Monday, January 20, 2014

The Conflict

A beautiful moon, a starlit sky;
All the best things of things gone by.
A laughing face,
No worries, not a trace.

What happened then to those days?
Why did you leave that beautiful place?
So eagerly, in search of more,
Looking behind door after door.

And one day you circled back,
Feet weary, hauling a torn up sack;
You came back to where you started from,
Couldn’t walk back in, but lingered some.

Watched through the glazed window,
The warmth inside, memories of long ago;
You yearn, you moan, you try to recreate,
You try, you fail and curse your fate!

You ask yourself why, and where and how,
Your tears fall free, and head bows.
Was it wrong to leave that moment behind?
With all its perfection, will there ever be another of its kind?

Look down at the fog that is today,
Carelessly, stepped into while your eyes were astray.
Looking back, unseeingly, at that memory long gone,
That perfect moment, that day, that dawn.

Now do you blame Fate, who can only lead the way?
What could She do, if you were looking away?
Another dark thought, that of guilt,
Hanging over you like a leaden quilt.

So it’s my fault, is it?
That in my sadness I sit.
Wondering where all the light went?
Those angels, those smiles that God had sent?

Don’t pause, don’t stop!
Go on and on, chop, chop, chop!
Have you never looked back and seen how far you have come?
How much you have walked, flown and swum?

You looked, but never looked away.
You walk backwards and sway!

What point is it, looking forward?
Am I not blind to what comes onward?

And please don’t beg me to live in the present!
Enjoy every minute that God has lent;
When each minute is busy ticking into the past,
Walking backwards, indeed! All too fast!

So what do you suggest should be done?
The past, present and future are one!
I walk backwards, I can still see someone,
Moments I loved, even if they are done!

Walk forwards, head held high,
Drink in every sadness, and let it out in a sigh.
Those were beautiful moments, unforgettable were some!
But always remember the masterpiece is yet to come.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Supermarket

I don't know how I got there. I'm not at all sure what I was doing there. A loud beep woke me out of my pondering.

"Staff announcement.. Request clothing department team to report to sales head immediately.. I repeat! Staff announcement..."

The bored voice that was speaking was fading into the background as I noticed my surroundings. I was in a supermarket. A loud red and green sign caught my eye.


I was in a 'Hypermarket'. In the dry fruits section. I was also suddenly aware that I was holding the cold handle of a grimy shopping cart with one hand and a packet of cashews in my other. Looking around I noticed that everyone was busy bustling around picking up items, debating prices, talking on their respective mobile phones. I let my eyes wander around, following a toddler enjoying a ride in his dad's shopping cart.A teen was staring out of zombie eyes, pretending to listen to his mom through the loud blaring of black metal on his earphones and consumerism at its best, in general, was in action all around me. It occurs to me that everyone around me is buying stuff. Ergo, I must be here to buy something. D'uh. If only I could figure out what it was.

I might as well get the cashews, I thought and plopped them into my cart. Probably moving through the store would jog my memory. The next aisle had chips, eateries, canned juices, juices in tetrapacks - the whole snacking deal. A couple with a baby was here, comparing prices between two juice brands. I moved on to the next aisle just struggling to steer my cart around theirs.

Two minutes of oh-so-exciting suspense and voila! I'm at the breakfast aisle. Cereal, bran flakes, oatmeal, idly mixes, instant dosa mixes, dehydrated fruits? Ok, we get it. The WHOLE deal. But do I need any of that? I decided a little cereal couldn't hurt.The next minute I'm having a staring contest with the 20 something brands of cereal that were gathering dust a good few metres into the aisle. Spending 15 minutes in the breakfast aisle, I have narrowed down to 2 cereal boxes. I grab them both thinking I'll filter it down later and row my cart further down.

Half an hour down the line, I realise, the breakfast cereal drill was repeating all around me. Move. Stop. Look. Compare. Get Confused. Buy or chuck a couple of options into the cart to decide on later. Move again. Its like the whole crowd is enchanted by the same spell. The same expressions flitting on each and every face over and over again, aisle after aisle.

My companion, the shopping cart, which was getting quite full by now was creaking ahead of me. Clearing my path, bumping into obstacles now and then and making me stop to think I need another item I suddenly spot near my right hand or my left leg that I had not thought of a moment ago. Waiting in the line for the weighing scale, I had a sudden unexpected moment of clarity and I wondered for a second, who or what was I shopping for? The thought suddenly depressed me and made me feel sad, lonely and tired. Exhausted. The whole dance of walking through never ending aisles of items from a kazillion brands that seem all to be the best of their kind, not knowing which one to choose, not knowing which one is going to be a blunder, comparing confusedly and finally squinting at the products blank minded, and hoping badly that humans were able to see the future or make decisions in a split second was -well - exhausting. I was drained, lost, and not at all sure whether I had made all the right decisions. Sure, there was that sweet girl who helped me pick out the *perfect* curtains. But doesn't she get a commission for that work? Its her job to make you pick something out. How do you know which ones to really pick, which ones are really good and even if they are all the best, whether you really need them or not?

