Friday, December 28, 2007

Light a Candle - Click and mourn!

"Pay a tribute to Benazir Bhutto by lighting a candle" proclaims this CNN IBN webpage. Seems a very noble thing to do .... Until you realize that the candle you are "lighting" is the result of a few key presses and clicks from your personal computer and some very basic HTML/JavaScript programming - all this while, you sit reclining in your swivel chair, 'mourning' for a woman whom you didn't even know remotely as a person and whose death, while untimely, tragic and politically significant, is not likely to have any noticeable impact on your personal life!

Welcome to the world of online tributes, mostly provided by NEWS corporations who would do whatever it takes[1] to get there! Where you can express your outrage and your anguish at tragic events around the world by lighting a virtual candle, all by clicking a few buttons in the comforts of your small home. Thanks to such services, political tragedies have now become a matter of personal mourning in the lives of every tom, dick and harry.

It seems that the recent trend of a booming economy, soaring stock markets and surging purchasing power, along with a sky-rocketing job scenario, lead us Indians to a state of complacent happiness - we were all contended and relatively happy with the way things were going. The Indian Media, however wasn't happy at all, as their TRPs fell and their creative reserves were quickly drowning up - I mean, there is only so much coverage you can give to stories about Dhongi Baba doing the nanga nach, "kutte ne ajgarh ko khaaya", etc. Plus, as they would want us to believe, the Indian Media portrays itself as the German Shephard - the watchdog - that brings out the grime, crime, slease and corruption in our society with a stated view to trigger a social revolution (and as an afterthought, boost their TRP's).

So, the Indian Media wasn't very happy about all the freaking stability (its no secret that Video NEWS gorges on disasters and tragedies. alas! it only feeds the baser aspect of human nature!) - they were looking for a story that would shakes us, something so sensationalist and yet moving, that it would wake us from our happy reverie and make us mourn and ponder. Bhutto's assassins have, rather unwittingly, done the Indian Media (and the International Media to an extent too) a great favour.

Newspaper editors around the country (and the world) must be smacking their hands with glee at the prospect of the amount of Newsreel this story would cover. In the coming days and weeks, 'analysts' will pore over every small nuance of Bhutto's life and dig out everything there is to dig out. Amidst all this, a new battle emerges - not one against extremism & dictatorship in Pakistan, not one for moderation & democracy - but one to put out the best analysts, the best panelists, the most respected diplomats & politicians & the best show on prime time television. On the bright side though, the dhongi babas & kuttas & ajgarh's will be sidelined atleast for the moment. We shoudn't be very hopeful though - people will get tired of all the analysis & slowly, NEWS broadcasts will contain the latest updates of Saas-Bahu serials and Dhongi Baba's revolutionary cures.

I am not for a minute suggesting that Bhutto should not get her due respects - she was, for all the controversies and alleged misgivings, a shining example of a successful Muslim feminist movement, a moderate voice that could have brought some peace to troubled Pakistan and most definitely, an influential figure in the history of Indian-subcontinental politics. She needs to be mourned and her loss needs to be marked.

But lighting a virtual candle is exactly the kind of marketing gimmick & new-age-click-away -your-mourns crap we shouldn't be buying. And yet, sadly many people do. This afternoon, the sombre newsreader announced on CNN IBN, rather triumphantly of the tremendous response on the "light a candle" campaign (they had done this with the Mumbai 2006 Blasts and chances are, they would do this at Mayawati's death too). While the intent of people responding to such campaigns is appreciated, the means/methods to express their grief is highly questionable. And, most of all, it is indeed highly manipulative for NEWS corporations to offer such trivial platforms for expressing 'grief'.

I would definitely like to hear what you think on this one. Would you, for instance, light a candle for Bhutto on the website? Or do you think that it is a contrived, manipulative device to garner people onto the website? Please do post your comments & feel free to disagree.

Note[1] - "Whatever It Takes" happens to be the slogan of CNN IBN. Naming an Indian NEWS Organization's slogan as that! Amusing opportunity for pun, isn't it?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I am Legend - the Review

Note: Sorry for the late review - just returned from a trip

The lone sane survivor

Rating: 3.5/5

At first glance, we see the genre (Zombie Horror) and exclaim with exasperation & disdain, "No way! Another one of those semi-dead zombies crawling the earth & consuming/tearing everything in their path. In comes a man to somehow save the world/himself!" .... been there, done that! ho-hum!

