Friday, 6 April 2018

The Higher Ground!

He gently pushes the door. It creaks. A world of darkness lay inside the room until he pushes the door open. The light from hall barges in, creating a smaller rectangle over the opposite wall. He slowly enters. Small and careful steps. His eyes look for his mother. A suppressed voice makes him look to his side. There she is – sitting in the darkest corner, sobbing. Her wits closed on herself.

You cannot keep yourself hidden for long, Mother. I am your son remember? I can always find you.
He slowly moves towards her. The sobbing stops. His seven-years-old hands wipe those tears away. She pulls him close and hugs him. “Once I grow up, Mummy, I will make sure nobody makes you cry!” He says in a muffled voice.

She let him loose until they both face each other. “You sure you want to grow up?” She sniffles.
He wants to grow up or he doesn’t. It is not important. He has to. This is important. Grown-ups are independent, powerful, resourceful, and confident. Everybody listens to them. Their thoughts count. Their behavior matters. They can do whatever they want. Go wherever they want. They have freedom. They can solve all problems and that is why he has to grow up. What more reason do you need?  

Few years pass. He is fifteen now. He is frustrated. The kids in his school are mean. They laugh at him, bully him, even teachers help them. It is not his mistake if non-metals are bad conductors of heat and electricity. How the hell is he supposed to know that why oxygen forms a double bond? Forget about Tipu Sultan and his quarrel with British forces. His mind, His battle. Maybe he was as hotheaded as you are, teacher. Mean and hotheaded and crazy. That is you, teacher. I never got a chance to know Tipu sultan personally.

And the desire strikes again. Schools suck. The people here are despicable. Selfish and self-centered. Least someone could do for him is to let him go as far as possible from his schoolteachers. Adults don’t have a teacher. Don’t need them. They are wise. They don’t need people telling them what to do and what not to. Someone please build a time machine and help him skip all the torture he is about to go through in his years of growing up.

Few more years pass. Engineering college. It is another Kashmir. If there is another heaven in this world, it is right here. But happiness doesn’t last long. That is the virtue of happiness. Another thing with happiness is, when it ends, the hollowness arrives. You don’t need someone to make you sad then. You are sadness. A lot, like when you have tasted honey, something less sweater is just plain insipid and tasteless.

He is twenty-four now. The wisdom, if it has arrived, it is too soon. Maybe he is not ready to make a statement, maybe it is still an intermediate inference. But being an adult, it sucks. Every passing moment feels a commodity being wasted. There is excitement in future of something new, a new movie, a new career, a new chapter of life. However, everything comes with a price. Time. Another year, he will be twenty-five, and with every passing year, his youth is going to drain itself. The downward spiral begins now.

He wants to be a kid again. His worries weren’t his. His responsibilities weren’t his to bear. Everybody listened to him. His desires counted. His behavior didn’t matter. He could do whatever he wanted and nobody would judge him. What more reasons do you need to stay a child?

