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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

An idea of reincarnation

vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya
navani grhnati naro parani
tatha sarirani vihaya jirnany
anyani samyati navani dehi

 (As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.)                                                                                   - Bhagavad Gita 2.22

Is reincarnation true?

Didn’t you just read the sloka?

Yes, but I am not devoid of doubts.

Do you know who the father of our nation is?


The father of the nation. Though I am quite sure you heard me the first time.

Why? Gandhi of course!

As you know, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated some six decades ago, and still we deal with a lot of Gandhi material on a daily basis. There are umpteen number of roads, public parks, colleges, libraries all named after him. Then there are some who live on through what they stood for their whole lives. Our former president APJ Abdul Kalam was a torchbearer of technical excellence, and after he passed away governments are naming technical universities after him. Let’s bring back Gandhi once more, shall we? Often we hold our currency notes up against lights, and are assured they are genuine if we see Gandhiji smiling. You know what, here he reincarnated as integrity. I could keep giving a lot more examples.

Seriously! Are memorials of famous personalities your explanation for reincarnation?

Hear me out completely. And what I try to convey is only my idea of reincarnation. My perspective.

I was looking for an absolute view.

I think everything is relative. Absolution is fictional. There is my truth and there is your truth. But I am skeptical on the existence of universal truths. Physicists teach us the concepts of relative velocity, don’t they? When two objects move towards each other, the relative velocity adds up.

But one could always evaluate the absolute velocity from a fixed point of reference.

How fixed is your point when the planet is itself at motion and the entire universe is expanding?

Still there are some cases where absolute truth is a reality. For instance Gandhi is globally respected as a pious man, while someone like Osama Bin Laden is hated by all, right?

And yet Gandhiji met his end within a year of our independence, and that too at the hands of a citizen of free India. And regarding Bin Laden, within months of his death, a library came up in his name in Pakistan. They call it ‘Martyr Bin Laden Library’. Does it amuse you to notice that we observe martyr’s day on the day Gandhiji were assassinated?

So according to your idea reincarnation happens only to the famous, isn’t it?

Not quite. It is pertinent for commoners, too.

How so?

Please excuse me if this question is personal, but have you lost someone dear?

 The most painful memory is when my paternal grandmother passed away. I was only eight, yet it hurt me very much. She loved me, and used to prepare this sweet dish for me. We call it ada. I remember how I used to sit in her lap as she watched Kathakali. I have never watched the dance drama ever after…oh I see where you are going with this.

Your grandmother was a commoner, wasn’t she? Yet she is very much alive in your head. Ada reminds you of her, so does Kathakali. Your parents might have put up her framed photograph on the wall. Whenever some guests ask about her, your father would narrate incidents from his childhood with zest. In those stories, she is very much a living person as you and I are.

Very interesting point of view, I must say. If this is how you define reincarnation, I would like to hear your take on moksha, or salvation as well. Religion does say that soul keeps on taking new births until it attain salvation and rejoins with the supreme one, right?


Do you concur?

I am inclined to believe that moksha is very much possible in the same way I think of reincarnation. As I said, some people live on through what they stood for, and some others through the works of their lifetimes. Less known people also comes back in our memories. But there are some truly blessed, who attains salvation by their deaths and leave the world for good.

Really! Who are they?

How could I possibly know them? Remember, they are the ones who got salvation. That means they do not linger in anyone’s thoughts, or memories anymore.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

His Story of Virtualia

(This took place in Virtualia.)

“Good morning, sir!” shouted the students of class 6A as their class teacher announced himself at the front door of the classroom the exact moment when the minute hand of the wall clock touched 12, leaving the hour hand behind at 9.

With a wave of hand, he acknowledged their greetings and asked them to be seated. The class teacher also taught them history. The way he dressed seemed to suggest that he himself had come from the past.

“Does anyone of you remember where we had stopped our discussion yesterday?”

“Yesterday was a holiday, sir.”

“Yesterday means the last working day, smarty.”

“We had stopped at the thirteenth chapter, sir. The turn of the millennia, and the beginning of chaos.”
“Aah, very well. Let us pick it up from there. Thirteen, did you say? Like the number, the time period under question is widely considered as an unlucky phase of the history of our nation. As you might already know, Virtualia was at the zenith of prosperity during the last centuries of the previous millennium. We were a deeply religious people, with priests of the shrines enjoying royal status. Our rulers seldom did anything sans the blessings of Gods, and that reflected in every walks of our lives. Years went on, and the status quo was disrupted.”

“Are you referring to the rise of the liberals, sir?” asked an imaginative mind.

“Yes yes. Do not jump guns, dear. Let me complete what I got to say, and then we would discuss, alright?”

The head of the imaginative mind nodded, the mind still wondering about the incidents that happened about three hundred years ago.

