Chasm

When the silence sets in, on a world darker than the night,
Every word sets out, in search of that elusive spark of light,
They fervently search every word the mind can harbour,
And find their quest for sound, getting all the more harder.

They finally leave the shore of belief, out into the ocean of doubt,
More quiet than happy, for, had they not forgotten how to shout,
It has been quite a while, since a smile replaced their laughter,
A while, since every sob had been replaced, by a tear more softer.

As long as their courage couldn’t swim, their fears wouldn’t sink,
It seemed the only thing still afloat, was their ability to think,
To think, over their every word, till it could be refined no more,
To silently spell every letter, till their parched throats grew sore.

He followed behind, hoping to convince them to stay,
Only to find his own tears, gladly joining their way,
All he could do, was wipe them away, and pray,
That his prayer, would find its voice one day.

Why couldn’t anybody else see the noose, at the tip of his tongue,
One from which every minute, every protesting word was hung,
Unspoken martyrs, all of them, for a cause long since lost,
None of them would ever know the value, of effort’s real cost.

Prisoners from birth, each of them learnt to speak, fluently, silent,
Correcting each other, on what the nuances of expression meant,
Composing into tune, what their every syllable sung,
Silencing their music, till its very heart quietly wrung.

A chance meeting with a stranger, led them to the destination,
And there they laid their brethren to rest, in calm decimation,
His heart, and soul, forced his eyes into celebration,
As his ears first heard, that primeval cry of liberation.

Another one for the Beacons again. This time it is for Divya. I came across a post by her titled Mute, which beautifully conveyed certain thoughts that I myself have long been feeling. The poem however left me with another additional thought. What if that person finally found those words, but couldn’t blurt them out any longer, because he was physically what the poem calls him, MUTE?

What if he could no longer create sound, and wanted to do so just one more time? To maybe, apologise, to maybe tell somebody how much he loved them, to maybe cleanse his mind of all that accumulated thoughts waiting to be sounded. But then, by the time I reached the ending, I myself felt so sad for him, that i decided to make it a ‘filmi’ ending. One of the things that happens to me sometimes. Guess that way there will atleast be one less reader who felt sad the poem ended the way i did.

This poem was titled after the depths of the throat from which voice emanates. Most often we believe that it is from the abyss of the throat from which words are generated, but sometimes, sound is created from a place far more deeper, the bottom of the heart. Such words live long after the sound has dissipated, like the voice that echoes after a long decade of silence.

Oblivion

Walking amidst the sights, I nearly felt myself lost,
Gypsies all around, selling trinkets at an enviable cost,
The sun was just beginning to rise over the last tent,
Such an aura of heavenly joy to this beautiful day it lent.

I strolled, from stall to stall, searching, expecting the ethereal,
Somehow, it seemed to me, nothing was any farther from the real,
Atleast I thought I believed so, until the moment I set eyes on her,
Frozen stiff, I wondered how people could pretend not to bother.

My feet pushed me, forcing me to join everyone in the play,
The more they tried, the more detached I got from the fray,
My mind couldn’t have been more still, in such a stormy water,
My body, just tiring, from a day that was getting slowly hotter.

She was looking at a curtain, seemingly admiring the intricate lace,
While trying to push back her hair, which was slowly taking over her face,
By doing so, she gave me the first complete glimpse, of her face,
Maybe this was what they called distortion of reality, of time and space.

I got so close, I could almost hear her, and her infectious laughter,
Whatever the reason, it was surely something my heart was after,
She moved on, leaving me behind, soaking in her fragrance,
Floored, somehow, standing as I was, was an effort in pretense.

Sometimes, I felt she might turn back, catch me staring,
But some reproaches, despite the joy, are worth bearing,
Sadly, happily, she just walked on, oblivious to the world, to me,
Years away now, her enduring smile, is the only thing I can still see.

History, they say, repeats itself. So here I am, back to Aparna, guess the while has again come a full circle. Guess these Beacons never give up. Although I would have wished that this episode was true in its entirety. It is however not so only on one point, there was no Aparna in it. That however is only what lets me take the imagination to the next level, everytime I remember it.

This was an incident that happened when I happened to visit an exhibition, and found one girl who kept smiling more as the day got hotter. All around her, people were getting more irritable with the passage of the day, and here was one woman, who seemed to derive more happiness as the day moved on, it was as if she drank in the day. Though I long left the purpose of my visit there and simply spent the day following her, just looking at her, she was, it seemed, oblivious to everything, specially the likes of me, lost in her own world. Hence the title. Makes me remember Aparna, everytime I recall that smile(since the event was long ago, I can no longer recall her face, only that permanent smile, so it makes it all the more easier to transpose that with Aparna.

