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Your average fun guy who will stand by you!

Monday, November 14, 2011

“The Aircraft Theory”


“The Aircraft Theory”
Of
Why Relationships Go Wrong

“It’s not how you fall, it’s how you land.” (La Haine)

The detritus of relationships gone wrong is everywhere. It is there in the metallic pungency of the railway platform; in the cool room-freshener laden air of your office; in the tar and plastic smell of your car; in the receiver of your phone; in the musky popcorn air of the cinema; and, in the bed sheets laced with the sweet smell of detergent.
We are forever trampling upon the debris of broken promises, dried tears, and, who knows, cold blood. Who is there to tell you that the seat you are occupying in TGIF is the venue of a crash? No one has the heart to tell you that someone sank hopelessly in seat number H13 of a certain PVR cinema right in the middle of a funny sequence in a movie? But, there you are, as if nothing ever happened. Human beings have this mistaken belief that dusting, vacuuming, air-freshening and an occasional phenyl mop clears up the side and after effects of all activities human—including relationships. This belief is beheld partly to avoid space crunch. We cannot have cemeteries for murdered emotions, can we?   

But, why are we destined to create so much misery for ourselves and others whom we love or have loved? Is it a necessity in times of short attention spans and our love for infinite variety? Why do we then prefer ten tweets of 140 characters or less each over a letter 1400 characters long? Why do we have five hundred Facebook friends but feel suicidal on Friday evenings for want of company? Is misery the new drug of the educated masses?

Fortunately, things are not really that hopeless. Most of emotional misery and destruction is avoidable if we take precautions, at the right moments in our relationships.
Human beings are like crazy magnets. We attract, get attracted, repel and get repelled. Look around and see the magnetism in action everywhere. College classrooms, canteens, railway coaches, airplane aisles, traffic lights, offices, dance clubs, marriage parties, neighbor’s balcony or roof, dreams and what have you. The “crazy” part of the human magnet is that the North Pole can suddenly become the South Pole and vice versa, and, as a result, someone whom we loved so much suddenly becomes our bête noire!

It is common knowledge that most airplane crashes occur during landing and takeoff. I have also observed myself that most road accidents in Delhi happen at the beginning and end of flyovers, and close to traffic signals. There could be two reasons for these phenomena: situational complexity and our corresponding level of alertness. An airplane perhaps employs almost all of its control gadgetry during takeoff and landing and uses less of these during the cruise. Same goes for cars. We employ brake, clutch, gear, gas pedal and steering wheel, all during “takeoff” and “landing”, but can make do with steering wheel and occasional brake during the cruise. Our speed and alertness level must match the level of situational complexity; else, crashes are waiting to happen. This is the “Aircraft Theory” of human relationships.

The crazy magnets are given to over speeding just at the wrong times in a relationship. How the hell can you bungee jump at the start of a relationship and remain safe just by shutting our eyes and howling “Looooove youuuuuu” while we fall headlong? Instead, backpack and descend into the canyon together, slowly and surely. Same caution applies when the elevation gained out of a strong relationship supplies the itch for over speeding. The “cruise mode” in your car is designed not to exceed the set upper speed limit, even while hurtling downhill with gravity assist. Humans are indeed designed to self-destruct. We tend to over speed just when our relationships are going downhill! Trust me; it is easy to detect the start of the downhill phase: it begins immediately after a crest of happiness and joy!

Finally, when we know that it is time to stop, take stock and march again, it is the “all systems go” time. Slowdown from the cruise mode and carefully come to a halt on a safe stretch, de-clutch and pull the hand brake up. Get into some serious soul searching, dust away the accumulated detritus, stretch the weary legs of your togetherness, breathe deeply and get set for rest of the journey.

Don’t be a fool and add to the detritus. People couldn’t care less. They are forever trampling upon your tears with kajal, the sticky gel of your grief and dancing to the pain beat of your leaden heart.

