Nepal Quake

Nature is the greatest equalizer. Every accomplishment, every virtue, every vice becomes inconsequential when it strikes. All that is left are hapless men and women, scampering to protect themselves from the cruelty they did not know was simmering underneath their feet. No one deserves to watch their city reduce to ruins. No one should have to dig up their family from the rubble that was once their home. It is the most terrifying thought, isn’t it? Someone going by his day as usual, acutely unaware of the fact that his life’s work will be gathering dust in the next few minutes. How does one overcome this kind of utter, thorough loss?

Our neighbor, Nepal fell prey to a horrible destiny last week and I am still grappling with the magnitude of devastation in that beautiful country.India is no stranger to natural disasters by any means. She has endured her fair share of loss of humanity. But there is something about this earthquake that refuses to leave my thoughts. A few hours after the news of the quake reached, it struck me that I had a school friend living in Kathmandu. I hadn’t seen her in over a decade but the thought of someone I knew trapped under a collapsed building filled me with unimaginable dread. Thankfully, I later learned that she is now safe and back with her family and I couldn’t be happier. Sadly thousands of others were not as fortunate. Earthquakes frighten me the most, mostly because they strike without any warning and take everything with them. Everything vanishes; exposes the stark vulnerability of human life.

When I was younger, I experienced a few earthquakes, although of low intensity. Even at that age, the panic it created shocked me. I could not believe that everything I was and knew could end so unceremoniously. Growing up on Bollywood movies perhaps gave me unreal expectations that life was a like a theatrical production which would never be deprived of a proper climax. Well, now I know that is not and it is quite unfair, isn’t it?

I am very proud of the relief efforts carried out by our government in Nepal. They are not alone in this time of need and India does stand with them. I request everyone to donate to the relief efforts in any way they can. Nepal is staring at a onerous task of rebuilding the nation and they deserve every help.they can get. I really hope the wonderful Nepalis get back on their feet soon and show that there is nothing that can suppress human will.

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When I was Twelve

My twelfth year was arguably among the best years of my life. Life was all about the little pleasures. I lived in Mumbai back then. It was 1999 and my father was due to be transferred to another city the next year. However, in all my childhood innocence, I had managed to convince myself that we would be living there forever and our lives would never change.

The Mumbai I remember from 1999 is wildly different from how the rest of the world saw it. The city had not become harsh to me yet. I lived with my parents and my twin sister in a spacious two bedroom flat. It was on the seventh floor. We lived in a large colony with five wings. Each wing had eight floors and each floor had two flats each. All the wings were arranged to form a circle with a vast garden at the center. Our flat overlooked the garden. I absolutely adored our flat, our home for the past five years. To this day, thinking about that flat brings nothing but warm memories, full of mirth and contentment. My favorite part of the house were the large French windows in all the rooms. Now that I think about it, that flat is the source of my predilection for houses with large windows. I always equate large windows with happiness. A long, hilly stretch of road enveloped all the wings of the building. This was not a public road. It was well within the gates. Probably the most functional feature of the building, this is where I learnt to ride my bicycle. Teenage kids drove their parent’s cars for the first time here. Be it long walks, parking vehicles or playing hopscotch, that road was a part of everyone’s lives.

Although I lived in Mumbai, I had not embodied its urgency yet. It did not reflect in my personality. It was merely another piece of information about me. My life was in the building I lived in. My building could well be uprooted and taken to another city, I would not have cared. To this day, I have not been able to count the number of friends I had there. In retrospect, it was a strange thing to have; a plethora of friends at an age where the relationship itself is a mystery. There is no denying that twelve was an awkward age. I was not a child, neither was I an adolescent. Surprisingly, I was not puzzled by the things changing within me. Even at that age, I was exhibiting signs of the calm, uncomplaining person that I am today. I somehow sensed that this is how nature works. I was a tad puzzled by the changing behavior of my peers. I am not going to lie, girls were beginning to get insufferable. I somehow did not feel any solidarity for them. I did not notice many changes in boys around me though. They seemed to go on with their lives, playing cricket and hitting each other. From where I saw it, the transition seemed to be easier for them.

That year was the last year of my life where I spent majority of my time outdoors. My love for reading had already sowed it seeds but a desire for social life had swayed me from it for some time. I, along with my sister and friends spent most of our time playing. We never wanted to come home. Our parents could spot us playing from our window and would yell at us to come back home. But we kept playing, tactfully averting our eyes and ears. It was the last year of scraped knees, childish tiffs and innocent jokes. Had I known this then, I would have played some more.

One day in April 2000, my father called from his office. He told my mother that the transfer order had arrived and we were supposed to move to Piravom, a small town in Kerala. This seemed drastic to everyone. Moving from the biggest city in India to a relatively obscure one; it is still one of the most contrasting things to have happened to me. I was inconsolable. I also knew that I had no choice. My parents were sad at leaving too but not as sad as my sister and I. Well acquainted with the mercilessness of the city, they on some level were looking forward to a quiet life.

So one morning in May 2000, two months before I turned thirteen, I bade adieu to that building. My friends were there to see me off, hugging me, saying tearful goodbyes, promising to keep in touch. I was slightly jealous. I could not bear the fact that someone else would now occupy my lovely home with large windows. My friends would find a replacement of me. Their lives would go on while I would have to start from scratch. I had not yet realized that this was actually a gift. I did not know that some day, I would be stronger because of it. After all, I was only twelve.

