Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run?

Archive for February, 2009

A curious tale…

Once upon a time, in a land far away, and thankfully unknown to and disconnected from the rest of the world lived a strange tribe. A tribe so far removed form the rest of the world in everything they did and everything they were that it was probably in their best interests that the rest of the world went about it’s business unaware of the existence of these people – call-centre taxi cabs continued to hit people (I sometimes wonder if these are the most evolved souls on the face of our earth today; all the best philosophers always said that life was a game – these were the few who took that to heart and decided to hone their skills in dominoes…), cars continued to travel on footpaths in the wee hours of the morning where pedestrians had no business to be anyway, and weed and heroin continued to make their way into the developed world through the chinks in the barbed wire, crippling the population, pocket-upwards…

And these other people lived on, blissfully unaware of all of this and since this story concerns itself with this odd bunch of souls, we shall gradually let the rest of the world go boil it’s head or flush it down a loo or something. Or maybe we shall go clinical and zoom in like an auto-focus camera with a s-l-o-w focus… khneeeeeeeekikiki – kheee – kheeeeee – khikik- khikik- khik – Pikk! Done.

A strange race these were, all happy and strong and long-lived, each one of them, but struck by a strange affliction – like in the movie, these people started out in life old and wizened, teeth falling out or rather fallen out, hair gone, sight gone, hearing gone, the works… And as they grew older (purely chronologically, since common definitions fail) they grew younger and fitter, and their minds grew older – which was probably for the best, since philosophy is for the young and foolish at heart/ mind – as they grew wiser, they started feeling better which was about as good as things could get!! Pick-up lines of course improved too, since by the time these people were in any shape to play the field they had a whole life’s learning salted away. And since they were all the same, they didn’t have to worry about being thrown into rivers or abandoned or being left button factories at an age where the buttons on their minds were falling off. All-in-all, a happy society which seemed to have it all figured out…

Now the astute biologist will try and shoot this story down by spinning some lousy yarn on telomerase and things like that but then hey, if you do find bio more interesting, you shouldn’t be reading this!! Having thus got rid of the last of our naysayers, we try and move this tale ahead towards some hope of closure before the roosters cry out, which is about 3 hours away for the record. So coming back, as said earlier, this was a healthy race and they were all uniformly long-lived save for the occasional youngster falling too hard and breaking the odd hip, etc. and so life went on, generation after generation in which the older ones got younger and the younger ones followed them and so on and so forth… Might sound a little weird but it’s a matter of perspective… And so to drive the point home further, come summer, the children were out sunning their limbs while the grandparents wore sunscreen and come the rains, the kids sat at home with rheumatism while their parents floated paper-boats down streams on the road purely for the joy of being able to bend down and touch their toes…

And then one weird brooding day, when the sky looked like it could do with getting a load of rain off its back – but stubbornly wouldn’t, a child was born in this strange land. A strange child in a strange land, like the rest but unlike the rest, this child came into the world that strange day, with the lean face and taut skin and corded arms of a 25-year old…

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Under siege…

Where do you turn when you realize your fortress isn’t impregnable – that it never was, to begin with. What do you do when you finally realize that the monsters in your moat would devour you just as happily as an intruder – and that these distinctions – insider and outsider – don’t really make sense. Where do you run when you realize that your sanctuary was always three-sided – and that you painted yourself into a corner. Who do you ask for help when you find out that you yourself had a target painted on your back – and that everyone around you was a closet marksman.

What can you say when you find out that the demons of the past are still too strong to face. And that the ghosts of slain demons can and do still come back to haunt and persecute you – and leave behind enough wreckage. That the dragons you put off slaying till they were old and infirm still possess enough firepower. That sometimes trying to make things better doesn’t really work…

Eric Clapton’s words from ‘Layla‘ come to mind, in an entirely different context from the original,

“What’ll you do when you get lonely
And nobody’s waiting by your side?
You’ve been running and hiding much too long.
You know it’s just your foolish pride.”