The only thing two miserable hearts can share is the alibi!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

कभी तुम थे


तुम्हारी तस्वीर  
रेत  पर
बनते बिगड़ते 
देखता रहा
कभी तुम थे 
और कभी नहीं

हवा, 
तेज़ रौशनी
और अँधेरे 
सब हमसाज़िश थे
कभी तुम थे 
और कभी नहीं

ख़त 
न भेजे 
और न आए
नामवर के लहजे में 
कभी तुम थे 
और कभी नहीं

ख़ुशी दोगुनी 
और ग़म आधा
कोशिश रोज़ 
करता रहा
कभी तुम थे 
और कभी नहीं

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

ज़िन्दगी रहती है



जो दिखता है
उससे परे

जो छुपा है
उससे परे

जो सुना है
उससे परे

जो कहा है
उससे परे

खुशिओं और 
ग़मों से परे 

आशाओं और 
निराशाओं से परे

ज़िन्दगी रहती है 



Monday, September 19, 2011

Lies, Sweet Little Lies!

Lies
Lies
Lies


Lie to her
Lie to him
Lie to the mirror
Lie to them


Lie in the sunshine
Not in the rain
Lie when she's awake
Not in her dream


Lies can be beautiful
Lies are sweet
Lies keep you alive
Lies can kill


Run, run, run
To stand still
Lies keep you alive
Lies can kill


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

कुछ लम्हे

कुछ लम्हों का ये साथ हमारा 
क्यूँ न हम इसे ज़िन्दगी कर लें 

जब दूर थे तो बातें करते थे
क्यूँ न आज कुछ ख़ामोशी कह लें

अब यूँ न बैठो बड़ों की तरह
क्यूँ न कोई बचपन सी शरारत कर लें

कुछ लम्हों का ये साथ हमारा 
क्यूँ न हम इसे ज़िन्दगी कर लें 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Happy Birthday!


What is it about getting a year older or a year less younger? 

Compared to the last year, should we have become wiser and less spontaneous? Should the expectations of the world from us now diminish or rise? Should we precipitate achievement of our goals because the hour glass is emptying relentlessly? Should we look back on our score on the goals set during the last year or forget and look ahead instead?

Anniversaries are always traumatic events, that is, after the metaphorical "end of innocence", when we come to realize that time waits for none. Be it our own lives and relationships, or, organisations and their failures and successes. Every greeting and felicitation is a reminder of the fact that while the world goes around in perpetuity, the time left for your stroll on the sands of time just became a trifle shorter. 

The fatigue at the end of the day's celebrations are not so much a result of physical effort and merry making, as it is mental. The night after revelry is restless.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

याद रखना

जाने कब ये दिल
बेघर हो जाए
मेरे यार का पता
याद रखना

जाने कब उनसे
मुलाक़ात हो जाए
बिछड़ने का सलीका
याद रखना 

जाने कब ये मंजिलें
गुम हो जाएँ
रास्तों का हुनर
याद रखना 

खुदा का हक
तुझसे पहले है
हर दुआ मांगने से पहले
याद रखना




  

Monday, August 1, 2011

आज़ादी के चौंसठ साल

हमने आज़ादी के चौंसठ सालों में  
हथेली पर सरसों उगाई है 
हमारे नेताओं को सूंघ लो 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Pyramid of Pain




The Chariot is heavy
With the God inside

It is raining in my heart
In my soul
My weary legs
Want to give way
And collapse my soul
Into a formless heap

Perhaps someone
May be the God himself
Will resurrect me in His arms
Once the catharsis is complete
Ocean of silent tears is dry
In my mind’s eye

The Pyramid of pain
Built with my own hands
Withers a grain at a time
Into nothingness
Nothing left to desire
And to give up
To be ashamed of
And to be proud
To remember
And to forget

It is raining in my heart
In my soul
My weary legs
Want to give way
And collapse my soul
Into a formless heap

The Chariot is heavy
With the God inside

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Ship of (W)Reck

(The Chronicles of a RECKed Life)

The very first challenge in writing this piece was to find a suitable title. Our journey of five long years was nothing short of a warm-bloodied, Old Monk drenched voyage in which we slay many a Scylla and Charybdis. Our ship forever rocked and rolled on the waves of fear and tides of adulterated fun until we reached the final port of call. It’s a pity that some of our mates chose to be left behind to cavort with sirens on deserted islands en route. Right from the day we fearfully checked-in into the ragging infested campus through to the final semester exams and on-campus placement sessions, it has been a ride to remember. It was a journey during which much innocence was lost and manhood discovered wholly or in part.
This blog post chronicles this wonderful journey, a saga of pain & pleasure, darkness & light and fight & flight. It is an attempt to recreate history collectively.
I invite all mates to contribute to the following folklore topics:
  • The first year/fear/ragging
  • End of innocence/the hunted becomes the hunter
  • The Hostels
  • Hangouts (Apollo/Khoka/3rd Gate/Giru’s jokes/”Birthdays”/credit accounts)
  • Late night life (Teen patti/night shows)
  • Personalities
  • Talents (Sports, music, singing, bathroom singing…)
  • Events
  • Profs
 Please pick a topic and write your heart out under the “Comments” to this post. I will then compile all the pieces and host these as a single story.


