A Moment in the Moonlight – 2

Free me from these clichés. These movies and novels polluting our psyche. Ideas of this hysteria called love lasting forever. Transcending the realms of our lives and into our different incarnations. Let me capture this moment like a photograph. A photograph made, not of the usual playground of colours and light but just feelings.

Let’s free our minds from the dwellings of past, from the ideas of perfection we bought naively, from regrets and mistakes we still keep in the safes of our memory. Let’s break free from these insecurities and worries of being together forever. From our desire to hold onto each other like a prized possession. Let’s pretend the scars from our past aren’t engraved on us, because time is conspiring and it has sinister plans on its hands. But it wouldn’t take away this moment from us.

Let’s pretend the moon isn’t watching and let me capture you, bathed in its pale light. Bare nothing but your present to me and hold my hand we are going to get lost in this moment together, till it lasts.

Two Souls

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There’s a Monster On My Back

It’s a beautiful day, you notice the birds chirping after so long. You notice the children in the park, reminiscing about the happiest of times you had as a kid. There’s a smile on your face, it’s a feeling that has become unfamiliar. And then a sense of dread takes over you, a smell of fear and despondence is around. The kids are there and the chirpy birds too but it’s your smile that has just vanished. The monster’s back.

You’re not even surprised anymore. It’s like being a prison of your own mind, getting visits from happiness once or twice a week and then you’re back behind its bars. You start accepting that these moments of escape wouldn’t last long, you start waiting for the gloom to be back with handcuffs. It comes to a point where being happy for an extended period starts making you feel uneasy.

Your shoulders are sinking, your words fumble on their way out. Waking up everyday becomes a burden. Even the thought of going through the day seems daunting. You’re drowning and that thing is pulling you down every passing day. You try to stay afloat by holding onto things that keep you happy. Some find solace in sleeping all day to dodge reality, some write, some prefer to get high from attention on social media, some party, some cry through their time here. You start overdoing these things to remain on a high, now that you know one bad day and it’ll be back to zero. Sometimes you just want to give up, wishing that the ground below you cracks wide and swallows you because there is no hope left.

Why are you sad? The worst thing that happened to you last week is that your phone’s battery died and you had no charger. You know your life has no problems, yet there is this feeling that something’s wrong. Something that’s making you feel wretched all the time. You seek help, you look for hands to hold, for ears to lend, for words of comfort to guide you out of this dark place. But will they treat me the same way if I told them all that is wrong with me? Will they understand? You ask yourself every time you think of sharing this mess with your friends or family. You wonder how will they comprehend something that even you couldn’t understand after having lived through it for so long.

You tell yourself It’s just some elements in your cranium pushing you down this hellhole. Nothing’s wrong and everything’s gonna be alright. You finally feel like you have some control over your thoughts, a sense of relief takes over. You know it’s over. You’re back to being what you used to be. You’re smiling, you’re buoyant, the shoulders aren’t sinking anymore. It’s the best day you had in a long time. And then you feel it, a tap on your back. The cycle is on, and the worst bit is that the monster is nothing but a part of you.

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Mirage

Dreams, at least one place where things were how he wished them to be. Ajju was fascinated by dreams, he wished that the time he was awake was a long dream, and his dreams, reality.

His mother ploughed her hands into his hair, “Wake up Ajju, It’s already too late for school.” Who would choose a harsh reality over a pleasant dream? Unwilling to come out of his fantasy world, Ajju winced and turned to the other side. After 5 minutes of jostling, the mother won, as all mothers do.

With his eyelids still trying to open completely under the burden of worldly reality, he brushed his teeth. He was worried about his milk-teeth falling, what if they never grew back? He was terrified at the thought of looking like his grandpa, if he didn’t grow his teeth back. Listening to the usual edifications on waking up early and being an ideal boy from his mother, he proceeded to take a bath.

He gobbled up on a roll of parantha stuffed with vegetables, while his mother dressed him up for school. She parted his hair into two clear halves, ever so meticulously. He detested that ‘nice boy’ look with great passion, but he loved the satisfaction on his mother’s face after she was finished doing it more. Dressed in emerald green half pants, a white shirt and shining black shoes of which the laces were still being tied by his mother, Ajju was all set to leave.

His mother kissed his forehead and ceremoniously enquired if he had taken all his books and stationary with him. He hugged his mother while responding with the usual ‘yes’ and walked out. He loved school, unlike most children he knew. He loved learning, playing with classmates, opening his tiffin box & munching from it and listening to the intriguing stories his teachers would tell. He reached the gates of his school and stepped in, in anticipation of another amazing day.

