The first word is written with great trepidation, as if a wrong word might sicken the paper. Despite innumerous tries, you never are sure. The paper registers whatever you write - an axiom you fail to grasp. Sometimes the words blot, causing the ink to drift towards an untraceable drain.
The second word is written with greater composure. The assurance that the mute paper provides - Thou shall not be spit at - spurs you to write more.
The third and the fourth words are written with an ease that causes you to pause and review the words. Something is wrong. You stop now and ponder. The pen is no more held by the fingers of your left hand. The paper looks at you in askance. Write more, it seems to implore. But all you do is to crumple it and fling it over your head.
Puddles perceptibly dot the streets and hold the light from the lamps along the road. They are almost in a straight line, a discipline that seems alien yet local to the surroundings. Slush of the brown non snow variety; the cloth bits heaped outside the tailor's; the stink from the just emptied green bins, the refuse gorged by the bin truck moving away, its sides dripping liquid waste; the flower stalls, their owners spinning and readying garlands of rose, jevanthi and jasmine, flowers whose fragrance are a great antidote to the stink of the aforementioned truck, flowers which seem bathed and fresh and willing to be woven over a string, at such a feverish pace that you feel invigorated, despite the odd hours, despite the fact that you are returning from work; the curvy bits of tomatoes and onions that seem to stream from the chop worked by the steady hand of the bakery help; the watchman outside the ATM whose snore is as content as that of a man disdainful of the money held within the machine; the attendant asleep on the bench under the awning of a 24 hour clinic, the green curtain outside the doctor's cabin buffeted by the air from the table fan beside the empty chair of the doctor.
You turn left, clamber up the stairs of a house you often hesitate to call your home, change to your night clothes and try and fall asleep as the sun is dutifully awakened by the rooster's call.
She threatens to slip from your dreams onto your reality through the tiny sliver that memories and hope tear open.
Your name is Ka. Literature abounds with your namesakes. You are named by your father in his only ever moment of inspiration . We all came out of Gogol's overcoat- a sedate Irfan Khan explains to a baffled Kal Penn the rationale behind his name in that movie. Your father doesn't bother you with an explanation. You find that out yourself.
You step into a school just as the first shower of June sweeps the city. Your rain coat forgotten, you are drenched when you step into your class. My name is Ka, you introduce yourself to your fellow classmates. They laugh at you as only your classmates ever can. You are not adroit enough to handle it and break down. More laughter booms through the class. Even the rain stops and greets you with a hearty roar of its own.
Why is he named Ka?
He is such a bore that his parents forgot to name him fully.
Why is he named Ka?
One of his ancestors is a crow.
And so on.
Their cruelty doesn't deter you from being cruel to Vidya.
Vidya is fat. Takes after her mother. A shade fatter that is all. But fat nonetheless.
You taunt her. Call her a cylinder. She never breaks down. She fusses over you. You have too chubby cheeks to be taken seriously, she says. You do not understand. You stand in front of the mirror and try and pinch your cheeks but the pair never come off.
She has chubby cheeks too. Ever frozen ice cubes lodged at the far corner of your cheeks, you remark to her one day. She doesn't like them and asks you to help. You think of melting them. Eureka! She obliges. You drink your glass of milk and go through the plan with your mother during breakfast. Your mother stops you from proceeding further. A few terse words and slaps do the trick.
Vidya is sad.
She has curly hair. A pair flank her forehead, undulating along her temples. She wants them removed or straightened. You suggest creasing them. You spot the electric iron unattended to at a corner of your father's room. She obliges. You plug it in and fiddle with the panel on it. Cotton, Linen, Wool. There is no mention of hair. You ask her. The two of you decide on linen. Line-n, you pronounce it. The light on the iron blinks on even as your mother rushes into the room and grabs the iron from you. Slaps. She cries because she is sad.
Your father predicts you will be a writer. A writer of lofty ideals and immense ability. You do not understand the words. You impress your English teacher and very soon, you become her favourite. You do not bother to learn other subjects and sneer at them. The rest of your class learn to ignore you. You survive class only because Vidya is your bench mate. You like her. She likes you. 1=1. 2=2. Your class 5 life is filled with such simple equations.
