Friday, March 16, 2012



Rita just got a new doll. Her mom had given her one for Christmas. She named the doll Cindy. They were inseparable since. Cindy was her best friend. She would eat, sleep and bathe with Cindy around. Cindy was her world.
Life had not been easy for Rita, it never really is for a three year old. They had just moved into a new house. She did not know any of the other kids. She was shy and she felt afraid. But with Cindy by her side, she never felt alone. Her mom always told her that Cindy would always keep her warm.
Her new home had a beautiful playground. Kids from every corner came to play there. Rita’s mom took her there to play. Her mom promised her that she would find a friend or two there.
 It was a fine morning. Rita was apprehensive about going but her mother convinced her. She promised to stay there with her. Rita agreed and they set out.
Her mom dropped her at the playground and joined the other mom’s sitting on the other side. Rita did not want her mom to go. And yet there they were, both her and Cindy alone in this strange new place. She went and sat by the sandbox. She propped up Cindy right by her side and started brushing her hair.
“Hey” came a voice and Rita turned. There was this little boy whose nose was running and whose shorts were too big for him. He smiled at Rita and said, “My name is Ryan. Do you want to play?”
Rita did not know what to say. She looked at Cindy. Cindy sat there with a painted smile on her face. Rita thought for a second, grabbed Cindy and turned to the new boy. She said, “Hi Ryan, I am Rita. Can Cindy come along?” and she pulled Cindy right in front of him.
“You mean the doll?”
“Yeah” muttered Rita, a little unsure and a little afraid. After all she had seen at school that none of the boys played with dolls.
“Sure, she seems okay!”
Rita felt elated. She made her first friend. And he liked Cindy as well. They played together all day long. So much so that by the end of the day they both had become the best of friends.
Ryan turned to Rita and said, “I had fun. You and Cindy are pretty cool”
Rita smiled and said, “I had fun too.”
Ryan asked, “Will you be coming tomorrow?”
Rita said, “Yes, sure I will. Will you?”
Ryan said, “Of course. We will play tomorrow. I will get my gun. It is the coolest gun in the world.”
Rita said, “No, Cindy is afraid of guns.”
Ryan replied, “Oh come on. I am sure if she starts using one she wont be afraid anymore. I will show both of you how to use a gun. It is easy and fun”
Rita agreed but before she could say goodbye she extended her hand and said, “Friends?”
He shook her hand, smiled and nodded. Then he ran off towards his mom.
That night Rita prayed thanking God for a new friend. Her mom always said to thank God for all the good things in life. And she thanked God for Cindy. Cindy had been the most wonderful doll a girl could ever have. Cindy was the coolest and tomorrow Cindy would learn how to use a gun.
The next day, Rita was excited. She could not wait to go and play in the playground. The first question she asked her mom was, “When can I go and play?”
Her mom smiled and said, “looks like someone made a friend?”
“Yes mom, we did, me and Cindy did. He is so much fun. He cant run very fast because his shorts keep slipping. But he knows some pretty cool games.”
“That is great honey, but you will have to wait till school gets over.”
“Cant I go now?”
“No honey, school first, play later. I promise I will drive you there as soon as I come back.”
And so she did, she waited. She sat through school waiting for the final bell to ring. On her bus ride home she planned all the games she would teach him. And once home she waited for her mom all the while she dressed and redressed Cindy. Cindy had to look like a girl who could use a gun.
Her mom was a little late. Rita had grown restless. The minute her mom entered she jumped right on her asking her to take her to the playground. Finally the tired mother relented and dropped her off at the playground. This time her mom did not stay back. Rita herself told her not to stay back. Her mom left saying she would pick her up in an hour. Rita was too excited to care. As her mother drove by Rita rushed into the playground eager to meet Ryan and play with his gun.
Rita looked about the playground but could not find Ryan. She went and sat at her spot next to the sandbox. She played a little with Cindy but could not find Ryan anywhere. And then she heard a scream. She turned and saw a group of boys playing and hitting each other with a big ball. She went closer and saw Ryan was playing with all of them.  She was elated to see him. She ran towards him calling out his name.
Suddenly the boys stopped playing. They all turned to look at Rita. When they heard her call his name, they started sniggering and laughing. Ryan’s face turned red.
One of the bigger boys said, “Ohhh, Ryan has a girlfriend!”
Another sneered, “Ewww.. Ryan plays with girls. Ryan plays with dolls!”
And soon all the boys started singing, “Ryan is girl! Ryan is a girl!”
Rita could not understand what was going on. She went up to him and said, “Hey did you get your gun? See I dressed Cindy up in pants so that she could look like a girl who could use a gun!”
Ryan said nothing and the chants grew stronger.
One of the boys said, “Ryan how can you play with a girl. They are weird. We don’t play with boys who play with girls and their dolls.”
Another sneered, “Either you leave us or we will beat you up and throw you out.”
Ryan turned to that boy and pleaded, “No, no I don’t want to go. I want to play with you guys.”
“We aint playing with no girl and specially not with dolls. Dolls are for girls.”
“Yeah Ryan. Either you are friends with her or you are friends with us.”
Ryan’s face grew redder. He could not understand what to do. He said, “I don’t know her. I just talked to her for a few minutes yesterday because there was no body else here.”
“Why are you lying? We played the entire evening. You said we are friends!” said Rita
And all the boys started laughing.
Suddenly one of them turned and said, “He is not your friend, you stupid girl. We don’t become friends with girls. Girls are crazy.”
This time Ryan interjected and to Rita’s surprise said the same. He said, “Yeah she is a stupid girl with her stupid doll. Look at her. Stupid girl.”
Soon all the boys joined into the chant. They kept calling her “Stupid girl.”
Rita got angry and went up to Ryan and pushed him. She started screaming, “I am not stupid. You are such a liar. Yesterday you said you were my friend. You even said you would teach Cindy how to play with your gun”
“Liar. This girl is stupid. I never said that. I don’t even know her! And why would I ever let you touch my gun?” said Ryan.
One of the boys said, “Well Ryan if she is lying then we should punish her.”
And suddenly all the boys encircled her. They pushed her around. She started screaming. But they did not give up. They kept pushing her around in the circle. Even Ryan pushed her and he pushed her the hardest. She tried to fight back but she only had one hand. With the other she clutched on to Cindy for dear life. Ryan came towards her and snatched Cindy away from her. Rita pleaded him to let Cindy go but he did not listen. Soon the boys started kicking Cindy around. They stomped on her, broke her arm and tore out her hair. Rita saw this roll out right in front of her eyes. She kept screaming and shouting and crying. She even tried to save Cindy but every time one or the other guys would push her back.
After what seemed like an eternity, they left her alone and went off to play by the swings. Rita sat there teary eyed looking at her broken doll or whatever was left of her. She slowly crawled towards Cindy and held her in her arms. She tried to nurse her and comb her tangled and muddied hair. But Cindy was gone. She had been beaten down into pieces. Rita kept sitting there weeping. She could not believe she had lost her only friend. She hugged Cindy and kept crying. At first her cries were loud and echoed around the playground but gradually they turned into subdued sobs. She kept sitting there till her mother came.
As she sat there Ryan kept glancing back at her. And every time he looked at her he adjust the gun that hung around his shoulder in a sling, the gun he had bought to teach Cindy, the gun he had promised he would show Rita. But he never looked long enough. He never went there to say sorry. He kept playing with the boys and she kept crying and telling God, “he said he was my friend!”

