Saturday, May 29, 2010

Shattered Faith

One last carton had remained unopened for months. I finally opened it. Out of the objects from what seemed like a previous life, one item emerged, perfectly representing the last chapter of my life, hidden from view for over a year in 15 lumpy tired-looking boxes that had travelled across the world. The gist of a whole decade, a chunk of my life, I now held in my hand.

Be careful - it can cut you.

Regarding intolerance

An excerpt from one of my favourite books, 'The Land of Far-Beyond' by Enid Blyton. The travellers from the City of Turmoil carry the burdens of their misdeeds along the narrow and difficult path to the City of Happiness, the Land of Far-Beyond, where they have been told they will lose their crushing burdens. The book is based on 'The Pilgrim's Progress' by John Bunyan.

They went on for a good way, and then met a man who called upon them to stop.

"You can't pass by here unless you tell me what is in your luggage!" he said, looking at the burdens on the backs of Mr. Scornful and the children. "Nobody takes luggage to the City of Happiness. So you must be carrying something you shouldn't!"

"It isn't luggage," said Mr. Scornful, not at all liking the look of the man, who had rather wild eyes, and a hard mouth. "It's - well, I hardly know how to describe it - it's just a burden we can't get rid of till we reach the Land of Far-Beyond. So pray let us pass."

"What's in the burdens?" asked the man, his eyes flashing. "You must tell me!"

"Oh, don't be silly," said Mr. Scornful, getting tired of the wild-eyed fellow. "Let us pass - or I'll knock you down. Who are you, any way?"

"I am called Intolerance," said the man. "I live here, not far from the path. I see travellers going by on their way to the City of Happiness. But a lot of them don't deserve to get there, and I try to stop them."

"What right have you to stop anyone!" cried Peter. "You've no right at all! Let us pass."

"Tell me what's in your burdens first," said the man. Then, as nobody answered, he looked with his mad eyes at the loads on the traveller's shoulders. "Ah - I can see what is inside them! I can see!"

"You can't!" said Anna.

"I can see selfishness - and unkindness - and spite - and greed - oh, what terrible burdens! No one carrying those deserves to go to the City of Happiness!"

"I dare say, we don't deserve to go - but we are going all the same!" said Mr. Scornful. "The Stranger told us that we might go there, and he should know because he came from there. You've no right to try to stop us."

"I detest the things you carry in your burdens," said Intolerance. "I hate sinners! I hate people who do not think exactly as I do."

"It is right to hate sin, but it's all wrong to hate the sinner," said Mr. Scornful, impatiently. "You're a sinner too because you hate people who don't think as you do! Now get away or I'll push you over!"

"If you dare to lay a finger on me I will open the gates of my dam over there, and flood the path!" shouted Intolerance, quite beside himself with rage. The others looked and saw that the gurgling stream beside which they had walked for a mile or two, had now swollen into a rapid river that almost overflowed its banks. Near them was a stone dam which kept the river away from the path. In it was a sliding iron gate. Intolerance ran to open the gate of the dam.

"I'll flood you! I'll sweep you away!" he shouted. "You dare to threaten me - well, I'll show you what I can do. This is my River of Hate. I will let is overflow the Banks of Persecution, and sweep you off your feet. Then maybe you will crawl back to me and beg my pardon. You will say I am right, and will think as I do, and believe what I believe!"

"Stop!" yelled Mr. Scornful, as he saw the man turning a handle that lifted up the iron gate from the opening in the dam. "You're mad, fellow! Why try to drown people just because they are not what you think they should be! Stop!"

But Intolerance was half-mad, and he opened the gate in his stone dam. With a rush the water poured out, sickly yellow in colour, and swirled around the feet of the four travellers at once. They yelled, and tried to run from it, going forward on the path as fast as they could. But the water followed them, licking round their knees now, pouring over the banks and down to the path.

"I hope it doesn't get any deeper," cried Anna, trying to keep her balance. "Mr. Scornful, yell to him to shut the dam."