His eyes were still bulky, he was just woken up by the cacophony of steel plates and tumblers being thrown at him. “Do I pay you to sleep? You little bastard!” said the usual voice, “Clean them right now and be quick. I find one more plate you did not clean properly, I am beating the shit out of you.” he added angrily.

He wasn’t surprised by the Dhaba ownder’s words, just shattered. The plates were washed, with a mixture of cheap soap and his tears, while he wished that he could live on forever in that recurring dream, the distant dream. Dreams, at least that one place where things were how he wished them to be.

Difficult Pleasures

Sahir Ali was an epitome of despondence. The fact that he fed on his gloom with great panache didn’t make his pain lesser. 6 novels at the age of 35, all of them bestsellers. It was a feat few could match in the literature scene.

His elbows perched on the window pane. Nonchalant eyes looking into infinities of sky. He knew that it was the time, the time he feared the most. Heartbroken at 23, Sahir had started writing. This pain of his one-sided affection’s premature demise clearly embodied in his expressive style of writing. He was the overnight star of Indian literature as soon as his first book came out, chronicling his incomplete love story.

“Ironical, everyone wants a happy life, but books with pain and sorrow are bestsellers.” Sahir’s inner philosopher murmured to him. “Why don’t people read stories where no one is sad, everything is all-right, everyons is happy and satifsfied, merry making all the way?” He questioned himself.

He had channelled his heartbreak’s grief to shape one of the finest works of Indian literature, as critics called it. It was a getaway for him, from the labyrinth of her memories. “Meera, I love you” He said in an indistinct tone. Meera walked away, he was too broken to gather himself up and chase her. Seasons passed but this memory refused to fade away, just like the sun rising up over horizon every day.

He secretly wished she read those books. Last time he heard, her marriage was arranged with an Army Officer. That was 11 years back. More books flew off the shelves as years passed by. Every word he wrote, lessened the pain. No wonder he had titled every book’s manuscript as “Painkiller 1.. 2…  3…..” before the publishers rechristened it to something commercial.

The pen’s silent today. No words flowing from it. Imagination has a limit, everything a writer writes is inspired from his life and observations. His inspiration was dead. He felt no pain, no sorrow. The best news and the worst news at the same time, he was over it. After 12 years in his solitude with her memories, his mind seemed to have accepted the reality, not trying to change it in his books anymore.

The chatter of children playing in neighbourhood, far away from the aching realities of life, lost in their own little world. The stray dog that chased the rare cars that passed the amble street. The subtle pre-monsoon rain, coming down, no matter where the wind was trying to push it. All these stimulated him, as he sat gazing through the window. But nothing inspired him to pick up his pen and write his next masterpiece. It had been 6 months since he finished his last novel, and not a single word was written on his barren notebooks.

A knock on his door woke him up from his reverie. A young guy stood there in soiled clothes, smiling wide. “Dhoodh, sahab” as he handed over a packet of milk to Sahir. “Where’s your dad?” Sahir Ali inquired about the usual delivery guy. “He’s out of town, at relatives’ place”, he replied. “Thank you” He said while closing the door, as he wondered how subjective was happiness. How it strikes you in soiled clothes and small, hardly inhabitable houses. How it eludes you even in the plushest of palaces. How we depend on material objectives to measure happiness, while it lurks around in our head, all the time, waiting to be discovered.

As he placed the milk packet on the refrigerator shelf, there was another knock on the door. He opened the door, but wasn’t sure he wasn’t hallucinating. There stood Meera, still quite the beauty she used be. An avalanche of 12 years old memories seemed to have struck him with a jolt. Too shocked to react, his trembling hands opened the door wider. “Sahir, there you are! you look quite mature now.” she said. “Meera! that’s a huge surprise” He said hastily with a smile, unable to find words for the occasion.

He welcomed her to his little abode. He didn’t know why was she there. Maybe to tell him to stop writing about her? Maybe to apologise? “Your books are great Mr. writer” She complimented him as he opened the milk packet to make coffee for her. “Thank you for that, they would have never been, without you”. She didn’t know if that was sarcastic or romantic. They trod down the memory lane as they sat near the window, sipping coffee and watching the sun set in all its crimson glory.

“You never asked anyone about me?” She enquired. “I don’t pursue married women, I suppose” came the instant reply. She placed her hand on her face, covering it, in exasperation. “I never married that guy, you think I give in to what my family decided for me?” her tone was loud, trying to question the games destiny had played. “I was just too embarrassed to approach you Sahir, after the way I walked away. Reading your books, every single page, every word, it made me realise how much I meant you” she added. “I am glad you came back” Sahir smirked.

