Friday, July 11, 2008

Remembering you...

I wish you were still here with me...
the truest friend I ever had...
I remember the way you turned to look at me... your sparkling eyes when I said Goodbye...
You never said a word, but I know you wanted me to stay behind...
Its hard to believe that you aren't here anymore...
I can still sometimes hear your high voice in the depths of the night....  
I don't know how to let you know what you meant fo me... you were infact, the only constant in my life... times change and people change... but you remained the same... loving and loyal forever. I had never imagined life without you... nothing can ever fill the abyss your absence has created. 
I hope you find peace, freedom and joy wherever you are...

Monday, June 16, 2008


I have a million queries... nobody has a reply...

Conventions block my vision... of the free world I wish to see...

Norms blocks my path... I see my dreams slipping away...

The world blocks my soul... I try to break free...

but I must continue holding on to life...
Simply to know... WHY?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Howard Roark and Me

“Then there was only the ocean and the sky and the figure of Howard Roark.

I read these last few words aloud to myself, and tossed the book aside. I switched off my bedside lamp, pulled my blanket up to my chin and lost myself in thoughts of the man with whom I had just fallen in love. Howard Roark. The ideal human being. Man, as he ought to be.

The loud ringing of the telephone woke me up. I yanked the receiver,
“Hello?” I said
“Ms. Kumar, do you intend to attend the meeting?”
It was the dreaded voice of my boss, Mr. Singh.
“Yessir. Am on my way.” I replied, tripping over my stilettos as I tried to stand.
I put down the receiver and rushed to the bathroom. I was supposed to give a presentation on the design of a new cell phone. I had worked hard in preparing the perfect design which would please our client, the “TALK” cell phone company. Moreover, I was due for a promotion and was confident that a good show in front of the “TALK” people would speed it up. Now, I had messed it all up. I had returned from a party the night before at midnight and then I had cuddled up in my bed with that book thinking that I would fall asleep while reading it.

I am no bookworm. In fact, I read books only when I am unable to sleep. By the time I read a couple of pages, I can hardly keep my eyes open. However, that night, things were different. I was simply unable to put the book down. I completed the 694 pages long philosophical treat without a single yawn, dreading to glance at my watch.

I raced down the staircase and charged towards my sparkling red Hyundai i10. As I clambered inside, clutching a huge bundle of files, I turned the rearview mirror towards myself and went numb with shock at what I saw. Ripe, orange hair, high cheekbones over gaunt; hollow cheeks; cold, steady eyes and a contemptuous mouth. The face I saw was like a law of nature. Unquestionable, self assured in almost an inhuman manner. I blinked, the reflection blinked in response. I lifted my hand to my face and patted my soft cheeks. The reflection patted its hollow ones. Could it be…? I tried hard to push away the bizarre possibility from my mind. However, I was forced to face the truth in the form of the hard lined face my rearview mirror reflected instead of my own feminine countenance. I felt as if I had swallowed a ball of lead which was slowly moving down my throat, gradually sinking in the pit of my stomach. I felt a violent jerk, a flash of brilliant white light and sudden warmth enveloped me.

I shook my head vigorously. Glancing at my watch, I drove out of the garage at full speed. I needed to reach the office quickly, yet the impending insults Mr. Singh was likely to throw at me were hardly the reason for my crazy speed. I stared at the speedometer and wondered why I had never hit 150 km/h before. I sped through the lanes faster than I had ever dared and was soon joined by the heavy traffic of the main road. The traffic didn’t deter me from keeping up my crazy pace. What was the point of having the ability to drive fast and to curb it each day in order to give in to lesser able drivers, slower cars and traffic rules? Why celebrate mediocrity in the form of controlled speeds when cars have the capacity to do so much more? I reached my office in a record time of seventeen minutes instead of the usual forty five.

I stepped out of my car, feeling confident in a way I had never felt before. I took long strides as I entered the office building. The receptionist greeted me with a smile. “The clients have arrived.” She said.
I wasn’t nervous at all. Usually, I would repeat the opening lines of any speech/presentation at least ten times to myself before facing the audience. But that day was different. I was different. I was Howard Roark.

