Tag Archives: memories

A Blown Eyelash

They are found in shooting stars,
and in flying dandelion seeds,
seen in extinguished birthday candles,
and also in other men’s deeds.

They have made lunatics of greats,
yet they are the power of braves.
They have made people attempt
to raise loved ones from their graves.

Sometimes they nibble the insides
of my mind, they slowly gnaw,
until I am certain that they will
one day consume me, raw.

Then there are those times, when
they give me bliss that’s pure.
They make me overeat my elation,
and leave me wanting for more.

My oldest friends, they are,
they keep me on my toes.
But when there are too many of them,
they turn into my worst foes.

Why do I end up believing
that a blown eyelash will cure?
Why am I always dreaming,
when I know that I remain unsure?

Is there a way to comprehend
if these wishes will come true?
Or do I have to be only content
with fulfilled ones, so few?

I am with this knowledge, though,
my wishes are known for rebirth.
They make me the man that I am.
In me, you shall find no dearth.

Dear Sea

Tell me, oh Dear Sea,
Why do I come to you?
Do you understand my pain,
that’s understood by so few?

You never ever talk to me,
but in you, I find respite.
How do you manage to ease, in me,
the little battles I fight?

When I see your waves, endless,
the water and the froth,
you seem to attract me
like a lamp attracts a moth.

When on a shore, I sit and weep,
how do I feel reassured?
Is it you that clears those thoughts
that once felt obscured?

I wonder at how you do all this,
I wonder if you do it at all.
I wonder at how vast you are,
and I, mere man, so small.

As if the waves of joy you carry
seep slightly inside my soul.
They fill my being with happiness,
Yes, sea, that’s your role!

When I leave, I look back at you,
I end up with a smile.
I came with little, I take back so much,
“I was blind all this while!”

I know I’ll come back when I’m low,
and you’ll open your arms for me.
I’ll cry again, but I’ll leave smiling.
Thank God for you, Dear Sea.

Stars: Candles of our Childhood

Stars. Hot balls of illuminated gas millions of miles away, results of narrow cosmic chances.

The same stars, due to these enormous distances, appear as pinpoints of twinkling light. And so distant these stars are, that the light that left them eons ago, reach us now. And in that way, looking at them is like peering into the past. But that is not the only way stars make us look back in the past. Some of us travel time in our own ways.

When I first wondered why stars existed, I was perhaps six or seven, enjoying my summer vacations at my grandma’s house. These were times of the mid-90s, and there was less pollution than there is now. Moreover, there were frequent power failures in Mumbra. As irritated as we were due to the extreme May heat, we were helpless. This was the time when color televisions were still not that popular, but I was still happy that there was a black and white one at my grandmother’s house. In my house, however, the only electrical appliance of note was a cassette tape. But these were useless boxes during power failures. My cousin and I were little, and not too comfortable playing in the dark, so we would often sit surrounding a lit candle after sundown, and this would really annoy the adults, because our shadows were proper hindrances to their chores. Consequently, the candle would be placed atop a small wooden cupboard. This was still manageable for us, as the light wouldn’t hurt our eyes now. We would sit in the candle-lit room till power resumed, or till the only source of light flickered away and extinguished, after which we’d run to the kitchen. It had the only emergency lamp in the entire house, but we avoided it out of fear of being scolded.

Just before one of these unpredictable power failures, our mothers decided to take us to the building terrace. They told us we would enjoy the cold evening breeze, though I knew the enjoyment was more theirs than ours. Part of the terrace has a sloping roof, with one half of the slope descending toward the rest of the terrace. We liked it immediately! Due to its smooth tarring, we could slide and roll on it. We enjoyed so much that we didn’t realize that the lights had went out. About half an hour later, tired of climbing a slope rather steep for our age, my cousin and I sat at its base, reclining and looking up at the sky. It was a beautiful sight! The waning moon hardly disturbed the darkness of the rest of the sky. I knew my cousin looked up, too, because we both were quiet. Being the younger one and looking up to me for knowledge, he asked, “How does the sky have so many stars?” I was as clueless as he was, and regarding his question carefully, I looked up again. Indeed, there were a huge number of them, so many that I had never seen so much starlight in one go.

“I think these are candles”, I replied.

