I too had a love story: First Blood

High school and college is the spring time of human life. It is the time when young green minds are fertile with imaginations. Flowers are waiting to bloom in every young heart. Martian and Venetian Kids who stayed within their own tribes begin to appreciate the good qualities of the members of the other planet. Lot of film makers have cashed in by setting their stories in this time. Still college love stories with fresh young stars continue to be a sure shot recipe for success. The new class of Indian writers are also following suit and entering the fray. Can bloggers be far behind? After the spectacular success of my bride hunts series, this seems to be the obvious next step for me, right?

But then unfortunately during my high school, the intricacies of the concepts of physics took precedence over those of feminine features. I was keener to master the workings of the laws of external nature rather than letting the laws of internal nature assert their mastery over me. This resulted in me securing admission to one of India’s premier educational institutions. But Venus remained a dark and distant planet. However it is never too late. College still remained.

By the time I entered college, the fascination with laws of the earth had also relinquished their hold on me. But the moment earth let go, the heavens latched on to me with a vice like grip. While I was contemplating the purpose of life, many of my batch mates would have probably got the opportunity to appreciate the ironies of life. For the prettiest girl in my batch was my lab mate for the entire four years and I was too lost in my philosophical musings to even take cognizance of the fact. The girl in question herself was so frustrated with my singular lack of attention that she asked me if she should speak to the professor and get lab partners changed. While it is a well known fact that women do resent too much unwarranted attention from men, I discovered that complete lack of it also is not too well appreciated. I guess it does hurt a woman’s ego if a man behaved as if she were just another piece of uninteresting lab equipment.

People imagine Cupid to be a cute little cherubic kid with wings and angelic face. But his physical form belies the tenacity of a blood hound in hot pursuit of its prey. When I joined a leading IT company after my education, I had no inkling of the fact that I had become Cupid’s quarry. So I was not at all prepared for what hit me during the business presentation session that was part of the initial 4 months training. One of the instructions given by the instructor was to try to maintain eye contact with the entire audience. As I was making my presentation, my eyes scanned across the room from one eye to the next religiously following the instructions. And then suddenly they stopped at one pair of eyes. A pair of dark eyes towards which every word uttered by me were being drawn like iron filings towards a magnet. I felt a kind of light pleasant feeling as my eyes lingered on for a while and moved on. But though I was experiencing something like this for the first time, probably others have had these moments more often. And it usually just passes off after a couple of days or at most a week the first time I guess. But Cupid having tasted blood was not going to let go of me so lightly.

As luck would have it, she was assigned to the same group as me for the ‘C’ group work. As I already knew ‘C’, I was nominated the leader and I did a pretty good job. She clearly showed admiration for my technical skills and leadership abilities. This was getting to my head and I began to increasingly get the light pleasant feeling when I was around her. By now I had begun to recognize something was wrong. The light feeling was becoming addictive and she had begun to monopolize my thoughts. In some ways I found this crazy as I had never believed in the concept of love and even if there was some such feeling, I had considered myself above this kind of feelings.

Say you have been asked to cross a canal. It seems like a simple task. By the time you prepare yourself, the canal is widened, water is filled in the canal, crocodiles are released in the water and an elephant is tied to your back and then you are asked to cross it. That’s how this situation seemed to be heading. While I was struggling to sort out my feelings for her, competition had sprung up. There was this smooth operator who seemed to have a way with all women. I had begun to increasingly see her in his company. Then there was this fellow from her own college, who seemed pretty close to her. Nothing makes you want a thing badly like the fear of losing it. With the emergence of competition, all analysis and rational thoughts were thrown to wind. It was now full blown war and I had to rise to the challenge. I had to do all I could to impress her. One immediate change was I found myself suddenly paying more attention to my attire and grooming. I also discovered a hidden talent – the ability to crack poor jokes.

At times I felt all this was foolish and I was behaving like a jack ass. My close friends also had begun to notice the change. But I could not help it. For the next course group work, she landed up in a different group and Mr. Casanova was with her. I used to find it irritating everyday seeing them go together for lunch. Things were no longer pleasant. I found myself in a nasty mood most of the time. I had begun to lose interest in work. I wanted to just get rid of the feeling and be normal. But the feeling would never go. I was fully at the mercy of my mood swings. My friends suggested tobacco and alcohol could help. They did seem to have some effect. But the nasty feelings kept returning when the effects of alcohol and tobacco wore out.

