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Monday, November 19, 2012

Misfortune by a SNAP

There is someone - a denizen of the skies, seated up there on a throne-like royal couch resting his massive hirsute legs on the soft fluffs of a cloud. Not God or some divine existence – Being an agnostic, I don’t spend hours mulling over let alone writing about the existence of God. 

So going back to the clouds, on one huge greyish-white cloud, there is a golden throne, draped in red velvet, adorned in silver and gold satin – nothing short of what I imagine the legendary throne of Apollo to be. Our mammoth protagonist is comfortably seated devouring seedless green grapes, pausing only for sips of scotch. There’s a 24hrs catering service to satiate his palate when the grapes get boring. There’s the typical manservant seated in an ordinary yet golden chair a couple of fluffs below. There are small TV screens all around, needless to say, LED and HD supporting as well. This hulk like figure is glued to his new phone- an Android Ice-cream sandwich model which he ordered on Flipkart simply because the OS had a name that goes well with the fluffs of his abode. All day, he basks in all this comfort while flirt-texting a lady ogre he’s trying to hit on.

The screens in his abode relay random scenes from a blue, pretty-looking orb called Earth. Earth has many many many small insignificant creatures called humans who live a few years doing incomprehensible and strange things before disappearing into nothingness. The screens play scenes from the lives of these creatures like a TV soap, thus entertaining the manservant constantly, and the hulk too when Whatsapp is down or when the lady is busy with something/someone else. The manservant uses a remote control to switch to another scene from another mass of land on the Earth. The hulk is more powerful and influential. He casually flicks his fingers to alter the story of the scene. He can change anything. Everything.

One day they were watching a female human walking. She was dressed up. The Hulk realized dressing up was a lady thing, universally; it happens in the clouds and far away on Earth too. The she-human was not half as pretty as the Hulk’s special one, yet she looked so proud and haughty. He flicked his fingers, SNAP. The she-human tripped and fell flat faced into a puddle. The Hulk and his manservant burst into fits of laughter.

Another day, millions of miles away, on Earth, I woke up to a bright and pleasant Sunday morning. I was going to take my unresponsive iron box to the electronics shop; I hated having to wear clothes I disliked only because they were the only ones crisply ironed the way I liked it. I stepped out of the house. SNAP. The sun shone brighter than ever and it sent down heat waves that quite burnt my skin. I walked almost a mile hunting for the shop. The weather was so bad; I was almost drenched in sweat. I reached the shop. The guy behind the desk plugged the iron box in. SNAP. It worked perfectly like it hadn’t, in weeks. The manservant giggled so much seeing the bewilderment on my face that he snorted. I walked to the tailor’s shop. SNAP. It was closed. This seemed like so much fun to the manservant. Even the hulk was smiling; he needed something to keep his mind off the lady issues. I had woken up early on a Sunday for no good reason. I cursed the Gods under my breath; little did I know who was behind all of this. I came back home, frustrated. I decided to do some laundry, simply to cross something off my to-do list. I filled water, soap. I dumped in the clothes. The machine roared for five seconds before it began to whirl and whirl. Five minutes passed.  SNAP. The power went off. I was so mad, I didn’t know who to punch; I was alone at home. The Android vibrated, the lady had texted. The ogre smiled like a toddler would at the sight of a new toy train. He asked the manservant to program the SNAPs to a randomize function. The manservant reluctantly obeyed. The ogre went back to his phone. The manservant simply watched as SNAPs happened in random scenes on random screens.

I binged on the tub of half-melted ice-cream I had saved for the day. I drew in my pretty red curtains; there was no sign of the sun outside. I cursed my way to deep sleep.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The half-truth

I watch Gossip Girl. All the time. I don’t care if I’m almost 22, I love watching it.

Now that I’ve said it out loud, I can write this post in peace, proudly and shamelessly, with no feeling of stupidity.  

