Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Green Sun

“Papa, look.”
“That is pretty, but why is the sun coloured green?” Maya’s father handed the painting back to her from across the desk and got back to his paperwork.
“I just thought it would be different and nice.”
Maya was just like the painting with the green sun- weirdly imaginative, unconventional, yet beautiful. Her twelve-year old self could not fathom the ways of the world, but when it came to nature, she could capture beautiful sunrises on her drawing pad or, like she once did, follow a bee for hours until it stung her and sent her crying back into mummy’s arms.
“Papa, I find your office boring. It’s so confined and there are no beautiful paintings on the walls. Can I go outside? Please?”
“You know I won’t allow that, Maya, it’s not safe.”
“Why did we have to shift here, I liked it in Jabalpur.”
Maya and her parents had shifted to Uri following the transfer order of her father, an officer in the Indian Army. Nestled in the mountains, and with the pristine Jhelum flowing through its bosom, Uri was a beautiful little town. But like every other town in Kashmir, it was scarred by terrorism. A long convoy of six to seven jeeps with armed men in uniforms accompanied them for a visit to the market just to buy groceries. The only solace was the unwavering faith that the local people had on the army. Little boys trudging along the hilly slopes smiled and saluted whenever a convoy passed. Maya made it a point to always wave back.
The door of the barrack that was her father’s office, opened.
“Jai Hind, sa’ab.” A crisp salute.
“Jai Hind.”
“Sir, he’s outside. The men got him, sir.” There was a note of pride in his voice.
“What all has been recovered?” her father asked him.
“The ammunition he was carrying is in the other room. This is what we found from his pockets.” He deposited a plastic bag on the desk.
“All right, I’ll be there in two minutes.” Maya’s father stood up. “Maya, stay here,” he said, grabbing her by her shoulders. “I do not want you to go running out, understood?” There was a hint of urgency in his voice.
“I won’t, papa. I promise.”
He looked deep into her eyes as if wordlessly conveying how much she meant to him. With a pat on her head, he left the room.
Maya walked up to the window and drew open the dark curtains that hung limply from steel rods. A cool breeze hit her face. She saw her father walk up to a crowd of about ten people and speak to some officers. Three soldiers firmly held a blindfolded man in place as he furiously writhed and struggled. After a few attempts, he gave up. One of the soldiers untied the cloth that covered his eyes and Maya got a full glimpse of the man as he shifted- his robust frame, the scarred face and the matted hair. His bloodshot eyes were brimming with hatred. She watched as he muttered something and spat on the soldier’s feet. The air reverberated with the echo of the slap that the soldier placed on the man’s face. Maya let out a gasp. Almost as if he had heard her, his piercing blue eyes met hers. And his expression changed. It was not the same expression of fury or vehemence but an inexplicable one. Sad? Pleading? Beseeching? She couldn’t tell. His eyes moistened.
Maya shut the drapes; her heart thumping wildly. She could not imagine what this man must have done to deserve the anguish he was going through. She made her way to the chair, her knees shaking uncontrollably, and her eyes fell on the plastic bag on the desk. A little hesitant, Maya nonetheless peered into it. Her hand instantly reached out to a small leather purse. She pulled it out and opened it. A few coins formed most of the content. But from a niche in the front, she pulled out an old piece of paper frayed at the edges. It turned out to be a photograph of a young girl with piercing blue eyes. She had her father’s face, only softer. Maya flipped the photo. In a tiny, scrawling handwriting, was etched ‘Abba, please be back soon.’Maya pocketed the photograph. She didn’t think anybody would miss it.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Breaking the Barrier

Although the last one year has been all about meeting new people, learning new things and being at the hub of all activity, as I sat down today doing absolutely nothing, I realized that the one thing I didn’t do was connect with myself. Sure, I learnt a lot in a year - completed projects, met unbelievable deadlines, even pushed myself to the extremes to get a job done. Yet there was something lacking, and I had no inkling what it was. When in Delhi, I remember having a lot of fun, being at peace with myself, satisfied with the way everything was shaping up even though all I did was focus on the present, live for the moment, caring two hoots about the future. And now, it feels like my mind is waging a constant battle with itself. I’m doing something that I’m sure is good for me but I do not like it. Not right now. I’m probably doing it for the future but that’s not me! There are so many other things I’d rather be doing. I love expressing through writing, but did I pursue it? Nay! There was a time when I could not sleep without reading a novel, and now my attention span is close to negligible. I start reading but no book holds my interest. Six months back I took up editing. It was a venture I enjoyed working on, and although I embarked upon it with initial trepidation, I grew more confident when my work was appreciated. I felt great doing something constructive at such a level. I was fixated on doing it well, finishing it on time and I kept trying to convince myself that I had the time for it, even though I didn’t, only because it was something close to my heart. But it didn’t work out. So today, finally, I decided to pull up my socks and get down to business; do everything I want to, not have to. Unclutter the desk that had become my schedule. I pulled out an old Wodehouse novel from the shelf (Uncle Dynamite) and read for more than an hour. I enjoyed myself so much that I ordered another book online (Uncle Fred in the springtime). I then decided to write something and when I could come up with nothing else, well, this is what I penned down. My resolution, henceforth, is to do one thing everyday that I absolutely enjoy doing, no matter how lame or juvenile it is (who needs the approach of a new year to make resolutions, anyway!) Let’s hope I can force myself to get up on time tomorrow morning to go for a long nature walk – something I’ve wanted to do for months!

We all often want to do something radically unusual, try out a new look or quit a job and pursue what our hearts desire but we don’t because it’s a norm to conform to the society, and not be seen as rebels. That’s because we love being loved. And we want to be accepted. But I believe that if it’s a call from deep within you, stick to it. It’s all about breaking that one barrier.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Abso-freakin’-lutely Every-damn-where!

Have swear words become an indispensible part of our language?

I lost count of the number of times the F-word was spoken when I was watching a movie last night. What was disconcerting was that…well, that didn’t disconcert me! We have probably become so attuned to hearing swear words everywhere around us that they barely count as offensive anymore. I realized that when my dear little brother unabashedly uttered a few expletives in my dad’s presence without probably knowing what they actually mean. That only made me go red in embarrassment and dad go red with anger whilst he sat shamelessly staring at us.

I always believed that the reason people used profanity was probably because it was an easy substitution for nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs alike! Don’t know how to best describe a new car? Say it’s damn awesome! Better still... use the F-word! No, but how about ‘Wow, the car is classy!’ Or powerful, or elegant, or chic, or exquisite, or even gorgeous? Do we resort to the filthy word because we cannot think of the right adjective at the moment? Or is it because they have an uncanny tendency of cosily snuggling right next to a noun and making perfect sense? I had an animated discussion with a friend on the topic yesterday, and trust me, he is extremely generous with his use of expletives. I rephrased his sentences, replacing the swear words with the most suitable adjectives I could think of. I thought I’d made my point until he made me realize that the emphasis was not quite the same. The same sentences when spoken with the expletives somehow seemed to make a stronger statement. And while he has full liberty to use as many bad words as he can, if I did, I would be ‘un-ladylike’ or even loose! So while most women manage to put their points across with suitable adjectives, why can’t men? It’s a question that they can answer best.

Meanwhile, I read an article about a few profanities becoming so commonplace that they are being considered for addition to the dictionary. Darn, I hope that doesn’t freakin’ happen soon!