A face in the crowd

The more you run, the more things follow. The rule holds well to animals and the demons in the mind.

The Saturday was fun. With news of Ophelia , the hurricane, looming around the social feeds, the morning was pleasantly sunny. The plan was set in stone. We were to hit the Istore near Covent Garden to pick up a fixed Mac. That’s a funny tale all by itself. I treat my Mac like crap. I don’t guard it, I don’t pamper it. I don’t let it flaunt it’s worth. For its part, my Mac has not died on me yet. It was a different tale for this friend of mine. Kept her safe, like a Disney princess. She died the moment he tried to connect the DSLR memory stick in it.

Delicate little darling, that mac turned out to be.

The plan was set in stone. We were to meet by 9. Hit Central London and collect the laptop. I had made alternate plans to visit South bank and stay lost in the food festival that the place hosts every weekend. None of that materialized though. Mostly because the plan was set in stone.

The day did start lazy. I hadn’t slept well and I usually don’t sleep well on most Fridays. I woke up groggy. I decided to indulge an English breakfast. Toast, eggs, beans, grilled vegetables and a tall glass of Pineapple juice. The food came as ordered, Pineapple juice, not so much. Apples were served, pines took a hike. The heavy hearty meal rendered me near useless. I had to endure an hour’s commute and I didn’t have a book handy to keep me company. I slept through the train and woke up miserable when the train stopped at the station.

With the laptop collected, with musical instruments gawked at a shop next to the store, we made it a point to walk a while. A lousy raspberry crush drink thrashed in the process. The time had ticked, the hours loitered, it was the time to head back home. The train ride back wasn’t any spectacular either. I did my best to keep myself entertained by playing a game on the mobile. I still couldn’t buy a book to keep me occupied. The book would have to wait for a while.

That’s when I noticed a face in the crowd. It wasn’t the usual spot. I presumed her to be in her sixties. She looked blissfully in her fifties, but her wrinkles conveyed a different story. People are a part of the daily commute. One gets to observe many faces. Some are pleasant, some are beautiful, some people carry a certain creepy vibe to them. I’m happy with the role of an observer that I play in the city. I observe. I steal a few glances, I make jokes in my head at times and smile things off. Some times, I imagine macabre plots and wonder about the many secrets that the eyes hide. It’s usual for an observer to observe without intruding into the comfortable safety zone that surrounds us all. It’s almost like stealing a glance at the sun. You see and then you don’t.

She was different. She had the kindest eyes that I had ever seen. There was something so familiar about her that I couldn’t stick to my golden role as an observer. A glance became many glances. I even mustered the courage to offer a smile. A smile offered, a smile reciprocated. The realities of this life came into play and a few stops later, we parted ways as strangers that we were.

I couldn’t help but think about the untold stories that were running in my mind. Such comforting familiarity, such gravitating vibes, those tired eyes surrounded by a touch of kindness. Her old age was on display. She’d , from time to time, wear her glasses to keep track of the stations that passed us by. She’d gently place them back into the case and repeat and rinse the exercise a few times. I watched the first times and decided to slip into a deep slumber where I could indulge in a tale that spanned across lives, across lifetimes, across appearances and logistics that mandated the reality that we are a part of.

I see similar faces all the time. The people change , their ethnicity changes, the colours of their eyes and skin change, their hairdo comes in various tones and shapes, the familiarity remains the same. It’s like holding on to pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and realizing that a few pieces are extremely compatible irrespective of which puzzle I’m trying to assemble back together.

The more I tried to ignore the coincidences , the harder it kept coincidenting! That’s not even a word but I couldn’t think of a suitable alternate. I think that’s the deal with life. The more we run away from things , we put ourselves in a spot where we are forced to confront them. There is no escape. The only viable way is to endure and survive. I couldn’t help but delude myself into imagining the same set of folks that I keep bumping into. I couldn’t help but try to see if there was a cryptic secret in front of my eyes that was challenging me to solve them. I couldn’t resist the temptation of believing that there is more to life than the mundaneness of normal ,sober, existence.

When faces in the crowd aren’t a reflection of fading away into obscurity, but are a manifested haunting of a mind trying to piece back a fractured point in time, the world becomes a canvas of a surreal tale , waiting to be written. Who knew, that descent into madness would be so much fun.

Have you ever experienced such doppelgangers? Do you ever see the same people around you, irrespective of where you are in the world or whom you are looking at? Is it the case of comedy of errors and mistaken identities because people are people and most of them are the same!

Small world after all and thank god, the world ain’t so small

Karthik

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Book review : The hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared

Cover Page of the 100 year old man

The hundred year old man who climbed of the window and disappeared, Jonas Jonasson.

Where oh where do I begin. A hundred year old man, Spanish civil war, America’s Atomic bomb, Stalin singing a song, Mao Tse-Tung’s communist ambitions, Kim Il Jong’s legacy in the making, A few presidents, a hot dog seller, an Elephant, a cop on a mission , an Einstein, a prosecutor who wished he had not been born. That’s one convoluted sentence that has way too many characters who converge and fuel madness to this fantastic tale of a warm , hilarious adventure.

