Monday, March 29, 2010

Talking Letters

Dear Baku,

I live on six parallel. Russians never bothered to add a street or if they did the taxi drivers don’t remember now. I would say the address as Blue buildings, Almali market, New world market, etc. and the reply would be six parallel, ok. So many Manats and off you go. Finally, Natik cleared the air. He knows a bit of English and drives few slb employees around, makes good money. When he is not driving he can be found loitering at slb reception or with slb security. I missed the bus that morning and had to call him. I gave my usual pickup landmarks and he just said ok—six-parallel—nine-o’clock—come-to-Almarah-bank. After I jumped into the cab I had to ask him. The story goes like this. I am sure you know. It’s your story. Still correct me if I am wrong (and I will let Natik know next time I miss the bus, which I plan not to, it’s quite an expensive taxi ride in Baku if you are an expat). During the time of the federation they named the seven parallel streets from one to seven starting with one from the city centre. A smart, easy and convenient approach I would say and I guess with the gust of the wind outside the window you send your agreement. Now there are new addresses officially, for the same places, it is not federation anymore. Its Azerbaijan as you know, you are the capital city. Yet the cabbies still run between and with the parallels. Change in the name of country didn’t do them good or maybe it did. But the seven parallel sisters live on, as streets and in legend. Sisters designed and destined to never meet.

You know the interesting thing about the taxis here. I believe everyone who owns a car and is not absolutely rich to not bother about making more money carries a small magnetic light with TAXI written on it. When they feel they have an hour or two they just roll down the windows, snake out their arms with the taxi sign and snap-fix it right above their heads, on the roof of the car. And there stands another taxi. No taxi sign is in the centre, all on the head of the driver. The wife (or whoever) calls and they snake the sign back in and off they go home (or wherever). And what is with all these Mercedes, every other car is a Mercedes and all taxis. You must be joking. You make Indica sound like a luxury brand in comparison with Merc.

Did you also missed an hour today? Actually it was yesterday. Did you miss that? I was an hour behind all other folks for nearly 30 hours. Got up on time and was out on my way to catch the 7:20 (am, everyday!) bus. The streets and roads had a different life. The usual sweeping ladies were not there. The army lad who is walking down hill every morning was not walking down. The couple of taxi drivers that wait the corners of the streets were missing. And inplace of all that the whole city was on the streets, all the cabbies, all the school going children and office going adults and nowhere going rest of them, both children and adult. Something was wrong with your people. Did you drink too much last night? But then I had the suspicion, not on your drinking habits but on the ticking seconds. While I killed 48 hours of the weekend you skipped an hour in one heartbeat. Had to ask a cabbie for time and he confirmed it, you did skip an hour. You shouldn’t play such tricks on weekends.

I have couple of other things to say but I will keep those till later, next time, slept at desk in the office today, late night movies on Sunday are never good. So I will catch up on the sleep.
And you try to reduce that glow in the nights. Better tell your President to switch of few lights. Makes sleep hard.

Signing off, Kelman Desai (T).

Sunday, March 28, 2010

YOU MAKE ME YOU BREAK ME

You are reading this and yet you think I talk to someone else, someone who is not you. Oh why you do that. You make me and yet you break me.

It has been a long long while since you asked me how I am and more importantly how I feel? Stop wondering who I am talking to, it’s you. Oh how you break me.

When was it that we had a hearty conversation, shared a laugh? When was it that the wind blew and found us, our faces, us together? When did the world last saw us as friends? Ofcourse you know where I am and I know where you are. But then we also share that infromation about the Dead Sea. When was it that last that you, we, both of us, knew where mine, our, hearts really were? And your heart still refuses to believe that I am trying to talk to you, that I am talking to you.

When was it that we sent words to each other in the mail (call it email if you want). Oh now you are thinking we did that yesterday but there are other you’s reading this as well. Yes, yes, you. You I am talking to. You, who I wish would talk to me the way humans are supposed to. Its time you stop pretending I am not talking to you.

You called. You didn’t call. You sent a word. You didn’t send a word. You did that. You didn’t do that. If you did, what was it, was the message of that thing human enough? To make me feel I was more, more than just needed for a task. Oh yes please do ask.

We ran together. We walked together. Holding, pulling, and pushing each other on the way. Once we made each other. Once you made me. You still make me. And it’s now that you also break me.

When did we stop walking together? When did we stop being together? When did we stop living each others lives? Oh yes, now you are feeling. Yes, I have been talking you all the while. Now you are feeling the pinch.

Now you talk. Well if I can and if I must so shall you and so you must.

