Friday, October 14, 2005

Warm stranger, cold friend.

From afar, a ray of hope.
Cool, composed, compasionate.
When I ask you to be my companion,
Warm stranger, you’re a cold friend.

In the distance, you stand impenetrable.
And that solitude seems solace.
But when I come to bathe in that shade,
Cold friend, where does the warm stranger fade?

And yet I approach closer.
But a mirage never becomes a pool of water.
Every step is one of falter.
Warm stranger, my heart’s now cold, friend!

And maybe some things oughtn’t to be touched.
Even with time, some dreams never merge into reality.
My own fire has made me too warm.
Warm stranger, I’m not your cold friend.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Tale as old as time.

Aeons ago, when the phrase “once upon a time” hadn’t yet been penned by a Grimm brother, when awareness didn’t exist, when an apple didn’t fall on someone who in retrospect might have well hoped that all he’d had that day was thoughtless slumber, when none was capable of articulating a thought, let alone ask a question, a ray of sunlight fell on a primordial molecule that by chance hadn’t been swept back by the ocean and changed the course of future forever.

It took ages and ages and ages – an unfathomable number, and dozens of serendipitous incidents, a drop of rainwater there, a chance evolution of a molecule of oxygen and the immediate salvage of it, a mistake in the copying mechanism of a nascent polymer that had absolutely no knowledge of its importance and how it will eventually rock some minute corner of the immense universe, an unintended formation of a new cell, and the unintended propagation of the same cell, for the future to finally become present, one where questions are asked and answers sought fervently.

Somewhere in a cave, there was a man who had had his fill, and for some strange reason was able to abandon fear for a minute. For a beautiful instant, he wasn’t worried about his survival; he took that for granted. He looked up at the sky through a minute peephole that the trees above him had left, and looked up in awe. In the magically dancing universe, where everything is all about the present, where laws are obeyed without demur, for now, regardless of what law was obeyed before and of what law was going to be obeyed later, a man wondered for perhaps the first time about what was, what is and what will be, and some would say imagination came into being.

Yet one would be forced to wonder if imagination didn’t exist when one insect mimicked the appearance of another poisonous looking insect to ward off prey. Did imagination not exist when a virus found that it could be very successful living with the bare necessities and making use of the opulence of other beings. Did imagination not exist when the energy of sunlight was carefully trapped and this energy harvested into the creation of food, that would one day be broken down again to release energy.
Did the man who looked at the sky, at the twinkling stars, barely realizing that every part of the vast sky was a snapshot of a different time, wonder why the universe seemed so wrought with purpose? Why some invisible force, some intangible hand seemed to be moving the universe into a predetermined destiny, perhaps back into the past, where it all began ?

Somewhere in a chaotic ball of fire, laws were made never to be broken again, never to be remade again. From there on, everything obeyed these laws. Yet, it wasn’t a constricted environment. There was the advantage of time, of serendipity, of a lackadaisical virtue bestowed by the lack of awareness where consequences of actions never had to be considered, and finally a being came into existence that was indeed aware.

The same being now asks if there is an ultimate purpose. A science fiction writer called the answer “forty two”. Scientists call the same “the unified theory of everything”. Someone else says “simply”. What a waste of time if everything that has happened, that is happening, and that will happen is happening simply. Will we ever be able to give a better answer, one that is to our conscious mind, worth the time that it has taken the universe to get to where it is? Only time will tell.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Of mountains and molehills

“Life sucks”, I said to myself one day when I couldn’t find my keys. Why wouldn’t certain people not let the keys be where they are ? So what if I find some place on an empty floor the best place for the keys rather than the key hanger. At least, they are always conspicuous on the floor rather than the key hanger with at least 3 sets looking very similar. “Everyday, its sucks at about this time”, I muttered. “It’s a set of keys, it’s not the end of the world”,dad yelled back.

In a world that’s used to making mountains out of molehills, I stand out. I refuse to accept the existence of molehills. Mine’s made of mountains, larger mountains and an irritating intuition that there isn’t anything called a largest mountain. If there is, it’s because I am myopic and cannot see beyond a certain point. The question though, is whether they can all be scaled. When in doubt, I wonder if those that have been climbed are the ones that are slightly larger than hills and just fall short of being a mountain. Standing constantly at the foot of a maze of mountains, walking always beside the foot of these mountains, each of them being taller than the next gives you a feeling of being sucked all the time. The clouds seem the same size, the sun continues to furrow its brow, concentrating on dehydrating you, mercilessly towering over you. I walk feeling further away from the clouds that seem so cool, from the birds that aren’t stopped by the mountains, from trees that seem to be able to hold their own on rocky terrain, and I alone am sucked down and stuck on the ground.