Softening of the brain…

I think I’m mellowing. It’s probably age catching up with all my greys or something, but heck man, I just don’t feel angry anymore… Or atleast I didn’t till I read this… Now I’ve never seen this guy and I probably won’t recognize him from Adam if I did see him (come to think of it, I just might, considering that Adam is typically depicted as being of Caucasoid origin and is generally quite skimpily clad, reliable sources tell me..), but it takes one to know one, they say, and I might have wept tears of unholy joy at this kindred spirit dragging me back from the ugly yawning abyss that is happiness and all things illuminated by the kindly, leading light. “Come ye back from yon road to brightness and all things kind and noble, thou sheep strayed from our happy black flock..” he might have said and I would have recognized my chaotic-mela-in-the-sky mein bichhda hua bhai in that instant… Look at me, I was quoting sentimental passages from popular books (that’s an implicit insult), writing about exorcising the demons of the past, yadda, yadda, yadda. Two more posts and I’d have been writing paeans to my straitjacket and padded cell… Brrrrr…. Hope is a seductively dangerous muse… Never again am I going to court the powers of the light side – I looove my Matrix – Mmmmuahhhh!!!

I can almost hear the joker’s spooky, asthmatic, bronchitisial (if such a word exists, but then I’m arguing the case for insanity here so it’s probably irrelevant to stick to proprieties – begone Messrs. Webster, Oxford, Collins, Wren, Martin, et al…) laugh as he shuffles up, “A-huhha-huhha-ha! Why so serious, son?!! Awwww, you got mean friends? Poor you, nobody loves you? Awww, lemme tell you a story…” And he’d regale us all with tales from the past – of violent, abusive parents, scared children, and mandibular calisthenics in the company of sharpened knives… Or he’d offer to cheer me up with a display of fireworks and set my sock on fire inside my shoes or something… With my foot in it, of course, for good measure…

The joker showed us a new form of madness. A poster boy for all those on the fringes of sanity (I might as well call them suburbs actually) and civilization, he brought a certain artistry to the table, a certain love for his craft, and he gave us new hope – Heck, maybe we are actually smarter than the rest!! Consider this, you’d call a man insane if he killed for no rhyme or reason but flip the argument over on it’s head and what have you? – a man on whom you have no leverage!! You just ain’t got a handle on the man since he’s placed no collateral!!! I call that insanely smart! Genius! I mean here you’ve got a man who’s figured out what makes a ‘normal’ man tick, he uses that against you and what have you got – nothing but a weepy, moany rodent-inspired superhero who could only be Libran considering the amount he agonizes over the greater-good-for-the-greatest-number vs. the-ultimate-truth argument!! Now who’s insane?!

But consider this, as I write my blogs, I’m trying to analyze events and my feelings – Analysis necessarily implies a lack of biases or atleast an attempt at a third-person, impartial observer kind of viewpoint which is pretty much the textbook definition of MPD or Multiple Personality Disorder!!! Wheeee!!!!!!! I mean, MPD sounds rather important and cool – I’d rather have MPD than diarrhoea any day, purely on grounds of coolness, and we’re not even talking comfort levels here… Win-win!! So I play the good psychiatrist-confessor, lie on my own couch, be my own basket-case and tell stories of my dysfunctionality to sympathetic listeners (I believe) listening at he key-hole and at the end of the show I pick up my props and walk off the stage having successfully messed (again, I hope) with the minds of all my readers. And then I come back for more. Does anyone recognize the pattern here? As they showed us in the movie, The Joker is dead. But I have slain the ghost of the joker and I AM, now, the new Joker!

WHYYY SSOOO SSSEEERIYUSSS, CHILDREN?!!!!!!!!!!
A – HUHHA – HUHHA – HA!!!

P.S. : Now that I actually have real, living, breathing readers, apart from me and my various personalities and avatars that is (we all get along very well, apart from the occasional tiff, so never fear.. “Shurrup, back there… Lemme finish speaking, you dumass…” So, coming back, I think the contents of this parenthesis have been exhausted), and that I actually get the occasional shocked comment on my blog I consider it my duty to put my cards down on the table… As the picture suggests…

Realization…

Shantaram, the book by Gregory David Roberts has this strangely sad and beautiful line somewhere in between. Quoting him, to a reasonable degree of accuracy,


” I knew then … in the sudden, sure way we know that a friend is false, and doesn’t really like us at all, that … “

Ouch!

