Thursday, September 18, 2008

The provocation to write

"I just love writing...I like the idea of sharpening my pencil, and using an eraser!" She pushed her hair behind her ears as she said that.
It was 1993. I was sitting in this auto-rickshaw on its way from school to my home. The girl was not particularly attractive, and she had started the conversation; I was just filling in the gaps to be polite.
I don't know why I remembered it today. Probably because I was thinking about the various possible stimuli that could provoke us to write.
As my mind wandered from stuff like the beauty of nature, a small child smiling, a beautiful piece of architecture, an elegantly solved problem etc., my mind went to the dumbest reason for writing I could think of...and this one took the cake!


He looked at her again and sighed. How he longed to look at her without having to pretend to look elsewhere! She rearranged her dupatta and smiled.

"So, are you coming?", the annoying sidekick asked. Every pretty girl has a sidekick - an average looking, boring and sorta unintelligent one hanging around. Maybe it was for sheer contrast, to make the pretty one more desirable, he thought.

He looked from the sidekick to the belle. She paused. His heart pounded. She said, "No thanks. I will go with him."

He had no idea how to deal with such happiness. He grinned like an idiot; and then hid it behind a cough.

Actually, he was praying for this for many days by get some alone time with her. Now that he got it though, he was apprehensive. He wanted to say many things, but instead chatted idly about the weather and the upcoming Chem II test.

God! How his friends would hate him now! They would disown him. After all the moaning and groaning he did in front of them about her beauty and allure, here he was - a golden opportunity for an intimate conversation, and he was blowing it away on Divesh sir's exams, and the rain, which is a topic on which every Mumbaiite can speak volumes.

Finally, he exhaled heavily; curses himself and decided to take the plunge. He inhaled deeply, held his breath and said the three words.

She stared at him; he turned. He had never seen such a poker-face. He was afraid and yet excited to hear the answer.

He had his back to her now, too apprehensive to know the answer. He turned to her, and heard her say, and saw her mouth the inevitable words. He had known the answer all along, but he had to ask.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Another Palin rant

Charles Gibson interviewed Sarah Palin in her hometown in Wasilla, Alaska in a quasi-journalistic way. He asked her tough questions alright, but not enough follow up ones. There wasn't the journalistic bite as we would have seen from Helen Thomas, or our very own Karan Thapar or Prabhu Chawla.

Without taking the spotlight away from the huge liberties against logic this woman takes, I would like to focus on one particular set of words she spoke. When asked whether a mother of five can be an effective VP or Prez, she answered yes unequivocally and attempted to substantiate it by saying,

"What people have asked me when I was -- when I learned I was pregnant, "Gosh, how are you going to be the governor and have a baby in office, too," and I replied back then, as I would today, "I'll do it the same way the other governors have done it when they've either had baby in office or raised a family." Granted, they're men, but do it the same way that they do it."

Why are the women not outraged? This woman clearly is implying the male and female experience of having a baby. Tell that to all the women who fret and fume that the male contribution to their children's birth is an orgasm and forgetting to use contraception.

I may be viewed as sexist for raising this topic, but I am worried. A woman can surely be qualified for the highest office, but going through pregnancy and childbirth while the 3am phone call is anticipated is a scary proposition. We need to get an assurance from Gov Palin that she is done breeding before we even consider her for high office.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Whodda thunk it!

Let me clarify my position on the God issue. I am an agnostic leaning towards atheism. My childhood has been plagued with screaming fits quite akin to the child in Omen, as my parents asked me to accompany them to the temple. I went through the poonal procedure as a good tam bram, all the while lamenting that there would have been a much better use for the money than spending it on a back-scratcher. (That joke is lost on non brams, so please find the nearest bram and watch them laugh in agreement.)

So when we had sarvajanik festivals, I often complained of the noise pollution, and of the secret vote which clearly granted the responsibility of leading the aarti to the person first to get kicked out of Indian Idol auditions. I hated waking up early for the worships, and reviled being made to sit amidst the purposeful pollution that is so unique to Hindus. I went through childhood and young adulthood hating festivals and anything associated with worship. I know most of you devout ones despise me now, and that I am going to lose a significant portion of the small audience this blog has generated, but I need to get this off my chest. So, before swearing me off as a non-believing infidel, read on.