"That would be about 1.6 Kg, ma'am. Would you like me to make it 2 Kgs?"

A handsome man at the weighing scale was pointing to the set of oranges I had picked out. Oh, it was my turn already. He seemed so friendly, with his crinkly eyes and the simplest smile I have seen in the whole place. I refuse his offer, though, thanks to my recent reconsideration.

Creaking on forward, I find the travellator. There was a small line forming to get on to it. An old lady was having trouble absorbing the fact that this here was a piece of sloping floor that moved by itself. "What if I slip? What if it swallows up the end of my dress??" She demanded answers from an exasperated attendant. Finally, people started moving around her as she gripped the handle of her shopping cart as if holding onto dear life. Murmurings, laughter and  looks of pity went out her way. I'm not sure what the expression was on my face.

At the end of the travellator, and at the end of a long series of advertisements pasted all along the two walls, a man was helping everyone get off safely with their shopping carts. How strange. I wondered if this was his job all day along. I could envision someone arranging the various items on the aisles, ordering them, billing them, cleaning everyone else's messes, but just standing around helping..? That's very rare and unbelievable!

On the way to the billing counter, I found so many products on display it was almost painful. It was as if there were 'strategically positioned' to attract consumers on their way out to being tricked into feeling like they needed one of those. I think I my brainwaves caught an echo from one of the marketing meetings held in some unseen conference room in there. Or its that glaringly obvious. Maybe a little of both.

At the billing counter I see the couple with the baby from the juice aisle, a cute looking guy I bumped shopping carts with at the fruit section and a really bored sales executive. The cute guy was just collecting his purchases and looked at me, a one last look before leaving. Why'd I meet him, never to talk, just to exchange a couple of meaningless looks and wonder forever as to what that was?

My eyes follow his back to the exit. A man sat by the exit, recently billed, he was looking intently at the bill. It occurred to me that he was counting the items he had purchased and trying to figure out whether he had been billed for something he had not carted. He was now counting on his wrinkled fingers and squinting through his thick reading glasses trying to figure out whether the total was correct or not. A sudden wave of sympathy went out to him in my mind. Did I even think before I carted even the most expensive item on my cart? Would I one day be sitting there in that seat, wrinkly eyed, shaking hands, trying to save an insignificant penny?

Beep. Beep. Beep. My billing had begun. The items I had carted were being fished out and passed through a laser. Tags read and entered into the bill. Accounted for. Next the items were all collected into a polythene cover and handed to me with a smile. I walked a few steps and looked down at my bundle. My collection. My bulging shopping bag full of stuff I did not know whether I fully needed. It was slowing me down as I hauled it to the exit and handed my bill out to a sinister looking security guard who punched it through ominously like passing a sentence. I looked back at the hypermarket before I walked out into the bright daylight. Shiny marble floors, full of choices, befuddled and lost people that you met randomly, who took away a lot of things that they really did not need and some others who couldn't even afford what the needed and, bored attendants who could not care less, an ever increasing sense of burden, a vision of the future and finally an exit sign glowing bright green ahead of you. Every SMS joke I had ever read about life being compared to ice creams, potatoes, tomatoes and what's nots came to mind.

The best joke ever? Life's a supermarket.



-me ;)