But all the yelling in the world would not make Intolerance do anything he didn't want to! He stood beside the dam, shouting.

"I'll rescue you if you'll say you're sorry, and will agree with me!"

"Silly fellow," said Peter. The boy had found a firm place on the path, and had dug his feet hard into it to withstand the force of the water. "Anna, Patience! Come here to me and hold on to my arms. I'm steady here."

The two girls were almost bowled over now by the water, which had reached up to their waists. With Mr. Scornful's help they reached their brother, and held on to his arms.

"You're as steady as a rock, Peter," gasped Anna. "I was almost in the water just then! And goodness knows where it would have taken me! It is pouring away into the field over there. Oh, how horrid of Intolerance to treat us like this."

The water rose higher still. It reached to the children's shoulders, and up to Mr. Scornful's chest.

"We shall drown soon," said Anna. "Oh, Peter - don't you think we'd better yell to Intolerance to stop the river overflowing - we can easily say we're sorry, and that we agree with everything he says - even if we don't."

"Well, I'm not going to do that!" said Peter, holding his sisters very firmly indeed. "We've a right to think as we like, and to do what we think is best. Why, Intolerance would be a real tyrant, if he had his way - trying to make everyone think as he does! And see how wicked he is really, for all he pretends to hate evil things! He has nearly drowned us in his River of Hate!"

"The water's up to my chin!" groaned poor Patience. "I'm holding on to you, Peter - but the river is very strong."

"Look! There's a raft!" suddenly cried Mr. Scornful, and he nodded over the water, which was now a raging torrent. The children could just see the raft bobbing on the surface. On it was a sturdy youth, who was holding a rope in his hand, ready to throw it to anyone caught in the flood.

"Hie!" yelled Mr. Scornful. "Hie! Can you save us?"

The youth heard his shout and threw the rope at once. Mr. Scornful gave it to the two girls, and the youth pulled them to safety on his raft. Peter swam up to it and Mr. Scornful waded over and pulled himself up.

"Goodness!" said Peter, shivering. "That was a most unpleasant adventure. Does Intolerance do this kind of thing often?"

"Whenever he can," said the youth, paddling the raft over the water. "But as soon as I see the water rushing over the path I get out my raft of Independence. It has saved many a traveller from Intolerance's River of Hate! My name is Charitable, and I'm quite the opposite of Intolerance!"

"I am glad you came when you did," said Anna, trying to squeeze the water from her clothes. "I should have been swept away the very next minute. I simply can't imagine how it was that Peter stood so steady!"

"Oh - your brother's name is Peter, is it?" said Charitable, his grey, wide-set eyes looking directly at the boy. "Well, you know what the name Peter means, don't you? It means a rock. So Peter is like his name, is he - steady as a rock when trouble comes along! That's good."

After some time the youth reached the end of the flooding water. His raft scraped on the ground and he jumped off. He helped the girls to the dry ground, and then waved his hand to where a big bonfire burned nearby.

"I always light that when I see the river flooding over the path," he said. "Then travellers can dry themselves."

The children and Mr. Scornful dried themselves gratefully by Charitable's big fire. It was a curious fire for it seemed to dry them completely in no time. Even their clothes underneath soon became dry. Charitable piled on more twigs when the fire died down.

"Why doesn't somebody punish Intolerance?" asked Peter, holding his steaming coat out to the flames. "He has no right to treat people like that."

"Oh, sooner or later he will be swept away in his own river," said Charitable. "And I don't mind telling you that I will not be out on my raft that day! He is the one person in the world I won't help, for he has persecuted others so often!"

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
- The Holy Bible, James 4:14

My parents have reached that stage in their life where their friends have started passing away. Over the past year, at least two families that we've known have lost their husbands and fathers. These were the adults that seemed immutable to me, fixtures that the tent of my life was pegged to in the sandstorm of the desert of life, people that remained the same as I progressed from kindergarten to high school to grad school to respectable fulltime employment to quarterlife crisis.