Lets take a moment to let all of that sink in.

Phew.. Feeling better? okie dokie. Let us begin.

The hundred year.. is a story of Allan Karlsson. On his hundredth birthday, he decides to climb out of this room in an old age care home. That sets of a wonderful adventure that consumes you with every page that’s turned. Allan is a very ordinary bloke who has had an extraordinary life. There are absolutely two things that Allan does exceptionally well. One, he always manages to have an open mind. Two, he’s good at blowing things up.

An open mind and an uncanny ability to blow things up, these are the two things that fill Allan’s life with a million memories. As the tale continues in the present, we are introduced to roads that he had travelled in the past.

So Allan sneaks out of the old age home, he manages to steal a suitcase that is loaded with money. A mafia-ique gang is after him. A gang that goes by the name ‘ Never Again’. Allan’s escape from the house is now also a escape from the gang. The police get involved. Initially they are called in to find Allan and as the events unfold, the police now suspect Allan of murder. A 100 year old man on a killing spree!

Allan’s life is an adventure. Straight through the Spanish revolution, to America’s hunger for creating the A-Bomb, to Stalin’s desire to make a nuke for the motherland, North Korea’s war for identity, Allan finds himself participating in all these milestones that have shaped up the world. The history is something that will leave you in a sense of awe. The circumstances would leave you laughing.

Besides the adventure, this is a beautiful tale of friendship. Allan bumps into Julius, a bloke with a reputation for being a petty thief. The two become friends and they bump into Benny. Benny’s a hotdog vendor who has almost been a lot of things. The trio meet Gunnila. Gunnila’s the lady of the tale. Gunnila loves sonya. Sonya is her pet elephant.

The bonds of friendship are forged through honesty. As the tale ascends into mad hilarity, you’d grow warm reading the way their friendship evolves. The tale is also a tale of a cat and mouse chase. The inspector, Mr Aronsson , is absolutely relentless in his quest to find Allan.

The book is a light hearted read but it does nurture deeper themes within it. Each of the character , that you’d come to enjoy in time, is plagued by loneliness and solitude. The characters grab the opportunity to connect and take that leap of faith in forming ties with each other. I’d like to see them as a reflection of ourselves. We , most of us, are alienated with the world. We exist in a crowd. While a lot of us have shown that courage to take that leap of faith and invite people into our lives, there are a lot of us who are fenced up. We wait.

The book’s central theme is that of blind optimism. Allan doesn’t really worry a lot about the past or the future. He keeps an open mind and goes with the flow. Life hands him lemons, bananas, vodka, sausages and a lot many other things. He makes a good use of them and powers on. Allan is neither too ambitious nor does express a defeatist view of life. He is one of the grandest examples of living in the present. In a weird sense, he represents a zen-like peace. He remains unperturbed by most things.

The book does take a dig at two of the most influential factors that have shaped up our world. Religion and Politics. Allan doesn’t care for either. He’s not judgemental about them. His point of view offers a neutral stance on how silly that both religion and politics can be.

The book is a happily ever after waiting to happen. It’s a casual, funny breezy read. The plot might seem a bit outlandish at times, but that’s precisely the point. Strap your seatbelts, hang on tight and enjoy the fun ride that is The hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared.

Next stop : The Handmaid’s tale.

Karthik

Things are what they are, and whatever will be, will be

” Things are what they are, and whatever will be, will be. “ Allan Karlsson from The hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared.

While this is not a review of the book, the spirit of that quote was ample enough to inspire me to wing a few thoughts about it. I, for one, am conflicted about the deal of ‘Going with the flow’. To me, that approach is a little too free fall for comfort. While I’m not obsessive or compulsive about making plans and sticking to every single line item, I do find it a bit odd to completely ignore even the faintest remotest idea of a plan. I find assurance in knowing that there is a plan. What the plan stands to cover is immaterial.

Given the nature of the book and that it’s a fantastic fabulous work of fiction, I do acknowledge that in the realms of fiction, everything is possible. Real life poses certain challenges that a fictional life doesn’t have to deal with. With revered humility, I acknowledge that real life does have a capacity to throw a few curve balls that we are usually not well prepared to resolve. It’s that grasp of reality often pushes us to succumb to the flow of things and let things take their own course. In an act of part desperation and part faith, we let ourselves be willed by the way of the universe.

All of that sounds fine and dandy and that’s precisely why I can’t stomach that isolation of accountability towards life.

Given the context of the book, given the context of the movie ‘Forrest Gump’, given the context of life’s many adventures and experiences that we gather, there is a simple, subtle fact that stays hidden and yet possesses the magical charm to alter the course of one’s destiny. The underlying, undermined secret is one’s capacity to adjust and adapt to the changing course of things and steer ahead.

Yup. That’s the key. The ability to adapt to changes of varying magnitude. That ability doesn’t fall from the sky. It’s a reflection of skills possessed, strengths played to, limitations mitigated and a certain degree of faith on oneself. Give these, going with the flow does make a lot of sense. When we are better placed to deal with open challenges, the other limiting factor is in the form of how we choose to restrict ourselves because of our biases. Having an open mind helps. It’s a sign of being ready to deal with the unknowns. By unrestricting the things that we can do, we do end up doing a lot more than we initially thought we could.