But no, the first glance is deceiving in this case. Allow yourself to be temporarily deceived and watch this movie. You will find that I am Legend is just exactly that - a legend, an outcast among Zombie horror movies - in the sense that it retains the all-important human element (an emotional, sensitive core) while the mutilation progresses on screen.

Basic Plot Premise: "Genetically engineered virus, initially hailed as a cure for Cancer turns killer, wiping 90% of human population. 2% remain alive and sane. Remaining 8% become zombies. Enter Will Smith as the only sane surviver in New York city and the apparent impression that he is the last man on earth (with a dog named "Sam" for company - apparently canines are resistant from the air-borne form), searching for a cure. In one of his Zombie encounters, he is overpowered, then rescued by another survivor named Ana and her child .... " - for the rest, watch the movie (or read Wikipedia :P)

What is surprising about the movie is that there is very little of the mutilation and gore. The movie delivers its scares by building up a persistent, never-ceasing tension throughout and introducing suddenly the agile, super-strong zombies. While the scary stuff lasts you an instant, what lingers on is the emotional core of the movie, played perfectly by Will Smith, in what could be described as one of his best performances.

New York as the choice of the desolate city couldn't be more apt. In many ways, NY is perhaps the epitome of human financial & technical achievement - the result of an empowering vision of capitalism and free-will - the bastion of man's creativity. And in many others, NY has suffered tremendously (Sept 11, 2001). In a world bereft of sane human habitation, this city serves as a haunting window to glimpse into a world deserted and forgotten. Manhattan's famous skyline lies deserted, the entire of NY becoming an eerie ghost-town, with weeds growing on the streets and wild animals roaming freely. NY, once home to a bustling populace, now inhabited and overpowered by nature's forces - an illustration of how natures tames human beings. In an atmosphere as overwrought with desolation as this, enter Will Smith as the city's lone survivor scientist, who even after 3yrs continues to believe that he can "fix it".

Will Smith might have wasted himself over disasters such as MIB, MIB II, Independence Day (yea, you can call them time-pass, but they are little more than the Britney Spears equivalent of movies) , but here he brings to play the same sense of emotional ache and angst that we saw in The Pursuit of Happyness. As the last man alive, his motivation to live is constantly wavering and he searches for some tangible meaning to living alone the rest of his life. In order to maintain some degree of sanity, he views tape-recordings of NEWS broadcasts from the happier past, arranges mannequins in a DVD store and strikes up a conversation with them while picking out DVD titles, all along trying to act normal. And we see streaks of how heartbroken and desolate this man really is. And we see how close he is tethering on the border of insanity and hysteria.

Especially notable is the scene where the dog attacks Smith after being infected by the virus and Smith responds by killing his own dog (Sam), his lone partner in his struggle. In that one moment, we see the absolute, maddening grief of a man who has just lost that one thing that has sustained him through a phase of immense turbulence, that has given him some false yet quantifiable sense of hope. And that grief - the magnitude and enormity of it - is completely evident by the subdued yet profound way in which Smith portrays it.

And these are the moments where the movie strikes a chord with your emotional side, as you sympathize with this lone sane (borderline insane) man in a world bereft of all human consciousness and where centuries of human progress lies unused, unappreciated and forlorn.

And thats where this movie is different from other Zombie thrillers - the protagonist (Smith) here is not an uber-cool, unemotional guy, who doesn't flinch even once while going on a massive zombie killing spree or utter even a monosyllable of horror at widespread cannibalism (read: Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil series). Instead, the protagonist is an emotional intellectual, who fervently wishes that he can set things right and is so totally vulnerable at times. This along with a haunting, deserted ghost-town of a megapolis (NY) gives this movie a certain authenticity. Granted there are moments when the movie is not believable (the source/reason for Will's motivation to live as the last man, the manner of Will's rescue, etc), but overall this is definitely a fine piece of cinema with a tangible emotional core that rattles you at times and leaves you distinctly unsettled.

Bottom-line: I am Legend is more a movie about the desolation & grief of a lone man and how he battles it, than a Zombie thriller. It is also a very chilling visualization of how NY, Mumbai, etc will look like once human habitation withers away. In many ways, it reminds us of how far human civilization has progressed and how fragile our existence is. Go watch this movie for more than a scare or two - it will leave you in a thoughtful state, as you contemplate the horror of no human habitation, of all things human - culture, art, music to cease existing - just imagine Da Vinci, Shakespeare, Pink Floyd all coming to naught ....