Saturday, 12 August 2017

The Shepherd and The Wolf: The Plan

The sheep circles have been quite busy last few days.
The older sheep circle have been concerned at the young sheep’s attitude.
“I have been sheared more than ten times in my life,” One older sheep intoned in his grim voice. “I never complained!”
“I agree with brother long-beard,” Another sheep supported. “Young ones need to develop some stoicism. Otherwise, what is the point of being a sheep? I have endured through so many storms in my life. I have never even thought of anything like that. I condemn this thought process and anyone who bears and supports it!”
Other old sheep shook their heads as he finished. “Yes, we condemn this thought process!” They all spoke in unison.
The younger sheep circle were quite volatile as opposed to the older ones. They believed in a crueler form of justice. An-eye-for-an-eye is what they wanted. An absolute obliteration of the shepherd’s tyranny. They were ready to pay the price. Whatever it maybe, but must be served, is the form of justice they desired. Cruelty rises when it is answered with kindness and passivity. Tyranny is best faced with courage. Courage shoves it into the ground where it belongs.
However, the one with the resolve and common sense never took part in any of such discussions. He lied silently in a corner. Away from discussions of fatalism and mutiny, his mind processed every bit of information he had gathered in last few years. He knew what he said in the morning. He knew the gravity of it. It is not just the death of shepherd he was contemplating but also the after effects of it that made his mood grim.
Anarchy is the mother of chaos. Moreover, there must be a plan to contain that chaos.
Nevertheless, Nattu thought methodically.
Q: How does a shepherd die?
A: Somebody has to kill him.
Q: Can you do it?
A: No! You are a sheep; you can’t kill a man! You are as harmless as anyone can be.
Q: How do you kill him then?
A: You don’t. You get someone else to kill him.
Q: Who?
A: ……hmm….IDEA!
Kudos to How-How analysis!
In the hour, when darkness had fallen over the village and light had retrieved to another part of the world, Nattu jumped the walls of the barn. Another male sheep jumped after him.
It was cold out here. White-nose shivered as he followed Nattu on a trail leading into the darkness. He looked around. Among the heavy clouds, moon spread his light like a bulb trapped in a translucent glass cage. Worms chirped around them. It was scary. He looked at Nattu. He was as passive as a stone. They kept walking and walking, and then the trail ended. They climbed a slope and then followed a plane road among the trees. They walked down a slope and then climbed another one. This time sharper and stonier.
Along the way, white-nose had been presuming at every turn at transition. Maybe this is where we stop. Maybe this is our destination! But they did not stop at any of those landmarks. However, when they did, his prayers took a U-turn. No, no. No, no, no, no! Not here! Of all the places, not here! I did not even say goodbye to my girlfriend.
They stood in front of a large cave. It’s mouth thrice the size of a sheep. Its length seemed infinite. Even Nattu quivered with fear as he looked around. They were in a small ditch. Stones grew around them unevenly. The easiest way out of the ditch was the cave, and the cave smelled of death. Nattu mustered his spilled-around guts and pushed a small piece of rock towards the cave’s face. Cluttering, it settled at the face.
A few seconds later, something snarled inside. The grunt grew louder and louder until they saw a breath congeal in the cold air. It shone in dull white before disappearing. Then appeared the eyes. Glittering like a pair of stars in a night sky. A gray beast appeared behind those eyes. It was as big as a dog. But a lot more strong than a dog. Its canine teeth shimmered finding two sheep outside his cave. Party! The wolf lowered his neck and bent his knees. He created a pressure on the ground beneath his front legs.
All we need is a leap, and the sheep are dead before they can say cheese!
“We have a proposition for you,” Nattu blurted out before the wolf could give it a jerk.
It relaxed his legs. Confused, he looked at the naked sheep that stood below his cave. He spoke in his formidable voice, soaked in pride of having a higher position in the food chain. “You are a sheep! What proposition could you have for me? Even if you have a proposition, what makes you think I am interested?”
“Please exercise your detachment after you here our proposition,” Nattu said in a polite manner.
“You see, that is very hard for me to do. You are a sheep without wool. How often do you get a peeled banana?” The wolf said and jumped down. Right in front of Nattu and white-nose. Scared, the sheep haphazardly took a few steps back. The wolf laughed crookedly, enjoying their discomfort. “Anyway, I can spare five minutes! But if I didn’t like your proposition, thanks in advance for the second dinner tonight!”
“We give you the shepherd.” Nattu gathered every bit of his courage as he said that. This is the vision of this deal. If it is not put properly, he may as well be the dumbest sheep ever walked on earth. No wiser sheep would come to a wolf’s cave at this time unless it is suicidal. And sheep aren’t suicidal. Suicide is for wiser people. Dumb people tend to understand the nature of life.
The wolf laughed as if it heard a joke. “The shepherd is not yours to give.”
“Of course not!” Nattu smiled. “But what if I can arrange that? What if I say please come tomorrow when the sun touches the top of the mountain, and I give you the helpless shepherd, ready to die under your clutches? What do you have to say about that?”
“I say I would rather eat two sheep today than regret trusting an over-confident one tomorrow. What do you have to say about that?” The wolf growled.
“Think about it,” Said Nattu. “You trust me, you get human flesh. You can even fetch some remnants to your pack. They may even take you back.”
The wolf stares at Nattu. Who is this little sheep? How does he know I am an outcast?
Nattu shrugged before the wolf could ask. “I hear things!”
“Even if I decide to trust you,” The wolf said. Gone is the pride from his voice. It is softer this time. “How would you ensure that the man would be alone? I have tried before. It doesn’t take him much time to gather five-six more of his kind. I cannot handle all of them at once. I have seen wolves being killed by three humans once. Hard for me to even think of taking on more than two now.”
Nattu smiled villainously. His voice colder than the night and harder than the mountain. “You leave that to me. You just be there when I tell you to be and I promise you will get the man’s flesh.” He said and turned around. White-nose first looked at him, then at the wolf. It was hard for him to comprehend what just happened. Nevertheless, he seemed happy to be making out alive.
The sheep climbed out of the ditch, on their way back to their barn. The wolf stood transfixed at the mouth of his cave. “You may not be the smartest, but I am sure you are the bravest sheep that has ever walked the face of the earth!” The wolf murmured from behind as the sheep disappeared in the darkness of the night.
…To be continued on 20 August 2017.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The Shepherd and The Wolf: Sheep Rising

