Live, Leave

(this has been sitting on the stove for too long. patience died. the title is no more a title.)

I sit in the bus, the sweater pulled around my shoulders. It isn't cold but I need the extra warmth. I am leaving town after all and without a good-bye wave to anyone or a polite nod that would've meant, "Until next time then". The bus would stand still for another 25 minutes. Until then I am left to ponder the cloudscape - my send off party, I presume.

I wonder if I'll miss anything or anyone. Surely, this question has been through the mind of every single person that has ever fled from his life, his town or anything else for that matter. I have walked on these roads for years, I have shopped at this convenience store, I have seen these people that I look at from behind tinted windows. I even know the names of some of those people. That's Ram, he runs the only restaurant in town - a sorry little affair with only two tables. He's a happy man though, it shows on his face even now. Oh and that woman in the red sari sitting behind that pot of buttermilk. I think her name is Lekha. She has set up shop at the same spot for over five summers now. She doesn't live here, she has to travel 10 miles everyday to get here. The ragged dog that you see hanging around Ram's restaurant, that's Tony. Tony is what all of us call him. He's ragged but always clean. I suspect that he is someone's pet but nobody owns up to being Tony's master.

I have lived in this small settlement forever. Do you see the tree that stands alone on that small path which leads into town? That's the tree I used to pelt with stones as a kid. The juicy tamarinds were every boy and girl's favourite. Not mine though. I felled the pods for my best friends - Meera and Prashant. I don't want to think about them now, but I know that my mind will wander back to them.

We grew up together - the three of us. We were friends even before we started school. Our mothers used to visit each other all the time and we would be left to play our games.

If things were different, I would have gone to college in another year. Meera wasn't too keen about college and she always dreamt about waiting, while Prashant and I worked towards a job. She always talked about the longing and the pain of the wait. She was a romantic and you didn't have to see her half-dreamy eyes to know that. Before I miss the point, I should clarify something. Meera and Prashant were in love. The whole town knew it, their parents too. When Meera spoke dreadfully mushy things it was about Prashant. Not me.

Their togetherness often annoyed me. I was happy for them and all that, but it often got weird when after talking about something for a long time I realised that they were lost in their own lovey-dovey world. They were a sweet couple - the two of them. I used to watch them walk hand-in-hand, blissfully aware of only themselves and wonder if love would strike me ever.

Prashant died last week. At my hands. It was an accident but I don't expect anyone to understand that. Noone else knows how he died, only Meera and I were present there. Meera is no longer in a position to talk about it though. She has retracted her life into some hidden corner within herself. I am leaving town because I cannot bear her lifelessness. She thinks I pushed him into the rushing train's path. I can see it in her eyes.

There he is. The driver that would drive me away in this tin-box bus. He wouldn't understand the significance of today's journey. I'm sure he doesn't find anything different from his routine. He's walking up to the same bus now, spits into the same corner and wipes the same palm across his face.

The wind feels nice. I wish it blows away all the negatives that are on my mind. The memories too, if it could. The familiar fields pass by, weaving a farewell tapestry. I can feel my heart wrenching its way away from this heartland. It's tearing away with a fleshy rip - long drawn and painful. I hope the pain is just the rite of passage to something less empty and further from the present.

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Wind of change

What would you do? When the pearl that's been denied you for so long is now within your reach, what do you do? When the clouds decide to sprinkle you in the midst of a long, dry desert walk. When a cold breeze flows in from the sea, spotting you with goosebumps? What do you do then?
Will you jump up and down like on a trampoline? Would you have a grin stuck to your face all the time? Would your dreams, until then gray and black, turn into technicolor fantasies? Would your days be filled with sunshine and your nights with peace?

Have you ever felt what it is to be on cloud nine? Really known that feeling?

Do you fear that the elation will fade away one day? Not because the reason to feel elated is missing, just that you have gotten used to the feeling. Do you worry about the storms that are yet to come? Or should you enjoy the glory of the moment and drown your worries in its golden glow? You have come this far and it shouldn't be more difficult to go further. Once you have experienced the cold, the river is indeed a calming balm.

Won't you let yourself float in this lovely river? Won't you let the river take away your baggage and turn you into the lightest winged fly? Come, you are worthy of it. Come, wash away your past with this cool splash. For there are miles to go on this joyride and you won't want to miss a thing.