Written in response to a prompt on Writing 101 – Size Matters

 

Fallen Flowers

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It rained. Not expected but most certainly welcome, I imagine that it brought everyone joy and respite. I did not witness how it started but I assume it was at the crack of dawn when the stillness in the air suddenly gave way to a wintry sensation. The sky was still under transition into the light of a new day, slightly unsure of its hues. It must have been a wonderful sight, a curious palette if you may. The pitch black gradually being erased by a blazing streak of orange and pink; and suddenly every color being overpowered by a nothing but a bleak shade of grey.

The clouds occupied the sky without warning and thundered, gently at first; considerately nudging me out of my sleep. I opened by eyes wearily. I am sure they must have looked tired, complementing my weary face still stained with tears. My room was supposed to be filled with soft rays of the rising sun at this time. Instead, it remained as dark as last night. I hesitantly felt the other side of my bed but as expected, found it empty. “I guess both sides are mine now”, I thought as the muffled gurgling turned into a booming eruption and downpour began.

I heard footsteps in the kitchen and an unexplained melange of hope and dread came over me. I quickly made my way and he was still there. For a moment we just stared at each other; nothing was spoken and nothing was felt. Before I knew it I let out a chuckle and he looked quizzically at me.

“I did not know this was possible”, I said.

“What”, he asked with air of resignation.

“Staring into your gaze and not feeling a thing.”

“Why else do you think we are separating?”

I did not know what to say. Words had become superfluous long ago. Months and months of debating with myself as well as him had finally drained us. All that was left of us were meaningless actions and empty stares. We looked at each other silently for another few moments as the rain drops clattered on the roof, rhythmically spelling our doom.

“What are we going to tell our friends”, I asked suddenly.

“We just couldn’t make it”, he said with another shrug of resignation. “Besides, I don’t think we owe them any explanation. And how can we explain to them if we cannot explain this to ourselves,” he added as an afterthought.

“True,” I said as my eyes wandered off to his suitcase lined outside. “Let me know if you find an explanation. I want to know whose fault this is.”

He gave a non committal nod as our silence filled the kitchen again. It is hard to remember when the silence between us had turned from a companionable one to a discontent one. For months to come, I could see myself tormenting myself to find answers; probe every moment of our relationship and think where to assign blame. I knew it would be fruitless and in the end, I would be as hapless as I was at that moment.

“I will make some breakfast,” I said quickly, relieved at finding something to do. He did not protest. Neither did he agree. He just stood there as I busied myself with the pots and pans, wondering all along whether it was him or me who was the first to give up. We ate our last meal quietly. No one brought up the fact that it was not seasoned enough. We simple chewed and swallowed, eyes on each other again, searching for something.

The rain had let up. He looked out of the window and stood up. He walked back to the kitchen and washed his hands. Then, he picked his suitcase and without a word, walked out of the door. I stood up and cleared the plates. I hoped that the water splashing on the plates would drown the sound of him driving away. It didn’t.

After a while, I finally stepped outside the house. It was refreshingly cool outside. The air was redolent with the earthy smell I loved so much. The birds were chirping happily on their newly washed trees. But all I could see were the fallen flowers in my garden; petals scattered all over; unfortunate preys to the rains.

Write Write Write

Hemmingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed”. Well, truer words were never spoken. Granted, no one sits at a typewriter any more. It is now just a relic of the time gone by is replaced by computers and tablets. But the bleeding still happens and is still as excruciating. In my darker moments, I sometime think that taking a liking to writing and literature is the strangest technique I have adopted to torture myself. It is like a cruel seductress, someone whose mere thought tantalizes the hapless lover and no amount of rendezvous can cure him of his longing.

In the past week, I have made a conscious effort to be regular with writing on this blog. The idea is to devote a few hours to writing and during those few hours, pretend that my life depends on it. I am happy to announce that the results have been as pleasant as the process has been infuriating. Each day, I sit at my computer, determined to write something. I don’t plan beforehand about my subject, letting the glare of my computer screen illuminate my creativity. It turns out that the said illumination is a slow process. Inevitably, I have found myself thinking whether I actually have something to write about or do I just love the idea of writing. I feel like a fleet of soldiers commanded to conquer something but not given the target.

Extended periods of absence from writing has made ideas hard to come by. But in the end, thankfully my love for writing triumphs over the rut in my mind. Maybe a few hours late, but I am able to think of something (however prosaic it may be) and put them into words. I am sure this has happened to all writers (successful and aspiring alike). Maybe the God of writing is a cynical being who paves the path to literary glory with agony and frustration. Maybe the God of writing doesn’t exist at all, who knows. But the idea is to keep writing I guess; honing your skills and stimulating the mind. However vexing this process may be, the end product still gives one a sense of achievement. It is a brilliant thing to look at something that has been created as a result of your thoughts and efforts. The joy of creating is one of the greatest in the world and I am sure the struggle to reach there is worth enjoying too.

When I read “To Kill A Mockingbird”, I was staggered by the ease with which Harper Lee seemed to write. She made it all look so easy. Later I read one of her interviews where she said that a good writer writes to please himself and as a means of endless self exploration. What a profound thought this is. Maybe this is why some people love to write; to discover themselves and give themselves a voice. However exhausting this road to self discovery may be, I imagine it would be endlessly rewarding to finally meet my true self.