The sun was down already, chirps from hoards of crickets in grasses were the only thing disturbing the silence of the road infront. “I think it’s time you leave, it’s very late” Sahir suggested. Meera was reluctant, but he insisted. “I think we were always meant to be” said Meera, “Maybe” said Sahir before wishing her a good night and closing the door. “Or maybe not” He said to himself looking at the closed door as he broke down.

His pen flew again, from page to page. inspired by the the usual companionship of pain. The pain of having her, but not wanting her anymore. The mind’s fickle, he thought. As he pictured the boy with the milk packet, smiling, in his little but sufficient world.

The Truth About Truth

Humans have spent their whole lives in the quest for truth. In this puddle of lies we live in, truth is a rare invaluable jewel.

As a kid growing up in urban India it was unusual for people to find me too interested in the unknown, the mysterious. Kids of my age grew up learning to be afraid of ghosts, spirits and everything supernatural, while I had an unwelcomed interest for everything that wasn’t to be found in realms of our everyday life.

I was probably 14 or 15, hearing a commotion in the neighborhood, I ran to that side and saw an old man, his long white beard and saffron clothes divulging his potential identity of a sage. Surrounded by dozens of dwellers encircling him, his old eyes seemed like they had seen everything life had to offer, still the calm in them was astounding. He claimed to read minds, he was telling people what they were thinking, what they had in their minds right then and amusing them. I was impressed, really was. But then came my turn to be present before him. He just said, “Son, I know you like this art, but I can read that you still doubt me. Do you? Even now?” with a wry smile on his serene face. Now I had none, I was just speechless. I knew I had a purpose in life now, my quest. The quest for truth.

He never told me his name, but in his short stay he did tell me what I wished to know for attaining the only purpose of my life. After I constantly pestered him with that question, he just had one reply “It will ruin you, it will break you”, but I was adamant. I kept asking him, how, just how could I have this ability to read minds. I don’t know why he changed his stern stance, but his last words to me before he left our colony were ” Up north, in the Himalayas stay the Shabd Yogis, only they can teach, what you seek.”

By the time I was 20, this obsession grew so much that I left my home. I took blessings of my parents, and waived at my younger siblings, all they knew was that I was going out to find work. They didn’t know, it was my life’s only aim that I was treading on. It was a long journey to the mighty Himalayas, but the worst came while trying to find clues where do shabd-yogis inhabited. No one really knew for sure if they even existed. One year passed by, I kept doing petty jobs to make ends meet. Then one day, I saw one Sadhu walk by just in front of me. His eyes, they were just the same as the man I met years ago, there was something about those eyes. They spoke of all the pain this world can confer on a human soul, yet they were calm, nonchalant, brimming with positivity.

I touched his feet and asked for his blessings. I inquired if he was a shabd yogi. He nodded, affirming that my search was finally over. For the rest of our journey through the harshest of weathers and wilderness, I carried his belongings. I just had to please him somehow. On the fourth day, as I could estimate we were half way to the top of this mountain we were ascending. It was called Shilindra. Yogiji told me that Shilindra meant slanting in sanskrit, I found the name apt.

In the constant fall of white snowy matter a sudden sight of a huge opening in the mountain filled me with a sudden gush of euphoria. The cave of the shabd-yogis, right in the heart of the Shilindra mountain. I noticed the child-like excitement I was going through, my gaping mouth subtly speaking about it. He gestured me to follow him into the cave, I was more than happy to obey. As the chilling cold of the mighty Himalayas was gently being healed with the warmth of the cave, my enthusiasm for my new life was rising.

To be continued in The Truth about Truth – II

The Moment.

“We value things only when they are gone. Far away from us. Holding a pen and writing some words, you never realise how valuable is this simple ability until your hands are too shaky from ageing to write a few legible words. It’s been 44 years today, that unforgettable day. They say one moment has the power to change your whole life, it was that kind moment.

When we have no people left to love, we fall in love with material things, that’s human nature. We are made to love, we will find something to love anyhow. I fell in love with my diary, when that’s the only thing that was left in my life.

It was 1969, was destiny’s play I guess. Rod entered military service in the same batch as I did, we joined the same corps, and then we were sent to Vietnam, again with each other, on the same B-52. Two months into the war-zone and it wasn’t looking that tough. We were briefed about probable enemy hide-outs every day and we just had to storm through those areas clearing bunch of those raving rowdies.

