My Father

My father is a man of few words. Words matter to him and he uses them wisely. For the last three months, he has not uttered or typed a single one. I don’t think he will do so for a while atleast.

My father has a round face. If I stand beside him and remove the top half of my hair and cut the bottom half extremely short, you will probably not be able to differentiate me from him. I hope the next time I see him, he has hair on his head like he does in the black and white photo in front of me.

My father tells me that he sees himself in me. He will succeed when I do and he would finally have lived a full life. I have 7000 bucks in my bank account as off today. It would suffice to say that he has a lot more to wait for.

My father hugs me tight whenever i get angry. He repeats ‘all iz well’ in my ears till I calm down. He hasn’t done that in a while. But I have a feeling he will need to do that soon.

My father likes history. He tells me of Genghis Khan and Alexander; of Gandhi and of Mandela; of Nizams and of their servants. He has become a bit slow off late but soon all he will do is tell me stories.

My father writes e-mails to me. He writes better than he speaks. He claims to have a monotonous and off putting voice. So he avoids the telephone and sticks to the written word. He hasn’t e-mailed me in a while. But soon he will.

My father is a favourite among his students. He is a hard task master for me though. He never ceases to  point out that unnecessary adjective that I use against my noun. Off late he has been correcting me telepathically.

My father is dead for the world. But isn’t it a happy fact that I don’t fall into that group?

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The editor’s tale

It’s not always that I get to open my laptop and scrutinize the work of others. Today, after procrastinating and coming to terms with the weight on my shoulders, I finally sat down with a cup of black coffee and read the first line of some obscure article.

It made me cringe- not in disgust but in apprehension. Someone out there, at some point in my life, will look at my work with the same hawked eyes and critique every coma that I use. That day, I would be sitting helplessly on the other side of the veil waiting for the verdict like a sinner on judgement day.

But not today. Today was my day of power and authority. I could feel my heartbeat quicken; the writer’s fate was in my hand and in some small way, I was going to make or break his life. ‘Impact it’, if you may. It would either be a crash landing or it would  be a smooth one.

The sadist in me looked at the doc file with glee. It could finally use the virtual red ink on every misspelled word, every misplaced punctuation and every wrong usage- sometimes out of spite, too. If the words are a writer’s baby, it was time to go on a kidnapping spree for the sadist ‘me’.

The more rational part was, however, scared. I would be blamed for any additional coma in the article by people unknown to me. I was transported to the veil again. Only this time, both the writer and I were huddled together like a bunch of scared kids waiting to be reprimanded.

God! What pressure to be faced for one damn article and God what a dilemma to be faced by one small mind- to kill or try not to be killed!

Old parchments and cold tea

Imagine a room stripped of dignity;

Now add an old tattered sofa in a corner

and a dead fish tank in the opposite.

It doesn’t have to be fancy- just decaying.

 

Color the walls dirty yellow

and add splash of black smug here and there.

Hang old photos:

laughing faces and embracing arms.

Comfortable isn’t it?

 

Put a rug that has been slept on

and add the musty smell to it.

Don’t forget the old shoes and the coat hanger

with just a lonely coat for company.

Familiar?

 

This room had no windows;

only a wooden door with a broken knob.

A ceiling fan and warm lights

that flicker like the firefly at dawn.

Feeling hot already?

 

The cold tea cup has a grim in the bottom

that smiles across the yellow.

The parchment has ink across it

and the word writer written in bold.

The pen is broken.

 

You can hear laboured breathing.

Now place a man with a protruding belly

sprawled on the couch;

bubbles in his mouth and the stench of smoke about him.

 

He is a writer by profession

and this is his life.

Now try living it and tell me how you feel.

 

 

The creator’s dilemma

A writer is a creator. When he creates characters and gives them life through words, he holds the strings to their lives and fates. Look at it like a puppeteer playing with his puppets. All is merry until he reaches the end of the story and he realises that one of his beloved creations has to be engulfed by reality and has to face something tragic- whether it be a broken finger, a murder charge or a broken heart. That is when the toughest decision is made– Which of my limbs do I cut out?

I don’t know much of God or the creator. But if such an entity were to exist and were a writer, then I would bring my hat to my chest and bow my head to it- not out of reverence but out of pity and compassion. I waste pages and pages of paper; drink cups and cups of coffee and diligently pull out each one of my hair to make that decision. Wonder what the big boss does to soothe its nerves.