Once upon a time, there was a Shepherd. He knew no other living thing than his thirty sheep he owned and no other land than the grazing land he took them to graze. He was the man who could spend his entire life looking at the face of a sheep and not regret while dying. Not sure if a sheep would like to spend his/her entire life looking at the face of a man who has a nose longer than an elephant and teeth of a rodent.
Nevertheless, there was only one lamb with an actual name: Nattu. Others sheep had identification marks replacing their need of having a real name. The-little-one. The-big-one. The-one-with-squinty-eyes. The-one-with-the-long-tail. The-one-with-the-short-tail. The-one-with-a-bald-head. The-one-with-the-lame-walk, etcetera, etcetera.
It was very hard for Nattu, being the only one with a name. He had a cut in his tail. Why not the shepherd called him trimmed tail then? Why Nattu? He felt alone. Many female sheep would avoid him. Many sheep of his age would tease him all the time. “You must be a human in your last life. Otherwise, why would they give you a name?” The-one-with-white-nose once told him in front of trimmed-ear. It would not feel so bad to Nattu if trimmed-ear wasn’t a female sheep. The embarrassment tripled when she also joined White-nose and they kept intoning “Nattu is a human, Nattu is a human” from behind as he walked away.
Cruel world. Isn’t it?
Nevertheless, it changed and Nattu grew up to be one of the most intelligent sheep ever walked on planet earth. If sheep had an Olympiad, Nattu would have won it at least five times by now. His respect grew largely when he solved some everyday problems of a sheep’s life.
Once, some sheep complained that they felt heavy when they passed through the smaller pond below the mountain. Nattu was the first sheep to tell them that it was because of their fleece being dense, it absorbs water and the sheep feel heavy afterward. He told them to avoid water as much as possible, if can’t then the sheep must let the water drain out before making the run.
He was thoroughly enjoying the popularity. The stardom was overwhelming. His life took a turn. He used to be the most despicable of the sheep. Now he was the most revered one. The happiness did not last long though. Before the winter, Nattu had enough wool on his body. For more than a year, the shepherd invested in him. Now it was time to take something back.
The flock was set to be sheared for wool that evening.
Nattu felt naked afterward. Some older sheep tried to console him. “We are sheep, my son,” The old sheep said in his quivering voice. “It is the whole purpose of feeding us. You will be fine in a month or two.”
But sometimes, wrath doesn’t wait for a month. Sometimes, calculations are right but there is no constant to base it on. Sometimes, one is proactive but still late. Sometimes, the world is just cruel and there is no way to avoid the imminent destruction.
The night was the darkest the village had ever seen. No moon in the sky to lighten it. No lights in homes to compensate it. It was darkness accompanied by heavy rainfall. In the late October, it did not take much for the temperature to drop to the bare minimum. The night grew cold against their bare skin. They had no wool to defend themselves. They had donated it to men. Men who would not appreciate it. Men who would keep treating those sheep like a sheep while the sheep graciously donated their clothes so that men could protect their skin.
The act of compassion is not to be boasted but to be appreciated by the receiver. However, when it is not appreciated and if it requires boasting, it loses its grace.
This is not fair!
Next morning, there was a big hole in the clouds of the east and sun was yet to shine through it. The trees were still relenting themselves and excess water leaked through their leaves. The air was still cold but now soft and soothing. The streets were slowly coming back to life. But the sheep wasn’t concerned about the morning. They had felt cold. They were still shivering. They were the ones who had paid the cost of this beautiful morning.
They all stood in a circular formation around Nattu. He slowly opened his eyes. Shivering, he looked at everyone. His eyes red. Face feigned rage towards the atrocities of men. No other sheep had felt it before. Pain. Loathing. Grief. Fury. All at the same time.
He raised his neck and faced whoever sheep that stood before him. "The shepherd has to die!" He said in a voice as deep as the Batman.
                                                                                    …To be continued on 4th  August 2017

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Ruined by the bell

The man steers his car to left, into a shabby street after the grocery store. It has been fifteen years; still, besides a few new constructions, there aren’t many noticeable differences. The road is still without markings; Kids still play hide and seek among the trees in the community park, Mr. Mehra’s ambassador still parked in his driveway, and the garden restaurant at the end of the street still visible in all of its glory.

His family used to own this restaurant. After father’s death, his mother took it upon herself to keep the family business up and running. He was six years old then. He would come here with her every day. In the evening, his mother would collect the leftover food and distribute it among the homeless children on their way to home.

One of those days, they were on their way back. All of the leftover food had been finished and that is when they saw her. A little girl, about the same age, as he was. Hungry and alone. Her hair golden. Eyes like a cat. She wore a white T-shirt about double of her size. Her mother let her come into their car. She said nothing, only smiled in gratitude. Her smile as if half the full moon. They took the girl home and fed her. For weeks, it went on, until one day, his mother decided to adopt this little girl. She gave her a name. Mansi. He was happy. He finally had a sister. It didn’t take him much time to befriend with her.

