Friday, July 30, 2010

"Happy New Year, Dad"

Dipankar was walking slowly through the milieu of people bustling around him on the narrow footpath. Such frenzied activity was only expected, he thought. New Year’s Eve was a special day for most people in the world. If nothing else, it was a day when they made an attempt to break the monotony that had seeped into their lives and had started outweighing emotions of joy and excitement. It was probably for the same reason that they made resolutions. At least the prospect of breaking them after continuing to grapple with them gave people something to look forward to for that short period of time.

He had left his office a little earlier than usual today. Almost as a routine, he was the last person to leave. But his normally stone-faced and demanding boss had come up to him this evening and said in a mellow voice, “D.S.” Dipankar was affectionately called D.S. at office. “I think you should take a little rest today.” Maybe, his boss had resolved to be more sympathetic towards his subordinates this year. But over time, Dipankar had become increasingly detached to let this small change of heart lend him any sort of delight.

The phone buzzed. Dipankar read out his daughter’s SMS, “Don’t be late. You do know what day it is today.” How could he forget? It was New Year’s eve after all. His daughter would be waiting for him anxiously, just like his young son. Dipankar thought of what he would like them to become when they grew up. Jane could be a good scientist, he thought. And what about Angel? Engineer? Or, better still, doctor? Artist, though, would be more like Angel. After considering a couple of other options, Dipankar decided that he was fine with anything as long as Angel didn’t become like him – stoic, phlegmatic, detached.

Dipankar stopped at a flower shop and picked up some roses. His wife would be happy to see them. You may become indifferent, but there is still the odd thing you have to indulge yourself in, if only to please the ones you love. And Dipankar did love his wife for certain, however removed from life he might have become. They had met in an old church in Panaji. She had come with her friends. And he had come with his. Everyone had their heads bowed in deep conversation with Jesus, except the two of them. They were simply staring at the altar, finding a good enough reason to pray. However, their eyes soon met, and they understood each other’s predicament. Smiles were exchanged, followed by secretive glances. Soon enough, they started meeting at the church every weekend, and it became customary for Dipankar to be present with a neat little bouquet of fresh roses for her every time they met.

Dipankar reached the garden and walked down along the gravel path. His kids were already waiting for him. “Dad, you are here”, Jane said and gave him a hug. Angel was sitting on the gravel floor, his face as eloquent as ever, a picture of serenity in pain. Dipankar bent down close to him, looked into his eyes, and found a tear trickling down. He looked at the tombstone in front of him that had the inscription:
Joan D’Souza
24 Aug, 1970 - 31 Dec, 2004

Dipankar took out his bouquet of roses, and placed it in his son’s hands, “Happy Birthday, dear Angel.” Angel leapt into his father’s arms and hugged him, as his tears streamed down.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Game in Hell

The huge wrought-iron gate creaked open to lay bare the sight of a most dazzling spectre. Across the far side of the hall, rested the large anatomy of the Devil in its full resplendent glory, swamped on both sides by lucid melting figures.

My feet needed no orders and took me straight to the cross that was inked onto the cloudy surface in front of his perch.

“Do you know why you are here?” came the Devil’s voice in a loud guttural.

“I can only make a guess, my Lord.”

“And what is your guess?”

“That I have committed an unpardonable sin?” I spoke with apprehension.

“Yes, and what is it?”

“That I have no idea of,” I put in a matter-of-fact voice.

“Of course, why would you? The lines of good and evil are blurred for you. If someone did you a good turn, you wouldn’t be able to make out whether to thank him or detest him.”

“But what have I done, my Lord?”

“You have sold off people’s happiness for your own good. This feeling of success that you have come to enjoy and revel in, comes at the cost of thousands of others. You choose to make others lead a superficial life, not caring once for what the world is coming to. Don’t you think that it deserves punishment - though I believe that even death would be a mercy on you?”

“Possibly, you are right. I see no reason for any empathy.”

“Anything you want to say in your defence, then?”

“No, I will accept your verdict, my Lord.”

The Devil clapped his feet and the lucid melting figures swayed towards me, threatening to engulf me in a huge bubble of nothingness.

“But I am surprised, my Lord. I have always thought that the Devil stood for evil,” I started again.

The Devil raised its eyes, and said, “And so is the case. I epitomize all things evil and cruel and ugly in this world, and that’s why you have been brought here. Otherwise, you may as well have found yourself in heaven, licking at your God’s feet.”

“I am sorry to voice my opinion in such a manner, my Lord, but at least when facing death, I would like to be a genuine man. You are not being the Devil, but God himself.”

“Don’t you dare insult me like that,” screamed out the Devil, with an expression that would have consumed a lesser life.

I lowered my voice to a confident quiver.

“May I be punished and sent to heaven if I insult you, my Lord. But just look at what you are doing. You are punishing me for being evil, and evil is what you stand for. Don’t you see the contradiction?”

The Devil narrowed his burning eyes, and said “I am not sure I understand you.”

“My Lord, you are the role model for all people evil in this world. They look up to you before doing any dastardly act that the society at large condemns. We keep up your spirit alive down there, instilling fear and manipulating people wherever we go. We don’t look for respect, because we know our real respect lies here, at your feet.”

The words seemed to pierce the Devil like a hundred darts. He sat stunned, like a trampled beast.

I continued. “I know no fear, and I don’t care for myself. But I will never be able to stand the thought of my role model faltering when it mattered most. My Lord, you are the greatest that ever was for us. Why then are you playing into God’s hands, by punishing your own pupils, who have chosen the path that you have shown? You cannot do this to your own sons, can you?”

The Devil still sat stunned, eyes transfixed on me, but with more emotion now.

“That is all I have to say. It’s been an honour to come here thus far. Whatever you decide, I will accept it as a verdict that I deserve.”

Two haunting minutes of complete silence ensued.

The Devil clapped its feet, the lucid melting figures subsided, my feet took me outside the hall, and the wrought-iron gates slammed shut.


“Wake up, Philip. Wake up.”

It took me a minute to realize that my wife was screaming mad at me.

“What’s up with you? I have been jostling you for the last half an hour. You have scared the life out of me. Do you even remember that you have a presentation at your board office today on your proposed launch of a new mass hypnosis product? What the hell have you been dreaming of?”

I regained my senses sufficiently and answered with a smug expression, “Nothing, dear. Nothing. I was just selling the Devil himself.”

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Picture

There is a picture on the wall

Bigger than the wall

There is a beggar in the crowd
More numerous than the crowd

There is a spark within the fire
More important than the fire

There is a window to the world
More beautiful than the world

There is a green on the grass
Greener than the green

There is a shadow in the dark
More conspicuous than the dark

There is a thrill in the night
More mysterious than the night

There is a light in the day
More pristine than the day

There is a tear in my eye
More eloquent than my eyes

There is a muffle in my laugh
More a muffle than a laugh

There is a spring in my step
Minus a spring, only a motion

There is a winner at the end
But all is redundant then.