It’s the same questions. Ain’t it? It’s been a long time since I asked how you are. It’s been a long time since I asked how you feel. It is I who breaks you.

Oh the sound of mortality. Oh the sound of goodness gracious guilt. Oh the sound of well-preseved deeply-held forever-felt grudges. Oh my echo. Oh the sound of my questions from your mouth.

I ran with you. I called. I didn’t call. I walked with you. I sent a word. I didn’t send a word. I made you. I still make you and yet I break you.

Oh the echo.

And the walls absorb it. And the walls hold it. And the walls feel it. And the walls ask the questions. And the walls ask how I feel. And the walls ask how you feel. And the walls make us. And the walls let go. And the walls make the echo. And the walls make an echo for the echo.

I ask. You ask. And yet we don’t ask and we don’t listen.

We made each other. We still make each other. And yet we break each other.

Bypass to bypass

Thanks to an email from Goshi, Habshi has been in Saikap mood, mode, mind these few days. And thanks to the generosity of Azeri national holidays (they have nine in a row, Parsi New Year, Novruz) there has been plenty of time to surf the web and do some Saikap searching. Habshi found quite a few websites. Saikapians are busy folk. Or so it would seem.

The road home leads through the city of Kapurthala, through the enchanted city of Jagatjit’s kingdom, through the city of an unknown enchantress. There is no escaping that unless you land in Amritsar and drive home, which Habshi has not done very regularly. Besides on this road lies a familiarity, the kind that does not breeds contempt, a familiriaty with the roads, the roadside plantation, the construction and various names on the milestones, a familiarity that stands the test of being overused unlike the familiriaty with humans.

Getting into town, crossing the DC chowk (once a destination of sorts), and getting to bus stand appears a waste of time these days. The buses pick you up from the bypass. Habshi gets down at Jalandhar bypass. Usually there is a wait for a bus for Sultanpur but it’s a quiet place early in the mornings when he usually gets there. And he is nearing home, end of long journey is nigh so he is not in a rush. The old gate of school on this side of the campus is visible partially. Still in its perpetual, and it seems eternal, state of being closed. As if it was never meant to be opened. A gate with half fulfilled destiny, never opened, always closed and to add to its agony sometimes jumped over, pichla gate.

A bus arrives and Habshi jumps in. The bypass is left behind. This stretch of two odd kilometers is a stretch to look out of the windows, to look for the top of palace, for the top and for the never raised flag, for the ever lonesome pole on the top. Once Habshi had put his neck up through the top and looked at the world around. Everything was far and small, insignificant. It was a view for the royal to look at the lands and lives that made them. It would still be a view for royality had all the birdshit not stank. Plus those stairs were very shaky, out of repair ever since the royality went out of the palace or even before. You can’t cherish a view at the risk of your life for too long. So Habshi had gotten down quickly yet the memory of the view had remained. He had tried to calculate the distance of various fields and tried to apply the theories being taught those days in his NCC class, how objects appear farther when viewed from heights and how to calibrate your distances mentally. It didn’t work, the stink was too strog. So with his distances in disarray he had come down, out of the dome, into fresh air. Travelling in the bus he always tried to look for that place with the best view, always. Not with a great success though. There were only two three spots left by the ever growing trees which afforded the view. He had to be alert but usually he got a glimpse.

Looking out for the four feet wall and the firing yard was a different story. The boundary wall in that section is still visible from the road, still visible for the lack of construction. Maybe one day it will be lost to needs of someone building a shelter but still young ones play cricket there and the view is clear. The four feet wall is slightly higher at the firing yard section. You can’t trust the aim of the royality that walks the palace these days and gets their share of five cartridges every now and then. Habshi was good at it. Once you fire the first bullet no movement of the gun, absolute stillness, only trigger pressed five times. He got four through the same hole. Moved a bit for the fifth and there was a centimeter’s gap. Yet it was good. A good shot. He isn’t that still now. He has had his share of pointtwotwos and SLRs.

Moving on the school is lost to construction for a while. Nakodar road crossing goes by on the left hand side. He relaxes for a while. He knows the next and only sighting is some distance away.
What is this romance of catching a glimpse, as if of a lover, hard to understand, yet there? It’s the enchatnress in that palace, the one that burns the trapped souls, the one that works at them all the time they stay there, the one that is in the statues at entrance to museum, the one that is in wall art of the conference room, the enchantress of the green house, the enchantress that walks the fields and poisons the water they drink. They all feel compelled to think about her every now and then, long after she releases them physically. She keeps a cord of attachment and they all feel the pull, all their lives.

