Tuesday, June 20, 2006


It was a sultry day and the scorching summer peeped through the trees trying to witness the event that was about to take place. The air was humid with the weight of each moment that passed. The trees rustled in the soft breeze whispering the anticipation in the air. In the shadow of their whispers on a wooden bench sat an old lady with her head held stubbornly high. Time had taught her undeniably that surrender to destiny was as honorable as resistance, especially if one had no choice. Time would put her through perhaps the most painful test a mother would have to face. Her calm demeanor cached the multeity of emotions within. She sat there, the tender grass at her feet, staring at the entrance of a grey imposing structure.. Waiting..

Behind the walls of the grey structure that marked a different world, behind the dark corridors that were stale with the stench of forgotten dreams, behind the iron bars that caged the despair of broken wings, he lay on the cold ground staring at the ceiling above him. Time had taught him to fight with the world for one’s existence no matter what the end. Time had made him immune to fear - even fear of death. He lay there feeling the cold seep into his bones, his heart beating in synchrony with each passing moment…. Waiting…

The sound of clink of metal broke him away from his reverie, as the supervisor of the prison opened the cell with food in his hands. He gulped the food and it went down his throat like little rocks. Later a doctor came to examine him. To check if he was healthy enough to die? He grinned at that thought.

…The breeze lifted the fallen leaves from near her feet. She took a silent walk through time, lost in the haze of memories. The images behind her closed eyes were entwined in darkness. The voices echoing in her ears were weaved in silence. The whispers knocked at the doorstep of her heart. She walked up the empty inner rooms of her memories calling out for the child that had been hers… The child that had clung onto her finger as he learned to walk… The child that slept against her bosom in blissful slumber… She had only herself to blame for the man he turned into. She may have loved him too much. She should have read the signs… The friends he hung out with… The long recurring trips until finally he vanished leaving her behind with a hole in her heart. She hadn’t heard from him until the arrest. “Aggravated murder and sentenced to death” the court had declared, not knowing how many lives would die with one. The leaves settled in some corner of the world.

In the other world, he waited till his time came. He had no remorse in life. He loathed the so called ‘law’ that thought it knew what is right for people. What does the ‘law’ know about the life in the streets? The law cannot feed people. The law cannot set one free. Initially he had felt trapped in the path he had chosen for himself. But later he was intoxicated by the money and the power it gave him. He felt as if he was empowered to rule the lives of people around him.

When the metal bars opened for the second time that day, he knew he was not coming back. The Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent and three guards stepped into his cell. One of the guards applied the restraints on him while the other two held him. Then the two guards held either of his arms and urged him out of the cell. He swung his arms away from their grip and said “I walked on my own in life. I can walk on my own to death.” So with one guard on either side, the other guard and officials behind him, he marched toward death.

At the execution room, the executioner was waiting for the convict to arrive. This was his first execution, not that he was looking forward for it. As the convict entered he felt a chill run through his spine. When the convict was taken past him to the scaffold, he looked straight into the executioner’s eyes, as if knowing he was the one destined to put his life to an end. The executioner saw the cruelty lurking in the corners of his eyes.

After the prisoner was made to stand near the scaffold, the death warrant was read aloud. The warders held the arm of the convict and mounted him over the scaffold, placing him directly under the beam to which rope was attached. The executioner, with professional indifference that he was trained at, strapped his legs tightly together, placed the black cap over his head and adjusted the rope tightly around his neck. To the executioner, the faceless figure standing at the scaffold seemed like any other man. He stepped down from the platform and everyone waited…

The arrow of time pierced the thin air. The pendulum swung solemnly, steadily. Time ticked by in the convict’s pulse, in his heart. His heartbeats raced with each tick of the clock. Everything around held its breath in anticipation of the next second. A sullen silence remained. For the first time he felt fear grip him slowly like a snake tightening around its prey. He felt his inner self writhing as if on a red-hot metal sheet. Just as the clock signaled it was time, as the executioner signaled the guards to withdraw from the scaffold, as he drew the bolt, as the rope tightened against the convict’s throat beneath the black cloth, as the ground he stood on gave away under him, just before he choked at his own weight, a loud cry escaped his lips that echoed within the walls of room, ringing hollowly in the minds of the people in it. That scream would haunt the executioner’s dreams for years to come.

At that moment time had stood still. Not a leaf rustled, not a soul stirred. Everything seemed to be frozen, captured in the ice of timelessness. Nature reflected the emptiness within a mother’s soul.