That conquest of fear is wonderfully explored in the quote. ‘Things are what they are, and whatever will be, will be’

Contrary to popular belief, going with the flow is not synonymous with not being ready to take on life’s many curve balls. It means having an outlook to take those curve balls and whack em up plenty. I’d like to believe that it is this spirit to life that enriches by giving us the varied experiences that go on to construct the story of our lives.

Go with the flow. It’s a bit different than drifting away helplessly.

Karthik

Book review : a man called ove

“Maybe to her destiny was “something”; that was none of his business. But to him, destiny was “someone.”

Coverpage of A man caled Ove

A man called Ove, by Fredrik Backman.

I picked this book because a friend recommended it. To be perfectly honest, it was a spur of the moment decision to quench my curiosity about the book. I dived into its pages without a shimmer of expectation. When I was done with the book, something within me had snapped, there was something that I could spot as odd in the way I lived. With eyes wet with tears, my heart warm with satisfied overwhelmed emotions, it was time to move on to a different book. I did my best to savour the memories of the book and it was precisely because of that pleasure, I delayed writing about it. Words once read, words once written would probably move on to become words once cherished.

Back to the tale, Ove. Ove is an old geezer whom you’d probably dislike. He is a stickler for rules. He incessantly keeps reminding the world around that they don’t follow the dogma that rules are. He’s not much for small talk. It’s hard to enjoy a pleasant conversation with him. Ove is perceived as old, grumpy and chip of the block from a generation that’s been comfortably forgotten. That’s Ove. He’s unapologetic about what you’d think about him. He doesn’t really care. It probably wouldn’t be Ove if he did!

That’s Ove. That would probably be your first reaction to Ove.

The book is a tale of the life of the man who goes by the name Ove. As we get a glimpse of his present, we are also introduced to his past. The story of what he is now feels almost incomplete without seeing the story of what he was before. As we catch up on his past, we also find ourselves getting very eager about his present and the course of his future.

Hidden away in the tale is one of the most romantic relationship that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Far away from clichés of roses are red, violets are blue, I got a letters of love and you need a stick of glue, there is a beautiful story of romance that blossoms and grows warmer and warmer till it occupies every inch of your heart and soaks you with its warmth. Ove and his wife Sonja. Theirs is a very romantic relationship which is very far away from dramatic and cinematic romance. Theirs is a world of sweet nothings, a wonderful intersection of two people’s very distinct life that come together and form a pleasant harmony. We , as readers, witness a cute love that they both share. Theirs is a kind of love that span through health and sickness. It spans across life and death. It’s a kind of a love that refuses to die away despite death at it’s doors.

Ove does have a secret. He knows how to solve all his woes and wants to put an end to his misery. Only, it’s not his time yet. It’s just about the right time for Ove to be thrust into a world of people around him. His world is all set to explode. Cue in the people around Ove.

The secondary characters are phenomenal. They are vivid and colourful and blend blissfully into the life of Ove. Parvaneh, a pregnant Iranian lady , her daughters, the Lanky one, Ove and Rune’s big conflicts, you’d fall in love with everyone in Ove’s world.

There are wonderful themes that are explored in the book. It offers us a glance into questions like, What does it mean to be alive? What does it mean when people say that lives are meant to be colourful?

“People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had”

Ove’s story is a gentle reminder that sometimes our lives are meaningless without our special people in it. It calls out the similarities between existing for existence sake and living void of colors and emotions. It is through Ove, we get to assess our own hues about life. Ove’s story is also a wonderful example of going with the flow and letting life take it’s own course.

We are a product of what we choose to be and the people we let into our lives.

Would I recommend his book? ABSOLUTELY. Go ahead and grab yourself a copy today. You wont regret it.

Next stop :The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

Karthik

Macbeth : A curious peek into the ides of march

The mere mention of Macbeth brings out fond memories of the humour around ‘ Out damned spot’. The tragedy , till date, has transcended the boundaries of time, those of culture , has broken barriers of language. In fact, the context of the tale still holds well. I must admit that I’ve not dared reading the works. I’ve not watched the play. I settled for the second best. Vishal B’s Maqbool. It’s a take on the story and is set in the backdrop of crime family.

It’s not the tale that got me thinking. I got distracted by the sub plot that fuels the pace of the narration. The three witches got my attention. The three witches, or as I remember them, the sisters of fate are central to the plot. They prophesize the fall of Duncan and also the rise and fall of MacB. While their existence in a tale sure does authenticate the existence of a supernatural, it was not the surreal that caught my attention. There was something simpler and far sinister at play that got me wondering.

If one were to hypothesize the validity of the supernatural, accepting the existence of such powers also does acknowledge the fact that premonitions are a way of life and observed norm. If one were to dispute such an existence, it also throws the prophecy off the window. To sum that up, prophecies are either real or delusions.

