“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Friday, March 25, 2011

Road Rage

(Mother holding up photograph of her daughter, a victim of hit & run in Los Angeles)


It is 0935 hrs today; I am on my way to office on my Bullet motorcycle. On a narrow, dipping, curved stretch, a Honda bike comes straight at me, swerves to avoid a ditch and wham! , hits my right side. I am a fast rider, but very careful one. I am at around 40kmph when the bike hits me. Because my bike is heavy and at the last moment I had swerved to the left, I escape with a torn footwear and a sprained little finger. My toes are miraculously intact, except for a little pain. He had hit my brake and footrest with his bumper; both brake pedal and footrest got twisted and jammed. The fellow stops 10 mts away, glances back at me, and rush away.

I am 53; most of my peers do not ride a bike anymore; they drive cars. I am an expert biker, so I survive these lawless roads and drivers somehow. Suddenly, I am no longer the middle-aged man; I twist my bike around and give him chase. He dances through the oncoming traffic, takes unexpected turns and is a good 200 mts ahead. I blare my horn, my bike roars. 2 kms away, I catch up with him, overtakes, cuts across his path, gets down and as he removes his helmet, slams a right hook on to his jaw that sent him tumbling down from his bike. I pick him up by the shirt front, clinically assess the vulnerable points. He is taller, bigger, younger. I ask him, why the fuck did he run away. He said I am in a hurry. Exposed midriff. I punch him right on his belly and he doubles up like a folded paper. My right elbow hammers down on his back, and as he crumbles, I straighten him up and taking up a boxer’s stance, hit him with both my fists. The fellow bellows, don’t hit me, I am sorry.

Hit and run. You read it in the newspapers every day. You see it on the roads; Kerala has the highest number of road casualties.

A crowd gathers. People try to pull me apart as I take his keys away from his bike. People are shocked by the brutal attack. They threaten me. Some try to fling a punch at me, but I am too fast. I am surprised that the crowd lets the man go and turn their wrath upon me. I show them my bike, my torn chappals, my finger that had started to swell. You shouldn’t have hit him, there is Police to take care of such things. Accidents happen on the roads, they say, but you don’t hit people. Would you hit if it were your son? Don’t think we will care if you are an old bugger, we can beat you up worse.

In spite of the adrenalin rush, I am cool. I ask them – so you would rather side with someone who drives carelessly, hits me and tries to get away?

Moderates turn up and advise me to get lost fast. I move, though not so fast. Who the fuck are you to take law unto your hands, one man asks. I grin at him wryly; he is incensed. Look at the old fart laughing, he says and advances threateningly.

Once in a while the tables can be turned. Once in a while the victim avenges. Once in a while, you deny the onlookers the satisfaction of clucking their tongues at the poor bastard who got a raw deal.

I am unable to go to office. I call them up, take my bike to a mechanic and the damage costs me Rs.1,100/- plus a new pair of footwear.

I am not gloating about the violent way I beat him up; it has been decades since I got involved in a scuffle. But everyday on the road, I see youngsters getting away with rash driving, leaving the victims without a glance of concern. Those hooks on his chin, those punches on his midriff, that elbow hammering on his back- that’s for every single one of them who have cared nought about others.

And as for the onlookers, I realize what angered them was to see a victim fighting back. It has been like that every instance. When a woman retaliates at an attempted molestation, the sympathy of the crowd goes to the molester. If she just sits down and sobs, the crowd will make appropriate noises of sympathy and covertly watch her exposed body. If an old man is pick-pocketed, they will shake their heads at the lawlessness and feel their own wallets. If a child is hit as it runs across the road, they will blame the child and not the speeding driver.

Here, I raise my middle finger in salute, onlookers!

********** Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 25.03.2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

Journey without Maps

(Unpublished poem, now unearthed)

Could you walk- with

Your hand in mine?

Could you see – life

The way I see?

Would you care- to

Share my pain?

Would your heart - beat

As would mine?

Would you love- the

Things I do? Would you

Trust, would you be true,

Would you have faith as I have in you?

You said yes? Then come!

There is no road no map no light to guide

Only my love to ward off the cold

It might be short or last forever,

But know, for once, we walked as one.


