Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Enna Thavam

This video is dedicated to my friend AM, who died in a fatal bike accident three ago in the month of February. He may have been 24 years at that time. He used to come here daily to practice animation on my PC for nearly a month before the dreaded day, and the first thing he used to do after booting the system was to play a version of this song used Dileep’s film Thilakam on Winamp. It was his favourite.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Diving-Bell And The Butterfly

I felt embarrassed, ashamed and humiliated when I made my mother read one of my recent posts on this blog a couple of days back; embarrassed not because I had written something that she wasn’t meant to read, but because I found some glaring flaws in the post as she was reading it aloud. Some misplaced/missing words, some grammatical errors that made think of the people who must have read that post and chuckled (I mail my new posts to at least two dozen people), but were kind enough to reply with comments similar to “well-written” and some even posted comments on the blog. It took me a couple of hours to correct the post, but took me the whole night to get over the shame; making me think of excuses for such a lapse; my mind working faster than the two fingers of my right hand or maybe I should’ve read it aloud before posting it and many such things. The worse I feared was that I won’t be able to get back to blogging for a few months until this event remained fresh in my mind.

But as you can see that it was not to happen and I am back here writing. Things changed when I got a courier with a book titled The Diving-Bell And The Butterfly by Jean Dominique Bauby yesterday.

I was explaining the speciality of the book to my father; “it is the autobiography of the French editor of Elle, who dictated it just by batting his left eyelid after suffering a paralytic stroke”, and here I’m sulking about my two stiff fingers of my right hand that won’t move at the speed of my thoughts.

The book is a remarkable memoir of the author’s life in hospital after he suffered the stroke or locked-in syndrome. It is anecdotal and describes how he feels being in the cocoon of his body. It isn’t all that gloomy as I make it sound; there are a few really hilarious passages where he talks about hospital staff, some rude, some indifferent and some being a nuisance.

Somewhere before the end of the book Bauby tells us that he wishes to write a play where the hero suffers from locked-in syndrome and goes through all that he has experienced, in the climax he gets up from his bed and exclaims something like; “Shit! It was just a dream”.

A slim book (133 pages) with large fonts, this is the first book that I could finish in matter of hours.

If you are interested in knowing where I got to know about this book, just read the first comment on this post by Jai Arjun Singh

A detailed review of the book from The New York Times. (Free registration required).

And, thank you HCP for getting the book for me.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Short Story

I wrote this story in the same period when I wrote these poems. So, the same introduction will fit here.

Radical Parenting

The cigarette between his fingers was burnt upto its butt. His hands were stretched on the railing as if balancing his body. He was looking down from his second floor flat, but seeing nothing. The soft wind blowing made his Kurta stick to his chest. He looked like a creative person with black square framed glasses, the balding head with grey and black hair made him look experienced and mature.

Chhagan bhai (as he is known) seemed to be tense and nervous in this posture, the cigarette in his hand was a fair indication of his state, he always puffed at a high frequency, but now it was burnt out without being touched by his lips.

The problem occupying Chhagan bhai’s mind was his daughter.

Parul Ved, a final year B. Com student in a local college, a 20 year old girl with average height and beauty.

For Chhagan bhai his daughter is a semi-modern girl, who is not mature enough for her age. It was she who was bothering him from a few days.

Precisely five days ago Parul had told something that hit him like a thunder.

They were enjoying their dinner when she suddenly spoke disturbing the silence of the room. “Pappa”, she said; she had this peculiar habit of calling him that in an odd tune, and he loved it. He looked up. Surprise, confusion and concern showing on his face. “What is it?” he asked. He didn‘t remember once his daughter stopping for him to answer after calling, she went on talking even if he was not listening. Now she had stopped to get his full attention. “Pappa I want to tell you something”, she told. “Don’t you think I’m listening”, Chhagan bhai said; “see my ears, they are standing erect as a dog’s to listen to you”, he continued mockingly.

Parul smiled, her face showed that something was bothering her, she was searching for words, Chhagan bhai's patience was being tested, he was keeping the grin intact on his face despite of himself, He sensed something, somewhere was wrong.

“I’ve a friend”, Parul said, “He wants to meet you”.

“So”, Chhagan bhai asked, his face was still pleasant, his eyes soft, but the smile had disappeared from his lips. “ I think I know all your friends and I have met them all”, “You don’t know him”, Parul replied .She was searching for words again then she spoke after a while, “Pappa, he wants to marry me”.

“Oh, so tell me that he is your boyfriend”, Chhagan bhai quipped, the smile returning to his lips.

“What?” Parul’s mother almost shouted as the expression on her face was of utter shock; her eyes were fixed on Parul’s face, unblinking. Parul was frightened as hell when she saw her eyes. She thought they would never blink again.

“Listen”, Chhagan bhai said in a shrill voice, commanding their attention. Parul turned her face towards him, pushing her specs back on the bridge of her nose. His wife looked at him, her eyes still unblinking. “By the way, who is he?” he asked. “He was my senior in college”, Parul said. Her father was listening intently so she continued, “His father is a seafood exporter”. He was not satisfied by her explanation, so he asked with some irritation, “I asked about the boy, what is his name?”

