POV Paradox

The train was about to leave the station. The railway staff on platform was performing its duty of technical support, checking various electrical and

mechanical points. Staff on train was doing different kind of duty. They were making sure that everyone finds their seats, helping seniors with luggage, making sure supply of food and water was adequate. Along with these official activities, many more things were happening. Those could be broadly categorized into three distinct parts, as they are happening in three different locations. Thus each activity could be seen only from that particular place. Only person who knows what is happening in all three locations is the writer i.e. me.

(ONE)

Any train that leaves a station takes with it many people to another predetermined destination. That is the basic purpose of transport. The people who are going away take their allotted seats in the train and the ones who came to send them off, stay on the platform. Invariably emotions take over; especially as the departure time comes closer. Sounds of guard’s whistle of or of the engine, enhances the emotions further. Most people cry openly. They use white hankies to wipe their tears etc. People sitting in the train are also do the same, but a bit less. They may be excited, because for them a journey is about to begin taking them to an exciting destination or event. People undertake journeys for various reasons. It may be work related, meeting a loved one, a celebration or just a well deserved holiday with family… The train leaves. The people on the platform are being left behind. They get further and further away from the train and from the people they came to send off. The distance between the two keeps growing… even after everyone has stopped thinking about it – the distance I mean.

(TWO)

Then there are people inside the train. They will remain as close to each other as when they took their seats in the train. Most of them may not have any intention of being together in the train or otherwise, but they have to remain within a fix distance from each other. If they look around, they all can see each other. They can also make friends, if they so wish and are friendly type. The viewer can find them sharing smiles, share snacks, water, information like where, why, even jokes. Confined within a fixed distance of each other, does not make them happy or sad. Another thing that is happening at this time is that distance between them all and the destination is becoming shorter. But it is not yet close enough to think about it. Thus all passengers retain a neutral ‘let me be’ type expression, even if they are together. Due to train’s constant repetitive rhythmic sound, many pairs of eyes get blurry, resulting in drowsiness even deep sleep.

(THREE)

A bell has been sounded on an empty platform. Gradually railway staff is getting to their toes. Canteen boys start heating the morning tea yet again. Snack vendors start hushing away the persistent flies, who have been having their fill without any problem so far. The railway tracks are being checked. Station master has received a signal from the outer signal that the train is passing through. That means it will here in another five minutes. If it was a super-fast, it would have passed in 2 minutes. But this one has to slow down to stop here. Outside the station, people have started emerging from taxis, cars, autos, cycle rickshaws. Some of them are already on the platform. They might have arrived earlier from a place far away. Some of them bend over the edge of platform to get a flicker of movement and when they see it coming, they call out to others, “it’s coming. Coolie!” etc. As the distance between the people in train and people on this platform is reducing, the excitement in heart of people is growing. There is a young woman, an old couple, group of people in ‘white kurta’ carrying an over sized garland. I can see a ‘pooja thali’ with a lamp being lit… All spread across the platform. They all know who will emerge from which compartment. The distance finally becomes zero. And the people who had to remain at a fixed distance from each other are freed. They peep from the windows and doors to find the faces they want to see. Bright smiles, waves and ‘here, here’, fills the atmosphere. With a long screech the train comes to a halt. Woman with ‘mehdi hands’ rotates the pooja thali around a young man’s face, oversized garland now hang around a fat necked white kurta-pyjama, a young couple touches feet of old couple…

Gradually these actors start moving out.

After another set of whistles and wave of green flag, the train too vacates the station.

Feeling Lost

Feeling lost yaar.

Don’t ask why.

What do you mean ‘lost’ in what way?

If I knew that, would I be saying that I am feeling lost?

Are you crazy or what!

Stupid fool!

God know from where these people come.

They look so bright and emit so much intelligence from their being.

But it’s only till they open their mouth.

Mouth shut lights on, mouth open lights off!

Phew!

What is anyone’s concern why I am lost; just because I happen to speak it out!

It wasn’t meant for anyone’s ears to hear.

It’s not my fault if someone heard it.

But I am not open to any discussion on this very private topic of mine.

For your information, I live on my own private beach.

No one is allowed here.

Don’t peep in, watch me illegally and then tell me what I should or should not be doing. Can’t believe these people!

Such an inexcusable intrusion in my priceless privacy!

Hey, do you think I am a fool?

I can see you behind that bush.

Hey, you Mr. Yellow shirt.

Yes you, you only!

Please get lost from my sands.

Each grain of sand here has my image.

Anything wrong and these millions of images will rise and make you blind!

I hope you got that.

The sand will go in your eyes.

I mean I will kick it or throw it myself.

What the hell!

Who put the yellow t-shirt here?

Wait a sec.

That’s my own t-shirt!

Don’t worry if I don’t make any sense.

Making sense is not I am very good at.

Thankfully I am also not very interested in it.

I guess I have a very niche style and thus have a very limited and selected readership.

Well, to be frank, it may not be more than a handful.

