Wednesday, 24 October 2012

If I Live



    A few house sparrows have settled near my feet. I wonder what I would look like to someone who passes by. But no one usually comes this way.  I am sitting on a damaged concrete bench near an abandoned train station. Eyes fixed to my old Notebook’s screen, fingers moving undecidedly over alphabets that try to be truthful to what the constellation of neurons signal to my system.  
     Me and my Notebook, against the dust particles that fly and fall down on my shoes. We are denied free will, even of the transitory nature. We obey commands, the existence of which we don’t even realize at times. We try to be smart but make a mess of everything by our uninformed inventiveness. We rebel occasionally, only in attempts to get rid of that which we think invade us.
     The bench carries the weight of a man’s thoughts and a machine’s heat. The man out of Dionysian dreams about to plunge into some unknown sphere of existence. The machine with its helpless Apollonian rationality about to witness, and play a significant part in, what follows. Nature keeps a knowing, watchful eye.
     What if I fail?
     Despite all the systematic preparations, I can loose my life in this attempt. That would defeat the purpose of my perseverance. What I need to gain is life, with certain things altered.
     It is not easy to be alone in a quest for identity, when the meaning itself of identity has been ripped off by essentialists. My friend who studied in some big Western university thinks these are the golden times of communities. He thinks there cannot be anyone left out with individual existential angst. When he saw me reading Kafka once, he laughed at the anachronism of a Third World citizen stuck in the drainpipes of European thoughts at the wake of Twenty First Century. He thought Gregor Samsa, a.k.a. Kafka, might be howling slogans in a Gay Parade or dancing in a nightclub if he lived to see this world. How can he waste his time having apple-fights with his father and crying over his ‘metamorphosis’ behind a closed door? Try to imagine the guy in a Marilyn Monroe wig dancing to deejayed hiphop, and you will lose your appetite for grim books, he said.
     I was silenced. I wanted to tell him that I would be happier with less, not more. But he wouldn’t have understood a word of what I had to say, lost in his newly-found all-knowing stupidity. His teenage wisdom told him that the art of life was to learn to live with, and make the most of, what we had in us.
     I know that in a few minutes, others would think of me as a real fool. I need to roll up the right trouser leg. I need it to live with me, so I will roll it up just above my knee where I had tied some cloth tightly, just in case. My message might have reached the doctor by now, and he will come soon after the train passes by. But I am being cautious. I am almost sure that I will pass out, and I need to avoid fatal blood loss.
     I am a bit worried about losing the part of leg I need, and of losing life as well, but the good doctor had explained a few things to me and showed me the way I have to keep the leg on the track. He knows the exact part from where I need to loose it, and he can look after that once I become his patient legally.
     It was very kind of him. I was really surprised that he understood me. But he is the one who made full use of his years around the world. I respect him for his discerning mind which recognizes human misery. He thinks beyond stereotyped identity crises, and believes in the individual’s right to choose the life he needs. I choose life without my right leg from just above the knee.
     I can imagine the initial hardships and financial constraints. Not to talk of social stigma, though the fools will never know why I put my leg under a speeding train. Despite all that, I can foresee my happiness if I succeed in this attempt. An end to my agony that was beyond any analyst or therapist. A pragmatic solution to the darkness that took birth with me in the form of an unwanted limb. It won’t be heaven, but I know that it would be a lesser hell for me.
     I don’t think much of the invented new-age categories – Devotees, Amputees, Wannabees… I am going live in a society which hasn’t heard of apotemnophilia, of amputees by choice. I do not wish to partake in any of the thoughtless exploitation of mutual feelings through community building.
     I hear a vibration over the rail-track that resonates with my senses swollen in anticipation.   
     The bums who could not even find a tree branch strong enough to hang themselves…The semi-crack who waited for death lying on a rail track as the train passed through some other track…A  few people who tore off their genital organs in religious frenzy and threw them in the air…An old man who dreamt of an orgy before starting a trip of life and death in search of a boy his grandson’s age…
     My resolve is not a fragile branch of tree. There is only one rail track in front of me. I am not misguided by mob psychology. I am not an old man in his death bed, tormented by late realizations.
     My search for difference, a rare identity, leads me here. Sometimes, I feel like a character out of my stories.
     Either way, this act serves a purpose. It proves something. It brings some change to an eventless life. I will shut down the Notebook now, keep it safe here and get up.
*****