So, like any other Saturday, I spent the last one watching Gossip Girl and lazing around aimlessly taking breaks only to gobble up home-delivered fast food and Biryani. Gossip Girl is a gripping tale of the past, the scandals and secrets in the lives of the elite society of New York. The show deals with an assortment of emotions and scenarios - vendetta, vengeance, betrayal, hatred, jealousy, unchastity  and among all of this- pure unsullied love. It is an intriguing rendition of real human emotions - a little more of the negative ones maybe. I watched so many episodes of this that day that it was almost like I was a part of the Upper-East side. I was in their world like one of them; it was Nate, Chuck, Serena, Blair and me. I got how they protected each other; it was okay to wrong someone else to protect another of their own. Unconsciously or sub-consciously, I sided Blair in my own head and hoped to see her find happiness in NYU. I knew how she felt when she had a tough time fitting in. It didn’t matter that Blair was the most cunning, scheming and devious person in the real and fictitious world put together. I wanted Chuck to win her back. They were beautiful together. They might be two egoistic and obstinate people, but while together, they were invincible and nothing less than lovely. I knew even Blair had a good person inside her somewhere, even if it’s deep inside. Oh and needless to say, I hated Jenny. I hated the sight of her, that expression; I hated everything about her.

And in the evening, drowsiness took over me, completely – what else could I have expected after a spending a whole day glued to my laptop!

I felt like a sloth. I didn’t even get up when my roommate brought home a box of strawberry cheesecake flavored ice cream. I moved a little, maybe an inch, only to lift my laptop n place it on the floor. Then, I just lay there. Soon, I was deep in thought.

Why did I wish good fortune for Blair and not for Jenny? They were both unkind and venomous to the same extent. Blair is queen B after all and Jenny, just little J. Yet, I liked Blair. – Only because I had seen bits of her nice side, because the show had shown me her nice side and her aspect of the story behind her machinations. I got Blair. Not so with Jenny.

I was deeper in thought, now.

How different is life in actuality? Stories are always one-sided. One-sided is different from biased; One sided stories can be completely true, but they show you just one side or maybe both sides from one viewpoint. We don't hesitate to make judgments/decisions based on these stories. While at our creative best, we extrapolate these one sided facts to add our interesting suppositions and far-from-real conclusions. Sometimes, we slander the person who looks like the bad one in the story. And this snowballs to a mammoth story that’s no more even remotely similar to the truth. I have been there too, on both sides – the slanderer and the slandered. We all have.

We never wonder if the bad person in the story has his/her own reasonable story or an acceptable reason or a past that justifies his/her doings. Half-picture can be misleading. When has a partly solved jigsaw puzzle ever made sense? Getting to know the complete picture some day might make one regret in retrospect.

Everyone has a story – Tigerwoods, Shiny Ahuja, every other person on TV, you, me - everyone. That does not in any way justify anybody's doings, but let's not be in a hurry to belittle anyone. Let’s try to see the best in people. Let’s try to fathom both sides before getting judgmental; Or let’s just stop judging. Let’s make this world friendlier and kinder.

The upright protagonist of a story might be very moral like it appears. Or he might just be really really clever.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Dialogue in the dark

Mukund was here in Hyderabad. He is one of the closest friends I’ve ever had. I’ve known him for more than four years now. Yet he has not ceased to amaze me; he can be anything – the coolest friend to spend an evening with, the pain in the neck, the flirt, the know-it-all fellow who takes less than a second to guess what I’m upto, a punch bag that serves as my vent and a non-judging friend I can always always confide in. And justifiably, I was excited.

The weekend finally arrived and so did this guy. Then dawned the realization that with Ganesh Chaturti, the Telengana bandh and Gandhi Jayanthi, this was unarguably the worst weekend for anyone to visit Hyderabad.

Quite typical of all my plans, this was quite a dud. It was an almost completely boring weekend, at least for him who traveled quite a distance hopeful about seeing the best of a new city. I spent every second, hunting for some way to turn things around. Soon I gave up.

I settled for a typical dally-in-the-mall-and-watch-a-quick-movie Sunday. We went to the only mall in vicinity – Inorbit - only to realize the movie tickets were all sold out. So we grabbed a quick snack and walked around aimlessly looking for some way to pass time.