I have spent a year in the big apple now, where there are enough Indians, but there is no forced festival socializing. I accepted that warmly. As I was going through my roommate's iPod Touch (let the drooling begin) and listening to my new Bose headphones (let the drooling continue), I noticed the Ganesh-aarti on his playlist. The memories flowed as I played it. I played it again. Maybe it was just the sound quality, but I could not get enough of it. I could remember the Ganesh idol in our locality, and the loud songs of worship that blared over the sound system.

I did not believe it possible, but that song is on my playlist now. No, I have not been converted in any way, so all you believers, do not thrust your imaginary friends down my throat. I will say though, that I appreciated the song on a pure artistic level. There is something in the festivals for the non-believers too. That is what makes them so deep and mysterious.

I was told not so long ago, by a person I regard as brilliant, that atheism is a part of Hinduism. I did not see the sense of it on a religious level. I can somehow understand it now on a spiritual level.

So, to the surprise of the people who know me, and to some chagrin of fellow agnostics, Sukhkarta Dukhharta varta vighnachi…

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Isn’t it funny…

  1. Having a conversation with someone that neither of you wanna have but are continuing for the sake of politeness
  2. Anyone who knows more than you is a bookworm, and anyone who knows less than you is a fool
  3. You have a conversation with a pretty girl for over ten minutes before you discover the spinach stuck to your teeth
  4. As my friend 'buddy' says…your bladder will overfill except when you need a urine sample
  5. We complain that we cannot keep in touch because we are busy, and we spend most of our time complaining that we are bored
  6. There are some programs on tv that are so bad that they make you beg for commercials
  7. Just when you describe someone as an excellent player of the short ball, he makes a gangulyesque mistake
  8. You look at your watch, and then need to look again one second later!
  9. The day you actually wake up to your alarm is the day you had an amazing dream involving a celluloid beauty

Saturday, September 6, 2008

What goes around…

He could not help but smile. Eight years of marriage had not worn out her body even a bit. She was as beautiful and heavenly as she was on the day he saw her. Lying on the bed in her favorite fetal position, sleeping peacefully, she looked like the angel who could deliver him from the depths of hell. He stared at her as he always did. Everything in the world could be put on hold for the moments during which he looked at her. He was grateful for this mesmerizing quality of her visage that gave him some respite from harsh realities. He always thought he kept his secrets from her to protect her, and to an extent it was right, but the truth was that it was ultimately to protect his sanity. He wanted a part of his life sequestered from the horror that captured most of his life. Just so he could have this fleeting moments of peace, of innocence when he stared at her, sleeping away a tired day with a contented smile on her lips.

It had been years since he slept like that. Now, insomnia gripped him tightly every night, and the only sleep he got was collapse due to complete exhaustion. The very few moments of unconscious relaxation that were bequeathed to him were also plagued with nightmares of his deeds. The double-entry system, he recalled his accounting professor mentioning. The system where every event had checks and balances, and that nothing could go without cross-checking. Every phenomenon had an effect which in turn became a cause for another effect. Nothing went without being recorded and re-recorded.

He had thought it was going to be fine. After all, he had graduated from the Academy with honors in both academic and physical tests. He was trained in eighteen languages where he could be fluent along with some accents which he could apply or not based on his proclivities. He was proficient with almost any vehicle, and could handle any weapon as though he was born to. The one thing that most people struggled with the most, was looking into a person's eyes and killing him without provocation. Not for self-defense, not to protect others, but simply because it was needed, either to maintain the smooth flow of an operation, or to prevent his cover from being blown.

Somehow, he could isolate the graphic horror of what he was doing from the gentle person he was. When he looked at his wife, whether across the candles on a dinner table at an expensive restaurant, or at her peaceful best lying on the bed, he could feel nothing but love and tenderness. She would never know what he was capable of. He was an electronics salesman as far as she knew.