“Candles? Why would someone light candles so high up?” he enquired.

“Simple. When there is a power failure in grandma’s house, we light candles so we don’t get scared. In the sky, when there is a power failure, God lights candles so that those living there don’t get scared”, I said.
“What is moon then?”

“It is the largest of the candles.”
I looked at the moon to escape the discomforting ambiguity of my answer.

“A candle?”

“Of course, or why would it become smaller every day?”

“But it becomes larger too, sometimes. And look at its shape. I don’t think it is a candle.”

“It appears to be a different type of candle.”

“Why don’t we have a candle like the moon?”

I was growing irritated, not because of my cousin’s questions, but because of my own inability to answer them. I remained quiet. At the same time, I was curious, too. Were these really distant candles? How did they last all night? They would flicker, but why wouldn’t they get extinguished? And why would someone light so many small but only one large candle? I continued to wonder, while reclining at my new favorite place in Mumbra. We drew imaginary lines between stars, forming patterns, mostly letters in our names. We wrote in different styles, inventing many of our own constellations in the process. For reasons I was not yet familiar with, I felt at peace looking up. The sky had a quiet way about it. The soft breeze had put my cousin to sleep, but I wasn’t really sleepy. We remained till power resumed, and our mothers took us away.

At times, when I look up now, I find myself remembering that night. I smile at the how stupid my answers were, at my lost innocence. I try to recall the patterns we created, but I am largely unsuccessful, perhaps because I cannot find many of the stars that completed our patterns. It saddens me, but it is not difficult to not think about it for long. We live busy lives now, and we have other things to worry about. Not that our childhoods were not busy, but somehow it was far more enriching and gratifying. It was easy to be curious about something as commonplace as a night sky filled with stars.

Stars. Hot balls of illuminated gas millions of miles away, results of narrow cosmic chances.

And it is because of one of these chances that we exist, and are capable of wondering.

(Image Credits: Marc Van Norden. Click here to be redirected to the  original image)

The Song

It was an hour since he sat there. The waves would be usually heard crashing on the shore, but they seemed to caress the sands tonight. Even this deep in the night, he could witness the white foamy sea from a distance. Why not? The moon was shining its brightest. It seemed to have hurried up early on and held itself onto one place in the once-starlit sky. He look skywards, trying to fathom if it was possible to find twinkling dots. Save Venus, he could not find any… He wanted to sing a song, but his heart was too heavy. His loneliness was murdering him slowly. Even with all the brightness of the moon, inside him was pitch dark, as if his Light had betrayed him. Even with the sounds of the waves, that he so adored, he could hear the silence that had crept inside his head. Singing a song could not make him happy, and no amount of light was enough. And there he sat, with no one but himself. He believed the sea would console him, but it was not doing so.

But then, he heard a song. He looked around and gazed along the length of the entire beach. The voice could be heard very faintly, enough to make him feel that it was only a figment of his imagination. But he knew that it really was there. He rose, feeling the pull towards this beautiful song. It was certainly better than sitting at one place, hoping for Light to come back. As he advanced in near darkness, feeling the sand pour in and out of his toes, his pace increased. And the faster he moved, the clearer he could hear the sound. He never imagined the beach extended this far… It seemed to never end. But the song kept strengthening his resolve, and he ignored his own gasps. He was running now, as if the sound was the only meaningful thing left in his life.

He stopped in front of a wooden cabin, and he knew for sure that only a wooden wall separated him and the source of this song. His curiosity caused him to locate the place where this sound originated from, but for the first time now, he tried to fathom its beauty. It was unlike anything he had ever heard before, something his life had prevented him from listening to all this while, something he could listen to only because he was lonely now. As he slowly regained his breath, he began to admire the song even more.

He opened the door, and the song was the more vivid than it ever was before. Inside, she sat on a chair in front of a candle-lit table. Scanning through old photographs, she sang his beloved song. While she picked up each picture and looked at it, her tears continued to flow. She was as lonely as he was, but she had been like that for a much longer time. And she never got a chance to sit on a moonlit beach, or listen to the waves. But she sang her song, despite her heavy heart. She was stronger than him, and he knew this now. For the first time in what appeared like ages, he smiled. It was time for him to sing, and he sang along with her. She lifted her damp eyes and looked at him. The both sung together and for some reason, it sounded more complete. She smiled, too. They had found their song.