Bon voyage!

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Million Searchlights

God
Be fair game
Stop chasing me
With a million searchlights

I want to run
I want to hide
In the comforting dark spaces
Of my soul
My resting places
In my battles
With myself

I will soon
Stare into the Sun
Punch the wind
Take the stage
Basking in your benevolence

For now
Be fair game
Stop chasing me
With a million searchlights

Crazy advertisements etc.

1. Promo ad for an Inverter:

"Scratch at the right place for big gains"

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

क्या हुआ?

(July 2007)

Yesterday, on my way back home there was a traffic hold up on the Nizamuddin bridge over Yamuna. The reason for the traffic congestion turned out to be a sizable crowd of vehicles and people gathered on the roadside. I thought people were buying vegetables fresh from the toxic Yamuna bed. But they weren't. Instead, there had been a road mishap. And, as so often happens, the तमाशा was on.

Most of the onlookers were just filling up their quota of accident related audio-visual information and driving away. Some lingered around to fill the new arrivals up on the story.

I wondered whatever they'll do with the gory details of the incident?

Perhaps, they wanted to feel better themselves!

This is how it works.

When you come across others' misery and suffering, you are fearful at first (it could have been me!) and relieved subsequently (होनी को कौन टाल सकता है but thank God you chose someone else!). The worse the misery, the better you feel. The incident details are required to relive your good fortune by recounting the incident to many others. Until your own fears subside. The more scared we are at first, the more details we need and the more story telling we need to squeeze the fear out of our system.

Like squeezing a towel over and over again, until our inner fears have subsided for good.

बस लौट कर आना होता है

(दिसम्बर ३१, २००७; भोपाल शताब्दी एक्सप्रेस)
(पचमढ़ी यात्रा उपरांत)

यह रेलगाड़ी ले जा रही है मुझे
यादों से दूर
मील दर मील पड़ रहे हैं
स्मरण धूमिल

और फिर कभी पलट कर
ले आएगी वापिस
सानिध्य में
उन्ही लम्हों के

वही ठंडी हवा
वही पत्तों पर सोनल रश्मि
वही पगडंडियाँ
वही पड़ाव
वही मंज़िलें

सब यथावत रहता है
बस लौट कर आना होता है  
  

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What do they actually mean when they say...


“English Medium”
As a result of our school’s tireless efforts and underpaid faculty, your child’s level of English will at best be “medium”. Means की good भी नहीं कह सकते और bad  भी  नहीं, हैना जी?
“Construction is in full swing”
The speed of construction fully swings between start and full stop due to frequent shortage of money.
“24-hour emergency”
You can bring your minor illness to us anytime during 24 hours in a day and we will worsen it to qualify for an emergency procedure.
“Hurry, last few xyz left”
We have already fooled enough people for one day but if you hurry, we can roll in a last few more before we go for kebabs and drinks.
“Your dream house”
Yes, you read it right.
“Home away from home”
We offer you the same crap you are trying to run away from.
“Discover a new you”
First learn to hate yourself in your present package.
“Breaking news”
Since we have spare airtime and nothing new to report, we have manufactured news by breaking down and reassembling stale news.
“Special offer”
The normal offer was cheaper a month back and no one was buying it.
“Easy EMI’s”
We will pull out one healthy tooth at a time.






Monday, June 20, 2011

Religion and God

(October 2007)

I have thought a lot about the conundrum of Religion and God and come to the conclusion that these have nothing to do with each other.

Here is the mathematical proof.

Consider the following equations drawn from the current state of practice of religion:

Religion = God + Superstition and/or Belief

This can also be written as,

Religion - Superstition and/or Belief = God (1)

Also, either God exists or it does not. Therefore,

God = 0 or 1 (2)

From (1) and (2) above, we can have,

Religion - Superstition and/or Belief = 0 or 1 (e.g. Nothing or Everything) (3)

Let us discuss the expression on right hand side of the equation (3) and try to understand why the extent of Superstition/Belief indicates our extent of evolution.