You learn to love English. Shakespeare greets you in the morning, Tagore walks with you to school and at night, Twain reads as you drift to sleep. You talk in aphorisms and wonder why sonnets cannot have more than fourteen lines. You learn to be spare with words. Your teachers concede that you have talent. Your father is happy. You too are. Vidya jumps with joy.
Not so far in the future, you walk home alone one day, your school bag slung over your shoulders and your shoes held in your left hand by the pair of laces. Your mother waits outside your house. You shove the shoes under the shoe stand by the door and drop the bag on the sofa.
You lock the front door as your mother kick starts the scooter.
Your mother paces a ground floor corridor as you try to resolve the meaning of the giant red cross staring at you from the wall opposite. There is a door next to it, opaque glass save for a transparent perforation right in the middle; a view hole you try hard to jump and look through. Cold air greets you from the underside of the door. Does it contain the breath of someone dying?
Your mother leads you into the room. Vidya is lain on the bed. White tubes run across her, dipping in and out of her body. You spot a bag filled with a yellow liquid strapped to the side of her bed. You run out and retch into the basin outside the room. Your mother is crying. So is her father. She beckons you to come nearer to her. Your mother prods you to hold her hand. You are too shaken to react. You run your frigid, feeble fingers over her forehead and start to bawl. She smiles. She points at the curls alongside her temples. You hold and try to straighten them. She winks at you. You smile through your tears.
You walk out of the room along with your mother. The door is closed behind you. You jump to look at her through the view hole. Your mother wipes her tears and lifts you so that you can look at her.
What could arise out of a simple question asked of a stranger, a question fielded about an address on a rumpled piece of paper, a question put forward by a woman while walking along a footpath covered with leaves led dither by the busy wind? A revelation? Or a bait?
The man walked around the bin capsized just to his right, its content strewn out of its mouth and out across the sand, the stench unbearable but forgettable by habit. He jumped over the plastic bag that had flown the farthest, the few paper packets of stale food contained within interesting the limp and rabid dog presently hopping over milk crates - upturned and blue in colour, the blue of vivacity- the crates equidistant, consecutives just far enough for a human leg to stretch and reach, an arrangement necessitated by the pool of water left behind by the previous night's half an hour rain.
He was asked the address. Turn left and the fourth shop from the... There lay the dilemma. She mustn't be told.
Friday dressing for him consisted of a pair of jean torn at the right ankle, only there and an yellow t-shirt hurriedly washed the previous night and left to face the heat of an early morning sun. He didn't bother to press them. He was to wear the work overalls at the factory and for the journey on the footboard of the bus, with one leg of his hovering over the road and the fingers of his right hand barely grasping the cold rails of the window nearest to the door, this worked.
She knew the days but their occurrence had lost their significance long ago. Only one thing mattered: the recurrence of the date on which the most singular event of her life had taken place. 72 hours separated her from that day.
There goes an educated man. One who would bother to pause and answer. Surely!
He read the address on the sheet of paper, its letters black and all in capital, shy, spaced out far enough to indicate a writer unsure of her own literacy, blurred by the sweat that had leaked from the afore held hand. The address was familiar to him. He held the paper with his left hand as his right hand unconvincingly drew a map of the route from their station to the place quested after as he explained the same to her. She wasn't to understand.
The statue at the centre of the square...whose statue was it? He had forgotten. Shiny. Silver? Bald. A true leader. No spectacles worn. Was there a beard? The pose and poise of a masterly orator perfectly captured. A hand fused to the hip and the other grasping the sides of an invisible lectern. His pose in his final photo? Just before the bullet had silenced him. But who was he and why, despite passing by it twice every day, did his name escape him at this moment? Why did it seem so important?
As the route was being explained, time stood by her for a moment, allowing her thoughts to take over and tangle themselves up as she appraised the person standing before her. An apparition of her seemed to queue up beside time and appraise him too, as if the distance and relative solitude mattered and could offer a different perspective. The past of a stranger-how much could be deduced from the first meeting? It mattered, the accuracy of this deduction, for she knew that the future with him could either be spent happily affirming positives or whining about the negatives.
The statue and its name were temporarily forgotten. Instead, he asked her to take a left, a right and then the third right and then...
She shook her head and made to grasp the paper.
The fourth store from the...
...the liquor store.
A sense of propriety had prevented him from land-marking the liquor store. Poor man!
