A Really Long Short Story Titled “Cause & Effect” [Chapter 1]

-CHAPTER 1-

For a long time he stood there, naked except for the wet towel around his waist, eyes closed and arms wide, inviting the strong flow of cold air that the window-mounted air conditioner spewed out. He knew that it wasn’t the cleanest air he could breathe, and knew that a lot of dust and potentially harmful things were being hurled at his face at a high speed, but he didn’t mind. It was the cold he wanted, the momentary relief from the unforgiving, sweaty humidity of the summer that forced him to shower twice a day. He didn’t mind the showering part – what he didn’t like was that he sweated so much every day, even if all he did was sit on his desk all day at work. The weather was all that he hated of the city – the city that he had moved to a couple of years earlier in search of a new life. He had found it and much more. He loved the chaotic harmony of the tiny city made up of all those tiny islands in the corner of the country. He loved the fact that he was barely twenty minutes away from a secluded beach. He loved the fact that he could get lost in the crowd in this city and not panic. It was a city of straight lines and parallel tracks. And he loved every inch of it. Except for the bloody weather.

He came out of his trance-like state and walked around the room, discarding the towel and mined his clothes for the day from the wardrobe – a chore that always made him feel a little bit like an archaeologist digging for buried treasure. The room was tiny, but given the standards of the city, a palace. The apartment was a one-room deal with a kitchen and a living room. He shared the bedroom with the only person who made living in the cramped quarters fun – his wife.

He dressed quickly and sat down on his desk, angled the air-conditioner’s vents so that he could feel the cold blast of air on his face and lit a cigarette. Even before he lit it, he knew it was asking for trouble.

He had hardly taken a couple of drags on it when his wife opened the door and entered, wrapped in a wet towel of her own. She stood there, staring at him and his cigarette and folded her arms across her chest and said, “Why the hell are you smoking?”

[to be continued]

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Hate And Why We Love It

I was reading a rather disturbing feature on Time about the attack on Nido Taniam in Delhi. It struck me that this, and other instances of hate that happen all over the world every day, are not surprising. We can’t pretend to be shocked, awed and disturbed, and cringe away from these acts of violence. As human beings, we are programmed to inflict pain on others. And we love it.

hate and violence
British Riots. Image Courtesy: BBC

My theory is quite simple: we are hateful creatures, forced to live together on the same piece of land and a bunch of makeshift rules and laws thrown in to govern our behavior. We forced ourselves into this corner. No one did this to us.

On our own, we are quite the pacifists. Well, most of us. But why is it that when we are put in a crowd of people, we bare our teeth, beat out chests and turn on each other? I think the answer lies deep within ourselves – our inherent fears. I’ll explain what this means.

I’ve been doing this very interesting social experiment for a few years now without anyone realizing it, and it’s proven to be quite the eye-opener. Whenever I am alone with someone (say Bob), in any situation, the conversation progresses like any other conversation between two people – about random things or something in particular. The minute a third person (say Dave) joins the fray, I use a variation of the following line: “Dave, hey! What’s up? Have you met Bob? He’s my friend and he’s uh.. um…”

I pretend to forget what Bob does for a living or what he’s good at, or what he has achieved, in an attempt to trivialize him. Bob immediately takes the cue, subconsciously, and rattles off his résumé to Dave – where he studied, what he graduated in, where he has worked, what he is currently working on, etc. This does not always happen, mind you. But when it does and you observe Bob’s body language, and he is the very epitome of defensiveness. His body is closed, arms folded, shoulders drooped, as though he is bracing for an attack.

The same thing also happens when I’m alone with Bob and I feign indifference to his achievements in life.

It’s our fear of rejection (or the fear of being dismissed as unimportant) that puts us in this situation. We all do it. I do it too. I have found myself talking about my career choices and my achievements (or lack thereof) to people for no fathomable reason except my fear of ridicule and rejection. I don’t want the other guy to think I’m weak. Or stupid. I beef up my arms and shoulders, brace myself and start telling him through my body language that I’m a (relatively) smart guy and can defend myself if need be.

This behavior tells us a few very important things about ourselves – we are all in a constant state of alertness, always on the lookout for a threat. This threat can be in any shape of form – physical, mental, emotional, financial, etc. We believe that everyone around us are a threat to our way of life. This is perhaps why we don’t do certain things like wear sunglasses when we’re inside a building – we fear that people are going to point at us and laugh, thus making us feel small, insignificant and vulnerable. This leaves us open for attack from a larger predator.

When the concept is applied on a global scale – to societies and nations as a whole, we realize that the equation does not change one bit. A billion paranoid people are constantly wary of a billion other paranoid people. Fear multiples in crowds and takes a life of it’s own, which leads to bad decisions and ultimately, a lot of people die. This is used as fuel to further our paranoia  – because it’s all right when we kill someone because we are doing it out of self-defense. But we fail to realize that the other person is killing for the same exact reason. We think he’s a monster, with no thought control and emotion.

