Monday, February 27, 2006

God's Own Country

It is nine and I’m bored, to death,
I’ve had my six-pack of cold froth;
For this day, I’ve bent my daily share of rules,
Pushed around these cops and bureaucratic fools,
Some for a fee and some for free
Who shiver at the mention of my great daddy.

Let me pick my gun and collect a few friends,
Get down to the bar at towns end,
In my Beamer or my SUVee,
Maybe knock down a few men -
Who'll miss a couple, in a billion and ten?
I’m God, freeing those poor bastards from hunger and pain
From their lives, so sorry and so in vain.
I’m God, no one dares to touch me,
Or he faces the wrath of my great daddy.

By the authority vested in my daddy and in me,
By the constitution of my great country,
Yes, I will just go have a ball,
Drink, be merry, may be shoot a Lal
And walk away scot-free,
Invoking the name of my dear-daddy,
In this fine land of freedom and liberty!!
(that’s just scripted right for me...)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Ideal World

Kadir (alias Kadirvel Kuppuswamy) was almost falling asleep; he was in his office, a police station. He was the Sub Inspector; Given that that the Inspector of the station, Kannan, was under suspension for a month, until an enquiry against the inspector was complete, made Kadir the lord of that police station. Kadir appeared as if he had no opinion on the case against his former boss; if he had he held it within himself and nicely disguised it. Kadir, in fact, was very happy where he was in the hierarchy, until his inspector got suspended; he just had to do things that were told to him, did not have to take decisions, leave his work at 6PM, go home to his loving wife, Thamarai and more lovely 8yr old daughter, Aruna. He had no ambitions and was very content with what he was doing; the police uniform gave him some respectability and Kadir also ensure that he stayed clear of visibility and also trouble. The town’s setting was perfect for him – a very small town – Ootangarai – it was a non-decrepit town with one main-street running through it with shops and a few hundred houses on either side of the main road. It was, essentially, a bigger village trying to be a town. The primary profession of the town being farming and the Brick kilns; the bricks produced in this town were sent to nearby bigger towns of Krishnagiri and Thiruvannamalai and then out. The word out on the streets was that his inspector did not want to get into pay-in along with his Deputy Superintendent of Police of that district with the local rowdy-sheeter, “Sengal” Maran, who ran a small illegal operation in transporting of the bricks, which gave a neat profit for him and to the DSP and the inspector before Kannan came to the station. Kannan was young and an idealist – Kadir found Kannan to be a new kind of police man that he had not come across in his 11 year old policing career; he came to respect Kannan for his stand and began to help him out, in his own subtle, but none-too-obvious ways. Kadir’s world came tumbling down, when Kannan was suspended for a month on some trumped up charges; Kadir’s disappointment did not stem completely from Kannan’s suspension; he regretted a bit that Kannan was not successful; but he was more apprehensive that he was in the driver’s seat and will need to take decisions when need arises.

Today afternoon was trifling hot; drowsy and the summer air was dry and stifling; the ceiling fan made more noise than it was circulating air. He had returned about half-hour ago after a good lunch at home; as usual Thamarai’s had made tasty lunch. It has been nearly 15 days since Kannan’s suspension and Kadir had gotten away without having to do anything major; he was just counting days – may be he would take a week of sick leave. With nothing happening, Kadir was almost falling asleep; when the jarring telephone ring woke him up. It was the DSP on the other side…

“Ennaya Kadir, Thoongi-ittu irrukiya” (what man, Kadir, you sleeping ?)
“No sir, Yes Sir, Good after noon sir”, said Kadir, getting up from his seat and trying to get it right.
“How are things? No problems at the brick factories ?”
“No sir, everything is fine”

DSP continued, “Looks like that Maran fellow is creating some problems, one of his fellows would come and meet you, talk to him”. Kadir could not fathom what kind of trouble Maran was creating – not sure if it was real trouble for the town or trouble for DSP.

Kadir started, “Yes Sir…”, and realized DSP had already finished the conversation and had disconnected the phone.

Kadir had exactly dreaded this situation. The DSP has put him in a quandary, he was sure; the same kind that sent Kannan packing home, He wished he had listened to Thamarai and had gone visiting his in-laws in Pondicherry. Although Kadir did wish away, the inevitable happened; in the form of a man, who introduced himself as Kumaran. Kadir noted that Kumaran had a smile that was completely out of place and without any mirth. He said he was Sengal Maran’s cousin and had come to meet with Kadir to “discuss a very important matter”. Kadir listened to him, all the time wishing he was not in the police station and be in his in-laws place, facing his father-in-laws inquisition, which seemed much bearable now.