She smiled and thanked him.
He would be there. The man to whom she was tethered. The dog was busy with the stale food.
He hesitated before returning the smile.
Next moment, one of them moved away. The victim was left behind with the dog. ---
It makes for a strange experience this viewing of FIFA World Cup 2010 in India. India, because of the shambolic state of its football infrastructure, administration and development, has never been able to send a team to the World Cup. Football fans here have always had to make do with borrowed devotions ( the absence of any recognizably good footballing nation in the neighbourhood hasn't helped either). Hence, instead of debating the squad structure, agonizing over formations and fretting over tactics of the Indian National Team, we are forced to first choose whom to ally our allegiance with. It usually is Argentina, Brazil or England. Spain, by virtue of sizzling in Euro'08 has also staked a claim in recent times but come World Cup, the streets of Kolkata, Mallapuram and Marmagoa are usually bedecked with Argentine or Brazilian flags and jerseys (a cliche it is that passion for football overflows only in Bengal, Kerala and Goa but it is important to note that the recent exposure to EPL, UCL and La Liga has resulted only in more jersey sales and spawned good FIFA10 players in the rest of the country than footballers; it is deemed perfectly alright to soak up footballing knowledge and facts and play it all out on a PC).
So when a friend asked me yesterday as to who it is I am going to support this time, I could only offer a shrug in reply. Last time, my team of choice had been Italy ( the neutral's favourite - their off-field problems had made them underdogs and who would the neutral support but an underdog? Throw in the siege mentality as well - is it any surprise that they won?). This time around, nobody is enthusiastic about them for the team is almost the same with replacements coming in only for those who have retired over the past four years.
While Italy seems content to let the media and armchair pundits overlook them and downplay their chances, among the rest of the teams, quite a few should feel confident. The draw for this year's group stage coupled with untimely injuries to some of the stars has thrown open this year's tournament. There is Brazil with its relatively dour game play, their tactics built upon solid defensive work and excellent counterattacking skill instead of their legendary Joga BonitoTM oomph. Then there is Spain so supremely blessed with talent that anything less than an appearance in the final will be taken a failure; there is Argentina with Lionel Messi (ah! what pleasure it would give the wise old enganche Veron to choose any one from Messi, Tevez, de Maria and Higuan/Milito to pass the ball to) ; then there are the usual suspects - Germany with a talented yet slightly inexperienced squad, France with their noxious manager Raymond Domenech and a squad still mired in schoolyard like squabbling, Portugal for whom Cristiano Ronaldo (yes, Him) has so far been utterly uninspiring, Holland with Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder (yes, Them who led their respective clubs to the UCL final with this, this and this). Since this is the first World Cup to be held in Africa, there is renewed hope for an African nation to emerge victorious for the first time. Ivory Coast (with their petulant Messiah Didier Drogba), Ghana and Cameroon are the favourites among the African participants.
And then there is England.
To the English media, the World Cup is the Holy Grail, the conquest of which, they appear convinced, has always been, and will remain, beyond their team. This is much evident from their incessant rambling about everything related to their team - the deficiencies of the current squad, their perceived inability to hold the ball and engage in any kind of tactical buildup play, their positional indiscipline on the field and behavioural failings off it. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to think of the English players as Big Brother house occupants for such is the level of media scrutiny there. A win still comes with its attendant hyperbole, but this time around, everyone is seeking to mute it or deflate their own expectations. Sometimes it seems they would have been gladder had their team never made it to the World Cup finals at all.
Despite the air of fatalism that pervades the English camp, other countries are still wary of England for they are coached by Fabio Capello, a man whom everyone loves to imagine to be as strict as Eric Blair's schoolmaster.
It was presumed after the ignominy of failing to qualify for Euro 08 that discipline, hard work and selflessness were the attributes sorely lacking in the English setup and Capello was drafted specifically to inculcate these values in the players. They breezed past their opponents during qualification but their form since then has been wobbly and their recent performances suggest a regression to pre-Capello days. The media, who had slowly began to envisage that the steady if unspectacular performances might result in a run beyond the quarters, lost no time in performing a volte face and declaring that their team had as much chance as doing anything of note in the World Cup 2010 as discovering a nutritious meal in the local McDonalds' menu.
