Friday, August 29, 2008

the un in the usual...

from the earlier post, it may have occured to some that i seem to be in a nostalgic mood these days. i realised that while writing this one... this one deals with something i'm finding difficult to think of these days.. guess it's always best the first time around...

a daily ritual, observed religiously for years and years, seemed unfamiliar today.the usual precursors to the ritual were present well enough: the strange, contradictory combination of a monotonous, yet crest and trough like speech of the science teacher (who, in this particular case, only ever sounded fun while describing vectors, cuz she'd always say in her south Indian accent, "Vector Oh Yay" indicating vector OA), the weary sighs of my co-sufferers, the ocassional, yet
increasingly frequent yawns and the equally ocassional, yet equally increasingly frequent churns of empty stomachs. the glances at my wristwatch were reflexive, intuitive even. over a decade of expectation unfailingly made an imagined dopplerised bell ring in my head, even before the actual one echoed through the air, a clarion call of salvation for the hungry and bored. lunch recess was here, as it had been all these years, again. but what was wrong? what was the dampener of the joyous gasp at freedom?
i saw it as the others began walking out of the class. what was this? who were these people? what the hell were they wearing? don't they look at themselves in the mirror in those, those hideous shades??? how can they bear to... my thoughts trailed off as i looked down at myself... peach shirt, ugly brown trousers, the letters VB embroidered onto the breast pocket, brown socks, tan shoes!! not leather, but plastic, all-fucking-weather!!! where was my white shirt, the white trousers, the white socks, the black shoes?? the navy blue tie with the Marian insignia pinned thereon?? what happened to the paint on the walls?? shit, what happened to the walls??!!
oh yeah, right... this isn't my school... no, wait a minute, this is my school, it just isn't my.. no, no, no... right, i got it! this is my school, now! it's not these people or the walls that are strange.. here, i'm the stranger..
that's what it was, wasn't it? it was yet another lunch break, but it wasn't a familiar lunch break. i wasn't gonna charge down the marble staircase into the senior assembly hall, and start munching on the usual rolls from my tiffin box while chatting with manik and adnan, or showing my face to drumeel so that i could be in one of the teams for the usual lunch-time football match. nope, today i was gonna climb down a narrow flight of stairs onto what is known as a 'quadrangle' and walk onto a playground with two goal-posts and a most detestable, incredulity inspiring, enthusiasm rogering, scorn raising, and, to put it in plain english, completely fucked up "no playing in the lunch break" rule!!!!! yup, this was my unknown, unfamiliar reality. no wonder it didn't feel right.
new school, new guy, day 2. it was the first time i'd put on the school uniform, and the sight of all the brown clothing (and red hair bands on the chicks.. goddamit, chicks!!!! [i was in a non-co-ed school before this. this is not an exclamation of joy, but one of agony {feels freaky to be stared at but so many unknown women cuz you're the new guy}]) made me feel weird as hell! having been in one school for the better part of my academic life had made me thoroughly institutionalised. i wasn't quite used to being stared and pointed at like a circus freak!! but it was a position i'd resigned myself to accept. i mean what the heck, makes it easier to get to know people when they're curious enough to come to you as if you were a musueam piece or something. although it gets a lil fucked up when they talk to you like you're dyslexic.
i grabbed my tiffin box and walked down the stairs after most of my class-mates had already gone. i did what i usually did when i had to eat lunch without manik and adnan around, by walking on the 'play'ground, munching on the rolls. once again, in my mind, i cursed my present situation. what the fuck kinda school banned playing on the playground??? who the hell were these weird kids eating their lunches, sitting on the playground!!!!!! from post to post, sitting on mats in circles of various sizes, groups of students eating lunch, chatting away like they were in a goddamned banquet hall. bloody hell, this was a football ground for Christ's sake!!
and then it happened... it was the single, most inexplicable thing... it was a voice, i know it was a voice... but there was something ethereal to it, like nothing i'd heard before... if you can imagine yourself to be an emaciated skeleton with your skin clinging onto the bones, and dehydrated to the point where your liver and kidneys begin to push against your body, and in that state you hear the gentle gush of a waterfall into a brook marking the entrance to shangri la, you might understand what i felt in the few moments that it took me to turn around and face the source of the sound. the vision was blinding.. no, actually that's not what it was. there was an implosion of light, 120 degrees of visible area suddenly contracted into one concentrated space, and in that space there was only her... nothing else existed, nothing else got through.. it was only that space, only her, her eyes, her face, her smile, and her voice... a voice that made every part of me quiver (perhaps, i fear, too visibly), yet one that numbed me to a point where the sound seemed distant, hauntingly enchanting, like the strains of the siren's lute. her smile was a constant through her speech, and her pearly white teeth flashed at me every now and then, teasing me like some infernal will-o'-the-wisp. "Hi, I'm _______. you must be the new boy..." that and the rest of her words flowed out of her lips like the most symmetrically tantalising poetry! there was no question of resistance, no time to put up a guard.. the cherub with the bow flitted around me, laughing joyfully as he shot arrow after arrow at me, piercing into my heart as incessantly and determinedly as a deranged battering ram.
for once, for the first time, and unquestionably at the first sight, i was in love...