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Om Shanti Om - the Review

SRK - Supposedly Six pack Khan - ah! never mind!
Deepika Padukone - the most beautiful and graceful girl ever!

Every once in a while comes a film that moves you, that forces you to think - to contemplate and reflect - and after much deliberation, you feel you have gained something more tangible than a couple of hours of entertainment - that you have gained some insight into an aspect of life that was previously unvisited. Om Shanti Om is definitely not such a movie! What it is though is pure, unadulterated masala entertainment at its very best.

Not that Om Shanti Om is not corny - it is cheesy and at times exceedingly melodramatic - but its charm lies in its excessive, unabashed celebration of Indian melodrama at its cheesiest worst! This movie is so cliche and typical, that somewhere down the line it becomes charming.

The plot is simple enough (in fact, its barely a plot, but thats the point - the absence of a tangible plot adds to the silly, charming pointlessness of the movie) :
It is circa 1970 & SRK stars as an aspiring actor (a junior artist) whose ambition is to make it big. He wishes to marry the girl of his dreams - Shantiji played by the divine Deepika Padukone, who is the Audrey Hepburn equivalent of Bollywood in the era. A lot of cheesy/goofy/charming comedy and beautifully shot songs later - Shanti is killed by her husband played by Arjun Rampal (finally the guy is getting some work!). This gives rise to simultaneous death-reincarnation of both SRK & Shanti. SRK grows up and enlists the new Deepika to avenge Shanti's death.

Shah Rukh Khan plays yet another role which seems to have been tailor made for him - down to the last dialogue - Khan's tongue-in-cheek personality is perfect to essay the role of the quintessential bollywood struggler of the 70's. Kiron Kher delivers yet another endearing performance, proving her versatility once again. Of special note is the scene where she baulks with her knuckles in her mouth when SRK apparently insults his dad - classic! And Shreyas Talpade is the stereo-typical side-kick and plays it to the hilt.

But what did it for me as I am sure for many others is Shantiji played by Deepika Padukone - never before have I seen a woman (a actually girl - she's just 21!!) so beautiful and so graceful and so amazingly divine. Stick a couple of extra hands and she would look a goddess - a real one! Deepika's face especially in the 70's period (1st half of the movie) is something to look at - incredible beauty and amazing poise! The song-writers (Akhtar sahab) seem to have been inspired by Deepika's presence when they wrote the songs! Not only does she look the part, she acts the part too - I was pleasantly surprised by good emoting skills (of course, the real test for her would be to play method roles). Deepika dazzled me by the magnificence of her beauty and the poise with which she carried herself. I am sure India has found its next sensation - beware Aishwarya, Bipasha and rest - Deepika is here and here to dazzle!

Of course the movie is not without its pitfalls - it wishes at the most trivial of excuses to give SRK an opportunity to showcase his 6-packs! Agreed that SRK has toned his body, but a male cleavage show of the extent and degree as in that irritating and redundant song 'Dard e disco' is clearly abominable & causes uncomfortable squirming from the male quarters of the theater, while eliciting squeals of delight from a few, enamoured teen girls. Clearly, the song was a diversion to the plot and could have been done without.

In the end, the movie was an enjoyable experience - nothing memorable, but worth the buck. It celebrates and ridicules the absolute melodrama and repetitive nature both of Indian cinema and Indian melodrama and does so with unabashed glee and unrepentant scorn. The pointless plot serves merely as an excuse to both celebrate and castigate Indian stereotypes, cultural and social situations. It is this dichotomy that makes it so bitter-sweet! I felt the rational side of me hating it - so damn unrealistic and typical! Yet, there was something in it which was achingly genuine. Put it this way - Om Shanti Om is as much an ode to Indian cinema as much as it is a caustic, unsparing critique.

Some Links:
OSO Wallpapers on Yahoo! India Movies
OSO Posters on Yahoo! India Movies
OSO Movie-Stills on Yahoo! India Movies

PS: Sorry for the late review - its courtesy of the Sem VII exams coming up ;)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

2007 Formula One Season - The Culmination!

I will begin with a cliche - 'What a season it has been!' .... There seriously isn't any other way to express it - we had just about everything - some breathtaking racing in stunning circuits and with gorgeous pit-babes for company, some absolutely maddening rain-races which have swung like a pendulum, a LOT of politics & controversies, and ofcourse a stunning 4-way in the drivers championships, where a rookie & a 2-time WC are neck-in-neck with each other. Incredible is the word to describe this season!