“By the end of the millennium, there was a new set of ideology brewing. They based predominantly on logic, and questioned anything and everything they could not contemplate. Many young minds were impressed by this charade, and joined the new bandwagon. The very foundations of religion backed administration were at stake. A spree of feuds and battles eventually led up to an ultimate war for power. The once united citizens were now divided and up in arms against each other. The war that lasted almost a decade culminated in the fall of the faithful and to the rise of the anarchic, who denounced god and religion. Priests no longer enjoyed royal status, and people started pursuing science with a new earnest. The moral standards of the society degraded, often resulting in chaos.”

The teacher rambled on for some more time, and then asked his students to share their views. As expected, some rued the change while others defended it. Virtualia is a democracy today, and people were free to voice their opinions.

That evening, the teacher reached his home by five and switched on the television. The news reporter from one of those 24*7 news channel was debating on the outcomes of the just concluded parliamentary elections, the results of which were declared today.

‘Upholding the trends predicted by various exit polls survey, the leftist union has emerged victorious in the elections, effectively displacing the incumbent right wing government. Talks are going on, and a clearer picture regarding who is to head the new government is expected to emerge soon.’

A year later.

“Good morning, sir!” shouted the students of class 6A as their class teacher announced himself at the front door of the classroom the exact moment when the minute hand of the wall clock touched 12, leaving the hour hand behind at 9.

With a wave of hand, he acknowledged their greetings and asked them to be seated. The class teacher also taught them history.

Welcome back, children. Did you all enjoy the monsoon break?”

A collective yes rocked the class.

“Good. Since a new term begins today, let us start with a fresh chapter. Go to chapter ten and read the title aloud.”

Millennium 2: the age of reasoning.”

“Okay. I believe you would agree with me when I say that Virtualia is a democracy.” He paused for response.

Many students nodded in agreement.

“Virtualia was not always like this and some of the historical events that occurred around the beginning of the present millennium had a major say in shaping up our country the way we see it today. Like most of the countries to the south of the Mirage Ocean, Virtualia too had its laws and principles based on religious texts and words of the god-men. People attributed regards of the highest order to the commandments from the theological institutions, and lived their lives in accordance. A set of superstitions were prevalent at those times, and majority of the lot tended to lap those up without feeling for the need of verifying the truth behind all those. Even in such times, a few lived who could not blindly believe whatever was fed to them. Let us call them radicals, shall we?”

And he continued without waiting for any reply.

“This small, exclusive group was convinced of the significance of applying thought and deciding what was to be followed, and what was to be done away with. They knew they would have to rebel against the establishments some day. They maintained a low profile, and met regularly to decide upon agenda. Soon enough they started recruiting like minds, who voiced their supports for the cause they deemed noble.”

The teacher went on to explain how the rulers cracked down on the rebels, and how the protesters fought back, finally bringing the power wielders to their knees. What followed was the regime of the liberal forces, whose onus was centered on logic rather than beliefs. They started rewarding men of science while thinkers and philosophers replaced preachers as the new elite class.

He would have ignored the school bell and continued with the lecture, but the faces of his students indicated that they had enough for the day.

“Al right. Let us resume the discussion tomorrow. Have all of you completed the assignment on Napoleon Bonaparte?”

“Excuse me, sir?” the right hand of a front bencher shot up.


“Did Napoleon really say that history is nothing but a fable commonly agreed upon?”

“I cannot say for sure, but many seem to concur on that.”

(Remember I never said this took place only in Virtualia.)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Complaint Letter

C: The world we live in is unfair.

J: Tell me about it.

C: I often feel unwanted. That I do not really belong here.

J: I would say you are making a mountain out of a mole.

C: It ain’t like that. Sometimes I sound ‘s’-ish, like in cinema, or cereal. At times I also sound ‘k’-ish, in cattle, or canopy or callousness. I do not even have an identity. I find secure only in the company of H. When we are together, there is this amazing sound which is irreplaceable, like in charm or change. In H’s company, I am contended.

J: Come on, it is alright to have more than a single sound. You become versatile, don’t you?

C: Easy for you to say. Do people ever mistake your sound? You are unique.

J: If it would make you any happy, I would confide that my life is not all pleasant either. It would have been if someone else had not gone out of their way to mimic me. I hate it when people use me in a negative word like jeopardy, but they go for G in gorgeousness.

C: Haha! You are Jealous.

J: I got your jibe, Cry-baby.

X: Sorry people, I could not help overhearing you two. It is a pity that both of you do not see what you already have, and are instead wailing over the negatives.

C: Wait! Aren’t you ‘into’ from maths? What the heck are you doing here?

X: This is exactly what I was talking about. I am one of you and half of you does not even know me. My use is very limited in words, and at certain points K and S come together to replace me.

J: Don’t get C started on K and S!

X: On top of that, those math guys designed multiplication operator to look just like me.  Now people from all over the globe confuse me with it. But unlike you guys I wouldn’t cry over all that.