With a level playing field set around the context of the supernatural, let’s now take a closer look at the man of the hour, Mr Macbeth. He bears audience to three predictions. The first of the lot occurs and this fuels him to contemplate the murder of the king. He eventually becomes a king himself. The predictions turning real, he also accepts his inevitable fall that he awaits. He does try to mitigate that and we are left with logistics and word play to usher a little misdirection to keep the plot rolling.

Is this all a little too much fantasy to trivialise and rubbish?

A wonderful argument is that Macbeth ‘did’ and acted on an impulse. His deed resulted in a murder and that resulted in him being a king. Prophecies are words and it’s the actions that determine the course of things to come. Without the act of murder, the fates would have remained the same.

Another peek into the event is the source of inspiration from which MacB drew courage. He put his faith into words, a kind of faith that helped him overcome his apprehensions and gave him a purpose to pursue. Would he have killed if not for the words of fate? Would he have killed even if the sisters didn’t mention his fate to be? Guess this swings along the case of to be or not to be.

Choices, and I smile at them today. Choices are an outcome of a determined will. The degree of determination, the grit to a conviction are both an outcome of a choice made, fears mitigated and risks weighed. Which brings the role of the sisters to a possible placebo effect.

We are all a Macbeth in many ways. We hesitate to act on days. We yearn for that word of future to assure us that our actions would yield results. We place the free will of our choices to words of fate. The contradiction is astounding. An assurance of fate warrants an action that goes ahead to alter that fate. In that respect, fate is a derivative of action.

I could argue that words have the power to change too. Words that inspire courage, which alters destinies. Words that fuel a crippling fear that renders us inactive. When that’s the case, words still do alter destinies. Such fear to such words results in us staying in a state of inertia and never quite reaching the pinnacle of our destiny.

It was this conundrum that kept me intrigued about the tragedy. Maybe it does take a little water to wash away the bloodiest of sins. More quite so when one realises that the magnitude of a sin is not measured through actions, but by thoughts that traps us in guilt.

Karthik

Dad

Uncle!’. ‘Uncle, look at me! I can jump and touch the sky’.

I looked towards her and smiled. I gave her a thumbs up. She was a tiny little tot and was a bundle of energetic joy. She was the sunshine of our lives.

‘Way to go sweetheart’ I called out.

She had paused to see what I had to say. Happy with what she had heard, she stretched her arms wide and carried on pretending to be a bird. She soared high. Through the blue sky that was adorned by cotton grey clouds. The grass under her tiny feet was moist and pleasantly cold. Birds paused their chirping to watch her, much to their own amusement. It was a picture perfect afternoon on a quiet September day.

‘Give her time’ Radha whispered into my ear. She took my hand , assuringly and gently gripped them. She then rested her head on my shoulder and closed her eyes.

‘I know’ .

I guess one could call it a fairy tale of sorts. The fact that it was very much unlikely to be a fairy tale, made our story a fable of sorts. It wasn’t love at first sight. It wasn’t boy meets girl, boy falls head over heels, girl plays hard to get and yet flirt in a disguised inviting way. We were friends. We weren’t into each other. We had never been that way, as far as I could remember. I was there when the wedding bells rang. I was there when she blushed red with a satisfied joy in her face and the usual tears of leaving behind the house she had always lived in.

Hers was a fairy tale of sorts. High school sweethearts. Love at first sight. A marriage after an uncomfortable wait. A wait that left many pails of water that refused to flow under the bridge of a bond shared by two hearts. Word became words, words gave life to fights, fights revealed facets of a life. Some faces were scary. She couldn’t deal with it anymore. Her heart crushed, her face bruised, her dreams shattered, she made it home.

Yeah. Hers, one could argue that it was a fairy tale of sorts. The kind of sort that Disney wouldn’t bother making into a movie. I was there when she returned back home. It felt weird to see their home now gripped by a gloomy silence. It felt depressing and that depression felt infectious.

I’ll do it, I found myself say. It wasn’t an act of chivalry, it wasn’t an act of setting things right. I don’t really know why I said it, but I said it none the less. Of course, I was turned down. Persistence persevered. Amidst hushed resentment, it was a discrete family affair and our lives started on a brand new page.

The brand new page indicated a whole new chapter. The new chapter had a new character. Diya. The name that meant direction. She was old enough to know what a family was and a bit young to understand the dynamics of human nature. Diya , she was the much needed direction in our life. Radha and my life usually centred on her. Yeah.

Diya’d usually address me as her uncle. She couldn’t bring herself to call me her dad. Radha would assure me that the transition would eventually happen. It didn’t matter to me. I loved her. She loved me. Ours was a happy family. It was our favorite park. We’d make an effort to spend a lot of time there. Diya would run about till she tired herself out. Her excitement was never concealed. She was never short of tall tales of birds and animals that spoke to her in the park. Her imagination was as wild as her spirit. The routine was a norm. The Saturdays were spent in the park. Our little family flourished with smiles and love.

I still remember the wonderful day when Diya called me her dad. It was a Saturday, of course it was. The little one had woken up early. She had walked to my bed. She had scaled my chest, pried my sleepy eyes open.

