Sunday, November 26, 2006
Rectangular slabs of sunlight filtered through the window blinds and the balcony door, and illuminated the wall. The room was silent, except for his occasional wheeze and cough.
He hadn’t eaten or slept in the last two days, his stomach churned inside, acid eating up the soft inner lining. His eyes were blood shot. With an effort he roused himself from the floor, and walked towards the table. His skin felt cold against the barren atmosphere of the room. His eyes riveted on a portion of the wall, he picked up the palette and balanced it on the fingers of his left hand. He started the portrait with the outlines, dim perception of the work to be completed, the face to be drawn. The movements were slow, steady and definitive. Never had he been able to sketch with such surety and accuracy of position. Did it depend on what is being sketched? Does the artists passion for the subject give it a certain responsibility, an endeavor where doubt is irrelevant and failure unfathomable?
It was after all, the face he had loved the most.
A point came where he halted, not in doubt, but in expression. What should the face portray? A smile of happiness or mischief, a frown of doubt or discomfort, or a sadness of the heart and mind? Maybe the answer lay in the face and the person behind the face. And so he continued, without pausing in thought and posture, sun burning his back, the sensation strangely exciting and excruciating. After he knew not how long, the portrait seemed complete. He took off the palette, and put it back. Oblivious to the pain in his arms and legs, he took a step back. He kept his feet apart, his hands on his hips and gazed at the face. The life that stared back at him made him smile. This was perfection, in way of the portrait, and the way he knew the person on the wall, in his memory.
He picked up the can of paint from the floor, and dipped the brush into the paint. In simple furious broad strokes, the paint spread on the wall. He kept on repeating the swift horizontal and vertical strokes covering every corner of the wall, every white square that was visible seemed to laugh at him and made him splatter more paint on it. In a few minutes the entire wall was black. No sign left of the effort of moments earlier. There was nothing but glistening black paint, on the wall, on his hands and body. There was an itch in his eyes and tears trickled down the sides of his face. He brushed over his cheeks, and felt spots of the thick fluid.
He came out of the room and stood on the balcony. He gripped the railing balancing his body on it and his feet let go of the floor. The air beat upon him, and the sun hurt his eyes. He closed them, and then he thought of the expression he had given to the face. It was a smile.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Here are a few tips and basic requisites to join the department of Mining Engineering in NIT Rourkela. This manhole was established in the year 1979 and has ever since produced the best of leaders, politicians, cons, assholes, failures, and black soot covered frustrated-from-life-with-no-fault-of-their-own angels (basically anything apart from engineers). To be a part of those elite people, who help in the construction of such greatness, is not an easy job. It takes many a year of cribbing, back stabbing, conniving and such an acute form of unearthly in-the-face bigotry that only the very best are able to become the HEAD of the department.
The present HOD has been maintaining a hold on his position because of the following basic rules, and his following them to their basic essence.
- HAIR FARE: It is very important for you to lose your hair if you want to apply for a position here. However you shouldn’t be completely bald as it perpetuates a form of nakedness and perversion. Totally against our ethics. A monks circle works best.
- OLD DOG: Even in your late twenties you have to give the appearance of a person of advanced years, with a big paunch, haggard face, constant irritability, afore mentioned bald pate, and a nasty scowl.
- DO OR DIE: There are two groups in the department, one is the present HOD group, and the other is the going-to-be-HOD group. These 2 groups are at a constant tussle with each other, so you have to roll your sleeves up, tie a bandana on your bald head, and jump in the arena. It’s not important which side you choose. (However in one of the last fights, the HOD slit the throat of the lecturer who was close to becoming the next HOD. A very inconsequential thing, it should not scare you away. That is how a vacancy got created in the first place!)
- RAPE ME: You should also have an acute knowledge of student exploitation and marauding techniques. The two groups have to pull the students in their groups to maintain their position of HOD, use them to their full extent, and as soon as their task is complete, start treating them as cockroaches, making them run for their lives.
- TEACH? WHAT TEACH? : The department has no relation whatsoever to anything being taught in the classes. If you think that you are going to teach students, then you are grossly mistaken. It’s the last of the jobs expected of you, mostly an optional. You only have to concentrate on the above activities, and keep on lugging the students with shitloads of assignments and projects, of which you yourself don’t have any idea about. Don’t bother with correcting or checking these assignments either. The best time to grade a student is while you are taking a shit.
- YOUR WIFE, MY WIFE, ITS ALL THE SAME: It will be in the best of your own interests if you are not married. It has been observed that whoever used to be married, either got divorced, or is separated with the wife living in some other city, mostly with another guy. It has also been marked that if you are married, and by chance, have a beautiful wife, then the entire faculty, cleaning staff, office workers, and the 80 students start eyeing your wife and make lewd remarks, gestures, and physical contact until your wife divorces or leaves you.