Frontier

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It is already late, but the night is still young,
But my mind can’t go on, already high-strung,
When the words begin to find the dawn, the day,
I know that tonight, sleep has found its way.

The morning brings me a paper I nearly seem to know,
And so I begin writing, furiously from the word go,
I try to remember the order, down to the last thought,
I can only do so much, the fate of the result, I know not.

Day after day, every morning, I religiously ran the run,
All for this one day, when I had to even faster run,
Short of breath, I pushed myself with one final burst of speed,
Useless, maybe next year, another attempt to try and lead.

Standing near the podium, I begin to uncontrollably cry,
The winner steps down to console, saying, atleast I did try,
I hold my medal hard, feeling its heart, already stone cold,
Wondering how long I had to stare, to turn it into gold.

Every attempt I made, there was already somebody better,
And his record, tomorrow somebody else is going to better,
Is that what life is all about, always being ahead of the rest?
If so, I must admit, life is a very very badly designed test.

Is that all that matters, setting goals and achieving?
Running against yourself, against the world, competing,
To put every moment of life on a scale, upon a benchmark,
To compare and consider, before you can again embark.

Why can’t life be about enjoying the second, the moment?
About learning and sharing and improving your talent,
About the surprise of letting each moment lead the way,
And giving our satisfaction, the chance to forever play.

This one is also dedicated to Aamir Khan and Amol Gupte, already among the Beacons. Had earlier written one that not only was too much abstract for my own good, but it also failed to cover another important aspect of the drama, the human angle. The unquenchable thirst for betterment, for rising above the mundane, and conquering the stars.

It often used to make me wonder, why we need to compete. To prove to others what we have got. Why can’t we just do what we do, at the best we can do, and let the results speak for our efforts, rather than have a benchmark appreciate our efforts. Why must the yardstick of one’s effort always be the measure of another’s effort? Why cannot people find the satisfaction of having done the best we could do, as a good enough yardstick? Why must the reward for our efforts be always contingent upon the comparision with somebody else’s efforts? Why cannot the joy of watching our efforts fructify itself be the reward?

The poem was titled after that invisible barrier we set for ourselves, and spend an entire lifetime trying to cross it. In the end we will never know even if we have, because it is invisible. It is the end beyond which we can never go, and yet we refuse to believe it, and expend every valuable second we can trying to accomplish just that. There is nothing wrong, with such an effort, infact it is a very complementary part of human nature called endeavour. The problem begins when in the process of endeavour, we forget the simplest of joys, the smallest of joys that life holds. When we forget the satisfaction that effort itself is supposed to generate, and find solace only in the accomplishment, rather than the journey, that is when, competition becomes death itself. For without finding true joy, there is no greater purpose for life. That is the moment when the very accomplishment itself is the death knell.

I still remember the 100M running race in school, when one guy(I somehow managed to forget his name, like always) was competing for the all-rounder medal and had to win this race compulsorily(it was the last of the track events) to get the medal. While practising the previous day of the race, he happened to sprain his ankle, which put paid to his hopes of the medal, something he had worked for every single day of the year. Race day. The whistle was blown. I saw something I will never forget for the rest of my life. All the runners held hands and walked the entire distance, step by step, and slowly, lest that guy’s ankle get more strained, and at the very end, lifted their right foot, and at the count of three, set it down. It is another matter that in a highly controversial decision, Praveena Sir adjudged that since Ravi Kanth’s foot had come down a fraction of a millisecond before the others, he was the winner!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. Well, nobody said life was fair. But it is moments and gestures like these that aim to set right that imbalance that matter more than winning or losing.

How many times have we seen Donovan Bailey stop running to attend to a fellow-runner who twisted his ankle? How many times have we seen Lance Armstrong get off his cycle to help someone who had fallen off theirs? That day, in school, I learnt what sports was about, what sportsmanship was about. It definitely was more than today, now and gold. It was about life, about living, caring and sharing. About humanity.