Yesterday my mom caught up with a friend she had gone to school with in a faraway time in Lucknow, India. My mother remembered the schoolgirl version of her, and now, decades later, she discovered a widow in her 60s who had 4 grown children living in various countries in the Eastern hemisphere. In the process of catching up with her friend, my mom discovered a few more girls she used to know who had passed away. One of these was a good friend from her schooldays whom she had lost touch with.

This comes at a time when I'm immersed in the history of Oman as part of my research for a book. During such periods, I may be physically present in the current time, but my mind and soul are suspended in that realm where I'm outside the dimension of time, looking in at all the ages that have come and gone and are yet to occur. Cities forgotten except when discovered buried intact under our feet, lives that were lived, and faces that once had strange names. Echoes of trials, sorrows, betrayals, and joy. Powerful kings and queens, bloody battles, great civilisations and cultures, youth and life, noble ideals. The wind stole them all, and the earth bears silent witness to their shadows even as we unknowingly build lives over their remains.

While my mother contemplates the meaning of the quiet end of the lives of the girls she once giggled with, the image of a novel whose last sentence has been neatly written and the book closed continuously runs in my mind. A dull sense of loss suspends itself within my stomach. I am feeling the absence of people that once were, even though I've never met any of them, none of the schoolgirls, widows, kings and queens, travellers, godmen, warriors, healers, dreamers, fathers, mothers, and children. I mourn them. I miss them all in the quiet place where there is no Time, where even I have no name, no face, and no voice. I never did.

Friday, May 21, 2010


It's been a long time since I've drawn anything, so I thought the first thing I should try is my face. I've never drawn myself before. Seems somewhat appropriate to reclaim my skill with myself.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Circle of Life (version India)

Repost from an online support group for Nirupama Pathak, a young Delhi-based journalist who was murdered in an alleged honour killing.

Indian parents are torturing and killing their own sons and daughters
by Kv Gautam

This is just to put the things (about overrated Indian parents and family) in the right perspective. Of course, it applies to most of Indians, not all. There is need to make parents understand what they have been doing to their wards without consciously realizing it. Most of young people in India are at greater risk of getting tortured and killed in a family than outside.

See how:

Risks for boys:

Your birth will be celebrated but soon you will be a soft target for venting out of personal frustrations by your parents. It is common for Indians to be beaten at will by parents. There is no rule (at least I do not know about one) that can protect you against physical punishment by parents. As a boy you receive a lot of physical beating by teacher also, which is now (due to more awareness) illegal. There are new rules against teacher giving students physical punishment after some serious physical damages to students were reported by media.

As a student high level of pressure will be put on by parents on you to perform excellently in textbook studies, even if your natural talent lies not in roting learning books but thinking originally, or some other skill. Suicide level is alarmingly high due to extreme pressure by parents. More children die in India due to suicides than diseases during their student days.

Many parents (mostly poor) take their sons out of school and send for earning money at tender age. It takes away their entire childhood and right to be a better citizen and a person by getting educated.

In adult age, relationships with the opposite sex is not accepted by majority of parents, resulting in you becoming sexual frustrated.

When you become adult you are at a high risk to be put under intense pressure during marriage matters. Arranged marriages are most popular in the country. According to my estimates around one fourth must be forced marriages. Adult sons are at the receiving end of some intense emotional blackmailing.

Honour killings and social boycott are frequent in many parts of the country, if boys marry without consent of parents. You are just a pawn in the little silly game of family honor being played by your parents.

When you become father you repeat the same treatment to your son that your parents did to you as accept that behavior normal and a done thing. So, the tradition of torture continues generations after generations.

Risks for girls:

Many parents will not let you be born and will kill you in fetus itself.

In many parts of the country, girls are killed just after birth

If you survive, you will be at the receiving end of a systematic exploitation by the whole family structure. You will be discriminated against at every step of life.

