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.

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!

Good Morning

In the morning when you open your eyes

Cover your face with your signature smile

Throw your blanket off without hesitation

Get charged with energy’s manifestation

You may hear the day’s first word

A friend’s hello or tweet of a bird

Get your belly happy with king’s breakfast

Your chest ready to face the day’s task

Step out into the open confidently

To resolve life’s endless possibilities

That my friend, is a ‘good morning’

Have one right this morning

The moment…

I was going along

Humming my own song

Smiling at the smiles

Avoiding voids

When I saw…

She did not smile

React or notice

Her blank eyes stayed

Vaguely on a distant horizon

Her long silken hair

Bounced in rhythm

With her sure steps

As the distance melted

I lost focus and fumbled

But I discovered the reason

Entirely on my own

The secret that Mona Lisa’s smile holds

The moment froze…

I failed to notice

How many people

Like ghosts

Crossed the space between us

Without breaking my thought

Without breaking her thought

And.. in the meanwhile

The moment passed…

I kept walking

She kept walking

Till we passed each other

And passed the moment…

We stumbled back to our course

And carried on

Where were going along

Our own paths

Staying on our course

Humming our own my own tune

Life is about…

Life is not about happy ending

It’s not even about ending

Or, a beginning

It is a cycle.. in fact

Of endless beginnings and ends

Beginnings and ends are like

Stations or stops

Where one can

Take a breather

Rest a while

Reschedule next leg of journey

Leave regular, beaten tracks

Go sideways or even

Visit higher planes

If you want to try a finer form

Or stay without form

Take a nirvana…

Then again at some point of time

If you think you need to work

To change the world,

The way it is

Please sow the seeds of ‘work to be done’

In your soul and inner memory

And return to earth

With all that awareness in your soul

Life, perhaps is about awareness

And about actions,

Performed with awareness

Two Flowers

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!”

With me

Thinking,

Thinking of you

Today,

Today also, like yesterday

Like the last week, month or the year

I don’t

No, I don’t remember living a moment

Without you

Without the moments spent with you

I don’t ever,

Ever remember being

Being deprived of your memories

Thoughts or dreams

You are,

You surely are always with me

But only,

The only thought that pricks me

Whether ‘me’ too is with you…

Like you are,

You are with me right now.