Friday, September 26, 2014

The Meadow by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark

The Meadow
(Adrian Levy & Cathy Scott Clark)
(Penguin Books)

There are some books which keep you awake even as the clock strikes 2 a.m. and you just cannot let go as the novel takes alarming twists and turns and you compulsively turn the pages, your eyes sprinting over the words since the characters are out to save the world from the bad guys. However, this is true about non-fiction only very rarely, which though interesting, are not spell binding. The Meadow, by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark, thankfully is a glowing exception to this rule.

The thick novel (500+ pages) is a moving tale of five kidnapped tourists in the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir, two decades back, and is a spine chilling account of how that place became the target of sinister designs of terror groups in Pakistan and how Indian security forces turned the paradise into wanton killing fields.

The books starts off by painting the lifestyle and background of all the people involved in the evolving tragedy in the summer of 1995:
Don Hutchings and his wife Jane Schelly from Spokane, USA;
Keith Mangan and his wife Juliet from Middlesborough, England;
Paul Wells and his girl friend Catherine Moseley from Blackburn, England;
Dirk Hasert and his girl friend Anne Hennig from Germany;
John Childs, the engineer from Connecticut, USA who managed to escape;
Hans Christian OstrØ from Oslo, Norway, the ebullient Indophile who was brutally beheaded by his captors.

The book has a difficult task at hand. The amount of research that has gone into writing it is monumental. All the parties to this sordid crime would try to distance themselves from it; some were killed in the meantime, some still in harness in sensitive governmental posts, others under threat. It meanders through the labyrinthine structure of the Indian security forces with internecine animosity between the various branches of the apparatus: the army, the secret service, the various intelligence services as also the state police.

The tale unravels in the dusty villages of Pakistan, from where its many terrorist organizations pick up their cadre, typically driven by hunger and untold sufferings. With the Soviets in full retreat from Afghanistan, the mujahideen had become unemployed and irrelevant. The terror set up in the AfPak border had to come up with some new area of interest to keep their cadre reined in. Kashmir was the obvious choice with local militancy rearing its head due to New Delhi’s alleged rigging the 1987 state elections. Supported overtly by the ISI and tacitly by the military establishment, it took little time for the establishment at Binori Town, Lahore to cobble together a team to launch an offensive against unsuspecting and non military targets in Indian Kashmir.

In such a scenario, heavily armed terrorists, having been brainwashed in the madrassas of Pakistan  crossed over the LOC, and in early July of 1987 kidnapped half a dozen foreigners who had landed in Kashmir for trekking and sight seeing but were lulled into a false sense of security by  the tourist police and other tourism officials. What unfolded over the next six months is a bone chilling account of killings and counter killings and finally you reach a stage in the investigation where you have lost your bearings. Unbelievable and totally mind boggling skeletons start tumbling out from the cupboard of almost every party to the abduction except the victims.

The story telling is lucid, fast paced and at places intensely emotional where the helplessness of the families of the victims is portrayed. This book is a starting point for every person who wants to understand the realpolitik and the distorted truths of a place once called “Gar firdaus bar-rue zamin ast, hami asto, hamin asto, hamin ast.”(If there is a heaven on earth, it’s here, it’s here).

Saturday, November 30, 2013


(Robin Mitra)

The dazzling beauty of Jal Mahal, as the sun prepares to retire behind the Aravalli hills, is a sight to behold. Half submerged below the static waters of the lake, the palace with its double storeyed arcade topped by a centric cupola reflected the last vestiges of sun into the waters below. I had taken the tour to this royal city to capture that very moment of supernatural beauty for my new coffee table book on the lesser known palaces of Rajasthan.

It was about four in the evening when I got off the bus plying between Jaipur and Amber fort, one of the three grand forts which outline the formerly princely state of Jaipur. This particular fort which houses a graceful temple built by the king who established the kingdom, Raja Man Singh I is a “must see” on the itinerary of any tourist to this part of the world. Having had my fill of forts and palaces for the last three days, I decided to spend some leisurely moments at Jal Mahal.

Having shot several scores of photographs of the wondrous structure from every possible angle in natural light, I found myself seated on one of the carved red stone benches and relaxing in the cool environs of a not- so- busy tourist destination. The soothing breeze of a mid October evening got the better of my fatigued limbs and soon my head lolled to one side.