C: How do you manage to be positive, X?

X: It is simple. All you got to do is look around and observe. Then you shall learn that everyone has problems. Look at my neighbors. W is threatened by V, Y is at times snubbed by I and Z has always been under the constant shadow of S. Do you see them crying their hearts out?

J: You are sensible, X. Thank You.

X: Don’t even mention it.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Movie Review : Masaan

Title : Masaan
Language : Hindi
Year : 2015
Director : Neeraj Ghaywan
Genre : Drama, Romance
Watch trailer on Youtube
Lead Role : Richa Chadda, Vicky Kaushal, Sanjay Mishra , Shweta Tripathi

Another realistically made, thought provoking film which keeps the viewers intrigued and in sync with the plot. Though the primary plot is based on lost love, the movie delves into varied issues including the nation’s debatable morality laws, social stigma, cop behavior and the like. Though the viewers are offered a plethora of love stories by our filmmakers, seldom does our movies paint romance in such innocent manner. The nervousness and sincerity are beautifully conceptualized. There is a subtle jibe at the existing social class differences too.

Richa Chadda has done a commendable job playing one of the protagonists, Devi. Equally mentionable are Shweta Tripathi, Vicky Kaushal and Sanjay Mishra who all lived their roles.  Director Neeraj Ghaywan used to assist Anurag Kashyap, and unsurprisingly he has chosen to follow the master in choosing rave themes.

Personally, I have never understood why the police should interfere with the private laws of citizens. While intercourse with mutually consenting adults is a right, the laws related to immoral trafficking confuses me. Incidents like the recent raids by Mumbai police at hotels to crack down on young couples were irksome to say the least. The filmmakers have delightfully chosen to highlight this paradox. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Movie Review : Anarkali

Title : Anarkali
Language : Malayalam
Year : 2015
Director : Sachy
Genre : Drama, Romance
Watch trailer on Youtube
Lead Role : Prithviraj Sukumaran, Biju Menon, Miya George, Suresh Krishna

Many of us might be familiar with the tale of Anarkali, the court dancer who was supposedly Jahangir’s secret lover. But when a debutant director announces the title for his directorial venture, one is not very sure what to expect. Is he gonna portray the Mughal times? Or is he planning to base the plot on the ageless tale of love? One fine day, the trailer releases and doubts are put to rest.

Anarkali, as the team behind it described, is a romantic drama with feeble elements of thrill sprinkled here and there. The storyline is not very gripping or deep, and it is compensated by the beauty of the breathtaking visuals. Cinematography is the soul of the movie, and Sujith Vasudev deserves an applause.

Prithviraj Sukumaran is apt for the role of Shantanu, our mysterious wanderer. With the right looks, physique and voice, he keeps the viewer hooked. Both Prithvi and Sujith Vasudev learned diving to provide the underwater sequences authenticity. By the end of the shoot, they had obtained their Grade 1 certificates too.

Biju Menon and Suresh Krishna stands out with their performances. The climax, which would have turned ordinary, was notched up a level by the former’s impeccable comic timing. Though the heroine looked real pretty on screen, I had wished for a Prithvi-Miya combo.

Sachi may be new to direction, but we are familiar with his writing in films like Robin Hood, Seniors, Run Baby Run and the like. To be honest, this is not his best work. If some care were taken to edit out certain sequences, the drag factor would not have arisen.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


"Do you know what irony is?" she asked me as she barged into my room. I was inside, reading.

I considered her abrupt question. Apparently without expecting any reply, she continued, "Irony is when nobody bats an eye when guys drink their heads out, but when they see a girl drinking, hell breaks out."

"Hold on, are you telling me that you drink?"

"Occasionally, yeah!"

"I don't think it is something to be proud of."

"Hey don't judge me."

"I didn't."

"Yes You did. I can see it in your eyes."

"Well I did not mean to. That would have been instinctive. But that had nothing to do with your gender. Drinking is bad for health. It's as simple as that."

She did not seem to listen to reason then. Perhaps she thought I was just being another male chauvinist. An awkward silence followed.

"Do you know what irony is?" This time I posed the question. And as before, I continued without expecting a reply, "Irony is when we frown upon judging, but we celebrate that character whose deductions were mostly the result of judging people."

By now, she had stormed out of the room, almost as abruptly as she had entered. It was my turn to pacify her. I kept aside 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' that I had been reading on the table, and went after her.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Movie Review : Court

Title : Court
Language : Marathi
Year : 2014
Director : Chaitanya Tamhane
Genre : Drama
Watch trailer on YouTube
Lead Role : Usha Bane, Vivek Gomber, Pradeep Joshi

As the title seems to suggest, Court is a courtroom drama on the very outset. But it is not all about two lawyers traversing through the sections of IPC and the final verdict by the judge. Rather the movie goes on to show us glimpses of their personal lives, including their public dealings, homely chores and social circles.