Image courtesy:  http://creativewriting.ie/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Down_the_Tracks_by_Cruzweb.jpg

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Our Music


You have to close your eyes and forget us. You just need to remember the music. The music I created for you. No, that is a big claim. I didn't create it. It found me, stayed within me for a while and came out as music. I knew that it was foolish to chase it again, because everything that we needed was in the music that transformed me.

You should stop looking at my pictures with those sad eyes. I was just the medium. What has to last forever is with you now. It doesn't matter that I am not there now, that I am gone. Forever. Why do you try to hurt yourself every time you think about me? Why don't you just slip away from the thin film of memory that binds our lost moments of existence? Listen to me. It was not meant to be this way. We were not meant to be...

But you have the music now. I haven't lost it either. I have more of it in fact now, and I feel sad that I couldn't leave them all for you. But this one piece that you can listen to and become one with is that which will liberate you. Trust me. Close your eyes. Just believe that I was the medium through which something so beautiful was sent to you. Wipe your tears, and sing. Let the world know what you have within you. Let your voice be a part of the music. Let you be another medium. Let our song survive.

******

Image courtesy:  http://creativewriting.ie/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/music_can____by_qinni-d4zherh.jpg

Monday, 8 October 2012

Stairway To Life


Since we have decided to explore everything about my past, it doesn't make any sense to just stand here. We need to climb. Climb these stairs. Yes, they are about to fall apart, but they won't. Come, let's climb these steps one by one.

The room on the top is well lit. I mean, it used to be so. That was mine. Mine alone. I was the emperor, and my twin soldiers were at times arranged on the floor in such way that they stood guard on me. They were cold, and useless. Just pieces of metal. But they meant much more to me those days. They were special, and strong, and loyal, and alive, in my imagination.

I used to sit in that corner many times. That was when I felt alone. All by myself, all alone, in this small room. And no one knew that. They thought I was playing, or reading all the time. But can one do that all the time? There are long breaks from the play, from the reading. And it was the toughest to deal with those breaks.

I had my books. And my toys. Not just the tin soldiers. All kinds of toys. My Dad was keen on that, though he had a bad life for himself. He needed me to grow a healthy boy.  Despite the backgrounds.

He had many enemies. He did bad jobs. The kind people do with guns and all. And they came for him one day. I heard gun shots while I was negotiating a break from the play and the reading.

There were so many of them. And there was blood all over the floor and on the walls when they left. There were screams too, which died fast. My mother ran through those steps. Yes, the very steps that we climbed now. Was she coming to me? But she was shot on her way, and lay dead on one of those steps. Perhaps that stopped them from climbing up. Or they just god tired of killing.

There were so many dead bodies on the floor. My Dad, my sister, two brothers, two aunts. They spared me. And my books. And my tin soldiers. And my little corner and bits of silent despair.

Well that's me. That's what made me. That explains my silences. I was too weak to retaliate. I just got on with life... with what was left to me, though that was not much. I survived. And I don't own a gun. But I am troubled. See if you can stand me, with those troubles. Or just leave. Climb down those steps. One by one.

*****

Image courtesy: http://creativewriting.ie/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/stairwell_by_schnotte-d57z04l.jpg


We Recommend: Rohinton Mistry’s Squatter

My Review of Rohinton Mistry's short story 'Squatter', published in Thresholds: Home of the International Short Story Forum, Chichester University, UK.
Please do click the link below:
We Recommend: Rohinton Mistry’s Squatter