As all of us perhaps agree, the concept of God (or the route to meeting God) must relate to some sort of self-realization or self-actualisation, something that every living being can achieve. And, once achieved, it stays that way. In other words, upon self-actualisation, either we would have achieved everything that we ever wanted or the want itself would go away completely.

In terms of evolution, as long as the desire for material things remains within us, we are yet to evolve fully. The evolutionary stage can be indicated the type of material wants remaining e.g. physical, sensory or intellectual, etc. In each stage, extent of inner peace or satiation is different. Self-actualisation or discovery of God is a finality in this achievement of everything or nothing due to intangibility.

Coming to the LHS of equation (3), for Religion minus Superstition and/or Belief to be equal to God, there are two possibilities:

a) If God exists (RHS = 1 or everything) then Religion = God, meaning that Superstition or Belief do not exist or are insignificant because even minusing these from Religion still leads to "everything". 
b) If God does not exist (RHS = 0 or nothing) then Religion = Superstition or Belief, meaning that Religion is nothing but Superstition or Belief.

Here is revealed a basic contradiction. We all know that Superstitions and Beliefs exist and intertwined with the practice of Religion, each religion having its own system of rituals, etc. Also, God exists, else, why debate? It is nothing but Mother Nature in all its manifestations in the living and the non-living.

Therefore, statement a) must be untrue and Religion and God have nothing to do with each other! And, from b) we can conclude that Religion is nothing but Superstition or Belief.

QED.

With this proof, we should in fact feel liberated. The route to the discovery of God is free passage with no pre-knowledge or expert guidance required. Do practice religion, if you must, but not for self-actualization. In its uncorrupted and uncommercialized form, it is strictly required to maintain an orderly social system and keep you away, as far as possible, from bringing pain and suffering to other beings.

God's lab is extremely frugal, the only required apparatus is you and Mother Nature! 
      


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Travelling Light

(Originally written in December 2009)

What all should I take along?
What all should I leave behind?

Everything you gave me
Became worthless the moment
You gave it up for me
Everything I did not give you
Was never worthy of you
The worthless cargo
At the bottom of the ship I sail

I must travel far
I must travel light
In this goodbye hour
What all should I take along?
What all should I leave behind?

D-is-order

There always exists a possibility of a structure or form to emerge out of randomness because order and disorder are merely extreme forms of each other. In nature, this happens all the time.

For instance, the dashed lane markers on the road will become (appear) joined together provided you are positioned sufficiently far away. Like wise, you can observe "rivers" flowing through the printed words on a newspaper page provided there are a sufficient number of lines and you hold the newspaper sufficiently far away from your eyes.

The question is, how many traffic lane markers or how many newspaper lines should exist, and, how far removed should the observer be such that disorder degenerates into order, or vice-versa? From the perspective of our lives, it is like asking how many events and life experiences should one go through and how distant these events should be (in time) for us to develope the capability to see what others cannot.

It has a profound and peaceful influence on our lives if we can develope this capability to find order in disorder in people around us, their behaviour, things, events and our own actions over time.

The other important thing is not to wish for order in ourselves, others and the world around us. Disorder is norm and order is a subset and an artefact.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

रुक गए होते

(जून २००९)

शुक्र है खुदा का
अपने कर्मों का हिसाब
दूसरों के एहसानों का क़र्ज़
एक एक कर चुकाना होता है
वरना कब के बिक गए होते

हर रोज़ गुनाहों की दीवार में
एक पत्थर जोड़ते हैं
और एक का हिसाब चुकाते हैं
कुल मिलाकर बोझ
बराबर सा बना रहता है
वरना कब के झुक गए होते

सलीब भारी है
और जीवन कैलाश परिक्रमा
रुकना मना है
खुदा का शुक्र है
सफ़र कदमों में बटा है
वरना कब के थक गए होते

शुक्र है खुदा का
तुम मेरे साथ हो
और रास्ता अनंत है
हर मोड़ से आगे
एक खूबसूरत नज़ारा और भी है
वरना कब के रुक गए होते

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Difficulty of Being Good

We all have been through this. We have been good at least sometime in our lives. We have forgiven and forgotten, eschewed greed, patiently waited in the Gurgaon e-way toll queue, and, let the more eager to take the elevator while we waited for the next car. It has not been easy whenever we have chosen to be good. We have scaled the post-dharma high ground only to see the sheen wear off like the paint from the fridge door handle until unwittingly we dissolved among the ordinary, minus the dharma. However, it would take us just one lovely September morning to return to the path of dharma as it happened to a dear friend of mine.

