Tuesday, May 29, 2012


“What did you say? How old I’m? Ask not how old I’m, ask how young I’m. Sixty and nine my friend, going to be seventy years young soon.” He said that with a hearty smile and leaned forward to pat  my palm.

That confident statement and the smiling weather beaten face of the man from Down Under charmed my spirits. By the time he bade goodbye and left, I could feel life and charged air particles infused with positive spirit around me. He may be leaving behind whiff of positive air wherever he would go. He will pass it on to all who may notice it! I remember someone had said that a positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. It annoyed me too, that I felt it contagious. And was pleasant!

The restaurant was immaculately clean and well lit. The gentle soothing cool breeze from the ocean blowing through the ventilated windows smelt the freshness of the ocean. It was a few minutes after sundown and the splash of harmony of colours painted the horizon far across were the sea seemed to end. The curtains were milky white with satin sashes and they swayed gently inviting the breeze as it caressed them on its way into the restaurant. 

I sat at the table little away from the window and sipped the semi dry Martini on ice. I looked around the sparsely full place. Though being week end it was a trifle early for the regular revelers to enter. There was a lone table little  to my right closer to the window. A black satin table cloth was laid neatly covering the table top. A chair stood by it and a solitary candle was flickering on a silver candle stand. A white flower that looked like rose was placed near the candle stand. A beer mug was on the table, mouth down along with a crystal ash tray and an unlit cigar.
“If you might be wondering about that”, he said, “it is for the old bloke who passed away same day the previous year.” The voice came from the bar counter and I turned to see a man who looked to be in his sixties wave at me and smile. He walked up to me with a glass of beer and pulled a chair and sat down at my table. He continued, “the young fellow was a regular and faithful client here and would come by seven in the evening and hang on with a few mugs of beer and his cigars till about ten .He was the most gregarious  bloke evolution could bring about ha, ha.” He continued,” the Restaurant can feel his presence but yet miss him much. So do many of us.”

I nodded in understanding and asked, “Did he die young? I suppose you said he was a young fellow.”
“Ha, he was younger than I’m when he went away in his sleep. He was only eighty eight.” He said with a glint in his eyes.  

I let out a small whine of astonishment. “By the way may I ask how old are you?” And he gave me perfect retort that amazed me and brought forth a kind of respect for the gentleman. Exasperatingly, don’t I often mourn and fret about getting old? And here were some strange examples. 

“Did he live alone? I mean his children and his folks?” I asked enquiringly. The gentleman then told me the short story of the man from Australia, who left home and settled in this pristine island. Lived all alone in a cottage by the sea for thirty and five years, went fishing on his skiff, chatted with his friends at the pub on evenings and went home gay and happy, read books and to die one night in his sleep, a quiet end to a life which midway had to change course and resurrect from emotional perils. He was a farmer in Western Australia and one day while scouting his farm he tread on a dark black stone that looked awful different from the one generally seen there. He took it home and cleaned the dirt to notice that he may have tread upon a literal minefield. It became apparent soon that his farm of four hundred acres was a mine field with immense deposit of carbon stone. The deposit of diamonds altered his life drastically from thereon and the Government offered him a royalty of an outlandish sum per day by the hour. The deposits were estimated to be exquisite and lasting for a hundred odd years. The precious stone changed his life. His wife of thirty years in whose name the land was, stood to gain much of the royalty. His children grabbed the rest. She divorced him and shut the door leaving him in the cold. He left Australia with the annuity he had from his job of twenty five years,  devastated. But none on this island have seen him lacking in mirth and gaiety. He took life by the horn and resurrected to live thirty five years after his departure from Australia. I was truly fascinated by the biography. 

