Request each one of you to grace my book reading session at Kerala government’s literature festival in Kochi.
Cry of a Girl-Foetus
You devoid us of birth – why
All for a chromosome Y,
We make this world bloom
Without us it’s all doom,
We want to be in this world
No foeticide should make us void,
We yearn up to all mothers
To bring us out in all colours,
We are those flying fairies
We are those fragrant flowers.
It’s been a very touching experience reading this novel, I’m sure if anyone who reads this book is not teary eyed by the end, then that person would be a hard-nut sadist. Journey of a mental retard beautifully portrayed in first person, it starts with elementary English, raises us to the high standards of linguistic genius in later parts, and heart-breakingly brings the curtains back to elementary English.
It takes us closely into the sad world of mental retards, more than the ridicule and teasing they face in the public, it’s the curse and isolation they undergo inside their own houses which wets our eyes. Author has lived the life of the protoganist well enough that it would be difficult to think that the author was not a mental retard.
My only disconnect was the way three women are portrayed, the mother Rose as abusive, Alice who is used as a sex object which may not augur well for real life caretakers, Fay as a loose woman who sleeps with a stranger every other day. Sexism is least expected from such high calibre authors.
It’s very easy to connect with the people who like this novel, that they are all nice at heart. Short but Sweet Novel, I can’t wait to see the movie Charlie. Because we all have an element of Charlie in all of us.
“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” – Isaac Asimov
In the circle of book worms it is always believed that a book is as good as the person who recommended it to you, and I should say, what a beautiful book it was.
It reminded me of the fallacies of humankind, who while in the cosy embrace of mother earth, are hell-bent to destroy the very planet they reside. While they squabble over religion and language thinking one is superior to other, I am again reminded of the above quoted lines from the Father of science fiction Isaac Asimov.
Dan Simmon’s Hugo prize winning magnum opus is, to say the least, possibly the most futuristic book ever-written. A story told in the background of a few millenniums into the future, starts with an obituary on Mother Earth often nostalgically referred as old-earth, yes, as you rightly guessed, because they now had a New Earth. After the Hegira, supposedly the exodus of life from Earth before the planet ceased to be a liveable haven, the whole set of species led by Humans relocated to an array of planets separated by a few light years. This family of planets are referred as the Web, and travelling between these rocks were a routine affair with a technology called farcasting. If even two centuries back if I had talked about somebody having breakfast in Mumbai, lunch in Dubai and dinner in London, people would have labelled me either a lunatic or a science-fiction writer. So before you pooh-pooh the concept of farcasting as an element of wild optimism, think twice.
Here is a set of pilgrims on their way to Hyperion, a distant planet humans had habituated off late. Each of them has their own reason to travel to this dreaded destination. Dreaded because of the presence of somebody who was more popularly known as the “Lord of pain”, Shrike, happens to be an intriguing character walking the tight rope of speculations whether it was a God or a mere human. And each of these travellers had a reason to unravel the mystery.
What makes the book so entertaining are the stories these pilgrims have. That way each of their stories qualify as a Novella and what we read as a book is a collection of these novellas woven together with a seamless ending. One needs to have a scientific and an imaginative mind to enjoy this marvel.
Though what takes the cake, is the concept of time tombs in Shrike Temple, wherein, if encountered by Shrike, that person starts growing in a reverse way, eventually dying as an infant. A concept of bringing the past personalities alive, namely, John Keats, the romantic poet, also is a novel idea. The set of poems written by the poet among the pilgrims, namely, Hyperion Cantos, is what gives the book its name. The poet who loses his motivation to write with the death of his muse is in pursuit of her whereabouts in Hyperion to rekindle his poetry, and to quote him “only a poet knows the pain of losing his muse”.
This book could be a good fodder for the recent debate between Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, on the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence going the wrong way. Unsurprisingly the story hovers around how Artificial Intelligence considers humans as substandard and wants to finish off the obsolete race once forever. Their only hindrance was Hyperion, the abode of Shrike.