Later at the funeral house she waited to take her son back home with her. When his body was brought to her, she stood beside him and removed the white cloth that covered his face. Not a tear was shed… Not a sob escaped her lips… She stared at his face searching for her child, only to realize he wasn’t there.

She started her journey towards home with the corpse of her son; only she knew that she had reached the end of her long journey.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Cloudburst in Mumbai !!!

The most significant characteristic about Mumbai is that it is absolutely unpredictable. And anything that happens in Mumbai leaves an impact that could shake us to the core. The advent of monsoons was no different. The clouds burst with the showers of its blessings and a million droplets poured down as if to shake mother earth awake.

Me and Dewy were in office with our noses glued to our monitors, pretending to be hard at work (we were actually playing online sudoku, googling for “Best pastimes during office hours”, and of course reading blogs), when somebody yelled out ‘Heavy Rains! Get home as soon as possible!” I am not sure if it was the fear after last year’s floods or relief at receiving an excuse to abandon work, but people started rushing out like hippopotamuses whose tails were on fire. Well, we were quick to follow suit.

We reached the ground floor of the building to find all the hippopotamuses flocked together, scared to step out into the heavy rain. Honoring my irresponsible and forgetful self, I didn’t have an umbrella. Inspite of this we bravely plunged ourselves into the rain huddled under a single umbrella. Our “we-should-get-a-paramvir-chakra-for-this” expression was washed away when water splashed from all directions at us. Inspite of the umbrella, in just a couple of seconds we were completely drenched, except for a small area on top of our heads, were a middle-aged man would be beautifully bald. Nonetheless, because of the shame of returning back we carried on like a pair of wet Siamese twins hiding under a giant mushroom. It was so windy that I thought Dewy’s frail frame, along with her peacock hairstyle and crooked smile, would be ‘Gone with the wind’. Thank God, she was holding onto a heavy handbag which anchored her to earth.

We reached the place where we usually catch a shared cab only to find a huge queue for it. There were hardly any cabs available because of the rains. After waiting for a long time, we were contemplating on whether to expose our ‘tange’ inspired by Pooja Bhatt in ‘Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahi’, when finally a couple of cabs came. But people rushed at it as if it was a matter of life and death. Finally I got my turn and sat in it.

My relief only lasted for five minutes till I reached the station. It was so crowded that I was doubtful I would even have air to breath. I stepped out into the mob and was soon swallowed by it. Hundreds of us moved slowly from the entrance of the station to the railway platform huddled together like fetuses in the enormous womb of Mumbai local railways. But even such a time men could not cease to be MEN!!! They were religiously entertaining themselves by grabbing at whatever flesh they could get their hands on. While I was trying hard to hold on to my 10 cm. sq. of space.

So like fetuses trying to find their way out of the womb, we slowly made our way to the platform. People who stay in Mumbai would be able to appreciate the challenge involved in entering into a local train. I sometimes wish a miracle would turn me into a heavy-weight sumo wrestler for just that half a minute when the train stops, so that I could hurl everybody away and find my way into the train (except that I hope I don’t get stuck in the entrance of the train). Even without the miracle I pushed my way into the train (which arrived after a long wait) only to the sandwiched between two fat stinking aunties, knowing exactly how a burger felt. The one thing that Mumbai local trains and maternity wards would have in common is their slogan - ‘Push!!!’… ;-)

After being ‘burger’-ised for almost two hours the train reached my destination. I pushed my way yet again this time out of the train and took a deep breathe of relief. I thought my eyes would swell with tears of happiness like it does in beauty pageants; but the drama was not over yet. None of the rickshaw walas were willing to go to the place where I stay. There were many of us waiting hoping somebody would take mercy on us. Suddenly, at the corner of the road I saw a ric stopping and people getting out. I ran with all my might and asked the rickshawwala.”Poonam Nagar chaloge?” He answered reluctantly, ‘Madam, Bohot traffic hai, pani bhara hua hai.” I met his eyes, mine pleading to his and a soft whisper of prayer escaped my lips, “Bhaiyaa…” He thought for a moment and said, ‘Chalo, baito.” I felt like kissing his balding head but I refrained myself and quietly sat in the ric instead. After an exciting rollercoaster ride (some of the few moments in life that I remember God!), as he maneuvered through the traffic and the poring rain, I finally reached home.

I collapsed into my bed as if after a war. I swore to myself I would rather go on my knees before an unassuming chicken on the street and beg it to bestow its flu on me rather than go through this again. But I guess this war would continue each day of the monsoons. Sigh…