Ironically the story had a different flavor but the same whiff in his case too. He was a chemical engineer in the oil and natural gas mammoth in Australia. He married his distant cousin of ten years younger to him .He said they fell in love while in their adolescence. His zealous attitude to his profession and work was unique and uncompromising that it often paved way to irksome marital discords and even near separation. He virtually worked nonstop the twenty five years that his bride of much tender age than he was, was distressed and lonesome. She yearned for a life of travel and fun. While his predilection for his job ruled foremost vacations  and time with the family was out of bounds. He hardly was even with his kids while they grew. When he decided to retire at fifty four to acquiesce his wife, he was unsure as she as to his ability to be away from his one and only passion- work. A month after he retired he was requested by the boss of the company to head the oil exploration on this archipelago which was ten thousand miles from home. As his wife feared he accepted and here he was living alone and working know not when to cease doing that. It is fifteen years since.  His wife continues to live in Australia and hoping that he unlaces his shoes anytime soon.

I asked him if he would think to retire and go back home. He said he cannot tell if he would be able to say goodbye to work. He misses his family, in some ways but he has never felt remorse and bored for his passion for work or being away from homeland. he agreed that his outlook to work was fanatical.He continues to visit his wife and kids every year. And he feels that may be a consolation and departure from a regimen that stuck to him and that which he enjoys as much as the time he spends at the pub..
He said before he departed, “I feel too young to hang my boots.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Tempest

They traveled in silence. He could not wheedle out from her a conversation except the occasional yes and nays. Sometimes his egging for a conversation was met with stony silence and tight lips. He gave up. They drove in silence. It was deafening!

He thought, “Damn this is hell and uneasy”. The tenacity with which women can bleed impatience in you is amazing, excruciating and has no latitude. Couldn't there be a conversation? The asphalt sped towards them as they continued the journey in silence. He wished he traveled alone rather than have someone you have been with for all years and the person slides all sudden  into strangeness and a kind of asphyxiating alienation. He disliked travelling with strangers by his side and it is suffocating when the strangeness is feigned and artificial. He saw that he was becoming distrait and consciously lessened the pressure on the gas pedal to choose to drive tardily. Her silence was oxymoron and the noise of the silence was tortuously painful to the ears and the mind.

She closed her eyes and wished she could sleep. He drove fast as usual and when he braked a couple of times swearing at the traffic ahead, she kept her eyes shut tight and tried to be not in the car. She took care not to glance his way since they left home.She barely wanted to respond even when he persistently began talking about trivial matters seeking to develop a conversation. She wished she was not with him in the car today. She would have wanted to avoid this journey and proximity to him. She felt sudden intense dislike for him. While watching him lie in bed and sleep with nonchalance the previous night, she wondered if this was the same person she loved, she wanted to live with forever. Instinctively, she touched his shoulders,repulsively pulled back and with a shudder. He betrayed her faith. Didn't he?

She confronted him at the dinner table and his defiant and seemingly outraged innocence could not assuage her. He exited the table in huff. And, that alternated her judgment - his behavior when openly confronted about his adulterous liaison, between desperate protestations and acknowledgment of promiscuity. 

“You are enjoying the luxury of perverse imagination.” he said in disgust.

She was furious and dabbing her tears with her palm, screamed “Perverse, imaginary, is that what you call?  I’m at the receiving end of infidelity and do you know how much it hurts? She faced him direct and said. “I should have known, I should have, but what a fool I’ve been, I could not notice her apparent overtures; your betrayal. I mistook sly for something not. And now you shamelessly deny that you did not cheat upon me? “She cried inconsolably.

“Now, this is getting far. And I beg you desist from fantasising wildly.” he pleaded.

The banter and the music on the stereo that accompanied in all their travels was absent. She tried not to think further and stubbornly tried to sleep. The car sped forward and there was nothing but silence within. She slid down the rabbit hole and deep down into sleep. Sleep, she longed would embrace her. The previous night was sleepless tussle with anguish and desperation. And she was tired emotionally, it was sopor.

He glanced at her reclining in the passenger seat by his side. She was asleep. He felt his fingers tighten the grip on the wheel. He sensed constriction in his chest. He glanced at her again and placed his hand on her palm. She was not aware of his touch she was dreaming.
And in the rabbit hole into where she slid into, while she slept, she dream t. She dreamed the life she wished and prayed would not forsake her. Could it be true that she has imagined a mountain to bring forth this tempest?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

My Cup Runneth Over

          “It is much easier to become a father than to be one.”