September used to be a glorious month in late 1980’s, like October is now a days. Crisp air, clear skies and greenery all around would gladden the heart and render it conducive to dharma at large, including falling in love.

On one such morning, with his heart and mind attuned to dharma, my friend was waiting his turn in the Akbar MEA elevator lobby silently singing to himself. When the car arrived, people around him rushed in leaving a space for just one more medium weight candidate. But, they were three and he the rightful candidate. However, with his dharma gushing inside, he proffered the place to the other two folks. Finally, after an embarrassing half a minute, one MEA babu accepted the offer, leaving behind only the two of them.

Until now, he had not carefully looked at his companion in waiting and now when he did, he was flattered by the sheer sophistication, poise and polish of the lady in an elegantly adorned sari. She had the translucent visage of the kind you see through the tinted glass of expensive cars. His body simply wafted away in her perfume and his virtual self stood frozen glued to the cold marble floor. Perhaps she sensed his metamorphosis and broke his spell.
“That was very nice of you. Nowadays we don’t see such gestures very often.”
“Not really, Ma’am, It wasn’t a big deal, really”
“I can see you are being modest. Where do you work?”
“C-DOT”
“Okay! That’s great.”
“And you?”
“MEA, in protocol”
“That’s kind of cool. Are you an IFS?”
“Yes”
“I never thought there were pretty IFS officers.”
“You bet. Exceptions always exist!”

A winsome smile escaped her even though he had lost everything with nothing left for her to win. She looked even prettier with that playful glint in her eyes.
“I am on the 7th floor, 707. Come along some time. We’ll sit and chat”
“But…”
“Now, now, don’t make it difficult. Just gatecrash whenever!”
“Okay, I will. Are you sure they will let me in?”
“That should not be a problem. Just call me before you come, I will leave instructions at the lobby”
“Thanks very much, that is very nice of you.”
“Not at all! We are friends now, aren't we?”
“Yeah, sure, we are.”

Just then the elevators arrived with a clunk and it was goodbye time.

For the next few days, the rewards of Dharma kept him out of the stratosphere, somewhere near the smooth rims of the holes in the ozone layer. He was positively ionized. Anyone with a negative charge (deviated from Dharma) who came in his vicinity was neutralized; his or her difficulty of being good cured. This went on as long as the lady IFS and he cavorted over Nirula’s ice creams; met over coffee in AWHO complex and discussed Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s magical realism in Hotel Hans’ coffee shop overlooking Barakhamba Road. She was thoroughly emancipated and her disarming ways always made him feel small in comparison. But, it was magic being with her and the relationship flourished on the ever growing common ground. It was magic like a lazy afternoon on the seaside. Unspoken words stuck in the leaden air between them. Time stood still until they commanded it to move again.

This went on for about six months. Folks at C-DOT were flabbergasted by my friend’s ease of being good and felt jealous. He forgave and forgot; let people jump the queue and proffered the last place in the waiting elevator car to others. He could hear the ionic chatter in the ozone layer all day. He was virtualized.

If I remember well, it was about 5 PM on 16th May and very hot outside on the balcony of room 928. My friend and I were wistfully looking at the Safdarjung airport to Qutub Minar panorama when he got a call from the C-DOT reception. There was a packet for him delivered from Akbar reception. It was a signed copy of “Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez with the message:

We have a lifetime to wait for love. Thanks for being what you are! Perhaps we will meet again sometime, somewhere near an elevator. Until then, it is goodbye!

He descended to the earth like the space shuttle in re-entry, the atmosphere searing his body and soul. He was dumbfounded, weak-kneed and so damn helpless. It was over. His wages of dharma were paid for. The May heat of this godforsaken city singed his shriveled soul. Angry and helpless, He felt like setting fire to Akbar Bhavan, taking with it everything between room #707 and the rooftop. He wanted to be bad. His dharma was compromised.

