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

Sick Minds

This horrid story had happened around 2005-06.

It has been quite some time since plastic bags containing tender skeletons were discovered in Nithari, a village near Noida, UP. The bags were thrown around in Nallahs and garbage heaps. The news numbed me so badly that I thought I will never be able to write about this horrifying incidence. In my entire long life I have never come across a more hideous act of crime, in my own country. I was completely shocked and disgusted!

I may be getting cynical, but basically I believe that majority of people in our society fall into the category of, ‘not nice’. Although nobody seems so on the surface, but given a chance of doing something on the quiet; we will lose our moral strength. We are insecure and scheming. We have no respect for women. We are always beating them, burning them or killing them; sometime even in their fetal position. Ironically this has been reported especially from the land of the bravery and heroism. We enjoy easy victory over weaker sex, because they are weaker and give-in in silence since they have to take care of home, children and us, men. We are the discoverers of how to rape vulnerable young girls in running cars.

But I had no idea that we had degenerated to this horrible extent.

There are many countries where the life has practically no value and no guarantee, like Iraq, Palestine, Sierra Leone, Somalia and perhaps many more. But there is a difference. These places are going through basic survival and political struggles. For people there, there is no guarantee when they will get a chance to sit down and eat a square meal and from where will it come? There is also lack of education. Idi Amin did a lot of plunder and rape in Uganda; but that is how dictators in such places are supposed to be. Innovators of ‘how to kill efficiently and cheaply’ did away millions of poor and week. It was the ego of a short, complexed and power hungry man against the week and meek. It was also the occasion of WW-2, so eliminating 6 million as cleanup operation was considered fair. But why does a well-educated millionaire who owns land, villas and businesses needs to do such atrocities on helpless poor children? It does not even make business sense, since it is so full of risk and may not be as well paying too. Plus how much sexual gratification the criminals may have got from those poor souls (that is what they are now)? I am at a loss.

This episode reminds me of some scary part of Ramayan when Ram, Seeta and Lakshman are sent to live in forest. This chapter is about the Asuras who are out to disturb the meditation and sacred life style of hermits and saints. Asuras do it by throwing human and animal parts into their holy fire of Havan and killing the sages. The two people who are arrested for this ghastly act, remind me of those Asuras.

I know lower and middle class everywhere is very defensive and wishes to lead a safe, hassle-free life. Many parents of these children either did not file the FIRs or did not pursued it. They did not want to pressurize the cops too much fearing a backlash. Many must have thought that it would be impossible to make the system work (be of help), because if anyone pursued hard, an enquiry against the complainant himself may start.

Some law keepers think, kidnapping young children, their unlawful confinement, violating their modesty (rape), murder, selling their organs and destroying the evidence in an organized way (+ more), is small matter.

Pt. Nehru is supposed to have sighed sadly once, ‘I know there is an India, but where are the Indians’? Well, it has been half a century since this observation was made in self-pity. Do not worry Panditji we are still doing it. Sigh!

Message for the heart

She was much in a hurry

Going straight ahead

Without looking right or left

Zooming through trees

Clipping and dropping leafs

That plummeted down with a brief grief

She was too fast for me too

But I caught up with her somehow

“Why such a hurry?

I have a genuine inquiry

Tell me what is the problem

Is there someone with loaded gun?”

I prodded her again,

“Where are you going?”

“I am a messenger”

She squeaked in anger

“Of a man in white turban

For a woman in blue gown

Walking the path right down”

“A very private message?”

I said with a naughty smile

She said hurriedly, ‘of course’,

In her menacing style

“I left turbaned man’s gun

To hit the head of that woman!”