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Herd Movement

I am a 21 year old engineer. I was brilliant at school, always topped. My mathematical prowess and lack of willingness to pursue medical convinced my parents that engineering was my destiny. And as every warrior must prepare before the war I was enrolled in a coaching institute which had IIT all over its banner. But I wanted to write.
I did not clear JEE! A decent AIEEE rank landed me in a decent college. And for the past few years I have struggled with my mediocrity in engineering. I am not an engineer. My parents think I am lazy. They just might be right. I think I am just disinterested. I just might be wrong. And yet of the 240 odd batch mates that I have, majority of them do not enjoy engineering. They too were toppers, had decent AIEEE ranks and landed up in a decent college. A majority of them are now working hard for their CAT.
Funny how so many engineering students despise engineering. I call this the Herd Movement. You see a huge crowd, you follow it. Some of us do it because we are scared. Most of us do it because we are clueless. The Herd Movement fascinates me and has become a trend with my generation. I see so many joining it. It almost stands as an alternative to being lost and aimless. So as a lame attempt, I present to you, my innocent reader, a case study of this infamous HERD MOVEMENT.
Problem Statement:
 Career choices have often baffled the young and the clueless. There exists a typical trend among youngsters in the age group of 18-26. They join special centres known as ‘Coaching/Tuition/Training Institutes’ in the hope to pass entrance exams and get a step closer to a quality education. These entrance exams are conducted by elite institutes of the country to screen students with ‘desired’ aptitudes.
However the level of job satisfaction is extremely low. There is a gaping absence of innovation and originality. There is discontentment and disappointment from both the academic and student world.
The case writer hopes to analyze the reason behind this misalignment and confer the real cause of this discontentment.

Education is the key to a better life. This better life is the carrot that forces a stubborn child to study. However as the child becomes an adult, education becomes much more.
Today education is no longer a knowledge enriching experience, but has become training to survive. There is no sense of passion attached to work. Money dictates the terms of choices, of beliefs and of decisions. Thereby education in India has become a factory unit that produces corporate individuals on a large scale. The mass manufactured products go out into the world and do their assigned job. There is a lack of innovation and a gaping lack of passion.

There was a time when examinations like JEE tested the acumen of a student. This acumen had to suffice certain aptitude for engineering that the institutions demanded. The IIMs were once known for the sheer variety of individuals that they shortlisted for admissions. Cracking these examinations meant understanding the subject and developing an approach to problem solving. There were no solution manuals, answer keys or master wordlists. There was a book that told you the facts and figures and your brain which had to infer the rest. Schools offered the necessary background that enabled the students to compete. Schools enriched knowledge and not just imparted literacy.

The world is a tough place and to survive you need money. For money you need a career. Today earning a career requires three things- dedication, hard work and the ability to be trained and groomed. You need to get admitted to a coaching institute where you learn the tricks of the trade. You are taught cryptic codes that unlock all the answers. Therefore these entrance exams become a cakewalk.
These exams have become predictable. Their trend, their quality and their challenge has reduced to a puzzle which anyone can crack. A wise ass engineer very fondly once proclaimed, “To crack and entrance exam is like finding a bug in a system. You find the bug and then you exploit it at your mercy.”
These tests do not test your intelligence. They have been cracked already. Anyone with the right coaching institute and study material can crack them.
 The problem lies not in the parents who force their children to pursue disciplines that sound secure, not in the students who are clueless and follow the herd but in the system that has reduced education to a factory unit. The educational institutes today produce students that the industry demands. They impart a training rather than knowledge. Institutes churn out graduates like industry churns out products, similar and mass produced.
The human brain has an ability to think. One derives pleasure from pursuing a passion, pursuing creativity, discovering something new or inventing something unique. An industry trained brain cannot innovate. It can only follow orders. Like the herds follow the shepherd or the guard dog. The wild deer experiences freedom.  There is an absence of that liberation. There is an invisible leash around that inhibits the graduate from thinking. As a fond professor of mine states, “The problem with your generation is that everything is served to you on a plate. You people just refuse to think, you are too afraid to question.”
This inhibition can be primarily is the sole reason for the discontentment on both sides: the discontentment of the individual with a passionless job and a monotonous life and the discontentment of the world at the deficiency of innovators.

Not long ago Jairam Ramesh criticized the IITs for not producing any substantial research in the past years. The IIMs recently started the reward system where they give brownie points if you are a girl and a non engineer. They claim they want to diversify the crowd at the IIMs. There is a famous institute called Bansal Coaching which has its own exam to admit students. Depending upon the score and rank you are placed in batches with different grades.  A similar mechanism is followed by several CAT coaching institutes. For every entrance examination in India there is a coaching institute somewhere and a guarantee. I know of many who dropped out after their first year at an engineering college and chose to pursue another line. They are happy today.
All I can confer from all the conversations and observations is if you want something you must have the courage and the willingness to achieve it.
You want a diverse crowd, diversify your screening process. Do not reward points like they are candy, but alter the way you target students. Allow for creativity to grow. This world cannot survive on labourers. It needs innovators, leaders and thinkers who can think beyond profit and loss and compel us to think.
The education system today is very convergent. There is a dire need to revive knowledge, free thought and innovation. You can be mediocre anywhere. But when you are born to climb a tree you should not try and swim a river.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