Things just went crazier and crazier day by day. I had confided in my closest friends. They had initially tried to dissuade me pointing out that the girl was no match for me and pointing out all the flaws in her. She clearly had no strong interests or talents. She was just a simple girl who liked to watch movies and listen to songs, hang out with friends and shop. She generally chose to preserve her words. Generally of course it would be assumed that anything that is preserved would be valuable. But the few words that she did say, hardly displayed any evidence of possible value.  She was clearly no beauty queen either. Then they asked me what my intentions were towards her. But I had neither answer for any questions nor use for any logic. Logic goes only so far. Sometimes life reaches a point where everything breaks down to mere basics – the duality of pain and pleasure. One gentleman called Pavlov had done some interesting experiments with dogs to see how simple simulation of pain and pleasure can condition behavioral patterns. At that point I was no better than Pavlov’s dog. I relished every moment I spent with her. Time competition spent with her hurt. So life was reduced to two simple rules. Rule 1: Increase time I spent with her. Rule 2: Reduce the time competition spent with her as long as it did not contradict with Rule 1. Everything else was subordinate and anything I did beyond basic survival should only lead to enforce the two basic rules of life. I wonder if this state to which a man can be reduced is a result of original sin for I had done nothing to deserve this as far as I knew.

This post has hit 1300 words now. And from experience I know no one reads more than 1500 words at a time. And still there is lot of ground to cover – how my friends helped me enforce my rules of life, further complications that arose and the final resolution of the conflict. I guess it is no suspense that the situation was resolved as otherwise there would have been any Great Indian Bride Hunt. But all that deserves one more post.

Next Part :  I too had a Love Story: Moving On

Do people reveal their true Identity on social Media?

Do people reveal their true Identity on social Media? The answer seems straight forward. No they don’t. Simple, isn’t it? Then what is the need for a debate? But then I decided to look a bit deeper. What exactly is a true identity? When you start a chat with a stranger on an online chat room, the first question asked is A/S/L – Age/Sex/Location. Is that your identity? If you give genuine details there, then are you revealing your true identity? Is your mobile phone number and e-mail address your true identity? Most online forums prohibit sharing these details. So are they straight away preventing you from sharing your true identity? And now we have the government of India coming up with the unique identity numbers? Is that our identity?

Well, it might seem as if I am trivializing the question of identity. Probably identity means something deeper than A/S/L, mobile phones and ID cards. Identity as used in the clich├ęd phrase ‘Identity crisis’ probably means the essence of who you really are. But then first of all do you yourself know who you are? Isn’t it a question philosophers and saints have been trying to find the answer for ages and every upstart psychologist is pretending to have found the answer only to be proven wrong by the next one? Probably the identity we are talking about here is something in between the two, something in the dubious grey area. Why does everything finally have to end up in this damn grey area, though? I just hate grey. But then that’s life I guess, bitch though it is and we need to move on.

Talking of true identity is not some new fancy of the internet age. Rather than reinventing the wheel and going over age old debates, I shall leave the onerous task to two giants from the past, one from the East and one from the West. I will take up the easier task of summarizing, bringing in the social media context in and concluding.

Zhuanzi, the Chinese philosopher of 300 BC says,

Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things

Shakespeare in his famous play ‘As you like it’ says,

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,

Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,

His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide

For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

I will not insult these great men’s lucidity of thought or the reader’s intelligence by trying to offer an explanation of the above. If one were to carefully read them through, one common theme clearly stands out. We wear various masks and perform various roles, some together at the same time, some in different periods of our life to say nothing of what we do within the deeper recesses of our sub conscious mind. The same person is the father and the son, the teacher and the taught, the boss and subordinate, the business man and the customer, the artist and the critic. Each role gives us an opportunity to give expression to a different facet of our identity. What we call as our overall identity is but an aggregation of these individuals expressions. So isn’t social media just one more arena that gives us yet another opportunity to show case yet another aspect of our personalities that the various others channels have not been able to bring out?