Umm, actually I am certain of just one reader!

No, don’t be mean, it’s not me.

Muddled Strangers

Hello there. How are things?

Hello… err, I didn’t recognize you. Have we met?

Yes we have.

Really? When?

A moment ago!

What! You mean when you said hello to me?

Yes, precisely. It may be more than a moment, now! How time passes. Isn’t it?

I don’t know if you are a funny guy or some kind of crook?

Good dual observation. Well, why don’t you take a wild guess, about me?

About you? How can I do that? I barely know you, now… well perhaps for two minutes.

Yes. That’s very good.

Good! What’s good in it?

You are already learning to be like me.

Is that better?

What do you mean?

I mean is it better to be like you? Why can’t I remain like myself only?

No one is stopping you in doing that. In fact you have been like yourself all your life.

Are you saying that you have changed to this new type from your earlier type?

I must have.

Oh! Okay, so you don’t know if you have changed or not.

That’s a valid question.

That fine, but what is the answer.

… you know what; I am getting a bit muddled here.

Okay. Fair enough. What do you want to do to clear this… well muddle?

Start over again.

Are you sure?

Yes.

Okay here we go…

Hello there. How are things?

Hello, err I didn’t recognize you. Have we met?

Yes we have.

Goodbye barbers

Due to current lockdown scenarios all over the world, we all are developing new habits and adapting necessary new lifestyles. One of them is washing our hands regularly and vigorously. We all knew that always, but we always did it casually, as though it was a formality and just went through it. But now since a sword is hanging over our heads, we are taking it real seriously. We are wiping with Dettol water, surfaces of our homes like door knobs, table tops or any other part that we touch often… But this is not what I want to talk about here.

Social distancing is another area which will become a part of our personalities after we are done with real dangers of covid19. In my movie industry, we all are perpetually hugging each other. ‘Jhappi’ is a popular Punjabi word used for a hug… But this is also not what I want to say here.

There is an important activity in life of men and that’s having a ‘hair-cut’. All of us visit a barber or salon once a fortnight or at least once a month. Barbers generally are very nice people. As you enter the salon, they welcome you with a big smile and speak courteously. They are also very talkative. I think their profession demands it. Mostly they talk about themselves or life in their village etc. Many of them speak about politics and ongoing game of cricket. When you are on the ‘chair’ they make you feel much honored. Once they start work on your hair, they keep turning your head kindly to reach right angles for their scissor. Their ‘head or face’ massage is something that I have always enjoyed immensely. They use perfect balance of strength of their soft palms and machine to impart very enjoyable results. Very often people doze off.

Finally this is where I was getting at. Our newly acquired strong habit of ‘social distancing’ is going to totally prohibit me to visit a barber ever again. If and when I begin to look like a long haired ‘sadhu’, most likely I will get myself a ‘hair trimmer’ and manage my hair-cuts myself. Technically it would ‘hair-trim’ not ‘hair-cut’. And soon I will get into a habit of ‘self-hair-trim’!

Well, finally let me say sorry to all those kind, soft spoken barbers in salons that you won’t find me entering your lovely shop again. I know it is a sad announcement, but can’t be helped, can it? In the meanwhile I really hope some of you did foresee this coming and have worked on the alternates. Of course, I know it’s not easy. But listen guys world is changing, so you will have to come out of your comfort zone and face the new reality.

A village barber shop in Lonavala

Air Virus

It is set in the future. Not too far in future, may be nearby. Actually you can chose the year if you so like. I really don’t mind. You just give me the figure and I’ll place my story in that.

Okay did you say 2032? Seems fine to me. Because it’s not typical kind of futurist movie scene and also it is far from science fiction. I would say it is more like ‘social medical science fiction’.

So the thing is coronavirus of 2020 has gone from the world long back; but don’t be too hopeful, since many other similar, deadlier and smarter viruses have been visiting earth and have taken deadly toll on human life. But more importantly viruses affected people’s psyche. Since the ‘lockdown’ of March 2020, when people stayed home for many weeks, it changed the way people thought and went about their lives. They were always ordering stuff online. They had not been inside a store to look, pick, check and buy things.

Maybe viruses arrived from outer world or from an enemy country. Who cared? Maybe over time covid-19 mutated and formed new ones. I could search the internet and find names of some more of those viruses; like covid-22, covid25, covid25+, covd.supr, AirVirus… etc.