These are the most basic requirements, but they are not the only ones. Once you actually join the department there would be a whole new learning session altogether, about the finer points of department hierarchy, politics in the independent India, and where to stab a person so that it will hurt the most.Hope you enjoy your time as a mining lecturer. At least we as students promise not to.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Today as I was sitting in front of my comp, I was hit by divine knowledge, sort of a revelation, and the ultimate secret to life. Read on to know more.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Nita, so many memories were attached to those 2 syllables, his whole life seemed to revolve around her. Monsoon had been their favorite season of all. It had, only been a year since they met, but the seeds of their romance were sown in this very park, at this time of the year. It seemed like yesterday, when he thought about it, when he had stormed out of his home in anger, after a squabble with his mother. He had come straight to the park on his bike, knowing it would be empty at this time, and sat down on a bench. At that moment he saw her. She looked like an apparition at first, dressed in a white Salwar Kameez, so unsuitable for the weather, with her head bowed down. Then he realized she was sobbing silently. Forgetting everything about his own anger, he felt a sudden rush of tenderness towards her.
“Why don’t you understand James, I said it’s OVER. There’s no use talking about it. I admit it is me. I can’t be with you anymore. You stifle me, my thoughts, you have occupied my life in a way that there’s no space left!”
“But Nita, please, for god’s sake, tell me what happened? Just 2 days back everything seemed to be going so well! Why now?”
That trivial gesture of extending a hand of support had turned out magnanimous changes in both their lives, which they hadn’t anticipated. James still couldn’t fathom how else it would have turned out. Everything fit into place like clockwork, as if god himself played the hand of their fates. Maybe it happened because both of them were troubled by grievances whose origin went beyond them. Nita had lost her father in a road accident a few days ago, and James had never known his father. James didn’t need to say much to comfort her, the look in his eyes upon hearing the news was remorseful, full of images of a normal childhood never known or felt. The silence enforced the feelings of friendship between them, and they took a walk, each of them lost in their own private universes, yet so fatefully linked.
Time went by slowly as the dark recesses of a storm drain gurgled up the torrential waters and days parched into a dry windy autumn. Leaves too tired of holding onto the ever aging trees emboldened into the bright golden red colors before falling on the ground, to be raked in and cremated. Trees stood with their bare arms letting out the pain and grief left behind their old companions, readying themselves to face the dreary cold. Birds screamed out in rage trying to protect their denuded nests. However amidst all the agony and anguish, the park had acquired a solemn beauty. During evenings the golden hue on the ground and on the trees reflected the one above, with the setting sun, sending out robust colors into the clouds. People of all ages congregated to drink in this magical combination.
In this season of falling leaves, the friendship of James and Nita was sending out sprouts of affection and love, a lush bright green, with a shine of hope which belies any form of depression or pain.
“OK, then listen. This is the only and the last time I am saying this to you, and we will never talk after this. You are younger to me James, not by one or two, but 6 years! Do you know what that means? It means I am growing older faster than you, and you are not even in a college yet. I can’t wait that long James, I can’t, and there are too many responsibilities to take care of. I won’t turn a blind eye like you towards MY future. It’s in the best of our interests if you forget me. My uncle has been looking for grooms for me, and he says he has found one which we will be able to afford, but it has to be done in the earnest.”
Age, how it works like an imperious sorcerer, turning the most beautiful of faces into a wrinkled, haggard paper machete, or converting a bland bottle of wheat husk water into expensive delectable alcohols. They had tried to deal with the issue of age difference with all the tools of emotion; humor, concern, indifference, but it never seemed too immediate to affect the bliss they had discovered. In effect, they became fugitives from reality and pragmatism, hiding from the looming danger until they could no longer be seen by it, escape from the tentacles of darkness and pain and misery which threatened to jeopardize their love. The addiction was too great to absolve, the intoxicating fumes of a drugged rose taking control, paralyzing mind and body. The question he asked himself now, was, was it all worth the effort? Were the sleepless nights amongst the whispering bottle palms, with the insipient moon casting a demure glow, without a future? The first rose, the first touch, the first kiss… they all mocked him.
They used to stroll on the main walk, made up of checkered cement bricks which formed a cross pattern, in the cracks of which young grass buds came out to be trampled over. She always envied his height, and complained that she looked so puny with him. And he told her how frail she looks to him, like a jasmine bud, a tender white, to be cared for against the ravages of time and people. Hand in hand they drew the landscapes of future, exchanging dreams and fears and their very souls.