Habshi should just go to school. Have a look at it, it has been a while. Just don’t get down at the bypass i.e. the Jalandhar bypass. Go to DC chowk , get down, walk to the main gate. Let the gatekeeper know you are here to meet Mr. Mr. who? He is sure there will be many who still remember the Habshi of ten years ago. He was a rebel enough to give them few things to remember. But he is not sure if they have any time to spare for him now, not sure if he is worth the hassle. He is not of any significance. Not yet. Oh just say Mr. Shamsher Singh. On the way out just put the dollar sign of his signature, the gatekeeper won’t know the differece. It’s not necessary to meet anyone. The enchantress will know you came to pay your obeisance. It is her that you need to visit, to look for, to remember, to feel. Or just say I am an old student. Give your school number. But Habshi doesn’t feel like an old student yet. Not old enough for the old boys association. It should be alumni association. Will give more scope for attendance. But this is just playing tricks with the name. He will visit the enchantress next time he is around. May be. If the pull on the chord is strong enough.

Many Saikapians visit school with their families. Once they are married and kids and all. The trophy palace of their teen days, the grounds and accomodation, all the places where they ruled the roost for so many years. They display the enchantress with an air of the owners. The wives are impressed. The kids are afraid of the quiet of the palace. Of the grip that enchantress is tightening around their hearts. But soon they are out of the gates. And there is nothing to fear for the little ones. They are safe. Their dads’ have decided Saikap is not for their kids. They know the secrets of the enchantress.

The bus rolls on. The electricity sub station comes on the right. The wall shows itself once again. That and close by further ahead is the most breached part of that boundary. The bricks laid by the king’s mason worn down by the crossings of the little Saikapians. Syal is still going strong, he is still there, the STD and the bakery and all. Rama is gone. The shop is deserted, shutters down, walls crumbling. No more Rama, no more Rame da besan. Not that habshi was getting down for some. Happy and Happy’s Happy Studio are still there. He doesn’t look that happy not after the day Habshi’s class foxed him with their farewell video money. Underground comes, still there, the little tandoor and all. As the bus crosses the mosque and moves towards the Sultanpur bypass the reign of the enchantress slackens. The bus turns left and onwards straight to Sultanpur. The journey is in its last stages and he will be home soon. The enchantress is forgotten as that girl in front the bus attracts his attention. He moves towards the door of the bus, stands there letting the passing wind blow by, letting the homeward winds reach him.

Till the retrun journy, from Sultanpur Lodhi bypass to Jalandhar bypass. With the left on the right and with the right on the left. Rama still closed and crumbling. Through the reign of the enchantress. For him she will always rule this strip. From one stop to another. Bypass to bypass.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Raising a Shit Storm

Raising a shit storm. For some it’s a very tedious task. People prefer to stay away from shit hence find it hard to do anything with shit storms. However, to some it comes very easy. Naturally, instinctively, without effort, out of habit, a routine task. Out of these, few are born to raise shit storms and few learn the art.

If there was a standard procedure to achieving a shit storm it most likely will go like this.

Find a large empty area (if there is some shit lying there never mind). Shit as much as you can. Done? No need to clean-up. Start gathering shit from nearby. Keep moving all the shit to this marked area. Yes, do mark the boundary of the area. There may be other shit piles coming up next to yours and you don’t want a shit boundary issue. Conflict of shit is hard to resolve. In fact, use some shit to mark the boundary. Depending on your mood and how large scale shit storm you want to create, and hence how much shit you want to gather, mark the area. The shape of area could be a circle, circle would be ideal, but you can make it a square, a rectangle, rhombus, triangle whatever and whichever shape you prefer. If you hate the US army you can make a pentagon. A pentagon of shit, to be used to raise a shit storm. Now that would be a classic. No shape will do just fine as well. Just gather the shit in the place. Hurry up before it dries into a hard stinking mound of good-for-nothing-shit. Is the pile good enough for the storm you plan to raise? Not yet. Rope in some help. Ask other people to deposit their shit. Compensate them if they don’t give for free. If they refuse sharing shit after compensation so what raise the next shit storm to scare the shit out of these people and then use that shit-in-the-pants to raise another storm. Go to faraway places. Collect shit. Pile up high and handsome. But hurry up. Generally, there won’t be many people refusing to share their shit. You will be amazed at how generous people are in letting you take their shit away. There will be looks that you won’t understand, strange looks as if people can’t make who you are or what you are up to, but how does it matter, keep gathering the shit. Do hurry up though.