So it was with crackling nerves that the English players lined up against USA last Saturday to kick off their first match. Just around the fourth minute, their captain Steven Gerrard took a beautiful first touch and poked in the ball into the goal beyond the flailing hands of the American goalkeeper. England it seemed were intent on changing history. But not for long. Soon, they became complacent, their midfield slowly disintegrating under the relentless yet largely feeble pressure of the American attack. Around the 40th minute, from just outside the English penalty area, the American midfielder Clint Dempsey drove a weak shot towards the English goal. What should have been a regulation collect and throw resulted in this.
The howler seemed predestined to happen. At the half time whistle, Robert Green trudged back alone to the dressing room, utterly despondent at having conceded such a soft goal- yet another addition to the annals of infamy to which recent English goalkeepers seem intent on contributing. The game ended in a tame draw and their performance did everything to suggest that England had rediscovered its ability to contrive to lose from winning positions out of sheer complacency, overconfidence and lack of skill.
The England-USA game was preceded by a cracking game between South Africa and Mexico, the game provided the much needed initial momentum to the tournament. Other memorable matches in the first week include the 4-0 drubbing that Australia received at the hands of Germany, Argentina's 1-0 victory over Nigeria featuring the heroics of Vincent Enyeama, the Nigerian goalkeeper who did everything humanly possible to keep a fiery Lionel Messi from scoring a goal, South Korea's efficient dismantling of the famed Greek defence resulting in a comfortable 2-0 win and DPR of Korea's defiant display against Brazil, almost holding the Selcaos to a draw before losing out 2-1.
The matches so far seem curiously lacking in the spectacular with teams adopting cagey tactics and generally being unadventurous in approach. Hopefully, this will change once the final round of group matches take place for a few favourites might get knocked out, thus providing the drama and action, a tournament of this stature, richly deserves.
Everyone know it looks like a spider; in fact, when looked down from the sky above, the silken roads leading in and out could be taken to resemble the web a spider might spin around itself. Stay connected.
The words of his mother had stuck him odd then. But now, standing under the shadow of one of the eight stairways that lead up in to the bluish grey building, its shadow slicing him in half, his realisation that his mother had been correct did not surprise him. She had been right about the passenger seated next to him in the bus- the one with glazed expression in his eyes, his shoulders perennially resting in a shrugged position, the two orbs of his earphones tending to his ears, his red jumper zipped up to his neck despite the fiery heat, his hands as high strung as those of a penitent and an air of diffidence around him. Others seated in the bus seemed like the clones of his co-passenger and remarkably silent too; the eyes of those along the window occupied with the drab landscape of the surroundings; the eyes of those along the aisle closed or half closed in deliberate sleep.
There are eight levels in the building. Not eight floors. These levels will only be visible to those who know about it. To your eyes, no levels will be visible. Only five floors.
Please stand in front of the mic and repeat the following word: Zeitgeist. He did.
The word surprised him. His attempt to pronounce what he took to be a pseudo German word discomfited him. They will know you and what you are. The word will be drawn from your native region. He had prepared for a word like catamaran. Had they upgraded their system? Was this imprecision a sign of weariness, a sign of techno-fatigue? Or had his mother forgotten something? Or had his father been a German? The gate to the stairway opened and he walked in.
Once you are in the building, they will be able to read your mind. Only your mind. Only those of the newcomers and known dissidents. There will be no noticeable change in your body nor in your behaviour. They will never influence it. It is quite a snug fit except for one little flaw: you will suddenly feel happy. But be warned: DO NOT EVER SMILE.
He found it hard to suppress his smile and very hard not to thank his mother. She had indeed been right. He looked up and the sight before his eyes overwhelmed him. Hundreds of hunched figures, including the few who had accompanied him in the bus, were now scurrying up and down the gravity defying ramps that seemed to lead everywhere. There were no discernible sources of light around but the whole building seemed to bask in some ethereal light. He walked up to the lounge area and seated himself on one of the plush chairs that dotted it. The lounge area was a raised circular platform built around a tree like structure. Suddenly, one of the branches of the tree dipped down to him and a small palm sized display opened out of it. He saw his name printed in black preceded by a welcome sign on the display. Before he could respond, the screen displayed the details of his meeting and a voice as soft as a whisper requested him to proceed immediately.