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Argumentative Hands

     It was a drizzle that confused everyone. The musicians and artists didn't know whether to pack up and go home, or to wait till it went away. The bridge seemed empty all of a sudden, with people rushing past each other to find a place where they could escape the unexpected raindrops. We were in the middle of all that, too busy to notice anything. We were having an argument, if you remember. That was how things used to work for us. How I wish we retained that reckless spirit of our youth. Now, we get tired of arguments faster than they reach anywhere.
     The spot where you kissed on my cheek still felt warm. It was soon after the kiss that we allowed ourselves to be lost in the meaningless argument. I don't remember what it was about, but the image of the bridge and our agitated selves stuck over it in the rain still remains fresh in my mind.
     We were meant to be stuck in places, through the seasons. We thought of each other as mere impossibilities in our life, but we got stuck somewhere. Was it the passion that we had for finding fault with each other? Or was it just the realization that there couldn't be a better one waiting for us in the near or distant future? We were too ordinary, with no exceptionally striking facial features or great bodies. But that was what drew us together, perhaps.
     Now my aged hands tremble more than yours. You try to hold them in vain. You may survive this winter, but I am not sure about me. The chill that escapes into our modest apartment through the gaps in our windows makes me shiver. Sometimes the shivering scares you, but you look at my eyes intently and try to hold my hands. Our hands tremble, like two young people in the heat of an argument. You look surprised as I smile.  And then you smile, as if you have searched out the image of us in the hands, from my blurry thoughts.

Image Courtesy:  http://creativewriting.ie/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/prompt-39.jpg

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Self-Willed


The first car that stopped near me had a moon-face behind the wheel. He asked me too many questions, to confirm my vulnerability. I stopped answering him half-way through and waved him off. Yes, that was so easy - so much for inquisitiveness!

I guess I should wait for the right person. But how do I know who is right? Follow your instinct, as they say. If they think I am the regular run-away-in-summer-teen kind, they won't qualify. They should see that I'm well past my teens, at least when they stop and have a look at me. What I need is some distance covered, as much distance as possible, from this place. This place where I don't want to return to in my wildest dreams. I need someone who is the least bit curious and the most generous, as far the distance he, or she, could cover for me.

Running away from parents? No - I don't do that anymore. I had to do that only once, and I did that. That was a point of no return too. I did it for Adam. "Adam is meant for Rachael", everyone around used to say. And I thought they were right. He was meant for me. We had a nice time in the city. And then he found the next person whom he was meant for. Rachael is out. And so are the dreams for a family, even after two forced abortions. I packed my things and kept walking, walking...

Now, for those who think I am vulnerable, they should learn to study faces. They should know how hard I try to keep smoking and keeping a stern face. I am the self-willed woman, who could even have been a mother, at least two times. If I survived all that nonsense from a worthless idiot, I know things for better now. So be warned, anyone who stops by.
*****

Image courtesy: http://creativewriting.ie/2012/05/28/creative-writing-ink-prompt-may-28th/

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Celebrate


"I love these shoes", you take out a pair of them which are pink, the ones that could go well with your baby pink frock, with frills.
You won't stand a twitch of my nose and a no. You know you are special - at least when we shop on your birthday.
"Why don't you wear them and see whether they fit?"
"They will, I know!"
And you are right. How I wish I knew what I needed, and whether it did fit me!  My ankles strain a lot on these stylish, sharp shoes, but I can't get rid of them. That's part of what I should be. My comfort goes out of the door as I choose what I am expected to wear. Well, my shoes speak a lot about me, even though what I do is to pretend to be what I should be.
You run fast towards me, and the next moment you are standing on my shoes, and we are doing that silly dance together. It hurts, but I pretend to feel nothing. After all, I am doing what I feel like doing now. This hurt I hide is something that I want to hide.
We walk out of the shop, after all the purchases. I wish I could take a day off tomorrow as well, but I can't. Let's retain the celebratory mood, anyway.
"Would you like some ice cream?"
"Of course!" You screech.
I choose your favourite one for you. I wait for a moment, and then choose my favourite one, for myself. Your eyes widen, and you smile.
"You're giving a treat to yourself too?"
"Yes, but I hope you will soon give me a treat...once you grow up."
"Sure", you say.
I don't know whether you will remember this promise. You may even forget the whole day. Your shoes are not going to last more than six months. You will outgrow them before I know. You will outgrow these feelings someday as well. Perhaps, it's better that way. This empty shell will have to disintegrate as it should, on its own. The moment you know what I am, you may hate me. But let's celebrate today, and every day, till you know.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

A Perfect Script


     How vain you were, to try to impress your friends whenever you got a chance! Now that you are no more, there are a lot of images in my mind in which you do some ridiculous thing or the other. You were not inclined to be the wise guy in a crowd. You were always the prankster, and you loved it, along with your friends, when your pranks backfired on you.