A tough ask, but certainly a pleasant one if one can love to enjoy the roller coaster.
I sometimes muse of the moment of entering parenthood, to be precise, “fatherhood”. A rare treat to one’s eyes that  when you see for the first time a pair of glistening tiny eyes stare at you and wink. A visual and emotional instant that will seldom if not never again visit to be beheld in awe and enthrallment!

We (I&C) were advised that she undergo an ultrasound scan to ascertain the foetal development. In fact we were also keen to ensure in the very early stage itself that the child that will be born is normal in every sense of the word. We were quite disturbed by a couple of cases of child births to people we knew, to whom babies were born with malformed organs and or some irregularity. That would be very disturbing for life, for us and the child. We would rather terminate the pregnancy than let the foetus develop and be born, say a mongoloid or severely handicapped. Stories were many that haunted us and aided consternation. And the uneasiness was also supplemented by C’s doubt if she had taken a few paracetamols when she was not quite well. A distant acquaintance had a son who was born with no external ear and the matter was traced back to the time when she medicated herself with an anti-allergic pill. The stories brought me the nightmare of the “thalidomide” tragic births in the USA.

We, and in particular me was in favour of a girl. But we did not ask the Obstetrician to reveal the sex of the foetus nor would she have wanted to. That the twinkling, shining  pair of tiny eyes staring through me from the delicate nestled hold of the nurse as she briefly came out of the obstetric room, turned out to be a boy really did not matter nor create an iota of difference. The child was healthy and well!

When R was born it was a foregone matter after the scan as we were eager to know if it was a girl. And honestly I was elated.

I write this in the context of an impending wedding of the daughter of a friend and a couple of other impending weddings of girls, be it my family or of friends. I could sense and see the apprehensions and near anguish that those parents are loaded with. Well that began even among these educated gentry, much before and when the girls were born. Do we (I & C) have such dismay, we have a girl too and is eighteen now? And not long after now in less than a decade we may have to fend to see her married away. The answer is mercifully, not. I (we) do not subscribe to that pattern of social conventions per se. That does not mean I’m a votary of kind of sententious or anarchistic existence and also not endorsing libertine way of living. Family and heterogeneous relationships are in my opinion the corner stones of the society.
Well, perhaps are we comfortable with material resources to organize a gal wedding? Goodness me, I’m now broke!
A typical wedding in Kerala, more amongst the vanity vitiated, caste “Nairs”, is cruelly loaded against parents of brides. Firstly the anguish and uncertainty of fetching a suitable bloke, that is increasingly difficult than creeping through the gateway into heaven. I know parents, who are acutely paranoid that they refused to entertain their girl’s wedding, that if happened may result in the bloke loitering in scandalous behaviours in his late fifties. Poor fathers and mothers are desperate, (and often unquestionably too).

The carefully cultivated thrift begins when the girl is born. And by the time she is in her twenties and is socially at the threshold of wedlock, the parents would expect to have eked out a sizable weight of wealth in gold and other resources to spend on the bash.( In many cases, may even siphon off and extinguish the retirement funds of the desperate parents). The preservation in the form of the yellow metal are obscenely displayed upon the girl when she is decked up as bride. Every nit wit and sundry, ever acquainted will be asked to be present as guests to witness the less than ten minute ritual and thereafter partake in a sumptuous feast, all which will be dramatised in a venue that may pale the coliseum. By late evening the poor old man- the father will be financially and emotionally exhausted. The irony is that until the wedding the parents will be rightfully suited to be catagoerised as borderline psychological cases. The state may not be altered much even thereafter, because either they will be broke or will have to fetch the same quantum of resources to sign off the second child, a girl too. Much that happens thereafter is left to destiny!

The hunt for the groom is often a handicap for the girl’s parents. The dice is loaded against the girl, if she is educationally qualified in the wrong stream. 