The exit of Formula One Legend Michael Schumacher was considered by many as a precursor to Formula One's decreasing popularity - in fact, its been nothing of the sort! It was considered the end of an era - it is indeed the end of an era - an era of absolute dominance & monotonous race victories. Diversity, truly the essence of life, is now in full-steam in Formula One, as we now see 4 equally capable and persevering contenders battling it out for every point.

All the fighting on & off track aside, all politics & gossip aside, it all culminates into tomorrow - the mother of all battles - Brazilian Grand Prix - the track notorious among the F1 community as for its bouncy & uneven surface, as it is for its thunderous weather. If it is going to be a rain-race, which it very well might be, it is going to be a perfect game of probability & chance - quite like a game of high-stakes poker.

All of the three contenders (Alonso, Kimi & Lewis) deserve to win - and to recite a typical phrase "but only one will walk away with the title". The question is which one? My heart says Alonso but the mind says Lewis - Kimi anyways has a remote chance.

With qualifying over & Massa taking pole with Lewis behind, Kimi on 3rd & Alonso a distant 4th, the stage seems set for an exhilirating Brazilian GP 2007! This is it - this is what all F1 fans have been waiting for - the moment of truth arrives at 21.30 IST Sunday!

I am pretty much chewing my hat now! If you notice the last line of the 2nd last para of the post, then you would know what I am talking about! Talk about the unthinkable / unexpected! Anyways, Kimi absolutely deserved the victory - kudos to him! And cheers to Formula One and mad racing! .... More on the phenomenal F1 Season 2007 to follow very soon - I plan to write a review of the season .... till then, congrats to all the Ferrari & Kimi fans - your dreams have been realized ;)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Testimonial Categorization!

Having been on Orkut now for (the better part of) a year & a half now, I have noticed the spate of the rather meaningful testimonials that give a stunning insight into of the concerned person (all the sarcasm intended).

Some authors are poetic in their expression, preferring to write poems & sometimes songs in praise of the fellow. The colourful, sometimes-cryptic-sometimes-descriptive words sewn together to form lines & then stanzas ring out so rythmically & with such rhyming, that the heart soars when it reads! :P

Other authors prefer a more philosophically engaging way of expressing themselves, as they choose a recursive mode of writing. A generic example of such a recursion would be : "this is a blog post" OR " this is a testimonial" - a careful scrutiny of the statement reveals such hidden information & philosophical implications that you will be stunned by how so much can be implied in so little! :P .... Truly, brevity & recursion is the soul of a testimonial! :P .... The authors of such testimonials are usually philosophers, sears or computer programmers who understand the philosophical dichotomy of recursion!

Be it in poetry or prose, both testimonials have one thing in common - they are mass manufactured & copy-pasted/submitted/accepted in bulk - quite like that Archies card you gift some-one. Even that is a tad more original & authentic! This is not to say that the authors mean anything less than a sincere friendly testimonial - but many unfortunately haven't been blessed with the gift of the pen ;)

Then we have authors, who not satisfied with a mass-propagated material, make sincere attempts to be original & creative. While their efforts are valiant & appreciable, the result unfortunately is hardly flattering. But, atleast these guys make an effort to write something unique & different - its not just the end-result, but the gesture that counts.

And then, there's a category of committed love-birds, who choose to let out their feelings for each other via multiple testimonials, each of which read out like a Mills & Boons novel :P - okay mebbe not that bad! But its bad enough! Some of them divulge in such great detail the small nuances/idiosyncrasies and incidents that established their relationship, that would satisfy the apetite of even the most voyeuristic amongst us.

And finally, there are authors like me, who use a dozen adjectives & so-called "hi-funda" words (I like to think of them as illustrations of my linguistic mastery - yea, call me pompous & grandiloquent :P) .... Of course, it comes at a price - such testimonials are beyond the comprehension of the general orkutting masses and defy the very purpose of having a testimonial! People get more pissed when they receive such testimonials than when they have none - the reason? they don't understand half of it!