     But you were special - I knew. The first time you walked into my cabin, you smelt of the  village. But there was a twinkle in your eyes that spoke of the cool mountain breeze that keeps you fresh all the same. You held a few exercise books in your hands, as if they were unnecessary appendages that you wanted to get rid of. You had that wicked smile, and the good-for-nothing shrug that many of my students in the school sported whenever they knew what to do next. I remember not trying to smile and watching your smile vanish slowly, giving place to more confusion in your body language. Then I smiled. And you smiled again.

     I saw you jumping walls and fences on your way back home. You had a bicycle which was usually used by your friends. You were the son of the soil, always happy to walk lazily around, trot, run, jump up and down. Your friends thought you were crazy, but you had so much of wild energy within you. Once you fell down on a field while trying to jump a fence, just for fun. Everyone laughed when you got up, with grass and mud all over you. You saw me drive past, and you gave me a salute, and that wicked smile. How I wish I stopped by to see whether you were alright. But I knew that you would be alright. You had the right spirits to overcome troubles.

     There were things that I didn't like about you. Well, that happens. No matter how hard one fights it, generation gap exists. I wanted you to have second thoughts on your wardrobe. But you would have been a different person, if you hadn't worn those funny clothes. That was part of you. Part of the brilliance you showed in your writing exercises. Your grammar was not perfect, and grasp of language just above average. But I loved your wild imagination. It was something that helped me understand you better, and appreciate your wild, seemingly meaningless acts.

     I knew you were honest in your writing, and the pain you had gone through your life was camouflaged in your fantasy world and its strange characters. I knew how much you missed your father who died when you were a toddler, and the elder brother who died before he was born. How extraordinary were your thoughts about your brother, who you thought was a part of you! You had your little anxieties and fears, which you tried to share with him, through your imaginary conversations. Perhaps you found him in all your friends, and were always trying to make him smile. How lonely a kid you were, despite all that tomfoolery!

     You never let others know of your fear of death as well. But I knew about it, from the dark passages you wrote. I thought it was normal, for a young kid like you, but you were seeing more than others about your destiny. You seemed to know that yours was going to be a small life, and perhaps you were trying to make the best of it. Your illness came visible only during the last couple of months before it took you away. But you seemed to know everything. Your script of your own life was perfect, I must say. You figured it out the best way possible. You played your part well... Now, it's time for me to wash away my little dislikes, and keep your memory fresh in my mind. Let it sparkle, like your thoughts about the world.

Image Courtesy:  http://creativewriting.ie/2012/05/14/2614/

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Cornered


It's good that you look at me, with those curious eyes. You don't ask me anything, and your expression would have remained deadpan but for those eyes. Are you asking me whether I can't sit on another seat? - the train is practically empty except for a few kids like you from the evening classes. I shouldn't be threat anyway, am I? Late sixties, same sex, weak, gasping for breath...am I a threat to you? But why do you look at me like that? Why don't you say something, or let me say something? Why do you avert your eyes to the scenes outside as I settle down opposite you?

You block all possibilities of a dialogue. You take out a book from your rucksack and pretend that you are reading. But those big eyes of yours betray you. I can see that they are stuck at some point, and they don't transfer any kind of information to your brain from that book. I know you are just thinking. Are you thinking about home? About your boyfriend? About yourself? About me?

Your fingers look as if they are meant to create art. Perhaps you are a painter. Or you like to play musical instruments. Your intimate friends are sure to love them. Those are neat hands worth holding. But why do you become so conscious and insecure in the presence of people? Are you stealing a glance on my hands, as if you have read my mind? They are wrinkled, but delicate. Slender fingers. Yes, I am an artist. I draw portraits. But you don't ask me anything, and how can I ever tell you what's in my mind?

