threw stones at Mosques and beat up Muslims for they represented the Devil. Islam was terrorism they pronounced. The Government sat and pondered and contemplated on what action to take. This was a government of action they said and they would not just sit around and watch. They would not let their people die and be victims of terrorism. We will retaliate, the government said and we will destroy terrorism from its root. The people shouted Islam was terrorism. The government whispered back-'Islam was terrorism.' And so the sentence was passed and the government of the people had taken its action. Islam was denounced as the religion of the Devil. No muslims were to be allowed to stay in their beloved country if peace was to reign. And soon the people watched in horror as the Muslims were massacred, each and every one that could be found. They were dragged out of their houses and shot in the middle of the street. Their heads were chopped off, their arms mutilated for they followed the Devil. Denounce the devil, they said, and when the Muslims refused their tongues were cut off, their eyes gouged, their penis castrated. Their mothers and sisters were raped and sold to whore houses but no one cared because they followed the Devil. They were all breeding terrorists and terrorism had to be wiped out. People watched in horror as the government removed terrorism from its root. They went to the streets and said this is not what they had wanted. They did not want a massacre. But they were all shot by the military and the government denounced them as terrorists as well. Anyone who supported or housed a Muslim was in league with them and would be killed on the spot for harboring state terrorists the government announced. Muslims begged ad pleaded for mercy but no one cared Someone whispered that the Muslims were the new Jews. No one cared. No one remembered. But the Jews were indignant. They were incensed and outraged that they shall compared to such terrorists. They took to the streets and protested. They said they had never resorted to violence like the Muslims had. They had never been terrorists and that the crimes against them were inhuman to say the least. They reminded everyone about the Holocaust and the sufferings but no one cared. But this was a democracy, and everyone was allowed to protest and have their say.

I heard the beggar on the pavement sing again-'The damage is done...The damage is done...we are all like robots under the sun.'

The prices increased and the cost of living went up. So the people took to the streets again and demonstrated against the government that had been elected by them. They demanded the jobs that had not been provided, they asked for the houses that had been promised but hadn't been built. They government assured that they would look into the matter, that all who had failed their responsibilities will be dealt with. The people continued to protest though for they wanted action and not empty promises. So the government reduced the prices of ever food item and houses were provided to the homeless. Buildings were built and flats were named after the homeless. Jobs were created and to those who could not earn, a pension was provided. The people went back to their homes and made love to their wives in celebration of their victory again. They had been heard, they had been listened to. They had the power. But soon the prices went up again. The houses were not completed on time. Jobs were beginning to be lobbied for. The people took to the streets again but their fewer now. The government reduced the prices of the necessary food items this time and promised the other prices would come down soon. Speed on building the houses picked up and new jobs were created again. People went back to their homes and made love to their wives again. This was democracy, and they had the power. The homeless had to go through several rounds of bureaucracy and corruption before they finally got to live in their flats. By the time they did-they had to sell off their house to pay off the loans they had collected in order to pay the officials the bribe they had demanded as a favor for getting their work done. Those who did manage to live in their houses were eventually forced to sell it off because the prices increased again and the only way they could afford to eat was if they sold off their house. The prices went up and the people took to the streets again but this time most people just deiced to get on with their lives. The government promised that they soon the prices would come down and the officials who had robbed the homeless of their houses will be brought to justice and so the people went back to their homes and made love to their wives. This was a democracy and they had a right to protest. And so they had.

The beggar on the pavement still sang-'The damage was done...the damage was done...we are all like robots under the sun.'

'Legalize prostitution,' screamed the people on the street. 'This is a democracy and we want to legalize prostitution,' they shouted. And so the government legalized prostitution for if the citizens of the country wanted to pay for sex, then they should be allowed to pay for sex. Sex was not immoral, the government said. So how could earning by it be so? So brothels and whore houses flourished and an entire area of the city was built so people knew where they had to go for sex. Escorts were provided to every prominent member of the society if he waned so. Brochures and fliers were made and handed to every person walking on the street to know which brothel provided what. Others protested on the streets and denounced prostitution but no one cared. This was a democracy and they had a right to protest. So sex became a commodity to be sold in a market. Prostitution was introduced as a course in universities to be taught and studied and understood. It was a viable career option, the counselors told the boys and girls studying in high. Daughters grew up to realize that they prostitution was one direct way of becoming rich if u were beautiful. Sex was treated as a casual entity and infidelity was to become a norm. No one could be expected to have sex with the same person all their lives and hence soon to be married couples were counseled to let their spouses seek other pastures once in a while so the integrity of the marriage remains. Men left their wives and slept with a different whore every night. Families fell apart. But no one cared. This was a democracy and if people wanted to pay for sex, then they should be allowed to pay for sex.

Homosexuality was deemed a sin and pronounced as illegal. People took to the streets and shouted slogans and screamed that homosexuality was not natural, that God did not support a form of love between one man and another man or one woman and another woman. They denounced it as the act of the devil. So the government banned homosexuality and deemed it illegitimate. The homosexuals and their supporters took to the streets and protested against the government but no one listened. They screamed that this was a government of the people and they were people too. That sexuality was their choice. But no one cared any longer. The the men of religion called it sacrilege and their followers screamed that homosexuals were no men of God, but supporters of the devil. They were too many and homosexuals and their supporters too few. And so if the people wanted homosexuality banned, then it would be banned. And so homosexuality was banned and gay men and women were executed. They were dragged out of their homes in front of their screaming parents and hauled in government vehicles and thrown in prisons. People took to the streets again, crying out against the executions but then other people came out in their support. Riots engulfed the city once more. The government imposed curfew but the executions continued. But the supporters of homo sexuality didn't protest any longer as they didn't want to get shot when a curfew had been imposed. They loved gays only so much. Soon the government announced that in order to identify homosexuals and prevent its spread-every citizen should be married off by their 25th birthday. And in order to prove their sexuality-they would have to consummate their relationship in front of a government official. Any citizen found unmarried after their 25th birthday or unable to consummate their relationship with their spouses would be pronounced as committing the crime of homosexuality and would be executed. People took to the streets again and protested vociferously but the government said that the people wanted homosexuality curbed and eliminated and they were only ensuring that. This was a government of the people, they said, and anyone against these steps was against the curbing of homosexuality. So the people went back home and made love to their wives, for they had wanted homosexuality banned and they had got homosexuality banned. So what if they would soon have to fuck in front of a guy in a suit? This was democracy and the people had the power.

The people continue to take the streets and protest. But no one cares any longer. They don't even know what they are protesting against anymore. They continue to vote in elections and bring down governments. Governments rise and fall at their behest. Politicians rally and give speeches lobbying and begging for their votes. The power lies with the people. And if they didn't like what the government was doing, they could simply take to the streets and protest if they wanted to. Or bring down the government in the next election. They could. So the people went home and made love to their wives. For this was a democracy and they had the power.

And so I continue to hear that beggar on the pavement sing:

"The damage is done...The damage is done...we are all like robots under the sun!"

Monday, September 27, 2010


He was looking for something. That's all he knew. That's all he understood. He was looking for something. He moved forward, with a brisk pace, constantly looking around for, his eyes scanning the surrounding around him as a hawk searching the grounds for a prey. He moved. He moved further. Something was missing. Something had been lost. Something which had meant a lot to him. He didn't know what it was but he could feel it. Suddenly he slowed down. What was it? Why did he feel so? Why did he feel the urge to look for something, to keep searching when he didn't know what had gone missing? But he knew he had. He knew he had lost something. And he knew he had to find it, keep looking for it. So erasing the doubts from his mind, he kept moving further and further, still looking, still scanning. He had to find it.

Slowly, he came to a halt. He stood next to a pond, its water clear as the sky above but peddled with a greenish tinge floating at its center, the animals circling around it as if trying to identify what this foreign object was that had invaded its space. The green in the center looked out of place, felt out of context. He could identify with that. He knew what it felt felt like to be out of place, to constantly feel that you didn't belong where you were. The green tinge continued to spread in the water slowly, continuing to invade the space of the original inhabitants of the pond. The animals in the pond moved further away from the tinge, steering clear of something they could not identify with and were afraid whether to attack or steer clear of it lest it cause harm to them.

