Thursday, 9 October 2008

With friends like these

Four were imbecile, two dogmatic and one had yet to see the light. These were my friends. The imbecile were the easiest to get along with. You could be a child among them and they would never judge you. With the dogmatic you had to just stand on their side of the fence and then the grass always seemed green. Albeit on the other side. It was the one who had yet to see the light that posed the biggest challenge.

For she was evidently sightless, but as yet unaware. So, she contently skimmed the surface of darkness and yielded more dark. She ran her fingers through it. Anointed her forehead with it. Immersed her whole being in it. Till darkness oozed from the pores of her skin. Brandishing the resulting shroud of darkness as an embellishment she’d argue through the night against light. You’d gently say that she had yet to see the light but the darkness would swallow your words.

She could have been an imbecile but her heightened sense of self would not let her be a complete child. Abandoned, carefree, impulsive. She could have been dogmatic but she wanted both ways to be her way. No, she simply had to see the light.

So one particularly dark night I stole her pet parrot and trained him to repeat, “I say there is no darkness only ignorance”. And patiently waited for dawn to melt the night away.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

But my hands are empty

My hands are empty
Lines though faint and dark
On my palms and fingers
End analysis is always stark

But my hands are empty
Innocent of blame
They don’t accept or deny
But maybe secretly proclaim

For my hands are empty
Everything slips away
Here now then gone
Hope alone stays in the fray

Empty hand, empty hands
That is all
Words could help
If only they would call

Nothing is guaranteed

The leaves blow
Knowing not where they go
Id and my ego
Stubbornly refuse to echo

The past spent
Present and future deficient
This malcontent
Headless debate, endless argument

The autumn wind
Bending trees, mind makes amend
Sanity is rescind
For isn’t everything predestined

Sunday, 5 October 2008

The Bitter Half

As N, I and I hitched a ride from Surajkund to college hostel one evening in a tempo, that had transported chicken to what my imagination always recollects as some sunny farm, little did we know our passage was marking the end of an era. It was a transition that affected all the people living in Delhi and those yet to live there but not many had such a memorable image to mark the event. True, we still had some meaninglessly hitched rides to Kamla Nagar left, a few on a dare but most because no one had anything better to do that particular evening. But the ride from Surajkund to North Delhi was epochal.

Flash forward to Delhi of today or even of five years ago or even twelve year ago (yes, I was in college ages ago) and try imagining three teenaged girls doing what we did and surviving to tell the tale. Just two years later on graduating the three of us shook our heads at our incredible stupidity. What were we thinking! That is how suddenly Delhi changed to such an unimaginable extent.

One night you could return from a SPIC MACAY concert at Delhi College of Engineering when it was still housed in some derelict buildings at Kashmere Gate with no one in the bus giving you a second look and the next morning you hear of someone in a DTC bus to IIT Gate getting assaulted. That is how low respect for women in Delhi fell in such short a time period. And then there was no looking up. Ever.

As far as I can recollect the city always had open and porous borders but life for women once they stepped outside the four walls of their houses wasn’t so fraught with danger. We could still walk all the way to North Campus from Pandara Road on a not yet chilly but pleasantly cold November morning unmolested. Or go out to get a bhutta with nimbu masala after sunset without people at home worrying how we were faring on the streets of Delhi.

So, life moves on. A City changes. A Nation imagines itself to be a superpower. And a people applaud their new found sense of well being.

But when not yet teenaged girls start walking to school with safety pins and chili powder in their pockets someone somewhere surely must know that though the lark’s on the wing; the snail’s on the thorn- still all’s not right with the world.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

People you meet in Hyde Park

One rainy day at Hyde Park seven young people, lets call them friends, were brought together by randomness of fate and contrivance of chance. Caught in the oft-cursed ‘unpredictability’ of the London weather they sat and sipped their coffees and beer. Casting desultory glances at the ducks in the lake while mouthing customary inanities that pass as conversation these days.

The lake framed by the dark clouds, the trees gently persuaded by the wind, the raindrops softly passing by-the intricate play of nature fell apart before this unappreciative audience. The words framed within neat categories, the gently falling level of the beer in hand, the softly approaching time to get up for a refill-this intricate balance of social convention was silently appreciated by all. Maybe more so by the one sitting alone at the table by the window. Lets call him the old man in the grey coat.

He could be seventy or eighty years old. The point being of an age when no one especially not the individuals concerned care much for years and birthdates and time. Or even for how they look or what they wear. At least that is how it seems to people who are young and by that I mean not yet thirty. So let us not get into descriptions and just call him the old man in the grey coat. There was nothing exceptional about him (again I mean from the point of view of the abovementioned youth) except that on that one evening in Hyde Park he happened to be listening to seven young people blow words in circles in time. And not even notice the years fall by.

For today you are twenty-eight and the next thing you know you are thirty. “To have reached thirty,” Reginald said, ‘is to have failed in life.” And anyone waking up on the fateful day to acknowledge the agony of turning thirty would, if they have any enthusiasm left for life, wholeheartedly endorse his sage words as they watch their world rapidly turn to a miserable shade of blue, right before their eyes. But one has to live to be thirty to experience this brutal truth, which can’t be revealed to the innocent youth. And since our friends are young and carefree and not yet thirty let us let them contemplate their half full glasses.

Instead lets turn our attention to the old man in the grey coat who has lived more than twice that fateful age. But showed no sign of wear and tear to those who cared to look. Finishing the last of his lukewarm coffee he got up to leave. Then stopping by their table he softly said, “Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.” And silently slipped away into the gathering darkness. Almost unnoticed.

Seven days later no one remembered the old man in the grey coat's words except for an old man sitting down to write the story of his life and a young woman celebrating the thirtieth year of her life.

(For Mr. Jamshed Mirza living somewhere in London. Maybe we'll meet some evening in Hyde Park.)