A bump on the road! It pulls him out of his past. His eyes fix themselves towards the end of the road, onto a giant metal gate with iron bars. A sign hangs from one of those bars that say, “CLOSED.” He stops his car by the side of the road and pulls himself out. He stands in front of the gate, imagining how life used to be, before that storm. Before he was sent to an orphanage, before his mother stopped recognizing him.

He was ten years old then, playing in this same garden with his adopted sister. Their mother had bought a new artifact for the restaurant. An old brass bell, about 6 feet high and three feet in diameter. She had it put right in the middle of the garden so that every customer could see it.

“The bell has magic,” Mansi said abruptly, while they were busy finishing a bowl of noodles their mother had given them as evening breakfast. He laughed at her, teased her for an hour repeating the word “magic” in twenty different accents. He kept making several kinds of faces until she was angry. “If you close your eyes and take a complete round around the bell, it creates a double of yourself.” She said.

He did as she said. Only to make her happy again. In the evening when they reached home, he smelled something different about his mother. She did not hold him in her arms. She stopped him from entering the house and when he tried to remind her that he was her son, she cried for an hour. “I lost my son four years ago,” She said. She kept repeating it. Mansi said nothing. She just smiled and ran inside the house while he was out there in the cold for a few weeks. His mother didn’t seem to be in a state to face him again. Until one day, a man came. He took him to another restaurant, fed him with his favorite south Indian meal. He carried strange currencies. It didn’t work at the restaurant. He had to sell his shoes and watch to pay and some extra money. The man took him to Delhi and got him enrolled in an orphanage.

Fifteen years later, he returns, not as a son, but as a food journalist, covering an article on the oldest restaurants of the city. He opens the gate and enters inside the boundary. Few round dining tables spread across the garden at regular gaps. Slow, rhythmic music flows in the air. The trees around the fence create a sound as air flows through them, making their leaves slide over each other. There is a brass bell in the middle of the turf with some other artifacts. Again, besides a few new constructions, there wasn’t much to make this place alien for him. 

Seeing him entering the compound, someone approaches. A woman, about the same age as he is. Golden hair. Eyes like a cat. She wears a white T-shirt that fits her well. She pushes a wheelchair ahead of her that carries an old woman about sixty years old. She smiles as she comes addresses him and offers a handshake. Her smile like half the full moon. “You must be Amar,” Mansi says. “We received a call from the paper in the morning. They said you would reach by 12:00. What took you so long?”

“I was driving slowly,” He replies with a smile. “Is she your mother?” He asks pointing towards the old woman.

“Yes,” She says. “She met an accident a few years ago. Since then, she doesn’t walk. She stopped talking a few years before that. Now she only produces gestures when she wants to.” She says and then she shouts turning towards a small building by the grass. “Amar!”

“Coming,” A young voice replies from inside.

In a few minutes, a boy, hardly twenty, comes out running and takes the old woman on wheelchair away without even looking at him. The journalist looks at the boy with deep interest. As if, he has already known him for many years. He feels a familiarity towards this boy. An attraction. In that moment, he feels something in his heart. The boy looked exactly like him, only a few years younger. His heartbeat raises itself, and as it occurs to him, a statement begins echoing in his brain several times as if a tape playing itself in a loop. “If you close your eyes and take a complete round around the bell, it creates a double of yourself.”

For a few minutes, his eyes fix themselves on the bell. A state of stillness for his body. His brain tries to process it. His sanity now depends on the validity of this incident. The words still echo in his head, until a soft feminine voice attracts a part his attention. “Kids don’t lie,” Mansi says.
He takes his eyes off the artifact to his adopted sister. She smiles. “H…How?” Words barely flow out of his mouth.

“Doubles don’t come out of thin air,” Mansi replies.

“How did you convince my mother for a younger version of me?”

“She didn’t care for logics after her son returned.”

“Why?” A question again. It is as if his whole vocabulary has fallen shorter to a few WH words.

“Acceptance. I did it for the acceptance and I never regret it. When you look at me, you still picture me as a poor little girl standing under a bridge. Hungry and alone. You never accepted me as your sister and you know that. Him, he is you! Four years younger. He hadn’t met me before you brought him here. For him, I am his sister, not a hungry orphan girl.” She says.

He stares at her for a few minutes and then plummet onto a chair beside him.

“You might want to hurry if you want to save yourself, brother, and don’t forget your watch; Money used to be different fifteen years ago!” The girl with half-moon smile says and turns around towards her family restaurant, which still sprawls by the end of the street, in all of its glory.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

The Secret of Wealth: Revelation

(Please Click here to read part one - The secret of wealth: Investigation)

The security room at Ramkishan’s mansion is a turmoil today. Chaos. Clamor. Every black suit in here is rushing for something. Some are checking security footage of last two hours. Some are busy over communication devices. Some mull over the documents. Some aren’t doing anything but at least they seem worried. Ramkishan enters the room. A fair man with a decent moustache. Simple clothes. Convenient hairstyle. He is worried too. His eyes searching for the chief. “What happened?”

