Sunday, August 26, 2007

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Pocketwatch


He was clean shaven. The smell of the old spice cologne was in the air even though an hour had passed since the barber shaved his 5 year old beard. 5 years. 5 precious years in life.

He walked out with the new dress and few hundreds in his pocket given to him by the captain of the ship who found him unconscious in water. God knows how he was going to repay him. But for now they didn’t seem to be the cause of his worries. He had to go to his town and see her. It had been 5 years since he had seen her.

5 Years before
“You look beautiful in this black turtleneck” he said.

Don’t try to flatter me and change the subject” she sounded angry. She was.

I am not lying. You indeed look beautiful” he tried to put his hands around her neck and drag and kiss her which she fended off.

She was indeed angry. Her cheeks had become pink with anger and her normally cute cherubic cheerful face today appeared very serious and gloomy.

So you are going away for real?” she was close to tears.

Don’t say like that darling. I promise I will be back as soon as the assignment gets over.”

Do you remember that in a month we are going to get married?”

How can I forget that darling? It is just that my boss wants me to complete this assignment. And it is only for 15-20 days. I will be back before you realize I was gone.”

He took her hands in his hands and kissed them. She hugged him and wet his shirt with her sweet tears.

Come soon. I will be waiting for you.”

He smiled and ran into the private charter plane as it was raining heavily. He waved her good bye before he boarded into the plane. He looked at the pocket watch that she gave him as Birthday present with her photo in it. She was beautiful.

The town had changed a lot. 5 years is a lot of time in life. Empires tumble, technology advances, shops renovate, new malls come up, old ones crumble, people get married or get divorced, have kids, die…but unacceptably they change. He was not sure how much he had to catch up to know the new stuff around.

Every one seemed to be talking on a cell phone or were wearing some white colored ear phone connected from their pant pockets to the ears. Must be radio he thought. He was not sure if he recognized most shops or its owners. Neither did he want to meet any of them. He bought a rose from a roadside shop. It was her favorite white rose.

2 years before
Day 1000. He had kept count of the days by scribbling on the wall like as in the Count of Monte Christo. He remembered day one as much as yesterday. It was the most horrific day of his life. The charter plane got caught in turbulence and it crashed into an unknown island about an hour after take off. He woke up the next day to find all his colleagues dead….and as the lone survivor in the plane crash on a lonely island.

He waited for help to arrive. Days turned into months, months into years and still there was no sign of any help. He tried many times to swim but the oceanic currents would sap his energy in a few 100 feet. He had learnt to make fire by rubbing igneous rocks, he had become an expert fish catcher, and he learnt to climb trees. In short, he had become a caveman in modern times.

All he had with him to survive was her thoughts and her love. Each and every minute he would think of all the happy moments he spent in her company. Her poodle like curly hair, her beautiful grey eyes, her sensuous lips, her childlike small but artistic fingers, the curves of her body, her gentle warmth, her toenails….very importantly….her sweet voice. All he had now with him was dead silence and her memories. Precious memories.

He looked at the worn-out-and-stopped-but-still-precious pocket watch. She was beautiful.

Nobody was going to recognize him. Neither did it matter if anyone did. He had become skinny in these 5 years. His soft facial features became rugged and he looked 10 years older than his original age. What should he say to her when he sees her after so long? Should he hug and kiss her?

But his stomach churned when he thought…What if she didn’t recognize him?

3 days before
Her only memory was her photo in the pocket watch that she gave. Every day he saw it and told himself that one day someone would come and help him. He would talk to himself aloud to keep reminding himself that he could talk, tell her how much he still loved her after he meets her and how her love had kept him alive for so long.

He looked at the watch again. It looked as if the sun shined to illuminate her beautiful eyes. He remembered how much she loved and cared for him. He loved everything about her and to him she was perfect no matter what others thought or said. He saw her eyes in the blue sky. He heard her voice in the sea shells. He tasted her kiss in the salty ocean water. She was everywhere….and she was nowhere.

Suddenly he felt empty. He felt dead. The whole exercise of living to be alive felt stupid. Harnessing all his energy he cut few trees, tied them with whatever he could find and built a small raft. He looked at the ocean.

He looked at the pocket watch and her photo. Come what may, he was going to swim or die.

He stood at least 100 meters outside her house. Something told him that she would be living in the same house even after 5 years. He confirmed it when he saw her black Honda Car parked outside. She appeared opening the door. She looked as beautiful as she did 5 years before.

He was afraid his heart might forget beating after seeing her after so long.

Just as he marched towards her, out came a man with a child sleeping in his arms.

You forgot the kid honey” he said and kissed her.

Oh cmon. Being mother doesn’t mean that I only need to care about him. You can surely do it as a father.”