Your parents can any time stop your education and make you learn a basic thing – cooking. It stops you from becoming a well-informed and independent minded person. Your brainwashing for making you submissive to men and suffer everything silently starts now. This prepares girls for further exploitation, discrimination and torture that they suffer later in life.

In adult age, relationships with the opposite sex is not accepted by majority of parents, resulting in you becoming sexual frustrated.

Thousands of girls are killed every year if they become pregnant due to some affair.
You do not have right on your own body and life. Parents think they own you and you are their property.

Due to brainwashing many girls do not value their own life and commit suicide if something goes wrong (getting pregnant for example) in their affair with boys. Lack of sex education further puts you at risk in relationships with the opposite sex.

You are likely to be forced into a marriage with a boy of your parents' choice, not yours. Most of girls are not even consulted in the whole affair.

Thousand of girls are killed every year in India when they marry without consent of parents. Most of the cases are not reported by media and are never known by general people. Or shown as accidental death or suicide.

Most of the times, you get no support from parents if you are tortured or killed by in-laws due to dowry demands after you are married.

Domestic violence is common for you after marriage. According to data with the Indian government, one third of women are victims of domestic violence. Do not expect any support from parents as they condone these.

If you are lucky enough to survive these all, then you unconsciously take revenge with your own daughter and mete out the same treatment to her that your suffered at the hands of your own parents.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My deja vu

Within these gates, I am never grown. Within this perimeter, the world cannot follow me. This is the only place where I can visit the past, for nomatter how the people within its hallways come and go, the hallways themselves remain the same. They say that people leave a part of themselves in every place they have ever been. The air here is thick with mirages from the past, and walking through the grounds can sometimes feel like walking under water, with layers and layers of old livings blanketing you into slow motion. If you touched the walls, looked out a window, you'd see all that had happened there before you, all of it at once, like video that's been exposed many times over.

Some people believe that time doesn't exist in a linear fashion, like a single train track that the carriage of one's life can only move forward on just once, never to find that track again. Some believe that time is like a TV set, a single location where all channels, with each channel being a thread of time, are streaming through at the same time, all happening at the same time. All one has to do is choose the channel, the reality, that one wants to be a part of.

As I stood in my old school's senior library, handing over an autographed copy of my very first book to the librarian who used to be in-charge of the middle school library when I was a student, the library became the TV set, and I began to feel dizzy as the channel I was in, the present time, began to fade in and out of other channels. Each blink of my eyes put me into a different channel. But who was changing the channel? Why was I existing across channels? Was I not a part of any one channel? Blink, the librarian was flipping through my new book. Blink, I was waiting for the librarian to issue me my book before the bell rang for my next period. Blink, the librarian was congratulating me on getting my first book published. Blink, my classmates were trying their best to keep their voices down and not annoy the librarian. Blink, all the students around me looked like all the classmates I'd ever had.

Blink, I smiled as the librarian finally issued the book to me. Blink, I smiled as the librarian told me he'd keep my book out on display.

"For men may come and men may go, but I go on for ever." - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Top of the Poll

These are the top trending topics on Twitter. David Cameron just got announced as the new Prime Minister of the UK, and poor Gordon Brown is already at the bottom of the list.

What's really sad is that even Justin Bieber is doing better than Gordon Brown.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Oscar speech

I would like to thank the following for helping me become the person I am today:
  • India for teaching me about sanctity and diversity
  • Oman for showing me the difference between religion and culture
  • America for making me bold and inquisitive

Monday, May 3, 2010

Was a time

(Click on the image below to enlarge it.)

The Dancing Cavalier

One of my favourite songs from the 1985 movie, Alice in Wonderland. The White Knight saves Alice from the Red Knight and then sings a beautiful song to her.

"We are dancing.

We didn't need a cue,
Yet with a girl like you,
It seems the thing to do,
Don't you agree?

I hear the strings,
My poor heart sings,
And we are dancing.