Do not accept what they offer. Harangue if needed. If they appear too impressed, be quick to lessen your impression. Remember: you have to start at the bottom.
He was not sure of his co-ordinates as he stood outside a door. The walls extending along the corridor seemed to end in some infinity, painted white save for thin black rectangular outlines every ten feet. The display above each door kept pointing to the right until he grew tired of walking and paused in front of one. The door opened into a room and he walked into it. Immediately, the ethereal light that had blinded him at the lounge begin to pour into the room. Save for a chair, the room was empty. As he seated himself, the light withdrew and a screen emerged out of nowhere, right opposite him. A few words scrolled across the screen.
You are asked to add 2 2's. Will you be surprised if the answer is 6?
Do not ever think.
Eight questions and half an hour later, the door was thrown open and a figure entered the room. The screen had disappeared and the light gradually began to let itself in again.
We are mightily impressed with your performance. You will start...
Light the cigarette.
Smoke coiled around the room before dissipating. The man seated opposite him seemed both uncomfortable and confounded by this. With a seemingly assured shake of his head,
...at the bottom.
Join tomorrow were the parting words. Moments later, without knowing how, he found himself standing next to the exit door.
The most important step of all: as you emerge out of the building, before you open the door to the exit, think of the woods where you live; think of the snow that falls outside; think of this cabin which you will abandon now; think of the footsteps in the snow pockmarked with blood.
He waited outside the stairway for the bus to arrive. Long, lonesome silhouettes fell upon him. He will be on his own once he had fulfilled the last of his mother's instructions. It was time.
Turn and look behind at the glass facade. The square of glass lit by a yellow light. You will find your father there.
[My entry for this week's 3WW prompt. Inspired by the photo on the right. ]
What did they say? It will go away...never worry..it will never worry you...you were brave enough to grasp a strand of grass...the driest one in that..what if your hands bleed?..it will all stop...cherish it...it will help you... it is like reading the newspaper: read the sports section..it will keep you happy..never dwelve into the middle pages...what do you see there?...this bird stuck in oil for example...what was it thinking when it jumped into the sea?...didn't it notice the change in the colour of the sea?...did it really believe that huge wings had spurted out of its body...my shadow covers the breadth of my vision as I dive in...ah!look at me!...now, where is it?... gasping for a breath of oil-free air at the shore...a kitchen is the hell that a bird dreads the most...and this one must wonder, well I may be slick with oil but I am not dead yet...I may not fly again but my guts are not on a plate, my feathers are not for sale...I am not roasted!..aye water! the mirror you hold up when I beckon you to see my reflection, it is broken! ha ha!!...what do you say now?...what?...no! I am not an old crone, the one with broken foot who says to herself, I seen the world...what use a foot?...I need not pacify myself like that...go clean up will ya?
I hold the cobbler seated at the corner of the street in very high regard. I do, for he has never had a problem in mending my foot wears. Compared to him, even doctors appear fallible in fulfilling the requirements of their job for fail he can't. And I respect him a lot because he has never had a problem in mending my foot wears -those of such absurd state that apparently, as my sister observed once, dogs think twice before chewing them. A year ago, I had taken my shoes to the cobbler- as ever, an old man who I suspected of not hesitating to pluck some silver hair from his beard were he to run out of threads to stitch. One look at one of the pair, barely an infant but with its sole gaping at the road like a one-eyed troll, was enough for him to claim an exorbitant sum to mend it. As he expected of me, I tried to bargain but he refused to swerve from his position. So I had to politely demur and walk across to a shoe store nearby and buy myself a new pair of shoes. There was wisdom in the buy, I convinced myself for I do not like to splurge on footwear. I follow my uncle's dictum on footwear: them of no use but to guard the foot from what it walks on. One could dismiss such an opinion as functional but how elegant and sagacious it is! And since then, it has been easy for me to choose and buy footwear and more importantly, it has never taken me longer than 10 minutes to head away from the nauseating stench of leather.
But the problem is that they tend to wear off faster than it does for others around me. The sole erodes, or if it is a slipper, the annulated big toe holder splits or just comes unhinged. Same happens with buckled slippers too. It is not about the quality or the brand; I have tried shoes and slippers of nearly all brands but longer than six months, they never last. Bata, Durable Chrome Factory, Adidas, Nike, Paragon, even the plastic ones with counterfeit labels - no matter; my foot treats them with an equanimity and impartiality that school students can only dream of from their teachers.