There was a battle field. There was a trophy. There were enemies. And most of all there was a war. There is a moment when the war is just about to begin. You stand in your corner, amidst your army. You are fired up, you have to fight, you do not know if you will live, you don’t know if you will die and the last thing you see is the enemy, the enemy you are supposed to kill.
The times were tough. There had been friction ever since they had begun living together. There were two war fronts. On one side stood the men who wanted liberation, who wanted equality, they called themselves the rebels and their enemies called them infidels. On the other side stood men who wanted supremacy, who wanted to suppress the weaklings, the infidels, the vandals, the outlaws and the outcasts. Their story began like every other story of dispute, of war.
For time, that cannot be recounted, they had lived in harmony. They followed a hierarchy, they survived. The weak stayed suppressed, the strong grew dominant. And the stronger they grew, the suppression increased, the dominance grew. And as the suppression grew, resistance was born.
It had been a singular incident that had sparked the revolution. A Supreme had bumped into a weakling. And in the name of punishment, the weakling had been beaten black and blue. Instead of fear, as the dominant had expected, this incident ignited a fury the Supremes could never have predicted. The weaklings soon turned into rebels. This incident had sparked an anger that was overdue. Their fury rose and spread like wild fire. The rebellion began and so did a change in the air. They took up all the arms they could find and declared a war, a war they would fight for their independence. Their battle was a battle for identity and most of all they had risen to demand what they felt they deserved and had been stripped of.
The rebellion made a lot of noise. The Supremes detested it. They considered it an affront to the rules they lived by. Not only had their supremacy been questioned but the weaklings demanded overturning a hierarchy that had sustained the entire establishment for a long time. They stood strong headed and strong footed. Their peaceful life had been upturned. There was sudden chaos and there were sudden battles. There were fights and there were atrocities. Every act became a prelude to a war that would come.
The dominants propagated their supremacy with the colour blue. They wore blue stripes to exaggerate and exhibit their supremacy. Hierarchy had granted them a supreme position and no one questioned hierarchy. The weaklings who had heralded themselves as the Rebels wore red. Their red stripes represented their freedom. They were no more a part of the blue hierarchy. It was a difficult time. There was impending doom. On the day of the war each man stood on the battlefield, ready to die for their belief, ready to die for what each thought was right.
In the blue camp, the leader stood in front of his army shining in his glory and his self imposed supremacy. His gallant stance inspired the army. They stood looking down upon their enemies. They were infidels, they were insignificant and most of all they were beneath them as the hierarchy stated.
The leader in blue turned to his men and with a grim expression on his face stated, “Men, before we begin this war, before we begin the downfall of the infidels I must state that we belong to a legacy far bigger than any of us. It is not about just winning a war. Winning this war is inevitable. We are supreme, we are the dominants. It is not just I who says so but it is written in our destiny. The messenger of God Himself carrying the document of destiny flew down in his white angelic abode to tell the emperor whose hierarchy we are here to protect today! It is us who are destined to win, and God has sent his will. No one can question fate, no one can overturn destiny. We are born to dominate, it is our birth right. We are the men who give these infidels a reason to stay useful. It is their duty to serve us, to follow our rules and to stay in their holes which the hierarchy has designed for them. These are not just my words, but the words of the emperor himself. He quotes the white angel of GOD, “The blue stripes fall ahead in line. The hierarchy is what designs our destiny.” The hierarchy is what tells those infidels that they are behind us and beneath us. They dare to stand ahead, they dare to question order, and they dare to question the authority of God. We are not fighting infidels today; we are fighting criminal miscreants who have misled our slaves. Slavery has no freedom. The slaves have forgotten this. They have forgotten who their masters are. And today as the braver and the better men we shall remind them! Fight till the last drop of blood on their end has not dried. Kill if you must. Be brutal, unleash the warrior within. Today if you show mercy tomorrow they will stand again. Bury them so that they never rise again. They never should ever question our supremacy. Remember this, engrave it in your minds if you have not yet they are not questioning you or me. They question our supremacy. Infidels, men who stand lower than the dirt beneath our feet have grown to question us, the Supremes. It is an affront to the king we love and respect, it is an affront to our manliness and most of all it is an affront to the sacred hierarchy we blindly trust and uphold. Avenge the insult, avenge the attack on each of us and avenge the blasphemy they have dared to commit. Fight like Supremes, show the infidels that they cannot call themselves our equals unless we allow them to!”
There was a fire lit inside every man in blue. Each of them heard their leader as if in a trance. These words had ignited within each of them their own supremacy. They were prepared for battle, their eyes said so. They were humans no more but savages waiting to pounce upon a prey. A lion had just been challenged by its prey. And the lion was roaring to attack.
On the other end of the battle field stood the rebels who were tired of being deemed as infidels. There was no leader. They all stood together. They were all equal right now. Each of them shared the misery of being treated as an infidel their entire lives. Their red stripes had left them at the bottom of the hierarchy. They had been denied equality and respect. They were denied the basic civility of being human. They stood together a little weak but strongly determined. There was no leader, there was no supremacy, and there was just a feeling, a feeling to die for their freedom. Suppression had altered them in ways they could not live with. The Supremes beat them up when they preferred, they were forced to perform acts that were inhumane, and there were atrocities no human deserved. The land was as much theirs as the blues. Their ancestors had walked the same land; they had consumed the same food and yet they were inferior without reason. Each of the rebels felt an energy inside them. No piece of paper which the Supremes marked as the document of hierarchy could dictate the terms in the land. They refused to accept that they were beneath anyone. They stood silently together with a chant emanating under their breath, “We fight for equality, no supreme, no infidel! We are equal!” They chanted in unison as if each was in a trance. There was determination deep rooted in each of them. It is when you are at the bottom that you begin to look up and attempt to rise. They were tired of being manipulated, insulted, treated like animals and discriminated against. None of the Supremes bothered to listen to their voice; none of the supreme allowed them the right to question or the right to live freely. Exploitation was at its peak. The rats in the place had more food. Time stood witness to the tremendous atrocities that they dealt with.