The AI dominated world called Core wanted to destroy Hyperion before it could join ranks with rebel humans called Ousters. Hegemony, that’s what the string of planets were called where humanity resided in concurrence with Cybrids (Human body with programmed intelligence) and Androids (fully AI). Hegemony which was intellectually dominated by Cybrids and Androids, created a hatred amongst self-respecting humans, some of whom stayed away in their secluded abodes and were called Ousters.
Finally what happens is left to imagination in an artistic way.
Murder in a train
Kochuvelli express was approaching its last station, Kochuveli. Kochuveli literally translates as a second surreptitious wife. And like a paramour visiting his secret liaison, the train too was hesitantly inching ahead. The station resembled the Malgudi station in the famous novel, Malgudi days by the legendary writer R.K.Narayan. It came to life only during those occasional arrivals of a train. Once the hullabaloo of the passengers getting down and the taxi drivers and hawkers shouting out for business died down, the station used to look like an empty carnival ground a day after the carnival.
Suku was on his usual look out for things people used to forget when they alight the train. Most of the time he used to get a cell phone if he was early enough to find it. People who forget the cell phone usually come running for it since they were so habituated with fingering with the phones. But on an average he ends up with a phone every week, which gave him a handsome revenue of two to three thousand rupees every week. Without knowing who were Sam Pitroda, Rajiv Gandhi or Steve Jobs, he thanked the guys who initiated a telecom revolution in India and the world. Kerala being a tourist hot spot, sometimes what he kept his hands on, were the phones left behind by foreign tourists.
The usual things people forget were books, spectacles, and ear-phones etc, which were not carrying much commercial value for a thief. Suku but never considered himself to be a thief, since he never stole things. He just picked up things which in all probability would have been picked up by somebody else. That way his conscience was clear. And to make it clearer he made sure ten percent of his daily revenue was deposited in the nearby Ganapati Kovil (temple). That way he pulled in God as his partner in business as well.
He was about to leave a reserved compartment when he noticed somebody was still asleep in an upper berth. As a thief he do not carry any such inhibitions to help people. But something unusual had struck him while he took a second look at the figure. It did not have a head.
Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala state, unlike many other Indian cities always wore an old world look. Sometimes, it gave a feeling that, if one could take away the Padmanabhaswamy temple and the state secretariat, then the city would be nothing more than a small town. May be that’s the way the Lord Padmanabhaswamy wanted to keep his city. As the legend goes, the princely state of Travancore (now Thiruvanathapuram) is owned by Lord, and the erstwhile king ruled it on Lord’s behalf. The country belonged to the Lord and hence the sobriquet of “God’s own country” to Kerala.
The chambers or vaults inside the Padmanabhaswamy temple had raised a lot of worldwide attention due to its enormous wealth, which was discovered off late. Since then, Government of India was working round the clock to ensure its safety. And the solace for the Government was that after the initial media frenzy the temple had limped back into normalcy and now the government was free to have its job done without any hassles and interference. Lot of speculation was there regarding the vault B, which had two snakes embossed on the door as a matter of caution. People after having been put their ears on the door spoke about either hissing sound of snakes or the hiss of sea waves, not able to ascertain what exactly they had. Rumours even tell about the doors if opened will bring the sea into the city thus drowning it once for all. It was said that the kings made it with a dual purpose. One was for their escape in case of an attack. Second was that anyone, especially the enemy who in hot pursuit, opens the vault B door, they will be engulfed by the waiting sea waves.
It was now a challenge for the government to protect vault from unscrupulous elements, especially if the story of the connection with sea was a possibility. Hence it was decided to hand over the security to CISF on a 24 hour basis. So when all of a sudden a human head was found floating in the Padmatheertha Kulam (the reverent pond of the Lord), the police was in a state of shock. More than the shock it became imperative for them to hide the incident under the carpet lest the media showcases it as a failure of security system. And the impending media scrutiny would make their job a sure nightmare.
The face was so defunct because of the fishes gorging on it, hence it needed a DNA test to ascertain that the body discovered in the train was in fact the same person’s. The reservation chart had shown that the coupe in the compartment was fully reserved by a Gujarati family, supposedly on a leisure trip to the “God’s Own Country”. But the police took no time to trace this family who were away in Kanyakumari enjoying the sunset on the Vivekananda Rock. Soon their dream trip to the “God’s Own Country” became a nightmare reminiscing “Devil’s Own Country”. Poor chaps expectedly had nothing to do with the murder, which police was also prima facie convinced. The profile of this murder and the unfolding intricacies were just not the cup of tea for a middle class trading family. But the police couldn’t afford to leave any loose ends, and they were just doing their duty.