The sudden thunder drew James out of his reverie as he gazed at his surroundings. He realized he was sitting on the cold marble bench, on which she sat that day. It was right in front of the main gate, but hidden by a row of bushes. That’s why he was not able to see her immediately when he came inside. He raised his head at the sudden cawing of a crow nearby, and saw Nita, standing at the gate.
“Nita, didn’t you realize this the year we were together? If you had seen this coming then why didn’t you withdraw earlier? Have you been thinking this through? All those days of passion and proximity, the vows of love, what were they Nita?”
“Don’t bring that into question James. Don’t drop to levels so low!”
“Then what about love? Were you just playing with me?”
After a long pause, Nita replied
“Yes. It was all made up. I never loved you for a single day of my life.”
Nita! What was she doing here? And she had a bouquet of roses in her hand. She was standing there, looking around for someone. Her gaze was restless, and tired. His first thought was that she has come to meet her to-be-husband. It seared his mind and brought a cold jerk throughout his body. The venom of envy and pain was seeping into the edges and sides, darkening the grey heart. He immediately hid himself behind one of the dark banyan trees, and observed her actions. An impotent rage trapped in his eyes. At the same time he felt low and base. A traitor to the love he had committed himself to. He stood riveted in his hiding place, as she made her way down the wet concrete, towards the marble bench. She sat down with her back towards him, her long black hair tied in a bundle. Time stalled during those few moments, when he felt her closeness, he was sure she would feel his warm breath on her neck. But she seemed to be in another world, and the distance seemed too wide to reach across and touch her.
With a brisk step she got up and started walking towards the other exit of the park. He was deeply puzzled by her actions, and kept at a distance, not losing the sight of her. The other exit was hardly used; it led to the road which crossed the canal into the unpopulated suburban part of the town. Her pace increased as she reached the narrow bridge. He noticed that a part of the old railing was not there, with debris on the ground.
James took a long deep sigh
“That was all that I needed to hear Nita, It says everything to me. You won’t hear from me, ever again, that I promise you. I just wish you had never come into my life.”
Without waiting for a reply, he disconnected.
He came out of his house, his head in a swirl. Everything stifled him, the roads, the numerous faces and voices suffocated his thoughts. He instinctively gasped for air. Making his way out of the busy streets, he rode his way into the nearest bar he could spot. He had never had a drop of alcohol in his life, but today, he needed out, he needed to shut out everything and recede into his innermost shell, into the safety of the self, in a world blurred by intoxicating spirits.
He didn’t count the number of drinks he had had, he didn’t count the bills out of his wallet as he paid the bill, but the only thing that appeared again and again in repetitive drudgery were her last words. The more he drank, the more the assaults and assailants increased. His eyes misted, and tears of misery came out of his lonely orbs.
She reached the other side, and took a right turn. He remembered this path; he had been here once, long ago. After a few minutes of walking on the deserted road, she reached the front of a gate. At a distance it looked like a garden, with well maintained green grass on all sides, but as he went nearer, he saw hundreds of mounds, with a white cross on each one of them.
His heart skipped a beat as he realized the fault and shamelessness of his thoughts, and the need to go and comfort her accosted him. But he was feeling powerless. He couldn’t hold the gaze in her eyes, he knew that. Had someone died in her family? Or was she visiting an old grave? Guilt stabbed his soul as he tried to imagine the pain and agony she must be going through. And he like a selfish insolent fool was standing behind trees, hiding from who he loved the most.
He remembered his father was buried here, and how he had been here as a kid, not realizing the value or importance of so many mounds and people crying or laying flowers over them. He had stopped coming here with his mother as he grew older, not wanting to grieve something he had never known.
He came out of the bar. It was dark and windy. Rain seemed imminent any moment, with the sky growling disapproval. He tried to collect his thoughts, thinking of places to go. He couldn’t go back home, facing another quarrel with his mother would only worsen his state of mind. He needed peace, comfort, and a sense of belonging. Where he could submit himself to past and forever be there, if only he could!
The park! That was the only place he could think of going to. With some effort he started his bike, and raced towards the only place he could call his own, of his heart, for his heart.
He lost sense of direction and sight.
She stopped at a fresh grave. Funny, how a grave can be associated with a word like fresh. It’s as if both belong to completely different connotations. She bowed down and laid the flowers on the grave, and started crying.
Without stopping himself anymore he came forward to hold her close, but a chill went down James’s spine, the numbness of a thousand needles in his limbs, as he read the epitaph on the headstone.
IN LOVING MEMORY
JAMES E. GAMMEL
The roads were particularly slippery and difficult to negotiate on that rainy night, when James lost control of his bike, and rammed into the bridge railing, head first, falling into the canal. Death was immediate, and was caused by a fatal concussion. His body was identified and laid to rest in the old graveyard by his mother.