A View Back In Time

I have always believed that our brain has been hardwired to compare. Be it objects, emotions or scenarios, our mind constantly compares. We are able to distinguish good from bad, black from white, shiny from rusty; and I feel this is where lies the basis of our intelligence. In short, I think that the human race is this intelligent because it can compare things better than any other group of organisms we know.

Since I am a part of this human race, and I am what can be safely called ‘normal’, I also have this quality to compare, especially to distinguish between things I saw during my childhood and those that exist now. And I dare say, I am really good at it!  Now there are some places that really don’t seem different with respect to time, until the difference is no longer possible to overlook. Mumbra, where I have spent a decent part of my childhood, is one such place… The streets are still as dirty as they were, 15 years ago; the people still quarrel like they did, back then; and the roads there still resemble the moon’s surface. The one remarkable change that one would easily notice now is the presence of a huge number buildings now. In a short while, many  residential structures have sprung up. It is jarring for the eyes, really. I mean, would you not be startled to discover a building that didn’t exist on your last visit, about three and a half month ago? To many, this is ‘rapid development.’

Mumbra is not that bad, as far as scenic beauty is concerned. Beautiful hills adorn one side of the town, a creek and mangroves on another. As a child, I enjoyed watching these hills while sitting on the windowsill of my Grandmother’s house on the first floor of Bhoora Mahal, though it is not really the best place to allow the creek’s view. The hills had something that had me gazing at them for apparently no reason. I enjoyed the way they turned green after a few rains, sometimes enveloped by clouds. And when it was summer, their hue would turn more and more earthern, till they were almost barren. My cousins and I would watch people (who looked no larger than ants from such a distance) climb up a long flight of stairs that reached all the way till the Mumbradevi temple, situated at the side of a steep cliff. It was a great time-killer, especially during summer vacations, when time-killing had to be ‘great’ by compulsion.

The View in 1999
The View in 1999

Soon, a ‘rapid development’, like those mentioned before, happened right beside my grandmother’s building. Not only did it block the view of the beautiful hills entirely, it also barred most of the natural light from entering grandmom’s house. It was a shocking change. No more sitting on the sill, no more watching the hills covered in clouds. It could well be the most shocking change I experienced till that age (I was around 12 years old, I guess).

After that, lights in Bhoora Mahal had to be kept on 16-hours-a-day (considering 8 hours of sleep). Meanwhile, more buildings got constructed, engulfing little huts and trees in the locality. The air lost some of its freshness each day. As time passed, some of my brain cells, that remembered the view from that window, died every moment. Only a picture clicked by my elder sister, from a borrowed film camera, back in 1999, kept the memory alive somehow. I had somehow stopped missing that view because I gave in to the fact that it could no longer be a possibility. True, I could view it from other places (such as building terraces), but it certainly never felt like how it felt from the sill. And one day, the ‘rapid development’ that stood beside a much-older Bhoora Mahal, crumbled and gave away.

Three people died, from what I heard, and many people lost everything they had. Too busy with my own life (no time left to be killed, anymore), I only went to meet my grandmom after a few weeks i.e. after Bhoora Mahal was declared safe. It was a sunny afternoon,  the characteristic of the day I remember because I realized it was too bright the moment I reached the first floor. My steps hurried, taking me faster in the direction of my destination. They hurried because I started to realize what awaited me. The moment, when I stepped into the house, was special. It felt as if I was re-entering my childhood. The moment was bright, like the fresh sunlight that embellished the room I was in. My joy was at a constant ascent. And each single spec of time that had settled on my life’s own window, began to disappear, allowing me to view those moments of my past vividly. Some memory triggers are nature’s own time machines. I relived my moment, standing on the window sill and gazing at my beloved hills in the same way as I did as a child. I did so one eyeful at a time, because it was choking me with emotions. My oscillating mind began to compare two images of the same scene, images separated by a period of about eight years. As tears began forming in my myopic eyes, I looked away uneagerly. I came back to the sill many times during the few hours I spent there. In the little amount of time I spent there, I understood the true meaning of nostalgia. It is good that some things don’t change.