“We lost signal from one of the trackers,” The chief says. “We are still trying to figure out what happened, the chicken itself jumped over the walls or he had had help. But we are more lenient to the case where he might have had help.”

Ramkishan gaps at the chief. “Imbecile,” Ramkishan growled. “Get away from my face and search the village!”  

The banyan tree inside the Krishna temple looks like a corona today. Candles burn around it as if stars in clear night sky. A two feet high platform surrounds the tree and a sea of villagers surround the platform like an asteroid belt. Men and women. All eyes inquisitively look at the platform. Some kids play at distance, some whine in their mother’s arms. Natwar stands tall on the platform, all swollen of pride. These villagers once despised him and now they are all here to hear him. Even at this moment, Natwar is able to think something deep and wise. Had life been a sea, every boat would reach the land upside down. Natwar is wise. Natwar is humble. Natwar learnt humility in his mother’s womb, like Abhimanyu learnt to fight.

Today is the day of joy, for Natwar. For others, their heart burns. All those women, who once declined Natwar’s love proposals, could cook supper over their hearts. All those men who married those women be like – light a cigarette dude!

Ironic! All their kids want to be like Natwar!

Behind this entire envious crowd, where candle light doesn’t reach, sits a man, dark and bearded face. Sinister eyes and bare hairy chest. This is Lakha! The abductor of buffaloes. The consumer of Alcohol. His right-hand holds a bottle of rum. His left hand soothes folds of his shabby white Dhoti. His eyes follow Natwar’s movements on the platforms. His nose breathes fire. He hates Natwar. Not only Natwar stole the buffaloes he had stolen, he exposed him. Now a lamb goes missing and villagers come knocking at his door. Had Lakha carried a dagger, it would be hanging across Natwar’s heart right now. Alas, he doesn’t. He pours another sip of neat rum into his throat and all his rage washes away.

Meet Lakha – Lakha is chagrin but Lakha knows how to maintain propriety. Lakha stays calm. Be like Lakha!

“Friends!” Natwar’s voice travels. “For years, Ramkishan had been holding a secret from us. It ends today. A few weeks ago, I vowed to unfold the mystery. I stand in front of you, at this hour, and I hold the answer to all your questions…,” Natwar says. He turns around and village chief’s son, Raju, hands him a Hen. The villagers look curiously at the chicken. Suddenly, Natwar is not the center, the chicken is. Talent doesn’t count, the peculiarity does. It triggers a clamor among the audience. Some start despising Natwar already, some crack jokes from behind. “What does this chicken do? Does it give golden eggs?” A collected laugh rises.

Natwar smiles, he is about to say yes, at the same time, cohering with a shrill sound, something impales his shoulder. Electricity. It is a pin. It carries a small pocket behind it. Sedative. Now, no matter how much pro Natwar is, he cannot resist a sedative drug. Within seconds, His view begins to blur and he falls from the platform like a wooden log. Straight and lifeless.

Natwar opens his eyes in a perfect darkness. He closes his eyes again. Nothing! He opens, still nothing! It confuses him. Whether to open his eyes or close them. It doesn’t make any difference whatever he does. Natwar finds himself worried now. This situation has left him indecisive. Has he gone blind? A chill runs through his body. Well, only the morning can confirm it for him. All he can do is wait. He erects himself with the support of an invisible wall.

Natwar’s eyes open themselves a few hours later. He looks around. He can see his legs. He smiles. His eyes are okay. Light enters the room from a window near the ceiling. It makes frustum of a cone as it flow into the room, small particle shimmer as they scatter the light. He looks at the shabby wall around him. A deformation lies in a corner. It is not a deformation! It is human. A man. He stares at Natwar with his bony eyes. His beard as long as Leela’s hair. (Leela is a girl from village.)

“Are you from village?” Something reciprocates below those stone eyes.
“Yes!” Natwar replies, his voice cold and ignorant.

“How is my son? Lakha. You must know him. It is a small village.” He says. Natwar doesn’t reply. No way is Natwar going to tell Lakha’s father how Lakha is. He hates Lakha and now Lakha plus one. The man speaks again, “He was a dumb kid, you know. I tried to teach him the art of stealing, the way my father taught me. But poor kid couldn’t even steal a glass from Ramu’s tea-stall. I was so disappointed. I thrashed him that day. I feel guilty. How could I know I would never see him again? It has been six years.”