I didn’t realise he was sitting beside me till something pushed me. It was my bag carrying the camera and other peripherals as someone had made a little more space for himself to perch his considerable bulk on the bench placed on the promenade.
“You are new here?” It was more a statement than a question in a youthful voice belying his age. I looked at him and took him in closely. He was massive at well over six feet with closed cropped hair and handlebar moustaches closing in on the jowls. With his eyes set deep inside his bushy eyebrows, he looked more as a younger version of Asterix with the built of Obelix. His fleshy and almost pink lips parted in a smile to show his perfectly aligned teeth.

“Yeah,” I said nodding, not too comfortable with the prying questions of a stranger which I knew would soon intrude into private territory.

“Hmm Nikon SLR and that too with Nikkor lenses. Not bad. Must have cost you a small fortune.” He added an open ended query waiting for further ingress into a conversation.

“Tools of my trade.” I replied with a half smile trying to sound disinterested and not sounding rude at the same time.

Acha, you are commissioned by some foreign magazine?”

“Not really. I usually publish my own books.”

“I see. I am Kanwal J. Singh. Friends call me KJ.” He said proffering his hand.

I took his hand without any enthusiasm and my palm vanished in his huge paws. “Sam Edwards. Nice to know you.”

He had by this time turned sideways and rested his considerable frame against the handrail of the stone bench. With his shrewd apprising eyes he could have been a counsellor if not for his massive moustaches. He looked fit enough in a black Armani polo shirt with a pair of well worn jeans and brown loafers.

“I usually spend my weekends here and then walk up the IAF station just further up this road. Got a few friends there.” He said with another disarming smile.

I nodded but didn’t offer any comment hoping he would take the cue and either leave me alone or at least stop trying to converse.

“You are habitually tacit or have you become so after your wife’s death two months back?” His sudden question jolted me out of my reverie.

“How do you know about my wife?” I asked incredulously.

“I am an astrologer, a palm reader and sometimes I read faces. Your’s is very clearly showing recent grief and also confusion about what you should do next. Your thumb and its length is telling me your diplomatic skills and the love for good things in life while your long fingers show your artistic talent.”

I was stupefied hearing the exact description of the recent turbulences in my life and my general nature. I softened a bit to this garrulous fiftyish man chatting me up with no seeming self interest.

I had heard a lot about astrologers and the like in India and really wanted to know if anyone could foresee the future. Almost all the columns I had read on the net or in magazines would give vague predictions which could suit anyone in any situation. To me, these seers played around with their words and the emotions of their clients. But what intrigued me was, how could this new acquaintance of mine know about the recent demise of my wife and my aimlessness in life in general. He had whetted my appetite enough. But I was wary of some of the pundits charging astronomical fee for their indulgence.

“Sam, you think a bit too much before taking any action. That’s your big fat problem in life. By the time you have thought it over, the value and flavour of the moment is gone. You are at crossroads of your life where you want a few directions but are unable to ask me thinking of what I might charge.” He said with a twinkle in his eyes.
This stumped me. This man is a mind reader too. I should be more careful what I think of in front of him.

“This is amazing. But how can you read my mind?”

“By aligning my thoughts with yours. To do that I should first stop my chain of thoughts. This comes through long hours of meditation.” He explained.

“Hmmm. Which means you can easily find out what I want to know right now.”

“Absolutely. Your query is what you should do next. Whether you should continue with your present line of work or shift towards the more glamorous fashion photography. Incidentally Sam, your present business partner  isn’t going to be with you for more than two months.”

I stopped smiling at this sudden revelation from the man reading me like a newspaper now. How could he know so much? I started becoming uncomfortable and interested at the same time.

“Look Sam, you need not be afraid of me spilling your beans. Whatever I know and tell you is confidential. I can’t break your trust. An astrologer can’t be seen as a gossip shop.”

“Alright. I would really be thankful to know how to proceed in my life now. My wife was my guiding light but I am at my wits’ end after I lost her. I now go back every evening to my empty apartment and don’t know how to spend the night. Every night has become so meaningless and unending. I keep waiting for the first light of dawn so that I can get back to my office and start the day. But this can’t go on forever.”