Having brought the point of social media as an additional channel to express one’s true identity, let me point out some unique advantages this channel offers. The old adage goes, ‘Do not book a judge a book by its cover’. But then that’s what we keep doing all the time. We go by looks and clothes and social status. Social media acts as a great equalizer in this regard. People can choose to be known only for their words and thoughts on the social media. Aren’t words and thoughts a greater expression of your personality than your looks and social status?
The second advantage that social media offers is anonymity. There are so many deep thoughts we fear to share with real life people in the fear that they might judge us and the effect that it might have on our future relationship with them. There is no such fear with an anonymous stranger on a chat room. Doesn’t this opportunity to freely share our deepest thoughts without any heed to consequences give a greater opportunity to be one’s true self?

Another advantage social media offers is complete control over the communication. We can have any level of privacy we choose. We can fully express our self without the fear of being interrupted. There is no fear of a private conversation being overheard by the casual eavesdropper. One can choose if one wants to communicate with just one person in complete privacy or relay out a message to 1000 people. One is free from the limitations of the physical world. Doesn’t that provide an environment that fosters an expression of one’s true self?

Last but not the least, social media offers one a reach unimaginable 100 years back. Till the internet came, the sample from which we could pick our friends was limited to those in our physical vicinity. Internet and social media has made the whole world our playground. Doesn’t that make the likelihood of finding like minded people with whom one can express one’s true self a thousand times more on social media?

To conclude, social media is just a media. A media is an inanimate thing with no motives of its own. But I must say it offers people a wonderful opportunity to express greater aspects of their true identity. But then it is up to the individual whether to use this media to reveal or conceal. But considering that lot of people will choose to conceal their identity, I would still say, social media helps in revealing the identities of even those who try to conceal. For don’t people often reveal themselves more through what they conceal? Think about it. As you ponder over this, I would like to leave you with a conversation from a Sherlock Holmes story

"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
"The dog did nothing in the night-time."
"That was the curious incident,
" remarked Sherlock Holmes.

Related Post: A Case of Confused Identities

Goose under Fire

Illustration: Elizabeth Webbe

When she came round the corner did I run

For held she in hand a hot steaming iron

Washing and scrubbing were making her weep

She threw down the iron and went off to sleep

Burnt it the table and set off the fire siren

Related Post: Fling with Fate

This limerick has been posted for Monday's Child #42 Picture mem and Lots of Laughter April 2011 prompt: Fire

Men of Mars

Being the nearest planet to Earth and having similar conditions, the Red planet has always held the imagination of astronomers, mythologists and writers of science fiction and fantasy alike. Edgar Rice Borough's Barsoom series was one of the earliest science fiction series based on Mars that inspired many later writers.

Please click here to read more about this series on my blog dedicated to science fiction.

Glass of life

I have drunk

Deep into the glass

Of my life.

The last dregs

Still remain to reflect on

How I spent my days.

Related Post: Old

This is my first attempt at a Spanish poetry form called Shadorma (Syllable structure structure: 3/5/3/3/7/5)
To learn more about Shadorma and to check out other people's attempt do visit One Stop Poetry. The image is from Magpie Tales Mag 61 weekly picture meme.

A Grey World

Everything today is looking so damn dull grey

The black and the white no longer in the fray

The green and the red fallen by the way

The blue and the yellow no longer so mellow

The light and the dark battled and battled

Eternity’s end brought victory to the dark

Dark ate light and the world turned grey

Lush green jungles our earth did adorn

Every single moment new life was born

Now stand proudly shooting to the heavens

On old green ruins, grey cement jungles

Lovely red the roses, deep red the blood in our viens

Deep seated passions for love or for war

The red fire burnt out leaving just grey ashes

The men in grey suits now call all the shots

Bright yellow sun smiled out of the blue sky

Through the open window on a lazy day

But the grey cloud has hidden both sun and sky

Only grey windows pop up on the grey lap top

No blue, no green, no red, no yellow,

No black nor white but grey, grey, grey

Grey steel, grey cement, grey suits,

Grey offices, Grey screens, Grey windows,

Grey ash, grey smoke, Grey clouds

It is all just one damn dull grey world.