Natwar opens his jaw. It takes him moments to process it. Yes! He is Lakha’s father. He knows him. But no one noticed he had disappeared several years ago, except Lakha of course. Natwar smiles. There must be a reason Ramkishan is keeping him here. He knows something. “Well, you may feel proud to know that Lakha is your blood and now happily stealing things as big as a few buffaloes. You just tell me one thing, how did you end up here?” Natwar asks.

“Well, it is not that complicated,” The man says. “Back then, Ramkishan used to live in a hut. One day Ramkishan came to me. He said he needed to sell some gold, needed my help. I thought Ramkishan had also begun stealing things. In the hopes of expansion, I helped him sell some gold. But there was something peculiar about that gold. It was brittle, like a very thin layer of it, as if removed from a curved object. I tried to find out where it came from. That day, I sneaked into Ramkishan’s home, and  it was the last day I saw the sun.” His eyes turn pitifully sad as he says that.

“Did you find out about the gold? Why it was layered like that?” Natwar asks.

“Of course, I did,” The man says. “It was peeled off of an egg. Ramkishan’s chicken are not like normal birds. They give eggs with golden layer. Inside, there is a natural egg, which upon harvesting would give a chicken, which would give more number of such eggs. This is the secret of Ramkishan’s wealth.”

Natwar smiles. Is it possible? The existence of such creatures, which would give golden eggs. But if an object as large as the earth can rotate around a bulb as small as the sun, anything is possible. Natwar smiles broader. Now, he knows the secret. The mission is complete. He admires the way universe acts. It does not act in circles, but in spirals. You may think you are repeating the same path, repeating the same milestones. But no! You are not. You may be passing near the previous milestones but not through them. Eventually, you are going to arrive where it begins. Because it is a spiral after all.

But no matter how wise Natwar has become, he is still in captivity. Wisdom doesn’t break walls; hammer does, and no matter how much pro Natwar is, he doesn’t carry a hammer all the time.

Natwar stares restlessly at the walls. He tries to reach the only window, but it is too small. Only an infant can pass through it. He tries to jump and look outside. Nothing! He tries to rattle the steels rods that bar the prison. It doesn’t budge. Eventually, he gets mad and start kicking the wall.

“What are you looking for?” Lakha’s father asks.
“The thing you have been looking for last seven years–a way out!” Natwar replies irritatingly.

The old man spits. He slides from his place and turns around. He removes a chunk of garbage that is deposited along the wall and there it is! A cave! A narrow passage through the wall. Natwar consecutively looks at the cave and the old man. “It is a cave!”

The old man spits again. “I completed it about two years ago. But just when I was going to go, it occurred to me. I like this place more than I like outside world. I get free food and I don’t have to bath every day.” The old man shrugs.

Natwar never thought it could be this easy. He hugs the old man and slides through the tunnel. Within two hours, he was outside the walls of Ramkishan’s mansion.

Two weeks later:

About fifty percent of Ramkishan’s chicken are stolen. Every now and then villagers break into Ramkishan’s mansion and steal the hens. One day Lakha goes in. But he doesn’t steal anything, he comes out with his father. His father carries one or two of the chickens, though. Within few months, people who want to sell the yellow precious metal flood the market. It doesn’t take very long for the market to figure out that there is more supply of gold than demand. Soon, the price of gold crashes like an aircraft made by amateur engineers. In the first week of October, they said that onions were costlier than gold.

Does Natwar care about it? No! He doesn’t. Natwar is above pity things like money and onions. The villagers worship him. The kids hear Natwar’s stories every day before bed. Leela’s father wants to make Natwar his son-in-law. However, Natwar does not care about it at all. His eyes dream of bigger adventures at a bigger place. Natwar is ambitious!

The village kids, who study in town, they say, Natwar has left the village and gone to London. There he joined an organization known as MI6. He changed his name. They call him James Bond now and he has a package of seven lakhs per annum.

…and then they all begin to laugh.

Moral of the story: Morals don't do any good. Stop reading morals!

Friday, 25 March 2016

The Secret of Wealth: Investigation

Natwar sits in the air-conditioned entry room of Ramkishan’s mansion. A confidentiality agreement lies on his lap, written all in English. But the problem is, Natwar can't even spell English, let alone read ten pages of organized gibberish.

Natwar asks a fair, slender person for help. The man smiles and tells him that one must sign this document if one wants a job at Ramkishan’s mansion. He says that if any sensitive information leaked, the culprit servant would have to pay fifty lacs as compensation money. A lawsuit may follow, depending upon the information that has been leaked. “But Ramkishan pays handsomely to his servants and one must not have any problem signing this confidentiality agreement unless he is a spy,” The man adds, sarcastically.

...and Natwar has a problem signing this document because he is a spy!