“You are right. This can’t go on forever. Let me have a look at your right palm.” He said taking out a chic pair of spectacles from its leather case.

I stretched out my right palm for his inspection after wiping it clean of perspiration. He took my palm in his cool right hand and bent it a bit towards himself.

“Your wife died in labour. So you are now haunted by this double loss of your wife and child.” Then tilting my palm towards one side, he said, “I foresee a definite favourable happening in your near future. You will be happy and fulfilled in your personal life.”

Taking out a white tablet phone, he looked at me saying, “Please tell me the date, place and the exact time of your birth.”

Tapping on the screen of his Samsung, he entered the data which I gave him although I wasn’t too sure about the exact time of my birth.

Soon the screen metamorphosed into a number of diagrams with numbers and names of planets.

“This is interesting. A job offer is on its way for you right at this moment. It is from a well known…” He was cut off mid sentence by a shrill tone whistling “Colonel Bogey”.

“I am sorry. It’s my mobile.” I reached into my trousers pocket for the phone and saw a Mumbai  number blinking on its screen.

“Hello.” I spoke into the mobile set.

“Is it Mr Sam Edwards at Pinewood Studio, Carter Road?” The voice of a cultured woman.

“Yes, I am Sam. Who is calling please?”

“I am Joshna calling from Medusa Publications. We have gone through your latest work, ‘The Waterfalls of Western Ghats’, and would like to have your inputs in our next venture on River Ganges. Would you be able to spare some time for us?”

Spare some time, I thought? For the correct price, you can have all my time, dear lady. Don’t sound over enthusiastic though, my instincts told me.

“I am out of Mumbai at the moment. Why don’t we meet on Saturday at my studio? Will eleven in the morning be suitable for you?” I heard my voice say on the phone. Today was Wednesday and I would be home by Friday. I wanted the publisher to meet in my office so that they would know by its location and ambience that their price has to be right for a person working out of an upmarket locality. It was not a small windowless, dingy place but one which afforded a view of the Arabian Sea from its 34th floor window.

“Of course, Mr Edwards. We shall be there at eleven. Have a great day.” The line went dead.

I was elated. My mind was already envisioning the various places I would go to shoot the river which was lifeline of Northern India. And suddenly it dawned upon me. Even as the phone was about to ring, KJ had predicted it. This was getting bizzare. I was stunned at the reach of astrology and this person’s command over the subject. At that moment, I decided never to deride an issue about which I had no knowledge.

“That was just remarkable, KJ.” I blurted out, in more appreciation than he could fathom.

“That was my good luck too.” He smiled, humility written all over that weather beaten smiling face.

It was getting late. The street lights had been in business for some time now and the tiled walk on which we were sitting was awash with the amber light of strategically placed halogen bulbs.

I had now warmed up to this man, who had captured the drift of my life for a moment. Suddenly he looked up from his tablet and said, “You are shortly to become a father of a four year old. You will adopt a male child.” He looked up and smiled broadly. “This is the answer to your loneliness and your future. Once you get the taste of fatherhood, the present dissatisfaction with your life will be over.”

This was a day of revelations. In about an hour this giant of a man had dissected the throes of my private life and provided with a solution at every obstacle.  Suddenly, the months of disenchantment seemed getting dissolved. He had shown me a way ahead where I could be happy and contented, the way I always envisioned my life to be. Not perfect, but enjoyable, unpredictable but satisfying.

“You know KJ,” I said with tears of joy brimming my eyes, “I have never felt so light in a long time. You made it happen in the midst of the darkest clouds. I will never forget this day. Or you.”

“Come, come, my sentimental friend. You were destined to know these facts today. I was only the vector.”

I reached for my wallet. “I need to know your charges, KJ. I guess I will be the biggest billboard of yours for life.” I was about to extract a few thousand rupee notes when he stopped me short.

“I don’t charge for my time, Sam. This is divine knowledge and cannot be exchanged for pieces of silver.” Then he flipped his tablet towards me and pointed at the screen. “Could you please come to this address tomorrow morning? Make a small donation for this place at the front office. Whatever amount you feel is correct. There is no lower or upper limit. It’s your will. And don’t forget to take a receipt. This place houses destitute kids. ” Then he added as an after thought, “You will get IT relief too, on your donation.”