The fact that we need this mutual hate and fear to survive and lead our lives is the biggest illusion that we have performed on ourselves. The idea that we need to lash out at a fellow human being in order to survive is ultimately going to make us as extinct as the Dodo. But not before we realize that it makes us just as dumb.

Daydreaming

Day DreamingOne of the worst things that could happen to anyone in my position is this: the realization that your daydream will not be a reality. At least not immediately. You’re right up there among the stars, imagining how different your life will be and how you are going to spend the suitcase full of cash you just found on the sidewalk – a car each for yourself and your wife; maybe a new Harley for those exciting road trips on which, taking a car would be lame; a new house, perhaps two; a very strong and comprehensive health insurance plan for the entire family – yours and hers – to ensure that everyone who’s important is taken care of; and some extra leftover money invested in low yield bonds, savings, deposits and other such inane piggy-banks to ensure your financial independence. Of course, you’d first pay off your credit cards and loans and become debt-free.

You and your wife would then quit your respective jobs. You’d move in to one of your new houses, make it a home and give out the other one on rent for a decent family to ensure that you get paid monthly. You consider this income as your primary income which is earmarked for groceries, food and fuel. You then buy yourselves a pair of fancy smartphones that have the very latest features and you use these phones to tweet about how excited you are about what you’re planning to do next.

Once the tweet has been published, you pack your bags and you hit the road to being the longest journey of your life – a long road trip all over the country, on a quest to visit each and every state, drive on every road, experience all that the beautiful country has to offer. You’d spend almost a year on the road and you return to your new house (which is still new because you haven’t lived in it yet) and you spend a few months domesticating yourselves. You do the occasional trip on the Harley to a few places here and there that may have escaped your radar during the year-long road trip.

After about a year of the domestic life, your wife starts getting restless and insists that you do something out of the ordinary. She wants that excitement of living out of her backpack again. She wants to drive into the sunset and sit on the hood of your big SUV, looking out at the setting sun and smoke a cigarette and drink a Diet Coke, while you stand next to her with your beer can in hand, lean over to you just as the last rays turn the sky red and kiss you softly on the lips. She urges you to do something about this urge.

You walk over to the window overlooking the beautifully landscaped garden in front and you think about what to do. You wake up the next day and decide to sell off your other house. You contact your lawyer and find out that the rate of the house has nearly doubled in the two years since you bought it. You make the deal with the first buyer you find and a week later, you’re richer by an insane amount of cold, hard cash, sitting pretty in your bank account. You spend a weekend researching the best way to spend a whole year backpacking in Europe. You make the arrangements, book your tickets and your hotels, and you go out on Sunday evening to the mall and buy brand new backpacks and new travel accessories for yourself and your wife, and come back home in time for dinner. When your wife asks you where you were, you deflect the question innocently and move the conversation over to mundane things like the weather.

The next morning, you ride your Harley over to the bank and realize that you have far more money left over than you initially imagined. You then convert a lot of the money into Euros, a lot of the money into Dollars and a lot of the money into travelers’ checks. You also instruct the bank to issue you a Visa travel card, into which you pre-load a lot of money.

You then go back home and tell your wife that you have something important to show her. She is confused, obviously. But curious. When you reveal your master plan and the preparations you’ve made so far, she is fantastically overjoyed and you get the best sex of your life for being the best husband ever.

You realize that you’re in a public place and you have a hard-on. You quickly clear your mind, pull down the visor of your helmet, start your bike just as the light turns green, and continue the ride to your office.

Autoscopy 2014

Bandipur at Night

When we decided to make the road trip to Masinagudi, little did we realize that things could go this bad. In the time it takes to say the word “honeymoon,” things went from fantastic to horrible. Rani and I didn’t know each other when we got married last week. The first time we saw each other ten days ago at her parents’ place, we thought we were too young, too stupid, too immature – two completely different people thrown into the fray and told to live together and love each other, till death do us apart. And we weren’t brave enough to do anything about it. In whatever little time we spent alone, we tried our best to get to know each other as quickly as we could – I told her my hopes, dreams and ambitions and she was good enough not to laugh in my face. She told me that her passion were wildlife and Maddur vadas.

Well, as fate had it, we would experience both very soon.

The wedding itself was a very forgettable affair for me. She didn’t tell me, but I think she hated it too. There were too many people, too little space and the food was too bland. In the peak of summer, it’s never a good idea to cram too many people in a small space and not feed them well. But, it got done with, and the parents were satisfied that their duties had been completed. They were clear of their obligations and their only job now was to wait with bated breath and annoying interjections for my wife to push out a kid or two or three.