‘Lets go to the park Daddy’ she begged sweetly. I kissed her forehead. Asked her to get ready. Radha was impressed at her daughter’s determination to shower and dress up for the big day. Every once a while, she’d scream ‘ lets go go go daddy’. Simple words, but it warmed the depths of my soul. It felt like the most special thing that had ever happened to my life.

As we readied ourselves to leave, my phone buzzed. Against my enforced principle of leaving my work at the doorstep, I had to take that call. The two ladies of my life decided to make a start, leaving me behind. The park wasn’t that far anyways. It was a short bus ride away. Four stops and twenty minutes away. I hinted that I’d join them shortly. I knew our usual bench. I knew our usual routine. Spirited Diya would wander aimlessly. Her curiosity would know no bounds. Radha and I would sit on the same bench. We were happy with the ‘Dad’ status.

****

The city rocked from the blast. Another act that hoped to represent an ideology, a god, or whatever the demented disillusioned mind chose to believe in. My world fell apart. I reasoned with it, I justified it all, I stopped reasoning and kept myself from justifying it all. Life had happened and I couldn’t reconcile it any longer.

And so after a year, I’m back in the park again. Diya is out there, playing and running on a lush carpet of green grass, under the blanket of a blue cloudless sky. Radha’s head is rested on my shoulder. It was all happening, none of it was real or fiction. It was a moment that was trapped between a world of what if and a world of if only. My salvation was a chrome steel and a river of red crimson. The world could deal with the mess that I’d leave behind.

As I said, my life turned out to be a fairy tale after all. I would go on to have a happily forever after.

Karthik

Note: Inspired by a day spent in Kew Gardens! What can I say, I do love a good tragedy!

Journey of a million miles

It was odd. These days, everything is odd. I couldn't start where the absurdity began. I couldn't put a finger on the frenzy that it all was. If I may, I'd skip the oddities and craziness of the world around and restrict myself to the nature throwing me a curve ball. The land covered in white of the snow, the biting cold, the defeated sun and it's near sterile rays, I couldn't quite fathom the heat that seemed to be emitting from somewhere beyond my eyes. It didn't make sense. On that cold day, it wasn't the cold that made me comfortable. The heat felt unbearably torturing.

The queue was long. It was going to be a long wait ahead. I gently smiled at the irony to the moment. Nothing felt rushed. A gentle subtle and a near final reminder that nothing was meant to be rushed in life. The thoughts amused me. All things aside, I found myself smiling like a silly man. The smile was a rare commodity. The grave grim air around us couldn't tolerate the conspicuous smile. Eyes cast on me. I knew the eyes. I knew. I had no comfort or justification to reciprocate those glances. I let them be. I had built a wall around my mind to phase them out of my peripheral attention. I denied the world around an acknowledgement.

It wasn't long before I had to sacrifice my decision to disown the world around me. I couldn't. He wouldn't let me be. A little boy of possibly eight. His eyes looked bored. He looked a bit tired but then again, so was everybody else. The wonders and magic of a confused winter morning. He had an air of curiosity about him, that little boy. While I could stereotype the gazes that I was attracting from everyone else, his, his was different. His eyes neither passed a judgement nor represented the cold sadness. He was just himself. He viewed the world through his curious little eyes. Everything fascinated him. Everything was new to him. Everything excited him. Everything.

'Hallo' I gently waved my hand to engage a conversation with him. He was standing with his dad a few places ahead. I must have caught him off his guard. Part embarrassed, part flustered, he quickly turned around and gripped his father's hand tight. I was amused by his innocent juvenile reaction. Kids will be kids and I quite enjoyed his little panic. The boy didn't give up. Not yet. He took his moment, gathered his courage and turned back. He meekly waved his hand and said nothing. The boy's action did stir his dad's inertia. He turned back and smiled. There was a certain relief on his face. He quickly turned his face again to look straight.

The little boy stood watching the place for a while. Outwitted by his boredom, he decided to embark on a tiny adventure. He walked towards me.

'Do I know you?' his gentle soft voice pierced through the cold silence.

'Ja', I promptly replied. You see, I started, we are but friends from a long long time ago. You and I have always been friends. You grew bored, just like how you are bored now, and that explains why you are little today. I have never been bored. I've always played my games, been a silly explorer. That's why I'm old now. Just as old as your dad.

The boy wasn't sure on how he had to comprehend what he had heard. His curiosity had gotten the better of him. He asked me a lot of questions. How? what? When? Are you lying? He'd ask me from time to time.

And so began the long tale of two friends who first met when the earth itself was young. This was the time after the apple incident. This was the time after the floods. The lands had been painted green, and that's where we had met first. He was a tiger, I was a lion. We had roamed carelessly in the jungle. We had played in the meadows, given hunters the slip, we had hunted together for the longest of while. One stormy night, we had walked our separate roads.

'I was a tiger?' he asked me in excitement.

'Ja', 'See that explains why you are always excited and brave. Just like the tiger you once were' I explained .

That had made sense to him.

As the story progressed, he and I had been friends in the wild. Eagle and a hawk. We had been trees too. We finally became men. Ah yes, that was a fun age. French one time, ancient heretic Indian once. We had met so many times and there were times when we weren't friends any more. The thought that we weren't friends seemed to sadden him a bit.