What good is dharma if it does not yield eternal dividends? It just brings pain. It raises our expectations of others that will never be met just because they are unable to overcome the difficulty of being good. It’s like coming out of the temple after prayers and expecting everyone to be good, as good as we are feeling at that moment.

Back home, whenever my father comes back from his daily visit to the Gurudwara, he is overflowing with dharma. If you are found to be good, he will drown you in the deluge of his love and blessings. And, if you are not, better look for the nearest exit! Whenever my daughter cleans up her study table and book cabinet, she her brother, who is older, for being so shabby. He just failed to live up to her post-dharma moral high ground. Worst, in her disappointment of being among the lesser mortals, she would relinquish her own dharma. Likewise, I often curse the fellow commuters who disappoint me by crossing the stop line. I make sure that I also experience their difficulty of being good!

Is it in receiving the dividends of dharma that we can sustain its quest?

The Penal Colony


  

THE PENAL COLONY



It is an absolutely ordinary day.

I am on the road I take every day to work. Everything is familiar, becoming more so with every passage, pot holes, dangerous road turns, hoardings selling everything from reality to dreams. I am in the backseat reading a novel and listening to potpourri of rock, alternative and ghazal when we approach the back lane of Amity University strewn with swanky cars and restless rich kids. There is a perfunctory police barricade less for upholding the law more for extortion brinking on begging. The road is lined with sand transported by the wheels of trucks ceaselessly raping the Yamuna. The makeshift hutments of laborers that work the mushrooming construction sites is in sight offering chilled beer, vegetables, haircut, porn dubbed in Hindi, chowmein, used clothes and breakfast. Just before the outbreak of the roadside bazaar, a dirt road climbs the raised eastern bank of Yamuna and loses itself to the road that runs alongside the river bank from the Kalindi Bridge to the numerous villages awaiting annihilation by the advancing civilization. The road is mostly lonely save for the assault of the trucks ferrying sand from the riverbed. Occasionally, the panorama is dotted with villagers, goats, cattle and cars, perhaps bought with the money from selling family land to the mafia.

I barely register the vista when my driver says, “Sir, it might rain today. There, see those dark clouds over the riverside.” The clouds are menacing, rain, a hard, hard rain imminent. I tell the driver to shut the air conditioner off and roll the windows down. The breeze is cool and damp with promise. It is going to be a different day after all, at least weather-wise. It is beautiful, enticing some action that would justify its beauty. I struggle with myself to hold back the urge to do something but finally give in. My heart wins over my mind, perhaps seeking deliverance from monotony of listless day-to-day existence. I decide to walk the rest of the way to my office. I tell the driver to stop the car and let me out. He is perplexed. He takes one look at the ever darkening sky and another at me and pleads, “Sir, it might rain any time and you will get wet. “ I get out of the car amidst his protestation and climb onto the pavement. I tell him to move on. “Today, I am in a different mood. Let me be. You drive off to the office and tell no one that I am walking to the office.” He hesitates. I tell him not to worry and I will be fine and he can call me in half an hour to check on me if he wants to. He smiles and drives off leaving me buffeted by the cool, intoxicating monsoon-like breeze. He does not know that I have left my mobile phone in the car. Good riddance to bad shit.

Standing all alone on the pavement, I am little apprehensive. Deciding to follow your heart is one thing, executing its wish quite another. I must hurry lest any colleague on his way to the office spots me and offers a ride and invite all the explaining. I start to walk and decide to take the riverside road to avoid any embarrassment.

I am barely halfway up the dirt road when rain starts to come down in plus sized drops. Sand curls upon itself and gobbles up the raindrops. Raindrops hit my body with a certain impact. They vanish on my white shirt but cannot hide themselves on the grey trousers that change color to black when wet. The sweet smell of the earth is everywhere. The divine symphony has begun and so must I. I climb onto the riverbank road. White sheet of rain is swaying and falling onto the riverbed. I know there is no river left. The meandering dark grey hose pipe visible in the distance is only a frothing toxic cesspool. I am horrified at man’s devilish ability to short-change Nature. Compare this poison to the clear greenish blue waters at the Yamuna Bridge below Mussoorie. But, the sight is still pretty to the eye. The vast expanse of the once-mighty river, the Kalindi bridge and the long straight wet grey road, all enveloped by the torrential downpour. I am happy to be here. The world can wait while I saunter down the road to the Penal Colony.