He moved closer to the pond, staring into the clear water and saw his own reflection gawk back at him. His reflection looked back at him, blurry and tired looking, his image reflecting the confusion of his soul. He smiled at his reflection and his reflection smiled back. He then slowly waved his hands and grinned as his reflection waved back. His reflection grinned too. He started to laugh at this act of nature, a reflection which abides as he wants, as he does. Your own personal slave, doing as you did and following your every single command. The reflection laughed with him. And then the reflection was laughing no more. The face in the water now began to droop its eyes and slowly its lips, a sullen expression beginning to form on it. He continued to laugh but the reflection did not. The reflection was now copying the image of his soul. He stopped laughing and started into the pond, curios as to what had suddenly happened to his own reflection. He peered in a little more towards the pond and now the face in the water, his face in the water, was laughing again. But it was not the hearty natural laugh that reflected happiness. His reflection was now laughing at him, a contemptuous, farcical laugh that was mocking him. The face in the water changed its expression again and now the ears had drooped just like the eyes and the lips, there were wrinkles on his face, a shadow of lines formed below his eyes and just a patch of hair on his head. The face in the water looked miserable...miserable and old. And now the face in the water changed once again. The hair was back, the eyes were young again and the reflection was laughing again-laughing at his ineptness, laughing at his debauchery, laughing at who he was. Once more the face in the water changed its expression. Now the reflection covered its face with his own hands and when he removed those hands, the face had changed almost completely except that he knew that this was his face. The face was now pale white like that of snow, the lips were a lusty red as if they had been formed with blood and the eyes-they were and hollow. Tears dropped from his eyes, tears that were black in color. Black tears that steadily flowed across his face as if those eyes had been crying for years now.

Seeing his own face in the water now, he staggered back from the pond, his face a pale expression of fear. He got up quickly and without looking back, he started to run. He ran from the face he had seen in the pond, his own reflection. He ran from his own self, who he was. He needed to find it. He needed to find what he had lost, whatever it was, for his own sanity. He continued to run, across lawns and through roads and taverns, passing through rivers and glaciers and jungles that he had never seen before. They came one after the other-surroundings changing around him rapidly as he continued to run, run towards his destination, unknown as it was. But he knew he had to keep running and keep looking, for he needed to find it.

And now his feet stopped again. He tried to move his feet but they would move no more. He looked around him and he saw that he was standing in a mall with people hovering around him, passing him by, stepping on escalators and moving forward. It was as regular a mall as he had ever seen in his life. The people kept moving in a stream, each one walking towards their chosen destination. The mall was huge and had 3 floors. There were escalators at the far end of each floor leading up and down. Each floor had shops and stores-ranging from cell phone showrooms to boutiques. On the top floor there was situated a foot court as it had been in most malls. Yet there was something out of place. Everything looked as it would have, except he knew something was out of place in the mall. Something was strange. Not able to find out what it was, he now tried to move his feet and to his surprise, they did. He slowly began to walk towards the exit for he had a feeling he should head out of the mall.

Out side the mall he stepped onto a green patch of grass. He looked around and he realized he was in a huge park, surrounded by trees paced at an even footing and a lake in its center. The park was full of people as well, people taking a walk, people sitting on a bench and gossiping, families on a day out, children chasing each other around the trees and then jumping into the lake and splashing each other. A fountain stood near the lake, glistening and casting waters of different colors from its mouth. On one side, the park was surrounded by mountains, snowy white mountains as high as the Himalayas or even higher. On the other side of the park were situated a row of cottages which seemed to be houses of the people who had come visiting the park. The cottages were all painted yellow with a brown roof and glass windows in each room. Outside the cottages were small gardens with the freshest flowers he had ever seen blooming into the sunlight. At the end he was standing stood the mall he had ran into, right at the border of the park. People seemed to go in and out of the mall and in and out of the park as if having a mall right on the fringes of a park was a common sight here. He looked around again and he began to notice that there were no streets here. There was a park bordered by mountains and cottages and a mall right on its borders-but there were no streets to go in and out of this place. He then noticed what had seemed out of place in the mall as well as here in this park. No one was smiling or laughing. They all had a sullen expression on their face, their eyes reflecting sadness, their lips advocating misery. They all looked either angry or disappointed or sad or crying-but no one seemed happy.

Feeling the need to run again, he slowly began to step backwards but as soon as he turned he crashed into somebody. 'Watch where you are going fool!' said the man as he staggered back to his feet, trying to regain his balance. He started to apologize to the man and then noticed that his expression was that of a contorted mixture of pain and misery and anger. It seemed like the man could not decide which negative he should express and so, in his confusion his face seemed to reflect all three. 'Where am I?' he asked the man with the miserable face. The man looked at him scornfully as if asking him questions was a crime. 'Bah you fool! You don't know where you are at? Are you one of the new ones?' He didn't know what the man meant by new ones for he didn't know he was supposed to be anywhere at all. 'I...I don't understand,' he answered hesitantly.

'Of course you don't you fool,' the man said with contempt in his voice, 'you are in Heaven you fool.'

'Heaven?' He said and looked around the place once more. The sad faces, the droopy eyes, the miserable expressions-it was hardly what he ha been told Heaven would be like. 'This is heaven?'

The man with the miserable face scorned once more and chewed on his lips before saying, 'How many times do I have tell you, ya fool! Yes-this is Heaven. This is the Heaven of The Miserable People.'

The words shook him. He repeated them for his own sake. 'Heaven of the miserable people?'

The man with the miserable face now looked at the place too, glancing around with an understanding expression on his face. Then the man towards him again and said, ' heard right lad. This is the Heaven of the Miserable People. We are the miserables.The Ungratefuls. The ones who were always complaining about our lives, always angry at God for treating us as His step children, always miserable about the hand that life had drawn us. We were never grateful for what we got, for the life God had blessed us with. We always asked why the man ahead of us had more than what we had and never wondered why the man below us had any less. We were not happy with our lives, we constantly whined and fretted and always asked for more. We always felt God had been unkind to us. And so-we are here. We didn't commit too many sins, didn't do too many wrong things but we were ungrateful and miserable with our lives so God didn't know what to do with us. So he had build a separate heaven for us, one where we would get all the rewards for our goodness but also all the punishments for our ungratefulness. And hence we are here lad. In the Heaven of the Miserable.'

He looked around his surroundings now with a new enlightenment, a new understanding dawning upon his face. He turned back towards the man with the miserable face and said, 'Can't you get out of this place? Once you are happy and not miserable again...can't you get out and well-go the other Heaven?'

The man with the miserable face laughed-a laugh of sarcasm. 'If you have been miserable all your life, my lad, then you never stop being miserable. Earth or Heaven. You are always going to be miserable. And hence no one gets out of here.'

He looked scared now and slowly asked the man with the miserable face, 'How long have you been here?'

The man with the miserable face laughed again, the same laugh filled with sarcasm and contempt. 'Me, lad? Me been here more than 3000 years now.'

He looked even more scared now, looked even more fearful. He needed to leave. He had to find what was missing. And he was sure he wouldn't find it here. 'I need to leave now,' he told the man with the miserable face and started walking away.

But the man with the miserable face called out to him before he could turn away. 'Where you going lad? You can't leave. Once you are can never leave. You are one of us now.'

He turned back to find that the man with the miserable face was laughing now, a laughter full of mirth and evil, laughing at his fate, at the surprise on his face for what he had just heard. Then the man raised his hand to the left and said, 'Look.'

He followed the gaze of the man with the miserable face and saw that a mirror stood a few steps from him. He looked into the mirror and screamed. He screamed and he ran for the face he saw in the mirror was exactly that of the man with the miserable face, the same set of miserable, sad and forlorn look in his eyes capturing his image. He ran now like he had run from the pond for he knew he could not stay there, he could not stay in the Heaven of the Miserable people. He ran through the park, around the lake, from the fountain and towards the yellow cottages with the brown roofs and gardens with the freshest flowers he had seen bloom. He passed through mountains and deserts, running through crowded streets and empty houses till he was running through a forest.

And then his feet stopped again. He stood in a clearing in the middle of a forest. Around him were the tallest trees he had ever seen yet the sun shone brightly and lighted up the whole forest. The trees had big red fruits dangling from its branches, looking as juicy and ripe as any fruit he had seen in his life. He started to walk now for he needed to find what had gone missing. He looked around the clearing, scanning the ground and the grass for any sign of what he had lost.He still could not find it. What then had gone missing?

Then he heard a huge roar of laughter. This laughter was not the laughter of the man he had met in the Heaven of the miserable people. This laughter was full of life, full of joy and happiness, full of spirit and celebration. He moved towards the source of the laughter. He found a small cottage just ahead of him in the clearing from where the peals of laughter were coming. He walked towards the cottage, slowly, still looking around, as if he may finally find the thing that had been missing here. He stopped at a window on the side of the cottage and peered in to have a look. His eyes laid sight on four men talking in loud voices and then laughing uproariously as if one of them had just said a punchline of a joke. All four men were seated in a wheel chair and were paraplegic. Yet they sat there, breaking out in peals of laughter as if they truly were happy and nothing had gone missing from their life. That despite the handicap, their life was complete.