'Oh don't be sad' I tried to comfort him. See, we are friends now. That's how it is. We always spot each other.

That seemed to cheer the little rascal a bit. We went on to talk about his school, his friends. The queue had moved further quite significantly.

'Ok bye' he enthusiastically shrieked. I bid him a silent farewell. It was odd indeed. An odd day to make a new friend. An odd day to die. My journey from Berlin to Auschwitz was not as foreboding as I thought it would be. It was a day to remember. The kind of day that was hot for a given winter morning. The kind of day when two very old friends got to meet each other. I wanted the silly tale to be true. I wished there was some truth to it. It was after all the last day under the sun for both of us. The sadness in the eyes of the world managed to find mine too.

************

'Mummy' I kept pestering my mother. I was too little to know what depressing meant, but I was old enough to feel it crushing my enthusiasm. The hall was depressingly boring. I fidgeted restlessly. My mother wouldn't bother pacifying me. Glued to her fancy rectangle box of sorts, she kept staring into it irritably. It was not the day where I could manage to draw her attention gravitate towards me. Defeated, I gave up without a fight. I looked around to see the place. Old people, coughing people sick people were around. This was not the way I had intended to spend the day. I fancied a walk in the park instead. The kind of park where there were gulls to feed, pigeons to shoo. This was boring.

As I grazed my eyes across the room, I couldn't help but stare at this old man. He looked like a proper grandfather. The grey, the way his face was, full of folks. I think it's called rinkle or something. Rinkles scare mummy. I've heard her talk about it. He looked old.

'Hello little princess' he called out softly.

Mummy shot her eyes away from the box thing and directed it towards the grandfather. 'Agatha, don't bother the nice gentleman there' she blurted a noncommittal warning. She was happy to get rid of me , she was happy to have me bother someone else. I walked towards the old man.

'Do I know you?' I asked him curiously.

'Oh, but we are friends, from a long long time ago, little one' he replied in excitement.

Karthik

Tale inspired by this little girl, with an angel face who waved a familiar hi. We didn't speak, it was a very short hi. She smiled as her car picked up speed and left me standing and wondering if She and I were friends from a long long time ago. What can I say, Life inspires Life.

Book Review : Never let me go , Kazuo Ishiguro

nlmg

 

Two down, three more to go. On a whim, I picked five books from the list of 100 books to read before you die. I started that journey with , The book Thief, Book review : The book thief, this is the second one that I’ve survived.

 

Right off the bat, Never let me go , personally, was not a easy book to read. I struggled with it. It is a slow paced narrative that captures the lives of three friends, Ruth, Tommy and the narrator, Kathy. Endure it, the book rewards you with more questions that challenge the status quo of life itself. I’m glad that I endured the first slog. The questions that you’d be left with in the end, necessarily are the questions that you’d be asking yourself. You could be asking yourself. I have a few doing numbers in my head now.

 

The story starts off at Hailsham which is a boarding school. I reckon the narrator and her friends were right about 10 when the their tale starts. I could be wrong, but their ages would be in the ballpark of early teens. Their school is a special school indeed. There is a very limited connect with the outside world. The school has it’s own eco-system. It runs it’s own economy in the form of sales and exchanges. Typical kids, typical teachers whom the kids refer to as Guardians. A lot gets told and a lot gets told as the story goes on. The book, is the recount of the narrator when she’s in her thirties. The narration effortlessly switches between the two point of views of Kathy. The things she now knows at 30, and the things she’d eventually end up figuring out in due course of time.

 

I’d probably refrain from giving out the plot. Life happens and friends fight and split. They get back together and do things change? Does love really blossom, is there true love in the world? All these questions would go answered by the book. These are the bits that wouldn’t really matter when you reach the end. There are far important questions that beg to be answered. I can only hope that we , the readers, manage to find the answers to all those questions.

 

I can’t help but wonder about life right now. Given the context of life, If I could meet God, if I wanted her help, would I brave asking her? Would I have the strength to listen to the one true north of the truth? Would I have the courage to sit through that conversation? What if God were to tell me that I always had it in me to solve all my problems, face all my challenges ? What if god were to tell that she wasn’t interested in my petty life and that I was an insignificant speck to her? Could I handle the truth?

 

This book follows a path of destiny. The characters are ,in course of time and probably deep down were, always aware of their destiny. Why do we have a destiny? Why do we not challenge it? Why do we not fight for it or fight against it? Why do we succumb and surrender to it instead of trying and failing at a shot of changing the very course of it? Why indeed. Why do we eventually give up? Is it because we grow tired and weak and numb from the things we endure? Is it because resistance is futile? Is it because we feel compelled to oblige to the grand scheme of things?

 

Would it be any different if we had that sight of that destiny? Is that sight of the future the root cause of all our failures in the name of compliance? I don’t know. I feel angered by the very thought that I am a puppet and I’m suspended by strings.

