Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bluff

A gleaming Mercedes pulled up by the kerb; and a man, middle aged and of visible opulence, nonchalantly walked on to treat the cow with the grainy bread roll he had brought along. He then sought blessings and after a few indiscernible mutters to the lady, who sat there selling treats to those who followed such veneration, steered away to his vocation. It was still early in the day; the multitude hurried to board the train to work and street vendors were religiously unfurling and setting up their shops. A beat policeman harshly shooed away a mendicant nagging people for alms. In this bustle a boy of no more than sixteen, small built with curly hair and expressive eyes was clutching a bundle and blended into the scene.

As the sun ascended, the street bustled with a myriad of activities. The hour made not much of a difference to the ingestive requirements of the populace. Late breakfasts, early lunches, brunches, second tea before lunch; none were unusual. Irrespective of what meal it was, freshly squeezed sugarcane juice, spiced-tea and the omnipresent “vada-pav” were the favoured choices. A few, lacking the time to rest their legs, grabbed a bite or drink and scurried along. Under the spreading Pipal in the midst of the concrete jungle, in a shady corner, the “chai-wala” had a thriving business. Men of all walks thronged the shop for a piping hot glass of tea and puffed on their cigarettes.

The hawkers had by now spread their props and canvasses into temporary stores. The ever so nimble structures could be retracted in a jiffy; be it to veil the good s from rain or to dodge the authorities. The touts were loud and managed to lure the odd passerby. In the lottery outlets there seemed to be a tiff between a bunch of people and they freely exchanged expletives; it barely seemed to affect the neighboring watch salesman. A scurrying man crashed in to the pile of used books the vendor had stacked up; he picked himself up and obscurely gestured, supposedly apologizing, ran to leap into the already moving bus. In the midst of this chaos, one could find a minute's peace and calm; a soothing deep breath and sigh.

Drenched in the flurry, the boy was barely noticeable. He stood in a corner, prudently scanning the crowd. With lofty dreams he had run away from his family in a nearby village. He had hitched a ride on the back on an onion truck and once he reached the city he slept on the benches in the railway stations. He quickly ran out of the little money he had brought along. With odd jobs he had managed to survive and bought himself a set of new clothes, shoe brushes and few cans of polish. His yearning for the while was to save enough to set up a small stall dealing in any kind of paraphernalia. He survived on one meal a day and on certain days was lucky enough to feast on the left overs of the empathetic food vendors. Little difference did right or wrong make to him; hunger does veneer one's conscience. His eyes then zeroed in on a man who had just stubbed his cigarette and had started to move. He was well attired and obviously had a well-paying desk job. The boy tagged him along repeating his line “Sir, Shoe Shine! Only two rupees. ” The man couldn't care less; preoccupied and immune to such ruses, he brushed the boy away and stomped away. The boy shrugged his shoulders and withdrew into his cocoon.

Meandering through vendors, scuttling people and the tried coolies stretching their legs, a young man was an evident misfit. His lethargic gait, lazy strides and his inquisitive scour of the saleables gave him away. He had chosen a leather bag and was engrossedly haggling with the salesman. The different dialect of his place certainly did not help. The boy's eyes lit up. If the day were to offer him a chance, this was it. The man finally seemed to settle on a price for the bag; both the man and the vendor seemed to be content that they had better of the other. As the man moved to the next store, the boy ran up to him chanting his line. The man at first was disinterested but the thought that two rupees was barely a minuscule made him pause and engage the boy's services. He bit the bait.

The boy unfurled his bundle to reveal moth-eaten shoe brushes and other necessaries. As the young hands went into work the man couldn't help but be washed over by embarrassment and sympathy, little difference does both make to the poor but in this instance did help the boy's tactic. The boy related a flawless story he had spun. A piece of fabrication which he had gone over and over umpteen times with different listeners. The story recounted about his drunken dad, his abuses and how he along with his two sisters and mother had to run away into the city to seek liberation. He then vented his aged mother worked at a construction site for meager wages. The story had slowly chipped into the dispassionate exterior of the man; he was visibly moved. Once the shoes shone, the man thrust a fifty rupees note into the boys hand; the boy's eyes glistened but decided against it. He uttered that the money would barely get his family through 2 days. He said that all he wished for was a shoe-shine box which cost 300 rupees and once he could afford it, his mother wouldn't have to work anymore and he could support the calorific needs of his sisters and mother. The man subtly wiped the tears rolling down his cheeks; not before the boy had noticed. The man was aghast at the contrasting thoughts; the man wanted a fancy car, a luxurious home and a range of other accessories. Exactly at this moment, the boy started to reel in the fish, he begged the man for the money to but the kit.

The man took a deep breath and considered it. He was too aware of such cons to fold immediately. Pouting his chin, he told the boy that he will accompany the boy to buy the kit and he will pay for it there. The man was self-content that if this were a con, he would see through it. The boy, though he had not anticipated such a response, quickly improvised. He took the man to a shop which he very well knew had been shut for the past month. The boy groaned and then briefed the man that the owner being a devout Muslim had gone to attend the mid-day prayers and will return only after an hour. The man, though not whole heartedly, was convinced. He pulled out three hundred rupee notes and gave it to the boy. He even added an extra fifty rupees. He sternly remarked to the boy that he will return the same evening and expected to seem him in the same place with the shoe-shine kit. The boy clutched the notes and nodding, profusely thanked him. The man patted the boy and walked away.