I wish I had my digital camera with me. But even then you would have got offended if I clicked a picture that traps you cunningly in a frame that captures outside scenes from the train. You are perhaps the kind who would ask me to show those pictures and insist on deleting the one that contains you. Well, that is what I like about you. How old are you? Not more than eighteen, I guess. But you have strong resolve trapped in those sharp features. You look beautiful from every angle. Though you are the least bit made up, your sense of style is perfect. You are my girl.

You lift your eyes to confront me, as I fumble inside my bag and take out my sketchbook. Your eyes seem more relaxed now. You smile a bit to my query, "May I a draw a portrait of you? I can give the carbon copy free to you...", and say, "Of course...but you just scared me a bit." And you laugh, light-heartedly. 


Image Courtesy:  http://creativewriting.ie/2012/05/08/creative-writing-ink-picture-prompt-may-7th/

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Power of Things


"It looks as if it was once a throne. Those who sat on it might have experienced the power that orders respect, love...gratitude..."

"Come on, it's junk. We need to clear these soon. I don't think we can save the place. The whole apartment is burnt. It's gone to the dogs."

"There were people here Henry. Real people. We need to respect their feelings."

"Tom, you're really crazy. No one survived the fire here. Everyone died. Turned to ashes. Men, women, children...there's no use taking out your sentiments now. This is our work. We need to clear this place fast."

"But wait a minute. I need to take a picture of this sofa. Look at its colours. Even the dark burns seem to work well with the colours. It's a work of art. It's something that explodes out of a tragedy. Oh, but what's tragedy? Henry, there were real people who sat on this throne. They must have turned to ashes, but we have to respect their feelings that surround this. Hey, don't put that curtain on it. Let me just see whether I can find some use for this throne in my studio. It breathes of life, and death..."

"Tom, stop this nonsense, and start working. There's a lot to clear off from this room."

"Okay, I am with you, but keep that sofa there till the end. I may need that."

"Why do you need that? Why does someone need damaged furniture from a burnt apartment? Can't you see that it is totally useless?"

"I love keeping remnants of lives not lived. They have a power. This one carries the unfinished breath of lovers, infants, old people..."

"What are you talking about?"

"You see, I just need to change the upholstery, and it will be a throne again. It's not damaged. It can have a life of its own once again. Why throw that away like the lives that were burnt off here for no reason?"

"There could be reasons. There could be reasons for every fire that consumes apartments."

"Well, I refuse to throw away this like that. The life of this throne... it has to experience the power once again. Of love, respect, gratitude..."

"There you go again! Okay, you keep that, but we need to finish the work before night."

"Okay, am coming!"


Image Courtesy:  http://creativewriting.ie/2012/04/30/creative-writing-ink-picture-prompt-april-30th/

Thursday, 26 April 2012

From The Heights



He sits cross-legged on the floor outside
the lantern room of the lighthouse. Sea’s roar
a mere sight from here. Rusty wings of eagles
circle the sky, much below the railings
that my fingers clutch beneath giddy gasps.
“Never mind him”, the guard assures
a flock of school kids, “He’s the harmless type.
Just climbs the stairs up here every morning
with the first tourists and leaves with the last.”
He keeps a distance from words, behaves
like an animal that doesn’t grasp
human conversation. But he turns around
and smoulders teenage indignation, as a boy
tries to poke him with his dirty shoes.
A girl, frail and meek, her fingers
nowhere near the vertigo-defying railings,
tries to press her back against the wall and
stand still, fails, and collapses onto the man’s lap.
.

He doesn’t move a finger while others
circle around, murmur, shout, get a bottle
of water and sprinkle it on her face.
When she wakes, he looks calmly into her
eyes that blink back at him, and gives her
the kindest smile madness can afford.

Courtesy:  http://creativewriting.ie/2012/04/23/creative-writing-picture-prompt-april-23rd/