What I saw in 2013
What I saw in 2013

My Legendary Talent

Average – If there is one word that describes me, it has to be this. I have always been strictly average, right from the moment I was born, during my childhood, during my stint as a student, even now. Some friends and critics have used terms like ‘gifted’ and ‘talented’ as my qualities, but I guess they have been excruciatingly kind. I don’t deny them entirely, however, as I believe that we all have been blessed with a few good talents. I guess I am a good singer, though not an excellent one. And I say ‘good’ because I have won a handful of prizes while in school and college. The first time I decided to step on stage happened long after (4 years) I discovered that I had the capability to make my vocal chords dance inside my throat. I was in Grade 7 then, and having sung a deeply patriotic and wisely chosen ‘Zindagi maut na ban jaaye…’ (Movie: Sarfarosh), I won the first prize. Even to people who thought my sole talent was Being Hopeless, I was suddenly the Sonu Nigam of my school. I didn’t complain. In fact, I made it a point to participate in as many competitions as I could – Quizzes, Drawing, Singing… You name it, chances were that I was in it. As my stage fright began to diminish, my confidence climbed steadily. After a while, all I was worried about was winning prizes, which I ironically found a dearth of (A handful of prizes, true, but I have small hands).

When one day I was told that a Talent Show was to be held in our school, I participated readily. Without thinking twice, I listed ‘Mimicry’ as my talent. I believed I mimicked the voices of cartoon characters well, especially those shown on Disney Hour everyday at 5 PM. No one, not even myself, knew whether I was fit to do it, or not. Perhaps, I just wanted to be different, not only with what I was about to do, but also the character I had chosen. Goofy has not been among Disney’s smartest characters, but his was the voice I was most confident of mimicking. After waiting eagerly for close to half an hour, I heard my name being announced and proceeded on to the stage. In front of an audience that comprised students of half a dozen classes and some teachers, I began my little act. Moments after I began to speak, the microphone stopped working. I was told that I had to continue my mimicry without one, because all numerous attempt failed to revive it (the mic, not the mimicry). Placing the dead microphone on a table, meant for props for other performers right behind me, I began what one could only call ‘In-efficacious Squall.’ I had to be loud to be audible to all, but that meant I had to end up sounding like a clown.

microphone-audience
Image courtesy: michaelangelocaruso.com

Three hundred quiet faces looked at me intently. I wanted to believe that they liked and secretly marveled inside their heads at my ‘Talent’, but it was clear enough that I was wasting the time of a more worthy participant. And right when I thought it could not get worse than this, my feet disturbed the cable of the then-not-working-now-functioning-perfectly-well microphone. The cable dragged the mic, and the whole hall erupted in laughter. It was not for my act… They all thought I had farted! The position of the mic right behind me didn’t help me either. I tried to explain what had happened, but the damage was already done. Red-faced, I took the long walk back, while everyone (including a few teachers) continued their relentless giggling. As I sat back in place, the student alongside asked me if I had an upset stomach and began laughing crazily. Others followed suit. Soon, around half of my classmates had demonstrated various methods of boisterous laughter, apart from suggesting various home remedies to cure flatulence. One went as far as asking whether farting was the talent I wanted to showcase. I remained quiet most of the time, having given up explaining long back as I knew it would have little or no effect. The teasing continued for a few more days until another victim was discovered, after which my schoolmates forgot about the Talent Show. It remained etched in my memory vividly, though. It kept reminding me that even with all the lack of my fear of facing an audience, I was vulnerable to embarrassment if I did not make the correct choices. It is an important lesson life has taught me; a lesson I learnt the hard way; a lesson I value; a lesson I will never forget.

P.S.: I used this title to pay homage to the novel ‘My Legendary Girlfriend’, the first novel I ever read completely (and re-read it 5 times). This novel is written by my favorite author, Mike Gayle, whose descriptive and rib-tickling writing has been among my primary inspirations.

The Frail Furball

“Wake up, Salman! You will be late for work!”