It is this same feeling I get when I remember my Board Exams. How many people can you mention, who were studying to be rankers, and how many people can you mention, who could-have-been rankers, and yet set that aside to help others who could barely pass to do so. I can mention a minimum of two, off-hand, Harshavardhan Dawar and Sainath Choudary. These were two guys who could have aced any exam centum, every time they wrote it, and yet chose to spend the days before the exams helping clarify other guys’ doubts. Anytime was never an interruption, the night before the exam, the day of the exam, the hour before the exam, no time was an interruption, and no doubt was too silly. It was this humanity, that anyway we can pass, atleast let us help others also do so, that touched my heart, and even today, I never send back anybody who comes to me for help in a subject. If I don’t know what that means, I will take it upon myself to first perfect it, and then teach the person, but never send them away saying, I am competing myself, sorry can’t afford to spend time on you.

But sometimes, many things just remain dreams. All shouted and done, absolutely nothing will change about this scenario. Only new actors, new backdrops, the story will always be the same, self-improvement over community-improvement.

P.S. Thought this would do it, unfortunately, there are still some more angles to cover, so you can expect the Part-3 some time soon.

Multitude

Pushing my bag underneath, I climbed onto my berth,
Crawling slowly, I dusted it for what it was worth,
Stretching my legs, I turned around to have a look,
Nothing out of the ordinary, so I got back to the book.

Forty pages later, it was getting more and more boring,
I closed it, dreading what the next pages would bring,
I watched as a hawker passed, chips around neck, like a string,
What a racket, I wished he would just sell and get moving.

Bored, I climbed down, nudged the old lady and sat,
Opposite me, a toddler sat, ah the noisy little brat,
Bleary, flustered, I was nearing my point of frustration,
When the train slowed down, pulling into a station.

That’s when I noticed her, staring out of the window,
As if searching for the ends of the fading rainbow,
Stretching her hands out, to feel the rain,
Oblivious to the train, now moving again.

At the far end, the tea vendor was nearly shouting,
And the toddler, probably chided,  was now wailing,
The old lady, dozing, was beginning to fall on my shoulder,
I really didn’t care, I was busy myself, watching her.

Hands still outside, the water was dripping from her fingertips,
The pure delight, all the while sparkling white between her lips,
There were a thousand people, and sadly, nobody was watching,
The thousand-odd ways those drops were trickling, bouncing.

As if self-conscious, the rain stopped, she turned round,
Wiping her hands dry, she finally began to look around,
Having seem them all, her gaze now came to rest upon me,
Held my breath, she stared, stared, stared, and smiled at me.

For that single instant, unbeknown, I too stared,
As if challenged by those eyes that so dared,
Transfixed, tacitly we sat, eyes still glued,
Together, yet so alone, in this multitude.

This one is for the Mirror. Happened on a lonely journey to Hyderabad. Guess that was the only noteworthy point about the journey, besides making me wonder of the many times when we are in the middle of a bustling crowd, and yet never feel more alone in life. Of the times, when we are alone in the room, simply staring at the ceiling, and yet the heart feels congested in the crowd.

The prisoners of our own thought. The travellers of our journey. many times we have company, more often we don’t. So often we take it upon ourselves to feel alone, when surrounded, and other times, so together in each of our loneliness. This one is dedicated to those thoughts. Ones that separate, ones that celebrate.

P.S. Don’t know her name. She smiled, I smiled, she laughed, I laughed, Hyderabad came.

Undesire

Come to me not, as the cascading waterfall,
Whose beauty lies, only in its own downfall,
Whose bubbles only froth, when its heart is filed,
Whose very purity, is always questioned and distilled.

Come to me not, as the charming breeze,
That moves around with a restrained ease,
Only once does it get, to caress my face,
After which it always seems to lose pace.

Come to me not, as those droplets of rain,
Those that pretend to fall, only to rise again,
Those that seem to revel in sharing your fun,
While all the time, silently blocking the sun.

Come to me not, as a blooming white lily,
One that survives, by being adored silly,
That yields its fragrance, with an effortless smile,
Knowing that the end is only going to be a while.

Come to me not, as an innocent child,
As if waiting to be liberated from the wild,
Laughing aloud, at my ceaseless effort,
Crying abandon, at my inner discomfort.

Come to me not,as the now blazing fire,
That kills all else to fulfill its own desire,
Knowing, in its heart, nobody to embrace,
Unknowing, how tomorrow’s hunger to face.

Come to me not, as the benevolent sun,
Though a source, it is only another one,
Seek me, hunt me, find me, however afar,
Let me know you, for the light you are.

Another one for the Gazebo. Hoping for the day when people would stop associating Divinity with objects and people,and start realising the true form of it right within themselves. The day when they will stop waiting for some messiah to come and show them the way, and instead start making their own way towards the light, one good deed at a time, one human emotion at a time.