Kumaran left and in the nutshell, the important matter he wanted to discuss was that Kadir get into the pay-off with Maran. Without Kadir’s in the chain, things will not work as smoothly as it could, since some locals may actually file a complaint. Kadir can make a neat packet over his monthly salary and be happy; Kumaran concluded, “inspector-saar” – Kadir was about to correct him that he was Sub-inspector, but let it pass, “everyone is happy, including the DSP; after this Kannan will not be in this station and you actually become the big man of this town; but if you refuse, saar, why saar simply bring about problems for everyone; including yourself”. His innuendo and implied threat was unmistakable; Kadir did not react. Kumaran smiled at him one last time and left.

In what looked anything but coincidence, Kadir saw Kumaran in his street in the evening when he was reaching home – Kumaran had flashed his sinister smile at Kannan. Late that night, Kadir was still thoughtful about what had happened that day; he had absent mindedly gone through his dinner, pensive. Post dinner, he stepped out of his house into the small garden for a smoke (after a long time), sitting in a cement slab, lost in his thoughts.

Suddenly he felt his daughter Aruna, tugging at his hand. She had tears in her eyes; behind her was Tamarai, smiling proudly.

“Appa, I did something bad today”
Kadir stayed quiet, but gently pulled his daughter to sit next to him in the slab.
“Appa, in school today, when my class-mate, Latha was away, I had taken away her pencil and scale, appa, Without her knowledge, appa; and brought it home”
Kadir continued to look at her.
“Appa, amma told it was a wrong to steal somebody else’s things. I am very sorry appa. I will give back the scale and pencil back to Latha and give my ‘sorry’ letter to teacher. I will not do this again, appa. I'm very sorry...”, she trailed off, looking at Kadir, with frightened eyes...

Kadir was overwhelmed at his daughter’s talk and tears. At that moment, his adoration and love for his daughter grew, as he gathered her in his arms and hugged her tightly, reassuring her…
…and instantly, he knew what his answer to Kumaran and Sengal Maran will be.

The next day at the station, Kadir called Kumaran and got into Sengal Maran's pay-off along with his DSP. He loved his daughter too much to see any harm come her way.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Till Death Tears us apart...

Vijay Thakur is going through tough times. He has had nothing but a horse that was in his last leg, in fact all its four legs were in their last leg. But he got to make do with what he has, if he has to reach his love of his life, Lakshmi Kumari. He had no kingdom to swap for that horse., but he did swap his fathers (unknown to him, ofcourse) expensive television and his scooter for the horse and some money. He knew Lakshmi’s father had forbidden that she could not meet him; ever. But he had challenged that an old man can never stop his true love; and here he is on the horse, the only thing that could take him through the ravines of Hambal to Lakshmi’s village. He knew he had to be very cautious; he had just fought a gang of 10, who perhaps were sent by his would-be father-in-law to break his every haddi; they did succeed a bit, but when they tried to steal his horse, it was last straw on Vijay’s back – he “un sabko apne naani yaad dila diya”. As he passed through the ravines, he heard gun shots and suddenly the bullets whizzed past his ears and one even nicked his hand; but that did not stop Vijay from drawing his gun from the rucksack he had, looked directly into the sun, see the famed dacoits of Hambal and shoot each one of them. Funnily, as the dacoits were shot, they fell in somersaults; and some even fell in a way that would have put Greg Louganis to shame. Having warded them off bravely and one of his hands bleeding and his throat parched, Vijay Singh Thakur galloped on – on the horse that saw so much action that it forgot it was on its last leg; Vijay was tantalizing close – far away he saw Lakshmi running towards him in a slow-motion… On cue, his horse collapsed, he was now on the plains that separated him and his love of his life and started running towards her; strangely he heard a song as he ran towards her…

Lakshmi Devi was on the other end of the plain, on a bullock-cart that was part of the caravan. She was in the middle of the caravan, and the people around in the caravan wearing colorful dresses were singing and dancing as the caravan moved forward. Earlier just before the dawn, she had gone to the terrace of her house and climbed down the wall, bruising herself badly – she knew this was just the pain she would go have to go through – the love of her life – Vijay was waiting for her. Lakshmi had plotted her route carefully through the mangrove so that none can see her; except those five ruffians from the village, who happen to be in the mangrove that time. They started chasing her; one even caught up to her; but the stray-dog she had lovingly fed came to her rescue; she escaped his paws (the kamina's and not the kutha's); and the chase re-started - miraculously she evaded all of them; but they were gaining; as it was getting dangerous for her, she heard the sound of the cowbells and creaking wheels of bullock-carts; she ran towards it; the five ruffians who were chasing her gave up at the sight of well-built riders of the bullock cart. SLakshmi thanked the leader of the bullock-cart profusely, who although did not ask as to what she was doing at this early hour, but said he consider her to be his “beti”. That was this morning; in the interim, there was a chorus song by the people in the caravan; and over fire and over brunch, Laskhmi sang soulfully about her love, pining on to see Vijay and her future life with him. All of that was coming to fruition; they were in the edge of the plains and she saw Vijay in his horse; as soon as she saw him, she jumped off the cart and started running towards him. She saw Vijay doing the same and running towards her in slow-motion. She also heard the song she sang in the morning in her, but it was the joyous version of it…