India being India, somebody in the temple premises had leaked the information to the press, and in no time the issue was subjected to debates on national television. The television anchors bade for the blood of the Prime Minister, citing it as a failure of the secular state to uphold Hindu interests. The Prime Minster, keeping in mind the upcoming central elections and more so because of the rising and worrying clout of the right wing party, swung into action. The temple was handed over to the National Security Guards (NSG), which was the prime commando group in the country. The coast guard was put on high alert to prevent any getaway through the sea in case of a heist. The southern air command in Akkulam a suburb of Thiruvananthapuram was asked to do an air surveillance to prevent drone attacks on the temple. In short the whole security mechanism, be it from the Central Government or the State Government was literally at the service of the Lord, everyone trying to prevent a possible heist of India’s greatest treasure.
Towards 30 kilometres north of Thiruvananthapuram city lied the Saint Andrews church. The church once was situated further towards the coast, but in a magnanimous gesture, the priests agreed to donate the building and space to India’s seemingly over-ambitious dreams of becoming a space power. The rest as they say is history. From the benign and baby steps then, the space programme of India has grown into one of the most successful programs the world over. It was in fact a matter of pride for the country but other nations frowned at it. Especially one neighbouring nation who was always in the news for the wrong reasons, could not digest this mammoth leap India was taking, despite the acute economic and political problems.
With the whole security mechanism shifting focus to a tangible treasure, the enemy was finding it easy to strike at the real treasure of India. And that was the Vikram Sarabhai space station near Thumba. The enemy had clear information that the satellite which can see the whole of south-Asia like the back of one’s hand is under preparation at this place. This satellite if launched would expose their nefarious deeds in front of the world community. The hitherto support they enjoyed from western countries would fall like a pack of cards, thus ending the millions of dollars that flowed in the name of various aids. The country’s economy which depended on arm exports and narcotics sale would go into a tailspin if not for the herculean aid that they received from West every year.
The only way they could prevent this was to stop the launch of this satellite. Reminiscent to the 2008 Mumbai attacks, a team of mercenaries were dropped off into a bunch of dingy boats off the coast of Thumba while the Indian coast guard was busy surveying the coasts of Thiruvananthapuram. The Dingy boats were deflated and buried the moment they took to the shores. Far away atop the Kodimaram (Flag Pole) of Saint Andrews church, Jesus must have smiled at the fallacy of enemy nation.
Nizar Ahmed was a new recruit into the Crime Investigation Department of Kerala Police. He was taking a survey of the compartment where they had found the headless body. Police had handed over Suku also to him for interrogation. After hearing Suku’s version of story he checked the mobile phone police had confiscated from Suku. After having unlocked the phone with the help of experts he was scrolling the phone for anything specific. Suddenly he saw a message from UBER car Rental App which showed a booking from Kochuveli railway station to Thumba. This was an unusual route for somebody who must have come by train. Because Thumba was nearer to many previous stations and no one would get down at Kochuveli to go all the way back to Thumba.
In no time police had caught hold of the Uber driver who took the person to Thumba. Being an unusual trip, he had taken note of the traveller. He said the traveller was a bit erratic in his behaviour and dropped off mid-way, maybe a few kilometres before the designated destination. He had surprisingly got down in front of the church much before the hotel which was marked as destination in the App.
Nizar Ahmed had no other option but to go and meet the priest Father Jacob Pazhoor. The beauty of Kerala is that nobody is really bothered about what religion anyone belonged to. Father Pazhoor had no qualms in allowing a Muslim cop to do a check of his premises. Soon a battalion of forces with equipment for explosive detection arrived at the church. Even after threadbare checking nothing unusual was found. Though the church authorities were whole heartedly supportive of the checking, some local people obviously with political overtures started protesting against police presence at a place of worship. Seeing that the number of protestors was swelling in numbers, the police decided to vacate the area. But the cop in Nizar Ahmed still was not clear of doubts.