The seeming altruistic act was but to soothe the man's ego. Content that he had helped a boy and his family to a livelihood, he smugly marched on. A smear of self-content streaked his face. He had walked no further than ten steps another boy clutching a bundle offered to shine his shoes for two rupees. It then struck him, like a hard smack across his face, he had been conned! He immediately spun around to locate the first boy but he was nowhere to be found. The man could do nothing but smile. He shook his head and managed another smile surrendering to the fact that the city had welcomed him with a practical joke.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Abstract

Trickles of moisture were strewn across the glasses of an aging bay window of solid oak. On one side lay the gently undulating densely woodded valley doted by the occasional settlement. The mellow golden rays of the setting sun cloaked the entire valley. The distant lake glistened like a full-bodied Cognac. The ethereal light melted into the few clouds in an otherwise clear sky. A regal Red Cedar, on a slope just outside the corner of the window, basked in the idyllic glory. Orchids and daisies graced the flowerbed right outside the window.

The honeyed light diffused through the windows and bathed the entire drawing room transcending it into a blissful haven. Exquisite mahogany, faded with time, elegantly ornated the floor. An imposing yet subtle Victorian fireplace lay to the right of the window. An opulent hand sewn faded green leather high back chair, with its wide stitches and the matching Ottoman faced away from the fireplace. A thick leather jacketed book, face down, lay open on a three legged woodden stool beside the chair. Above the fireplace, hung an oil painting of a delightful damsel with long golden hair and clad in a lavish serene frilled white gown wearing a lone necklace, playing the lute. On the other side of the fireplace where it curved on to the next wall, stood the piano. Graced by an intricate flower vase and a piano stool, dark and rich, the august piano with its formidable legs swanked the place.

On the wall perpendicular to the window, stood a massive cabinet. Towering over the otherwise empty wall, the sturdy mahogany form was stacked with rows of books along with photo frames and other trinkets. A pale silver coloured metal statue, of a glaring knight with a sword, stood in a corner. Nearby on the floor was a tall cylindrical basket of broad panels which served as an umbrella stand. The bountifully plastered walls were adorned with a floral pattern, on which, time had taken its toll.

A not too elegant but neither a modest chandelier of glass and brass was suspended from the ceiling. Plentiful affluent curtains hung on either side of the window and were fastened by a cloth belt. Handcrafted of the finest felt and patched with select leather, the deep pale red plush couch was amply cushioned and contoured to accommodate the curves of the body. Unpretentious Windsor chairs of solid teak, with armrests, were on either side of the couch. A sinfully opulent, bold mustard coloured carpet lay on the floor .A humble, unassuming woodden serving table was right in front of the couch.

The smooth soft brownish golden hair glistened in the lukewarm light. With a stocky head, deep chested and drooping ears, a Golden Retriever cosily lay, flat against the belly, on the carpet keenly looking at pair of light blue floaters beneath the couch. A half empty bottle of red wine and two almost empty chic wine glasses were on the table. Nearby lay a bowl of chips and in a smaller bowl, a flavoursome dip. On the couch were a couple, warmly nestled into each other, gazing into a large and fancy photo album.

With his feet flat on the ground, the man was sitting near the window and had a pair of spotless fashionable black leather shoes on him. Broad chested with a prominent jaw, crisp hair, sharp features and long legs, he wore a soothing beige pair of chinos and a deep blue coloured turtleneck. The album firmly rested his thigh and had one hand positioned to flip the album. Milk complexioned, flawless skin, chestnut coloured flowing silky hair, sparkling eyes, thin eyebrows, sharp nose and lucid tender lips and of the perfect height, the lady was endearing. In flannel grey pajamas and thick woollen socks donning a thin creamy yellow sweater of the finest wool, she snuggled on to the man. She eased her head on his shoulder and rested her legs sideways, one on another, on the couch. The only visible pieces of jewellery were a part of a silver chain on her slender neck and singular diamond studded gold ring on her right ring finger. One hand on the corner of an album, the other was buried deep between the couch and her legs. Her lips were curved into a dainty smile.

Mirthful, with smiles on their lips, they were intimate and blissful.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Soliloquy

“GloomBoomDoom” thunders Marc Faber. The cycle holds true for the secondary markets; should also hold true for life itself, after all analogies are drawn from our lives. I don’t remember the “Gloom” and the “Boom” now is a fading sequence of sepia film frames. The “Doom”, a nose dive, from the towering heights is blatantly pungent and acerbic. Along with a world awaiting a boom, I await the “Gloom”.

By enlarge it was a rat race down the trodden tracks, though it varied accordingly to the means of each one. The very race I imperiously stepped out to beat, strangled me like a rat. Thousands of instances of rats shooting out of the tracks to unprecedented glory, but one conscious step outside the same turned out disastrous. Apparently, as in Vegas, “one can never beat the house”, holds true, here the system. With arrogant confidence and probably pig-headed, I tried, again and again, numerous times to beat the system, only to be smothered each time. And now, I try to join the race again, only to find myself miles behind those who were trailing me or were alongside.

Yes, I solely am the accused, rightly so, for the mess. I can massage my sore ego with the fact that, keeping at bay the divine and human forces, I penned my fate. But the forces of nature did try to!, with a neural Glioma. Well, so far I’m one up but have to await the future. The rats have now grown horns and extra legs and are on a different playing field altogether. I can but do choose from one of these options, engulf myself in a wave of self-pity or smile and shrug it off. I mostly pull of the latter but on rare occasions the wave washes me over.

One word springs to the mind. PARODY. An obscure, intricate dull-witted satire directed by “Force Majeure” and me the protagonist, albeit with a freehand. I along with the viewers, am not quite sure if there are any, eagerly look forward to the ending. The reaction to which, either of these, a sigh of relief after one hell of a roller coaster ride or a wry smile and a resigning shrug.