“Gah! 5 minutes more please…”

When I woke up ‘5 minutes’ later, half an hour had passed. As I looked at the clock while running to the bathroom, with my towel mopping the floor graciously without much effort, I realized I had approximately 25 minutes to bathe, get ready, comb my hair (always takes a bit of time), have breakfast, catch an auto rickshaw, reach the station and catch my regular train. Considering the fact that this was routine stuff, I was slightly less troubled in my mind. Afterall, I had been desperately trying to reach office on time since ages, in vain. I had been so unsuccessful in this endeavor, that my not-so-on-time arrivals earned me another epithet – “Late Latif.” This, too, was routine stuff. I had been a “Monday Man” (for falling ill a lot, mostly on Mondays), “The Prolific Patient” (for falling ill a lot) and “Mr.Clumsy-pants” (for falling a lot).

Deciding while bathing, that I needed to skip breakfast to ensure my rare moment of punctuality, I quickly rushed to change my clothes. It didn’t take long for me to realize that they were not taken out last night from the cupboard. This was a big ask, considering that the cupboard was in the upper room. Perhaps the only challenge more demanding was that I had to rush upstairs on a ladder (there were no stairs) wearing nothing but a towel around my waist. I hardly had any time to ponder. Frenzied, I rushed upstairs and quickly went across the room. In no time at all, I was ready and combing my hair looking at the mirror. I had shaved last evening, and my skin gleamed, and I grinned at how good a job was done by my barber. The reflection of a white ball of fur, lying on the floor just behind me, caught my attention. It was a cat.

Now it was not a surprise that felines loved our upper room – it was their favorite place to hang out when they weren’t pouncing around on roofs. Even with windows shut, they always found a way to sneak in and rest on a cloth fallen from a clothesline. I admit they had been a nuisance, sometimes, but I have always loved cats. I always make it a point to show love to these fluffy creatures, provided they are tame and do not get uncomfortable.

I turned around and advanced towards the animal, half expecting it to run away. But it stayed still as I brought my hand near it. It was not asleep and was looking at me. But it did not move. As my hand made contact with its soft fur, it started to get up. I felt a shiver it its body, and before I could assume that it was getting ready to run away, it no longer attempted to stand up, coming back to its original state. It was for the first time since the moments of my first encounter with it, that I noticed its extreme weakness. The outline of its ribcage peeped out at places from underneath the surface of its skin. It blinked very rarely, and produced no sound at all since I first saw it. What looked like a curled-up ball of fur, was now a mute bag of bones. I was convinced it would die if I didn’t help, and images of a pet that died years ago flashed before me. All this was shattering my heart.

Leaving the comb on the floor, I rushed downstairs to the kitchen. Finding a steel bowl with great difficulty (Our kitchen was a maze of utensils), I poured some fresh milk and came back upstairs. The sapless kitten still lay there, too frail to even change its position. I lifted it in my hands and somehow tried to bring its mouth to that of the bowl. As its whiskers touched the surface of the white liquid, its tongue began lapping it hurriedly. It almost fell out of my hands into the bowl, as I struggled to ensure it did not. It seemed as if the milk was pulling the kitten towards itself. In around two minutes, the bowl was empty. I went back downstairs to get some more milk. But when I returned, the animal was gone. I scoured the entire room, but the feline was nowhere to be found. Worried and surprised, I slowly started to descend down the ladder. The open window, that was not open earlier, grabbed my fancy. I came back up again and looked outside from that window. My worries faded and I smiled silently for a few moments. My little ball of fur was sitting on the opposite roof, licking its paw. My smile was more a result of disbelief than of happiness. Surely, such a small quantity of milk would not have been enough to bring the kitten back to life. It was too weak to move its limbs, the same limbs it was now cleaning merrily with its tongue.

While having breakfast, I looked at the tea in my cup for sometime. It was about the same quantity as the milk the kitten had sipped. Many questions crossed my mind: Where would the kitten go? Would it get more food? Would it live long enough? I could no longer eat in peace, so I stood and left without finishing my breakfast. If there have been times when I ran away from a straining thought, this was surely one of it. As I walked towards the rickshaw stand, I saw the the cat sitting at the edge of the pavement, stretching and yawning. Changing my direction at once, I went near it. I was already convinced that it was the same animal, but before I could touch it once again, it got up and ran away. I genuinely smiled for the second time during the day, not due to disbelief this time, but from happiness. As I saw it disappear at a distance, I boarded the rickshaw and left for work. I was happy to be late this time.

Kitten

(Image is for representation purpose only, and is owned by its author)