‘Karma Happens’ my first paperback

This book is my collection of short stories, memoirs etc. I have been writing and blogging since 2006. So I had a fairly large collection. Out of 34 stories, at least 6 or 7 have Gautam as the protagonist. This Gautam does not mean the Gautam Buddha at all. But yes he has qualities of a calm person. He does not shout or gets angry or aggressive. In ‘Immortal Side of Life’, there are flashbacks supporting the story that’s running in the present. Story’s end happens with help of spirituality, particle physics and super natural drama. Ringing ears’ is about a person over thinking or even deep thinking.
‘In Myth of freedom’ I have analyzed lives of people and whether anyone is really free in various sense of the word. ‘Karma Happens’; the title story is most lengthy. It is like a regular pot boiler with all commercial elements for a hit film.
‘Hope what hope?’ is set in kind of future. It shows that life has become difficult on earth, due to various problems like Ozone layer, climate change etc. ‘24 hrs. love story’ is based on an incidence that did happen. In ‘Just Think’ I try to tell how badly we are treating this earth and nature generally.
‘Leopard in my dream’ is an interesting experiment that takes off from my own experience of getting bitten by a local dog and then how it merges into a very real sounding story that happens to be a flash-forward. In ‘Soothing night’ I have used emotions that are usually shown on urban populace. So I tried it in a village, a hut with a hole in the roof. ‘Enlightenment of the day’ is my take on a regular morning while I would leave for my Yoga class. On similar lines is ‘Power of letting go’.
‘Absence of presence’ is another one of my experiment. Entire court room scene is only through Gautam’s dialogues, while judge’s dialogues are absent but understood.
‘A mosaic of gloom’ is what I wrote when I had stopped writing after Mumbai terror attacks in late 2008. And then my niece told me if I can’t write then I should write about ‘why I can’t write! That worked.
‘Red eye effect’ is a mad idea. I let them take their own course and go where ever they want to go. My science and cinema background helped me with this short story. ‘That he’ and ‘Escape to death’ is also similar genre. It just flows like my mad thoughts.

Immortal Side of Life

He was in the far end of the room, sitting cross legged. Eyes were shut and face tilted up, just a little, as if concentrating on his forehead or somewhere high up. No movements could be seen outwardly, except for the faint expansion and contraction of his chest with his breath.

Train must be going somewhere but was passing through nothingness. They were sitting on the floor of the train door; with their legs hanging out. Young boy was very tired. Every now and then a village would pass where little children would wave at the train and get overly excited if someone waved back at them. At the end of every village would be a sleepy unshaven man holding a green flag at the railway crossing… Rhythmic ‘takaak takaak’ of tracks was relaxing and so was the hide and seek of setting sun from behind the trees. With lullaby rhythm of train along with sun going on-off, sleep overpowered boy. His eyes shut and his body bent over forward with a jerk. Ramu’s swift arm blocked his fall and held the door rod on other side.

Small beads of sweat appeared on his upper lip and forehead. Gradually his face began to shine as a layer of sweat spread around. He seemed to be fighting to resolve his eternal inner conflicts, calmly, as his face did not show any signs of disturbance. It was difficult to judge whether he was a ‘yogi’ or not.

Don’t talk to me like this. I am not going to take it lying down any more. How dare you throw my books like that! You have no respect for books, bloody illiterate! Or you have no respect for people of this house? How dare you raise your voice here?

He moved a little. His shoulders tightened. Then without opening his eyes he took his shirt off and dropped it on the floor. He must be feeling hot. His shoulders, neck and back were wet. Little drops were becoming bigger, then turning into a stream. What in the hell… is happening to him, and why?

She was rolling on the ground writhing with pain, while he watched her from the other room. Was he so helpless to get up and go near her; call a doctor or an ambulance for her? But he did call his relations to do something about it. How could he see this sight so passively? After all they had spent 67 years of their life together!

His face turned towards right with a jerk, as if he was trying to avoid looking on his left. He was now beginning to look worried, distraught and even scared. He seemed to be going over something that was forbidden for him; going over the ‘past’. No one is allowed to revisit past or indulge in fantasizing about the future. The ‘time’ whose time is yet to come, cannot be thought about. It imbalances the present and wastes the most important resource, ‘peace of mind’, which affects the capacity of fair judgment, which in turn is important for smooth functioning of universe.