Now comes the most significant step. Once you have collected the treasure, the mound, the pile, the hill whatever you want to call it, the shit of your efforts, stand back, relax and have a look at it. This is the result of your hard work. Maybe others contributed but you made them do it. Have a good look at all the shit you have piled. Depending on how good you are at raising a storm all may disappear by the time you are done. This is your shit pile, your creation. You are the God of this shit-pile.

Other important thing to keep in mind is to ensure you are ready for the hard task ahead. Well fed, full of energy, good enough to achieve your goal. Eat few bananas, energy bars, drugs whatever because once the storm is started you can’t stop till it is finished. Else what goes up and goes up only a small distance comes down and comes down fast to not give you a chance to move. You don’t want the shit coming back on you. Not your own shit. So, make sure you are full of energy. Ready to raise such a storm so as never witnessed before. But do hurry up.

Ready? Take a deep breath. If you are wearing your best suit, don’t worry about it getting dirty. This is the moment of your glory. This is your shit storm. Deep breath done? Hold it; treasure the air that is in the lungs. Not till the storm is done with will you be able to breathe such air. It may be hours, years depending on how good or bad you are raising shit storms.

Take the plunge.

Fill your hands, throw it up, swing your legs, kick it around, run, jump, swing, swirl, dance, let the motion take you away, loosen the body, let yourself become part of the motion, the motion that is you, the motion that is the shit flying, the motion that is you is shit flying, the motion where the shit pile ceases to exist, where it’s you and your motion and where you decide which direction, how far, where, when, how much, how big, how small, a downpour or a drizzle, where you decide how the motion is created, what shape the motion takes, you go on, no breathing is needed by your body, you open your mouth, the taste comes, you spit it out, increasing the motion, on and on, a dancer in trance, a warrior leading armies, a poet in motion, this is you, your creation, your child, you are the God.

This is the plunge that defines you. The plunge that defines your shit storm.

This would be what can be called a standard procedure to raise a shit storm. But man is smarter. And constrained as well, so he has to improvise. A poor fella will have to do it on his own. Just like this, all by himself. Create his shitty little shit storm. A man of more means can disturb a block or two. Few men together maybe able to stir a state. A lord, a king, a ruler may gather his troops and shake up few countries.

With kings it’s different, they don’t do the dance to raise the storms. They sit in their white houses, away from the stink and let the troops do the work. They are aware that when a large contingent of their troops raise shit storm there are bound to be casualities to those creating the storm as well. Some suffocating to death with so much shit around and some being taken by the storm or other warriors or the rebels. The kings pride themselves in raising the best shit storms without dealing with the ground realities of shit. And then they have to justify such large scale shit storms, the kind that go far, from one country to other, leaving stink and destruction in its wake. They claim it’s needed to overthrow the rebel shit storms, the shit storms that are directed towards their cleaner and still white houses.

The rebels. The rebel storms. The rebel shit storms.

Well a rebel can be anybody whom the kings don’t like or who himself does not like the kings. A rebel can create shit storms in many fancy ways. To be a rebel you need to be a lunatic, crazy, a person with the sharpest of the minds, a person with least of the mercies. You are up against the kings. The kings with their troops. You a rebel. You have to be smart, innovative, sharp, quick, else you don’t make your shit storm happen, the troops shit storm storms you dead.

Some smart rebels wait for the natural storms to come. Then they stuff themselves full. Eat a load of crap and when they are bursting with pressure of the shit they dare the elements, they climb the highest branches of the tallest trees and let go the pressure and the direction and power of the winds take the shit away in a storm. Engulfing unsuspecting population, enjoying the winds with a very undigested shit.

Some rebels use other peoples piles of shits to create storms. Sometimes even a king’s pile of shit. They feed a bird. They feed themselves. Both bird and the rebel are now reasonably full of shit. Then the rebel flies on the wings of the bird. He looks around. He finds the tallest piles of the shit that the king had made. He is thinking of making a shit storm of the king’s white house but that is a smaller pile. He finds two tall large piles of shit next to each other. Another rebel is on another bird. Full of shit just like him. And bang. They crash into the piles of shit. Kings shit, rebels shit, birds shit, all mixed with each other. Mixed beyond recognition. And what a shit storm they raise. The kind that raises a lot of stink.

And thus the king gets a chance to justify (not that he is worried about all the justifications) and raise many more shit storms. The rebels feed the king. The kings creating the rebels. The vicious circle of shit eating shit, shit creating shit.

And you may think of many more ways of raising shit storms. But in the end it’s the stink that remains.