It was just a hunch that prompted him to check a dilapidated caravan, which usually came into life only during the annual carnival. Inside the caravan there were sure signs of somebody having stayed. Below the wooden floor of caravan there were remains of some assembly been carried out, apparently to launch rockets. The explosive team which rushed back confirmed traces of RDX, a deadly explosive. The news sent the whole state machinery into a frenzy.
The Space centre was cordoned off and not even a housefly could enter it without the security agencies shooting it down. Drones were on the sky to survey the landscape, all of them transmitting the visuals to a control room. Without getting hindered about the mayhem outside, the Indian scientists known for their integrity and commitment worked round the clock to honour the timelines of the launch.
Nizar had by this time became a small fry in the sea of high level police officials who had proliferated to prove their mettle. But something was bothering the young officer, a sixth sense that everything is not fine. From a distance he looked at the image of Jesus Christ behind the Altar of the church. The Lord seemed to tell him something. It was past the dusk and the last of the sun rays had dissipated. The sky was overcast which made it dark instantaneously. Suddenly there was a strong lightning and a deafening thunder followed it. The power went off making it pitch dark. Far away the light house was still showing its light around into the sea. In the faint light that it transmitted, again he saw Jesus Christ smiling at him. He did not waste any more time.
Running at a maximum speed through the sands of the beach, he reached at the bottom of light house. He had called up his superior and updated him about his gut feeling. One police officer never under- estimates the gut feeling of another officer, that’s what makes the police force over the world ticking. Help for Nizar was on its way, but he did not wait for it. Puffing and panting he climbed the stairs like a panther, without making the slightest of noise. On the top he could see the light house keeper lying in a pool of blood, his throat slit neatly. He waited with bated breath to over hear any conversation. In chaste Urdu, he could hear what they were intending for. He could count seven silhouettes all together. One fellow was speaking with a clear Malayali accent. Nizar had decided to catch this traitor alive. Far way he could see the approaching police vehicles. There was a sudden unrest among the culprits seeing the beeline of vehicles. They were starting to launch rockets before the police would spoil the party, Nizar could clearly hear their conversation. “Finish off the space centre first, then let them kill us”, the leader among the lot shouted at his guys. Before the guys could make out what was happening, Nizar had his gun do the talk. In a swirl action he had shot four guys down. The remaining two were in a state of shock. Before they could react Nizar had hit the fifth mercenary on his leg with the iron rod he had kept stock from the stairways. He could hear the bones breaking amongst the screams.
The remaining guy, the fellow Malayali was hit on his head in a typical police tactics and was brought down to captivity in no time. By that time he could hear heavy footsteps climbing up the stairs. Nizar Ahmed could see the beautiful church under the twilight. He smiled back at Jesus Christ.
After many days, Nizar Ahmed visited the grieving family of the deceased man whose headless body was found in the train. After handing over the money he received as a gift from government for his heroics, to the deceased’s five year old son, Nizar turned towards the widowed lady. He said “I wish I’d been there earlier. It might have made all the difference. So all I can tell you is why he was murdered”.
Mornings in June are an out of the world experience if you are in Kerala. But for a school student it was always a nightmare. The onset of monsoon strangely coincides with the school reopening date in the state. And Kerala being the fortunate first place in the country the monsoon decides to hit after its long sojourn at the sea, it gives a feeling to the onlooker that it was sadistically waiting all the while for this reopening date. For Kids spoiled by the lethargy of a two month old vacation the drenching in rains was further exacerbating the ennui of going to school.
It was such a June morning and as a kid I was reluctant to get up despite my mother’s repeated calls. She finally came shouting with that hot utensil in hand threatening to press it down on my bum. A loving mother never hurts her child and I continued sleeping, this time pulling the blanket over the head. This irritated my mother and she executed the threat. I sprang up from the bed crying at the top of my voice but still defiant to get up. My persistence prompted my mother to check up if something is genuinely wrong and she gauged my body temperature which was unreasonably high. It was decided that I should not go to school that day, though the decision was mainly due to the guilt feelings of burning my bum.