Words fail me

I sat down to write…

As her memories

And my anxieties

Had started choking me

I placed on the desk a blank sheet of paper

Picked the pen up and guided it over

Even before I could write a word

My heart jumped out and sat on the paper

But now I was thinking hard

About the words

That will replace my heart

Will express my feelings

Which my heart was screaming

What my life was missing

How I suffered suffocation, irritation,

Worries difficulties botherations

Now it was hurting as my neck remained craned

Words didn’t emerge in my non-functional brain

In despair, I placed the pen in the slot

And shut the inkpot

My eyes were welling up

And tears were rolling down

Traveling my cheeks

And jumping off in the end

Finding the blank paper to land

Forming an unshapely figure

Soon these figures filled entire paper

With a language that couldn’t be read

But my feelings?

My feeling were perfectly expressed

Tears had said it all

All that I couldn’t recall

Alas! Sadly

My words had failed me.

Don’t leave me

Is it okay to ask,

Don’t leave me again?

You see I am not even with you

You do whatever you want to do

In and around your world

I do not physically figure

You know I am not there

And I know you are not here

I am not intruding into your space or taking your time

Demanding your attention, respect, or love of any kind

I can’t even see, what you are doing

Who is with you or to whom are you talking

Having coffee, watching movies

Or just sharing your stories

I am not snooping

On your emails or your phone

Even then you never promised

Never to leave me again.

World and her story

Time is passing

So is life

Cross roads, hairpin bends,

Steep climbs, landmarks

All falling behind

I can see a path winding away

Far in the distance

Dissolving into nothingness

One end of which is under my feet

The other seems to be

At the end of my vision

After that… nothing

After that… nothing,

Would be wrong to say

After all, the rest of the world

Has to be there

Somewhere,

Beyond the end of the path

Beyond the end of my vision

Yes, the world made by man

Will cease to exist

But world untouched by man

Will still be there

In its full glory

Narrating it’s amazing story.

I will pass away

You too will be gone

Our sorrows would be wiped off

Smiles will fade leaving no mark

Storytellers will not be around

Listeners also would have passed

But the world will go on

Narrating her story on her own.

Alexander, Babar, Genghis Khan

Christ, Kabir and Krshn

Winners and vanquished

Killers and the killed

All dumped randomly

Unceremoniously

In the dark silence

Of a little old box

Not moving

Not speaking

Yet wearing the crown

With a bloody sword in hand

Not knowing their story is done.

Theater of Life

What am I to say

What am I to do

Whether I am to stay

Or must I go

Is it up to me

Or is it up to you

I guess,

Nothing is up to anyone

It happens when it happens,

Till then behind the curtains

We must arrange our things

When the time comes

When the curtain opens

All will be exposed

And judged

By hundreds of gods

Sitting quietly in the dark

Watching like a hawk

The gods decide

Who was good and did well

Who was good but did not do well

Who was bad yet did well…

40 Years of Prithvi Theater

Living Dead

What is life?

Is my life or your life, is life?

Or what throbs between us, is life?

Are the people around us living?

Are they living because we see them moving,

Eating, drinking, walking, talking

Fighting, loving or… even thinking

Is that considered life?

For a businessman producing a good product is life

For a worker, working sincerely is life

For doctors saving patient’s life is life

For patients following doctor’s advice is life

For teachers educating young is life

For students learning from teacher is life

For soldiers fighting with enemy is life

For citizens being alert is life

For a baby-sitter caring is life

For rich and powerful being kind to weaker is life

For farmers producing for the nation is life

But are all these living doing,

What they are supposed to be doing

Or they are merely walking and talking

Six men rape a 25 year old student

Three men rape a 15 year old in a car

A politician and his forty cronies rape a young girl for months

Girls in a home for handicapped raped

Fifteen year old raped

Twelve year old raped

Ten years old raped

Seven years old raped

Five years old…

Crowd protests against unceasing rapes

Police officer slaps a protesting girl

Minister says watch TV at night for population control

A minister tells farmers to urinate

And irrigate their fields

One group burns down another in a train

Starting a long retaliatory killing chain

No one is there to do anything

Stop anything

I think no one here is living

I guess the buck stops with me

All this ends with me

It ends with my end

I am also dying

Dying, because I am thinking

We all are dead

Dead nations

Dead priests

Dead faiths

In a dead world

Dead people in a dead world