The surprises for the evening were never ending. Would anyone not make a neat amount by selling the secret trove of information my new friend possessed? Yet, KJ seemed to remain untouched by the lucre of worldly pursuits.

Having exchanged our mobile numbers, I stood up and held out my hand which he did not take but  folded his hands into a namaste  and said with his now trademark smile, “It’s almost six Sam, and your bus is waiting for you.”    
I turned to see the bus to Jaipur braking to a halt at the stop where  I had alighted earlier in the evening. I sprinted to catch it lest the driver speed away not having seen anyone at the stop. As I found a seat at the window, I could see the back of the  hulking figure of JK looking  into the waters of the lake.

There was a spring in my step as I got off at a busy bus station at the heart of this royal city steeped in the reminiscences of the past, but eager to lap up the goodies of a globalised world.

I slept like a sloth bear that night after a long time, unafraid of the night and woke up late but fresh the next morning. The sun was already streaming in its golden rays when I was served breakfast in bed. One of the trappings of a major tourist destination is that they spoil you. The cut throat business of garnering tourists makes every hotel worth its salt treat their guests like demi Gods.

The hotel already had a taxi waiting for me at the front door which I had booked before falling asleep the previous night. The driver wove in and out of the busy traffic with practised ease on Mirza Ismail Road, the arterial road of Jaipur and soon reached a suburban part of the city which was still coming up. We passed a few huge unfinished malls on the way and finally reached the guarded gates of a private housing colony. The sentry at the gate tapped on my window and bent down. “Address please.” He said in heavily accented English.

I gave him the name of the orphanage KJ had shown me the previous evening on his tablet. He then directed the driver to the location and soon we were passing through tree lined roads and streets with manicured gardens and remote controlled gates. The taxi stopped in front of such a house.

“Ashram”, was all the simple granite block said at the entrance of the steel gates leading to the house. I stood in front of the house unable to find an electric bell when the gate suddenly opened to reveal a burly uniformed guard.

“Where is the office?” I asked him.

He stepped back and waved the car inside the compound and I followed on foot.
The reception was small but elegant. The middle aged lady manning the office stood up and smiled. “Good morning. How can I help you?”

“Good morning, ma’am.  I wish to make a small donation to this orphanage.” I said.
“Thank you sir,” she beamed. “If you kindly refer to this place as ashram and not an orphanage, all the children here would be very happy.” Her affectionate smile robbed her words of any offence.

“Of course.” I smiled back trying to assuage any hurt feelings.

She took out a receipt book from the drawer and flipping open to a new page, handed it to me along with a ball point pen.

I looked down at the book and counted out five thousand rupees and filled in my name and address and the amount. She signed the receipt and returned it to me.
“Sir, would you like to have a tour of our ashram? Most of the kids are away to school now. Only two are resting in the sick room. Would you wish to meet them or see our other facilities for the children?”

“Thank you for the offer, ma’am but I am on a tight schedule. I would be definitely coming back in a month or two and then will set up an appointment with the kids.” My mind was already thinking of the predictions which KJ had made a few hours ago.

As I turned to leave, the lady spoke up again, “Sir, can you kindly tell me who directed you here to help us out with such a generous donation? Mostly people come here, see the facilities, promise a lot but never return to help the children.”

“Oh yes. Last evening I met a gentleman who told me about this place.”

“I would like to have the name and address of the gentleman who has been so kind to us so that we can send him a token of appreciation” She looked at me with pen in hand, ready to write in an open diary.

“I met Mr Kanwal J. Singh last evening and we got chatting. He recommended this ashram for making a donation.”

The lady stared back blankly, her demeanour changed, her smile frozen. Shock was written all over her. “You surely are joking, sir. How could you have met him?”

She pointed behind my head at the wall at a freshly garlanded huge painting of KJ. “Air Commodore Kanwal J Singh drowned exactly a year ago in the Jal Mahal lake.”