In the end, there are two ways of looking at it - that testimonials are tools for self-gratification and peer-approval on the internet in a manner that is as frivolous as it is dangerous/delusional OR testimonials are just a funny, light-hearted (and often copy-pasted/badly written) perspective on near friends/family that is meant NOT to be taken too seriously. Which one is the case, I leave it to you guys to decide.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A visit to the temple - A Rare spiritual experience

Today, I visited the temple after ages! Its been over a year since I have paid a visit to the local temple I used to frequently visit with my parents when I was child. Years of westernization - rock music , hollywood, Television, & agnostic orientations, coupled with a nihilistic outlook towards life have rendered me very cynical towards the very concept of religion & God & especially to conventional forms of worship.

Yet when I went today to the temple, I prayed - I prayed from the bottom of my heart. I was in peace with myself for those 20 minutes. I was far removed from the daily bustle of life, from the negativity & pessimism of the daily News, from the din & chaos of a maddening megapolis, from the lack of objectivity & confusion that surrounds my life and yea - not to mention, from the programming!

What surrounded me was a sense of peace & bliss. The flickering of hundreds of small diyas, the ringing of bells, the idols cast in black, colourful malays(garlands) that adorned their necks, the priests performing puja, the devotees with their offerings, the priests chanting Sanskrit hymns which originated thousands of years ago. Technology has created the illusion of the world being smaller, but reality is that there is so much diversity of human art, culture & religion! Where technology fails is to enable us to be at peace! And perhaps, to escape the routine monotony & the woes of daily life, man seeks refuge in the shelter of God's abode.

I prayed yet I did not utter a single sanskrit mantra - my prayers were said in English. After all, a prayer is supposed to be the gateway for you to connect with God. What use then, is a prayer in Sanskrit when you don't understand it? I prayed for myself, for my family & for the world. I prayed for success in my studies, success in projects that I undertake - but most importantly I wished & prayed that my life becomes structured, that there be direction &objectivity to it & that the cluttered & confused mind be tidied for clarity of thought. I also prayed that wisdom & foresight prevail upon this world & that God help us seek solutions to some of the problems facing man today.

After those 20 minutes of silence, prayer & solitude, I was certainly rejuvenated. Its been refreshing - a much needed break from loud music, endless television programs, movies & all other associated forms of escapism.

There is something deeply satisfying in the thought that we are being guided by an invisible force, that this force will be there for us as a guiding beacon in times of despair. Call it faith or maybe the human mind's psychological need, "God" is comforting. I still have some reservations to blindly accepting God or associated humanized idiosyncrasies, but thats another matter.

There are events & facts in the world which lead me to be Agnostic, to be a non-believer. And yet, there are acts of good samaritans going out of their way to help or heroically rescue others, which affirm the existence of a positive, omnipotent & omnipresent force that guides us. Yet, I must admit - for a long time now, I have believed that the situation in the world is too unfair & grim for me to blindly believe that God exists. If He does, why doesn't he intervene? Perhaps because he wants us to learn on our own? I really do not know.

My point simply is this - whether God exists as a real entity or is the result of the human psyche - it is deeply humbling & peaceful to imagine yourself to be a server of such a pristine cosmological master. Though slavery of any form is an abomination, yet it is deeply moving in some way to subjugate oneself at the hands of such a force. To tuck oneself in God's arms, free from all woes & without a care in the world.

In the end, I do not know whether God exists or not, but I sure hope & pray he does.

Monday, March 12, 2007

GREy Matter - Hallowed Be Thy Name!

The following is an entry to the "GREy Matter" post writing contest held to shortlist and publish the best entry in the college magazine 'Samanvay'. The contest basically involved a lexicon of 26 words listed here and an essay/short-story had to be written using any 20 of the 26 words from the word-lexicon.

Word-Lexicon: Aficionado(n.), Blasphemy(n.), Crescendo(n.), Disheveled(adj.), Exodus(n.), Fuzzy(n.), Glasnost(n.), Harbinger(n.), Incipient(adj.), Juxtapose(v.), Killhoy(n.), Lachrymose(adj.), Masquerade(n.), Neophyte(n.), Ostentatious(adj.), Plagiarize(v.), Queer(n.), Rhapsody(n.), Surreal(n.), Torpid(adj.), Unequivocal(adj.), Virtuoso(n.), Winsome(adj.), Xenophobia(n.), Yuppie(n.), Zealot(n.)

GREy Matter –

Hallowed Be Thy Name!