It was fun to enjoy the sympathy and care when one was ill. Chappathis used to be a delicacy in down- south those days. My mother was the only one in that joint family who knew how to make Chappathis. So she used to make Chappathis with much pride. When one was ill, the general norm was he should stay away from the staple diet of rice. Either Kanji (Boiled rice in a semi-fluid form) if one is an adult or Chappathi soaked with sugar syrup if you are a child. I used to love falling ill, since I relished this kind of Chappathis. Things though took a serious note when fever grew to Mumps and it was really painful to gulp in the food. Being the cynosure of all the eyes is enjoyable otherwise, but not when you have a painful illness. But the care and angst in my mother’s eyes is the only takeaway I still have in my mind.
Summer vacations, though the summers in Kerala are not acute enough as they may in other parts, were a mixed bag of travelling, festivals and lot of time with the Grandmas. Our courtyard were more than a few acres and my maternal grandmother was very particular of maintaining that. The cashew crops and mango trees were particularly taken care of. Coconut trees being the main crop were always on priority, but unlike other house-holds, we took care of other crops as well. It was a pleasure to follow my grandma in her criss-cross of this courtyard. Stories, raw mangoes to eat, small fights with neighbours whose kids used to trespass for mangoes and cashews; these were the benefits of hanging around with the grandma.
It was one such sunny day that she was carrying my little sister in her arms and doing this dutiful ritual. And there came a cobra hissing. It was her sheer presence of mind that saved her as well as the little girl. That Cobra was killed by my cousin, inspite of strong resistance from all of us. We had three Sarpakavus (Snake deities) in our place and killing snakes were a big no-no for us. But my communist cousin never heeded to such superstitions. Within a few years he met with an accident and had his left leg twisted and fractured badly. After a long hospitalisation, he could walk normally but the grafted skin was struggling to take shape. It somehow was scaling as if a snake would. Grandma said “Yes I had warned you not to kill that snake”. Akin to my defiant cousin, the rational boy in me also rubbished the superstition aside.
But my Grandma came back strongly with her theory when another cobra was found in our well. She said this should the mate of the killed cobra and it wanted to poison the whole well. Don’t know how few drops of snake venom would poison a whole well. Many people including the neighbours flocked around the well to see the snake with a mission. But after a couple of it was never to be seen. We as a family of communist progressives ganged up again against a conservative Grandma.
It was not much later that her health started deteriorating. Decades of struggling as a widow to bring up four children had taken a toll on her body, which she was desperately trying to downplay. The Poojas and other rituals to appease the snakes went futile when she breathed her last. The whole village came to a standstill to bid farewell to their benevolent matriarch. I could see the feeling of loss in the eyes of our cows, our pets, and even the trees who were refusing to stand up to the rising sun.
Decades passed and my mother had taken the mantle from her mother quite successfully. The trees, animals, neighbourhood, all were happy with the new matriarch. Though the partitions had substantially reduced the size of the courtyard, it was still an uphill task to sustain it.
Earth waits for nobody. Slightest apathy from human beings it fills that space in its own fashion. Flora and fauna captures what was always rightfully theirs. I could see the partitioned and henceforth forsaken land by my mother’s siblings who lived abroad. It was nothing short of a forest. The pond which as a kid we used to swim and jump around was totally filled with filth and overgrowing weeds. The beaten down paths which I used to sprint on were not visible at all. The mulberries and sapodillas were not to be seen. Above all, the white saree-clad grandma was conspicuous with her perennial absence.
It was then that the first rumours of people having seen her in the courtyard started. Initially we pooh-poohed it saying that, it were the old people after being accustomed of seeing her for such a long time, still had her in their minds. But the instances of seeing her kept on increasing and it became difficult for us to trivialise it any more. My mother had no other option but to call up her sibling from abroad to seek her permission to clean up her part of the yard. After lot of tussles she finally agreed to bear the cost and gave the nod to erase everything on the ground and pave tiles, eventually to sell if off.