Related Post: Song of the War Spirit

A ray of hope at last?

I had decided a year back that I would stop sharing my views on political topics as I felt they serve no purpose as I do not bring anything new to the table that is not in public domain and so many other bloggers are already doing the same. But Anna Hazare's victory has brought me so much joy that I wanted to make an exception and just express myself.

For the past few years the developments in the country have been really depressing. The governments cupboard opened and skeleton after skeleton began to fall out. I totally lost faith in the clean image of the prime minister. What is the use of being clean when all dirty work is being done in your name? The behavior of the opposition also did not instill any confidence at all. Opposition was showing interest in only stalling the parliament and scoring political points. In the past few years parties have been hurling corruption allegations against each other but I am not aware of a single instance of conviction and recovery of misappropriated wealth. Corruption allegations only served to weaken political power.

As a member of the middle class, one could just choose to turn a blind eye to these kinds of things and mind your own business. That is what I wanted to do. I even thought of stopping buying newspapers so that I do not get upset early in the morning. But I realized soon the wolf would be at our own doors with the implementation of policies like those on genetically modified crops and nuclear power. These are issues that can have far reaching consequences on our day today lives. The fact that decisions on issues that can threaten our lives are being taken by people governed by short term personal gains was really scary. The ministers won't be eating the genetically modified crops nor will they sit in the country and die of nuclear radiation. I was bewildered and puzzled what will happen.

Of course all the intelligentsia sitting in ivory towers keep yapping about democratic institutions and middle class not voting and the like. I have never believed middle class minority can make any difference through voting in a country where large majority are poor and illiterate and subject to manipulation by money, muscle and caste considerations. But anyways I ensured I voted religiously every time there was an election to avoid allegations that I am just too lazy to spend that one hour to choose my representative, though I did not find any suitable candidate with a serious chance to win worth voting for. The level of success parties like Lok Satta, Lok Paritrana etc. have attained gives little hope. There are those who would say, it is too early. Give them time. But how much time do we give them before they finally start playing a serious role in the country’s political landscape? 10 years? 15 years? By then all over forests would be mined and exported to China, our daily bread would depend on seed companies and we would be sitting on top of a nuclear time bomb waiting to explode.

When I saw revolutions happening in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen etc., I wondered if there would be a similar revolution in India and what form it would take. But in India, there was no clear face to focus all the feelings against like the dictators in those countries. So I felt we may not be able to mobilize like that. But Anna Hazare's struggle showed there is a way that middle class can make a difference here too. I am not so sure what will be achieved by members of civil society being included in the Lok Pal bill panel. I am not so passionate about that issue as such. But what gives me hope is the precedent that this has set. Not sure if government will buckle on more serious issues. But now the silent middle class on whose shoulders the entire country rests has a means to express their will.

Anna Hazare has emerged as the new age icon behind whom the middle class can rally, co-ordinate with each other using social media and raise their voice. Even after his time, more like him will follow along the way he has shown. Of course the opportunistic will try to misuse his iconic status the same way they have misused Mahatma Gandhi. But that is unavoidable and it hurts me to read articles against his noble struggle, saying he is holding democracy to ransom and other similar allegations.  People for their own reason can choose not to come on to the streets to support this struggle. But people who do nothing themselves can at least be quite instead of criticizing.

This is not my typical blog post seeking readership. I have tried not to show my skills at framing arguments and analyzing issues or humor or language prowess here. If I had done that I would be trivializing the cause and misusing the noble struggle like some of the opportunistic politicians and other public figures have been doing. I just felt strongly about this and wanted to express my heartfelt feelings towards this great struggle and what it means for our country. And that I have done. Hopefully next time when there is a struggle for a more serious issue, I will be able to express my support out on the streets and not cozily in front of my computer screen.