Iscariot

One by one they emerge, slowly walking out,
Stopping and asking each other, the way about,
Though they all profess to have one common mind,
Consensus is something humanity may never find.

Only yesterday, it seemed we walked a common road,
As I trace without you, the path that we once rode,
With everyone else beside us, most of the while,
The last day which I knew, ended with a smile.

I only wish the rest of it wouldn’t be so vivid,
But then, the truth could only be more lucid,
I had done what I had, my own failing,
Nothing, I was sure, could prevent me falling.

Like falling pillars, they left me behind, one by one,
While I looked around, hoping to find atleast one,
Long gone, they were afraid not, to support me,
Afraid, they would be labelled another like me.

I failed to understand, what part of me was unpardonable,
What portion of my soul, was completely uncleansable,
Why my very sight, was to all, unbearable,
Why my very name, was from now unhearable.

In one lifetime, I did more than make up for it,
But nothing seemed to allow them to forget it,
Though I reside in everyone’s heart, they ignore me,
Atleast until the day they are forced to stand beside me.

For one single deed, my entire life hung in the balance,
While everybody else watched, in pretended silence,
If it was only life, I would have given without hesitation,
They trampled my life, only to get after my reputation.

Another one for the Beacons. This one is dedicated to many people to whom history has not been so kind in its treatment. The first name that comes to mind is Judas Iscariot, someone who is portrayed as the lab specimen of how a person shouldn’t be, and the very name is reviled. The same can be said of others long after him like Hitler and the like, whose very names must compulsorily be associated with evil, else the world would outcast the person defying such an unwritten edict.

Coming to our own epics there are some names that come to mind. Firstly, and most sadly of all, Ravana. To put things in proper perspective, Ravana was the master of all the 4 Vedas, as well as the 64 Upanishads, as well as master of a great many arts apart from being a formidable warrior, unbeaten in battle. Atleast that was the case until he came to meet Rama. A person who had neither of the above-mentioned qualifications, except probably being an equally good warrior with the same track record. The only sore point being Ravana had kidnapped somebody else’s wife, probably something the equivalent in today’s world would have hardly got him a year or tow in prison, for illegal confinement of a person violating her freedom of movement in the country. An act for which he is made to seem like the epitome of all evil, somebody whose very name deserves to be uttered in disgust. How silly it would seem in regard to some of the things being done today. Despite that he put in all his efforts and loyalties into the battle, purely trusting the words of his sister who told him a half-truth. How many of us would do that I wonder? I also wonder how nobody notices the nobility in that. Despite that he might still have got away with it, had he not been betrayed by his own brother in a fight among equals. A brother whom people have come to regard as saintly, simply because he was in the hero’s camp at the story ending.

Another name that comes to mind is Karna. This was another person who should have got his fair share of praise, if history had not conspired to steal it from him. He was a man who lived by his word, and sadly died by his word. A perfect gentleman who happened to give his loyalty to someone who recognised his worth, and his word to a mother who had shamelessly abandoned him at birth. Knowing well that he had a chance to turn the tide of the war in the favour of his friend, he chose to spare the life of nearly each and every Pandava, simply because he had given his word. An action that ultimately cost him the war. I hope I need not mention him being a far superior warrior than Arjuna, at whose hands he fell when weaponless and defenseless, and yet remained a man of his word to the very end.

The reason I mention a brief biography is to highlight what I feel is the injustice by history to these people whom it turned into outcasts merely on the premise of a single bad action committed by them. Why do we see nobody naming their children as Karna or Ravana, or Hitler or Judas for that matter? And why do we see them naming their children after spoiled polygamists like Arjuna and Krishna, or person’s who abandon their wives who followed them loyally into the forest like Rama. As you can probably understand everybody commits mistakes. That’s what makes them human. The ability to also forgive such mistakes and accept their consequences is what establishes the victim’s humanity. Is it not sheer propaganda of the victorious sides that gets history written this way, that people would shudder before even utter these infamous villain’s names. God forbid, you are caught supporting anything they stood for, or are caught appreciating them for what they were, you know your name too is on the list.