As the work progressed there was a black board tree which needed to be brought down. As the first axe fell on the stem, it was blood which oozed out of the crack. The workers ran away from there since black board tree was always linked with the ghosts. A bunch of villagers came to us asking us to stop the work. They said blood coming out of the tree is a bad omen for the whole village and we should first make arrangements to contain the free-roaming spirit. Our vehement opposition was to no avail. Free-spirits and the related stories always looked humbug to us. Seeing our opposition the villagers brought in the local politicians and threatened us. But that only made our resolve stronger. It was then that my elder brother donned the hat of an investigator.
The burgeoning gulf-money that was flowing seamlessly from the Arabian-gulf had already made Kerala a real estate hotspot. The real estate prices were unaffordable to most of the ordinary citizens. Only those who had some of the family members working in the desert could hope of buying land. Others were all on the selling side. It was some months before that one real estate agency had approached us to know our willingness to sell the land. But when we told that the land belonged to our relatives settled abroad, he wanted to speak to them. But we discouraged him saying that we could get him a response later.
My brother’s sharp mind suddenly joined the dotted lines. All these stories of ghosts had started floating around only after that enquiry. We came to the conclusion that all these were orchestrated meticulously by vested interests to bring down the land prices. And the hullaballoo by the villagers would catalyse the land owner’s decision to sell it off and finish off their headache. Now the task was to catch the culprits red-handed, yes literally red-handed.
It was a lunar eclipse day. The sky was unusually cloudy. I and my brother were out to try our luck to see the eclipse. But the clouds were playing spoilsport. We waited for some time and decided to call it a day. It was then suddenly some noises were heard from near the black board tree. We decided to inch forward like leopards and waited with bated breath. We could hear the murmurs from below the ground adjacent to the tree. It was pitch dark. We assumed that the eclipse is at its peak. The ground aside the tree was opening up and the dragging sound of wooden planks broke the surrounding silence. A silhouette walked towards the opening and said “hand me over the mannequin, we should dispose this off in the river before dawn’. The voice sounded familiar.
Earth’s shadow must have shifted away from the moon, we assumed seeing the gradual picking up of visibility. But it was heavily overcast forcing us to assume things. But suddenly the through the big gap between two clouds a highly handsome full moon gave us an eyeful. Two men were carrying a white saree clad mannequin. My brother who was a Kalari expert and martial arts teacher pounced on them like a panther. Before I could make out what was happening both the culprits were down on the ground. A Kalari expert knows where to strike to instantaneously ground a person. He shouted out to get him two ropes, which I fetched running.
The next day morning was a feast for the whole village. We had called the police beforehand to avoid any controversy and manhandling. The two guys admitted their crime and expectedly had done that to scare away people and bring down the land value. In fact their hands were red with the beetroot juice they were injecting into the stems of black board tree. The mastermind was the person who came to our house as real estate agent. They had bosses who were builders who were planning big residential towers at the spot mainly targeting non-resident Indians. The incident was celebrated by the local media.
Today again a couple more decades have passed. Time never waits for anyone. As part of a great social disturbance driven by political changes and the subsequent lack of jobs, my family migrated outside. The courtyard once a lush green space is a concrete jungle today, housing many well-to-do families. There nobody sees a white-saree draped woman trying to pluck the mangoes and cashew nuts, but I see her in my dreams offering me those freshly fallen mangoes. I don’t know what happened to those squirrels, rabbits and snakes, but I’m sure if they were around, they also, like me, should be missing my Grandma.
I wish there were a world, where children remained as children, mothers remained as mothers and grandmas remained as grandmas. I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop.
A lot of things flashed through my mind. The dream I had last night, or was it a nightmare? I could still feel the reverberation of those children crying. Those were the children who got orphaned in the bloodiest battle that was fought, all for a small river. Two Indian states fought tooth and nail, making a mockery of all the ideals that half-naked fakir stood for. The casualties were in lakhs, as the Indian troops stood as silent spectators. The Indian government was more worried about losing votes than saving lives, especially when the fighting states were not ruled by their own party. More the casualty, more the ire towards the state government. Fishing in troubled waters, literally. I happened to pass by those relief camps set for the destitute children and the exploitation and apathy was more gruelling than the riots. Food packets that were so costly in these days of famine and drought, never reached the needy. I wish I could cry out “Oh My God”!