He could remember shades of his fifteen year service as large blurs. Panama city, Marseilles, Unter den Linden, Trivandrum, St. Petersburg, Bogota…so many people, so much trouble. They were all the same no matter what nationality or race they were. They all screamed when he was about to pull the trigger albeit in different languages. They all bled the same way. He was supposedly a soldier for his country, a spy, a covert operative who was given orders and knew better than to question them.

He thought of himself as a patriot, but he knew the short term implications of what he was doing. It was all being recorded somewhere waiting to be balanced. The double entry system never fails. It had come back to hurt him now. Agents were being dispatched at the behest of someone high up. He had deployed agents like these many times. He knew that this was standard procedure when an agent turned rogue. All he had done was refuse to murder a four year old child out of a sympathy that he no longer thought himself capable of. That child had lived to identify him out of a set of pictures, and now he was not only expendable, but expediently so. They were coming for him.

He looked at his wife one more time, whispered his 'I love you' in her ear, and then stepped back. He turned away from her as he pulled the trigger. By the time she woke up she would find him on the floor. He hoped she would not scream too loudly.

Palin’ in comparison

I feel like a parent now; a parent on the day of academic results. As if my first born has brought me a straight-A report card, while the spoilt, self-indulgent other child brought me yet another note to meet the teacher. I feel like saying, "Why can't you be more like him?" Barack Obama chose a six-term senator to be his running mate, a person who has an actual plan for Iraq, a plan which seems almost like fate now, but was laughed at when Joe Biden suggested it. McCain on the other hand has chosen the governor of Alaska to be a heartbeat away from the leadership of the most powerful country in the world.

Sarah Palin, the republican candidate for Veep has been a governor for sixteen months, before which she was mayor of a town with a population of 9000. On one side is a brilliant statesman running for president with a foreign policy expert by his side, while the other side is making a mockery of democracy by putting together a ludicrous ticket of a warmonger who supports tax-cuts for the very rich with a beauty queen fledgling as his running mate. Do we even need to have an election?

Let us look at the very cynicism of this choice. At the republican convention, Sarah Palin made her first major speech where she ass-kissed Hillary Clinton more than anything while pandering to jilted Hillary supporters by saying that she is looking to shatter the glass ceiling. The GOP is banking on the radical Hillary supporters who are so upset with Obama getting nominated that they might switch sides. They refuse to consider that the woman they have commissioned in the hope of attracting votes simply because she possesses pairs of X-chromosomes has been staunchly pro-life. She has given birth to five kids, the last one being diagnosed with Down's syndrome before birth, and she knowingly did not terminate the pregnancy. She is now running all around the country campaigning leaving the four month old child to the care of the lesser able.

I am of the belief that a politician's personal life is off-limits as long as it does not affect his job performance. Somehow, personal lives have become fair-game nowadays. While running for office, you need to purge the closet of any skeletons because you can bet your life that they will be found. The Republican Party claims to be the clean people, the ones who are monogamous, and have values that the others don't have. This is of course, bullshit because values have little to do with alcohol, cigarettes and promiscuous sex. Values have more to do with honesty, integrity, a sense of duty etc etc. However, if you claim to be the party of values and morals, and look down upon others with more interesting sex-lives than you, then you better not get caught not practicing what you preach. Sarah Palin was pregnant before she got married herself. Her seventeen year old daughter is pregnant and is planning to marry the father of the baby, to save her mother's political career more than anything else. Come on, when a couple of people are irresponsible enough to get pregnant, getting them married seems to spoil the situation further.

Don't get distracted by this though. It is the responsibility of the smart ones to focus on the issues more than anything else. There is nothing worse than getting wet over the mud-slinging opportunities that are presenting themselves instead of attacking the opposition on their foreign policy and economic naiveté. McCain wants more tax cuts for the rich, plans to stay in Iraq for the next hundred years, has no plans to tackle global warming, and is patently inept at uplifting the financial situation of the country as the government plans to seize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These are the issues that every voter must consider and not the window dressing that is being put out.

As I said before, this election, on the issues is like an India-Bangladesh cricket match. Somehow, one cannot be completely confident of an Indian victory.

(This post was possible due to a lot of help and inspiration from blogger Laksh)