 

There are themes to the book which I both enjoy and mull thinking about. The nature of creator, that is god, if we are in her image, do we not deserve the liberties and luxuries that god enjoys? There is discrimination and we all suffer it and tolerate it. While reading the book thief, all I could see was life. The juxtaposition is ironic. While all I got to read here was about the lives of the friends, all I could see was death. Both books bank on the inevitable nature of death. Both books outline the life that is lived while we wait for the death’s eventful embrace.

 

I loved the way their friendship was explained in the book. They start as thick as thieves, they drift apart, they converge and life’s final full stop. I couldn’t help but reminisce about the people I’ve left behind. Wistfully, I indulged a few thoughts about the times that were. Ironically, the book reflects life. With bills to pay, life to lead, we do overcome such challenges with people and we are often left with no time to dwell in the past.

This review barely scratches the surface of what the book has to offer. In light of spoilers, I am forced to leave you with generic questions that would haunt your mind post the read.

For what it’s worth, I feel happy that the book delivered on it’s promise. It did leave me questioning humanity and humaneness , just as the book said I would. It’s been a hard read.  I don’t know if I’d really recommend this for public consumption. Read it at your own discretion. The list of 100 before you die, this book does deserve it’s place there.

 

Karthik

 

H for Himmel

"The words. Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn't be any of this. Without words, the Führer was nothing. There would be no limping prisoners, no need for consolation or wordly tricks to make us feel better.
What good were the words?" – The book thief

Oh but when it comes to rules, I do find myself breaking most of them from time to time. However, there are those rules which I wouldn't dare challenge. One such rule is the one about not writing a book review without actually finishing a book. Bound by this innate compulsion, I put a brave fight to not write a review today. Well , almost. Rules are meant to be broken. I do love the loopholes. I found one today. Conformance meets rebellion. Win-Win.

Himmel. The word means heaven in German. There are times when I wonder about the heavens. There were many times when I had teased my mum about her theory of finding peace in the Himalayas. 'Why go all the way there to find peace? Why cant you find it here, in our house?'. Our arguments would reach a stalemate and we skip to other things to fight about.

The word of the day is Himmel. I want to talk about it. Himmel is also the name of a place where the story of the book unfolds. But enough about that book. I've treaded far enough already. The restless curiosity in me at the verge of eruption. If only I could fake an ailment, scuttle back home and find comforts of my bed and continue reading the book. If only!

How would you describe a Himmel? Is it the land of clouds, harps, angels, grass and greenery, scenery that would gather a billion likes on instagram if shot and uploaded without filters. 2 billion likes with the filters used. What does heaven sound like? Is it a land of serenity , far away from the reach of the common bloke. Is death the only eligibility criteria to enter the gates?

The answers could be as diverse as possible. The answers would only be limited by the imagination of folks responding to the question. Heaven is all set to be whatever we choose for it to be. There are ideas of rules and imposed ideologies that surround it. What can I say, rules… what good are they if we don't dare breaking them from time to time. The purist version of heaven is in place to keep most of us away. The classification of life, the nature of life lived, the acknowledgement of living by a given code, yadi-yadi-ya… in the modern age, it's called discrimination.

Similar to the thought along Himmel, what does it mean to have a happy life? Happiness is a lot to a lot of people. Unlike heaven, the description of happiness is not limited by the creativity or insanity of the mind of the responder. This is limited by wistfulness. Happiness , that happy life is everything that we currently lack. It probably would be a precursor to all the things that we'd have robbed away from our own selves. Sad and true and inevitable. By virtue of reasoning, that places happiness as one of the most lucrative sour grape. There, and just a whisker away from reach.

I asked myself a question today. In fact, I asked my self a question that was asked to me yesterday. Do we need an adversity to appreciate the valour in us? Do we need catastrophe to realize that there is a hero in us? Do I need to lead a miserable life to acknowledge what it means to be alive? The answer is an assertive NO. I realized the celebration of life through tears.

As the book went on, in a random instant, I felt overwhelmed emotionally by what I had just read. Instinctively and subconsciously, I shed a few tears. I stayed aware of where I was and realized I had a stranger staring at me. He looked at me, he looked at the book and I guess he wondered what the hell wag going around. I felt a little silly , weeping like a little ducky and a little flushed embarrassment later, I closed the book and decided to read it later. Two things happened then.. actually make it 3.

1. I wanted to cry freely , to my heart's content, in the safety and privacy of my house, till I could vent out the sadness from the book.
2. I realized that the book was more about a celebration of life. It was not a death that brought tears. It was a fond cherished memory of the characters lives that broke me down.
3. I felt super satisfied at accepting the humanity in me, to feel comfortable enough to cry a little. I felt alive.

Life without acknowledgement of life is barely a life at all. Yes, just like Himmel, we'd want to paint a million shades to our definition of happy. If this.. If only that.. Had I had that….. All I need is that…. and Cut the EXCUSES. We feel comfortable refusing to accept that we are capable of being happy the way we are. We refuse to acknowledge the little things that we achieve and accomplish each day. We refuse to let our smiles live in dignity, without fear of being compared to a imaginative figment of happiness whose only purpose is to keep us in a state of stasis, acting as a carrot at the end of a long stick. There are a lot many days where we can be happy with what, where, when, who and hows of being ourselves.