Balachandran, Bombay 02.02.2004

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kurosawa’s Dream

Hina Matsuri, the Doll Festival, traditionally takes place in spring when the peach blossoms are in full bloom. The dolls that go on display at this time, they say, are representative of the peach trees and their pink blossoms. One boy's family, however, has chopped down their peach orchard, so the boy feels a sense of loss during this year's festival. After being scolded by his older sister the boy spots a small girl running out the front door. He follows her to the now-treeless orchard, where the dolls from his sister's collection have come to life and are standing before him on the slopes of the orchard. The living dolls, revealing themselves to be the spirits of the peach trees, berate the boy about chopping down the precious trees. But after realizing how much he loved the blossoms, they agree to give him one last glance at the peach trees by way of a slow and beautiful dance to Etenraku. After they disappear the boy finds the small girl walking among the treeless orchard before seeing a single peach tree sprouting in her place.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreams_(film) :The Peach Orchard – from Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Dreams’

A nation that was brought down to its knees by nuclear bombs – remember ‘Little Boy’? Generations continue to suffer the ill-effects of those nuclear holocausts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But what has that enlightened civilization that gives us the best cars and the best cameras learned from its experience? They built nuclear power stations of their own.
And then, Tsunami came.

Down the series of short movies, there is another 'dream',

Mount Fuji in Red

The film's second nightmare sequence. A large nuclear power plant near Mount Fuji has begun to melt down, painting the sky a horrendous red and sending the millions of Japanese citizens desperately fleeing into the ocean. Three adults and two children are left behind on land, but they soon realize that the radiation will kill them anyway.

Balachandran V, Trivandrum 16.03.2011

Saturday, March 12, 2011

To you who were you

Believe me, the boy said, I did love you with all my heart.
There was a time when not even a cloud would cloud
The sunshine that you were to me.
Not a bird would dare, not a flower would bare
Its beauty before me, for
In the burning fire of my love for you
Would they turn crisp to ashes, I had loved you so.

You call me now a coward for telling you the truth
The truth that my heart no longer yearns for you.
Would you rather I lied, pretended a feeling
Smiled, held you in my arms, my mind though, with another?

True, there was a time when you were my true love,
My eternal flame, I knew you were
But how were I to know my heart?
Love, my dear, is not for the person
But for what the person means to me.
If my heart transgressed, so too would have you
For you were no longer the you, you were.
***************** Balachandran V, Trivandrum 12.03.2011

This is a weak attempt at connecting to the poem of B Log.
See http://spice-n-ice.blogspot.com/2011/03/coward.html

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Confessions of a mean mind

Long ago, a friend of mine replied to my SMS which I had sent in a moment of self-pity; it was something like how mediocre I am. My friend replied: ‘You are not mediocre, but you deliberately make yourself so. You are surprisingly devoid of airs; comparatively, that is. Intelligent, creative, but sometimes very very mean.’ Even after 5 years, it rankles in my mind. Every time I do something mean or petty, I am reminded of the SMS saved in my mobile. Regret and shame about myself ferment in my heart. These are the moments when one glimpses the shades of ugliness in oneself.

A year ago, a close friend had asked me to sponsor a poor child’s education; it is managed by a charity that he is associated with. I gladly agreed and paid. I should have remembered that it is a life-long commitment; perhaps I forgot it conveniently. A couple of weeks back he telephoned me to remind that the next instalment was due. The amount isn’t huge; Rs.4,000/- or so. He must have caught me at the wrong moment; I said I couldn’t donate further. I told him that I am at present going through a financial crunch (which is true) and that as such I do have a lot of other charities (which is also true) to which I donate considerable sums and therefore I cannot contribute further. It was only natural that he should be miffed, but being a good and close friend he is, he said nothing else.

The matter should have ended there. I feel self-righteous when once in a while I say no to something which I feel is a no-no.

A few days back, we were chatting on phone. As good and old friends that we are, there is always a lot of ribbing each other. Do you think, young readers, that at middle age, all that we men talk about is money or spirituality? Dead wrong! We talk mostly sex, the way teenagers do, with a lot of chuckling and giggling and in between, sighing that our good old days were gone. And we talk a lot about food. And drinks. Though none of us are hard drinkers, some of us indulge in daily shots; some, like me, once or twice a month or whenever good drinking companions (read close friends) turn up.

Now, this particular friend has access to high quality liquor, much to the envy of others. Though he doesn't lavish much on us, out of our envy we tease him about the not-so above board channels through which he gets his Scotch. I ask him, ‘Dey, when are you going to get me a ‘Glenlivet’? Now, to the ignorant, Glenlivet is the holiest of holy Scotches in the world. Suddenly, there is a change of tone in his voice. It rasps. It whips as he draws it from behind. ‘No more Glenliveting for you. Its all accounted for the donation for the child. I had to shell out the money for you’.

For a moment, I was too stunned to reply. ‘But’, I asked, ‘Why? That was a one-time thing and’ – ‘No’, he cut in. ‘You had sponsored the child’s education and now they have to find another sponsor. Since it was I who introduced you, I have transferred the sponsorship to me and I have paid the instalment’. I was at a total loss for words and somehow managed to end the conversation.

It left an unpleasant taste. For one, I hadn’t honoured my commitment; two, my friend had to bear its cost; three – and the most hurting of them all – that my friend slammed me with the bottle of Glenlivet – and boy, that really hurt! Perhaps if he had insisted that I meet my commitment, I would have given him the money.