I entered the conference hall, stacked my files on the table, switched on the projector and gave a curt nod to a glowering Mr. Singh, who sat to my right.
“Well, Ms. Kumar, please begin without any further delay.” He said in his gruff voice.

I started with describing the basic design of the model. I didn’t refer to the notes I had so laboriously prepared. I didn’t talk about the design I had discussed with Mr. Singh the day before. He glared at me while I expounded an entirely different model. I pointed to the screen behind me which showed the slides I had prepared and declared,
“This is the perfect example of the hypocrisy which must be done away with. This design is a farce. It fails to recognize the correct usage of space and shapes, curbing rather than enhancing utility. The silver edges are an absolute waste of metal. The unnecessary silver paint and the dainty curves make the phone look more like a piece of cutlery rather than a communication device.”
The clients, Mr. Singh and the man serving tea were all staring at me in disbelief. I walked up to the white board, picked up a marker and drew a new model. I cut across the surface with crisp, straight lines. I didn’t succumb to any unnecessary “beautifying” curves and dents. I crafted the design with bold, confident strokes, focusing solely on the purpose of the object I was creating. When I was through with my frantic sketching, I turned around and said, “This is what a cell phone should ideally look like.”
I sat down. From the way Mr. Singh looked at me, I realized that I had been staring at the clients in a way which wasn’t exactly defiant or scornful, but had an unnatural assured quality. I had explained my new design with a certain sense of finality, leaving no room for contradictions or questioning.

I drove home in a trance like silence, the speedometer hitting 150 km/h once more. I entered my house and walked straight to the dressing mirror. I was staring at the figure of a tall gaunt looking man with laming orange hair. I looked down at my body. My hands, my feet, my polka dotted shirt and knee length skirt. I was undoubtedly a woman. Why did the mirror show something so different? Before I had a chance to ponder further, I heard a loud noise, like a clap of thunder, and felt myself go cold. I shivered as goosebumps covered my arms. I stared at the mirror in disbelief as the tall man started shrinking; his hair grew longer and darker. His cheeks filled out and the hard lines of his face softened. His shirt shortened while his trousers metamorphosed into my gray, knee length skirt. Finally, I was looking at my own reflection.

It was all coming back to me. I could hear the enthusiastic applause which had followed the presentation. The marketing heads of “TALK” had loved my design. Mr. Singh had jumped out of his eat and had shook my hand vigorously, exclaiming, “Wonderful! Wonderful!”
He had assured me that I would be promoted next week. Later, he had walked unannounced into my cabin. He looked at me suspiciously.
“What got into you?” He asked.
“Sense.” I replied calmly.
“Hmm… Brilliant. They loved how you explained what wouldn’t work before getting to your actual design. Only a genius could’ve done that impressively.”
“Hmm… er… thanks.”
“What caused the sudden transition?” he asked, his eyes looking searchingly at mine.
“The Fountainhead.”
“Huh? Oh! I should’ve guessed that.” His face relaxed and broke into a smile.
“What? Why?” I asked, confused.
“That book is the very reason why I am your boss today.” He stated passively.
“Er… you aren’t the only one who has discovered how to snatch quick promotions.” His smile was wicked and friendly at the same time.

I picked up the book lying on my bed, kissed its cover and put it in the drawer. I would read it again on Wednesday night. After all, I was due for another presentation on Thursday.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Disillusioned Activist

"SAY NO TO POLYBAGS" screamed a bright blue and yellow sticker on the windshield of my car. It was a saturday, and I was on my way to attend a seminar, "Future of the Earth". The seminar, organised by activists aimed to sensitise people about the dire consequences of our "unhealthy and unethical" ways of life. Personally, I had lost all interest in any sort of "save the environment" campaigns after my school life.

At school, students had been made to march the streets holding banners and form human chains in order to "protest" against degradation of the environment. I remembered promising my teacher that I wouldn't use polybags, air conditioners and other non eco friendly items. Back then, I had considered myself as a "good, awakened" citizen. My goodness and sense of awakening had long since disappeared.