We share a smile,
And for a while,
We two are dancing.

If ever time should bring another year,
Another spring,
They'll be compared,
To what I've shared,
With you.

I hear the strings,
My poor heart sings,
And we are dancing.

We share a smile,
And for a while,
We two are dancing.

If ever time should bring another year,
Another spring,
They'll be compared,
To what I've shared,
With you."

Where have all the knights gone?

What a beautiful song, what a beautiful performance. This song bored me when I was really young but it brings me to tears now. It's sweet, in a sad way, how one thing can appear different to a person at different times in that person's life.

Watch the whole movie!

Alice in Wonderland

Through the Looking Glass

Gypsy Song

In my life, I've travelled quite a bit and lived amongst peoples that were not my own. As a consequence, I don't feel like I wholly belong to any one community anywhere in the world, that nowhere is home for too long, a thought that is devastating to one's physical body. During one phase of my life that lasted 10 years, my only constant companion were the thoughts in my head, and in that time, I lived in and visited various towns and cities, and wondered about a great many things. I have never quite been able to explain the workings of this sort of a life and how its mute visages never cease to beckon in dreams until I came across the following paragraphs from Lafcadio Hearn's short story, 'A Ghost'. Seeing my thoughts exactly reflected in the words of a writer who died a hundred years ago set my mind at ease and, for the first time, granted me the comfort of finally belonging, even if it be somewhere beyond the physical world.

"...Oh! the first vague charm, the first sunny illusion of some fair city - when vistas of unknown streets all seem leading to the realisation of a hope you dare not even whisper; when even the shadows look beautiful, and strange facades appear to smile good omen through lights of gold! And those first winning relations with men, while you are still a stranger, and only the better and the brighter side of their nature is turned to you!...All is yet a delightful, luminous indefiniteness - sensation of streets and of men - like some beautifully tinted photograph slightly out of focus...

Then the slow solid sharpening of details all about you thrusting through illusion and dispelling it, growing keener and harder day by day, through long dull seasons, while your feet learn to remember all asperities of pavements, and your eyes all physiognomy of buildings and of persons, failures of masonry, furrowed lines of pain. Thereafter only the aching of monotony intolerable, and the hatred of sameness grown dismal, and dread of the merciless, inevitable, daily and hourly repetition of things while those impulses of unrest, which are Nature's urgings through that ancestral experience which lives in each one of us - outcries of sea and peak and sky to man - ever make wider appeal....Strong friendships may have been formed but there finally comes a day when even those can give no consolation for the pain of monotony, and you feel that in order to live you must decide, regardless of result, to shake for ever from your feet the familiar dust of that place....

And, nevertheless, in the hour of departure you feel a pang. As train or steamer bears you away from the city and its myriad associations, the old illusive impression will quiver back about you for a moment - not as if to mock the expectation of the past, but softly, touchingly, as if pleading to you to stay; and such a sadness, such a tenderness may come to you, as one knows after reconciliation with a friend misapprehended and unjustly judged....But you will never more see those streets - except in dreams.

Through sleep only they will open again before you; steeped in the illusive vagueness of the first long-past day; peopled only by friends outreaching to you. Soundlessly you will tread those shadowy pavements many times, to knock in thought, perhaps, at doors which the dead will open to you....But with the passing of years all becomes dim - so dim that even asleep you know 'tis only a ghost-city, with streets going to nowhere. And finally whatever is left of it becomes confused and blended with cloudy memories of other cities - one endless bewilderment of filmy architecture in which nothing is distinctly recognisable, though the whole gives the sensation of having been seen before...ever so long ago.

Meantime, in the course of wanderings more or less aimless, there has slowly grown upon you a suspicion of being haunted - so frequently does a certain hazy presence intrude itself upon the visual memory. This, however, appears to gain rather than to lose in definiteness: with each return its visibility seems to increase....And the suspicion that you may be haunted gradually develops into a certainty."