Being a mediocre, middle-class white-collar pencil-pusher, I did not have the means or the luxury to afford a fantastic honeymoon at an exotic location. I could afford no honeymoon and I told Rani this the day before we got married. I could sense the sadness in her voice as she told me that it was all right and that we could go sometime later, after saving up a bit of money. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that with my current income, the concept of ‘savings’ was as alien to me as color to a blind man.

A couple of days later though, a friend of mine told us that he was a member of a time-sharing holiday scheme and that he wanted to gift us a weekend getaway to Masinagudi. As a man whose best friend for long had been thrift, I jumped at this offer, told him how grateful I was (I was. I truly was!), and decided to surprise Rani.

I was still in the initial phases of the relationship – a phase where a lot of time and mental effort is spent in trying to surprise your partner with gifts of love and affection.

I didn’t tell her where we were going until we reached the bus station and boarded a bus to Bandipur. She was ecstatic with joy and hugged me so tightly that I thought I’d implode. I could see that she was happy. Though she’s a tough nut, I did see a few tears.

The bus covered the 250-odd kilometer trip in under six hours and I was thankful when it ended. Our only stop on the way had been at Maddur, where we had stuffed ourselves with the crunchy pieces of heaven known all over the World as Maddur vadas. My legs were cramped and my bladder was full and bursting when I relieved myself by the side of the road at Bandipur, oblivious to the odd stares. I thought to myself how lucky we had been to be given this break. I didn’t realize how badly I needed to get away from it all until I’d gotten away.

We hired a taxi from the station and started the 20-kilometer trip through the jungle to reach our resort. It was an expensive ride but we had no other option, given that the forest department would close down the roads at 6 in the evening.

The drive was breathtaking. The undulating roads and the clear blue skies danced a mesmerizing dance with the trees that lined our way. A herd of spotted deer waved us by and a group of monkeys looked on in curious disbelief as we drove. Soon, we crossed into the Tamil Nadu side of the forest and the jungle became thicker and thicker around us the deeper we went.

We were having a fantastic time. Rani snuggled up to me as the evening progressively grew darker and colder. With about five more kilometers to go, I thought nothing could dampen our spirits. That’s when I heard the dull, sickening thud that signaled disaster.

It’s a misconception that tires burst with a great big bang. They actually give out with a thud, and if the driver is experienced enough, he/she can manage the momentary loss of steering control. Our driver wasn’t and the little taxi lurched menacingly to the left before he over-corrected and sent us flying to the right, where our joyride came to a screeching halt as the car dove into a ditch, nose-first and stayed there. The sudden change in directions and the inertial forces acting on us as we impacted threw us forward, the front seat-back smacking the both of us in our faces with an inhuman amount of energy. Rani’s nose cracked under the impact, sending little bits of cartilage and bone gushing out with blood. My upper lip split and my two front teeth ripped themselves out of their oral prisons and flew into the air, and joined the million shards of glass and stone and metal hurtling about. The driver’s head arrested the momentum of his body against the steering wheel, and I think he didn’t have the time to let his whole life flash before his eyes before he died. The whole thing took less than 3 seconds.

As the sun went down and the night officially threw her cloak of darkness over us, we were too stunned and too much in pain to move or react.

It took me about ten minutes to get my bearings right and to realize that were quite vulnerable out there. I looked around at my wife, who was slumped in her seat. From the faint light of the remains of the dashboard, I could see that she was breathing, which was a relief.

I opened the door of the car, which yielded surprisingly easily, and stumbled out to the forest floor. I could hear the sounds of a million crickets singing around me, the occasional whistle of a bird going to sleep, the rustling of the dry leaves, which I prayed was due to the wind, and the occasional bursts of deafening silence. I was afraid. I was shaking uncontrollably with nervous energy and adrenaline pushed me to my feet. I hobbled over to the road and tried to spot any oncoming headlights. At the back of my mind was the knowledge that the forest gates closed at 6 in the evening but I kept ignoring it. Surely someone would realize that a car that had entered the forest hadn’t exited. Surely someone heard the sickening crash. All I could see was an ocean of deepening darkness on either side, punctuated by the ominous red glow of the car’s taillights.

I stood there for a long time, in the red glow, trying to figure out my next move, while my head reeled and my body cried out in pain in a thousand places. When I heard that agonizing cry of pain, despair and sorrow – a cry that would haunt me for eternity – I turned and ran to the other side, to my wife. I feared the worst. I reached her side and was about to open the door or smash the window if need be when I saw what had made her cry out.

I guess my teeth weren’t the only things that had dislodged when I hit my face. I almost lost my balance.  My legs felt weak and I held back a gag when I saw Rani, my wife of ten days, cradling her husband’s crushed head in her lap.

I really shouldn’t have done this trip.