No!!! He screamed suddenly, please don’t go. Wait, wait you cannot, please, just… I will sort it out with you and with everyone here. It will be fine. No… I will leave everything and everybody… This had to happen and weren’t we supposed to be ready for this? No? Didn’t we decide that?

His arms went forward. But there seemed to be something drastically wrong with his arms. They extended much further than they normally should. In fact soon his palms went out of the door and his fingers were making the desperate actions of ‘come back’ to someone. It was frightening to see human arms, so long. They were beginning to look a bit diffused or a bit translucent, perhaps due to reduced density. One could see through them. His left palm came in and wiped sweat from the forehead, while the other held on to the door. In spite of his body showing tremendous turmoil, his eyes remained shut. A guttural sound came from his mouth. It carried no intelligent meaning.

His hair flew in strong sea breeze and so did the flames. Black hair, red flames… Put his feet inside they are sticking out! Push them in, under the wood. Pour some oil on them. There is no fire this side. Add some wood this side too… Yes I know him. Two of us shared the room. Yes this is his diary. I have known him, for the past two years… Where are you people taking the ashes? He took a pinch of the ash and stealthily placed in his mouth!

Something out of the world was happening to him. He was sitting at the same place; but now his body seemed to be spreading all over. It was expanding in all directions. It was also getting porous. It looked huge in this condition. After a while small little particles of his body started rotating and buzzing in the air, but remaining in the form of his body. A gentle wave of breeze entered from the door and displaced his left shoulder, making him look rather strange; but soon the dislodged particles returned to their place. His right hand had come back in too. As he was expanding continuously, it was difficult for the body to retain its form inside the room. Particles were trying their best to retain the shape of the body. In a while the body morphed into a large, round spherical shape. This somehow made the particles excited and they started buzzing around in a large circle at an ever accelerating speed. Entire room was full of the little atom like particles humming around in the shape of a perfect globe. There was no sign of him, of his real shape…

In the space, outside the room similar clusters had started appearing. They would turn left and right as though looking at each other. They noticed a row of particles in the window. New clusters came closer to meet them. In a flash, trillions of particles from inside the room had come out and joined the visitors. There was an instant communication between them. In no time they all started rising up… They moved towards the setting sun with the speed of light and in a flash they had dived into it… Sun was becoming bigger, redder, heavier… and soon, it sank down into the darkness.

Capable Shadows

The door opened

A shadow appeared on the floor

Shadow is always on a surface

Like a wall or ground

It stayed there for a bit

That shadow

Then gingerly shuffled a little

Went to another room

And stopped there

Somewhere in the middle

Both arms of the shadow started shaking

Then started swinging all around

Initially calmly, then strongly

Finally arms activity stopped

Next up

Shadow turned its head to one side

Then to the other

Now this new activity started

Right left, right left

Up down, up down and then round and round

Round and round all around

Then everything stopped

Perhaps shadow had done its part

Shadow placed its hands on the waist

All became calm

Shadow turned to a side and checked something

Then turned to other side checked that side also

It made note if there were any other shadows

It noted shadow of a table

There were also individual shadows of two chairs

Shadow judged the gap between those shadows

The shadow slowly started walking between the shadows

Initially carefully, little slowly

Soon faster and faster

After walking for a few minutes

Something strange happened

… Very strange actually

Few drops of water fell on the shadow!

On the floor

But the drops did not have shadows

Maybe their shadows on shadow couldn’t be seen

Can shadows think?

Can a shadow sweat on its forehead?

Human have very deep and strong capabilities

How many arduous and formidable goals they have achieved

Even then why so many of us

Are able to progress only as much as their shadow

That ‘he’

He walks very fast. It has been his natural instinct. As soon as he is out, he shoots off. It has happened in the past that he shot off in a wrong direction and when he realized it he shot in reverse with the same speed without feeling sorry or stupid.

That day he walked towards the station to go home. Half way down he realized his left shoulder did not have the usual strap of his bag. Oh no! He turned back swiftly and headed towards the studio he had been. Due to walking with the bag his left shoulder sometime gets a bit sore. He then shifts the bag to the other side. He had gone quite a distance without bag. But there was no alternate. He had do this. He walked even faster. As the door of the studio appeared in vision, it wasn’t looking right. It was locked. They had told that, that was the last job for the day for them. He asked the adjoining shop but was told they all left 10 min back in a cab. You could have met them at the station. He said actually he wanted to walk, so…

So much confusion! Disappointed he looked around, as though trying to find as solution. A man was looking at him quizzically. What! He thought, what is he gaping at me for. He realized he was wearing worn out shorts, a faded t-shirt and a pair of house slippers. How! He wouldn’t step out of his house in such attire. And he is here at the other end of town. So shabbily? No way! He has always been well dressed if not one of the best dressed. This is not him. But; there he was.