The plot and the setting is easy to create and perhaps the most enjoyable part of the journey. The end is a different story altogether.

Mythology 101

My parents take family time very seriously and for them family means any relative who is at a 100 km radius from home. Friday evenings are dedicated to this task. Uncles, aunts, grannies, grandpas, nieces and nephews and all the relatives-in-law get together and an intellectual debate begins.

Last Friday the topic was the existence of God. When asked for my opinion, I said, “I don’t relate to those stone heroes sitting on shrines looking very wise and sometimes scary. My world is quite different from theirs and I like to keep away.” On hearing my proclamation, one of my many uncles, an avid reader, suggested I read a trilogy by ‘this Indian bloke named Amish.’ (He was raised in Sussex and hence spoke like Harry Potter’s brother.)

Saturday morning all three books were on my kindle and I turned to the first page of the first book—The Immortals of Meluha– at 11 am that morning and the last page of the third book—the Oath of the Vayuputras– at 4 am Monday morning. I describe the series as—the guide to mythology for the skeptical and the dubious.

In the first book, Shiva- the brave and just leader of the Guna tribe, but a man nonetheless– is introduced along with other mythological characters. It deals with his struggle to find evil and destroy it. In his pursuit to give his tribe better standards of living, he is lead to the city of Meluha where the Suryavanshis reside. Certain events lead the Meluhans to believe that he is their savior and that he will solve all of their problems. The uncouth barbarian from Tibet is overnight turned into a living God due to the faith bestowed on him by the people and their king owing to his blue neck. This is the part of the story that reminded me of Shakespeare’s saying—some men are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. Shiva suffered the latter in the beginning of the story and hence, I empathized with this barbarian who the world now worships in many forms.

The other two books in the trilogy—The Secret of the Nagas and The Oath of the Vayuputras—see Shiva travelling to different parts of India and interacting with the different tribes in the search for the answer to the question—what is evil and when does good become evil? Personal drama unfolds and scientific logic and reasoning of the different ‘miracles’ is explained well by Amish.

The coining of the phrase ‘Har har Mahadev’ by the protagonist answers my question about God. Roughly translated, it means everyone is God. We have both good and evil inside us. To my inquisitive mind, this reasoning seemed just and fair. Shiva is a revolutionary of the old age. He not only answered the questions mentioned above but also heralded a new age—an age dominated by reason, logic and humanity. He believed that traditions are good as long as they don’t hinder progress and knowledge.

This to me, is a man, who was truly great. Amish’s explanation of why these men and women became Gods is a very reasonable one. There are no voices from the heaven, the dead coming back alive or mysterious creatures in this series. It is simple facts.

One would be awed at the Indian society of that time. It was progressive in its thinking and scientifically very advanced. My pride at being an Indian has increased ten folds after reading those books. The sewage system, warfare technology, health care, education, break-up of the society and division of labour was exemplary. One would have an impression that our society was nearly perfect.

My greatest admiration of these books come from the fact that it leaves no room for wishful thinking. Spoiler alert—Sati, Shiva’s wife and reincarnation of Shakti, a.k.a. Durga, dies in the end. One would expect that since it is mythology retold, a miracle would happen and she would be brought back to life by her husband- the Mahadev. All the suckers for happy endings would face huge disappointment on that account. Those who die never come back—that is Amish’s premise.

Coming to the technicalities of the books, the language is simple and it is rich in imagery. Since the story spans vast regions of India, Amish has done a good job in describing the terrains and the topography. I could almost see a movie in my head while reading it. Plot and storyline is strong and wins most of the battle.

I wouldn’t go to the extent of calling Amish the Tolkien of our time, but I would say that his work helped me see these mythological characters in a different light. Whether or not this series makes you dwell on the larger question of life, it is undoubtedly a populist page-turner. Looks like I have my uncle to thank for this revelation.

Amateur is the word!!!

My verses are unrefined and crass;
I’ve been told-
Free verse is not literature!!
My prose is said to be unnecessarily long;
My tenses- all goofed up;
My thought process- really confusing
(even to me).
All in all- an amateur writer who should just stop.
But once in a while someone comes along
With words of kindness and appreciation
And fuels my humongous ego.
To that someone, I promise–
My verses will be true;
My prose will mean something;
Pretense is not my forte;
Being blatantly honest- one of my many follies.
I am just me
And what I write will reflect just that.