So last week, I sent him a draft for a part amount. I wrote to him that I am sorry that he had to bear the expense, so kindly accept this, but of course, the matter should end here. We even talked to each other over phone, teased and laughed about other things, everything seemed to be fine.

Then, today he returned the draft to me. Accompanying the draft was a piece of paper torn from a notebook. Written by a child, it read: ‘Respected sir, My name is Vibiya I am studing VI standerd. next I am sincerly thanked you. by Vibiya.’

And he had written me a letter – as far as my memory goes back, this could be the first ever hand-written letter I have received from him in the 25 years of our friendship. He wrote; ‘Dear Bala, I forward the thanks letter from Ms.Vibiya, the child who was under your sponsorship. I am glad you could contribute to your best for the child. Please don’t worry, we will find some other sponsor for the child. I am unable to accept any money in my name on behalf of the organization; hence I return the DD. Moreover, the organization does not accept donations as such.

I thank you very much for your goodness you have shown so far. I know you stand by me in spirit’.

I am too old now to feel anything about being defeated by myself, because it has happened so many times before. Like the Bhagavad Gita says: Aatmaiva atmano bandhu, aatmaiva ripuratmana. You yourself are your friend and foe.

I feel lost. I don’t know where to go from here. Perhaps some self-flagellation? How about cutting out alcohol totally for one year? Two years? Ha, what about stopping smoking? You spend more than 4000 f---ing bucks a year on cigarettes!

Unable to concentrate on work, I excuse myself and go out for a smoke. Smoking sometimes helps in clearing up the smoke in our minds. I always had a slight indifference to charity for humans. There are enough and more for humans; no, there is never enough, but I will more readily give to charity for animals, for nature. I will more readily donate to the indigenous people, the tribals. Yet, there is still something indigestible inside me. There is a pettiness, a streak of meanness in me that I cannot put my finger on to – or is it that I do not want to?

Perhaps I will approach the organization directly and re-sponsor Vibiya, to hell with 4000 bucks. That may soothe my mind somewhat; but would I be able to sit and drink with my friend again? For the moment, I am unable to answer, stumped, down and out.

**************** Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 10.03.2011

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Climax

Resting her head on his broad chest, the girl wished

It would be forever, how wonderful it’d be

If it were forever, to be with him, to feel his warmth

To listen to his heartbeat; ‘He’s mine!’

‘She sure smells nice’, the boy thought and wondered

About the next step; ‘should I rush it or not’-

Unable to control his arousal,

He was a bit embarrassed but happy –

‘Gently’, he told himself, ‘be deliberate’, but then he was ashamed

And felt guilty, his love and lust tearing him in two.

Pressing herself closer to him

The girl was a bit scared but excited –

‘he loves me, he loves me’, she thought

Triumphant at her new possession, her new puppet.

The boy re-positioned himself, moving to the second stage

As the girl wondered if this is the time to show some reluctance

Would coyness be appropriate or would it kill his passion, she wasn’t sure.

Ah, but man proposes and God disposes – leaning down to a exploratory kiss,

Eyes closed - suddenly the boy shuddered as a wave of nausea hit him

Because the girl, beautiful though she was,

Had forgotten to brush her teeth that morning!

******** Balachandran V , Trivandrum 08.03.2011

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

So that you know how much I had loved you

The Lovers - Painting by Andrew Osta

Do not read further; these lines are not for you.

They are just precipitates, like curdled milk

Lying, forgotten, in my frozen shelves.

I do not conceive you in my mind any more.

I do not remember your smile, the glimmer of love

That shadowed your eyes; I do not recollect your face.

Warm, was your breath; moist, your lips.

In my large palms, your breasts hardened.

Your fingers trembled as you sought me

Your legs parted, inviting, in submission.

As I ran my fingers over you, your body hair stood up

As if in protest, as if to resist, but in vain.

How was I to know that your cries were in joy

How was I to glean that you burnt in ecstasy?

I never could, you know, submerge myself

In the so-called sublimity of love.

Not untrue in my love, but I couldn’t

Accept that the sublimation of my love for you

Lay in this act of making love.

Making love? I was in love, why should I make it?

Yet I wonder, what is it that I loved in you?

Was it the person or the persona, the mind or the body,

That I had desired more; maybe both, maybe it is that

I wanted it all, with such a hunger, such an appetite

I had – I wanted to eat, if I could, suck you in

So that you spread and flowed all over and inside me,

So that I bled you, my sweat stank of you

My lips and yours one

My spittle and yours one

Me in you, you in me

Mine and thine, indistinguishable.

Now you know how much I had loved you.

*********** Balachandran V, Trivandrum 01.03.2011