He sat down on step outside the locked door. He had to figure his next move. Since his bag is safely kept in the space behind that securely locked door; so is his wallet, phone, house keys and other smaller stuff. Main problem was phone and wallet. He couldn’t figure a plan was feasible. It wasn’t appearing in his mind. Not even a foggy or rough one.

He cannot go to a bus stop or train station because they invariably sell tickets at a price, right now unaffordable. He decided that he need to move from there. A solution if any isn’t here. He started walking yet again in a direction but without intent. Maybe he felt should he walk home, that was nearly 35 km. He was confused and foggy. There was metro tunneling job being done. Huge number of workers were milling around carrying things. He did not realize that he had walked into a non-pedestrian area. No one noticed that. He was in ‘no entry’ zone and was wondering why suddenly walking had become so difficult. Path was full of iron rods, wood planks, bags of cement, bricks and the related things. Somehow he could not realize that he was on the wrong side. Many workers passed by him but did not care as they too busy themselves. Only a security or some engineer could have stopped and guided him what to do. His slippers were soiled and rest of him had splashes of wetness. Finally someone perhaps thinking he had ‘lost it’ guided him out of the mess and he found himself at the Marine Drive. Here he knew which way to head.

He started walking again with same speed but with a heavy heart. He was about to ask the most asked question in such situations, “why me”. Façade of a familiar building emerged. He recognized it. It was Famous Laboratories and recording studios, Tardeo. He had been here for many song recordings of his films. But somehow everything about the building was looking very depressing. It was very shabby. It was perhaps had been painted years ago. Walls were broken in many places. In fact side wall of the building had fallen in the lane. Unknowingly he took a look at himself. Is Famous looking like him or he is matching Famous? Back of the building leading to the film laboratory also was in ramshackle condition. People had to dodge and walk between bricks and other broken parts. In such a scenario he found something weird and surreal. He saw a small group of well-dressed people organizing some kind of sale or exhibition. They had a banner in which name of a book and its author was mentioned. Copies of a rather fat book were placed around; on a soiled hanging wooden plank. They had made small platform of the bricks fallen around and placed some copies of the book on it. Just one book was placed high on front wall, where some photo frame might have existed ages ago. A man perhaps the author was signing a book. He recognized him, but couldn’t exactly place. Man looked at him and said, ‘hello here take a copy. It’s a gift’. He refused politely. He did not want it and no way could he have carried it. Author insisted, ‘please I will be happy if you took it.’

He had started walking away. Swiftly distance started growing between him and Famous. As he walked Famous was being left behind. Soon he had put a lot of distance between them. The Lab now did not look so bad. The author in the crisp white shirt seemed insistent. He held up a copy of the book looking at him as though calling him out, ‘here! Your book.’ Figure of the man in soiled clothes was fading fast. And soon it merged among others.

It was difficult to distinguish the man in soiled clothes from crisp ones.

Known Unknown

Once upon a time

That time was a long time ago

I did not look the way I look now

I was small

Everyone is small that long back

They are young

Young ones are small, or smaller

That time I did not know that

What else I should have known?

Or could have known?

I did now know

What I was supposed to know

I did not know if I was supposed to know stuff

Was there some stuff important to know?

Perhaps I will get to know gradually

What was necessary to know?

What was not?

Were there important things at that time?

That were important to know

And was there stuff that would be required later on

If yes, then when? 

A few days later

Few weeks, months or…

I was not qualified to figure all that

In the mean while

Time was passing as it always does

I used to be possessive about some useless things

Couple of unimportant activities

Like removing laces from everyone’s shoes

Putting the laces back on them

I had no idea if my time was being used well

Or it was being spent badly

I had no idea if my mind wanted to do something

Something other than playing with shoe laces

If my heart wanted things

But which things were those?

