Boundaries

Boundaries.
Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay.

What happens in the west doesn’t happen in the east and vice-versa. This is our country and this is our tradition. We love our motherland and we can die for it.

The North is different from the South. And this state, this city, this town, this village and this house is where I belong. I cannot live anywhere else but here.    

Lines are drawn and everything is divided beautifully. If not entirely, the plan does work out fruitfully with minor problems here and there.

When these minor problems become big, it is dissected thoroughly and the offender is caught, punished and forgotten. Things turn back to normal; once again it’s a sunny day.  

But, there is one story that no one can forget. An ordinary-looking fellow, who lived in the mountains and always painted the oceans in his notebook, once painted the planet earth on a grand rock, it was magnificent, but he was anyway convicted for it.

Maybe he was crazy, that is what most of us believe, otherwise, why will a sane person draw the beautiful earth and then divide it? Yes! That is what he did.  

The blue, green planet looked so perfect on that rock as if it was alive, but then, that bloke painted a hand hammering the earth into two, a chasm that spread like the roots of a tree and divided the whole planet.

It was a violent crime, of course. How could he even think so? But then, they say he was crazy.  

There’s another story about that painter.

You know that the earth is changing colour, you must have seen the photographs, it’s becoming reddish with each passing day. Some say that this change occurred only after that painter was hanged, which is true, but I don’t know if these events can be related.

It’s all crazy, no?


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Boundaries

What happens in the west doesn’t happen in the east and vice-versa. This is our country and this is our tradition. We love our motherland and we can die for it. North is different from South. And this state, this city, this town, this village and this house is where I belong. I cannot live anywhere else but here.
Lines are drawn and everything is divided beautifully. If not entirely, the plans do work out fruitfully with minor problems here and there. When these minor problems become big, it is dissected thoroughly and the offender is caught, punished and forgotten. Things turn back to normal; once again it’s a sunny day.
But, there is one story that no one can forget. An ordinary looking fellow, who lived in the mountains and always painted the oceans in his notebook, once painted the planet earth on a grand rock, it was magnificent, but he was anyways convicted for it. Maybe he was crazy, that is what most of us believe, otherwise, why will a sane person draw the beautiful earth and then divide it? Yes! That is what he did.
The blue, green planet looked so perfect on that rock as if it was alive, but then, that bloke painted a hand hammering the earth into two, a chasm that spread like the roots of a tree and divided the whole planet. It was a violent crime, of course. How could he even think so? But then, they say he was crazy.
There’s another story about that painter. You know that the earth is changing colour, you must have seen the photographs, it’s becoming reddish with each passing day. Some say that this change occurred only after that painter was hanged, which is true, but I don’t know if these events can be related. But it’s all crazy, no?

Wandering

Who lives in that small house up on the mountain? It is made of earth, wood and stones. I feel its presence here. The pine trees gathered around it look less like guardians and more like friends.
The fog, very slowly, is encircling the house. Grand mountains stand quietly in the backdrop, reverberating with magical rhythm. It is then that I realise I am holding a stick in my hand and humming leisurely, attuned to the magical rhythm.

I keep walking, espying now and then at the small house up on the mountain. The fog flows away, ending the game of hide and seek. I take out my notebook and start to draw the scene. The mountains take most part of the page. The small house is a beautiful speck of white on dense green background. The trees are spots of different green here and there.
The fog returns and, this time, hides the small house completely. I quickly run and climb a rock as if to brush away the fog. I try it literally, when gaily the fog engulfs everything around me. White magic!

She

Flash Fiction

She is just ten years old. Talkative and curious by nature, she wishes to know, but only about the magical, the dreamlike and the pleasing.

Her world is of all the shades of pink. With the warmth of an honest, caring canopy overhead, she looks at the stars and floats in the Milky Way.

There is ample clarity in everything she sees and time’s her friend – blistering fast or dragging slow. There is only one melody she is tuned to and it is called life.

*

She is living in her own world, within and without.
Image from Pixabay.

She is young and brave. Quietly, she observes the world and the world within her, laughs at her.

Battling the questions and transforming the answers, she moves ahead with every failure and tries to fathom the success.

A mirror walks with her; she has broken it umpteen times but they are still in a relationship. Her cries, her sighs, her laughs, her smiles, her ways and one life… all packed in a rucksack is her pride and joy.


The doubtful star burns with her glare and the rhythm of change trespasses the old.

She is living for others now and has placed herself on the top shelf, in a green trunk, under an old book. Close to many and far from herself, she is standing on the border – this way or that way… her life is slipping away…

She just woke up and whatever was under the old book, in a green trunk, on the top shelf she burned that rusted world to dust.