He seemed unsure of what to do now. He stood there staring at the men in their wheel chairs, laughing like they really were enjoying themselves. Then suddenly one of the men spotted him at the window and started waving at him to come inside. He was confused, unsure of whether to go or not. The rest of the men then spotted him too and started waving at him to come inside as well. He finally decided to go. They might help him find what was missing.

'Come in, come in,' they all said in unison as he stepped inside the door. The cottage was not much. It was a single room though quite big in size with a tattered door. There were no beds or any other furniture to make it seem like it was inhabited. It seemed more like a hide out place than anything else. There was a single table near a window and around the table sat the 4 men on wheel chairs with mugs of beer. There were four other chairs just behind the men, but it was obvious the chairs were of no use to them. The atmosphere almost resembled a Friday night get together of old friends. The men in the wheel chair smiled at him as he came near the table and he smiled back, almost sheepishly, feeling like an intruder.

'Come in chum,' said one of them, 'sit down and have a mug of beer with us.'

He almost silently took a chair from behind one of the men and placing it near the table sat down. He still was unsure what to expect or what to do but he felt like he had come here for a reason. One of the men took a mug from a side shelf near the window and filled it with beer and then placed it in front of him. He only smiled and said, 'Thank you.'

'Ah chum, don't you feel uncomfortable,' said the man who had welcomed him. 'We are not going to eat you, we promise.' The four men burst into laughter at this and laughed as if they really found it funny. He looked around, unsure what to say or do, so he just smiled and then finally gathering up the courage to speak he said, 'who...who are you?'

The first man spoke again. 'Ah chum, u want introductions-is it? Well then-let's get the introductions outta the way. My name is Bam,' he said and then pointing to the remaining three men from the left said, 'and he is Boom, this is Bim and that is Bling.' Those were the weirdest names he had ever heard and he was pretty sure that these were not their original names. But he smiled and nodded nevertheless, acting as if he heard such names everyday in his life for he didn't want to offend them. 'So,' said Bam looking at him, 'what's your name?'

'Ryan,' he answered hesitantly. He didn't give a second name and the four men in the wheel chairs nodded without expressing any emotions.

'Alright Ryan then,' said Bam giving him a grin. 'Let's swig these mugs and have a hearty time whaddya say?' And they all cried out in unison, raising their mugs, ready to have a swig. Ryan joined in, raising his mug in the air too, though a bit hesitantly but then then cheered just like the rest did. 'To Frodo,' Bam said as Ryan blinked in surprise, 'the little hobbit who saved middle earth and all of us by casting the ring of power in the pits of Mount Doom and destroying Mordor.' They all cried out in unison though Ryan kept silent and then took a swig from the mug and drank the beer. They drank it all in one go, and seeing the company around him, Ryan didn't bring down the mug from his lips till he had emptied it. After finishing the beer from the mugs, they all placed the mugs back on the table with a bang and wiped their upper lips, exclaiming heartily.

Ryan felt good suddenly. Seeing the men around him in high spirits, he felt himself soaring, felt himself lifting. 'That felt good,' he said grinning.

'Nothing makes you feel as good as a mug of beer my boy,' Bam winked. 'Its a secret we discovered a long time ago.'

Ryan nodded with approval. Then he looked at their wheel chairs and feeling a bit odd but confident, he asked, 'What...what happened to all of you?'

The four men looked around each other, their eyes meeting and then in unison they all slowly nodded. Then Bam spoke. 'Wounds of war, my lad, these are the wounds of war.'

'War?' Ryan asked.

'Yes my lad,' Bam said. 'Our wars. The war of life. Different wars. Same wounds.'

Ryan didn't know what to say for a while. He kept looking at the men, looking into their eyes, trying to find out what grief they were hiding. But there didn't seem to be any grief in those eyes. Only life. 'None of you seem disappointed,' he said slowly. 'With what happened.'

'And why should we?' the man whose name was Bim spoke this time. 'Life's treated us very well. And we had our tough times, sure. But who doesn't? And we have cried enough for a lifetime. We can't pity ourselves forever.'

Ryan looked at the men around him, their wheel chairs and despite everything that they had faced-the smile on their faces. They were was no pain in that smile. Only the will to live. 'What incident...' he asked slowly, looking around carefully, 'caused this?' he completed. He didn't specify what he meant by this but he didn't have to. It hung around the room like an elephant. There was no need to ask a counter question about what this was.

The men didn't seem to mind the question but no one seemed ready to answer either. They all looked at each other, wondering who would start or maybe just trying to avoid answering completely. Ryan couldn't tell but he didn't say anything, waiting for the men to reach a decision. Finally, the man who called himself Bam spoke once more. 'Does it matter chum? Does it really matter how we lost our legs and how we ended up on this wheel chair? Whether it was a war that did this to us or an accident or some one hacked our legs off-does it matter? The fact is that we can no longer walk and we are on a wheel chair. And what happened, what led to this, is no more of any consequence. What is of consequence though Ryan... is why are you here?' Bam now looked at him with prying eyes, his gaze screening through Ryan like a beam cutting a rock into two.

Ryan gulped for a moment and avoiding the gaze of Bam, answered, 'I...I don't know.' He then looked up at Bam, whose gaze was still intently fixed on Ryan and Ryan slowly said, 'I feel...I feel like I have lost something.'

Bam continued to gaze at him with those intense eyes for a while and then suddenly laughed. The remaining men followed Bam into the coercion of laughter and soon the men were laughing uproariously just as Ryan had seen them do from the window. In the middle of the laughter, Bam spoke, 'of course you have lad! Of course.

'So Ryan,' Bam said looking straight at him, 'you have lost something haven't ya?'

Ryan, who was just about to take a sip from his beer of mug held the mug in his hand without moving and looked at all the men around him. They all nodded as if they knew why he was here, as if they were here to help him find what he had lost. 'Ye...Yes,' he finally answered as they continued to stare at him with an understanding sight, 'Yes...I feel like I have lost something. I don't know what it is. I can't seem to remember what I have lost but I feel it...I feel I have lost something and that I really need to find it.' 'Soon', he added as an afterthought.

Then suddenly a voice from behind him said, 'looking for something, my son?' He wheeled around and suddenly felt a flash of light in his eyes. He covered them to hide from the brightness that illuminated him. He slowly removes his hands to look at what stood in front of him. And there, in the middle of the clearing, a few feet away from his, he saw the fairest woman he had ever seen. She stood there, smiling at him with an appraisal as if she knew why he was there. Her skin was fairer than all the jewels beneath the earth, her face glowing with a radiance that seemed heavenly. She adorned a white gown which sparkled in the bright light and her hair, long and flowing, seemed to illuminate sunlight.

For a moment-in fact for quite a long moment he seemed at a loss for words and just kept staring at the ethereal figure in front of him. Then he realized he hadn't said anything so he stumbled for words that would not come out of his mouth. 'I...'he stammered, 'I was just...'

'...Looking for something?' she completed his sentence.

'Yes,' he flushed and tried to look elsewhere. 'I feel like something has gone missing, that I have lost something...from my life.'

She smiled again, the most peaceful smile he had ever seen. 'I know,' she simply said.

'You know?' he asked surprisingly.

'Yes...I know that something is missing from your life. And hence I am here.'

For a moment he didn't know what to say. Then, gathering all the courage he could find, he asked-'Who are you?'

Not for a moment did she look angry or upset. Peace and calmness just radiated out from her. She only smiled again and said, 'I am the angel of the missing. I am here to help you find what is missing from your life and if you want to-then reclaim it.'

He didn't seem surprised now. He knew that she could have been here only for that purpose for she seemed to bring a sense of calm and happiness from within her. She seemed completely at peace. 'How are you going to help me do that?' he asked.

The smile never left her face. 'Look into the cottage once again and tell me what do you see?'

He looked into the cottage once again and saw the same sight that he had witnessed before the angel of the missing had spoken to him. He turned back to the angel. 'Four paraplegic and wheel chair bound men laughing at something.'

'Is that all you see?' she asked him. 'Look again once more.'

He didn't know how this was going to help. He looked into the window once more and started at the 4 paraplegic men. He couldn't hear them from this far but he could make out the expressions on their faces, the feeling in their laughter. And then it dawned on him. He turned back to the angel who was still smiling at him but now she looked at him understandingly. 'They are happy,' he said slowly, 'they are happy with their lives. They are laughing like they have nothing to complain about. Like the loss of their limbs hasn't turned them bitter or cynical or into misanthropes. They are genuinely happy with their lives and they find nothing missing from it.' He then added slowly, almost in a whisper, 'Unlike me.'