She said with a fake anger. The same fake anger she always displayed whenever he would play a prank on her.

Ok Ok. Now don’t shout at me. Drive safe and be home soon.” Her husband kissed her farewell again.

The whole world seemed to be spinning around him. He should have expected it. She didn’t do anything wrong and he would have done the same if he were in her shoes. Just that his poor little heart doesn’t understand it.

He walked back in the way he had arrived. It would be better for everyone if he remained dead to her. He boarded a bus in the bus stop. He looked at the white rose, smiled and kept it in the flower vase in the front row of the bus.

He looked at the pocket watch once again. He had replaced the battery and it had started to work again. He could turn the time on the watch, but unfortunately not in his life.

She was beautiful.

P.S: Inspired from Tom Hanks’s soulful performance in Cast Away

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Mr. Yogi rides a cycle

It was not that Mr. Yogi was fat. Standing 5 feet 8 inches and weighing around 160 pounds he looked quite normal. But his childhood memories of being branded fatso and elephant reminded him to stay fit and not to grow out of proportions.

The advantage of being at onsite in the IT profession is that the office closes by around 6 PM and you could come home early and have some time to take care of yourself. He remembered his offshore days when he had tried going to the gym at the max for 2 months after which even coming home at night became a luxury. This gym was moderately crowded and it was occupied predominantly by the desis living in his apartment.

They came in all shapes and sizes. The fat punjabi aunty trying to shed her maternity weight, the Chinese uncle who was trying hard to lift the bench press and possibly going through an American beauty style mid-life crisis, the newly wedded husband who was teaching his wife how to run on a treadmill by holding her hands and displaying his chivalrous attitude, the Andhra gaaru bachelor buddy who was running hard puffing and panting to reduce his gongura chutney weight and impress his fiancé who was soon to be his grihalakshmi with a bank balance of more than a crore (as per last market rate for US IT groom). There was one lonely American among them and he looked as bewildered as a deer among a pack of lions.

Since it was his first day in the gym, Mr. Yogi decided to take it slowly. He spotted a cycle at one end of the gym and hopped on it with enthusiasm. As he started to pedal the stationary cycle, his mind raced dynamically to the past to remind him of his cycling experiences. His last bicycle was an Atlas MTB that his parents had bought him in the 8th standard. He took good care of the cycle for the initial period of a month cleaning it daily and oiling it on weekends. Thereafter the cycle never saw any cleaning or oiling till it was transferred to his cousin brother after Mr. Yogi finished his 12th standard.

In his 3rd standard Mr. Yogi witnessed that all the kids in his neighborhood had owned a bicycle and came to the nearest play ground on their cycle as if they were Superstars giving a grand entry with their Suzuki Hayabusa. Unable to bear the humiliation any more, Mr. Yogi demanded his parents to get him a bicycle.

As any other middle class parents in India, his parents entrusted him a MISSION IMPOSSIBLE type assignment. GET FIRST RANK. Mr. Yogi didn’t quite understand if the intention here was to motivate him to get first rank or avoid buying a bicycle. As of now it seemed to serve both the purposes. Mr. Yogi was just an above-average student for whom even being remembered by his class teachers seemed like a huge act of accomplishment. Getting first rank was therefore like Himesh reshamiyya singing non-nasal or like an Ekta kapoor serial titled without 'K'. Purely hopeless.

Why does one need to win? Can we win always under all circumstances? Isn’t there a quote which says that "Life is about the journey and not the destination"? Why do all parents bribe their children from their young age? We teach kids that if they behave nicely we will give them chocolates, get first rank and we will get you a bicycle, win the scholarship and we will get you a bike. In a way we train their mind to accept that for every action in this world they will be rewarded suitably and immediately. That is why this generation is impatient with every other thing from official matters to personal issues.

And what happens when they lose instead of winning? An immature and young mind that is incapable to digest that failure hence contemplates the inevitable. That is why you can find so many suicide cases when the 10th and 12th standard results release. That is why you see dip in work quality in companies after appraisal periods. That is why you find many suicide cases arising out of love failure. If life can be finished after one or a few acts of failures, we all would be dead in our mother's womb...had she been given birth to.

For one person to win, so many must lose. That’s the way the world functions. It’s CRUDE but it is PRACTICAL. We must teach children to learn the very fact that NOT every act is rewarding in life. Children must be taught that their conscience will hurt them when they do something illegal or bad. As Mr. Yogi was thinking this and pedaling the cycle, his foot slipped and the pedal broke off. Mr. Yogi looked around. The gym was deserted.

Mr. Yogi quietly walked out of the gym. If he reported about this incident to the Apartment authorities, he would be fined to the tune of 50-100$. He quietly walked back to his home. Surprisingly his conscience didn’t seem to hurt much now.