Monday, September 16, 2013


Who is a saint?
Is he the saffron clad mendicant sitting alone in the precincts of a temple telling his beads?
Is he the well versed orator waxing eloquently on the interpretation of a not so obvious part of a religious text?
Is he the chief of a monastic order with a huge following in the country and abroad and with whom appointments are hard to come by in the next six months?
Is he that person in designer robes who speaks with faultless logic and urges his disciples to follow the contradictory theorems of immersing themselves in pleasure while remaining detached?
Is he the white robed geriatric who holds court speaking to the devotees more in songs and dances than explaining how to overcome their deep seated anxieties?
Is he the ochre draped personality who explains the nuances of every mantra but is distracted by his own senses?
Is he the lonely ascetic performing penance and body twisting yoga mudras thus enabling himself to control his heartbeats and breathing?
Is he a part of the gang of sadhus ringing door bells and demanding alms to go to Benares while refusing the food which you offer him cordially?
Or is he that nondescript person whom you meet in the shopping mall who strains to get at the jam bottle which has slipped from your cart and is rolling away from you far beneath a shelf?
Is he that young boy who runs after you through a busy street calling out, “Madam , aap  ne apna purse gira diya hai”?( “Madam, you have dropped your purse”)
Is she the young woman running to avoid being late to the office yet holding the hand of a blind woman and guiding her across a densely packed horn honking office time traffic lane?
Is she the housewife who manages to control her temper and desists from screaming at the maid whose loose grip on the Baccarat crystal fruit bowl caused it to smash into countless shards of meaningless glass?
Is he the miserably feverish and chillingly wet soldier who carries an 80 year old great grandmother across wildly swirling flood waters raging with floating debris at frightening speed, eager to smash anyone who dares step in its wake of destruction?
Is he the co passenger in the night train offering his whole dinner tiffin to a father and his little daughter, who unaccustomed to travelling, forgot to pack  for themselves?
Who is a saint?
 The first group of preachers, the holy men, the gurus, or the more easily available second group, that of common people whom you meet in droves everyday on the street?
There lurks in each of us moments of an inner urge, to reach out and assist another human in whichever way we can. These moments are saintly.
A saint would be a person devoid of earthly impurities of greed, the will to possess, anger, expectations, the violence of thought, word or deed, covetousness and a slave to the pleasure of his senses.
He exudes an inner calm in the face of danger to his life or limbs, forgiving the trespasses of others and exhibits a will to be of help to others who can be of no help to him. When he discerns that the needy requires relief beyond his competence, he prays for his reprieve from the One Source Who has been running the show since the beginning of time.
He gives of himself and his time without distinguishing between the status of the person or his rank in life. He doesn’t expect anyone to pay back his acts of kindness and charity but prefers to forget them once the deed is done.
He does not flaunt either his knowledge or his philanthropic work but deems himself fortunate that he could, in some way, alleviate the misery of his fellow humans.
He remains unaffected by the venom spewed by his detractors, nor is swayed by words of praise of his followers. He knows this world to be a passage at best, and any act here which is committed bearing seeds of expectations will sprout with poisoned flowers of external beauty but inner rancidity.
He knows that his station in life has come from his own deeds and the appreciation of the present moment alone can dissolve the cloak of unhappiness which wraps everyone born here. He recognizes that joys do not lie in future promises, nor in past glories but in the present well spent.
He is privy to the knowledge that whatever has been created here shall age, wither away and die and that nothing is of colossal importance in the personal timeline or that of a nation.
The saint neither loathes nor is in love with his position in life however elevated or stressful his situation may seem to an onlooker. He revels in the knowledge that whatever has started has to end and that every life is being played out on the wheel of time, every life ever transitory, being a sum of combination of its own actions and inactions.
Can we too become a saint? Reach that pinnacle of human excellence of thought and action?
While no one can claim not to have indulged in violence in thought, word or deed, or not been swept away by the torrential downpour of sensory delights, we can in our own way exert our way towards being a better someone. If only we stop judging the lives of others and turn the spotlight on our own web of thoughts and deeds, and then gradually start fixing our glitches, we would have made progress.