Why can’t people see the positive in everyone, and improve from it? Why can’t they learn the good from these Ravanas’, Karnas’, Hitlers’ and Judases? Why can’t they learn to love the humanity in these people, instead of fuelling their own hatred and being worser human beings themselves over an account that history fictionalised. One of the most beautiful things I have heard somebody speak and still follow to this day is “learn to hate the quality, not the person”. The quality is but one among the many that the person had. The quality is one that many of us have, though we deny it all our lives. Why can’t we learn to hate greed, lust, treachery, rather than hate people who seemed to be filled only with them? Is one single action so bad that a lifetime of good done atoning for it still doesn’t equate the balance. Is one single action so bad, that all the good done before it was a mere pretense that can be written off to mitigate not even a fragment of such an action?

May some humanity prevail over those still searching for the way.

Broken Pencil

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Fresh from nowhere, it came, baggage in hand,
All I could do was gape, just letting it stand,
Though invited, yet so unwelcome, it would never understand,
While every passing second was encroaching upon its land.

It looked me in the eye, but asked not for pity,
Only shelter for a while, in this now strange city,
Seems only yesterday, it had grown up in this lane,
And today’s sunrise was already mocking it again.

I let it in, harbouring the tiniest hint of a doubt,
And watched as it struggled finding its way about,
Seeing it stumbling around in its own home,
I wonder, all these days, where it did roam.

Relaxed and settled, it asks me what I want,
But this time, it is something even it can’t,
So I smile my best smile, and force myself to say “Nothing”,
If my wishes had wings, I really wouldn’t need anything.

But the tears are something that I still don’t remember,
For, asking it to leave, was the last I could remember,
Surprisingly, I had to be content with crying alone,
Because no one else would accept it as their own.

Out, on the road, it stood just simply staring at me,
Was it pity, sympathy, or merely anxiety for me,
I would never know, because I had to open the door again,
I couldn’t just live every night, imagining our common pain.

So, in, it came, waiting for me to kick it out again,
In this matter, there was nothing I could do to restrain,
Me, I have other things horrible to bear,
Atleast that is something, we both share.

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This one is dedicated to Amol Gupte and Aamir Khan for giving this country ‘Taare Zameen Par‘. For showing people what mattered more in life, specially in this country. This was something that had been troubling me right from my childhood, when I would open the paper in my 2nd Standard and read of students hanging themselves to death for not securing a particular rank, or for failing in a particular subject. Right from then I have been wondering what kind of environment produces such parents who put the fear of life or rather sow the germ of death into their children’s minds over a mere number, that might even if true, be merely an addition mistake of the clerk, a printing mistake of the press, or worser still, an irritated evaluator trying to put a value over a year or more worth of the child’s effort within 15 minutes.

Alas such a system should exist where that was all a child was worth, just another commodity. My cow gives 10 litres of milk, my car gives 14 kmpl mileage, my company gives 12 days casual leave annualy, my child gets 98.32% marks or better regularly. Indeed that is what children have finally been reduced to, pawns in a game of oneupmanship with their neighbours. How much did your child get in Maths, do you know how much my kid got in Geography? Is that all there is to a child’s life? Get up in the morning, go for early morning tutions, get ready for school, return from school, get ready and leave for more advanced tutions on the same subject again and again, until the very numbers and words appear as monsters in their dreams.

This poem is titled after a memory of my own childhood, wherein upto the 4th Standard we were supposed to use only pencils, and everyday before each session of classes began, the teachers used to sharpen the 40-odd pencils and put them in the pencil box, for us to collect as we entered the class after the morning prayer. We would all rush to get our hands on the pencils first, rather than the books. Probably because, the books were all the same, but the pencils weren’t. Some were sharper than the rest, some were longer than the rest. Everybody wanted the sharpest and longest pencil for themselves. Weren’t the rest of them also pencils, weren’t they equally useful if not immediately in the condition they were. We never knew then. Atleast I know now. A child’s life too has become like a pencil in that box, there is that constant competition that is created to be the tallest and sharpest among the rest. Unfortunately no parent or teacher seems to realise that the more you sharpen a pencil, the shorter it gets. Alas they seem to care not, that the length of the pencil is its very life, its childhood.

Although this poem was initially supposed to cover my heartlfelt feelings on the subject, something deep within stoppped me from putting everything down immediately, it was probably too much even for me to bear. So it turned out into a very very very abstract rendition of the fight every child has to fight between following his dreams, and being reluctantly awakened to their parents expectations of them, thus being forced to push the dream from their lives and fill it with words and numbers. But not for long, as these dreams continue to haunt them everyday, in the many forms of other children they see, other children that they hear about, other lives they only wish they could live. This one is also for all those dreams that have no voice.

So this poem should only be treated as the first in a series of installments on this topic that I will soon be bringing out. Hope that will soothe my anxiety to more human levels.

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