A folk singer by the name Narayan Kamble is framed and brought in for a trail. He is accused of having inspired the alleged suicide of a sewage worker through one of his poems. To draw an analogy from the timeless classic 12 Angry Men, the plot focuses more on the process than on finding out if the accused is indeed guilty or not.

 The debutante director has succeeded in presenting the sequences in a realistic manner. This is probably novel in Indian cinema, whose courtroom dramas are famous for punch dialogues and emotional outbursts by lawyers and others.

It is a considerable achievement for the writer-director that his first endeavor won the Best Film India Award, besides being chosen as the country's official entry for the Oscars. That said, I must say I failed in understanding why the movie was selected in the first place. As for me I did not find anything that could be described extraordinarily brilliant or out of the box. This is the second time I am being let down by a film that represents India at the Oscars. The other movie was Gujarati film The Good Road. Perhaps knowledge of the language is necessary to enjoy the finer nuances. For instance, after watching the Malayalam movie Adaminte Makan Abu, I was totally moved.


I Love You Again

'I know that you no longer miss me. I am not blaming you. It is okay. You have moved on with time. I understand. Often I remember those lovely days when you would never stop listening to me. Your days used to begin and end with me. I was so naive then. I thought you would dance to my tunes your whole life. But as days passed, things did change somehow. Perhaps I no longer charmed you. I was lessened to a remote space in your phone. I now realize such are the ways of the world. I miss you sometimes, and yes, I still love you.'

And thus I woke up after the troubling dream. It was the wee hours of the night, still I could not sleep any further. An inexplicable feeling of guilt seemed to engulf me from within. I picked up my phone from my desk and searched for 'Heera'. The headphone was plugged in, and my ears were filled with the melodious AR Rahman composition. Soon I felt being transformed to some other wonder world. A world where happiness prevailed and I was adored. My eyes welled up. There was a time when this melody from the movie 'Highway' was in the repeat mode in my playlist. That was probably an year ago. The emotional me shouted in a choking voice - 'I do not know how we drifted apart. It is not that you stopped being charming. You still charm me. Probably I became too preoccupied. I am sorry, and, I love you - again.'

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Our good old minister

Kailas Nagar is a peaceful residential colony in the developing suburbs of Thrissur, Kerala. People belonging to the so called middle class lived there. People with permanent jobs, steady income and timetabled lives. And since they had to leave for jobs early in the morning, they could not afford to stay up late in the night except on Fridays and Saturdays. That day was a Sunday. The time was well past eleven in the night. Unsurprisingly, all families had retired for the day. Well, all but one. The two storied green house, the third one to the right, housed the young and handsome Manu Madhavan and his family. Manu was a tutor at a renowned school in the capital city Thiruvananthapuram. His long distance job demanded that he would be at home only during weekends. His family included his father Madhavan, mother Radha, and his newly wedded wife, Akshara. The wedding was only a week ago. Not a very lavish affair, mind you. The majority of the week that followed was spent in visiting the relatives. Relatives from his father’s side, mother’s side, her father’s side, her mother’s side…there was a whole lot of relatives. A week had gone real fast. In fact he had not got enough time to actually talk to her. To know her more. And tomorrow his leave would end. It was an exam season, and the school could not extend his leave. Reluctantly, he was packing his bags for the late night train. She was sound asleep, obviously tired after all the excitements. He badly wished to simply spend some more time with her.


‘Why did Ebenezer Scrooge wish that Tiny Tom live? Explain in about 150 words.’
What a ridiculously stupid question that was, thought Kaveri. Anyone who has read the Charles Dickens classic ‘A Christmas Carol’ knew very well that the stingy miser Scrooge had a change of heart after all those visions shown to him by the ghosts. Kaveri threw her textbook on her table. She was a class 11 student, and her final exams began the next day. English was first. Kaveri loved the stories and poems in her textbook. She hated it when she had to study them for exams. Stories was meant to be read and enjoyed, not answered. Nevertheless she had to take her test the next day. The time was already midnight, and she was not halfway through the portion. She was tensed.
‘Only if I had a bit more time’, thought she.


The famous Shri Chithira Thirunal Hospital, situated in the capital of Kerala did not distinguish between days and nights. Over years, its walls had seen through lots of blood, horrible causalities, major surgeries, sincerest prayers, heart wrenching cries, and tears of joy. That day was no different. The intensive care unit of the hospital housed an octogenarian. He was admitted that evening after he complained of severe heart pain. A sizable crowd waited outside, apparently to inquire about his well-being. The person was a popular political figure in the state, one who still mattered when it came to policy making. Currently he donned the hat of Education Minister of the state. Despite the media calling him heartless, the fact was that he actually had one. In the quiet of the night, his heart decided that it had faced enough pressure for a lifetime. The time was up. It quietly stopped beating and came to a rest.