The onset of Madness

I can feel it coming on…

Its almost upon me now – I’m running but it’s not helping. It’s like running on a treadmill set one speed too high. I’m going to blow my damn heart out running like this but all I’m going to end up doing is fall flat on my goddamn ugly face and break the cartilage in my damn nose and feel the tears run out of my eyes from the stinging that only a really swift one across the nose can cause, even as I try to squeeze them back in… I look back as I walk, there’s nothing but there’s this creepy feeling on the back of my neck which says there is something. I clamp down on my courage and walk on but just as I am a few steps away, all bravery is cast aside and I make a final panic-stricken dash towards safety and I am sure that this is where I will be caught, within striking distance of the finish line. But I don’t. And I live to tell the tale.

I can’t put a face to my monster, but it’s like nightmares I used to have – something catching me, extreme pressure on the base of my spine as I try to escape, an inability to move, or a whirling windmill of flailing limbs – ready to hit and defend but unable to make contact, and finally I wake up or move on to another dream and wake up the next morning with a vivid memory of the helplessness that only extreme fear can cause… Except here, it’s real waking life and if the monster catches up, it’ll lull you into sleeping for life.

Its like being caught in machinery, your shirt-tails are caught between grinding cogs and you get pulled in, tooth by merciless tooth, even as you think, till finally you are there and then memory fades. I say memory because deep down I have this weird feeling, “I have been here, I know this feeling, I am supposed to know how this story ends, if only I could remember…” And there’s this overriding awareness that the memory of the end of the story is crucial, that there lies my redemption, if at all…

This must be what they call the onset of madness…

If it’s true, I’m going to need help soon…

We all seek redemption, for something or the other, from something that we believe we have done, we have started, has been done to us, have had done to us… Somewhere down the line we all carry our pet albatrosses around our necks. It’s just that some are strong enough to bear it with honesty, some are clever enough to pass it off as the hottest thing in stoles from Roberto Cavalli’s or Armani’s Fall 2008 collection and there are the rest of us, weaker in spirit and tortured in the soul, who crumble under the onslaught of a fevered imagination that brings to life the dead albatross and eggs it on to peck and gouge our very eyes out as we totter around carrying our version of the white man’s burden…

These, sadly, are the worst-affected. Philosophy isn’t a game for the weak-minded. The world doesn’t really give a damn for what a lay denizen of it’s does – forgiveness and redemption must come from within – when the mind decides that the soul has paid a high enough price in blood and tears, that is redemption. But the weaker souls are probably the nobler ones – no price too high, no punishment too severe, no repayment too steep for a crime, imagined or otherwise. And so the poor man goes back with his nose to the grindstone – penance, penitence, contrition – as he pays off the installments to a loan he took on his conscience years ago, placing his guilt, and sanity in the process, as collateral…

And one day he crumbles. Or crumples.


Fight fight fight…

Sometimes you just can’t run…

You twist and you turn and you do all you can to avoid even a glimpse of your interlocutor but at some point you realize that the sinews that bind you to your fate, or more accurately – your nature, are sometimes too strong to fight. They are of your creation, fed by your beliefs and faiths and rationalizations and are of you and to tear away from them you must rip a part of yourself out too. The stronger the feeling, the greater the gore that must be spilt. Anger is like that…

To exorcise the demons you have to stop struggling and face up to all the flagellation, self-inflicted or otherwise. You take it with a grimace, again, and again, and again, and on and on till you are unable to remember why you even started out on this pilgrimage of sorts. You roll in the barbs of your own mind and then you stand up and it’s all you can do when you want to climb atop some high place and scream at the world in general, “IS THAT ALL YOU GOT? IS THAT THE BEST YOU CAN DO? HIT ME WITH MORE AND LET’S SEE WHO’S STILL STANDING AT THE END…”

Truth be said, anger is a good feeling. After the initial rush of blood to the brain dies out and the pulse re-stabilizes, there’s this cold flame that goes on burning almost invisibly… A flame that burns with its complete lack of heat and its unquenchability. It burns with potential more than deed… And its a self-consuming fire – it burns away on the inside and leaves you hollow and unfeeling. Someday you crumble but then that’s the whole point of the ‘ash-to-ash, dust-to-dust’ philosophy…