I had no idea if I could identify those things

That I might have wanted or needed

It was first time I was in that situation

There was no one to guide me

But I had no anger, frustration or sadness

I wasn’t happy either

Yes, maybe, no

After a very long time we are renovating our home. It must be a good 7-8 year back when we went through the motions of spending money on painting and other usual wear and tear jobs. I had enough spare money then, for using it on such necessary luxuries…

Somehow the winds changed direction, as they always do; the flow of money got restricted and an unusually dense fog of lull enveloped my professional life. A string of projects that were lined up to roll any day- did not roll at all. In India we like blame the poor distant planets. So, for a true Indian the planets seemed to have turned their favorable face away. All this had started after my main employers downed their shutters under the demonic burden of their bad financial situation. For the next 18 months I was very busy doing some of my most high profile and better paying jobs. I did some serious ‘audio’ work for television in the United States and India. Then I was picked up and appointed as ‘general manager’ in the office of a high profile film maker.

Soon I had another offer from a ‘distance learning’ company. Here I was working in a very high technology area. This job gave me experiences of using VSAT and software used for online education. I enjoyed this job the most, since I have been looking to get away from the glaring lights of media related environment. Perhaps enjoying the work here seemed to have made the company run aground. I said ‘seemed to have’. I am a die-hard optimist. If I have to take cues from twists and turns of my life, then a massive surprise is waiting for me in the wings, about which I have no idea.

Well today I am in a mood of counting the chickens that did not hatch. It’s rather amusing to count that in last five years of my professional life how many high profile and exciting projects surfaced, but never swam ashore. So many films were conceived but never delivered; they remained on the idea and project levels only. The most important one was ‘Singularity’. It was a Hollywood film, being directed Oscar nominated Roland Joffé with Brandon Fraser and our own Aishvarya Rai. I had done documentaries with foreign teams, cinematographers and directors. But I was excited that this time I was going to experience the making of a pure Hollywood cinema, for the first time. I was on cloud nine; but treading cautiously. A very close old friend of mine was involved in the film as an executive. I visited him often, gave him my CV, kept in touch on phone, went to his office and read the script of the film twice over. I had asked to be a part of the direction team at any capacity. If there were going to be 12 assistants I was ready to be the twelfth. Desperately yours, but I was dying to be exposed to the experience of ‘Singularity’. I wanted to see how is it done in Hollywood, how does everyone gets ready, actors are given lines, makeup tested, lighting and sound levels checked, each shot being taken… After all Roland Joffé was going to be in Mumbai next week and he was to meet and interview the direction team. That next week hasn’t arrived for the past 2 years. As per the last update this project has been re-announced for Jan 2007.

Next in line was a friend of mine actor/director Dolly Jena, who was to shoot a film in Goa. It was a period film depicting Portuguese times. I was to be her associate on this project. I read her script too many times over and got involved in production process. Film was to roll in six months, so we were busy getting hotels rates and identifying old houses for shooting. The period of six months has over shot by three years.

Among all these dream productions, three films managed to break through and reach a stage of getting themselves (a) married print. And that’s where they too stopped. I was involved in them in various capacities like script, direction, production design and sound. Presently they all are far from getting a commercial release. Coincidently, my dues from all these films are also awaiting release.

Most interesting part of this long ‘touch and go’ sequence was when an unknown person phoned me to ask, if I would make a children’s film for him. ‘Of course’ was the best answer I could think of. He said he had seen my name on the IDPA festival brochure. That’s it! Soon a contract was signed on his official letterhead and a cheque equivalent to $20, was handed over to me. It thought things have got serious this time. I called up a scriptwriter, organized our meetings and started the work briskly. Producer was in a hurry. I struggled and finally handed over a fairly good version of hand written script to him in two weeks. The Gentleman went back to his hometown to organize adequate funds. After that he never made a call to me or sent any note. No not even to ask for the refund of his money. None of his telephones worked. I wonder why was he in hurry to lose his money on us if he had to do a Harry Houdini.

I was never approached by cheats. There was no fake person among all these. All of them had been well meaning people and serious filmmakers. They just did not have it in them, to finally swing it. Whenever someone has asked, ‘so what are you doing these days?’ I have formatted a humorous answer for this situation, ‘only serious job that I have been doing for years; is looking for it!’

Under these unavoidable circumstances, I decided to take a relaxing stance, instead of usual stance of struggling and worrying. I thought of changing gear as I step into the next stage of age in my life. I started reading and I started writing. I would never have read and written, so much satisfying and meaningful stuff, if I had been busy making small money from the mundane motions of making movies. Of course many do not agree. But I really feel very satisfied with my growth as a writer. I am not bothered if it has not been financially rewarding. This was the right time for me to start using my time doing un-ordinary things, things that gave me a chance of making my immortality a little longer. This would be the best thing to come out from all this nothingness.