‘Hello Manu sir. I am Kaveri. Sorry to disturb you this late.’ Manu was her class teacher.

‘That’s alright. What’s it Kaveri?’

‘There’s some news that our honorable Minister has passed away.’
Manu had just spoken to the Principal regarding the same. Right from the beginning he knew why she was calling him.

‘You’re right, my child. Our good old minister passed an hour ago. How tragic!’

‘Definitely, sir. I was very shocked. Poor soul.’
There was a brief pause, and she continued.

‘Well sir, some of my classmates called me to know if the exams would be held tomorrow.’

‘The principal had phoned me. Classes would be suspended tomorrow in respect of the deceased soul. You would have your exams on Tuesday.’

‘Alright, sir. I would inform them.’

‘Use this extra time you got to prepare better.’

‘Yes sir. Night.’

Manu had stopped packing when he heard the news. He was not a great follower of the leader. Some say he’s good. Some say he’s bad. Manu did not know. Manu did know that he was old. Wasn’t old age a good time to die? He did not know. He looked at his beautiful wife, sleeping unawares. Quietly he undressed, and slipped into the comforts of his warm bed on the cool silent night. 

A few hundred kilometers away, the table lamp at a sixteen year old girl’s study turned off, and a tiny green light indicating she was online on Facebook turned on.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Movie Review : Baishe Srabon

Title : Baishe Srabon
Language : Bengali
Year : 2011
Director : Srijit Mukherjee
Genre : Mystery, Crime
Watch trailer on YouTube
Lead Role :  Parambrata Chatterjee, Prasenjit Chattarjee, Raima Sen

Baishe Srabon (22 Srabon) is a Bengali crime thriller with enough mystery elements thrown in to keep you the viewers enthralled and guessing. A serial killer is on the prawl, who finishes off people at nights and leaves verses from poems behind. The clueless police seeks the help of a brilliant ex-cop who was suspended from service thanks to his infamous torture methods.

The script is intense, with cross references to Bengali literature and some history. The casting is perfect, and background score stands out. The movie is not exactly a fast paced thriller, but never loses the flow. Parambrata Chatterjee is turning into one of my favorite actors.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Case Of Murder

She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf. The heat that welled up inside her made the coffee feel lukewarm. Rithu glanced around. After making sure was nobody was prying on her, she fished out her cell phone from her cluttered handbag. With mechanical precision, her fingers opened the tab where she had begun typing out a note.

‘This may seem to you as a confession, or as an admission of guilt. It is neither. This is me recounting some of my actions of the past and the circumstances that led me to the situation I now find myself in. For starters, I murdered a person.’

 She sighed after going through it. For one last time, she asked herself if sharing her life with others was a good idea after all. After convincing her confused conscience, she resumed writing the story. Her own story.

‘The way I stated the fore-mentioned action may make me look like a cold blooded murderer, or a nut job who is not aware of the consequences of own actions. I am neither. I am a normal person who wishes to lead a normal life, just like other normal people out there.  Before we get down to details, let me introduce myself. Well people call me Rithu Sahil, so that’s my name. Usually when people call out my name, they refer to the five feet seven inches tall, lean structure that accommodates me. Most do not seem to care much about how different the body and the mind actually are. If you look from a distance, it is highly likely that you would miss the picture. It is only when you interact, you would come to know that there were not just one, but two of us in there. Two very different persons who happened to have the same external identity.

From our childhood, I have experienced people preferring my body-mate over me. Though we seemed alike, we were vastly different. If one is to use adjectives, I would be called ‘rude’, ‘ill-mannered’ or ‘rash’ while ‘sweet’, ‘well-mannered’ and ‘nice’ would be attributed to her. I shall tell you what happened during our school days, years ago. Our friend Tina had bought a new watch, and was proudly showing it off in the class. In one look I hated it. It was orange, with a big square dial and a funny strap. I told her what I felt, so that she could get herself a more beautiful watch. But my advice did not go very well with Tina. She felt I was being jealous, and stopped speaking with us for two whole weeks. Since then, my body-mate took over me when it came to giving opinions. Whenever a person showed us something new, she would go all ‘awww’ and would starting praising it, no matter whether she liked it or not. And once the person left, she and her group would laugh and make fun of him/her. To my surprise, people liked her more than me. Soon I had not many friends while her circles grew.

I had learned to live with this as a child, but there were other differences as well. For instance, if I had a problem with any guy or girl, I would prefer to say it to that person’s face, and try to settle differences. But she would not do that. She would act all friendly and nice to that person, and then would start complaining on his back. And that made me ‘stingy’ while she was ‘sweet’, like honey. Gradually I began realizing that as more acceptance she would win in this image craving society, I was to be pushed back to the corner and silenced even further. I knew my identity was at a risk. I knew I had to act.’