Just another day, we jumped out from our choppers, took cover, and then it started. A fucking jungle, we were too heavily armed for those chimps, but then they were hiding. I targeted that makeshift house they made out of hay with grenade launchers, Rod was just around me providing cover. That grenade just blew that whole shit, they were 20 of those hiding behind. I could see some 4-5 enemies all ripped apart, now left were a little more than a dozen of easy targets without any cover for them, but two of them had rifles. I asked Rod to take on those two. I started taking down the others one by one. It was like game hunting for me, I was killing for fun. When serious jobs turn into fun, caution is the first thing that goes away.

Rod shouted “Brooks, throw me a bullet cartridge! Outta them” while he crouched. “Just a second, look at that motherfucker running like he will get away from me!” I replied as I positioned myself to take another fun shot. I kept firing, just 3-4 of them left, 2 of those with AKs still lurking around. Rod was still down, I realised I forgot passing the bullets. I opened my supply, took the bullet case out and before I could think of anything I was blown feets away. They threw grenades at us, those two men with AKs. My head struck a tree, It did hurt, like real bad. I tried laying down to camo myself from incoming fire. When the dust settled I looked at the spot where Rodney and I were standing before grenades threw us away.

Pain? Pain is relative. The physical pain which seemed unbearable a second back now seemed nothing, because now I had to witness the pain of my best friend dying infront me. He was barely recognizable, I wonder how he was still alive and growling in pain. Shrapnels stinging his flesh, his internals blown out of his abdomen. A stream of spurting blood had made most of the soil around him a shade of red.

I knew he was gone, his painful growl had stopped suddenly. I rolled over and picked up my Colt rifle and opened fire. Sometimes you don’t know what to feel, angry, sad or repenting, it was that moment. Killed them, kept firing even when they were dead, it was anger. Or maybe it was my conscience, trying to make up for what had I failed to do, save my best friend’s life.

“Rodney Holyfield” read his dog-tag, a martyr. I saw his girlfriend crying, I never felt so guilty in my life. I could tell myself that it was accidental and move on, but I knew it. If I would have passed those bullets to him, this tragedy could have been averted. It was my fault.

Some things are hard to get over, and some things never let you get over them. Everytime I went out in the field, I held a gun, I donned my uniform, all I could see and think of was that one moment, which could have saved him. They referred me to the psychologist they had at the base, I wish he could have helped me. Now, I was really not even a fraction of soldier I used to be. I had no mind, because it was busy trying to reverse that scenario whenever it was supposed to think. They discharged me from services.

Anne was my childhood sweetheart. I don’t know when it started, but sometimes I feel I was always in love with her from the time I saw her as a 6 year old. We got married in 1966, and then Jake was born next year. My psychologist says I have lost a lot of memory, I thank my brain that it still remembers my wife and kid. I came back home after they discharged me from services. She tried hard, she never really gave up but I wasn’t the person she fell in love with anymore. I was a man with just one regret stuck all over his mind. A dysfunctional specimen of regrets. Whatever I used to say, had stopped making sense. I just stared into oblivion all day, a mind so entangled and heavy that it nearly stopped working.

She had her full life infront of her, I will never blame it on her. She is still my love, the best mother and wife. One day, she left with Jake, she had to. There was no way a sane person would stay with someone like me. Sometimes I wonder where they are, Jake must have grown up to be a handsome man.

Been on state support and my pension since then. People recommended drugs, just to ward off those thoughts that didn’t let me live. But they made it even worse, the nightmares became even scarier, mind even more webbed. I still sit, and think how that one second changed everything. This loneliness, when walls start talking, when your cries echo back to your old ears because there is no one to listen, when you wish that you don’t see the morning sun the next day and die in your sleep.

I am coming Rodney.”
I found this on his table, when I finally found my father. “We value things only when they are gone. Far away from us” I got too late, hours before I found him, he decided he couldnt take it anymore. Wish you knew dad, it has been years I have tried finding you, mom still missed you, wish we could meet and you could see your brave son. You will always be in our memories. Dad.

– Colonel Jacob ‘Jake’ Brooks

Death

Three hours, and finally they could see the whole city from top.  Manana Hill, was the name of their latest conquest. The joy of being on top, never lessened, even after numerous treks. Ramon could see the eternal satisfaction dripping through Aden’s eyes, as he gaped towards the setting sun. The cold breeze, was sounding like music and hitting like a drug. High. Aden looked at Ramon, the wide smile was replaced by a thoughtful stare.

“Aden, why are people so afraid of death? Doesn’t it take just a second, ending my agonies forever”

” It takes a second for you and a lifetime of agonies for the ones who love you”

The blissful silence of the place was broken by these human figures, no one was speaking, but now a noise of silence was running through their ears. Peace.

 

Inspired by Turtle Feet by Nikolai Grozni