The angel continued to smile at him, waiting for the realization to completely dawn on him and then said-'do you see now what is missing?'

He seemed to know the answer now. 'Happiness?' he asked as if he wasn't completely sure yet.

'No,' she said ever so slowly. 'It's a part of it yes. But what is missing is not the happiness. But the reason as to why you are not happy.'

'What reason?' he asked confused.

The smile never faded from her lips. 'Why do those men in the cottage seem happy to you?'

He looked back into the cottage. He wasn't sure. Why were they so happy? They were living a miserable life. They could not support themselves. They had no reason to be so optimistic, so upbeat about their lives. Then the answer dawned on him like light illuminating the dark. He turned back to the angel who now seemed to glow even more. 'They value their lives,' he whispered. 'They know how precious it is. They know how rare it is. They realize it comes just once. And it won't come again.'

She smiled in understanding. 'Do you realize now?'

He nodded his head slowly. 'The value of my life...I have lost the value of my life. That's what is missing.'

'Yes,' she simply said without adding anything.

'But how do I reclaim it?' he asked.

'That will be up to you. You now know what you have lost. You know you need to value your life. And only you can do that. I can only help you.'

He looked at her and nodded, still unsure about what to do or what to say next. Finally, he said, 'but my life-it's not been easy. It's been such a tough year. Everything coming together...and then falling apart..."

'Whose life hasn't been tough?' she said interrupting him. 'Do you face a peril greater than those men have faced in there?' she asked looking towards the cottage.

'No,' he answered, 'but just because they have faced something much greater does not mean that I should cherish every downfall of mine...'

She nodded her head. 'It is true that it does not mean that. You face your own perils, they face their own. Everyone faces their own tests. And everyone combats them in their own way. But it is not about being disappointed and having a tough time. It is about losing the value of your own life. It is about reducing yourself to a state where you do not seem to care for your own self, where you are constantly unhappy with who you are, where you reduce your own self esteem and you do not value what you have.'

He seemed on an edge now, uneven, close to breaking down. He kept his eyes on the ground, avoiding the gaze of the angel in front of him. 'It' just been so tough. One after the other-everything has crumbled down. All the dreams I had. My aspirations. My ambitions. One after the other-crashing and burning in front of my eyes. I feel so out of place. I feel like I don't belong here anymore. That I never did.'

She nodded her head slowly in agreement. She then said, 'You feel like you have given so much, tried so hard and yet-it has come to no avail. You feel as if there is something missing in you which has led you to this state. That despite everything that you gave, however hard you tried-it would never have been enough.'

'Yes,' he answered. 'Yes.'

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


The sea is a calm surface of blue. The waves hit the shore, unhurried and slow, almost as if kissing the sand and then receding back to its home to disappear into the vast debris that the sea is. The sky is dark yet clear of clouds, reminiscent of a war that had taken place not long ago but now presenting the calmness that entails peace. The clouds have receded to fight another war at another place, leaving the city gloomy but optimistic, battered but calm. For now at least, the Rain God has agreed to a ceasefire.

The boy stands near the shore, observing the sea gulls fight for their share of the fish.He looks out to the hill standing in the middle of the sea, unshaken and unperturbed by the waves that crash against it, however angry those waves may seem. He stands there, his hands transfixed on his hips, his eyes gazing at the sights in front of him, like a soldier observing the enemy fortress before breaching it. His calm demeanor doesn't reflect the war going on within him...a war to break free, to claim independence, to win back his own life. The waves come and kiss his feet bowing as if bowing down to a soldier far more braver than them. The waves are constantly at war with the shore, trying to claim another piece of land for their own, but even the waves realize today that the boy's war is greater than their own.
For there can never be another bigger war than the one which a person has with his own self.

The boy now walks along the shore, the waves still by his side, observing the imprints of his feet on the sand as he goes past them. He is leaving a life behind. Suddenly a sea gull comes in and pecks at his feet and before he can react the sea gull has flown off with a new fish in between its teeth. The boy continues to walk, unperturbed by the things outside him but disturbed by the thoughts within. The sea is calm and serene but he is at war. And yet, he realizes, there couldn't be a better battlefield for a man at war with himself. The dark sky, the calm sea, the wet sand-the clouds that had taken the city and the sea hostage for several hours but had now receded so that more personal battles could be fought.

The boy moves on, his hands now deep in his pockets, his hair now ruffled by the breeze blowing in from the opposite end. His gaze though remains fixated ahead, unwavering, uncompromising. Today, his eyes will not blink. Today, his feet will not retreat. Today, his belief will not waver. Another wave comes in and touch his feet and for the first time he notices how cold the water is. But it does not bother him. Like a fact he had not noticed before but now that he has, one that does not affect him. He moves on, cold waves or not. He observes a young couple a little distance away from him, sitting next to each other, their right feet co-jointed with each other, their hands folded on their knees, their gaze moving from each other to the sea-talking, sharing and sometimes stealing a kiss. He walks on, the romance in the midst of the war not affecting him, for he has left love far behind now. Today, he does not long for a companion. Today, he does not not wish that he had someone he could kiss, someone he could make love to, someone with whom he could share his life. Today, he will not feel alone.

A sign post comes in front of him. He looks up to notice that the sign says 'STOP.' He walks on, ignoring the sign post, like it never stood there. Today, he will not be stopped. He turns again now, looking out the vast sea in front of him. Its empty, devoid of the people who are usually found jumping and frolicking in it, for the rain has scared them away. The rain though has not scared him. He is here, alone, devoid of any apprehensions, bereft of any fears, for today he will claim his freedom. The war goes on but he knows the end is near. He can feel it. With every step he takes, with every imprint of his feet in the sand, he feels his emancipation coming closer. The phrase 'It smells like victory' had never been more literally true.

He now closes his eyes and takes a step back. He thinks of his parents, those that had loved him and yet had never understood him. He now opens his eyes and looks out to the sea. His parents don't control him anymore. He now closes his eyes again and takes a few more feet back. He thinks of the job that he hated, the boss he despised and the coffee that made him want to vomit after taking a sip. He opens his eyes again. The hill stands in front of him. defiant to its core. He feels tall. Taller than he ever has in his life, stronger than he had ever thought he could be, more defiant than the hill in front of him. He could move a mountain today if he wanted to. The eyes close again and the feet recede further away from the shore. He thinks of the life that he will forever be leaving behind, of the comforts that he will not be able to rely on anymore, of the people he will not have to suffer anymore. He opens his eyes again to the sigh of a horde of sea gulls sweeping into the sea and taking flight again into the vast emptiness of the sky.For the first time today, a smile spreads across his lips. He feels like he can fly. His heart is now set free from everything that had ever stopped him from living the life that he wanted. His heart is free from the bondage of the family that refused to understand him, from the shackles of the society that confined him, from the slavery of the people who could not stand by him. He now knows that there is no greater love than the love for one own self. That you are born to live your own life and not fulfill obligations. That divinity exists not just in helping others but also in helping yourself.

He opens his arms in the air. He moves, he moves like he is serenading the sky. Like he is romancing the sea. Like he is making love to the clouds and the waves. And they are all aware-aware of his love for them, and engulf him in their arms, for he is theirs now, theirs to behold, to love, to scold. For he is free. Just like them. Free spirits that bide by no rules and understand no limits. For theirs is the fiefdom of the entire world. And wherever they go, the people shall respect them, be afraid of them and pay homage to them for they know no limits. For their spirit cannot be broken. And mere mortals can only watch them in awe. And he is no mere mortal today. He is a free spirit. Unbounded by the laws of the universe. And then he begins to run. He runs towards the unwavering sea, dancing with the sky, his feet unchained at last. He rips his clothes off one by one, unperturbed by his own naked self or by any of those watching him, for he will not be stopped today. As he picks up speed, he feels the win engulf his naked body, embracing his free self. And then he jumps into the water, naked in body and spirit, his soul born again, emancipated forever. The war has been won. The clouds can come back again. There are no more shackles. There are no more chains. Its just him.

Naked. Alone. Free.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A walk to the gallows...