One of them who stood right in front walked ahead and spoke, “My friends, I am a simple man. I came here with a dream that I would get a roof over my head, food on my plate and nice friends to spend my life with. But I was insulted, beaten up, stripped, exploited and treated like a dog. Food was stolen from my mouth in the name of hierarchy. I was beaten for speaking up because hierarchy did not allow me to. I was tossed from here to there because the hierarchy said I was too insignificant to be called human. But I ask you, what is this hierarchy? Who is s Supreme to tell me I am insignificant. Just because the emperor we never see meets with the angel of GOD he gets to decide how things go about in this place? I say I do not believe in this angel of GOD. I have never seen him. I do not believe he is God’s messenger. We belong to the same God as the blue Supremes do! God is our Father too. We deserve everything they do. No document can tell me I am insignificant. I refuse to accept any such thing. I am a human being, I am alive and this life is mine and no one else can say otherwise. I will live like I want to. I will do what I want to. I will not confine to anyone else. I will not obey someone just because they wear a blue coloured stripe. I will not accept the balderdash they pass on as the document of hierarchy. I say I am the child of God created in the same place as the blue Supremes and living in the same place as the blue Supremes. Why should I accept anything less than what they enjoy? Why should my life be any less than theirs? In fact, I say I can be better than them. I can persevere more. I have more fire and more hunger than they will ever know. And today I will fight them for that right to compete on a platform where we are equal! Remember this when you are out there on the battle field that you are not fighting for anyone else but yourselves. It is how brave you are today that decides the fate of all of us tomorrow. Fight today not for anything less than your freedom. Fight for the right that they have stolen from you in the name of GOD and a messenger none of us know. They call us blasphemous. I call them blasphemous for taking the Lords name in vain and misusing the respect we keep for God in our heart to impose their false sense of supremacy. Today we will fight like rebels. We will not call them Supremes. They are like us, made of the same blood, made of the same bones and made of the same skin. WE will take what is ours and that is liberation. I will not ask you to kill. I will ask you to win. Because victory today stands for freedom tomorrow! Today we show them, we are no infidels, we are all equal! Gentlemen, it is time to ATTACK!”
With those words they ran and seeing the infidels run the Supremes ran. For an observer there was a moment of solidarity as the two fought. Each had a cause, each had a belief and they were fighting for their own reasons. As the battle ensued, somewhere in the distance a few men sat watching the entire spectacle. Some would call them messenger of GOD, some would call them God Himself and some would even call them the bearers of the document of hierarchy but they were someone else entirely.
One the other side of the huge two way glass came a voice “Wont some one get hurt?” It belonged to the curly haired girl whose name tag read Shanti Mohanty.
“Na, look at what they are using? They are safe, for now” came a voice ridden with ridicule and shock. This was a grey haired man with huge spectacles who called himself Dr. Madhav Sinha.
“I have never seen something so crazy in my life!” said the humble Mr. Gajendra Prasad. He was an old man, with a white overcoat, huge spectacles and oily hair.
“This kind of behaviour is so unexpected!” said Shanti.
“In a sense, yes, it is. We did not induce such behaviour and did not expect it as hell. It is interesting how each of them has responded to a system we implemented. I cannot believe it myself had I not seen it with my own eyes” said Madhav.
“Doctor saab, I never thought they would think I am the Messenger. I just call them in line for their medicines” said Gajendra.
“Shanti, who is this emperor character? Is it who I think it is?” said Dr. Madhav.
“Yes. He is the first person whom we call on the list. Hari Verma” replied Shanti.
“Hari seems totally harmless. I meet him every day. He always gets the others to behave and helps me distribute most of the medicines” said Gajendra.
“Ah! I should have known. He might be a sweet chap Gajendra ji, but he is also a brilliant man. I have read his file. His IQ is very high, the psychologists who analyzed him state that he has tremendous persuasive abilities and he can manipulate people easily. There was an actual moment between him and the psychologists where the psychologist felt vulnerable. Hence we have shifted him to the special ward and not kept him with the regular patients,” said Shanti.
“This entire ward is for special patients only. And as far as my own observations go, I have keenly observed Hari. He is quite capable of establishing the entire concept these people follow! Brilliant! Sheer brilliance. He has managed to create a war and look at him. He is safely seated in his safe haven observing the entire scene. A brain like his could run a country but he is stuck here in this place.”
Gajendra looked confused. He turned to the two of them, on the other side of the two way mirror. With a puzzling look he questioned, “Doctor saab, I do not understand. How can these people start a war in a mental facility? Look at them they are fighting with pillows and bed sheets! But the way they talk! It seems so real. And how can Hari do this? He is the most cooperative patient here! What is this angel, this document of hierarchy? I do not understand!”
The doctor and Shanti looked at him. The doctor began, “Mr. Gajendra, this is definitely unexpected  behaviour! I can see how you are lost. Understand this, all that you see is the result of the brilliance of one man whose intellect is very dangerous. You see all these men were shifted into the special ward of our mental health facility because their psycho analysis declared them to be terminally sick. The idea of this special ward was to keep each of these patients under constant medical observation. Hence we place them in this room where we can observe them from the other side. See each of them is highly excitable and easily influenced. And it was imperative for us to keep them in a safe environment so that they do not hurt themselves.”
Shanti interjected, “Each of them has a special medication cycle which has been programmed into our hospital database. The entire working of this system has been computerised. These men are socially awkward. They tend to react unexpectedly in the presence of nurses, their relatives or other human beings. They are accustomed to each other primarily because they have grown used to it. So the computers take care of the medicine cycles and we have a few physicians like you here to carry their medicines to them and check up on them. You are provided with a computerised list and a packet containing the proper medicine, right? You know of nothing else. And that is why we always send you to give each of them their medicines. You are a familiar face!”
Dr. Madhav continued, “This document of hierarchy that they are talking of is this computerised list. It enlists them in the order of their case numbers. Hari has been with this facility for a long time. Hence he is on top of the list. He is always called first. He is even aware of the system. We built it in front of him. He even volunteered for the experimentative treatment we carried out before structuring this branch of the facility. He is aware of the entire list.”
Shanti then asked, “How did this blue and red come into the whole picture?”
Dr. Madhav laughed once and said, “some of the older patients were provided with blue suits as they are the old uniforms while the new ones wear the red ones. I am amazed how this colour difference got involved in the entire scene but the older patients have been treated for a longer time than the new ones.  They are much more subdued and in control of their habits. But the new ones have just enrolled and their condition is, how should I put it, a little tender. Hence it is not easy for them to go about their daily habits easily. They need more care and cannot stand up to pressures as well as the old ones do. As a result they come off weaker than their priors. Hari is capable of creating the entire concept of GOD and the document of hierarchy in their heads but the rest can very well be their own imagination. He has literally created a war in a mental health facility! And you Dr. Gajendra are their angel of God or messenger of GOD or whatever they call him. You are the one who carries the list everyday and so you are the one who tells them who gets to eat first, who gets to be supreme! Do you understand?”
Gajendra stood there in utter shock.
Dr. Madhav stared at the entire spectacle in awe.
Hari smugly sat in one corner on his bed with his blanket around him. He looked at the entire war with a sense of victory in his eyes.
Shanti wrote down every observation she could note. She was furiously typing out everything on her tablet. She looked up at the doctor and said, “I think we should start work on our research paper! This would be a brilliant case study!”
All Dr. Madhav could do was stare. He had never seen an independence struggle induced by a database management system. He never thought he would see one in a mental healthcare facility. Today he would have something to think about.
In its true element war begins when there is friction. Friction can result from any kind of experience. We often underestimate the finer details. You do not need much to begin a war, you do not need much to start a rebellion. All you need is someone telling you your place and the courage to refuse. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011