Image Courtesy: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.in/

Indian Politics: A Critical Deconstruction

Indian PoliticsOnce upon a time, there was a whore who refused to take a bath. She was the biggest whore in all the world. No other member of her profession could match her for size. She could single-handedly take on a gang of twenty men and still beat them all to pulp with brute strength. She was widely known for her prowess and her surprisingly good heart, and everyone respected her. She wanted nothing more than to whore around and make money, something that she’d been doing for almost six decades now. The one thing no one liked about her was the fact that she didn’t take a bath.

She used to take a bath in the past, some fifty years ago, but now, she just couldn’t get herself to do it. She used to carry on her flesh trade using nothing more than deodorant. When she forgot the deo, her stink would announce her arrival five minutes in advance. Yet, she never had a dearth of customers. Buying her services gave people a sense of false pride, something that was an archaic notion in itself. People would line up to wait for her just to be able to spend a few precious moments with her, so that they could be branded with her stinking sigil. They would use it in their résumés, and their families would be proud of their achievement. The fact that they’d just participated in prostitution was never a problem. People didn’t talk about the ethical, legal and moral quandaries in using the services of a whore. These things were swept under the carpets and the mattresses or locked in cabinets, never to be spoken of.

The whore who never took a bath had a certain reputation that she wasn’t proud of: she had been the cause of more deaths in her country than any disease, calamity or natural disaster. She wielded her heavy hand as a weapon and swatted away anyone who dared to come forward to clean her. She used people’s religious beliefs to get under their skin and convinced them to kill other people with different religious beliefs. In fact, her refusal to clean herself up was so notoriously known that even people in other countries were afraid to do anything lest they become scarred and soiled. The whore went on mercilessly killing innocent people in order to satisfy herself of her uncleanliness. A lot of people tried to clean her and were either soiled or killed off as expendables.

Indian politics is, in one word, dirty.

PS: The whore in question has agreed not to sue me for calling her a whore. 

Letter To Cupid, 2012

Statutory Warning: The following post contains words and imagery that some people may deem as inappropriate. I have used the word ‘fuck’ twice and I talk about raising my middle fingers to someone, giving that someone the message to go fornicate with themselves. I have used a photograph of a winged child-thing found dead, face down, with an arrow in its back, lying in a pool of its own filth. If you or anyone around you find(s) my language and mannerisms offensive, please click here. Else, continue reading. 

Cupid is Dead

Dear Cupid Asshole

Here we are again, in 2012. I’m still here, single as fuck, and you’re still there, dancing around with your gay wings and your gay arrows. I wrote to you earlier, around 4 years ago and you promised me that the next time would be different. You are a filthy liar and nothing more. If I look back on this year, all you’ve given me is hope, despair and embarrassment. What the hell is the matter with you, jackass? Can’t you just do your job right?

So, in the light of all that you’ve done for me this year and for the past so many years before, I raise both my fingers to you. Go suck an orange, kid.

Do you remember how I signed off my last letter to you? You don’t? Drop Dead.

In all sincerity,

Go Fuck Yourself.

The Man From Nowhere

“See the nowhere crowd cry the nowhere tears of honour 
Like twisted vines that grow 
Hide and swallow mansions whole…”

— James Hetfield, The Memory Remains

He came from nowhere and he didn’t know where he was headed. He seemed lost, confused, a paper boat caught in a hurricane, with turmoil eroding the last traces of sanity and reason in his head. He was escaping, hopefully to a better tomorrow, but he didn’t know for sure. He wanted a fresh start, desperately. He didn’t know how he was going to achieve it – his bad luck seemed to have followed him here as well. Everything he tried seemed to fail, and fail miserably. He caught himself searching for straws to clutch at.

He vowed to find a muse, an inspiration, a candle in the whirlwind of his bad luck. He wanted to find the elusive abundance of good luck that had deserted him for so long. He yearned for the peace and tranquility that had been hiding from him. It was not a search in vain.

He met her on a hot, sunny afternoon and they regarded each other cautiously, unsure of just how much attention the other person warranted. She seemed harmless enough, but he was expecting his seemingly unlimited quota of bad luck to step in again.

“Been a while,” he said. Cautiously. Two tigers, one paranoid and the other indifferent, circling each other.

“Yes. How have you been?” she asked.

“Good,” he replied and they went on to talk about other things mundane.

Time flew by and a pact was etched in stone between them, unwritten yet indelible. It took time, obviously. It did not happen overnight. He began to experience her presence more and more in his life until it almost became an addiction. Over time, he started craving for her company. She became the beacon of light in the darkness that had clouded him. She forced him to embrace good luck again, though he never knew how she managed to do that.

He still had no destination in mind, but he knew that his journey wouldn’t be lonely anymore; the journey that he had started from nowhere and had seemed to head nowhere; the journey that she had spectacularly derailed and made more bearable. He had a lot of things to be thankful for. And for a million things more.

He had found his muse. He had found his share of good fortune. The man from nowhere was finally home.