I remember the first time my dad took me out to teach me how to ride a cycle. I remember perfectly that distinct moment when dad let go of the cycle and I tried to control the handle and guide the cycle in the direction I wanted as if the cycle was supposed to follow my command. I remember that first fall, the tumbling from the bike, the grazing of my skin against the ground, the flesh scratching as tiny trickles of blood oozed out. I realized at that moment that not everything was under our control. As the tears loomed down my eyes, I remember my dad picking me up in his arms, slowly patting me on the head and saying-'one day you will be able to control that cycle with just your thoughts.' And I did. I learned to ride that bike and take it in the exact direction I wanted, controlling it as per my will, speeding up and slowing down as I demanded. It was exhilarating. The experience of controlling something that had caused you hurt earlier, submitting it to your will and deriving pleasure out of it. It was like I had tamed a wild beast. And I had thought then, as I drove the bike down the lanes I knew so well, that I could control anything with just the power of my thoughts if I wanted to. Even life.

I was wrong.

For you are never completely in control of your thoughts.

My name is Luke Gallows.And I die today. Yes-Gallows is my second name and as the people around me now say, as an ironic joke, 'I was born for the Gallows.' I didn't see the funny side earlier. Thought it was highly insensitive of the people. But I see the funny side now. And sometimes I even manage to smile. At 5:30 PM, 27th of March 2008, by the order of the state of California, my life will be ended for the heinous crimes that I had committed. Its 3 PM now. In exactly one hour, the execution squad consisting of 6 guards will walk into my cell and take me for my final walk. A walk to the gallows. And I wait. I wait patiently.

There are several memories that are forever seeped in a man's mind. Memories that take shape and and remain with you and cannot be wiped out even by the passage of time. The memories differ from person to person. But some of those memories are universal. The birth of your child, your marriage, your first job interview, the day you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with some one, the first time you make love to a woman. Universal truths that hardly change.

Jennifer Francis. The first woman I ever made love to. I remember every moment, every little detail of that night. I was 19 then, a college sophomore, madly in love with the girl with the deep blue eyes. We had been dating for 6 months before she said she was ready. I didn't mind waiting. I was in love and I could have waited forever. I still remember vividly her red dress, the expensive french perfume and those small ear rings. I remember kissing her lips, feeling the touch of her hand, undressing her slowly as if in a trance. I remember the touch of her soft smooth skin against mine, her small breasts as I kissed them, the feeling of a sensation beyond pleasure as I entered her. I remember the words she said to me as we lay next to each other after making love, deprived of clothes, our body and our soul bared naked to each other. "I love you," she had whispered as we looked at each other. It was the first time a woman had ever said those words to me. "I love you too," I had whispered back. And so we made love again that night. And again.

My last meal was served at 2:00 PM. It consisted of a Medium rare steak with A1 Steak Sauce, fried chicken breasts and thighs and a bowl of fruit salad. In my later on years, I had become health conscious and had resorted to avoid fried food except on those special occasions when I felt like indulging myself. But as a child I used to love gorging on the food that mother used to cook for us. I loved the turkey she made on Thanksgiving and her tarts were always something I couldn't resist. But it really was the steak and the fried chicken that got to me-a meal I would insist on having at least once a week despite the so called unhealthy tagged labeled to it. I was a kid who loved eating and luckily I didn't put on weight easily so I was unaware of the calories count for a long while. I remember having dinner with my family and the way we used to hold hands as we said 'Grace.' There was a charm about praying then and I used to love the way my mother used to look at me on the days when it was my turn to say 'Grace.' I pretty much never prayed after I left home for College-religion and God had become irrelevant to me as I tried to make my own place in this world. Yet, those days of saying grace before dinner have stayed with me for the innocent way I used to look at things then and my mom's unquestionable faith in God. I wish I could speak to my mum now and tell her how much I love her. But that's impossible now. As I realized later on-God doesn't really have the answers to all the questions or the solutions to all the problems. My mom passed away on 16th June 1998. May her soul rest in peace.

In a way, I am really glad that I am being executed in the 21st century and not the 1980's. For lethal injection is so much a better way of dying than being locked up in a gas chamber or strapped down in an electric chair. They say that it is an almost painless death, one where you don't even notice that you are going to die. I will be strapped to a gurney with several heart monitors attached to my skin. Two needles will be placed in my veins and then they will inject an anesthetic into my system which will put me to sleep before injecting a solution of pancuronium bromide, which paralyzes the entire muscular system and stops the breathing. Finally the flow of potassium chloride stops the heart. And as life finally leaves me and my soul is freed from my body, I will still be sound asleep on that gurney. It's almost like the peaceful death that many of us wish for but not all of us can attain. Like the woman that all of us dream of marrying but only few of us do.

Emily Anna Birmingham was always the woman I was going to marry. I knew it within a month of dating her. It was never a question of if but only when. But I wasn't in a hurry. I never have been that kind of a man. And though I could have got down on my knees on the very day I realized that she was the one, I waited patiently for a year before doing so. She said yes without hesitation with tears in her eyes and I knew she was mine forever. I still remember her eyes and how they lit up every time she looked at me, the smell of her hair as she lied down in my arms, her smile as she forgave me for showing up late for a movie or even the feel of her skin as we made love. I remember the way we used to walk at the beach during our early days of courtship, side by side, with sandals in one hand and the other hand waving freely by her dress, as we talked, debated, argued, smiled and conversed without the fear of upsetting the other. And then suddenly, when a moment of silence came, when we felt like there was no need to say anything else, her fingers would entangle in mine, and slowly her head would rest on my shoulders as we walked endlessly without a care in the world, comfortable in the knowledge that we had found each other.

The last time I ever saw Emily was 6 years ago. She had come to inform me that she had met someone else and was going to marry him. I had said nothing. She had tried to hold back her tears, tried to act strong as she mentioned her impending marriage, almost as if using the marriage as a final declaration that she had moved on from me. But then she broke down and started crying, asking me to say something, saying that somewhere in her heart she was still in love with me and she hated herself for it because she didn't believe she would ever be able to move on completely. She asked me for an explanation, asked me if I even cared for our little son, to tell her why I did what I did, to tell her that I sill loved her because she knew I did. I told her to never come visit me again. She never did.

I still love Emily. And I always will. There is no question about that. Despite my crimes, my regrets, the mistakes that I made-Emily never was one of them. She was perhaps the only right choice I made in a life ordained with mistakes. I just wish I could say the same for Emily. For as I realized almost 8 years back, she had made a mistake with me. She was the best I could have ever hoped for. But I was the worst choice she made. It wouldn't have been true if I hadn't done what I did-we could have been happy and lived a wonderful life together, but once I had committed the crime, I automatically became the worst choice she made. And I needed to let her go. It was the least I could do. Perhaps only I can understand with what strength she has restrained herself from seeing me again. And from the bottom of my heart I wish that she has moved on and found happiness again. She deserves to. More than any one else.

Yesterday night I was talking to one of the guards and he had asked me one of those questions which every dying man is asked-'how do you feel man?' I didn't exactly know how to answer him then so I just told him-'alright.' Now that I have got time to think about it, I can answer that I feel prepared. I am ready. Its not to say that I am not scared or that I wish death upon me sooner. I want to live every bit of the life that I have got left in me-but I am prepared for the fate that awaits me. The wait is neither agonizing nor exciting. Its just there, a thought in my head, and one that I cannot control.

My son, Ryan Gallows, was an accident. But it was the most beautiful accident that could have ever happened. Emily and I had decided not to start a family till at least 3 years into marriage. I remember that night though. Emily and I were watching a movie in the living room, sitting on the sofa, wrapped up in a blanket when things got a bit too exciting and as it often happens, there was no control to our thoughts and before we knew it, Emily was pregnant. Once we realized that we were expecting a baby, we never even thought of looking back. We may have decided that we didn't want to start a family so soon, but now that it was upon us, we welcomed the blessing rather than fret about it. I was going to be a father and nothing else mattered. I remember holding my son in my arms for the very first time. His droopy eyes, the chubby nose, those little fingers in my palm as they held onto any support, devoid of any misgivings, the purest thing in the world. And it was the purest feeling in the world. One that words can never do justice to.

I sat and discussed with the guard about my life, my family, God, after-life, heaven or hell and stuff like that. He was kind enough to avoid mentioning my impending death on most occasions-as if we were just 2 normal guys having a discussion in a bar over a round of beer. The gravity of the situation didn't escape either of us but we knew we didn't necessarily have to make an issue about it and cry over it. I certainly knew that the last thing I needed was a bout of tears. It was amply clear that we were both aware of the elephant in the room but neither of us needed to mention it. He did put forward to me another question-if there was anything I wished I could do one last time. There are lots. I want to walk on the road and see what it feels like to be a free man one last time.I want to drink beer again. I want to watch the San Francisco 49ers win the super bowl one last time. I want to watch a movie and laugh and cry with the actors on screen as I suspend myself to the magic of cinema. I want to say Grace while having dinner with my parents again. I want to walk down the beach with Emily one more time. I want to make love to her again. I want to do all this and much more. But more than anything else-the one thing I really really wish I had a chance at, the one thing that I desire more than any other is a chance to see my son grow up. If there is one thing I really regret in all this-and one that I will never be able to forgive myself for-is depriving my son of his father. He didn't deserve this. No son does.