There is a star in the sky, it glitters and glimmers all night long. She often looked at it and thought it belonged to her  as she adored it from her window. In that little lane, in her dingy room, in the most inconspicuous street and in a city that could be any city in the world, she sat by her window looking up at her star. Rosylenn, as everyone called her, did not have many things to call her own but whenever she looked at the star she felt like it only belonged to her and no one else.
It had been with her almost all her life. It had been with her when she ran away from home. It had been with her when she had fallen in love. It had been with her when life slapped her hard in the face. And today it stood glittering and glimmering right above her.
Below her window, her street was alive. It was the kind of city which sprung to life when the city slept. There were men, there were women and there was all that the heart desired but could not claim.
Altaf had been drinking again. This time he had had too much. He was sitting outside on the road. He sat there with the world spinning around him. He was right across the street outside the bar. He recognized the green coloured building right in front of him. With tremendous strength he got up. He knew he had to climb up a lot of stairs. Today he wanted her. It had been long.
Rosylenn sat by her window. She liked getting lost. It was easier than staying tuned with everything that went about around her. She was lost in her memories, in her past and in her childhood. She remembered a time when life had been simple. She remembered running along the small creek that ran right next to her home. As a kid she had dreamed of flying one day. And running along the creek often liberated her. She craved running along it, tasting the sweet water and jumping in it with no worry in the world. A smile caressed her lips and a tear dropped down her cheek. She allowed herself very few moments like these. She did not like to indulge in self pity but there were times when she just could not stop.
There was a loud knock on her door. She looked at the clock. She was not expecting anything for the time being. The knock surprised her. She went to her door and opened her locks. He stood right in front of her. He was drunk. She could smell the liquor. She unlocked and let him in.
He struggled his way in. He barely could stand on his two feet. He entered the room and lay flat on the bed. He kept mumbling something. She did not utter a single word. She went inside her kitchen and got him a glass of water. She laid it right next to him and went back to her window.
“Wont you say something?” Altaf asked her.
She turned to look at him. He had managed to prop himself up on her bed. She merely said, “What would you like me to say?”
“Anything, it has been so long since I heard your voice! Wont you sing for me?”
There was something about his voice that made her shiver. She felt a huge pang in her heart. She turned the other way to look back at the street. This was not the time. This was not the place. This was not the person. She barely managed to compose herself and calmly responded saying, “I can do whatever you want me to do!”
“Do not talk to me like that!” His voice got louder. She felt an unease she had expected. He sounded offended. He sounded sad.
She went closer to him. She sat right next to him. Slowly she caressed his hand. She smiled and put his hand on her leg. He felt at ease and asked her to sing again. His hand began running up and down her leg.
 She looked back at him and asked, “What would you like me to sing, love?” Her voice was rehearsed.
“I told you to stop. Why wont you talk to me like you used to?”
She looked the other way.
 “You know I think about you, everyday, Sabrina! I think about your sweet voice, I think about your pretty eyes, I think about your wonderful heart, I think about your smile and I think of you all day long. Dont you think about me? Dont you want things to be like they were?”
The pang in her heart escalated. She got up and walked away. She stood in a corner of the room. She looked at him, quietly. Her silence was piercing him. There was a moment between them where each looked into the others eyes. Her eyes welled up but she did not move a muscle. She looked at him again and asked, “What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to hug me. I want you to hold my hand again. I want you to lie down next to me and tell me about how you would love to fly!”
Her gaze grew intense but her tone remained monotonous, almost mechanical, “What would you like me to do?”
“Please come and sit next to me.”
She obeyed and sat right next to him. She felt his hand slowly go up her back. There was that tingle again, there was that feeling again. She shut it off. She had been through this before.
“Sabrina, wont you sing for me? Wont you talk to me? Please talk to me.”
She looked at him. His face had grown wrinkled but his eyes still glittered the same way they had a few years back. He still smelled of roses and wine. His voice sounded heavy. Most of all he looked at her the way he had a few years back. She could see the want, the desire, the love and she could even see the guilt, the rejection and the disappointment. He was still the same. She was still the same. They were exactly where they had always been.
She took a deep breath and looked at him. As she gazed into his eyes she said, “Before I do anything, you know there is something you must do! I do not bend my rules for anyone. You know where the box is, you know the protocol. Do your part then I shall do mine. Roselynn never fails to deliver” and she winked at him.
It was almost as if she had crushed him under a mountain. He looked at her with agitation. She could feel his anger, his discomfort. He shot at her, “you will make me do that as well? You fucking SLUT!” and he raised his hand to hit her. He slapped her once hard across her face and she fell on the floor. She felt all her blood rushing to her face. She felt her face fire up. She could not hold it in any longer. She got up and pushed him back hard. She almost felt like fighting back but she knew she had to restrain herself. She felt it all come up, rise up her throat. Before she knew it she screamed, “If you ever hit me again, I will kill you! Do you understand?” Her voice resonated among the walls. Her finger was pointed at him. She was angry.
“You cant do anything. You are a woman who cant do anything. Who will you call? The police or that friend of yours who sits downstairs? Remember, I am the man you married! I am the man who took your virginity. If you remember I am the man you spent your nights with. I am the man you had a life with. And now you wont give me what I want?”
She stood there looking at him. Her eyes were red with anger. She almost wanted to kill him. She opened her doors and asked him to leave. She just said, “Altaf, you are also the man who brought me here. I want you to leave. Go, right now!”
Altaf kept looking at her. He was agitated. But she sounded firm. He could not reason with her. He could not persuade her and he could not force her. He felt desperation. He felt helpless, almost powerless. Soon his anger melted. There was regret. He fell down to the floor and began weeping. Through his tears she heard him say, “Sorry. I am sorry. I cant stand it. I cant stand seeing you everyday like this. I see you every day sitting by that window looking up at the sky. I cant believe what I did. It was a mistake. Can you ever forgive me? You must understand I had no choice. Please, just talk to me once. You send the money home, you send the money to me. But home is not the same. Just talk to me. I cant stand this. I cant bear it.”
She coldly said, “You always had a choice. You just chose to let me go. All that you say means nothing to me. You are just saying that now, let the liquor wear off, so will your guilt.”
He continued weeping, his wails had muffled up. He looked at her and said, “No, I mean it. Cant you hear the honesty in my voice?”
“I heard it the first few times you did this and I fell for it. It is the same every time. You are gone as soon as your liquor wears off. We both know why you are here, so stop pretending. I don’t make concessions for anyone. You know what you want. Do not take me for a fool! Nothing you say makes any difference. Either you get up and leave me in peace or you take what you want and then go away!”
“You once said you loved me. How can you treat me like one of them?”
“we all say a lot of things we do not mean. You know better. I said what I wanted to. You know your options. The choice is yours” She went back to her window. She sat on the sill looking outside. She took out a cigarette and started blowing smoke into the air.
 He sat there in self pity. He looked at her. Nothing worked this time. She would not budge. She was different. She did not belong to him, not anymore. He had broken her. He felt it inside him. He sat there for a while staring at her. He got up from the bed, went across the room to her cupboard. He opened the topmost compartment and took out an old red box. He knew the combination. It was the day they had met. As he dialled it in the box opened with a click. He saw all the money in the box. He felt guilt again. He took out a thousand rupee note from his pocket. And put it in the box. She saw him do it. As soon as he had put the box back with the money in its place she got up from her place. She went and closed the door; she covered the window with the curtains.
She turned to look at him. She was a different person. There was a smile on her face, the kind that invited him. He looked at her as she drew closer. “Can I call you Sabrina?”
“Rosylenn! I am Rosylenn now.”
 She embraced him and pressed her breast against him. She felt his arms envelope her in a passionate embrace. She felt his breath grow faster. He started kissing her on the neck. He looked at her and drew her close. He was about to kiss her lips when she retreated. “You do not get to do that!” He conceded. He could not fight anymore. He accepted her rules. He had to.
She knew her words killed him. She knew it but it did not matter anymore. She had died inside the day he had sold her. There had been a time when she was Sabrina, Altaf’s wife. They had moved to the city to make a life for themselves. She had married him against her parents will. It was all like a fairy tale, a fairy tale gone wrong. But she remembered how two thugs had entered her home forcibly. They had grabbed her from her bed and dragged her away. Altaf witnessed the entire scene helplessly. He sat in a corner weeping. He kept apologizing to her. She kept screaming his name. She wanted him to save her. As those men grabbed her and dragged her outside she saw her husband do nothing. He kept apologizing and kept saying, “this is the only way!” That was the last time she ever saw him. The rest was a haze. She had resisted for quite some time. It was all in vain. She was beaten up, drugged, raped, hurt and forced to do a lot of things she never thought she would. There was a different man every hour. Her pimp used her to retrieve all the money her husband owed him. She lived it, horror by horror.
But that was almost a year ago. Today she was a famous prostitute. She entertained clients on her time. She earned enough to survive and support her family. She lived in her world now. There was no pain anymore. She ceased to feel things anymore. There were occasional moments when some residue would rise up and make her feel something. Now life was only clients, money and a cigarette.
As she felt him undress her, she felt her body shiver a little. His touch still rattled her. She had loved him once. Now she did not know love. All she knew was lust. And lust was what earned the bread. She knew the money he put in her box was her own. She felt that pang again as he kissed her all over. She felt that strange feeling or whatever was left of it as he went inside her. But all that it reminded her of was the day she had been dragged out of her own home like a dog. And the feeling died.
As the night grew older, his hour got over. She got up and looked at him on her bed. He had passed out. She lingered for a moment looking at him. She had not let him kiss her even though he was the only man she had ever kissed in her life. There was a lot she wanted to say. There was a lot she wanted to tell him that night. But she knew how things would eventually end up at.
She got up, dressed herself and then went outside and called her pimp. Soon Altaf was thrown out of the room on to the street which had brought him inside.
“No more for tonight!” she said to her pimp.
The pimp nodded and left her at peace. She was back at her window, back to her cigarette. This time she felt cold tears running down her face. This time she did not stop herself. And she wept ...