Walking on ashes, she turns black and grey until the mirror returns. It is not going to be joyous all through, but she doesn’t mind the sound of a burned guitar.


They say she is weak and crouched, that she hears less and that her wrinkles make her a puzzle. A puzzle indeed and a child from within, no one knows what a good time she is having.

Her old eyes shine like a starry night and things magically appear and disappear with her touch. The words cannot express bliss; she is singing, hear this – ‘La-la, li-li, o, la-la, li-li’.

She is extraordinary. She is over there, can you see her? I know you can.


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Black Sparrow

Her eyes… there is fear in her eyes.

It was blurry… but I remember it clearly. Old hands like my mother’s but she wasn’t my mother, then why do I see her? The place is cold and that is how I feel until I look at her, I feel cold and wet as if I didn’t run away from that day’s hard rain. Everything around was cold and wet that day and so was it in my dream. That day when I was strolling in the park I saw a black sparrow… Francis said he would rather be a black sparrow than fight in the war. I saw the black sparrow, and I left the park.

She is sitting on a wheel chair, she is wearing black. Today, when I picked up the burnt paper, I crushed it without knowing why; my hands can still feel the smooth blackness. But she was surrounded by a harsh blackness, she was in the sun, but everything was crude and dull. I hate myself for crushing the burnt paper, I can feel the crude blackness now.

Francis collected stones all the time, he had strange hobbies. Stones he said are beautiful unless we give them a shape. The old lady, someone’s mother, had an image in her eyes; a dull face as if sculpted, and I agreed with Francis that it looked utterly dead. It scares me every time I see the dream.

I am there to help you old lady. Who is it that you are holding in your eyes? What are you whispering? I can’t hear you? She isn’t looking at me Francis, she is looking somewhere else. Francis I can’t see you. I can’t see the black sparrow. I am tied to the dream. I see her eyes Francis… her eyes… there is fear in her eyes.

The Random Way

‘Man with a Hod’ by Jean Dubuffet 
I was walking and talking
To myself without any help
A window creaked and my shadow squeaked
My legs wobbled
And my hat toppled
And fell in front of a sly cat
Who chuckled and bluntly ignored a fat rat
Baffled I stepped in a puddle
Crackled I bumped into a fiery hurdle
A cartwheel blazing madly
Was coming my way sadly
Like a grasshopper I jumped and hugged a lamppost
‘Well done’, shouted a chap, the other raised a toast
Another clapped my back and left, laughing, ‘ha-ha’
Smiling I walked ahead, singing, ‘la-la’
What a day, collected so many laughs on the way
I was foolishly wrong, I got to know finally
A grand sticker on my jacketed back shouted loudly
“I am a buffoon, I declare it proudly”
Oh! Those damn mad, mad damn chaps
Is it their fault or mine? Or the choice I made that day
And unknowingly turned to the random way

What To Do?

The train of thought never stops, does it? Standing on a vague platform, everything except me undergoes a peculiar kind of metamorphosis now and then. Bewildered, I stand in utter confusion, with a dazed expression and remain amusingly voiceless. Waving madly for the train to halt or at least lazy down a bit, I am increasingly getting ascertained about the fact that either I am powerless or I am being considered as a crazy cheerleader.

Often, no, more than often, I have successfully boarded the train. What happens then – settled quietly near the window, with a half read great novel that I have tried to finish since one year, five months and two weeks, looking old and rich in my hands, I get lost in the dream world looking through the barred window; settled quietly near the window, with a notebook in front and a pen in my hand, I write down miraculous lines, tying down the strength to move the humanity and a saleable story together, staying humble myself throughout the reverie; settled quietly near the window, but loathing everyone around me and worshiping softly to reach my destination soon…

“My destination…” I say and I am kicked out of the train, back on that floating platform which dances every second on some idiotic tune and disturbs my balance. I fall down, cry, raise questions, get answers, plan things and proudly compliment myself, with a touch of modesty of course. And then what do I do? I go off to sleep. How much can the mind take? “So long, my friend”, says my mind and dozes off. Shut down! Power off!

Click! Switch on and I am back on that platform. Trains have started passing me. I yawn, a full day of travelling to a gazillion places ahead. Busy life, what to do?
The Busy Life by Jean Dubuffet 

Papa and the Crimson Clouds

The huge tree under a crimson sky.
Image – Pixabay.