On the night of 7th May 1999, I had run over 3 children with my car resulting in their deaths. None of them survived. It was a massacre. I was driving after getting drunk at a party my co-workers had thrown in celebration of my latest promotion. I was 32 years old then. Had I planned to get drunk at the party? No. I had only planned to have a can of beer at the most as I was well aware of the fact that I had no one to drive me back home. Yet, in the excitement of my promotion and the party, I lost control of my thoughts once again. One can of beer became two. Followed by several shots of vodka. I left the party at 11:30 that night and decided to avoid the high way lest I get caught by the traffic cops. So I took the smaller lanes to Ashbury Heights, my neighbor hood. I don't recall much after that. There are just vivid memories but most of it is a blur. I remember trying to be careful not to over speed and to drive safely but I am not really sure. I remember I was drowsing in and out of consciousness, trying to clear my head but sleep and intoxication completely taking over me. My eye lids were almost shut as I kept on driving and when I forcefully opened them next, I saw 3 kids run across the road almost right in front of my car. I don't know what they were doing out in the middle of a road at 11:30 in the night. But they were there. My mind registered their movements but I was too slow to react. I tried to swerve my car and pressed the brakes but it was too late. The children-all 3 of them-had been crushed by my car. I pleaded guilty to the charges of death caused by drunk driving and man slaughter to the jury. My lawyer plea bargained for a life sentence but the jury of the state of California was out to set an example then and I was sentenced to death to be administered by lethal injection on the very charges I had pleaded guilty to. From that day on-I tried meeting any person from my past life ever again. Including my hospitalized father, my wife and my two year old son. If only I could have controlled my thoughts then.

I can hear the foot steps coming now. The execution squad will be here any moment. Its time for my last walk in life. A walk to the gallows. But I believe I have already walked to the gallows. For the last 10 years of my life that's what I have been doing everyday. Visiting the deaths of those children in my head, remembering the face of my beautiful wife as I shut her down from the last days of my life, trying to retain the fragments the memories of how my son looked like when I last saw him and the boy he must have grown into now, all of 12 years old. Trying to figure out if he looks like me or has he gone after his mother? Trying to understand if he has any memories of me at all or if he even knows who his father is. I don't know if it would be a bad thing if he didn't. Trying to hold onto every little memory that I had as a child as a way of reliving those innocent days in these last 10 years of my life. Trying to remember being there with my father at the Pontiac Silverdome stadium in Michigan as a 14 year old as I watched the San Francisco 49ers win their 1st Super Bowl and scream up and down with my father as they lifted the trophy. Yes-I have been walking the gallows for the last 10 years. Ever since the day I was sentenced to death by the State of California. Today is the day those harrowing walks to the gallows ends. Today I will finally be freed from the feeling of guilt, remorse and regrets that I have been facing everyday for the past 10 years. Today, my soul will be liberated of all the sins that I have committed.

The elimination squad is here. They are asking me to get up and get ready. I have asked them for 5 more minutes which they have generously, albeit grudgingly given. I have requested for no visitors to be present at the time of my execution which means besides the state officials and the press, no one else will be allowed to view my execution. Emily wont be there. Neither will Ryan. I don't know if they are out there somewhere, hoping to catch a last glimpse of me and praying for me. I hope they are. I like to believe they are. But even if they are not, what I want to tell them is that I love them. Beyond the mere definition of the word love. I have loved them and if today I can walk peacefully onto my death bed then it's because I have loved them. I wish I had a chance to tell them this. I hope Emily can forgive me and still find a space to love me somewhere. I hope Ryan knows that his father wasn't really a bad man. Just a reckless one. And one who should have learned a lesson in his childhood itself.That you really can't control your thoughts all the time. If only I had listened then.

There are now no more miles to go before I sleep. And I rest easy upon death's bed, waiting for my final salvation. Take me away.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Some Explainations....

I have been planning to write something for a long while but I am impertinently lost. I just can't seem to bring myself to write anything which would actually be worth reading or even writing. Several times, these last few months, I have signed into my blog and started writing a post but somehow could never bring myself to finish it or publish it. I really am lost. Politics doesn't interest me anymore. I admit it never has much but nowadays my interest in it has completely waned. Somewhere I did have a good laugh when I read that Barrack Obama was being awarded the nobel peace prize(I mean come on seriously-what has he actually done?) but that is as far an interest I have taken in politics this year.

Movies are always first love and will remain so and more often that not my thoughts often venture into writing another movie review or a general article on the Bollywood Dream industry but I really don't fill my blog up with just movie reviews. I accept I was pretty interested in writing a review on Kaminey(movie of the year as far as I am concerned) and Blue(what a wastage of 100 crores) but then stopped for the aforementioned reasons.

So what do I really write on? See-I have no idea if I am even going to post this on my blog-but just in case I do...please forgive my venting out my frustrations on the proverbial writers block(and to think that I am not even a writer per se).

Most people who read this blog are my orkut friends and so I presume most of them have also been following my story 'That Thing Called Love' on an orkut community. They are obviously aware and probabaly pretty upset that I recently deleted that Orkut account and with it the story too got deleted. I know it's harsh and those people who have been reading my story deserve way better treatment that I have meted out to them so first of all I want to apologise. Leaving my readers in the lurch mid-way through the story was never my intention and I seriously wish I hadn't done that. You have been following that story for almost 2 years now and to devoid you from knowing what happens to Rahul and Anjali is nothing less than a crime. I seriously wish I hadn't done that.

But at the same time-it also set me thinking. For a while now I have really lost the point of the story. To be honest I haven't really known what to do with it for a long time. When I had started writing that 'That Thing Called Love' it was supposed to be an entirely different story than it turned out to be. It was supposed to be a 6 year journey of two people who really love each other but somehow can't seem to make their relationship work. So what route do they take? Do they realize that despite their love they aren't compatible enough-that they are way too different to be be happy with each other and hence part ways or do they try and find a way to make it work? It was supposed to be about self-discovery, about how much love can change you and to an extent how much should you let it change you. The story did follow the path I had laid down for it to an extent-but never to the graph that I wanted it to. For one-I never managed to stretch it to the 6 year period. It remained in that one semester for 400 odd pages and I realized for me to actually execute the real story-it could take me well over a 1000 pages. As much as I love the idea of being the next J R R Tolkien-I ain't. So I went for the easy way out-try and wrap up the story within the one year period without actually getting my point across. As an author-that just seemed to be cheating myself.

Yes-I do look fondly upon many parts of the book. And there are parts I am genuinely proud about. Maybe not as a writer per se but at least the ideas that I had conceived. I am still in love with that introduction scene. The thought of starting a story with a kiss-not many Bollywood directors(even those who cast Emraan Hashmi) wouldn't be able to think of. I loved the idea of the voice which keeps rumbling in Rahul's stomach as he has his first proper conversation with Anjali when he walks her back from frustration point to her hostel. I love Rahul's reaction and his interaction with Virat when he calls Anjali the first time. Imagining it on screen-it's something that I believe would have genuinely made people laugh. One of my really favorite bits though is the dream that Rahul has when he is about to climb the girls hostel for Anjali's birthday. The whole bit came to me almost as an inspiration and it was one of the parts I really enjoyed writing.

Then there were the emotional bits. The fight at Dee Tee when those goons hit Rahul on the head and he lands up at the hospital. When I was writing about Rahul breaking their arms, I thought it was getting a bit filmy but I just remembered that this filmy scene had a greater purpose. Just when Anjali is about to walk out on him , came the twist in the tale. Rahul is hit on the head and Anjali can't walk out anymore. I loved writing the hospital bit too. Another huge favorite is the scene at Malpe beach when they 'unofficially' break up. It just seemed right. And so did the scene after Rahul and Mohit Bansal had a fight at Dee Tee. As Anjali is about to leave-Rahul grabs her and then it was just the emotions carrying them to that second unplanned kiss. For me-it was better than the first. And I actually wished I could see that scene in a movie.

The truth though remains that I had lost track of what I was writing. And that can never be good for a writer. So even though the deleting of my story from orkut wasn't intentional I somewhere do feel that maybe the right thing did happen. I really didn't know if I wanted to continue that story anymore. And not just because it wasn't going where I had intended it to.