Sindbad The Sailor

Summer vacations are the best time during school days. Other than the relaxation, each summer vacation marks a milestone in life moving from one class to another making progress in life. In a work life, we don’t seem to have this kind of clear progression marked by a vacation. Time seems to come to a standstill. And when changes happen, one is not sure if one is progressing or regressing. Wish entire life were like school time. Getting back to school time, one of the excitements for me at the end of summer vacations was when I got brand new school books for the next year. One thing was that was the only time school books look anything like books. My books used to be barely recognizable at the end of the academic year. People like to get opinions right out of the horse’s mouth but my mother used to say my books look as if they have come right out of a donkey’s mouth. That aside still it was exciting seeing new books, especially the English books.

English typically consisted of a reader having collection of short stories, excerpts from large novels and poetry. Then there was the dreaded grammar, which of course was as exciting as plucking out every toe nails. But let us not talk about that now. The most exciting part was the non-detail which was usually a simplified version of a classical work. One of the years, the non detailed book was 'Adventures of Sindbad the Sailor'. And that was really my first introduction to the fantasy genre. Reading about the seven voyages of Sindbad the sailor gave me such a wonderful time I actually forgot to be sad about my summer vacation ending. Some might argue that Sindbad cannot be classified as fantasy in the strict sense of the word, but it does have strong fantasy elements.

Most fantasies are based on Celtic folklore and most children’s’ and fantasy books give a Euro-centric view of the world. So anything non Celtic with the center of gravity in a different part of the world comes as a breath of fresh air. Nowadays somehow a strongly negative view is projected of the Middle East as a backward region with regressive thinking. This book on the contrast gives us a romantic view of the region and showcases its glorious past. This book is set in Basra in Iraq during the time of Abbasid Caliph Harun Al Rashid. Most of Sindbad's travels are in the seas East of Africa and South of Asia. This book gives us a brief glance into the culture, civilization and prosperity in these regions.

The story is narrated as a first person account of Sindbad himself telling the story of his adventures to Sindbad the porter. The story is organized into seven parts giving an account of Sinbad’s seven voyages. The story does not have much use for character development. The book is more outward looking that inward looking, making it an excellent book for light reading. The stories are all about guts and glory. They are a celebration of the spirit of adventure. The reader is taken on an adventure of his lifetime in the shoes of Sindabad. One encounters fantastical creatures such as the roc, the huge serpents, the island monster and the Cyclops. Then we have human villains in the form of the old man of the sea who use lost voyagers as his steed till they drop to death and the cannibal tribe that feeds lost voyagers, fatten them up and then have them for dinner. The stories give a gripping account of how Sindbad through his ingenuity and initiative overcomes these various obstacles and comes up trumps in each of his voyages. The book also goes at length to describe the riches and wealth of the different kingdoms he visits. The reader feels a vicarious pleasure reading about them.

There are also some interesting cultural elements introduced in the book. One such element is a kind of reverse Sati that our feminists would just love. In one of the lands, Sindbad gets married and then discovers that there is a custom that if a wife dies the husband has to be buried with her. And as luck would have it his wife dies and Sindbad gets buried alive with food supplies for a few days. Of course since the story is being told in flashback by a Sindabad who is alive and kicking, we know that he managed to escape the burial alive. To know how, I suggest the reader to read the book for I am not retelling the story here.

To summarize, it is one smashing fantasy adventure. Though it does not have too much for the serious reader, it should be read for the overall positive spirit it infuses. And definitely a must read for children. Other than being a fun read that glorifies adventure, it can help in overcoming the prejudices about the Islamic world. At the least the book drives home the point that medieval Middle East was as much an interesting region as medieval Europe.

Related Post: Struggle in the Seas


He has landed on
the moon and planted his flag
Puppet's Talent

Related Post: Dreams Gone Wrong

The choice of accompanying image may be curious. But I had my reasons and I feel it goes with the deeper meaning I want to convey. Missed the deadline for Magpie Tales No. 59. But would like to give Tess Kincaid credit for the picture.

His Last words

Picture credit: Daniel Hayman

The tea was going cold. But tea could wait. Not his pen. The writing on the wall was loud and clear.  All the riches of the world cannot be as persuasive as an impending appointment with the firing squad.  He would not let his thoughts disappear from the face of the earth along with him.

Similar type of Fiction: Abandoned Station

This is my second attempt at 55 Fiction posted on Thurdsay tales #53 for the picture prompt

For whom the bell tolls

A book of faces