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Fly the good times...

yeah. trip to chennai last friday. company sponsored. Chance to fly the good times. The air hostesses are a hype. in my humble opinion. I, perhaps, expected Yana to be on the flight. They were polite though. All of the ground staff were too. Except for the woman at the check-in counter. I should've taken the baggage on board. Sheesh!! Had to wait in the queue to check the baggage in, inspite of a web check-in and a printed boarding pass. Neat touch that - self-printed boarding pass. Do all airlines do that now with web check-in? If I had only carry-on baggage, I could've walked straight from the airport entrance to the security check and boarded the flight. Ah! That would've been so pleasant.

In-flight magazine is hundreds of page 3. Mallya is on most of them. So are a number of pretty women. Thumbed through the mag in less than 1 minute. Not my type of reading material. In-flight entertainment. the video is a mix of tv channels - ndtv, hungama, etc. The audio channels had a nice selection of rock and jazz. The headphones (which you can take away with you) were of standard issue airplane sound-quality. Should have brought my earplugs along.

Flight to chennai was a mere 30 minute affair for the jet. Dinner was three *small* aloo-masala sandwiches. You are given exactly 7 minutes to gobble it all up before the hostess is back for the tray. :) Can't blame them though. Baggage was out quick.

Return flight from chennai. Extremely polite and helpful ground staff. They are all over you. In a nice way. Infact my check-in baggage was carried across to the check-in counter by one of the ground staff. Wow!!

Plane was an ATR72. The turbo-prop toyplane (Ok, I agree it is not that small). The one with those huge exhaust fans. Well, they are not exactly exhaust fans.. Before boarding, I was wondering how the plane would even fly. After boarding, I was blown away by the interior.. Cushy, really cushy seats. fake leather, I presume.. enormous legroom. I could sit with my legs crossed. Do they fly this thing to other destinations? Both sides are two-seaters. that's all the plane can contain. Only one class. No economy/first/business. Would make it my choice of flight. :)

My window seat's window opened right out to the edge of the fan's blade. Scary to see the blade rev up and spin at those mind-numbing rpms. What the heck would I do if the fan decided to unhinge? :-O

Food was great - comparatively speaking. I don't expect much from airline food, so my opinion might be coloured. Steaming hot chicken-egg fried rice, chicken in some sauce (the menu card claimed basil-flavoured sauce), salad of corn-cucumber-peppers and rasmalai for dessert. Decent food and a very pleasant hostess.

Yeah, definitely the good times.

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Heart Strums

The stream of light circled the floor until it found the guitarist and flooded him with its white shine. He sat on a tall stool, his hair brushed back, one leg on the floor and the other tucked onto the stool's lower step. His face was lifted up into the glow of the light, exalted and content. The guitar stood with its side resting on his thigh. His left hand held its neck in a loving embrace as the fingers on his other hand gently caressed the wood, lightly reaching up towards the strings strung taut against the body. He was in love with his guitar and with the music that came forth from its hollow like a coin from thin air.

He sat in the front row, watching the guitarist performing a ritual so close to his heart. He closed his eyes to listen to the ecstatic cries of the strings as the guitarist moved his fingers from fret to fret. He felt the friction slide through his own body. He watched as the fingers waltzed around the sounding board, playing and cajoling the strings to dance to the rhythm, that ironically was their own. The air reverberated with the notes that flowed as part of it. He could sense the heart beats of space salute the notes that passed through it. He listened with wonder as unrelated sounds came together into an all-encompassing oneness.

He had wanted to be there. He dreamt that he could be there. Not in the limelight. Just the center of where music came from. Where the music relived its life. To swim in the fluidity of the guitar chords. To pick notes that could set pulses to dance along. To be able to slide his fingers across the fret to arouse the rose wood into a sensual rendition of its song of joy. He wished he were able to conjure order out of chaos, music out of crude sounds, joy out of thin air.

He wanted to be there but he wasn't. He called himself a loser and immersed himself into the dream that the true artist weaved for losers like himself.

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Touching Lives

What does it take to touch people and lives, that a foe stands by to show you his respect? What does it take to leave behind a mark? Not something that has quantity or weight. Not a statue, not an elegant tombstone. Just the thoughts that reside in a mind. Not the story of your life, not of your success. Just the remembrance of a moment. Like the softness of a rose, long withered.

Or would you rather melt away into oblivion? Ash to ash, dust to dust. Leaving behind no footprints in the sands.

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