Vijay ran, Lakshmi ran; and they ran as the birds sang, flowers bloomed... They were very close – with 20 meters separating them; and in a minute, they’d fall into each other arms and live happily every after…

“Engeetham stopped his writing and read through what he had written. It looked so déjà vu and he realized that this is the story of every other movie that gets made. He shook his head and tore what he had written into two, crumpled them, threw it in the garbage and left the room to have his coffee; hopefully that will induce some creativity” Vijay and Lakshmi ran, suddenly there seemed to be a big divide appearing in front of them; They could no longer see each other; a crushing-searing pain passed through them…

Beneath Hope Lies

[Punctuation of the title is left to the discretion of the reader]

Chris’ Story:

Chris was in a heavy and slow moving traffic. Still, Chris of today, had the sense to not to get impatient and do something stupid. The days of stupidity are long gone by… As she waited for the downtown Los Angeles traffic to clear up, her mind wandered off to the past.
Christine Summers was an intelligent, strong and only child of her parents – Harry and Brenda. Harry was a very bright man, with a flair for life and humor, he was very much in love with his pretty wife Brenda and both doted on their daughter. Brenda was exact opposite of Harry; she was petite, sensitive and gave way to have Harry take the lead and be a strong support to the family. Chris had inherited her father’s sense of intelligence, independence and charm; combined that with the grace of her mother, she was quite popular and well-liked child. Those were the best days of Chris’ life, as she remembers it. Then the disaster struck – Harry was killed in an accident. Although, Chris, just over 9 years then, never understood it really well, she did feel a great sense of loss – she believes even today there is a thin vein of grief that can never go away; as she saw her father every time she looked into the mirror; she finally did come to a conclusion that Harry would be an inescapable and indelible part of her life.
After her father's death, Chris began to understand how much Brenda required someone like Harry – understanding, strong and someone who will never take advantage of Brenda’s diffidence and sensitivity. Brenda tried working at different places; because of her timidity, she always was taken advantage of. One such person was Vince – he was Brenda’s co-worker in the store, became friendly with Brenda and finally proposed to Brenda; Chris did not like Vince at first sight; she could rationalize that it was not because Vince is taking Harry’s place, but believed Vince was out to exploit her mother; things moved fast, Brenda married Vince; and then things grew worse. Chris’ impression of Vince proved right – he was a smooth talker, but he looked like one who could not hold on to the job. A year after the marriage, he began to be abusive. First words, then physically; Chris started staying away from home often – sometime staying at her friends’ house; or working late hours in the store; rebelling, she took smoking and drinking when she had gotten together with bunch of high school dropouts. When Chris was 12, Vince tried to be a tough father to Chris and tried to spank her since he had caught her smoking. Without blinking an eye, Chris slapped him hard across his face, and held the baseball bat that Harry had bought her and very calmly told Vince that she would not mind smashing his head in, if he tried that with her. She actually saw Vince then to what he really was – a blustering coward, who wanted to show his strength on people who were weaker to him. As abuse of her mother grew, Chris started staying away from home a lot; only come home when Vince was not around – she tried to counsel her mother to get away from Vince; somehow that never happened. Slowly, Chris stopped going home and rarely saw her mother. She moved to a different town, continued to do various jobs, got herself deeper into crowd that was mainstream and had history much more like her. Having started smoking and beer, she graduated into drugs and became a regular drug user; in spite of all this, Chris retained her interest in reading and continued to read whatever books she came across. It was an aimless life for her, but she did not really worry about it; once in a while she wondered of how her life would have turned out if Harry was still alive – maybe she would have been the lawyer that she said she would be, but then that momentary lapsing into reason will give way to what she did. Then she once drifted into her hometown – it was nearly 5 years since she had left it; first thing she did was to go see her mother. Hearing no answer after knocking at the door several times, she went around the house, gotten through the basement window and climbed up to the 1st floor. What she saw shocked her – her mother was unrecognizable wreck – she seemed to have lost all her beauty, thinned greatly and was sprawled out in the sofa; she seemed very sick; Chris found that her mother had very high fever and perhaps over a few days; Chris’ natural intelligence took over, she put her mom in the hospital, nursed her through, rediscovered each other (and discovered that Vince had left her mother for someone else), brought her mother back home, cleaned up the place and checked herself into a detox center. With 3 months, she had kicked her habit, took up a job and went to night school, got a degree, moved to LA with her mom and became counselor at a de-addiction center – she was slowly rebuilding her life and building her relationships with her mom and some real relationship outside; She had met one of the recovering addicts – Joshua Feldman at the center about an year ago and she knew Josh’s past; and sometime saw parallel to what she had gone through.
Earlier today, she had met Josh in his apartment this morning on the way to work – she had dropped the DVD of the movie, “Shawshank Redemption”, which she has watched several times over and over – to her Andy Dufresne mirrored her own spirit. Josh and she had gone out on some informal dates and she liked the way the relationship was moving – slow and its own pace and not something that is being hurried through – like the dinner last night at Josh’s house (until the magical moment got interrupted by the phone). It seemed it was like a small plant growing, but grow it will and flower. This morning, Josh was in the kitchen and she joined him in preparing breakfast and liked the closeness. They had breakfast together; as is wont, Josh was quiet. It was time to go, as she got up from the sofa to leave she kissed Josh lightly on his lips and cheeks; Josh reached out and hugged her. She could feel the warmth of the hug and just enjoyed the closeness; Josh’s embrace was tight; she slowly extricated herself, promised Josh that she will see him in the evening on the way back from work and maybe they could have dinner together. She was now driving through the suburbs of LA on her way to meet with Josh.