The end. Yes, that’s a fascinating concept. Wonder when that will be. Wonder how big that shit storm will have to be. And wonder who will be left to suffer that stink.

Yet there have been many rebels and kings and shit storms before. History is tired and its pages are full with so many great events that all shit storms and the rebels and kings who raised these don’t find a place in its pages. History has found a way, a way to remember all those who are involved in creating shit storms. Me for creating this three page shit storm, you for spending five minutes on spreading the thought of this shit storm, everyone who has raised, plans to raise and will raise a shit storm, the rebels, the kings, the troops, all, everyone of them. History has associated them all with the place which is designed to drop shit.

History has catalogued all under ARSEHOLES.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

By the Caspian

Even though the way back is the first left when you get out of the office the traffic dictates you travel a kilometer right, take a U-turn and get on your right way, the way back. Some drivers have other, more complex, ways of making the journey back, but that was the route we were on that day. And it was a good route to travel in the fading lights. Travelling next to the Caspian Sea, looking at the waters to wash away the distances. Distances that are hard to describe, hard to cover, washed by the even harder to describe a distance that the waters are. A feeling of peace transcends when you look at the waters.

The house faced the sea. It was a small two-three room construction, about six feet high from the road level. The front door opened to a small platform and stairs down to the road. The three of them stood there. The eldest, about five-six years in age, stood in the corner of the small platform. The second boy was standing about a yard away from his elder brother. And the little girl, unable to decide whether to join the boys in their play or not, standing half in the middle of the door neither out on the platform nor in the room.

On the other side of the road a new three-four star hotel has come up. Hotel Ramada. It must have blocked the view of sea from the door where the children stood, if not complete definitely partially.

The eldest boy was showing his little brother how far he could pee. Maybe showing off, see how far my peepee goes. Or maybe he was trying to achieve the hard task of peeing across the road on the hotel. Getting back at the hotel for blocking their view he was trying to make the best of the projectile. The younger boy seemed impressed. Taking his lessons, in the art of making a pee-projectile, seriously. Maybe they will work hard and one day successfully pee on the view-blocking-rich-looking-no-good-to-them-hotel-Ramada. Together, both of them. And the little girl, not very sure of what was happening, slightly confused of how the peepee was making a projectile, stood at her distance. Ready to run to the safety of the house, and probably her mother, in case the boys wanted her to join in their play.

The projectile was not that strong. And hotel Ramada was safe for now. And so was the road on which we crossed between the boys and hotel Ramada after taking a right and a U turn, riding next to Caspian Sea, on way from office to city.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

tak-i-tik-i-tak

tak……..tak…..tak………tak
taak……taak…..taak…….taak……taak
tik-tik-tik-tik
tak-tak-tak-tak
tak ………..taak…….. tak……….. taak

The beauty coefficient of this office is so high, it’s hard to focus on the work anyways, yet, and that is an important YET, they have to announce their presence and in what style. From the moment you enter the building every corner you look into, every office you walk into, everywhere, they are everywhere and yet they have to announce their presence every second. Let us not exaggerate it could very well be every other second.

You sit at your allotted seat, stare into the screen that is your laptop, trying to find meaning in what you are attempting to achieve, trying to find meaning in your work, trying to find meaning of life (if you are looking for any meanings at all), when all the meanings are riding on a wave of tak-tak, a wave that is passing by. You feel the rhythm when it starts from one corner, from their seats to restrooms, from their seats to coffee room, from their seats to printers, from their seats to their boss’ seat, from their seats to all the places they have to be. And that’s not it, they are not done, God have mercy they have to walk back from all these places to their seats. One by one. After completing one cycle only to wait till the next starts. And then this to be accounted for every one of them. A cycle at a time. A different person at a time. Many cycles. Many different persons. Many compelling and absorbing cycles. Many competing persons. With the start of each cycle the wave rises. It rises from the far heavens. It travels on the chariots of Gods unknown, travels in a crescendo till it reaches you (you, still staring into that laptop screen, still searching the meanings, sometimes oblivious to the meanings passing you by, sometimes so engrossed in saving what you call your job), the wave reaches you, the tak-tak at its peak, sounding more like TAK TAK. TAK TAK.
And then the wave travels away, on its trough, and farther till it reaches its destination of ephemeral silence. Only just. Only long enough to catch the thread that you lost on your laptop screen. Even after focusing your hardest. And then it starts all over again. Back to where it will wait till the next cycle. But not just travelling back. Travelling back with all the ferocity of travelling forth. And all the while your heart follows the beats as if this is its own beat.
tak tak tak tak tak tak tak tak tak tak tak tak

They were not the best designers, the designers of this office. Or maybe they designed the base before the advent of the heel below the heel. In any case one must forgive fellow men. And so we have tiled floors and the tiles must be the best of their lot, the ones with the loudest acoustic signatures. Or maybe they have special timbers in this part of the world. Special timbers for the special heels of the exclusive feet that support the magnificent legs carrying some of His best craftsmanship. Gods designs.