Shweta Kulshreshtha

Monday, October 3, 2011

Compulsive Acceptance

I am sitting in an air conditioned room studying antennas. I don’t even like what I read. I am doing it for a reason beyond my comprehension so I tag it as compulsion. And then I wonder how I let such compulsion creep into my life.
In reality my own sense of freedom feels challenged every time I do something that is less than pleasant. I have no intention to defend my decisions, I bear the consequences but the fact that they create a feeling of suffocation make me wonder what compels me to take these decisions. I would like to believe that I can stand up for what I believe in. I would like to believe that I am an idealist, a romantic who wants to enjoy an idealist’s life. And yet I have to employ a pragmatic perspective also every time I make a decision. There is something about risks that scares me. I am a romantic, a risk taker who gets cold feet often. It’s never been difficult to stand up for something I feel is wrong. But when the wrong doing is hidden in the grey area my vision fades. I understand the grey area but how can I be expected to have a black or white stand when what I see is grey.
As a kid these decision were easier. You knew what was right and you knew what was wrong. Today those lines blur. You do things you don’t agree with yet you enjoy. You make mistakes that lead to self destruction. And yet you make those mistakes again. I am lost right now. Lost in translations, lost in viewpoints and often amused by the arguments I hear that intend to convince me towards a side. Some are bullet proof and yet sound wrong. Some are shady, blurry and yet make sense. In reality things hardly make sense anymore. Everything is too hazy.
Be it the world, be it personal life- there is always a grey area. In fact, there is only a grey area no black no white. No right no wrong. You can hear a story and believe a person, and then you hear the other side. Malevolence at times is obvious. Cruelty at times is strangely understandable (not acceptable). Living with a closed book of ideals turns you into either a bigot or a headstrong fanatic. Having an open mind often leaves you with no real stand to take. If you are willing to hear both sides, in your true honest form you must also lend them an ear of understanding. And when you begin to understand different perspectives of the same act, the same story, things cease to make sense to you. You can only understand perspectives but any conclusion you reach has the risk of a bias hidden in it.
You must now wonder, what really is wrong with holding a biased opinion? A biased opinion can often lead to alienation of a reasonable argument. What confuses me really is how does one take a stand without completely understanding a situation? Is it just to support a situation because you believe in a sentiment? Or is it better to support the sentiment and analyze the situation on stricter parameters? In reality, there is no analysis that can satisfy parameters of a sentiment without challenging one or the other. In such a situation you are compelled to pick a side you don’t fully agree with or you sit quietly behind a desk and stare into nothingness with a nod and a shrug.
What do you do when your voice is lost? When you can’t just stand up and say, “This is wrong” or “this is right” or even a simple “I agree” or “I disagree” just because you don’t feel qualified enough too.
Often everyone bullshits because it’s impossible to be absolutely correct but the thing with being relatively correct is that it borders irrationality which can be tremendously dangerous when arguing something worthwhile. Lawyers make a living out of defending ideals they might or might not uphold themselves. The question of morality is one that boggles the mind. Is it a concept only for story books and Disney movies? Or is morality a pragmatic solution? If it is who defines morality. Certainly one human, or one society or one world cant! You can never know both sides to a story.
There was a time when I believed in a certain minister who ruled the state I live in. I appreciated the fact that my standard of living had improved gravely in his regime. The place I live in had become better. I had more opportunities. I had a better lifestyle and my own city was becoming a mega city. But then the city was hit by communal violence. And there was chaos and murder between communities. A murdered B hence B justified him raping every woman that belonged to A. And then news came that cruel, inhuman massacre was carried out by some men. There was news that this was due to a leader I liked. And I saw a horrible face of humanity. The face where humanity perishes and inhuman cruelty begins. Experts often comment that inhuman cruelty is carried out by complete detachment. While committing an act of cruelty the person committing the crime looses touch with his humaneness and occupies a hardcore, cool and calculated position and carries out the crime as a chore. The very idea sends shivers down my spine.
For quite some time, I believed the falsehoods delivered on news. There was a time I believed that no one man can be the cause of so much blood. And yet with time I read more, I talked more and I found out things that exposed a very cool and calculated decision on one man’s side.  And my opinion changed. I began believing that one man can be capable of making a cold hearted decision when the choice presented to him is in terms of numbers and not human lives. The disconnection with humanity begins when you convert life into statistics. And statistics is what caused one of the greatest massacres of this decade. There is no one person I blame but I have lost faith. I feel guilty at times of the development for it cannot hide a cruel decision. And now when I talk to supporters of the same man their arguments sound hollow. How do you justify killing innocent families? How do you justify murder? How much can you hide the gory past under the fact that the present and the future look calmer and brighter?
If you disconnect and adopt a heightened sense of rationality you can understand the reason behind the decisions made. You can understand that in the long run there is a sense of uncomfortable peace in an area that was not there before. You can even understand the support that a man who made such a decision receives because of the kind of work he has done. You even appreciate it to an extent and applaud the man’s political brilliance. But you can never accept it. You can never justify it. And the fact that there is a sense of fear prevailing in the society, you cannot comprehend that a sense of autocracy and dictatorship prevails in you well developed area.
As long as you turn a blind eye, as long as you don’t stand in the way of a man on the rise, as long as you are docile and understanding you will prosper. The minute you strike the wrong chord or the minute you bring up a buried past so horrid you will lose your safety blanket.
In the end you are compelled to make a decision. You accept the crap they delve and you try to accept it. Or you ignore it and get on with your life. Because having known the facts or having heard the voices that you hear whining and wailing you cannot accept what happened. You can applaud the man for building a successful career. You can appreciate the political genius. You can even dismiss the allegations with the argument that every politician has skeletons in their closet. But deep down you cannot ignore the fact that a gruesome cruel crime in fact many gruesome cruel crimes were committed, innocent lives lost and no amount of political drama, justifications or at this point even an apology can change that. Ignorant we live in bliss. We don’t dare to see the other side. Some who see manage to construe it in such a way as to make it sound acceptable. Maybe they are paid to or maybe they have the ‘rationale’ to do so. But as a human being I cannot accept a future built on a bloody past.