We came across a small crowd next to a counter in ‘Dialogue in the Dark’. The curious side of me could not walk past without knowing what it was about. We enquired and got to know it’s an exhibition that takes you through 6 scenarios – Jungle, Super Market, Shaking bridge, Boat ride, Cricket game and Café – in complete darkness. We were to make best use of our other senses through the exhibition. We paid and waited, solely because there was just nothing else to do in this city that day. We waited till our names were called out; we deposited our phones in the locker and we were given a walking stick each. Secretly I was very apprehensive about what was ahead.

We entered the first scenario – jungle - and I could see just black space. Nothing more. Not my hands, or my nose. Not even my bright red chappals. I felt uneasy in the gut of my stomach. I was too scared to move, I could see nothing. I held Mukund’s collar from behind and tagged along like a toddler. Every time I lost him I called out for the guide who was there to help. I was afraid of getting lost or being left behind. It was some comfort to know that the guide will take me back to the group if I yelled. Obviously the guides could see somehow. Not me, and worse, my brain’s wheels stopped moving like they always did when I needed them the most. After a while I realized I was holding my stick half way up in the air instead of using it to move around. I felt ashamed for a minute. But that was blanketed by a much stronger feeling of paranoia that was setting in. I can’t even recollect how the jungle scenario was; I was too afraid to notice. I felt the floor with my foot cautiously, checking for a change in level, before every step I took. I felt handicapped and helpless. There was no beauty in the jungle; Just darkness and fear.

The supermarket scenario lay ahead. We had to move along the racks and shelves to identify objects by smelling or feeling them. This was fun. In the line, Mukund was ahead of me and behind me was Shipra – a tamil girl I met in darkness. This was easier.  

While walking to the next room for the next scenario, I had to walk bending down just a bit. I felt too tall, the corridor had a low ceiling. I walked this way a few seconds. When this got uncomfortable I shot my hand forward to make sure there was someone there I wasn’t lost. The person ahead wasn’t bending. I shot my hand out, this time upwards. And there was no ceiling. I was imagining it all along. I felt like I was being fooled. I was hallucinating. I didn’t know how to feel – stupid or more scared. Surely I could no more trust my senses.

We played a round of cricket with a ball that was filled with something and hence made noise. I swayed the bat randomly in the air and I wasn’t surprised when I heard the ball hitting the wall behind. I was so pathetic that the guide joked about my skills. While I was fielding the ball hid my ankle with a hard thud and I jumped up for a second in pain. I think that was Mukund’s four and I ‘m certain that he was beaming in pride. While I was waiting in the corner hoping I do not get hit a second time, Shipra dropped her crocodile hair clip and despite the darkness pervading, the guide walked across and found it in no time. That just confirmed it for me, the guide could see. God knew how, but he could.

We were led to a table in the café. There had to be some science behind the guide’s vision. Mukund supposed that they could have some type of infra-red glasses on. We handed over a currency note which the guide identified it as a twenty rupee note. We sipped some hot coffee enjoying the comfort of the chair. It was such a relief to not feel lost, to not be afraid every moment. It felt so good and safe to just stay seated. For the first time ever, I appreciated something that simple.

The exhibition was over, we were going to be led out of the dark world. The guide politely thanked us all. We cheered, mostly in relief that it was the end. The guide wasn’t done, he went to give a short speech that inspired me like nothing else ever has. It left me with a feeling of awe. 

He told us that ‘Dialogue in the Dark’ was an initiative to make it possible for people to see a world that you can’t see. It’s done so that people learn to appreciate the other four senses. And behind the darkness, facilitating this is a group of visually challenged people who’ve taken it up to show the world their aspect of the world. He went on to tell us that he was not born with the disability, he was blinded by an accident. And life after the accident began the way the exhibition began for us.

I was hit by some massive force. I couldn’t say a word, nooone could. We all sat in the darkness, in silence. I was more than inspired. It is inexplicable, how much I respected the guide in front of me, at that instant. There was no pity, no sympathy; pure respect, nothing less. The whole time during the exhibition, I was at peace knowing he was around; I looked up to him, like all of us did. He was our guide, he guided us through when we felt helpless and lost. All this, when every moment of his life, he feels every emotion I felt that one hour.

Mukund and I, we got back after that. Not a word was spoken on the way back.