I stared at the red light as it turned green and impatiently pressed the horn as the car in front of me took a while before responding to the change in signal. The sticker on my windsheild had been given to me by some schoolkids who had been asked by their teachers to distribute them in the neighbourhood. I recalled celebrating "Environment Week" at school. Each student had planted a sapling and vowed to take care of it. I had dutifully watered my neem sapling for a couple of weeks. I didn't know whether it had lived to become a full grown tree or had been trampled over by passer-byes. I had a sudden urge to find out. Tomorrow, I thought, I must visit my old home, where I had lived with my parents for twenty long, delightful years.

Lost in green memories, I absentmindedly entered the parking area reserved for members of the organisation which wasconducting the seminar. I looked around. As there was no paking incharge or security guard in sight, I parked my car there, next to a large black SUV, not bothering to drive back into the general parking.

The seminar was clearly aimed at blaming "the thoughtless rich" people ike me for the impending environmental catastrophe. I felt responsible for pushing the earth on the brink of disaster by seeking the luxuries of an airconditioned office, an individually owned car (instead of making use of public trasport) and wasting water by taking casual twenty minute showers twice a day. Feeling embarassed for being an "insensitive" person, I desperately tried to concentrate on the speaker's words. Instead, it was the bright pattern of pink flowers on the saree of the activist which caught my attention. She was speaking in a high-pitched voice. She described the failures and responsibilities of the moneyed class. The only thing that I absorbed was the shrieky quality of her voice and the pink flowers on her beige saree. She stopped speaking an hour later, and I was handed a small thank you card alongwith a pamphlet explaining how to use energy judciously. I walked towards the parking lot. As I got into my car, I noticed the activist in the floral printed saree sitting in the SUV next to me. She looked at me and gave a perfunctory nod. 

As I drove home, I resolved to put into practise some of the energy saving measures mentioned in the pamphlet. That day, I realised how harsh the summers of Delhi were, as I flipped through a magazine, sweating, but determined not to use the air conditioners for more than a couple of hours. I asked my cook to prepare instant noodles for dinner as, I assumed, they must require the least amount of LPG. Feeling thoroughly unfulfilled after devouring a plate of energy-efficient maggi noodles, I grabbed a bar of chocolate before I went to bed.

Next morning, I woke up, excited about visiting my childhood home. I drove to the address etched in my memory. I remembered my father helping me memorise it when i was three years of age. In about half an hour, I reached the old, familiar surroundings. The park was full of kids playing hide and seek, just like it had been twenty years back. I parked my car outside the park and strolled through the bright, happy faces. The kids chattered enthusiastically in rapid English. I stopped short. My friends and I had always used Hindi to converse outside school. I smiled in acknowledgement of the changing times. Across the park was my childhood home.I walked a little faster, eager to see the place i so dearly loved. The house had been renovated by its new owners. Two new storeys had been added  to the previously single storeyed structure. I fondly recognised the window which had once looked outside my bedroom. My eyes fell on the well looked after garden. Tears stinged my eyes as my gaze rested on a tree stump right in the middle of the lawn. It had been the very spot where I had planted the neem sapling. The sight made me feel unsteady. I felt that my knees would buckle under my weight any moment. Feeling unable to breathe, I knelt down, my wet eyes fixed on the sad remains of the tree. My tree. A skinny man dressed in rags walked across the lawn, dragging large branches of neem behind him.
"Do you know when this tree was felled?" I called out to him.
"I cut it this morning. Madam had been complaining that it spoilt the beauty of the garden". He replied.

I got up slowly, and was about to make my way back, when I noticed a large black SUV parked in the garage. I recognised the number plate. It belonged to the activist in th floral saree. A strange realisation hit me. My feet felt heavy as I tried to walk. The woman who had si earnestly expounded the need to protect the environment had ordered an eighteen year old tree to be felled.  Although the sum shone brightly over my head, i felt a shiver run down my spine. In the bare stump lying lifeless on the grass, i could see the hypocrisy of the "awakened" faces I had seen the previous day. I drove back home in silence.

As soon as I entered my living room, I turned on the air conditioner and settled comfortably on the couch with the TV remote in one hand as I pulled out a cigarette from the half empty pack I had resolved not to touch the day before.