It is immense fortune that children are born healthy and normal, they are groomed well and turns out to be independent and conscientious. As for the choice of spouse, I do not think one must waste on anxiety and nothing at all on the frenzied build up or tumult of conforming wedding, lest one may cave in of anxiety. But the pity is almost all are conforming to the ridiculous standards and vanity society has decreed. They fear disparaging remarks from the rest. They all want to be like the Jones who lives next door. 

So the best course is to be less confirming? I guess so.-less confirming to the oft beaten and followed social norms. In fact can wedlock be absolutely imperative and “the thing”? Financial independence can lead to a better life than wedlock foisted, aided or propped by money.

I often wonder what would be the choice of the children (A&R), that I have. Will I think of exercising the veto when their choice of their personal life come into reckon? Will I play the characteristic, domineering, boorish parent when if their choices in matters of matrimony come about? I think nay and that will certainly be the case with C too. In a world that is fast and increasingly becoming a village, I cannot see the logic of insisting on certain oft trodden path.
How wonderful would a quite wedding can be, be it guided by tradition or not and conforming to modest standards; a quite partying in private with close ones- friends and relations ,and a subtle  sure step into another phase of living?

I guess a father would not want for more to happen to resemble the moment the pair of twinkling eyes shown in askance at him many years ago.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Magnum Opus

The names where a few, who got inspired and provoked by external stimulus- the results were often masterpieces in creative exhibition!  Be it in literature or arts. 

Lewis Carol was said to have been influenced by strange hallucinations. He was known to have bouts of migraine and epilepsy. Though that provoked the creative genius which lay dormant in him is questionable as much of the idiosyncrasies attributed to him like his alleged pedophilia .That was questioned by his biographers and members of the Lewis Carol Society. Perhaps a less and trivial aspect compared to the fascinating works he produced. Somewhere, I also learned that he chose to be intoxicated for dream like inspirations.

Back home in Kerala, I understood from a few friends who are in the film world and are privy to the stories in that balloon, the strange moments when this person, a bard created his pulsating and immortal verses. He created many of those mesmerisng odes completely influenced by his favourite brand of spirit. It is said that a producer desperate to have a song penned for the shoot that day, lay in patient wait for the poet to venture out of his room with the piece. However when he turned outside, he was more than tipsy and had not penned even a line. It was early dawn and the poet was off to a distant town. The producer volunteered to travel with him to the train station and seek a chance to plead in the meantime on the journey, to pen the song. The poet however, in spite of his inebriated state noticed the poor fellow’s angst and in the few minutes of travel in the car to the train station, penned a song, which was to become a glistering classic in play of poetic and romantic imagination.

It is said that the first sentence and the name of the story decides the depth and viciousness of the story’s beauty.  And they must come first even before ideas and words begin to cascade in free flow. Like, as they say, Victor Hugo wrote the name for his classic, “The Hunch Back of Notre dame” first, else by when he had done with his novel he may have named it, “The Hunch Back”.

Such stories of creativity were inspiring when I once made the exalted attempt (unknown to the outside world) to create a timeless classic in literature. I sat with my lap top and the elixir, good old Bourbon. I sensed and felt abound with words and thoughts at the tip of my fingers, waiting to bludgeon and burst forth like the deluge from the dammed- restrained waters of a grand roaring  river. I saw the world about to realise the precocious endowments that lay torpid in me.

 The first taste of the dryness of the bourbon was stimulating, the gentle electric current of the bite of the whiskey!
I began to type with pompous air. “This is the story untold, never told and will stay untold......

I began to dream, the dream never reckoned by all the great literary and artistic minds put together. And gradually the glass of whiskey was emptied, to be replenished and yet again emptied. The raw bite of the brewed concoction was permeating into every node, prodding and cajolingly me into the wonderland where geniuses dwell. Would not I be one among them ? Like in the Woody Allen masterpiece, “Night in Paris”!