'THAT THING CALLED LOVE' was also supposed to be my ode to Manipal. I have spend the most beautiful four years of my life here and when I had started writing that story, it was supposed to my tribute to my life here. And perhaps thats really why I can't seem to bring myself to finish this story. Because as much as I want my readers to see a proper end to this story-I also want to give a real tribute to Manipal where I include all of its life and not just a story revolving around four characters. None of these characters though exist in Manipal. They are all made up and fictional. The only one who isn't is Virat-but even he isn't from Manipal. Virat was one of my best friends in School-and I had done schooling from Bahrain. And now that my life in Manipal is coming to an end-I can't help but think that if I am indeed writing a story based in Manipal, it shouldn't just have the lush KMC Greens or the sunset at Malpe Beach or the bike ride from End point to the Hostel, but it should also be about the characters, about the people that live in Manipal. I know-that sounds like writing a 5 point someone but if it does-then so be it. My tribute to Manipal shouldn't just be about the place itself-but also about the friends I made and the people I have had to interact with. It may not necessarily be about how screwed up engineering really is(in fact, it won't be) but it has to contain people who have inhabited this town like I have for the last four years and truly learned to love it rather than people I just made up.

I don't know if I will ever find a story to write that will be based in Manipal and manage to have the people in it as well. But I know I do want to. And for that reason only I might never finish 'that thing called love.' I would also that add that never say never because one fine day I just might but as of now its on a long standby. And I can't say sorry enough for that to all my wonderful readers. You have encouraged me and loved my story and you do deserve me better. And trust me-I'll try and make up for it.

As of right now, I do have a few story ideas in my head. But am not sure if I'll execute them. Next time I write a story-I am actually going to plan it out instead of just writing randomly whatever comes to my mind. That was the basic mistake I did with 'that thing called love.' I will ensure that I do not repeat this mistake. One day thought-I will return with a story based in Manipal. And not just based in Manipal but about Manipal. And it'll be a lot more truer than the world I showed in that thing called love, which I am sorry to say had been glossed over to a huge extent. I want to show Manipal as it is and not the town about pretty people where everything is rosy. I'll come back with the real Manipal. I don't know when but I will.

Till then, I will try and find something else to write. No idea what I will write next. I have started writing a short story so hopefully I'll post it soon. Maybe not on Orkut but on the blog itself. After November I won't have anything to do for nearly 6 months so am really hoping I can start writing something by then. I just need a very concrete idea. That's all.

Till then-I hope I can continue to blog and indulge myself in little short stories. And pray that my readers ain't too upset with me. It was the mistake of a rookier writer and nothing else. Hope that sets the record straight. Cheers! :)

PS: Read the new Chetan Bhagat book '2 states.' I am thinking of writing an article on it. Not sure though. As for my opinion on the book-lets just say it didn't work with me ;)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Silence...

"Imran...tu aaj kal thoda chup chup sa rehta hai!" Kunal told me today while we were making the walk to uth corner for a cup of coffee well past midnight. It's not the first time in the last few months or so that someone has pointed out my silence to me and its not something I have actually tried to deny either. The brash, talkative, often hyper active Imran has become a little bit infrequent nowadadyas taken over more by the quiet, thinking and minding his own business Imran. Yes-the brash and hyper active version does surface now and then but more often that not, I find a way to remain silent or not get too involved. The reasons are just as unclear to me as it is to everybody else but mostly it is due to the fact that I find a lot less to be happy about nowadays.

It's just not to do with happiness of corse. I didn't scream before just because I was happy, I did because I wanted to-because I was and still am in general a very hyper active person. The changes don't necessarily end with the screaming either. During dinners I continue to maintain my silence, concentrating on the food than the conversation that dominates the dinner table. Is it because I am unhappy? Partly yes. Partly also because I feel detached to my surrounding nowadays. I don't feel like taking part in dinner table conversations anymore. I don't feel like going wild at parties anymore. I feel alone...lonely. Feel as if the people in my life, the people I call my friends-I just can't relate to them anymore. They are happy in their own world, in their own little happy space-and I feel as if I don't belong in that happy space anymore. It's a feeling of detatchment that I cannot describe but just seeing people celebrating, laughing, being happy-it just reminds me how lonely I am. How I don't really have anything really worth being happy about. And no-I am not talking about the materialistic things. Not jobs or a bike or the latest ipod. I am happy about all that. But unless you have people who can relate to you, who can read your mind, your expressions and notice that something is wrong by just seeing your body language-you can't really be happy. There is only so much happiness materialistic things can give you unless you have people whom you can share it with. And that's the kind of happiness that is lacking in my life.

And maybe that's why the silence has taken over the hyperactivity. Maybe that's why we all screamed and shouted at our photoshoot, then I screamed, shouted and danced again when we went for the after party to Dee Tee but half an hour into the party, my loneliness took hold of me again. I walked out of Dee Tee not feeling like being a member of the party anymore. I don't know why it really happens. I don't know why half an hour into the party I suddenly start feeling lonely. But it does-and it happens everywhere. In the past few months, I have gone to every party as excited as a bumble bee, danced wildly and screamed hoarsely for 30 mins but then I notice all the happy people, all the people who are actually truly happy and I notice again just how lonely I am. And then I just sit in a corner and watch all the happy people jump and scream and dance with anyone they can find.

I have wondered if drinking would help. Yet somehow I cannot make myself touch alcohol. Trust me-I have been tempted a good number of times to finally give into the attraction of a Red label or even an Old Monk and see what it really feels to be drunk, how good does it actually feel to be high and speak out all your frustrations without having to worry about remembering it the next day but I can't. Because God is watching. And I do truly and completely believe in the existence of God. I may not be the staunchiest of Muslims but I am a believer and I believe we will all get our just rewards form him on Judgement day. There is an after life. There is an eternity. And there is a Hell and a Heaven. Trust me on that.

I don't really like the silent me. I hate pitying myself. My life is just fine. I do have friends and lots of them, friends who really care about me. Yet somehow-I can't get over that feeling of loneliness. I am surrounded by people, people who actually are my friends, people who really do care about me, people who have helped through my troubled times yet, even in that sea of friends, I feel alone. I feel like the stranger at a party no one cares about. Somewhere-unless I find someone who can actually get rid of this loneliness for me, I feel I will become more and more silent. Day by day. Till the silence takes over completely. And that's the day I fear.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


I am not sure how many people do this but after a movie gets over, on the journey back home scenes from the movie that I have just watched are replayed in my head and its really then that I can judge how good the movie really was. Kaz, a friend, calls it the movie hangover...something which he doesn't suffer from. I do though, and maybe that's because I am actually that Bollywood crazy. But hangover or not, as I took the journey back to Manipal after watching Love Aaj Kal, the scenes started replaying in my head again. n one of those scenes, Saif and Deepika meet secretly at her wedding at her behest. Saif is confused as to why Deepika would demand such a meeting. Clearly, she has made the choice and hence has moved on. As the scene unfolds, before Deepika can utter a word, Saif starts to speak and says that he is alright and that he is happy for her. He has moved on, he tries to convince her and even convince himself. But slowly, as he continues to speak, he realizes what's actually happened. He still rants on though, shifting from the 'move-on' talk to 'what could have been,' never really settling on any one thing and eventually just walking away to avoid further embarassment and confusion. In all this Deepika doesn't utter a single word. It's a scene with seriously undermined emotions, for the feelings are way bigger than the dialogues Saif utters, yet Deepika's silence mixed with Siaf's utter confusion at what he is blabbering and still continuing to do so registers those emtions wonderfully well and without using heavily cliched dialogue or an emotional ranting, Imtiaz Ali drives home the point.

It is this deft-handling of Imtiaz Ali that makes Love Aaj Kal what it really is. For the emotions are almost severely underplayed here till the last few reels and yet they come across in a way that only Imtiaz Ali can make it impossible. It's a movie that several of our top-notch film makers, in particular Karan Johan and Aditya Chopra, can a learn a lot from. For here is a movie that actually walks the talk. And yet it almost seems like an effortless job, the film almost so alarmingly simple that it would be easy to forget who really makes this movie. And this movie, ladies and gentlemen, is an Imtiaz Ali show all the way. Despite Saig Ali Khan's stupendous act , Deepika's coming of age performance and Pritam's chart-busting music, it really is Imtiaz Ali who is the true hero of the movie. And really-I wasn't expecting anything less.