The world will never be perfect for us. But if we mould our lives correctly, we would leave it a better place on our exit than we found it when we cried our way out of mom’s womb.
(Disclaimer: The picture at the  beginning of the text in no way depicts any characteristic of any person, dead or alive, delineated in the article. It is put up just to beautify the blog article)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Voice

From your very childhood and then well into higher classes you had only one Aim. Every thought of yours could relate to that ultimate want of yours. Your parents and teachers were happy to see your absolute focus and unending enthusiasm for your chosen avenue. The craving of attaining your Aim slithered inside you like a snake and completely ensnared your every thought. It became a burning desire.
Your expectations took you through a virtual whirlwind tour of success leaving you to gasp for breath thinking of the moment when your plans will be crowned with success.
Matters were moving smoothly and you were cruising along perfecting your  Plan when one day suddenly you realised that the scenes were not moving according to your script. You tried harder but things started going awry. From one unexpected twist to another, the drama which started unfolding had nothing in common with your years of yearning and preparation. You realised, to your chagrin,  the matters were now sliding beyond your control. You shifted gears, giving greater thrust to your daily input, but the vehicle of life was now slipping inexorably beyond your control, taking in its wake your cherished dreams, your hopes, your place in the Sun.
You were now in a state of panic. The much cherished Aim now distorted beyond recognition lay in its dying throes. You became desperate to take anything which came your way. The job you finally landed up with was too alien to your thoughts. You were unsure of your next step, fumbling to find your bearings. Everything now looked foreign and you moved in a stupor not able to relate to this sudden change in your life. Numb and paralysed with uncertainty, the mind went into a tizzy not able to comprehend the complications life had suddenly thrown your way.
Somehow you were able to stand up from the rubble of the horrid catastrophe thinking, “This can’t be happening to me. I am a lucky guy. I never planned anything like this in my scheme of things.” Some remote corner of the mind whispers, “It has happened. Now what?” To which you laugh and shaking your head say, “It is a passing phase. It will soon be over.”
Two months pass by. And nothing happens. There is still no remission. Everything hurts. Every comforting word from everyone seems like a knife plunging into the guts.
One morning you get up and throw the pillow at the window in rage. “How the hell did this happen to me? I haven’t hurt anyone, or made anyone miserable. Why should I be singled out for this treatment?” There is no answer. There is that exploding mass of heat in the chest waiting to be exhaled. But it is not coming out. The agony increases many fold. You shout at the cleaning maid. Mom too gets an earful. The siblings are confused and scared of you. But the pain is unrelenting. “So much of effort and it all failed. Why? How?” The whole day goes out in analysis of the perfect plan you had chalked out for yourself. There is no part where the effort was less than perfect. But the plan failed to click.
It has been two years now. You have a different job now. You meet different people now. You are trying to pull back from the dregs. But every now and then the monster of the past resurfaces disturbing the shroud of tranquillity you have tried to mask yourself with. In some moments, it seems you have left the past behind. You even pass some days totally absorbed in your new avenue. Then suddenly the beast of the past hits back powerfully. You cringe at the wily ways it has found to claw back into the recesses of your memories. It mocks your ceaselessly. It scoffs at every step you take to make yourself better and stronger. It preys on your confidence. And it takes its heaviest toll on the weekends when you are alone. You look to Mondays to escape from this hideous brute. You tell everyone that work was the recommended device to control every vice. But beneath your serene demeanour lurks the fear of looking into the eyes of your past and all that had gone wrong which made you a dwarf in your own esteem.
Years roll by and you are firmly entrenched in your new profession. Everyone looks up to you. Everyone thinks you have it made. Everyone, except yourself. You are now resigned to fate. You enjoy the perks which others would kill to achieve. But you are joyless. Stifled and  trapped in the confines of your own making, you fail to see how far you have come since the day when your plans started going sour. The credit of your balance sheet is brimming to the full. The debit shows only one entry. Your first dream.
You are in deep slumber after a particularly busy day. Its hot and humid outside. The electricity department seem to enjoy torturing the city with an unannounced power shut down. But you are unaffected. Sleeping in the cool confines of your air conditioned house powered by generators, the agonies of a suffocating, perspiring city does not bother you.  You do not share the discomfort of the lesser privileged. The retinue of your servants have left having locked the house and seen to the comforts of their master.
Suddenly a blinding flash of white light seems to fill your room. You get up with a start. The light is toned down but still intense. You look askance everywhere.