If I confine it to a short story, it may rival the ones of Dostoevsky; it may even consign the Maugham magnum opus, “The Moon & Six Pence” to triviality and eclipse the “Ulysses”. Hemingway may feel like “Death in the afternoon”. Back home, the legends of Mallu literature may turn uncomfortably in their graves seeing their book sales plummeting! The Neolithic western educated Indian expatriate writers may run to the end of the world and their publishers may drop them like red, hot iron. Well can I help, be of any assistance? Why must I be? It’s the world of the creative wizard!

The glass emptied and the cycle repeated gradually, until I put my lap- top to sleep and fell back on to the bed. It was the early morning sun rays fidgeting behind the window blinds that gently lashed in the swirling air of the fan that woke me up hours later. It struck me of the night before and the moment now-the bright morning when the world would awaken and  come alive to a time less masterpiece. Perhaps, I may have to be prepared to be even knocked out by the revealing of the  intensity of my literary maverick. With great anticipation, I switched back the lap top to active and began to read the grand story I perceived the night before.
  It read “This is the story untold, never told and will stay untold .....

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Walking on The Moon

 These days the favorite and absorbing pass time is watching movies, I must be averaging about one and one half movies a day. This has been the routine since the past few months. Perhaps I want to make good of the times in the previous years when I rarely sat through a movie.

This may also be a liaison of a kind with motion picture that I once dreamed like Alice in her journey to wonderland. That was long ago, in the teens and thereabout, when fantasies and dreams were many and running berserk. However, all that withered and may even be said to have died still born. There was also a stricture from mother that she may be forced to consider me an outcast if I assay a career in the motion picture world. I could have chosen the field of movies, there were offers from a friend who later made his name as a producer and by the father of a couple of friends who also created a niche in the creative field of cinema. It was literally taking the road often traversed that happened , while on a journey in pursuit of freedom, in 1981, I was asked by a good chum on the train while traveling together, to join him in his hunt in the tinsel world in Madras. But I chose to journey further up north opting to think of the apparent comfort of a conventional placement.And he later became a person of reckon in the film world. Perhaps my choice of the blog picture of a mountaineer standing down far below in awe at the splendour and majesty of a peak has something to do subconsciously with the distance I now will never make in life. A haunting reminder of the many dreams that would stay as pipe-dreams, that, besides the realisation of one’s insignificance in the physical laws of Nature. This is when I would wish that the Hindu philosophy of life- that a second coming, a rebirth, a second chance, reincarnation were true. Well then, I can gain without much ado, a chance to make amends, (sigh)!

I’m afraid I dither and touch on aspects I did not intend to discuss here.

A movie, I watched, “A Walk on The Moon”, gave me a re-look at a subject I often wondered about seeking a definite explanation. Mans’ proclivity in tangoing with “la affaire amour” .Someone once alleged that it was men who displayed penchant for fornication. Though it is indeed a fact, but, is it not true that it takes two to tango and there has to be a woman too?

The movie has the mother of two and a woman in her late twenties intimately involving with a traveling garment vendor. The story is placed in the swinging sixties of the Woodstock era. She was aware of the repercussions that were to follow when if the liaison came into the open. But yet, she went further into it. The family is in ship wreck. And to add to the disaster, the eldest child, a girl comes of age and is driven by rage and anger when she notices her mother’s unshackled moments with her paramour at the Woodstock festival.  She hurls herself into destructive risqué with a teenage boy. The husband who travels often for work is devastated and possessed. The family is tossed about like in the tempest in the raging seas.

Man is not unaware of the upheavals that may blow like a cataclysmic whirl wind when illicit amour surfaces to glare. Apart from the fact that socially approved moral conduct does not have such relationships in its directory, man still serenade with danger. Besides the laws of physical intimacy decreed to man and woman, have we thought why people are more inclined to dangerous liaisons?  In this movie the woman becomes mother at the young age of seventeen ,yearns for marital freedom and to banish ennui from her life. So the reason goes.