Josh’s Story:

Josh was sensitive young man with a flair for arts and with a keen mind for the abstract – Josh’s life was very similar to that of Chris; except that both his very rich and very much feuding parents made his life hell; as a very young kid he hardly saw them; Josh discovered that the stories where father read stories to their son before bed sounded exactly like those fairy tales – untrue and imagined. As 9 year old he had laid awake to see his parents when the come home, with a hope of a story being read to him; only to be disappointed as they were in no state to read anything to him. As Josh grew older, he found that he had enough money and he could buy whatever he wanted including love. Quickly he found that distasteful and then switched to alcohol – he liked what his favorite drink (well, any drinks) did to him. It gave him solace and made him sleep quicker, so that demons no longer haunt him. Josh had become a good artist and he started doing small exhibitions that was well received in the community. He believed he could do well there, which was anti-thetical to his dad, who wanted Josh to get into the business that he was running; This constant pull made Josh go into depression; quickly his friends introduced him to new type of drugs and that seemed to help him out of it. Josh’s first moment of joy turned traumatic as his debut art exhibition was panned by the local reporter and agreed on by his dad; that was the first time Josh tried to end his life, but swallowing fistful of sleeping tablets with good amount of alcohol already in him. He was found in time and the doctors managed to save his life. Josh continued to do his art, although he was getting convinced that he was not going to be successful in it – he had yet another unsuccessful attempt at suicide. Then one event changed his life. What he thought would be his last attempt as an artist, his last exhibition exploring the dark side of humans turned out be highly successful and a critical success; Josh was suddenly the new talent and the toast of people who he did not even know, but who claimed to know him. As he gained name and reputation Josh also realized that appreciation of his art was the high he sought out now; and started on the road to recovery and successfully kicked his habit. Although he was completely off the drugs and alcohol, Josh still did have haunting thoughts of death and his suicidal attempts); talking about it to his psychiatrist did not seem to help and make them go away.
Things changed about a year ago; he met Christine Summers; he saw her first as she was attempting to counsel a teen-ager and was riveted by the earnestness which she worked with that young-woman. She was beautiful in her own way and carried herself with certain strength and poise; as he came to know more about her, he appreciated her for the way she treated people with dignity. He slowly felt he was drawn to her; for the first time, he believed he could have meaningful relationship with people. He had gone out with her couple of times. He was just waiting for an appropriate moment to let her know; however he had no idea of how Chris would react and was mortally scared of rejection. That was his worst nightmare. And a recurring one.Yesterday, Chris had dropped Josh from the Gallery last evening; they had a nice quiet dinner at Josh’s house – Chinese take-away. They sat later on watching a movie that they caught half-way… As Josh started to tell her about how he enjoyed her company and perhaps would have gotten to it, when the phone rang – it was Josh’s father asking about his work; somehow the magic of the moment was broken and she left. Again this morning, Chris was at home and while leaving, she had given him a peck on the cheek; he wanted to hold on to her for more; she seemed uncomfortable and slowly extricated herself, quickly told her byes and seemed to be in a hurry to leave…

Chris and Josh’s Story:

Having successfully navigated late evening LA traffic, Chris arrived at and knocked at Josh’s door, she found it unlocked. She could not find Josh in his paint-room. As she walked through, she found the bath-room door ajar; in the tub was Josh filled with water, with both wrists slashed; and a note on the counter; she read the note, sat down on the edge of the tub, broken; after what seemed hours of crying, she slowly got up to call 911; and with despairing futility, she read the note one more time – “Chris, I love you a lot, but I just cannot take your rejection. Good Bye, love you always - Josh”