The road itself is uneventful. The trucks have stopped plying because wet sand is too heavy to carry on retreaded tyres. The tokens of civilization are few and far between. A blue Maruti car drives past playing Bollywood music. Goats and cattle stand still like a movie paused. Eucalyptus trees sway to the gusts of wind but the bushes only shudder. It is hard to be theatrical when you do not have deep roots. A goatherd gives me a curious look but does not dare speak to a Sardar, well-dressed and somewhat loony. I walk on, deliberately avoiding looking eastwards towards Noida and its crappy skyline. It would be so unromantic and moment-killer.

I am now wet and cold to the bone. My shirt clings to my body outlining the contours of the undershirt. My trouser has turned shiny black. The skin has burst into a million goose bumps. My hands have aged a hundred years and become furrowed like resins. Rain is creating channels over my body for an orderly exit to the Earth. It is a clean getaway. It does not bother to wash my sins and shames. I am just a physical obstruction in the sky to earth journey of the rain. There is so much to do. The toxins must be washed down and crap pushed downstream to create a semblance of the infinite capacity of Mother Nature to bear with human follies. It must destroy itself first to start all over again with perhaps a wiser tenant. I shiver with hunger and cold when I meet God.

If there is a river, there is God. Even when the river has vanished, there is God. This one in pink and yellow temple is Lord Balaji. It has been incarcerated and made to stay put on the barren riverside because a lot of human investment has gone into the temple. See those cars parked outside and the discreet dark chambers inside. The human purposes require God’s protection. Raindrops taste bitter at the thought of yet another spectacular human excess: religion. Only Lord Shiva seems to have got it right. Religion lies still between a man’s legs in a state of permanent arousal. Worshipers’ envy, priests’ pride. Gods have long escaped the dark and sweaty confines of temples leaving behind the mumbo jumbo of religion and puerile believers. I am sure I won’t ever find Lord Balaji anywhere near this filthy river and inside this pink and yellow fortress but I bow my head in reverence to Him, wherever He might be. Temples serve as good reminders of God and where not to find Him.

I meet a school boy, may be a truant, who has taken shelter under a tree. He says, “Uncle, you are all wet. Where are you going?” I tell him that I am going to the Penal Colony where I work for a living. He gives me an understanding smile as I ruffle his short hair and walk on. “Bye Uncle” he says and resumes his idleness. Up ahead, construction workers in colorful jackets are huddled around a makeshift tea stall. The orange conduits are waiting with gaping mouths. There is a temporary pause in the great march of civilization. It’s in giving that we receive. The poor Rajasthani laborers will surely receive from the HCLs, the Logix Techno Parks and the 3C’s of the world. Lord Balaji sees but waits.

Rain is now subsiding. The raindrops are lighter and fewer. Clouds are breaking up after the soiree. I have been walking for about an hour now and I must be somewhere close to my destination. I look eastwards at the glass and steel sprawl of the Penal Colony. The outhouse is lined with shanties. Smoke is rising from some of the dhabas I know well. May be some of my fellow convicts are already on their way to one of these lusting for gossip over tea, samosas and parathas. About one hour into work, it is also about time for the first tea break of the day. I feel like knocking the concrete boxes over with a Hulk like swipe of my hand and see the convicts rushing out like they do in cartoons. Or, I want to lift the boxes clean in the air leaving behind bewildered convicts still strapped to their torture machines.

I descend the dirt road leading to the broad road skirting the Penal Colony. The stink and litter signals that I am approaching civilization. I turn left towards Tiwari’s dhaba, already smelling of frying samosas. Small wonder that I immediately see a band of the usual suspects from my yard already stationed there smoking and drinking tea. Seeing me approach, they exclaim variously.
“Arrey Sir, where were you? We have been looking for you?”
“Is everything alright? You are all wet”
“Looks like you have been having fun in the rain, haven’t you?”

I give them my crazy story of the walk on the river bank. I am embarrassed because I suspect I am validating their belief that I am a nut case. I try to play it down and divert their attention from my wet clothes and squelching shoes. I shout to Tiwariji for a samosa and tea and indulge in small talk. But the smart asses are restless and ask me, “But, why did you come back to the Colony, you could have gone to CP or somewhere for a beer and called us too?”

I wanted to say, “Buddy, that’s not an option for the convicts who are sent to the Penal Colony. We must come back to the Colony after our brief bouts of disillusionment.”