Strongly asserting that I’m not advocating unrestrained warmth in men women relationship, I would like to know why the hullabaloo and bedlam about an amorous liaison, or in common parlance- a fling? It is certainly true that Nature has only one intention when metamorphosing the sexes-procreation. It is the consciousness of human mind and his thoughts that have placed restraints and dos and do nots in relationships between man and woman. And amongst them certainly men have de novo displayed penchant for seminal acts at any given time, a proclivity to lecherous habits. A dichotomy when compared with the male of other species. Why?

Trust and faithfulness, often the two characteristics that we hear of, that are comparable and as magnificent as chivalry. And which may in equal measure be applied to man and woman. It will be fascinating to quote here the conversation a friend once had with me on a related matter. “I would not hesitate to jump for a fling if a woman fancies a relationship and I long for one.” said the guy. I said, “Well that depends upon your luck and discretion, but what if your wife thinks on similar lines?” He was full of ire. “I’ll decapitate her,” he said.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


 Indonesia- 'Mosque"after the all round destruction from Tsunami

“Irony”, the word when pronounced sounds lyrical.  And the lexicon says it can mean, “Witty language used to convey insults or scorn, esp. saying one thing but implying the opposite”, or,” Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs”. In either of the case the lyrical tone is shorn away by reality. I guess you may agree.

It is very true of what that it is said of irony, “…..I am a connoisseur of fine irony. ’Tis a bit like fine wine but have a better bite.” And the matter with all brute realities of life- there is always an irony behind, the bitterness of wine! Like the romantic enchantment wearing away to insipid and to some a monstrous reality that was not felt even in the most wild hallucinations ever before. Then one may wonder what fool one has been to expect something else.

What impalpable influences that we call fate, chance, destiny, or just the hand of god (force majeure) that may bring forth the state of irony and often as otherwise in relationships, we know not. Goodness me, what a touchy matter is this thing we term, “relationships”! The ticklish and delicate thing among humans! How friends and relatives become strangers, rather could feign strangeness; people who thrived on the other gather the wherewithal to condescend the other; philanthropist turns mendicant. And, I think that the fact about what we call natural law is that the matters we yearn most in life, happiness and peace of mind, are best got when we give it to someone. Ironical indeed! And grossly unjustifiable and cruel is irony when the noblest heart often bears the heaviest cross.

Mr. P was a senior technician for an offshore oil exploring company and his line of duty was on the oil rig off at sea. For the past twenty plus years he was alternating every three months between the works on the platform at sea and back home with his family. A church going Christian and a jolly good fellow that was he! His thrift was often plummeting into parsimony and trifle annoying even to his children. Though he married both his kids away and had no indebtedness’s and commitments, he was miser than a miser can be, he never spent. Though earning a fat sum in US dollars, he and his wife lived frugal in their beautiful house. They walked the good distance to the church and bearing sun or rain. He did not believe in spending on a cab, though his wife was overweight and would have difficulty in walking afar. It was after much persuasion that he bought a scooter, though owning a car was not even little significance financially. He always asserted that he and his wife were saving money for their life after retirement.  Though his retirement benefits from his multinational employer behemoth was enough for a generation or two. They had carefully charted their needs, and wants post retirement. A grand tour to the “holy land” and Lourdes in France topped the list of priorities. And, he planned to put in his papers after one more stint of three months with the Company. So on the penultimate day of his last vacation at home before he retired, he went out to church on that Sunday morning rather curiously on the scooter and his wife on the pillion. Returning after the holy mass, while negotiating the roundabout on the street towards his house, the vehicle tripped over a stone and turned turtle. Mr.P and his wife fell on their back and should have borne nothing more than little bruises. However, he hit his head on the culvert, went into a coma and died the next day. All the money, he saved without a fabulous meal, travelling second class, bearing sun and rain and spending the lonely days and nights every quarter far at sea for twenty plus years, the life saved for  living tomorrow- ironical the end was a different script.

 I see quotes as the safest way of expressing myself where I’m not capable of being expressive. And it was a relief of sorts when I stumbled upon this Mark Twain court on irony.” In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.”