“Excuse me ma’am.” The manly voice distracted Rithu. She looked up. A young man stood near her. His green apron over the black tees indicated that he was an employee at the cafe.

“I did not mean to intrude, miss. But I could not help notice that you have not touched your coffee in a while. It might go cold.”

Rithu realized that she was too engrossed in her note and had forgotten everything else. She thanked the young man, who smiled and left. She drained the remainder of the coffee down her throat in a gulp. After wiping off the cream from her lips, she went ahead with the unfinished note.

‘I tried reasoning out with her, but she seemed hell bent on maintaining her image. I was feeling suffocated. No one bothered about my presence. Soon things started getting worse. I was not allowed to behave the way I wanted. Apparently I needed the acceptance of others in deciding what I wore, ate, saw, read or did. She lived in the constant apprehension of what others would think. I told her that it was our life and we should decide what to make of it, but all my words fell on deaf ears. Once reasoning was out of question, I began looking for other options.

First I started pushing my way ahead of her. I would give others my honest opinions; I would wear what seemed suitable to me, and told her that it was okay. She protested strongly, and society smirked at me. All my life I have never heeded too much to others’ opinion, but what actually broke me was our boyfriend Varun’s decision to break things up with us. He told his friends that we were strange. One day we would be all meek and playful, while being brutally frank and rebellious the other day. By then I knew that if I continued to let her live, she would grow stronger and indestructible. Rithu Sahil would continue to be the girl who is the society’s answer to a good person. I would die a silent death. That meant if I had to achieve my goal, I had to eliminate her like forever. I pondered over means of achieving the same. The weapons designed by man were helpless. Knives or pistols only caused physical damage. Here the elimination would be at a higher level.

That’s when our cousin Sreenath came home for a vacation. He was doing some high level course in literature, and hence a load of books had accompanied him. One particular book caught my attention. It dealt with social memes and how various false notions affected our mindset and so on. I began reading it in depth and tried explaining the core ideas discussed in it to her. The book also led me to an online social group where I met like minds. They all joined me in trying to convince my twin soul on how to live the way you are.

It was a considerable effort, and I was skeptical. Gradually there was some light at the end of the tunnel. She seemed to listen to reason. In a first, she had given in, although by a whisker. If there was a do or die moment, that was then. I could either strive to impose myself over her, or could suffer in silence till the end of our lives. I had suffered enough already. I decided to suffocate her. All day, all night I told her facts and tales that favored my view. This was my custom for days. I would not listen to anything from her. After days of hard labor, one day I found her completely broke. Either she had finally realized I was right, or she no longer had the power to resist. Nevertheless, she lay there trying desperately to catch a breath. I decided to quietly sit beside her and watch without blinking an eyelid.  I wanted to make sure that she was completely gone. After several painful, long moments, she finally bid adieu. The 5’7” tall and lean structure did no longer house two persons. It was all mine, to be lived in my way until natural death conquered me.

So that is my story. I am Rithu Sahil, who murdered Rithu Sahil, hoping to live a life that maybe labelled rude, but definitely not a fake.’

She proofread the write up for bugs, and then posted it on her blog. She picked her handbag from the table, and stepped out of the cafe. The sun was beginning to set, and cool breeze made the evening pleasant. She had barely crossed two blocks when a commotion arrested her attention. Many had gathered, including the cops. She assumed that it was a scene of crime. Driven by instinct, she went near the crowd to check out.  Two men were speaking to each other.

Man 1: What a tragedy!

Man 2: She could have let it pass. Eve teasing is not the first of a kind, is it?

 Man 1: Girls usually go away without retorting back. This one was big mouthed. She wanted to “teach the boys a lesson”.

Rithu made her way forward through the crowd, and the sight she met there made her speechless. A five feet seven inches tall, lean body of Rithu Sahil lay on the ground. Her ex-boyfriend Varun sat in the vicinity, sobbing uncontrollably. A blood stained knife lay next to her blue silk scarf.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Movie Review : The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Title : The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Language : Silent Movie
Year : 1920
Director : Robert Wiene
Genre : Horror
Watch movie on YouTube
Lead Role :  Friedrich Feher, Werner Krauss

The movie is widely acknowledged as one of the landmark revolutionary offerings from the long gone era when movies did not speak. It may be technically incorrect to call a silent film German, nevertheless it was made in Germany during a time period when the European nation was in turmoils after the devastating World War I.

The story begins with a young man by the name of Francis starts narrating the hardships faced by him and his fiancee (Jane) and the very peculiar, even horrifying doings of a strange man, Dr. Caligari. Dr. Caligari owns a stall at a nearby exhibition, and on display is a somnambulist Caeser, who allegedly has slept for 23 straight years! The doctor awakens him, and he answers questions asked by the spectators. To the horror of the locals, his prophecies comes true. Meanwhile, the town is gripped in fear as a series of murders takes place.

