Thirty And Me

Keep Calm Turning 30

At precisely 42 seconds past 5.30 PM this evening (on Aug 20, 2014) the Earth will complete it’s thirtieth revolution around the Sun with me on it. I have spent the past four hours reading about what it means to people when they exit their twenties.

Turning 30 is supposed to be a big deal, an achievement of sorts, having survived tsunamis, earthquakes, riots, murderers, diseases, ninja assassins and of course, traffic. It is also supposed to signify the fact that I’ve officially a grown up and cannot rely on my youthful ignorance as an excuse when I screw up. I am supposed to be responsible, financially and emotionally stable, be able to hold down a job for more than three months and not throw boogers at passersby. I am not supposed to scratch my balls in public and have random fits of paranoia causing me to run down the road naked, dodging invisible aliens. I am supposed to be mature enough to realize the difference between right and wrong, morals and immorality, black, white and grey, and most importantly, coffee and tea.

I am supposed to start leading a healthier lifestyle – no more smoking, no more drinking binges and definitely no more weed. I am supposed to drink lots of water and work out regularly to ensure that my first heart attack happens only three decades from now.

I am supposed to be a strong pillar of support for my parents, be able to provide a good quality of life for my wife and be a responsible role model for my younger brother. I am supposed to be mentally strong to deal with the real world and I am not supposed to get depressed with the fact that I am growing old and am one year closer to death.

When I look back on the things I’ve done during the past three decades, I am surprised at the level of ignorance, insensitivity and intolerable cruelty¬†that I have exhibited at times. I am also surprised at some of the intelligent decisions I’ve taken, something I was not sure I was capable of.

I’ve alienated people, I’ve infuriated those who love me and I’ve driven others to murderous rage. I can think of people who would put a bullet through me right now given the chance. I can think of people who would walk past me on the street and pretend to not recognize me. I can think of people who would smile at me and stab me in the back with the metaphorical knife when I turn around. But I can also think of people who would love me unconditionally and take me in as a part of their family. I can think of hundreds of people who would still acknowledge my existence without any animosity.

In a world filled with hate and anger, where people are being slaughtered each minute, the fact that one insignificant boy in Bangalore has grown up and turned thirty should not make a difference. But when I look at the journey I’ve been through to get here, I am overwhelmed. I am moved to tears at the kind of experiences I’ve had – the good, the bad and the ugly ones.

We all have fantastic experiences in our lives every day. Each moment of joy we experience means so much to us that it’s hard to imagine hordes of such people being killed. Millions of dreams and hopes being crushed every single minute by people pursuing theirs. I ask myself if it’s all worth it. Is it worth having a really ‘happy’ birthday when there is so much grief all around us. Or maybe, these tiny sparks of happiness keep the world turning.

We are all allowed meaningless rants straight from the heart, once a year. Today is my turn. As I see the clock inch closer and closer to the hallowed hour, I am filled with a little hope about hope.

Image Courtesy: keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

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The Christmas Nightmare

scary santa penguinEvery year, around Christmas, I am blessed with a nightmare or two about things that truly scare the shit out of me.

Very few things scare me as much as penguins do. Yeah, it’s a rare phobia to have, and I am one of those very few people in the world who are afraid of the flightless demons. They are evil and they won’t hesitate to kill you and eat you, every chance they get. They walk like they are on a mission to hunt you down and their stare is enough to turn your blood cold.

Last evening, I had one of my frequent penguin nightmares. But it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I dreamt that I was being hunted by a penguin dressed as Santa Claus.

I found myself in a strange room with three doors and no windows. A loud, disembodied voice called out to me, “Ho! Ho! Ho! Nikhil!”

More intrigued than scared, I looked around the room frantically to locate the voice. From somewhere, a draft of cold air blew threw me and I shivered involuntarily. That’s why I realized I was naked. There were absolutely no clothes on me at all. I tried to search for the source of the breeze but couldn’t find any. There were no windows, as mentioned, and no vents or cracks in the wall. There was no furniture, no electric sockets or appliances of any kind. Despite the lack of light bulbs or any other artificial source of lights, the bare room was strangely illuminated in natural light. I wondered what the hell was going on.

“Ho! Ho! Ho!” came the voice again. It was a deep, guttural voice that was a bit menacing as well.

“Santa?” I whispered.

“Have you been a good boy this year?” asked the voice in a lilting tone, as if daring me to say yes.

“Wh.. What? Yes! Yes, I’ve been a good boy!” I stammered, now thoroughly scared. I could feel my bladder filling up.

“Liar!” screamed the voice. “You’re a liar!”

“No, No! I swear!” I yelled back.

Then, the door on the far right flew open with a bang and I couldn’t see beyond the darkness of the doorway.

“Run,” said the voice simply.

I stood there, frozen on the spot. Where was I? What was going on? I took a gingerly step towards the open door when the door on the far left flung open and there, framed in the dark doorway, stood a penguin, three and a half feet tall, wearing a blood-red Santa hat and brandishing a gleaming knife. It had a sneer on its face that almost seemed to tell me that my time was up.

It waddled towards me in the sinister way that penguins do, and spoke in the same creepy, bone-chilling voice, “I said, run.”

Then came the laugh. The laugh that echoed all over the room, penetrated deep into my very soul and made my balls shrivel up into tiny dots. The laugh that seemed to cut open my skin and suck all my blood out. The laugh that echoed all around me and inside me and threatened to rupture my brain. The laugh that forced some feelings into my frozen legs and made me break into a run through the open door on the right, away from those menacing, blood-shot eyes of the crazy bird-beast.

I ran, sweating and panting and unable to scream or shout out for help. I ran as fast as I could in the darkness, not knowing where I was headed or where I was stepping. I could hear the pitter-patter of the beast’s tiny flippers chasing after me. I could still hear it laughing as it ran, as if the beast were toying with me.

“Run faster, Nikhil,” it called out to me. “Is that the best you can do?”

I could feel the voice growing louder which could only mean one thing. The penguin was gaining on me! I increased my speed and felt my lungs burning for oxygen. Every muscle in my out-of-shape body ached and screamed in pain as I forced my legs to work faster.

“Merry Christmas, Nikhil!” said the penguin-beast and laughed out one last time. I could feel the cold steel on my leg. It had caught up t0 me and was slashing at my legs! I found my voice and screamed out loud.

I woke up, drenched in sweat. I saw a Santa hat lying on the floor next to my bed, the hat that I had purchased from a roadside vendor that very same afternoon, in my misguided Christmas cheer. I glanced at my clock and saw that it was almost time to wake up. I swung my legs off and stood up, snatched up the Santa hat and threw it in to dustbin. I put the trash out and made sure that someone picked it up and recycled the bloody thing.

Merry Christmas, you say? I’d say it’s a fascinating start so far! Even now, I sit here and wonder: what might have been behind the middle door, the one that stayed shut?