I guess celebration of life is not meant to follow once the curtain falls and the actors disappear into obscurity. Everything is just a state of the mind. Except Poverty.. take that Mr R G!

Karthik

I’m working on it

The rumbling sound of the bus was comforting and soothing in a way. With thirty hours to kill, a thousand kilometres to tread, time facilitated a wonderful opportunity for two people to catch up on a life that they had shared together for decades. He was dressed in brown and black, pretty oldmanish by the current fashion trends. His shoes were neatly polished. He was a creature of habit. She was dressed the way most grandmothers were dressed. Thick woollen sweater , a shade of pink to it.

The bus powered on. The milestones kept passing by. The enthusiasm that had once gripped the bus , gradually fizzed away. The toll of the long strenuous journey ahead was already visible. The sound of the bus, the rhythmic sweep of distinct snores and a few hushed conversations added to the silence of the moment.

'So what's it going to be now?' he whispered softly to her ear.

His voice was drowned by the ambience. He tried again, only a little more louder this time. She hadn't replied but the subtle change in her hue from her warm blush conveyed a different story. It was not the first time she had faced that question. It was not the first time that he had asked her that question. It was definitely not the last time that the question would be asked.

There was a time when they were both young. New to the world of being an adult. New to the ways of shared responsibilities. Novice to a life , planning to be lived as one. Their conversations were new. Curious questions were exchanged that spanned across colors of choices and preferences galore. It wasn't the age where lifestyle , outlook to life and life's billion choices were exhaustively discussed. Theirs was a simple conversation of discovering each other. The run up to the big event was short. Shorter timeline did catalyse quicker decisions.

'So, what's it going to be now?' he popped his question with a blush.

She looked deep into his eyes and smiled. 'I don't know. I'm working on it' she said.

The date set, the festive in progress , amidst the chaos there was a moment that was theirs alone. The opportune young lad ,with a heart brimming with excitement and dreams of a new beginning, sneaked in his question in a whisper. Hers was a reply reciprocated in whispered secrecy. I'm working on it, she hushed softly.

The tide of time came rushing in. The young ones were not so young any more. The pressures of life had started to sink in. There were smiles. There were fights and verbal duels. Tempers flared from time to time. Love's warmth managed to keep them cosy despite the challenges. From time to time the question would be asked. Time and again, her consistent reply never shook away from it's resolve. They were two , aligned to each other, accommodating each other, enduring each other when the days were hard.

Life bloomed and with it another life bloomed too. The daily challenges of soiled diapers and screams from a little soul kept the two occupied. Time , for once, had refused to slow down. It sped up instead. The twenty five years that followed , passed them by like a blur. The youngling had grown into a dashing handsome man. It was the time for him to kick start a story of his own. The tide of time appeared to remain constant through the iterations witnessed by different eyes. He was a reflection of his parents. He brought the foundations of a happy home to the table. He went on to live a happily ever after tale of sorts. Unperturbed by the oddities of luck and challenges. He endured where he ought to, he enjoyed where he could.

The wheels turned ahead and life bloomed once again. Grey hairs greeted fresh black patch of hair. They shared a satisfied smile when they met their granddaughter. Paradise had found itself on earth.

Life almost lived in full, well almost, the old in body, young at heart couple decided to pursue the dreams that had dared having when they started their life together , all those many years ago. They booked their bus to Leh. A thirty three hour ride on the road. A journey of thousand kilometres was in front of them. The two sat in their designated seat. She rested her head on his shoulder, like the way she had always rested. He pat gently on her head, like the way he had always patted. He'd gently stroke her greyed hair. The color had changed over the years. The gesture had remained the same.

The bus slowly clocked the miles. With nothing else to do, the opportune lad, who was young at heart, decided to give his question another shot. Quite a few years had passed and he had almost forgotten that question of his. That day seemed to be a day like any other. It felt like a good day to pop the question again. He knew that answer that would come. It made no difference to him any more. It was a question, a question meant to be asked. The question had lost it's relevance decades ago.

'So..' he asked

'Ah haan' she acknowledged.

'So.. What's it going to be now? Do you love me?. For all the years we've been together, of all the things we've survived, of all the time that gone past us, not once have you told me that you loved me'.

She sat in comforted silence. She had seen her fair share of ugly challenges over the years. This question, that statement , by no means was a challenge that would break a sweat in her. Nonetheless, it was just about the right time to respond to that, she thought.

'The thing is…' she started slowly. ' Till the point we met, everyone that I had loved dearly, had either died or left. I didn't know why. Deep down , I felt I was cursed. There wasn't much that I could do about it. And then my grandparents introduced us. I had a jinx to battle. I lacked both the strength and courage to test that theory. A while later, I knew I couldn't bear losing you. I still can't. You are the best thing that's ever happened to me. So… ' she paused.

'So…', he curiously asked.

'Does it matter now. For what it's worth, I don't know. I'm working on it'.

Karthik

PS: Reading does wonders to the writing process. I'm so glad that I'm back to good old reading 🙂