He wishes there is another way to solve this case. There is none! The security here is the definition of tight. He curses himself for taking this task. But the village chief had himself given him this case. He couldn’t say no! It took him years to build the reputation and since last month when he had successfully retrieved the schoolmaster's lost buffaloes from Lakha’s barn, the villagers were finally ready to accept him as a sleuth. If he said no to this case, all that would be for nothing. All his reputation would die. The villagers would deem him as useless as a guard dog who ran into the woods when bandits came to raid the village.

There is a risk, but Natwar can’t deny one thing. The case is interesting. They say, about seven years ago, Ramkishan was nothing more than a village dweller who made his living by selling raw chicken and eggs. Suddenly, he was rich. He bought this 50-acre land and made an exquisite palace. Natwar had overheard some kids, who study in city, talking about this. They said the architects of the palace came from foreign, the ones who built Batman’s den underneath Bruce Wayne’s house. Why would they laugh afterward, is beyond Natwar’s comprehension. Natwar cut their laugh from the record as an insignificant section of an overheard conversation. Now, Natwar neither knew Batman nor Bruce Wayne, but the names did seem imposing to him!

Natwar’s task is to find the secret of Ramkishan’s sudden wealth. The secret that is buried somewhere inside this mansion and the only way to get inside the mansion is if the security let him go through and that is why Natwar had to come up with whole this being a servant plan. It takes a few minutes to occur to him that since he has come here with a concealed identity, he could sign the confidentiality agreement with a false name.

Natwar passes the interview with flying colors. Fortunately, with all his honesty, he possesses every quality of a dumb servant. Ramkishan, in dire need of such qualities, couldn’t say no to him. Seven years Ramkishan stayed away from the villagers and now he doesn’t recognize the only sleuth of the village.

A few days of work at the Ramkishan’s mansion and he got the story that fills the sumptuous corridors of the palace. The story goes like this – Ramkishan once had a hen who gave him a golden egg once a month. It was enough for him to make a middle-class living. Somehow, Ramkishan has found a way to multiply those eggs. Many of the servants said Ramkishan must have cut that chicken and retrieved the eggs, all at once. Now, Natwar here is clever enough to know that a chicken is not a warehouse. It is a bird.  It does not store eggs in her belly.

One day, he sees a chicken in the confidential backyard; she twists herself as she walks. Neck held about hundred millimeters above the ground. She straitens it ahead before she advances her feet. (This is the usual way a chicken walk) Suddenly, it jumps and 15-20 golden eggs rolls on the green turf when she has landed.

The rumor is true! Seven years ago, Ramkishan had found a way to multiply those eggs! Natwar looks sideways. No one is around. It’s he and chicken, all alone. Adrenaline pumps into his arteries. He doesn’t think much. Making a run for it, he quickly grab the chicken. A fifty-acre farm is a lot to cross. He passes through woods, through bushes, through mud. In the end, it ends at a fifteen feet tall wall that surrounds the mansion.

Natwar smiles at it. He knows the vital part of being a spy is to jump over the walls and he knows it very well. It is how he had rescued schoolmaster’s buffaloes from Lakha’s barn. Natwar spent two days in surveying Lakha's activities. The third day,  before Lakha went out for his regular supply of alcohol, Natwar hid himself inside the barn, only to come out when Lakha had been long gone. Lakha had locked the barn from outside. There was no way out. The entire place was surrounded by thorn-bushes and there was no way buffaloes could projectile themselves five feet high with a maximum range of seven.

What did Natwar do? Buffaloes couldn’t jump but Natwar is a pro! He jumped over the embankment and opened the gates from outside. The buffaloes passed through the main gate! (Yeah, on your face Mr. Lakha!)

However, this wall is about fifteen feet high, but of course, once again, Natwar is a pro!

He takes a deflated cushion out of his pocket and fills it with his breaths.  He climbs the banyan tree that grows along the wall. He lashes the straps that protrude from the sides of cushion on his waist so that he lands on it when he is on the other side of the wall. (Natwar got the gadgets, too!)

Keeping the inflated cushion on his side, he jumps over! Unfortunately, the cushion takes a blunt edge of the wall. A crack runs through it. With a blast, Natwar lands on his spine. It hurts, but Natwar is made of metal! He quickly rises, grabs the chicken and runs.

The night grows around him. Snakes lurk behind heavy leaves. Dogs clamor in distance. He focuses on is the sound of his own breaths. Inhale and exhale. Inhale and exhale. He wants to stop and look back. Somehow, he doesn’t want to. He is a millimeter close from solving this case. No way should he mess it up. He will stop when he has to, not when he wants to.

Village chief is a tall man with heavy mustache spreading east to west on his face. He stands outside his house wearing a blue Kurta and white dhoti going halfway between his knee and ankle. He has a thick stick in his hand and a white turban on his head. A triangular portion of his turban protrudes above from the folds. A loose strap of it hangs behind his back. He suspiciously looks into the bushes when something moves. Orienting his stick in a defensive manner, he moves towards them and Natwar falls on his legs, with a victory smile on his face. “I know the secret,” He utters. 