Shweta Kulshreshtha

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My first Haiku

A starlight winter sky shines,
An embrace, an eager kiss that begins
A beautiful love story

Thursday, May 26, 2011


People call me crazy. The thing is I like to jump of bridges now and then. I do it just for the heck of it. Sometimes I do it to see if someone would save me! Mostly I do it for the thrill. See I learnt the hard way that life isn’t easy. You have to go through ugly downs and mind boggling highs. But in the entire journey you learn how to survive. Or you learn how to pass by.
It is a wonderful sunny morning. It is so beautiful. The breeze is cool, the sun is warm and the smell in the air is that of freedom. I am walking alongside the road, wandering aimlessly. The more aimless the better. And I come across this beautiful bridge. Hidden under weeds and veins it hasn’t been used in a while. The road hasn’t been used in a while. Only trucks which lose their way, come. I stroll along the railing looking at the beautiful stream underneath. It is the kind of bridge you know people never use. Yet the bridge has its own set of dark visitors. You might find an odd couple, at night, making out. You would find a group of strange men getting high  or gambling far from their wives and the policemen in their lives. It is the kind of bridge people come to, to do things they would'nt want the world to know. The kind of things that give you the type of pleasure you are addicted too but are not proud of.
 I find cigarette butts where I stand. They make me crave a nice smoke. But I blew all my money on Monica last night, the best hooker in town. She gave me a memorable night. She wasn’t really young but her age meant experience and her experience made the night one to remember. She was worth every penny. I can not forget the taste of her skin or the heat of her breasts. Plump and ripe like a woman's body should be. Even her thought makes me crave her love. I stole one of her earrings. It was a cheap ruby imitation. I took it just to keep it as a memoir, a memoir of the night that comes so rare. I cant really afford her every night. But on the nights that I can I ravish her and she savours me. There is something about love making and cigarettes. One always leads the mind to crave the other. I guess its the addiction and the ardent need for one that compels you to remember the other. Yet Monica is far far away. And I stand here alone.
I like my life. I really do. I live how I want too. Money can be a problem at times but I find odd jobs here and there. I have discovered that there are many jobs, some clean some dirty, that people don’t like to do and willingly pay to get them done. These jobs aren’t found in want ads but in alleys where creeps like me roam. Oddly enough I remember all the dirty ones. They were fun. The rest, your run of the mill less money more effort kinds, were pretty forgettable. 
This one time I got a nice job. I had to drive a man from the airport to his home. The man who hired me gave me a huge chunk of money and said there’d be more if I do the job well. The job seemed easy enough, the money good. I picked up the old man. From the looks of his he looked rich. He had the costliest clothes money could buy, the shiniest diamonds and the worst smelling perfume. He sat in the car and we left. Just as I began to enjoy the easy paying job, things changed. There was a car chase. Another vehicle followed us. The man was rich indeed but the wrong kind of rich. He was a smuggler from what I remember and I was the unlucky driver who had been picked to die alongside him. I swore I chanted my holy book under my breath as I swerved and dodged bullets. The sound was thunderous. I was scared. The man behind me sat peacefully. I couldn’t tell if he was prepared to die or he had faith in me. I dodged a few bullets. One of them hit me, right in my thigh. I couldn’t walk for almost a month. But my boss survived and so did I. I managed to escape. Adrenaline rush I guess. He took care of my medical bills and I got free food, free drugs and a beautiful nurse for a month. The sponge baths were the highlight. No hooker could make me feel the way her warm touch did.
But that was another decade. Another life! I was young and so was the place where I lived. But things have changed. I have changed. These days no one hires an old man. So I beg at times. I do dirty jobs where there is no excitement or danger just a lot of cleaning up of shit.
But in my days I was my own man. I had even joined a circus for a while. It took me across the country. I tamed lions. I slept with some pretty acrobats. I drank and smoked pot with the clowns and learnt a lot about animal shit from the maintenance. They were interesting people. I even picked up a little bit of Nepali. I learnt how to say I love you. I guess that was all I needed. I often smile when I remember those days. I don’t smile much except when I think of my life as a young kid. The circus was a great experience but it ended abruptly. Sleeping with the owner’s daughter got me kicked out. What a beating that was. They beat me black and blue and left me unconscious on the road. The girl wasn’t even worth it. Damn virgin! She was the scared kind, almost made me do everything. But they left me on the road and moved on. I don’t say I miss them but I’d have preferred a better ending, a better goodbye.
It’s strange how this moment reminds me of my conquests. Strange, how the running water beneath me soothes me. The water just sparkles so pretty. The sun looks so warm. I must say, the edge of the bridge is oddly tranquil. I can’t help myself so I climb over the railing to stand at the edge of the bridge. It’s the most amazing feeling in the world. There is a wild stream running beneath me. I raise my hands and I swear I feel like I am flying. If only I could fly farther. I wonder whether I should jump just to see how cold the water is or just stand there and keep wondering. It’s not like I haven’t done this before. I am not afraid of dying nor am I here to die. But jumping of bridges just makes me come alive. Just as I lift my leg I hear a voice in the distance. It’s a soft voice like that of a song. A woman’s voice. The sweet melodic kind. The only thing good enough to stop me from doing the one thing I like the most in the world. I turn. There she stands. A young woman with a child by her side. She is dressed in a pretty blue