I must learn to climb, I tell myself. I look back and see a few of them that I’ve already climbed and I am forced to wonder if I did actually only have to hop over them. Then I look ahead and see that what’s in front of me cannot be hopped over. Gingerly I lay one foot on the mountain finding refuge in the thought that if I fall, the hurt and the pain will be insignificant. Then I lay another foot, knowing that this time I musn’t fall. The way up seems less dangerous than a fall down. Few steps later, the sun continues to be relentless. I look up daringly, refusing to squint, all the time wishing that the cloud will move over and offer me shelter, or that a tree will bend over and give me its shade. If blinding light is any comfort at that time, it is only because I know the night will be scarier. I inch upwards, cursing myself for being foolishly brave, and then scolding myself for being the coward , wanting every force in nature to help me.

I look around and see that everything around me isn’t making an effort. The ants move up effortlessly. The eagles constantly soar down not paying much thought to the fact that every sweep downwards will mean a tough flight upwards. The mountains stand there oblivious to the discomfort that they’re causing. Everything else is oblivious to the discomfort that they constantly have to bear. I alone, seem to think that everything there was there with the sole purpose of making my journey harder and my final destination a blur. I alone seem to think that even when I reach the peak, it’ll be everything I can do just to stay there.

Then I find a rock in the shade below a tree, that I admit must be a freak accident of nature, that I would be a fool not to take advantage of. As I sit on it, a wind blows and the trees part to reveal a stream. I wonder if it’s a mirage, but while my eyes can deceive my ears do not. I hear a noise that will eventually be understood as a melody of sorts. I walk towards and bend down and drink the water. I look forward and see the sun setting between two mountains and the glimpse of the stars hiding shyly behind the clouds.

I cannot see my way any longer but I can hear my beckoning. I can hear the gushing of the stream that will lead me to the peak, where I’ll be in time for a new dawn and a new day- a day when the sun will treat me like he treats everyone else, a day when eagles dip down not because they are conceding defeat, but so that they may fly higher. As I sit there, I will make molehills out of mountains, looking straight ahead where I can, and wondering what lies beyond when another mountain stands ready to be scaled.

“Ah ! Found it” I yelled with inappropriate excitement. “Looks like today won’t be a bad day after all”
As I start my scooter, my mother asks me “ are your brakes working ?”
“Not yet mom, but thanks to the potholes and illegal speedbreakers, I don’t miss them”
In the distance I saw a speedbreaker. “No one’s going to get hurt”, I declared optimistically. At least, not on this bright sunny day.


Thursday, February 03, 2005

The dining table diaries

What is it about the world beneath the dining the table that makes it seem larger than the life around it ? As a kid, I found that the legs could be thought of as spires of castles one minute, the hooves of trotting horses the next, and the teeth of mean dragons at another instance.

All I had to do was move the chairs far away from the dining table, to let the air and the light come through, and I’d be a queen at the courtroom passing unerring judgment at my subjects- the chairs. All I had to do was move the chairs as close as possible, and I’d be caught in a dark dungeon, where I’d wait to get rescued by the prince.

None of my cousins found it amusing when I decided to share my secret for a good life with them. They pointed out the cobwebs below the dining table. They showed me cupboards fully of Barbie dolls and somersaulting dogs. They showed me fairy tale books with pop-ups. None of them made crowns out of plasticine and stuck it on their hair, because they knew it would never come out. None of them were thrilled by the fact, that by doing that, they would be queens for eternity.

It was the place where I lost my fear for darkness, because light was only “ a nudge at the chair” away. It was a place where the world would stop and start twirling only when I asked it to. No one could enter my world because no one was small enough to. No one could enter my world because none of them thought it amusing to sit in a stuffy place on a cold floor when there were warmer sofas in the hall. I didn’t try to convince them. No one was invited except the chairs that at the same time marked the boundaries of my world and made them boundless at the same time. No one was invited except the table top that would hold the sky from falling on me, in case it decided to do that. No one was invited except the stars that I drew on the rough wood of the table, with chalk and crayon, in the form of shapes that I could understand. Some of them spelt out the alphabet. Some of them spelt out numbers. Some of them were rough patches of chalk, when I couldn’t think of anything to draw.

Eventually I moved all my favourite items there, that it would make it impossible for people to sit and eat on the table. I remember my dad sitting on my books on the chair ( when I took them because I couldn’t remember what the princess said to the ugly frog), or when my mom sat on a piece of lego ( which was my make- believe frog) and yelling at me. I’ve delayed my parents dinners, because I wasn’t finished singing to the tall grasses in the meadow ( also the chair legs), or because I hadn’t finished my journey in the deep jungle searching for a cave that had jewels in it.

It was a magical world where everything was possible with very little. It was a world where shapes formed according, where the earth moved the way I wanted to, where no one could enter without my permission.

When the dining table was replaced by another one with bars all around the lower half, and I couldn’t fit in as easily, I was forced to move out and see the light. A light that I’d started to do without, but a light that wouldn’t let go its grasp of me that easily. As a little kid that was scared of the dark, I emerged scared of the light, but believing that I would eventually conquer it. What makes the world below a dining table so special ? Because every dragon that comes to swallow you, is only a chair.