...To be continued

Moral of the story: If you don't socialize, you will never know if your neighbor was a spy.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

The Divine Wisdom

It is the third day of my college life and I, along with my thirty batchmates, sit in the mechanical workshop. Theoretically, it is a place which is supposed to be a temple for every Mechanical engineering student. Practically, it is a viable alternative to a gymnasium (Try cutting a cast iron strip with a high-speed steel hacksaw and you will know). I look at the clich├ęs that surround me. Lathe machines, shapers, drill machines, press machines, milling machines, vices, medieval tools, modern tools, hammers, and a lot more.

Until now, I am pure. Pristine. Innocent. I haven’t been ragged, nor have I abused any professor yet. I talk about percentage in class twelve. I talk about AIEEE rank. I still have faith in studies.

My head is a turmoil, though. The depiction of a college in Bollywood movies revolves in my head. It assures me. I am a hero and no matter how absurdly I behave, I am going to get the girl. One I have seen earlier this morning. She is in my dreams now. Her hair spread over the shoulders of her sleeveless rose-colored top. A small clip barely holds them together. Her eyes beautifully bordered. Oval face deforms as she smiles. Her hair dance as she walks, covering her eyes sometimes. Removing one of those evil strands before her eyes, she looks at me and I look at her. Yes! She is the one. She is my dream-girl and if she ever needed to go to a beauty parlor, a majority of us should start living there.

However, it all shatters the moment I see my roommates talking of her. One more example of Bollywood movies failing at the school of reality. They show if there were more than one heroes, they would always fall for different girls but in reality, every guy (including neighboring colleges) falls for the same damn girl and that too at a speed thousand times faster than the girl would fall for any of them. Maybe she does not fall for any of them because she is already engaged to an NRI. (Ask me!)

In my thoughts, I forget what is beside me - metal and stones. My eyes throb of the peril as he enters the class. A shorter, darker and fatter man in a white Safari-suit. His eyes red. A heavy mustache covers his face from east to west. His voice the grunt of a lion, hard and assertive. He looks at us, lambs in human skin.  He tells us a lot about Mechanical Engineering. Fortunately, I no longer remember the larger part of it, except this – “Seven minutes! Seven minutes are all I need to make you a Mechanical Engineer. Welding in three minutes, lathe in one minute, casting in two minutes. Rest you already know!"

And the democracy ends here. We have no say in what we know and what we don't know. The dictator has decided the same for all of us. Our fate is punched on a mild steel strip.

“So," He snorts. "Now I want to take your words on how to drill a hole on a workpiece. Come into my room one by one,” He says in his thick voice.

Unfortunately, the first name is mine:

“So, dear son, tell me what do u think?”
“Sir,” I reply, stuttering. “First we will take a workpiece, put it in front of a drill machine...”

hat majdoor kahi ka," He roars. "Ye to majdoor ka kam h. tu to engineer h. What has happened to this generation? Where are the brains?” He roars again. His face feigns the pain of desolating standard of Engineering students. 

His pain digs into the heart of every other student. Many of them are ready to flee as soon as they hear it. None has the power. None has the courage. They have taken the admission but they are not the engineers yet. Not until they feel that, it is okay to bunk the class. It is okay to abuse the professor. It is okay to copy an assignment. It is okay to have nothing to say in vivas. It is okay to scan a girl until she proclaims you a pervert. Yes! This is the price to pay. Forfeit the idea of shame and discipline and you will rise as an Engineer.

One by one, each student walks into to maelstrom and one by one they all feel the heat.  The professor repeats the same words to every student as if it is a mantra. At last, when all the self-respect is shattered and every face hangs like a withered rose,  he himself comes out of his nest and starts again, his voice a bit softer this time.

“Students,” He addresses us. “You are engineers. NIT students. are padho, fayda uthao iska, sabse badi problem hi ye hi ki tumhara dimag majdooron ki tarah chalta h. Now I will tell u how an engineer will work. He will take a scale and mark for the exact spot he wants to drill the hole at and  then he will hand it over to the labor to drill a hole," He pauses and spreads his arms like a magician. "And that is the way an engineer works!” He closes his eyes. 

By the look on his face, I feel it is his best performance ever. His face glimmers with satisfaction. Our faces shimmer with an awe as if we have found some kind of divine enlightenment. He raises high among our eyes. A perfect role model. Let us be like him. Let us learn from him. Let us be the greatest engineer ever lived!

Considering how it all went down in a few months and years to follow, it was no more than the excitement of a child who has seen an airplane for the first time. It is completely different now. It makes me doubt as to what have I become. 

Am I an engineer?