And then there are your favourites. The tak-tak’s that your ears look forward to. Those special tak-tak’s that carry your favourite faces along. And how innocently they pass you by. As if unknowest of their abilities to crush men. Crush them with nothing but a twist of neck, a fluttering of eyelashes, a swing of the hips, and an innocent movement of the lips. God you made man as the supreme being. Only to crush it thus. Mercy oh creator of benign loveliness. And then those favourite tak-tak’s also pass by and leave you to sort out the irrelevant worldly affairs.

Today you missed that special tak-i-tik-i-tak. Whole morning went by. Lunch time came and went. No tak-i-tik-i-tak. Your ears are straining harder than any normal day. You have to focus on your work even harder than you do when the tak-i-tik-i-tak is present. And just when you have lost all hope in the goodness of tak-tak’s around, you get a glimpse of them, walking by. But the tak-i-tik-i-tak is absent. You wonder for a moment. And then you realise the difference in the chariots of the day for their lovely feet. It’s a Friday and on top it was raining in the morning. The heels are missing. Now, this is one reason to not be thankful to God for a Friday or for the rain. But you are relieved. The world is not as cruel as you were starting to make it. The things will get back to normal. Tak-i-tik-i-tak will return. It will be as pleasant as ever. Yes, it will be.
Sometimes they march together. In twos, in threes and even larger groups. Then the tak-tak has its own music. An orchestra at work. Sometimes in harmony, tak tak tak, sometime with longer larger notes, ttttaaakkkk ttttaaaakkkkk tttttaaakkkk. But sometimes the orchestra is just not out there for the audience. They all are tuning their instruments and getting ready for the later, larger performance. This is when they can cause murders. takakatikataikataikatakatakatakaTAKITAKATIAKATAKATAKA. It’s a soul piercing shriek.

Yet you wonder if they know what powers they have if they march out on this world together. A revolution of the heels. They can bring the structure that this office is down, only if they know their physics right. But then you have this feeling, the beast that kills with beauty seldom kills with brain. The tak-i-tik-i-tak’s are harmless and to be looked forward to.

Her deep eyes, her lovely face, her tender lips, her golden hair, her dark skin and her waist and her legs and her heart and het breaths and her voice and her movements and her waking and her sleeping and her living and her dying and everything that is her’s. Poets and writers and singers and musicians and kings and slaves and Gods and devils. All have talked, written, sung, said, felt about her, in parts and in whole. And yet, yet this is something that calls on their attention. The heels below the heels. Waiting for their bards. Waiting. tak-i-tik-i-tak.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Incorrigibles

Incorrigible afeemkhor, Amitav Ghosh calls one of his characters in Sea of Poppies. The word brings a smile to Habshi’s face.

The word has been with him for past few days. Hanging by.

Incorrigible: Etymology - Recorded since 1340, from Old French incorrigible (1334), or directly from Latin incorrigibilis "not to be corrected", from in- "not" + corrigere "to correct" + -ibilis '-able'
Adjective - incorrigible (not comparable)
· defective and impossible to materially correct or set aright.
· incurably depraved; not reformable.
· impervious to correction by punishment or pain.
· unmanageable.
· determined, unalterable, hence impossible to improve upon.
· (archaic) incurable.
Noun - incorrigible (plural incorrigibles)
· An incorrigibly bad individual

Incorrigible Shiv Sena. Incorrigbile MN Sena. Actually, incorrigible Thakerays’. Infact, incorrigible politicians. Incorrigible terror. Incorrigble terrorists. Actually, incorrigible terrorism. Infact incorrigible war against terrorism. Incorrigible bombs. Incorrigible planters of bombs. Actually and infact incorrigible makers and sellers of bombs.
Incorrigible incorrigibility around.

But it’s not all these incorrigibilities that have been with Habshi these days. Incorrigible afeemkhor. There is a memory of the word that brought that smile. From a very far, and where he sits now, a distant world.

Information is easily accesible and abundantly available these days. A click on www and you have more answers then you care to read. But this memory is long before the days when he saw and perused a computer and even before he got familiar with www.