A deep resonating voice says, “Well?”
You are a brave man. You don’t get easily unnerved . The mind is working overtime. Where is this voice coming from? Has the television suddenly switched on. There is something ethereal about the voice.  But you can’t see anything. It seems the whole room is a huge void. And you are sitting in the midst of it. Strangely you are not feeling afraid. The palms are not wet with perspiration.
You: “Who is this? I can’t see you?”
The Voice : “ I know that. You haven’t been able to see for a long time now.”
You: “Stop fooling around and come in front of me where I can see you.”
The Voice : I am in front of you. I don’t fool people. If you cannot see me, despite being with me, is it My fault?”
You : “What do you want from me?”
The Voice : “ What can you give Me?”
You : “Turn off that light, will you? I can’t talk to a voice I can’t see.”
The Voice : “Is it?  Did you not pander to a non-existent voice all  these years and ignore the reality you were faced with?” The Voice wasn’t irritated or angry. Just probing.
You : “What do you know about reality? All my best laid plans were ground to dust despite my devotion and love for them. The life I am living seems to be a footnote compared to the grandeur of my plan.
The Voice : Your plan…I see. No fault of yours making plans and trying to get there. But did you take into account the lives of others which would be altered had your plan worked?
You : It was my plan, my life, my calculation. I had worked it out to perfection. I wanted to reach there. Why should I be bothered to include anyone else in my plan of things?
The Voice : Let me rephrase my question. Ever since you were born, someone fed you, someone clothed you, someone took care of you till you were able to do these things for yourself. Surely you hadn’t planned all this since the moment you were born?
You : How can anyone expect an infant to do all this? What sort of daft question is this?
The Voice : Which means you were someone else’s plan?
You : Well, sort of. My parents must have planned it.
Voice : Thus their plan affected your life. Is it not?
You : Hmmm…I see where you are going.
The Voice : Thank you. But my query first. Why didn’t you factor in how your plan would affect the lives of others. Of those people you knew and those you didn’t.
You : Even if I knew how my plan would affect others, it was impossible for me to know them beforehand. Suffice to say, I would have been very happy had my plan gone through.
Voice : Happy? What do you know about happiness? I see that you are surrounded with comfort of every kind, but still you are not happy. You are oh so successful in everyone’s eyes, but you do not care about it. You only rue what you didn’t get. You never feel grateful for the tonnes of goodies you did get. And you have the audacity to claim that your plan, which was incidentally full of glaring errors, would have made you happy? Get up and smell the coffee. Look outside your ivory tower, and see how difficult it is for so many of your compatriots to eke out a living. And look at your luxuries. You seem to have made a habit out of being rather churlish.” The Voice did not admonish,  just seemed to point out your nature of late.
You : Hmmm..maybe you are right. What do you propose I do?
The Voice : I won’t propose anything. It is your life. You will do exactly as it pleases you. All I have to say is that there is a world out there. Get out of your cocooned existence and feel the pain and want of the less fortunate. Alright tell Me something you have, which you value the most.
You reply unflinchingly: My dignity.
The Voice : Has that ever been compromised? Barring some people who are at war with their own self, has anyone defiled your dignity in public?
You : No. That never happened.
The Voice : Have you ever seen a day when you had to scrounge for food or shelter?
You : No.
The Voice : You prefer not to eat much because you want to stay fit and slim. Nothing wrong in that. But much of the population here have to fight daily which you forego in a bid to hold your waistline.
You : What are you driving at?
Voice : The very obvious fact. That you have got it. Every bit that is required to exist here. You do not have any business to be sad or grumble.
You : Now that you put it this way, it is tough to say I am not lucky. But there still remains that unfinished business.
Voice : How can you be so naïve?  That dream of yours is over. Today is your present. And you have every reason to rejoice. What you had dreamt belonged to someone else. What you have today belongs to you. You will not fit in that dream and no one else will fit in your slot. Don’t you realise that you are so unique that you alone can do the job entrusted to you? You might say that this post will be filled by someone else when you are no longer here or that the industry was here before you were born. That’s right. But your being here has its effects to such far reaching places of which you have no inkling. Every particle in this universe is performing some act at a given moment and that is critical to the acts done by others. Take out one of the seemingly disconnected parts and the whole Creation will fall apart. 
You : Like I am a small cog in a huge machine, but the machine can’t move without my being there?
Voice : You got it. And now that you got it, One hopes that you will accept the reality of your being and move onward. Not cling to your past.
You : That pretty well solves some real big question. But hey listen why is this light fading..wait…I still have one more question.
Voice : Another time…I am always there. You have to just look for me.