So AirVirus is the virus in the times of 2032. But entire humanity has been living under severe stress since 2020 when covid-19 had covered the population of entire globe. Internet says it had started from China. TV News channel used symbolic red color for countries affected. And soon the redness on the world map went on spreading and soon it had covered 200 countries! Red was chosen aptly as starting point, or mark of danger. Whoever chose red, chose well. Well due to entire population living with continuous fright of getting infected, not meeting anyone, not going out, not using expressions of handshake, hugs etc. Now all you could see was long faces, faces covered with masks, large caps and hand gloves. AirVirus, as the name suggested, did not only spread through coughing or sneezing, but also with tiny skin exposure. It spread through ‘air’. If two people passed by each other, they had to be careful that the ‘air’ displaced by both did not touch each other. So as soon as you saw someone approaching from opposite side, both would go to the extreme edge of the path and reduce the speed to dead slow. AirVirus could be contracted through any part of skin showing. It may be part of your calf, lower arm, neck, forehead… According to some rumors or fake news (though impossible in 2032), it seemed that AirVirus had mutated itself as micro-electronic-organism. It could figure smiles, happy chuckling sounds, voices with romantic tone…

Well I could go on and on making this look completely horrifying and frustrating. So, let’s change the topic and move to a better scenarios… well nearly. Remember it is 2032, you chose that year, didn’t you?

Once 5 friends decided to ‘meet up’ for drinks in a house; house of one of them. It is dark inside, windows are shut tight and curtains drawn. There shouldn’t be any hint of celebration, visual or aural. All the fiends kept their voices low and gestures muted. Thankfully they had gotten rid of caps, gloves etc. Everybody’s voice sounded as if he was speaking from his grave or was burying someone. In fact it was not that they were scared, they would be picked out by AirVirus; but gradually habits were formed due to 12 long years of continuously living modifying behavior. They had got used to be like that. Life had become slow, scary and drab. Most important emotion most people lived would be of ‘scare’.

Suddenly a shocking sound was heard. Door-bell! How? Who could this be? Host got up opened the door just a crack and saw Rakesh’s grandfather outside. Old man walked in straight away. Also it was not desirable to keep him out.

“So you all having good time, after long, huh.”

“Oh no, we are just exchanging notes about the new special overall that will keep us safe if we walk fast and pass others.”

“I see. Thankfully I don’t have that problem of walking fast. He he.”

Everyone held their breath. These people of older generation do not know how to adjust with our times. A soft hissing sound was heard outside the window that faced the road. No it wasn’t a car or an electric bus or…

After drinking a glass of water old man decided to leave. Ramesh got up to open the door for him and more to close it properly after he left. I think in 2020, even the postman did not get such a dry send off. Soon they settled down again. Chicken and parathas were great; but no one praising it was considered good adequate.

Suddenly they all heard the sound of a sac rolling down the first floor staircase. Decisive part was: before the rolling sound there was an “uhh” and in end an “aah”.

And then there was this screaming silence!

Truth, nothing but the truth

Can you hear that soothing sound? It comes in between the splashes of rain and wind. Listen carefully. Actually it is sounds of many tiny little wind chimes; many, many of them. They all have different tones and notes and frequencies. They are ringing at different times. One gradually stopping while another fading in and going on until next one takes over. Of course sometime many ring together. All the sounds seem to be originating from the same place. I mean they are coming from the same direction! And also that place surely has a lot of constant breeze! Now, let me open the suspense.

Actually I knew the secret, all along. I know where they are hanging. Want to come along? I’ll show you. I know it’s raining, but it will be nice to go there. You wouldn’t regret the trip. That entire scenario is so surreal. You wouldn’t believe what you are seeing. Okay okay. We wouldn’t go. But if you are keen, I will tell you about it. Then you decide you can go on your own and see it.

Remember that round garden? Yes? Take a left from there. Keep going straight for about 300 meters. Road will end and you will come across sand. Now walk on sand. If you wish take your shoes off and carry them in your hand. Another 200 meters on sand and gradually sound of water will fade in and traffic from the road left behind, will go in the background, finally getting totally inaudible. There will be a sand upward incline, keeping climbing it. When you reach the top, the vast ocean line will reveal itself! I suggest you wait here for a few moments and absorb the visual. Gray sand in front, gray water after that and finally unending gray skyline. The only chance of a break in grayness can be, in case you find a fishing boat on the horizon. It may be black-gray-brown boat, or a dot of blue due to a plastic sheet.

Oh! Never mind that. Where were we? Yes I was telling you about the source of wind chime sounds. Okay now walk towards the sea about 100 meters. This will change in case of tide. It will be 150 meters in case low tide and much less in case of high… from the edge of water walk towards left. In a few minutes you will see a coconut tree. Last time I saw it was bending towards the sea. It is very tall and has many branches sprawling all over. Each branch is almost as long as the tree itself. I know but this coconut tree has branches! In fact many, many branches. Each branch has nearly fifty coconuts. So many people come and take coconuts when they need. Sorry correction; only women can take coconuts from this tree. Because tree knows they will break one only when the need it for use at home. They are not greedy to start a coconut business.

Now time to open the secret. At the bottom of each coconut, is a wind chime hanging, smaller ones down and larger ones on top of tree. They have different colors too. Silver, golden, red, orange… and now it is very clear that due to sea breeze, the sound never stops. These days during rains it is a bit too much. All bells mix up and make a shimmering and fluttering kind of continuous sound…

Let me know when you plan to go. We will take its photos and upload. Otherwise no one will believe the story.