On a rainy day, with dark clouds hovering above like an UFO, water puddled in the furrows made by the rain on the road and jaggedly flowing across the soil heaped beside the road, I found myself on my way to the cobbler with a pair of slippers. The toe ring had come unhinged from one among the pair. I had my doubts about it for the split portion of the toe holder hung in mid air, like a half constructed flyover, over a pear shaped vacuum where the sole should have been, the toe ring ruptured in such a way that it had come away with the piece of leather it was supposed to stick to.
So I found myself outside the cobbler's den, him and his tools resting on ground at the foot of a tree with a black tarpaulin roof stretching over them. I took out the slippers from the plastic bag and gave it to him. He held it in his hand for a moment and gave them back to me with the words "Nothing can be done about it". His instant verdict was stunning. As I had suspected, he pointed to the vacuum where the toe holder was to be held and suggested that I throw the pair away. Unlike for a doctor, one is better off without consulting another cobbler for second opinion. I walked back home feeling a little dazed. His acceptance of failure, this inability to stitch and append a pear shaped piece of leather to the sole, the speed at which he weighed his options and pronounced his verdict, the gawky look that flashed across his visage when he noticed the disappointment on my face, altogether startled me. Of course, there lay in my house, numerous pair of slippers and shoes that I had discarded or had not cared enough to mend. But fail a cobbler never has and his fallibility rankled till I reached home and stuffed the bag containing the pair under the shoe stand where it will rest till I throw the whole lot of it out.
Jose Mourinho, ex-presiding deity of Stamford Bridge and currently lording over the blue half of San Siro, a man with the propensity to charm people with his soundbites and lock opponents up on the pitch with a defence as impenetrable as a the plot of a David Lynch movie (and inadvertently turn matches into snorefest - the reason cited for his ouster from Chelsea), came up with the answer to the question that has puzzled managers all over the world since the year past: how to stop Barcelona?
The Inter-Barcelona match (result 3-1), played out just a while ago, not only lit a fire under the myth that Barcelona can be stopped from scoring goals only by parking a Volvo truck in front of the goal, but also shattered whatever feeble belief mankind had in its ability to predict future. Who foresaw this result? No one. So if any astrologer has predicted something ominous for you, just show him/her a tape of this match and I am sure they will be left thanking their Gods for ensuring that at least a few of their predictions had come right in the past. For that is what Inter will do. And it was such a match.
Barcelona, a team often cited as the next big thing in art (and not just football), the team with the ability to control and pass the ball with a precision that counter terrorists can only dream of, were left knackered at the end. It might just be a blip, an aberration en route to them retaining the titles they won as much with hard work as with dazzle on the field. And who should cause this blip but their old nemesis, Jose Mourinho.
Jose Mourinho. The last roll of the dice by Massimo Moratti to sort out Inter's serial failure to cause opponents any concern in Champions League. The manager who took over a squad consisting of pensioners and a few mavericks, a team with a midfield as inspiring as a career in bureaucracy and calibrated them in his own style, selling old-timers and those with an alarming love for self harm and buying players to ensure a solid defence and a modicum of inspiration in attack. The man who, like a writer justifying the bad sales of his novel, cited the lack of a muse in his squad as the reason for the failure to cause any ripple in the previous year's Champions League and was promptly given one in the form of his current number 10, Wesley Sneijder, the midfielder whom Real Madrid had no hesitation in offloading (surely Real Madrid is the club most well versed in the art of enriching other clubs by letting go of their players at exactly the wrong time?) The manager, who claims Italy hates him as much as he hates it, who never hesitates to pick up a fight with anyone, from the driver of a rival team's bus to journaists to match officials and who calls himself as "The Special One", a proclamation that seems prescient with every passing day.
Although, Barcelona are not out of it as the 2nd leg of this match is yet to be played, implications of this match extend beyond the outcome of a Champions League semifinal. If Inter are to knock Barca out of this tournament, anyone with a fair idea of European club football can envisage Jose Mourinho taking over as the manager of Real Madrid next season. And what a mouthwatering clash the next season's el clasico will be!