Papa said, ‘I am not a negative thinker’. I almost clapped in approval, but then I saw him drinking at 9:45 in the morning. I dared to speak and I did, reminding him of the 80% blockage in one of his arteries. Gulp! ‘No negative thinking’, he advised me.  

His red eyes and newly ignited soul went into the garden to work. After a few hours, I checked the fresh hairstyle of the garden, it was almost bald. Papa said, ‘Plants should grow this way’.

Which way you must be thinking? Whichever way Papa wants to grow it, you fool. He replied so, I am just quoting it.  

My sense of understanding is weak; I am the wrong person to walk left when the right is right.

I am also stupid if I don’t remind Papa, thrice, that he wanted to drink tea, which invariably loses all its piping hotness and turns dead cold by the time he returns from the garden.  

Kindly ask everyone in the street not to stare at me. So what if I look like an outgrown, zigzag tree, my Papa will prune me.

I have the whole life’s agenda, second wise, installed in my brain. I am to wake up early every day and run to the office, work and be good in it and come back home to get recharged for the next day.  

Every hour I am to be alert; I am allowed even to worry about security. I again dared and asked Papa, ‘Security from what?’ ‘That thing… that… something…’ he said.

I understood zilch about it. Patience please, I am a slow learner.  

Every minute of the hour, I am to relish the complexities of the present. It is to be like the dogs, they are so cute and hold only one feeling at a moment – hunger, aggression, love or anxiety.

I reluctantly told Papa about my opinion. He laughed and then shooed me away like a dog is shooed away.  

For your benefit, I am sharing that it is not a wise thing to do. Homo sapiens sapiens can do better. I have read so in a book. Of course, I didn’t say a word about it to Papa. Do you think I am stupid? Ha!  

Every second of every minute, I am to remain lost in whatever shit crazy thing I am doing. This will result in an unhealthy body, but a good position and a reasonable flat after a few years travail.

I am a middle-class being, this means to me what nirvana means to that mad ascetic I once met.  

Do you know what the ascetic told me? He asked me to sit under a huge tree, pointing in the jungle’s (point decimal of what is left) direction. That’s it!

What am I supposed to do there alone, I shouted behind him and he shouted back, ‘Think’.  

Confused, I asked Papa about it one day – a day that showcased crimson clouds from the window. He didn’t say a word.

Crimson clouds. Image Pixabay.

I looked at the crimson clouds once again. Then I stared at Papa. I didn’t know there were four clocks in his room, one on each wall, until that day. I was sweating when Papa suddenly opened his eyes and asked me to get some water for him. He coughed badly.  

He is coughing badly right now. From that day the crimson clouds haven’t left the window. I mostly stay near Papa and only occasionally go to sit under that huge tree.


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No More Waiting For Godot

*

Estragon: People are bloody ignorant apes.

Vladimir: Pah!

Estragon: Charming spot. Inspiring prospects. Let’s go.

Vladimir: We can’t.

Estragon: Why not?

Vladimir: We are waiting for Godot.

Recently, I was reminded of Samuel Beckett’s classic play, “Waiting for Godot”. I was out for my evening walk and hadn’t yet plugged in to my smartphone, when I noticed Vladimir and Estragon standing next to a tree, lost in nothingness. I mean, I thought so.

The illusion broke as I reached near them and saw two boys busy with their smartphones. I almost broke into a fit of laughter but immediately got a lump in my throat. What if Vladimir and Estragon where present in these times and were waiting for Godot with a smartphone gleaming in their hands? What if Estragon instead of dealing with his boots was busy with checking his Facebook status? What if Vladimir shared his views about the story of the two thieves on his twitter page? And I don’t even want to mention a “what if” for Godot.

I don’t intend to hurt the Beckett fans, as I am one of them. But the image of those two boys standing next to each other silently, deeply involved in their smartphones, as if they were in a non-existent world, as if they were not together, as if there was “nothing to be done”, expect of course digging the smartphone, forced me to ponder.

Smartphones, considered to be the only tool/ instrument/ non-living thing in the history of mankind to have impacted our lives so strongly that we cannot function without it anymore, control our lives. Terms like smartphone gait, digital life, digital diet, etc., are quite common in the tech world. In fact in South Korea, one of the most digitally connected countries in the world, a new term – digital dementia – is being used to deal with the patients suffering from internet addiction and the over-use of smartphones.

Different researches and polls have proved that in countries like the US, the UK, China, India, South Africa, Indonesia and Brazil, one in every five people check their smartphones every ten minute. Maybe in not-so-far-future there will be billboards on the road sides, asking us if we are nomophobic – the fear of being out of mobile phone contact – and giving us suggestions to how to check and curb our addiction. What a joke! Who will read the billboards?