Anger gives you a lean feeling. Like a prize-fighter before a fight; stripped down to shorts and shoes and gloves and prancing around the ring, that’s not a sporting stance – it never is one, it doesn’t even try to suggest that, it’s pure unreasoning hate and murder. Anger does that. It strips off the baggage that the sane man must carry to qualify as socially-adjusted, baggage that acts as a buffer against an extreme of emotion. The angry man doesn’t need this. Anger demands clarity and purity of intent. And the intent – hate. Standing and letting those waves wash over you is a sort of cleansing or atleast purifying feeling – it’s a little like standing under a hot shower after a hard day at the foundry, watching streams of coal-dust-laden soap-water flow away down the drain. Except this is a sobering, cold shower and you let the whites and greys wash away leaving you with a lithe, lean black look – a little like the black Spiderman from Part-3. But this is the importance of the allegory – at no point is the rectitude of the cause lost – it is still the good fight that is being fought, it’s just that the reasons and the means have changed…

And there’s the sharpened memory and the sensitivity – it brings forth every slight that you might have overlooked, every snub and every rejection. And therein lies the crux of this sermon. Rejection. The one thing that drives most men to the brink – Rejection. That’s one thing that anger will never do – reject. She stands with arms wide open and an inviting smile which holds the promise of vindication if not redemption, accepts each and every thirsty wayfarer into her fold and leads him down a sure-shot road to perdition and each of those men will go down happily and willingly, with just one thought on their minds, “Finally I belong somewhere…”


Summer time…

“Last dance with mary jane
One more time to kill the pain

I feel summer creepin’ in and I’m

Tired of this town again”

Its blazing hot as I look down and see tarmac whizzing by underfoot. The scenery slides by as if drawn by a slack string suddenly going tight as I change gear mid-corner, blip the throttle and throttle up again, letting out the clutch – thudd—thudd—thudd–thudd—thuddudum—khrrrdonk—thud-thud-thud-thud-thud…… This is bliss, a route to motorcycling heaven that I’d recommend to everyone listening and interested : shorts, t-shirt, sandals and 1 no. Royal Enfield Bullet. Potent combination – Handle with care – I have personally removed shavings of sandal-sole by banking too far on curves…

Its the first thing that comes to mind every time I think of summer – all the times I ran out of lab and went riding all over town and on the highways just for the heck of it last summer. It was like redefining freedom – you ride and somehow everyone else on the road knows that you don’t really belong in their world of deadlines and routines though you may occasionally play the part, that you don’t really care about the fact that they hate your guts at this very moment for looking so free and so happy. And the fact that what you were doing was flying in the face of conventional definitions of responsible behaviour added that little bit of wicked, delicious joy to the cocktail.

Its like your personal time-machine. I could hold any song inside my helmet and there I was, front row, Woodstock ’69 – Richie Havens climbing up on stage singing “Freedommuh freeeedomuuuhh…” Or I could be somewhere in California listening to The Doors playing at whatever club they used to play before they hit the headlines. The wind swirls off the hot engine and runs rings around my feet which feels ever so good. I’m happy and this is not the wistful kind of happy where you know things are gonna change and not last. Of course, they won’t last, I will grow older and get tied down but the memory of this afternoon will always stay and that is what will matter.

Summer and freedom are so inseparably tied. Summer used to be about making lists of what to carry on holidays, it used to be about what books to buy on the trip to the book-store a week before leaving Bangalore. It used to be about the sudden plethora of choices available – that choosing where to start was a woeful task in itself. Grow a little older and summer was about all the eating joints to hit in two months. End of college and summer was about riding free, a different group everyday – riding to Bidadi to eat Thatte Idlis at the same shack where Dr. Rajkumar ate and whose visit had been immortalized in framed photos on the walls and the counter, riding 80km to Maddur to drink Date Milkshake at an obscure juice-shop because it was just something else, riding to Mysore and back because, hey, I hadn’t been to Mysore in a while! Riding to Nandi Hills to eat horrible Maggi noodles and omlettes for all of 20Rs, sitting on the rocks on the cliff in silent companionship, each one of us coming away with answers to our own set of questions. Summer was about friendship bursting with the vitality of its own youth… And youth finding its feet…

Its not very different now – I’m older and scarred but wiser and happier for that, I’ve realized the value of company and the people around me and I’m happier for that too. There’s a clearer vision of the future and though it may not be as bright as I had hoped, I have the courage to accept it. There’s an awareness of slow, steady strength or endurance that comes after the initial wave of restlessness has died out – I don’t need to flaunt my freedom anymore to be happy about it… There’s responsibility but a sense of pride in it rather than ruing the loss of freedom, growing up without necessarily growing old…

And that in a line sums it up – comfort in one’s identity after having spent years looking for it…