sari. Her kid is a young baby boy who has his arms around his mother’s neck. He is fast asleep. The woman seems distressed to see me standing on the edge. I can see it in her eyes that she is scared. She is scared that I want to kill myself. I instantly fall in love with her. What can I say I love women! And this one is beautiful. Her hair is in an entangled mess. She has been working hard, I can tell from the lines on her forehead. Her sari is muddy and torn at places. Yet she looks beautiful. I sit along the edge choosing not to get down. She draws closer. She is talking in a funny language. I guess she is a local. She is worried and she blasts of in her native tongue which is very annoying. I just keep smiling at her. As she comes closer I get a better look at her face. She is not as young as her body deceives one to be. She has lines on her face. But they add a charm to her beauty rather than deprive it. Her eyes dance a lot. Her lips are shaped like a fish without a fin. Her kid stirs because of his mother’s constant banter. After letting her talk for a good fifteen minutes I raise my hand and shake my head. I try to tell her I am not jumping to die but just for the heck of it. Yet I can’t explain it to her. I guess you really cant explain irrationality. No language no actions equips you for that. I try unsuccessfully. She cant understand what I feel or what I try to say. But as she gets closer I fall more in love with her. Yes I am in love, again! She smells like fish from the sea. Probably a fisherwoman I guess. She gets closer and starts tugging at my torn shirt. Her touch sends a shiver down my spine. She is trying to pull me off the railing. I am too strong for her. I let her get a little closer. She is persistent. She keeps pulling me. I am enjoying the struggle. She won’t leave me I know. As long as I am propped up on the edge she won’t leave me. She is an adamant woman. I am enjoying her attention. I don’t get it for free much anyhow. I smile at her. And she is still worried. She keeps saying something. I don’t move. Her pulling gets weaker with time. I can see that she doesn’t like to lose. She still stands next to me tugging and pulling. I finally relent and get down. She points me towards her home. I follow her. There is the sound of her anklets that rings whenever she walks. It’s like music, God’s music. She leads me into her hut. It’s a small hut, enough to squeeze us in. There is a small stove in the corner. She sits next to it, sets her kid alongside and starts making me tea. I am in awe of her. Her movements are graceful, her body firm and her face glowing. I am served with hot tea in a few minutes. She sits and stares at me like I am a sick old man. I know she pities me. It used to bother me, pity of strangers, but I have grown accustomed to it. I welcome it now. Pity leads to kindness and kindness of strangers lets me feel human for a while. We don’t talk because we can’t. I smile at her and she looks at me like I am a sad old crazy man. I point to her son and try to tell her he is very adorable. She looks at me with confusion. I try to make her understand and in the process I end up looking like a fool. She laughs. I can see her crooked yellow teeth. Its so infectious that I join her. What choice do I have? And for a moment we share a connection.
I hear a man outside. Her expression changes. From an easy smile it changes into a frown. I can hear a hoarse voice outside. A few minutes later a drunken old tiny man enters the hut. He is drunk out of his mind and smells worse than rotten fish. He looks at me and then looks at the lady. In his stupor he reacts. I can see that he is furious and he starts ratting off in the same annoying language the woman used a while back. They are fighting. I can see it. I take it as a cue to leave. I get up and start to walk. The man grabs me by the back of my shirt and pushes me out. He follows me and starts shouting at me. I can’t understand a word. So I smile at him. He misunderstands me and throws his bottle at me. The glass cuts me on the forehead. I can feel my own blood dribbling down my face. I can see she is afraid that I will hit him back. I am bigger than him. But he doesn’t anger me. I don’t react. I see no point in staying. So I turn to walk. He doesn’t stop. The woman feels guilty she tries to stop the man. He slaps her hard across the face. Had he not done that I would have walked away. But my infatuation with this strange woman builds a fury within me. His violence infuriates me. I am not a nice man when I am angry. I have seen some ugly things in my life. And I have also done some ugly things in my life. I use to feel shame and guilt but as I did more I became numb. But this fury just takes over. I grab a wooden stick nearby and strike the man hard across his face. The woman is horrified. She is scared. She grabs the man and starts wiping his face. He is knocked unconscious. My fury descends but she is scared. I can see it. She wants me to leave I can feel it. She didn’t like my interference. I just wanted to punish him for hurting her. But she doesn’t understand and wants me to leave. She pushes me and with a sullen look points at the way we came from. I try to touch her hand. She draws back. She doesn’t want me to touch her. So I turn and leave. I turn to look at her once. But when I do I see she has the man in her lap and her face is flooded with tears. He will beat her up again tomorrow. I know it. He will get drunk again tonight. Maybe sleep with a whore and come back to beat her. And she will quietly get beaten up and still love that man. Who can understand why women do the things they do? But I won’t forget her. I wish I could have touched her once. But she wouldn’t have liked it. So I turn back and walk.
I reach the bridge again. The sun has become sharper. The breeze has stopped blowing. I climb the edge again. I look over the flowing stream. I stretch my arms out. The feeling of freedom takes over my entire body. I feel weightless. I feel like the most powerful bird in the sky. There is no sound but that of the water flowing. I hear the anklets once. But I am pretty sure its my imagination. I think of the kind woman once and her torn blue sari. I take a deep breath. It brings me back to the same question. Should I jump? Not to die. Just to feel that thrill. It just makes me feel alive. And another follows- will she come to stop me again? I smile. What more can I do?