A sharp stab of music jolts you. The first bars of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Your hand instinctively reaches out to fumble for the cell phone’s snooze button. You turn on your side and open your eyes. The dream was too vivid not to be real. But there was a faint trace of a sublime fragrance in the air.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


All of us have the right to dream and aspire of a better future, but how many of us gain entry into that paradise of perfection, the realization of our dreams? The huge canvas of successes and glories that we paint for our future taunt us, rile us and depress us to various degrees when we are not able to achieve them.
A few of us  throw both prudence and character to the winds in an attempt to achieve their projected prize and are later burdened with the guilt of their means.
Most of us give way to the immediate pressures of our daily living and take eyes off the aim, only to be reminded later in solitude about the failure to achieve it.
Only the wise among us realize that while the mind can conjure fanciful notions of our capabilities coupled with unbound desires, the most we can do is to make concerted assaults of hard work to win the object of our dreams. The end result never was and never will be in our domain. But in our attempt, we might change paths and change aims. We are shown that while our objective was in no way inferior, we might not be best suited for that job, position or environment. The Cosmic system knows us inside out, our every thought, our every move. The Cosmic system is also both unyielding as well as benevolent while deciding our line of work and hence our aims and achievements.
Ultimately, all of us are given the job to which we are most suited. We might, no doubt, view our position from different angle, detesting maybe, the life which we have been given, but if we sit quietly and observe objectively, ourselves and our life, without recourse to a sympathetic notion of circumstantial conspiracies of time and fate, which might have befallen us, we will realize that happiness lies in wholehearted pursuit of our present vocation. The present moment is the most significant. In it lies our smiles and sorrows. To keep aspiring and waiting for a Utopian situation which might never arise (if the Cosmic system decides to keep us away from it) is to take away the happiness of today and invite the agonies of an unending tomorrow of uncertainty.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Most of our conscious time is taken away by the environment in which we exist. While some of it is subject to our responsibilities, much of it is thrown away by us on the most frivolous events which do not have any bearing on us. The details of the personal lives of other people, nonsensical tantrums of the celebrities and the venom spewing diatribe of the politicians play havoc with our limited stint on this planet. We read about such superfluous (mis)deeds in great detail in the newspapers or on the internet and then discuss those with our friends and family giving greater credence to those who scarcely deserve it.
When we explore this thread and see where it comes from, we discover that it is has spawned an entire generation of newscasters and news-makers who feed upon each other. The so called paparazzi who almost chased Lady Diana to death are flag bearers of a certain kind of journalism which find greater space in electronic and print media than ever before. The recent pictures of the Indian acting duo of Katrina Kaif and Ranbir Kapoor on a private holiday too fall in this genre of journalism of sensationalizing a non-event beyond sensible measures.
At the same time, the celebrity news-makers too make it a point to be accessible to such media persons who are nosy enough and through various contrived or outrageous acts draw attention towards themselves to grab more of news space. The overpowering need of the politicians and elements of the entertainment industry to be in the headlines, many a times force them to utter such bizarre rubbish which they would not have voiced otherwise. They love controversies since that helps them stay alive in the media space for a greater time.
The necessity of writing the above lines is to make the argument evident that while salacious and imprudent stories will keep appearing in the media for a variety of reasons, tracking them by readers/viewers leads to a wasteful expenditure of the limited time we have been allotted on earth. This time is for us to spend most profitably. And what greater profit can man make than elevating his own self to the stature beyond which any comparison pales. Use this time to clear out doubts which you have about your field of work. Use this time to generate a higher level of thought which benefits both you and the mankind. Use this time to comfort a broken heart. Use this time to bring solace to a tortured body.

Respect the moments. These moments are the sum of your life. Gifting these moments to events and people who neither care for your existence nor your well-being is disrespecting your own self.