Suddenly it dawned on me that before going to sleep last night, somebody had called on me to inform about the prevalent lung cancer deaths in China. Years of mindless development had taken its toll. Millions were suffering from Asthma, Bronchitis, lung cancer and loss of eye-sight. A defunct society reminiscent of George Orwell’s English novel 1984. People who were no better than robots. The man who called upon me was himself coughing vigorously, unable to speak out. He had hanged up the call before he could fully explain the conditions. Again I was about to wail out “Oh My God”, then somehow I had to restrain myself.
Then there were the religious cries I heard from the streets a stone’s throw away. Streets where beautiful women were barred from showing even their faces in public. They wore all-encompassing gowns, making one wonder, what for these beauties were made for, if not for others to see them and get inspired to write poems eulogizing their celestial looks. What if Kalidasa and Shakespeare were born into such societies? How a Shakunthala or a Juliet would have looked in gowns. Would a Dushyanta or a Romeo have fallen in love with those veiled figures? What would have happened to those umpteen tales of love where a woman’s appeal surpassed all the physical boundaries, whether geographical, social or religious? On the other side of the street, there were men busy lynching a poor butcher for having slaughtered a cow. That man had five stomachs to feed, was that cow more important than those starving kids. I remembered the words of Swami Vivekananda, who after having got stunned with the caste hierarchy of a supposedly beautiful state in India, yelled that it was nothing but a lunatic asylum. I once again relented to the fallacy of calling out “Oh My God”.
“More you make me wait
More it makes you a gift
More you keep silence
More it gives me patience
More you make me guessing
More it makes you gushing
More you make me chasing
More we would be kissing”
These were the words written by a boy in a nearby town. He was desperate to woo his college mate. The girl wanted to say no, and in fact she said that in many ways, some subtle but some very blunt. But the guy was more influenced by the famous movie he saw “Haseena Maan jayengi” (girl will eventually say yes). Under this false inhibition he kept on pursuing the girl till she slapped him. Next thing he did was to throw acid on her face, disfiguring that wonderful creature forever. And this country has many such cases where the culprits go scot free. “Oh My God”, is it worth uttering those three words at all?
Somewhere in the deserts, a son yesterday stoned his mother to death for alleged blasphemy of the Holy book. Somewhere else a mother killed a son for not reciting the verses of the holy book properly.
Very close to where I reside, girls were getting forced into prostitution since they were from a particular caste. Another set of people were to continue as scavengers carrying the night soil, despite born into a caste bearing the name of a great sage. Scores of small boys and girls were getting subjected to exploitation, child-labour and were preyed on by paedophiles. There is not a single household which does not have a case of domestic violence against the ladies. And ironically most of these societies thump their own chests as the ones who protect, worship and provide for women. God forbid do not think of those three words.
Up far across the seven seas, a man sitting on the most powerful throne on the planet, decides not to care a damn about the changing climates. He has decided to increase those smoke-puking industries so that he can make everything around him great again. The plastics and electronic waste pile up like a Satan’s tongue all across the world, and leaders of the world have shunned the cause. Millions of fish die due to the rising temperature of seas mainly because of the global warming and the warm water being discharged into the sea by the power plants. Half of the species on the planet were on verge of an existential crisis with their habitats being challenged by either human trespass or ill-effects of so called development. It’s said soon the ice formation at the poles were to melt and the sea is going to rise. I was feeling pity for all the Gods who had their abodes near the sea, they must be getting ready for their own perennial immersions.
Many had joined the ilk of Arthur Clarke, Isaac Isamov and Dan Simmons, who had written the obituary of this planet and had already fantasised about settling on distant planets going around their respective stars. The planet earth true was struggling to take the load of ever-increasing human population, presently at a staggering figure of 6 billion, and also their greed and gluttony. It was sadly witnessing the decline and degradation of its other species, its resources, its flora and fauna. Human beings were her proverbial prodigal son, spoiling the fortunes of the whole family. And true to their colours they were fast fantasizing of ditching her, eagerly waiting for her death. Gods better be immersed.
yada yada hi dharmasya
glanir bhavati bharata
tadatmanam srjamy aham
vinasaya ca duskritam
sambhavami yuge yuge
Some gentle souls in the world, who still had some love for their mother wanted this divine intervention and kept on believing in the above hymns from the Bhagavat Gita. Some others believed the Son of God would soon arrive to salvage the situation. But why should the Gods interfere when human beings have been given the gift of intellect. Luck favours the brave, likewise, Gods help only those people who help themselves. Human beings need to change themselves and protect their only abode. Shedding her for better abodes would remain only a fantasy. By the way, who would love you more than your biological mother? Not even God.