Parul was getting tensed; she was finding it hard to breathe, she felt her heart turning around in her chest. She found it hard to speak and when she spoke the words came after much strain, "Pappa - his name is Shabbir Kapasi, he is a Muslim”, she said. Chhagan bhai was shocked, he had a feeling that something was churning inside his belly and his face stoned. It took him a few moments to regain his composure, “well’’, he spoke as if he was speaking in vacuum, “tomorrow is Saturday - call him, let’s see tomorrow evening”. Parul was happy but restrained her face from showing it.

For rest of the dinner there was a mist of silence hanging on the table, all three of them wanted to break it, but nobody dared to.

That night Chhagan bhai and his wife had a discussion, the crux of the discussion was Parul. His wife was wild at him for the way he handled the situation. “Then what do you think I should have done?” he asked desperately.
“You should’ve told no in the first place”, she said blankly. “Don’t be a fool, what do you think would’ve happened if I would have told no, the talk would have ended there with no result”, Chhagan bhai said with a tone of understanding.

“What do you mean?” his wife asked like a child. “See if I had said no at first, then it would have meant that we were washing our hands off from our responsibility and that she could have it in her own way”, Chhagan bhai explained.

“Yes”, she said, as if she suddenly had a clear vision after being short sighted for a long time.

The next morning at the breakfast there was an unusual muteness of the night. The morning sun was filtering into the kitchen cum dinning room therefore nullifying the need for artificial lighting.

The silence was heavy as an iron veil hanging around them. The silence, which was unheard of for last few years, was now swallowing the pleasantness of this home.

Chhagan bhai broke the ice suddenly. “Parul were you serious last night?” he was looking at her with a mixture of intensity and softness on his face. “What?’’ she asked, her face was an assortment of thoughts that were running through her head. He repeated the question.

“Yes”, she said, gaining the sureness, which she knew she lacked, “otherwise I wouldn’t have told you”.

“Well”, Chhagan bhai said, a kind of ambiguous look on his face, but it was polite and his tone was somewhat heavy, “What I meant to ask was you wanted to study future - M.B.A or CA”. “I will-“, she started to say, but Chhagan bhai cut her short, "by the way what he – Shabbir is doing? “

“Pappa, he is doing M.Com privately and he is also helping his father. He is planning to go to U.S to do a course in Management, he has got scholarship from some private concern”, she said.

“I thought you’re planning to get married immediately”, Chhagan bhai said, a surprise showing on his face, but his voice was calm.

“No Pappa”, she said, mistaking his surprise for mock she continued; “I told this early because my stomach was aching “.

“Oh”, he smiled a faint smile it vanished immediately. Parul became conscious of her mistake and she added; “Pappa, I also plan to finish my higher studies “.

“Has he talked about you to his parents? “ “No Pappa”, she answered; “He says we wait till he comes back “.

“What if he changes his mind?” “Chhagan bhai asked. “It can happen with me also Pappa “, Parul said, an odd type of confidence shone in her eyes as she spoke the words which she never expected to utter even to herself.

Chhagan bhai glanced at her as if he were a patient of amnesia, then spoke, “Parul Beta, you have grown up, really you have grown up, I thought it was only your size “.

It was at sharp five o’clock that the bell rang. Parul went and opened the door, after a slight murmur at the door she came in followed by a man-boy.
“Pappa this is Shabbir”, Parul said.

Chhagan bhai got up from his chair watching him. He had not seen such perfection in his life. What he was looking at was conceptualisation of Hindi movie star. He was tall, his complexion fair with strong black eyes, his face was soft and shining with lemon green hue on the parts of his chin, cheeks and moustache as it was clean shaved. His hair was parted in the middle; it flapped like horse’s mane when he moved his head. “Hello sir “, he said.

“You being Parul’s friend should call me uncle “, Chhagan bhai said.

“Yes uncle “, Shabbir obeyed.

After a few stray topics Chhagan bhai confronted Shabbir with the same queries as he had made to Parul, he was surprised at the similarities in answer of both of them. Shabbir was calm and composed; he didn’t hesitate to speak out his mind. Despite of himself Chhagan bhai was impressed by this boy and so he told Parul; “he is a brilliant boy”, he had said after Shabbir had gone.

But after five days also his mind was not free, the image of what happened in the past few days struck his head in random, in his mind he had accepted it, but he was lacking the conviction, and the support of his heart to evaluate whether it was right or wrong. He had a feeling that he was growing old and was losing control over life. Somehow he wanted to tell no to Parul, but he had no justification for doing that. The image of Parul came into his eyes, a clear photographic image. A strange sensation crept into him, because the image was not of his daughter but of an individual he did not understand. It went out and again Chhagan bhai’s heart started wandering in the blacked-out alley of his doubts.