The way is shut! It was made by those who are dead.
And the dead keep it! The way is shut!

A voice murmured from a corner of the spacious room. The figure spread-eagled on the huge master-bed who had just managed to attain uninterrupted sleep stirred slowly - he cringed and turned and finally woke up. All this while, the chant was murmured again and again - quite like a rhapsody - its amplitude rising slowly with each repetition until it reached a deafening crescendo. In the darkness, the now wide-awake man could make out the fuzzy silhouette of a figure that was not human. It was the source of the chant which had now reached a feverish pitch. Surreal as it seemed, the figure seemed to be floating, unsupported and suspended. The next instant, it was advancing towards the bed, its entire frame now in the direct path of the moonlight coming through the window, its horrific features now entirely visible. And as it did, the disheveled man let out a shriek of absolute terror – the way a man tends to do when he is resigned to the horrific finality of his fate.

The figure was clothed in long robes covering the entire of its body. The hood covered the head, only revealing the face - pale white with red blood-shot eyes. As it advanced, its demeanour changed from menacing to aggressive. It slid over to where the man was now crouching timidly against the wall and whispered a few unpleasant nothings into his ear. Having done with its blasphemous speech, it then proceeded to treat the scared man as a laboratory animal, performing on it all those experiments, which when performed by a human on another would be deemed torture. For the floating figure, it was a source of sadistic pleasure. As the man writhed in pain, kicking & fighting & wailing, the floating demonic figure seemed more and more contended. With one last blow, the man’s skull was squashed, splintering into a thousand fragments and all movement that emanated from him finally stopped …

Doug Cornwall was a wealthy man – as wealthy as they come in this part of the world. He was an ambitious yuppie, with his palatial retreat in the centre of Monte Carlo’s most prized real estate – which offered a fantastic view of both the bay and the annual Formula 1 action – and no-one doubted the influence and power he wielded. It was another matter, that no-one quite knew what this man did for a living and how he made such vast fortunes. As it happened, Mr. Cornwall was a masquerader – I say ‘was’ because now, he no longer requires putting on an act, courtesy of his indigenously acquired wealth. In the incipient stages of his business, Mr. Cornwall appeared in many parts of Europe as “Mr. Cornwall – the wealthy tycoon” and secured deals whose general details were not known. One thing was certain – that he made a lot of money in these deals and now he resides in that palace in Monaco. Even back then, from the very beginning, it was clear that this man wasn’t a neophyte – he was firm and ruthless when dealing with his competitors, yet being winsome when among his allies and well-wishers. He was certainly no xenophobic! In his business, he had to deal with anonymous people and strangers all the time.

His wealth (whether initially fictitious or later on for real) also served as a source of funding for his passion – as an aficionado of all things ancient, his house was decorated with antiques and ornaments. Little did the outside world know that this aspect of his life was also a lie and it was this lie that was feeding his business. He was an artifact smuggler – an ingenious one - and these antiques were a result of his plunders across the world. There were exquisite ornaments from the world’s most prized jewel-sets, carefully carved sculptures cast of ivory and stone from some of the world’s rarest sites.

The world knew of Mr. Cornwall & his wealth & even some sketchy details on how he acquired it, but was unaware of the existence of a chap called Vladimir Zapav. They say behind every successful man, there is a hidden gem. Vladimir Zapav was one such gem - a Russian by birth, he was brought up in Britain & now calls the whole of Europe as home. There isn’t a place in Europe he has not visited or a businessman he hasn’t heard of or dealt with. Unlike Gorbachev’s “Glasnost”, Mr. Zapav followed the policy of utmost discreetness. He was a virtuoso in the field of anonymous clients and unusual package deliveries. It was this quality that brought him in contact with Cornwall and so an association began.

It was ironic that when they first met, Cornwall was neither rich nor famous but masquerading to be both! Through Zapav, Cornwall attained all his wealth. Zapav was the feather in the cap – the invisible force that rocked Cornwall’s smuggling cradle. Each heist brought them newfound wealth of increasing magnitudes. However, as the years passed, Cornwall became increasingly famous amongst Europe’s elite and found it increasingly difficult to come up with a plausible cover-up story of his wealth and how he acquired it.