It was getting late enough to be worried. I once again stepped into the balcony and looked down. Except for a drenched street dog that was lying down miserably near the gate, there was not a soul to be seen anywhere. Rain water had puddled under the lamp post. A breeze ruffled the mango tree in the courtyard and a few twigs fell down and broke. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Did I hear a soft knock at the door? I turned back….
The soft knock which had propelled my mind towards some wild thinking, had become a clarion call by now, to open the door. The door was being banged by somebody clearly in distress, matching the rumblings of thunders outside. I hesitated for a moment more, then thought that I already did lot of thinking, now let me see what was in store for me across the door. I slowly creaked the door open.
I wish it had been a damsel in distress, but it turned out to be an old woman, but yes, she was in distress. She was wearing torn and soiled clothes. Her wrinkles and blemishes were making her look older than what she actually was. Her eyes were sagging and swollen from the torture and pain she must have gone through. But the eyes, despite the deformities, had the pomp and gaiety of a regal past. I gazed at her for few more seconds before I could recognize who it was.
“How long should I sustain this?” she asked. “You never told me things could get this bad and it is getting worse day by day. I was happy with those bigger kids of mine, which you decided to finish off in one go. You never heard my cries as a mother. You said all that was for something good that was going to happen. Is this the goodness you were talking about?” she kept on wailing and I had no answer.
“I am a mother of many, but I love each one of my off springs. I have done everything possible to accommodate all of them, bending backwards as far as possible. But beyond this I cannot be flexible, since I have to sustain myself to sustain them. You cannot be so irresponsible, it is in your name that half the time they fight. Why couldn’t you visit even once to cool off the things? You cannot leave everything to me and live in isolation like a coward. I’m fed up with this last offspring who is hell bent to destroy everything” – she was in no mood to spare me.
For a while I pondered upon what I should say. She cannot be cajoled for sure. If she had even one ounce of energy to hang on she would not have come to me for help. I knew her. I believe yesterday’s misadventure by that crook of a guy in Pyongyang must have blew the top for her. She simply wanted to avoid a catastrophe. I could fully empathize with her.
I held her on the shoulders, looked straight into her eyes. I straightened the curls that were hanging onto her face, and gave a gentle pat on the cheek. “Now you listen carefully. I am going to tell something you never knew before. If I had to straighten them up, I could have done it effortlessly. Remember they are not there to enjoy their lives, but to exhaust their Karma. Eventually if they want to perish, so be it. I will never go to them. If they need to come to me, then they should qualify themselves. Let them introspect and find out why they have been sent there. I cannot do anything for you as well, since you are also going through your Karma. As I told Arjuna many millenniums back, let all of them try to come out of this cycle of sufferings. Right now they are trapped in the Maya of materialism. Unless they understand this, I expect nothing from them but the frequent yelling of Oh My God!”
The creative strategy of Fevicol has always been to rise above the physical bonding of tables and chairs, and instead bond with the consumers by taking a strategy that is metaphorical. These gems by Fevicol over the years will prove it :
2. Remember when this happened back in school?
7. Smart bwoy.
Chipkale saiyan Faavicol seee
Smitha Pal Sinha has done a very decent work in her short stories.
First of all, hats off for highlighting the women centric issues in an A to Z capture. Nice creativity in capturing the topics and relating with the stories. I didn’t know that there so many issues being faced by the womenfolk, thanks for bringing these to the public notice in a nice and creative way.
Having said that, she could have covered more gender-centric issues, yes, child labour and the likes were gender -centric, but it could have given a balanced view if it was gender neutral.
Social isses are bothering the boys also, for example sexual harrassment and exploitation of boys go unnoticed.
Anyways, the book is a good beginnning, I hope the author carries the spirit forward with more and better books.