The following video is from the TV series "The Wire". In the video, two detectives visit a crime scene. They reconstruct and re-enact the crime, one evidence at a time. All the while, in what can be construed a homage to Tarantino and Scorsese ( or something as simple as writer's block) , they just use the word "F**k" to communicate with each other.
I waited outside the wrought iron gate of the mansion. The gate was closed. The gate, once coloured black, looked foreboding. I could see beyond it and was tempted to climb up it. It was winter and I saw that the snow had been cleared off from the driveway to the front door. Someone must be inside, I said to myself although I could spot no security in the booth outside nor any vehicle tracks on the sideroad to the gate. I pushed the gate open.
I walked across the driveway to the front porch. The ferns siding the driveway looked pale and bereft of colour. As I entered the porch, with its long, thick white columns, the stench hit me. I could only think of the stench that hits you when you open a refrigerator stocked with rotten eggs. Of course, the air around the fridge reeks even after you close it. The front door was closed.
It was late morning and the lone yellow bulb that at the end of the black wire that hung from the ceiling was still on. The stench was unbearable. I knocked on the door but nothing was replied. To the left of the door, there was a nameplate, the name "TINNY" etched in gold across a mahogany name board. I called the name out three or four times but again none bothered to respond to the echo that sounded across the hall through the bay windows open on either side of the door. Should I jump in? I asked myself. Someone has been here in the immediate past. Like last night or early morning today. May be someone like me, knocking on the door of the mansion. I could not stand there any more and trudged back to the front gate. As I walked out of the driveway, the gate, its tines rising and falling in sinuous curves, closed by itself. I chuckled.
Outside, a black dog greeted me. It looked emaciated and its skin was dappled with cakes of mud, as if it had rolled and fallen asleep in the ditch across the road. The dog looked at me with what I felt back then as empathy, as if, a while before it too had sensed something and walked to the front porch and despite wanting to jump in through the windows, just turned back and ran out.
I walked out and along the pavement, the tall trees sheltering me from the snow that fell slowly from the sky above. I wrapped the black duffel coat tighter around me, the coat shiny once like a highway reflector but now shorn of gloss and looking hardboiled after years of abuse, and kept walking. The dog did not follow me. It walked across the road to the ditch.
Us, we love dogs. They are what we ever want to be but scarcely are: loyal. Their barks, can they ever be anything but inane gibberish that all of us hear but neither understand nor care to interpret? Of course, we love them. We don't treat them as dogs do we?. Never. We care for them. Some even feed them more than what themselves would consume.
Them, do they ever even listen to what we go on about? Do they understand what we tell them when we hold them, raise them so that their eyes could meet ours, pat their heads and show our affection in other ways we are wont to? Do they ever realise that some of us are paid to walk them over cobbled pavements and manicured greens?
Life is a bitch.
O thy ruler,
when you jumped off your steed after the war,
to try and make sense of what you saw,
and were benumbed by the pile of mortal remnants that battles spew,
the dismembered limbs, the rusted guts, the impaled hearts,
the invisible sweat and tears of those who were just as human as you,
Why are we mortals obsessed with those who don props and slip out of our three dimensional existence into the bi-dimensional illusion projected onto a faded white screen? Is it the illusion itself? The illusion that whatever happens, they will remain unviolated by our thoughts, unflattered by our compliments, unhurt by our criticism, never undone by our deconstruction of their myth, untouched by our interpretations of their actions, unviolated by the fantasy of our dreams? That they will remain what they are, their fates never hinged to our actions, their destiny never effected by our throw of the dice. Is this how Gods feel when they look upon us from the skies above or observe us from the nether below? Us, a bunch of people going about their jobs, with a few clamouring for Their attention once every while and calling Their names when our time at the shift is over; Their guidance, does it ever percolate onto our minds, does it ever act as the causative for our actions? Or is their control as illusory as ours is when we seat ourselves in a dark acoustically well equipped room full of people who are as strange to us as we are to them, except for the odd known face or two, on seeing whom our hand raises itself for a perfunctory wave, or our face twists itself into a shallow smile? Who are we? Who are they? Who are these people walking around in front of us, stuck and struggling to realise the depth of their lives and living through this two dimensional medium and politely walking away at the end of it all? Who are they? Are they us? Are They us? Are we Them?