The makers have chosen very unorthodox lighting and skewed drawings throughout the picture, and there is a reason which I shall not reveal for the delight of watching it. Anyways, I am pretty sure the movie would not end where or how you expected it to.

A lot has been discussed about this movie since then, even drawing parallels to the autocratic rule of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

An Epitome of Devotion

Ramcharan Yadav, the History teacher of Lokmanya Vidya Niketan Indore, alighted the bus and asked the children to get down quietly. The class eight students were on their annual school trip, and this was the next stop for them. It was a quiet afternoon, and the sun was considering calling it a day. After ensuring all students were feeling good, the teacher started speaking.

‘What you see here was constructed by a person who lived among us some years before, in the love for his wife soon after her soul bid farewell from this Earthly world.’

As expected, there was no collective sigh of exclamation from the kids, who had grown up watching engineering marvels and sky breakers across the globe.

‘Of course this may not seem to be such a great feat today, but you must remember that he had achieved the same at a time before machines started cutting stones or computers began to lay out meticulous plans. Twenty two long years were spent in the construction.’

Ramcharan watched with delight some jaws being dropped in astonishment.

‘How deeply did he love his wife, sir?’ asked young and bright Deepika Kaur.

‘They are yet to come up with a device to measure love, my child. Let us say more than his life.’

There was a quietude as some tried to contemplate what it meant to love someone more than their own lives.

‘All right, kids. We have other places to visit before nightfall. Please position yourselves and let us take a photo.’

The thirty six students arranged themselves in two rows and posed for the class photo. The teacher pulled out his camera from his handbag. Click. Thirty six faces smiled against the backdrop of a simple road carved by a poor laborer by the name of Dashrath Manjhi, popularly known as The Mountain Man.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Seventeenth Century Striving To Even Out the Odds

Close to the city of Paithan, in a small village called Sauviragram, which lay along the banks of the great river Godavari, lived a woman named Ilaa. Being cotton farmers, her family was well to do, but not among the richest in their area. It was the harvest season, and cotton had to be picked from the plants. The wholesalers and traders from Paithan would be arriving in just a few weeks, carrying gold and goods for barter. They would exchange what they carried for the cotton that the farmers grew. The bales of cotton had to be ready in time! Work was at its peak!

But Ilaa was not to be found in the fields. She wasn't working. Instead, she was sitting by the banks of the great river Godavari.

'I am sick of this!' she grunted loudly. The cool breeze could not dampen her frustration.

‘Ssh...Not so loud, Ilaa! Others may hear.’ whispered a precarious Eknath.

They both sat cross legged in the soft sand by the riverside. The wild outgrowth gave them a cover from the villagers who passed by. This is where they used to meet, and converse. Eknath came from a Brahmin household of the same village. His father was a temple priest, and at the tender age of nine his father had performed his Upanayana. There started his training in Sanskrit and other religious affairs. Eknath and Ilaa knew each other from childhood, and the bond had only deepened.

‘You do not understand it, Nath. I am running out of ways to convince my father.’ Desperation was written all over her face.

Eknath knew he needed to pacify his friend. Hesitantly, he placed his right palm on her slender shoulders. She tossed it away gruffly.

‘Why are you mum? Speak up. Do you also believe that women must not have the right to education?’ she inquired.

‘Of course not! But that is how the society around us thinks. What can we do about it?’

‘Do you know what my father said today? He told me that man and woman are different; hence their duties are also different. Men are physically stronger, that is why their area of work lay outside their homes. Men are expected to be farmers, weavers, soldiers, lawmakers, rulers, doctors, masons, teachers and even priests. Women are subtler, and their duties include cooking, washing, cleaning, giving birth and all household chores.’

‘Well, isn’t it true that men are physically stronger than women?’ Eknath tried to reason with Ilaa.

 ‘If it is so, why do my family ask me, a woman, to pluck cotton from the plants? Isn’t that a man’s job?’ Ilaa had made her point.

Eknath knew his friend was right. ‘I am not of the view that women must be uneducated. But one should respect his culture and civilization.’

‘Our civilization was not always like this, Nath. Centuries ago in the Vedic times, women enjoyed equal status as men.  They received education and observed brahmacharya, studied the Vedas, and composed Vedic hymns. Women had access to all branches of knowledge.  I respect that golden civilization.’

‘How do you know so much about Vedic periods?

‘I only know what my mother used to tell me when I was a kid. Her mother had told her when she was a child. My mother used to tell me the story of a lady by the name of Vishvara, who composed outstanding hymns. She is my inspiration. I want to go through each verse of our epics, and indulge in intellectual debates. Alas, our patriarchal society forbade it.’

None of them spoke for a while. Both knew that there was no easy solution. Quietly, Eknath started writing something on the wet sand using his fingers. That caught Ilaa’s attention.