It was 1994. Lt. Col. Sham Sunder Dudeja was the principal at Sainik School Kapurthala (SSK). A strict man. And, from Habshi’s memories, a man far removed from the world in which the pupils under his charge lived. Not physically, he lived right there in the middle, but in every other sense of the world, as worldly affairs go. He had a tattoo on his forearm (most likely if Habshi’s memory is anywhere close). It said Sham or Dudeja, maybe Sunder in Punjabi. One of the three words from his name. In one of those rare moments of trying to mix in with the pupils, in the art room of SSK, he had displayed the art that was his tattoo to few young and not very excited or aspiring artists. But that’s that, Habshi thinks.

So it was 1994. Like any other year. As far as the world of SSK was concerned, they sometimes called it as Sat Saal Kaid, so 1994 was another year out of the seven of the Kaid for the seven classes at that time attending the school under the charge of Lt. Col. Sham Sunder Dudeja. And it so happened that Habshi was in class 8th at the time.

In the hostels (or houses as commonly called at SSK) and there were 10 of them if we don’t count Ranjit which did not have much of a say, maybe because his downfall lead to the complete British domination and the other 10 proudly fell in chasing away the British or they survived the British or so the person who named the houses thought so. Personally, Habshi thought Maharajah Ranjit Singh deserved much more recognition than that little three room shamble that the house was. But he wasn’t particularly concerned. His loyalities lying with Chitranjan, Sarojini and Patel, and somewhat with the batch of 1992-99. 1992-1999, yes the seven years of his kaid.

But we are in 1994. He was thinking of 1994. Of the word incorrigible and the smile that was there a while ago and the just about thereness and so very nearness of the memory these past few days. So he had left Chitranjan where he was with his class, class 8th and after the re-allotment of the houses he was now in Sarojini with pupils from 7th, 8th, and 9th all housed together, junior houses. 10th-12th shared houses as well, senior houses. The restructure was to promote more unity and harmony among classes. The seniors fought among themselves on a class basis. So they thought maybe putting them together could solve the issue. Lt Col Sham Sunder Dudeja thought so. And didn’t he know that he was far removed, living in a different world from his pupils. Well he was an army officer and in an army institute seniormost officer is right (at least what they say). So the restruture happened. In 1994. When SSK was under the charge of Lt. Col. Sham Sunder Dudeja. When Habshi was in class 8th.

He was given Sarojini house in the re-allotment. The worst house as far as location goes with respect to the senior houses. Blood sucking hounds. And useless hounds at that. And that’s not a thing to be proud of. Proud to be a Saikapian. Well most of the hounds say that few years after getting out of Kaid. So, Habshi was alloted Sarojini house. Mr J L Jain was the housemaster. Funny fellow he was. Habshi thinks so. JiyaLalJain was funny. Funny fellow. Mr. Sher Singh was the other teacher who was attached to the house. Now they had a term for those two teachers attached to a house (other than the housemaster), but Habshi’s memory fails him. Maybe tutors. Maybe. Sher Singh caught him and few others with the stolen rotis from the mess once. But that’s a story for another day. Sher Singh was a fine fellow. The third teacher with the house. Habshi has a memory of his face. Sukhi or some similar sort of name. He wasn't a very catchy personna so his memory fails to bring out this name. Though he did help Habshi with one of the declamantion contests. Or was that in Chittaranjan. Habshi is getting confused now. So leave that as that.

Still, we are in 1994, the classes of 8th, 9th and 10th are living together in few houses (junior houses they call them) and Sarojini is one of them. J L Jain is the house master. And Lt. Col Sham Sunder Dudeja is the prinicipal of SSK. And, that is that.

Now what did he say. That restructure of the houses was to promote the feeling of harmony. What a bloody Joke!!. Of cousre Habshi knows which book he gets this line from but its apt and that is what came to his mind so that’s that as well.

Habshi’s friends in class 9th thought that they have struck a lottery. How it was in dear SSK, as he thinks now, is that it was a thoroughly horrible place to keep youngsters and have the control of their lives in the hand of mob-rule. Not that Lt Col Sham Sunder Dudeja thought so. But then it was 1994. In 1995 he would think a little differently, though not much. He was very near to the incident that caused that smile. And that prophetic word was just hovering around in his books, in the pages of his dictionaries, the daily raddi of his newspapers, somewhere around the corner, just away from the eye, but there to be discovered. A word that that was as true for him and his institution of mediocracy as he thought it was true for the pupils he asked that question.