Friday, August 22, 2008


i really don't think i have done justice to this one... simply because it means so much to me, but i am in a state of serious writer's block.. still, i wanted to put something down, and took a while to write this... so what the heck...

the alarm of the phone went off, and as always my eyes opened with the sound of the
phone's vibration that immediately precedes the ringtone. i picked up the phone and
looked at the time, blinking at me as if the phone was playing peek-a-boo.7:00 a.m.
time to get up. goddamit!! an early morning after a late night is one hellava
bitch!! but i had to get up today... i wanted to get up today... i had to put
yesterday behind me, forget the gargantuan fuck-up, prove to myself that we're so
much better than that... today, i, we, had to redeem ourselves..
a familiar pain in my eyes, the one i usually get on my late night-early morning
routine began to magically dull as the adrenaline started pumping, the same
adrenaline that made me keep checking the clock on the phone almost all night, the
same stuff that made me wonder why it's taking so long for the damn alarm to ring!!
i got out of bed and put the kettle to boil, and then checked my suit of armour for
the day... the cuirass lay on the bed in the other room, black as night, and next
to it my greaves blue as the ocean (clarification: my black kurta and blue jeans).
I opened the front door and picked up the newpaper, but my eyes refused to focus on
the words. a myriad of sounds were clashing in my head, hundreds of shining eyes
flashing down on me like a deluge of flaming arrows, stabbing at me with
relentless, remorseless glee, peeling away flesh from bone, mutilating me to a
point where anger, frustration, even shame meant nothing. the jeers, the sneers,
and our vain attempts at taking the battle to those eyes, all echoed in my head
like a ghastly symphony that would make sweeny todd cringe.
the whistle of the boiling kettle managed to break into my macabre reverie. i
prepared two cups of tea, grateful for the distraction, grateful to get away from
those eyes, those noises. i was aware that there would be many more eyes today. was
i ready? were we?
i took the tea to where karan was sleeping. he had suffered the ravages as i had
yesterday, and his sleep looked anything but peaceful. i woke him up, kidding him
that i was benevolent enough to wake him only after i'd made tea. but our moods
were far from cheery, as the thoughts of the next few hours continued to churn in
our minds.
Timecheck: 8:00 a.m.
we'd told the others we'd meet them at base-camp (read: ncc) by 8.30. it was time
to move, head out of the safety zone, consort with our brothers-in-arms. The cool
wind swept past us as we rode towards the ncc, stinging my eyes and causing a few
tears to bleed out and fade into oblivion. there was a comfort in listening to the hum of the engine, a constant that served to dull out some of the noise in my head. we did not speak, though karan stopped to pick up his morning smoke. we reached the ncc and found the others brooding, the swirls of the cigarrete smoke playing around over their heads like wraiths. i could feel the strange sensation, called butterflies in the stomach i believe, while wave after wave of anticipation coursed through me sending shivers down my spine and quickening my pulse. 8.50 a.m., and it was time to head to the war zone. head held high, weapons in hand, we walked towards it, karan, jeetu, sam, rono, niki n i.
the battleground lay more or less as we left it, except that today there were some
people putting a few more machines into the picture. we tested our weapons, our
hopes once again pinned on the people we could not control, the ones infusing life
into our weapons, the ones who had let us down yesterday, forcing us to suffer a
humiliating defeat. for now, we were satisfied, things seemed to be in order. ahead
of us lay a wall, behind which lay the eyes. but there was still time...
9:30 a.m.
sounds... growing louder... they are arriving, the eyes, behind the wall... but
something strange began to happen to me. i looked around at the others, seeing the
trepidation in their movements, but somehow, i suddenly felt no need to feel
nervous... i think karan understood.. we needed to get the jitters out of
everybody's systems, fast! we did our best. niki and jeetu were sneaking peeks at
the gathering hordes on the other side of the wall. "there are so many more than
yesterday," said niki, as i took her in my arms and promised her that yesterday
would not happen today. we took up our positions, bracing ourselves for the
impending assault... each of us counted the seconds, hearts pounding loud enough to
almost block out the noise on the other side, which was nearing a crescendo... an
observer from the sidelines gestured that the time had come.. we took one last look
at each other, taking in each other's appearances before the ravages begin... but
something was there in our eyes... i swear i saw it... the dilation of the pupils
receding into a contracted mass of fierce determination.. our breathing no longer
erratic, but measured, in unison, rhythmic... jaws no longer clenched, palms no
longer sweaty, the butterflies dissapearing as if incinerated in one scathing wash
of resolve... as we began to realised the true power of our combined energies,
there were no longer any thoughts of failure, no furtive glances at the nearest
exit. the curtains opened and we were blinded momentarily by the lights that made
us such easy targets. but today, we were ready to rock that audience outta their
As Tyler would say, carpe diem, baby.
Long live Ehsaas...