This is a movie about self-denial and realization more than anything else. Jai(Saif Ali Khan) and Meera(Deepika Padukone) meet in a lift, flirt in a bar, make out in a car, realize that they are a couple because their friends point it out to them, make out again at a wedding and eventually break-up in a restaurant. All in a snazzy 20 minute sequence. And just to add the icing on the cake, they throw a break up party. Talk about throwing cliches out of the window. They part ways and become long distance buddies discussing each others irritating and good habits as they are not in a relationship anymore. They even tell each other about their current love life and discuss date tips. Not once realizing that their is something much more deeper being formed here and when they do realize it...both are too head strong to actually admit it. And as Jai and Meera take this journey from casual lovers to friends to realizing that they can't live without each other, Jai does so with the help of Veer(Rishi Kapoor) who narrates his own love story from his younger days to an often amused Jai.

Imtiaz Ali uses several props to move his story forward. One such enticing plot move is to have Saif Ali Khan play the younger Veer for as Veer says Jai reminds him of his younger and more romantic days. Another is to use a non-linear narrative style. As Veer starts narrating his love story, it couldn't be any more different from Jai and Meera's and yet by the end both stories have reached the same point. You can't help but baulk at the comparison, while Veer's story seems to be of the love forever variety Jai's is so much more casual in attitude and yet by the end both stories are riddling in the same intensity and sea of emotions. In fact, Jai's story has more intensity to it than Veer's. Yet all this really couldn't be possible without the dialogues. They are of such a casual variety that you woudn't really notice it in real life, heck-you can hear 20-something people narrate the same dialogues at a club or disco without as much as a word difference. Clearly, Imtiaz Ali sepaks the language of the Gen-next. One such cute little moment comes when Saif Ali Khan tells Deepika on the phone that she shouldn't really drink lest others take advantage of her and happily admits that he has taken advantage of her being drunk several times. Deepika responds by saying that she was never really that drunk and she pretended to be drunk only because she realized that it could be the only way to get him to do something. It's such wittily crafted dialgue and so casually told that you can't help but cheer for it.

Subtlety though is the key here. The dialogues, the jokes and more importantly, the emotions are underplayed so that you realize what's happening without the movie going over board. You see it in almost every nuance in the 1st half. It is there when Jai and Meera are to part ways after the break-up party. You see it when Meera tells Jai over the phone that someone has asked her out and as he tells this to Veer, Jai's tone changes in such a manner that you realize it's affecting him more than he would like to admit. You feel it when Jai smses Meera about him finally hooking up with a girl. Meera reads it and smiles a bit sadly. She then looks in the mirror and tries to smile again but clearly it isn't working. You see it when both Jai and Meera are at the same party with their respective dates but can't stop texting each other. And it is then that you realize that they never really broke up. They never really believed it but all this while they were in a long distance relationship, the very reason for which they broke up.

The transition from light moments to dramatic comes in the next sequence when a sullen Meera admits her boyfriend has proposed. Jai, the more naive of the two about their relationship, doesn't see it as a big deal telling that it's a good thing and taking her hand and pulling her close to him says that she can take her time to decide if she is confused. Meera simply says, "kaise? Tumse chup chup ke milke aur tumhaara haath pakadke?" And this is when they really break up. Meera admits, almost teary eyed, that Jai has to get out of her life entirely and only then can someone take his place. But by then we know it's too late. Taking Jai's place is almost impossible now. The two though, continue to deny it, realizing now that they are in love with each other but yet won't admit that they can't live without each other. And so another phase starts.

It is moments like these take Love Aaj-Kal to dizzy heights. The emotional scenes, especially in the 2nd half have been so beautifully executed that you never really feel the change from comedy to drama. In fact, it is the dramatic sequences that are the high light of the movie. Of the two love stories running concurrently, it is hard to say which one is better. As the movie starts, Veer's story sounds a lot more interesting for Jai's and Meera's story seem to be just too practical for liking and yet by the end you really can't wait to see the conclusion to the modern love tale. That again is Imtiaz Ali's magic.

The low points are few. The 1st half, although well executed, at times seems to be heading nowhere. The intermission comes out of the blue and at a very random juncture. The songs, expecially Twist and to an extent Main Kya Hoo seem to be a bit forced in the narrative. There is no explaination given to Meera's hurried decision to get married which seems so out of place for a character shown to be more practical than emotional. Was it to get back at Jai for not realizing or admitting what she has? The ending to the past love story turns out to be somewhat of a damp squib considering the build-up. Not that it is necessarily bad.

The plus points though outscore the negatives by a mile. Pritam's music is astounding, a complete chart buster and it's almost impposible to decide which is the best track. Aahu Aahu and Chor Bazaari are my clear favorites. Both also have the best choreography. Infact Chor Bazaari is such a fun song that you wish there was a way you could join Saif and Deepika in their onscreen escapades. The cinematography is top-notch, especially in the Delhi sequences when Jai and Meera's love seems to be rekindling. The screenplay reaches dizzying hieghts in the 2nd half when an almost half baked script is turned into astounding moments of emotional depth by a director who clearly knows what he is doing.

Finally, the performances. Is this Saif's career best performance? The answer is a straight no. For those who don't seem to understand what I am saying, I suggest you pick a dvd of Omkara. Yet, without it being his career best performance, it definitely ranks in the top 3. We have seen him play the urban cool dude in Hum Tum, Salam Namaaste, Dil Chahta Hai and Kal Ho Naa Ho so it almost seems like a repeat act, except here the graph of the character and they movie are a lot more complex than in his earlier movies. And as Jai, he catches those simple nuances so easily as he goes from the in denial mode to the desperate lover mode without even letting us notice it. The transtition happens seamlessly as if it was always meant to be. And it truly was meant to be. As the sikh though, Saif isn't as convincing as Jai Mehta but this is an earnest effort again and should not be undermined. Veer Singh is a character that doesnot come easily to Saif Ali Khan but even then he manages to make us root for him and hope he gets his Harleen as he stands under her balcony and makes his 'Pratigya.' Rishi Kapoor has that old word charm about him where you know he can't do anything wrong. He is simply too good an actor to do anything wrong.

The real surprise though is Deepika Padukone. 4 movies old and in none of her earlier movies did we see an actress who could actually act. There were hints that she could become an average actress at best but beyond that? Nigh impossible. But stranger things have happened and as so often happens, given a good character and a director who has extracted career best performances from his previous actresses, Deepika Padukone makes a mark and proves that she can act. Heck-she can cry even better and that really takes something. Watch the aforementioned sequence when the real break-up happens and another seqnece where a heart broken Meera talks to Jai on the phone, shouting merrily even as tears drop down her eyes. These are scenes of immense magnitude and a bad actress could have easily runied them, but Deepika sinks into her role and takes the graph of her character upscale like never before. Welcome Deepika. To the club of heroines who can actually act. We are glad you are here.

Finally though, as already said before, this is an Imtiaz Ali film from beginning to end. He seamlessly combines every element of the movie into something so beautiful that Love Aaj Kal becomes better than the sum of its parts. Taking two regular stories, juxtaposing them together in an effortless narrative, using witty and smart dialogues with pitch perfect casting and chart busting music, Imtiaz Ali is like that orchestra conductor blending all the beautiful but individual elements into an ensemble and making a maserpiece. Almost effortlessly. And Love Aaj Kal is a master peice no-less. It is his best work, no doubt, even bettering his earlier Jab We Met which in itself was such a difficult act to follow. Now that he has done it, it will be intresting to see what Imtiaz Ali does next. I really hope, for the sake of every movie lover in India, that Imtiaz Ali doesn't loose his way. Bollywood is in desperate need of film-makers like him.

Final Verdict: There is no way you can miss this one. Absolutely no way. This is the best romantic movie to come out of Bollywood in years. This is Imtiaz Ali's tour de force, a movie made with such effortless ease that you baulk at actually how good it is. It is a movie that deserves to be lauded for its simpicity and applauded for Imtiaz Ali's sheer genius. It is a movie that once again proves that Saif Ali Khan keeps reaching new heights as an actor and a movie that introduced us to Deepika Padukone the actress. It is a movie that had me jumping in a theatre and doing a jig to the Aahu Aahu song as the end credits roll. It is a movie that will make you smile as you come out of the theatres and remind you that we are better at romance than Hollywood is. To their every Titanic, we have a DDLJ, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Naa, Jab We Met and now...Love Aaj Kal. It is a movie for every Bollywood buff and anyone who is a romantic at heart. So go catch it now and fall in love all over again. For it's impossible not to fall in love with this movie.

As for me, I will be catching a repeat show of this movie at a cinema near me very soon. And I am pretty sure by next weekend I would have watched the movie atleast 5 times. For you see, that movie hangover really is quite strong. The scenes of Love Aaj Kal just don't stop playing in my head and I doubt it will anytime soon. And I am actually bloody happy. Imtiaz Ali, take a bow. AAHU AAHU AAHU!!
RATING: ****