In a chain of few very disturbing incidents, to the minds of class 8th, 9th class started taking a few unwarranted liberties with the newly acquired power in their hands. They were not the smartest lot Habshi had seen and from what his memories tell him their lot never improved outstandingly. Not with the coming years in the school and not after leaving school. Not all but most of them. Anyways. So after what seemed like few very unfair and unjustified events class 8th decided it was time for some action. To make a fight for it. Now that was something. Imagine bunch of 14-15 years old trying to bring in what they were thinking some sort of revolution. Again Habshi will have to give in to the temptation. What a bloody joke!! Yet, it was a noble idea. Coming where it was coming from. The minds of class 8th of SSK under the charge of Lt Col Sham Sunder Dudeja in the year 1994, in the third year of their Sat Saal Kaid.

His memory is not with him now. Can’t remember who was the first to suggest and who the first to second. But there it was, said by someone, heard by many, acceptable to most, understood by few, but there it was in the middle of all. The idea of a revolution. And it did happen. It was 1994. The year that preceeded 1995. The year when Lt Col Sham Sunder Dudeja will think differently, though not so differently. But it was the year where he was going to make that statement, say the word that defined so many things in and around him, including his charge, SSK.

It, the revolution, didn’t occur in the grand style they had thought. It was not a 100% success. Not by any means of trickery to the rules of Mathematics can it be approximated as close to 100%. But it did happen. And it was funny to look at if you think about it now. But for the perspective of 14 year olds it was nothing short of a war. And then one night Habshi, along with many of his class, found himself jumping the four feet boundary of SSK. It was the third year of their seven year Kaid. Most of the fellas took the roads to their homes. He went along with few to Jalandhar. His road to Sultanpur had no companion and it was dark and he was still 14, though amid revolutionaries. And so it happened that in 1994, class 8th pupils ran away from SSK in the middle of night to protest against the restructure of hostels and against the liberties taken by the seniors with the newly acquired power of living among juniors.

As everyone knows it was not a very successful revolution. Apart from apology letters signed by parents, few warnings to all students and some serious warnings to those who were considered leaders not much happened. Though it was fun and the lot of 14-15 years old thought that they have made their statement.

And in the aftermath of the revolution, when the last of the parents had signed apologies and taken warning letters home, leaving their charges once again under the charge of Lt Col Sham Sunder Dudeja, in the year of 1994, during the third year of the fellas’ seven year kaid, a meeting was called. Above the sports store, at the first floor terrace, on the right side wing of the palace. All the class 8th students sat there and in walked Lt. Col. Sham Sunder Dudeja.

The silence was audible to all as he took his chair and surveyed the young revolutiories. After what seemed like an eternity in silence he said “Incorrigible”. A pause, a very long pause, the one that Lt Col Sham Sunder Dudeja could have pulled only in front of a gathering of 14-15 years old. “Can anyone tell me what incorrigible means?”.

Who answered him, who was the valedictorian that day? Habshi does not remember. Most likely it must have been Scientist or may be Bawa madam’s son Aditya. They were the closest to understanding the sound of that word in 1994 among all those revolutionaries. How does it matter anyways.

Kutte ki dumb” that’s how everyone understood after Lt Col Sham Sunder Dudeja was done with the revolutionaries. A dogs tail. Of course the rest of the proverb goes along.

He smiles now. Thinking of the day and how it marked the life of many. Most of them were truly incorrigible and are till these days. Indeed the words of Lt Col Sham Sunder Dudeja, in the year of 1994 said as they were in front of young revolutionries of class 8th, in third year of their seven year Kaid, were prophetic. And Habshi thinks for a while about all those incorrigibles. Just for a while before he gets back to Sea of Poppies and the incorrigible afeemkors of Amitav Ghosh.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Unspoken

...… He would die without telling his story. He found this thought intolerable and so it refused to leave him, it crawled in and out of his ears, slid into the corners of his eyes and stuck to the roof of his mouth and to the soft tissue under his tongue. All men needed to hear their stories told. He was a man, but if he died without telling his story he would be something less than that, an albino cockroach, a louse. The dungeon did not understand the idea of a story. The dungeon was static, eternal, black, and a story needed motion and time and light. He felt his story slipping away from him, becoming inconsequential, ceasing to be. He had no story. There was no story. He was not a man. There was no man here. There was only the dungeon, and the slithering dark.

… He would not rest in peace. In death as in life he would be full of unspoken words and they would be his Hell, tormenting him through all eternity…..
- The Enchantress of Florence, Salman Rushdie.

SIX MONTHS IS A LONG TIME

Ravi Choudhary of PTI was nearby as the lathis of the security personnel swung. Of the many images he clicked one will acquire a life of its...