But of course, one can read such and many more suggestions/articles on their smartphones. The smartphone will, without any hesitation, reveal the information that over dose of its usage can lead to a slow or immediate death (car accidents etc.). After all, it’s not called a smart phone for no reason.

Weirdly, sometimes Gollum from The Lord of the Rings crosses my mind when I see people glued to their smartphones, as if speaking to it and saying – “Yes, wretched we are, says everyone, but you’ll not hurt us, will you my precious?”

I have not been using my smartphone for quite some time now, not because I have overcome the digital life’s addiction but simply because it broke. My life didn’t change drastically and I am still enjoying the smartphone free days. I guess it did change for others as I started getting complaints for not keeping in (24×7) touch from my friends and family members.

But this too passed quickly as they had no time to listen to my boring revelation. In fact, they avoid using their smartphones in front of me now, as free from this tech burden, I constantly blame them of being addicted to it, being a slave to it, of not paying attention, warning them about neck and eye sight problems, literally scolding them for being senseless to share silly Whatsapp jokes, etc.

If I tell my friends, while on a walk, that what a wonderful view it is, I am suddenly made to huddle together for a “group selfie” and before I can express displeasure in doing so, the photo is tagged, shared, liked and commented on. The next thing is that I get a call from another friend of mine saying, ‘Hey! You’re in the town? Let’s meet.”

When and why did the smartphones become of so much importance that we are having smartphone addiction problems? What is the need to be digitally active 24×7? What will we miss if we didn’t check our Facebook page/ Twitter page/ Instragram/ Gmail for (if it is allowed to say or even to imagine) a week? What is the rush? Why are there people in countries like South Africa and India who don’t get enough to eat, but proudly own two mobile handsets? What are the industrial lords planning to do?

Ignoring these lords for now, it will be better if we all start keeping a check on our digital life, our digital diet. Some tech health gurus suggest keeping Digital Fasts for a healthy and long digital life… It sounds stupid? Stupid it may be, but is not incorrect.

If you wake up with the smartphone ringing melodiously its alarm and you go off to sleep, after typing a good night message for the nth time on your Whatsapp, then it’ll be good to try, for just one day, leaving your phone behind and going outside to join Vladimir and Estragon, who probably are still waiting for Godot.

*

The article was first published in The Hindu.


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Pencil Dear

Pencil: at work.
Image by Jorge L. Mena Reyes from Pixabay
Only when I couldn’t find the pen today, I picked you to write my random thoughts down. Not so sharp, but nice and silvery, I wrote some charcoal rich lines.
 
That you are not related to permanence, that all the lines written can be erased and that I was thinking about permanence before I reached half of the page, made me ponder.
 
Life was different as a child, when I scribbled, played the dot game on the last page of my notebook and the famous noughts and crosses.
 
I was chaotic and fearless, almost heroic when you and I first met.
 
The journey that started with you and the sharpener versus me and the eraser faded humbly away.
 
Then it was me dreaming and toying with you, all the while pretending to study. You were also delicious, the woody taste mixed with many dreams, you became my best pal.
 
Together we circled round and round with the help of the compasses and halted the sun, the earth, and the moon in my notebook.
 
How and where did this happen, I am not sure, but I dropped you somewhere when I forgot to see the sky, the mountains, the river, and the birds.
 
A memory knocked quietly, and I had a word with it. Remember the drawing of a mountain range, a river flowing by, a small house, a few trees around it and birds in the sky, and a tiny boat sailing in that river?
 
Yes! I said.
 
Then came back the doodle stars – small and big, shapeless and funny – and I was in a wink’s time deluged by colourful butterflies dancing around the crayon flowers, the happy trees swaying with the wind, the cartoons copied from magazines and comics exploding with ‘boom-bang’, the abnormally proportionate national flag and curiously round mother earth.
 
I never began without you and my friend eraser whenever I drew.
 
Time snatched you away from me and warned me to study, learn, grow, and get a job. It was the time-bombs’ fault, not mine.
 
Deliverance came to me one fine day and I was free. It was all too funny and therefore, I laughed madly.
 
It happened after some years of that time-bomb explosion. I noticed I wasn’t dead and nothing was as bleak as it looked. I wanted to draw!
 
I took a deep breath and reached a fork in the road and saw you there. Delighted, I picked you up and the rest you know.
 
The last sketch I drew was sublime for me.
 
I have started enjoying the illusion once again and living the ephemeral me happily, thanks to you, Pencil dear. 
 

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