So, finally & very reluctantly, he had to abandon his smuggling trade and he turned legitimate. And in a style typical to him, he ensured that his partner of many years - Zapav - was also not permitted to carry on the business. Zapav was alarmed at this change of events & by his partner’s disloyalty and lack of faith & so in a fit of rage, he threatened to reveal everything to the world. Cornwall had already made up his mind by then – his partner would not live to see another day. And in a dinner he arranged with Zapav for reproachment, he committed the planned sin by squeezing a small capsule of potassium cyanide into Zapav’s drink. Within seconds of consuming the drink, the cyanide used up all the Haemoglobin in his blood for a chemical reaction, thus leaving no oxygen carrying capacity and Zapav thrashed and writhed to death. That was exactly 5 years ago …

That night completed five years after that dinner and in the company of all his wealth and the ostentatious surroundings, he felt a little queer having his dinner. He had the feeling that one usually has when the occurrences of the day were unpleasant & killjoy – that his queer feelings were a harbinger of something worse to come. With dinner eaten in silence and in solitude, he went to the bedroom to call it a day. He tossed and turned and slept fitfully – all the time his anxiety gnawing at him, waking him up from his just attained slumber. Finally, his mind let go and he slipped from torpidity to a state of stupor, for what seemed like ages. Until … a voice murmured from a corner of the spacious room … As you can now infer, it was Zapav’s voice – a deathly scrawny voice, whose owner had now come to claim its revenge.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Frequently Asked Questions!!

"Buzurgon ne,
Buzurgon ne pharmaaya ki pairon pe apne khade hoke dikhlaao,
Phir ye zamaana tumhaara hai.
Zamaane ke sur-taal ke saath chalte chale jaao,
Phir har taraana, har fasaana tumhaara hai.

Arrey toh loh bhaiyaa ab hum pairon ke upar khade ho gaye aur milaali hai taal"

And so the song goes. Life it seems, echoes the sentiments of the song. As I step into what is the 21st year of my colorfully mundane existence, the familiar taunts & retorts about responsibility & adulthood seems to be all pervasive & omnipresent. Its the last year they say .... the last year before you are expected to take a shovel and in a barren, cold place called the "world", dig for yourself a trench large enough to satisfy both your needs & your materialistic demands.

As if going through the motions of a tiresome, grueling engineering schedule wasn't enough, when the tired soul returns home for some much needed rest, he is subjected to the added bonus of a heavy dosage on the 'responsibilities' of an adult. In such times, the lectures one has sat through & managed to survive seems far more endearing! Adulthood while being no way easy by any stretch of the imagination, surely has to be better than the daily sermons so freely doled out by one & all in the family!

But that is not even the point! The point is that trench which we are supposed to dig, that niche we are supposed to carve out, is but an infinitesimal volume in a void of infinite space ....

As I turn 20, my mind keeps returning back to the questions which I had asked at age 10 & for which till today no rational answer is forthcoming .... why do we live life? what is it that makes us fear death, makes us want to postpone that last fatal blow as long as possible? Why that instinct to survive & to what end? what is the purpose behind it all? Are we an accidental creation of some unknown force & that our existence and/or activity is incidental? .... or are we the result of some intent on the part of some creator?

As I ask these questions & try to seek an answer, I find myself more and more engaged in the nihilistic point of view of man's existence. Nihilism is the philosophy that says man has no purpose, that his life and his activities are inconsequential to the reality of the universe. In short, Nihilism says plainly that whatever man does is irrelevant and hence the next question one asks - then why do we do it? why do we continue living? another one in a long line of unanswered questions!

As a result of being convinced in part, by the rationale of the nihilistic explanation of life(or the apparent lack of it), I just cant seem to give a structured direction to my life. I am akin to that confused, clueless lamb who has lost sight of the Sheppard and has lost all sense of direction. Every time I seek to give a direction to life and try to move into areas unexplored, every time I am reminded of life's apparent futility.

These questions have been bugging me (as they must have almost everyone) for a long time now. And I am convinced that unless I get some straight answers, this delusional mind will tend to indulge in a false psychedelic comfort and justify the procrastinator within!

So there you are. On the occasion of my 20th birthday, I am happy & optimistic .... but there is also this nagging sense of uneasiness at how seemingly futile human life is - especially in the context of this consumerist, brand-conscious world.

As these thoughts occupy most of my temporal lobe most of the time, I am reminded of a quote I read in Reader's Digest the other day:
"Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday." - Dale Carnegie

Maybe I should just leave it at that and make a new start. Do share your insights into what you feel life is.