Thursday, July 31, 2008

The masks of sorrow!

It is my second month in the new firm. I have become familiar to a lot of people and they have become familiar to me. There comes a colleague of mine, a familiar and ‘pretty’ woman who shared an hour-long conversation with me in the cab just 12 hours back. I have rehearsed my greeting at least a couple of times over in my head. The smile is pasted neatly from ear to ear. The words are almost off the lease at the tip of my tongue. Eye contact remains the missing link before I pull the conversational trigger. Ten steps away. Five steps. Two steps. Zero steps. We pass. No eye contact. I swallow my words and erase my smile. All I have on my face is a confused WTF expression. Period.

I remember reading in school about a mythological demon named Medusa, into whose eyes if one stared, would turn them into stone. So far, I am not aware of me or anyone for that matter with such powers. I wasn’t around a few thousand years ago, so I can’t take Medusa’s case. But today, I am sure there is no one. If there was, Bangalore mirror would have covered him/her for 3 months with full page reports. So why on earth do people find an eye-to-eye such a tedious task?

The lady in the first paragraph for instance. Had I made a pass at her during that long midnight ride, being a married orthodox-looking woman, she would be completely justified. But all we did was talk about the death of advertising and the rise of PR. And there was nothing gory or unmentionable about it, despite the nature of the industries. So that options is ruled out.

Another theory could be the oncoming person’s face. In this case, mine. Well considering me, I don’t have the most beautiful of faces. Scary is what some define my face as. I agree. But even when scary, won’t you pass a glance, just for the sake of amusement? Just for kicks. Just like when you are walking the lonely road and you are sure that someone is following you. There comes this urge to turn back despite the ultimate fear. Just to kill it. I think there is. In which case, this also can be erased from the list of possibilities.

The next one, and a very probable one under any other circumstance, could be that she and I do not speak the same language. Or for that matter, we do not share a mutually comprehensible medium of communication. That is untrue unless we used sign language the previous night (which is quite possible considering that I was drunk up to my eyes and by tolerating me, she proved that so was she). She speaks English. I understand. I speak English. She understands. And then again, there is the universal language called smile.

Now the fourth, the very cynical and hence the very realistic thing. The mask. Everyone these days wears a mask – the mask of insecurity and hence one of indifference. Insecurity due to jobs, and lack of them. Insecurities from relationships and the absence of them. Insecurities due to challenges and walkovers. Insecurities due to the others and strangely due to oneself. The fear of being exposed steals the very essence of being human from each of us. The power of being social. To think of it, it is one small gesture that takes very little effort. As the cliché goes, fourteen muscles are all it takes. Then why bother counting the bricks in the wall when a warm ‘hello’ can keep you the human you were? Why create imaginary Sudoku puzzles in the air and solve them on the move, when a gentle smile can ensure that you have not evolved to the point of no return? Why can’t we just keep the romance alive like the good old days? Why can’t we just keep loving?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The bold line between fantasy and everything else...

The tea was getting cold. An old melody fought to freedom from the dusty Panasonic cassette player. The occasional tap of his feet seemed to acknowledge the fight; and maybe even inspire it. But Vivek’s attention was wandering beyond all that.

The road in front of him lay like a memory from a dream he’d often dreamt. It was a funny road – the road of his dreams. Every dream began at the same spot. Then he walked in the same direction; by the same canal; treading the same red earth. And eventually, he’d end up at one of his ancestral homes. But he had never been able to predict which one it would be - his mother’s or his father’s. But one of them, invariably it would be. If they’d been on separate ends of the road, it would’ve been easier. But they never were. Or probably they were. Even if they were, they looked so alike – both the ends that is. A palindrome of a road, he thought.

It was during one such journey towards the unpredictable that he’d come across the twist in the tale. He realized that he had passed it several times without actually noticing it. The tiny breach on the wall hidden behind a curtain of creepers had stayed hidden from him. If not for the squirrel that disappeared through the opening, he would’ve missed it that time around too. But that was not to be.

He carefully scanned the creepers for spiders before he parted the creepers. Though a renowned killer of the arachnids in his tender years, a close encounter had instilled the fear of the creatures deep in his mind. Apart from the resistance of a grasshopper, the encroachment was peaceful.

He walked through the narrow trail of ground that was the path as if following something unknown. He never wanted to stop. It was as if he knew it was leading somewhere more pleasant than sinister. The way his life had been treating him lately, something more evil was anyway out of question. It couldn’t get worse. In the clearing ahead, he found his answer.

The pond was crystal clear. He could clearly see a couple of sharks settled conveniently at the floor of the pool. And there were only sharks. Of all sizes and shapes. They crowded the pool and splashed water all over. The giant ones swam like whales with the tail fin held high up.

It was wonderful. He thought he would never be able to take his eyes off them. But he was wrong.

She was basking in the sun, on a rock by the bank. It was her. She was a mermaid now. But her it was. Doubtlessly. There was that same smile of nonchalance on her face. She hadn’t seen his prying eyes. Even if she had, she plainly ignored them. Like many a time outside the dream world. She was basking in her new-found, yet unpleasant independence.

Was this his moment? He thought. He hesitated. Would she dive into the depths of the pool and leave him stranded as always? Or would she turn her lazy head, and spare him a cajoling look? “Well, this was a dream. He could dream again. What was the big deal,” he said to himself with a mixture of 20% conviction, 30% apprehension and 50% fantasy. He took a deep breath. “Ziyaaaa,” he screamed. He had done it. He waited. His anxiety almost made his eyes bulge out and fall off. Terrifying seconds followed. Every tick was like the blow of a hammer. The nail was sinking. But then, against all the possible odds of heaven and hell, she turned. She looked at him for a couple of seconds; to him they were a million years. And she smiled. Flowers bloomed. The sun shot up. The seal on a bottle of rum broke. He was immortal.

In the real world however, things were quite different. He knew exactly where the road led. Winding by the thick mulberry bushes and the thorny fence; shouldering the toddy shop at the sharp turn; sliding by the thirsty river, it led to where his eyes were set. He got up slowly, emptied the cup in a gulp and looked at the watch. It was about time.