‘Now what am I supposed to make out of these lines, straight and curved?’

Eknath had in fact written her name using the Devnagri script. His heart panged when he realized that Ilaa could not recognize her own name. He was about to say something, but was cut short by a booming voice.

‘Namaste Eknath!’

Ilaa and Eknath turned their heads towards the direction of the voice. When he saw who it was, he immediately stood up and folded his hands in respect. Ilaa followed suit.

‘Pranaam guruji.’ Eknath bent to touch the feet of guru Nimbarka, who trained him in Sanskrit.

‘Rise, my child. I was here to collect water for pooja, when I heard your voice. What brings you here at this time of the day?’

‘This is my friend, Ilaa. We were talking, while enjoying the cool breeze.’ Replied Eknath.

‘So it is her name that I see on the sand, then.’ He remarked, pointing to the spot where Eknath had drawn using his finger.

‘Yes, my teacher.’

Nimbarka turned to Ilaa. ‘What bothers you, young lady?’

Ilaa was taken by surprise.  ‘Nothing, guru.’

‘Do not withhold, child. I am able to read minds.’ He joked with a straight face.

‘Well...my friend wishes to read and write, guru. Unfortunately women do not have any such rights in our land.’

‘I see. It is ironical that somebody with the name Ilaa has to fight for knowledge. Do you know the significance of your name, child?’ asked the guru.

Eknath was the first to respond. ‘As per legends Pratishthana, which is the ancient name for Paithan, was built by King Ila, who was the king of Bahlika Kingdom.’

His guru nodded in agreement.

‘In Hindu mythology, Ila is an androgyne, usually described as a daughter or son of Vaivasvata Manu and thus the sibling of Ikshvaku, the founder of the Suryavansha Dynasty.’ Replied Ilaa.

‘It is amazing to see that an illiterate woman knows this much about our ancient texts.’ Commented the guru. ‘If you go through the Aprisuktas, you shall see Ila being mentioned many a times in Rig-Veda, along with Sarasvati, the goddess of knowledge. I hope you see the irony now.’

‘I want to read everything, guru. I want to read the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the Gita. Will you teach me the letters, guru?’

Her child like wail amused Nimbarka. ‘Stop worrying about your problem and start working on it.’ 

He pointed to the inscription of her name on the sand. ‘Now you have learnt how the letters I and La looks like. You would be able to recognize these wherever you see them. Next time when you visit the Shiva temple, observe the phrase at the main entrance. You would see five characters that stand for na, ma, shi, va, ya respectively. This way you would be able to learn by yourselves.’

‘But isn’t it unfair, guru? Isn’t it unfair that boys are given systematic education while girls have to do it inconspicuously, as if it was a sin?’

‘The world around us is full of disparities, child. But everything changes as years passes. A time would come when women would be treated equally as men. They would be educated, be allowed to go out and work, and discrimination would cease to exist.’

‘Such a situation was prevalent in our society. Unfortunately, it was centuries ago.’ Ilaa opined, referring to the Vedic times.

‘Time is like a circular river, Ilaa. What existed would return some day in the future. Now, if you would excuse me, I shall take leave.’

Ilaa hesitated before speaking. ‘I hear that the Chhatrapati Sivaji Maharaja is planning to visit Paithan while proceeding to Jalna. What if we go and meet him in person? Wouldn’t he address our grievances?’

‘I must commend on your high spirits, Ilaa. But things are not that easy. No society can accept drastic changes. Presently the notion of women being confined to homes is deep rooted in our minds. Trust me it would undergo change, but changes takes their due course of time.’ Nimbarka tried to present the reality, while not dissuading the spirited Ilaa.

‘Well I understand your point, guruji. I am only unlucky to be born in the wrong time.’

‘People label someone great only when she rises against the odds and strive for better living conditions. With your hunger for knowledge, I am sure you would learn the letters soon enough. Then you would be in a position to teach other woman folk. They would start respecting you, and your confidence would rise. You would then be able to convince your critics on the merits of learning. Things would definitely be tough, but you have in you the determination to strive.’

‘Thank You for your inspiring words, respected guru.’ Ilaa touched his feet to seek blessings.

‘You shall be blessed, child. Always remember that if you seek you shall find the answers.’

Guru Nimbarka wished Ilaa good luck and went back to his residence. His disciple Eknath accompanied him. Ilaa was left alone at the riverside. Once again, Ilaa had a look at the inscription of her name. For some reason she found a strange joy rising within her. For the first time in her life, she had learnt how to read an alphabet.

Ilaa promised herself that this would only be a beginning, and she would not stop until she achieved her goal. From a distance, she could hear the shouts of her family members, who were busy picking and sorting all those cotton balls in the farm. She smiled to herself, and started walking in the direction of the cotton farm.

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