Monday, May 21, 2012

The View from the Other Side

Evening dawned. Lacy veils sailed across the Sun and the whole world blushed a delicate pink. In all this drama, another epic of a different kind played itself out like clockwork. A grey office building, quiet and seemingly abandoned sprang to life like a nocturnal animal rousing itself from slumber. People milled out like bees from a troubled hive. A hoard of buses stampeded into the campus and stood staring at the crowd rushing about to find their seats. They awaited the arrival of their occupants impatiently, growling. Vehicles whizzed in and out of a poor gate that stood by and wondered what the hurry is all about.
This was a daily scene to my eyes. I watched as the watchmen blew their whistles; I watched as people watched other people run about from the high bus windows. I watched as my bus got fuller and fuller with every hurried step I took.
As I jumped up the last step that propelled me into the bus which was picking up speed, I knew it was already late. My seat by the window on the right side, with just the right amount of wind, and the right distance from the exit was taken. I always thought that the phrase “Shakespearean tragedy” was meant for something that involved a lot of funny sounding words and a sad thing that really wasn’t all that sad. But somehow, minus the funny sounding words, here was one. To my further dismay, and a small (very small) percentage of relief, I found a seat on the left side of the bus, at the very end, next to a permanently yawning window.
I sat by my new discovery, quite tired. A whirlwind of thoughts blew as a tycoon in my mind. The most prominent one being that this was the wrong side of the bus. As the road flew past, with all the buildings I knew, on the other side, I grew even further vexed. I closed my eyes in that next second, cursing inertia that pulled and pushed at me, in all the wrong directions.
Cue 1: The honk of the bus horn by an irritated bus driver at the first traffic signal.
I heard it from afar. As if from in the dreams I had almost slipped into. Or perhaps it was just the distance from the engine that made it seem so. (That was so wrong!)
 Opening my eyes, I saw the familiar haze of smog that escapes a traffic jam. Trapped within it however, the many vehicles around me floated in the miasma. Quite as helpless as plankton caught in a current. From my vantage point, I saw what was left of the sun shining out onto the traffic, smiling. Maybe it was amusing for him to feel superior enough to never have to face a traffic jam himself! A glint of reflected light caught my attention. It was coming off a handheld mirror in the auto next to me. A girl, or a woman maybe, was touching up her make-up. She wore a pair of blue shorts, a pale yellow shirt on top and a lot of beads. The tips of her hair were curly but that’s about all I could see of her head. Trendy blue nail paint on fingers and toes and rockster slippers completed her outfit. No matter how hard I craned my neck to complete my vision of her, I was left stranded without the advantage of an adjustable seat like the one I normally occupied in office. All I saw of her face was a blue-smudged eye liner and a glistening tear sliding down her ear phones..
And I closed my eyes once more.
Cue 2 : The jerk of brakes at my favourite traffic signal.
I had been tracing the route in my mind. We had arrived at the fabled café of yore. The one I always saw from the other side of the bus. Strange, it had always seemed so far away and never quite as high-resolution as now. Twilight had arrived and soft red lights were hanging over tables in the café. I found it deserted. Even the television inside seemed to be on mute. Only one table was occupied. An old man by the counter was eyeing the table. But blissfully unaware of this and everything else, the couple there sat immersed in each other’s shining eyes. A steaming coffee lay in between them, untouched, holding it’s breath. The tissues, the spoons and even the useless forks and knives were gallantly playing out their parts as excuses for hands to meet. The silly little napkin spread out its wings at the first opportunity, to play cupid. Both of them fell for it. In the dive to save the napkin, they banged their heads against each other. And suddenly, the café was echoing with laughter, and the old man was smiling reminiscently at the coffee machine.
A vein seemed to have taken to throbbing by my temple by then. I retreated once more into my tycoon of thoughts, closing my eyes on my way in.
Cue 3: Water from god-knows-where struck my face, quite rudely jerking me back from my slumber.
 I remember thinking that this was really the most horrid side of the bus. It was already dark by now, and the bus was following another vehicles bumper at a snail’s crawl. I saw a house right beside me. So close, I could have stepped in if the window allowed it. It was a small house with no space even for electric lights. Shrouded in darkness, a family sat by the footstep that lead in. The mother and her daughter sat pre-occupied. The former being busy with her motherly duties of worrying after her daughter’s beauty, was combing through her hair diligently. The father and son had their hands busy at a pottery wheel, moulding and shaping a beautiful pot out of thin air. Wherefrom they had the light to see how their work was turning out was beyond me. I squinted and squinted to catch a closer sight of their handiwork. All I could see was a warm little light, a flame: fed and protected all night, I’m sure. And I watched it burning away in front of a shrine: a small glass frame, a tiny photo of God, a couple of flowers in a small dark house by the side of the road: all from the wrong side of the bus.
Cue 4: My stop.
I stood up, stretched and observed the general etiquette of waiting impatiently by the side of the engine as the bus drew to a halt at my stop. I got down to almost step on the broom an old lady was using to sweep up the debris left behind by the wind. She looked at me with her wise wrinkles and sighed away. The bus ride having ended, my feeling of unfamiliarity with the world ceased. My head was oddly clear and silent. And as I stood there waiting to cross the road, watching the old lady gather troops of leaves, looking at an old gentleman sitting by himself at bus stop, a newspaper in hand, I realised something that not everyone might easily understand. The whole world rushes about busy with its own sense of being busy, quite unaware of things around it. Sometimes, a meaningless array of unconnected images, incomplete and yet, potent in their own right, can inspire an infinite calm of understanding and familiarity.
 A few drops of rain began to splash down upon the road. The old lady hobbled up to the bus shelter. The man unfolded his newspaper and shelved it into halves. Handing one half to his broom wielding neighbour, he sat back down on his seat settling to watch the world again. I smiled as I glimpsed my seat on the wrong side of the retreating bus. With my new found eyes- the gift of a bus ride that was supposed to be all wrong- I walked off into the rain.