The Red Queen Contest

How many of you have read Alice in Wonderland? Yes of course, all of us have read it at some point in our childhood days. Back then, it looked stupid. I mean, the Wonderland was a classic nonsense. And it amused me in the beginning. As a kid, I laughed at the funny characters and pitied poor Alice. Then I grew up, and in my teens when I happened to come across the story again, I laughed at the story for its unexplainable and weird characters. And now, as I have begun to understand things better, I have realized that the weird dialogues and characters carry some meaning with them which is for us to find. And now, I laugh at the story for fooling me in my teenage years. And I believe that all of us have a different Alice and a comprehensible Wonderland to explore as we grow up.

I remember reading about the Red Queen in the book. The Red Queen who runs incredibly fast but never seems to get anywhere. She tells Alice that in her country, it is necessary for her to keep running so that she can stay in the same place. In her very words, “It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.” Now how does that sound? Implausible and funny, right? I mean running and staying at one place are two very contrary ideas. So in a literal sense, this does sound mad. But wait look at it the other way.

What do we do with our lives? We run. We work hard. We go places. We run from offices to workshops to homes all day and all night. Why? To earn money. Why do we earn money? To buy things, to purchase luxuries, to have everything we want. Now why do we have this urge to buy everything? Why do we need things in our homes? Because we want to live in comfort. What is comfort? Comfort is when you don’t have to run. Comfort is when you are stable. Stable is when you stay at one place. Why does the Red Queen keep running? To stay at one place. Makes sense now, doesn’t it?

There is another aspect to this commonly known as the Red Queen Contest. It can happen between any two things which try to outmatch each other. Like the police and criminals. Have you ever wondered why do the police forces get trained every six months or so? It is because they need to be better than the criminals. And what do the criminals do?  They hatch better plans to outmatch the trained police. This is a kind of competition without any limits, without any finish line. Both the sides are indulged in a continuous run to defeat each other. Why? Because they want it to come to a standstill. The police want to uproot the criminals from the system, and the criminals want to fool the police so that they can lay their hands on whatever they want. Both the sides strive for it to stop by being better. That’s it. That’s the race. That’s the Red Queen Contest. Something that can never stop and yet something whose sole purpose is stopping.

And now, I have this third perception about this. We are born, we grow up, we grow bigger and we die. In between all this, we get dressed properly, we eat proper food and we live beneath a shelter. Why? So that we can stay alive. So that we can always keep pace with the world.  We have this little thing in our minds: when others grow, we must grow too. And it’s a continuous process. But picture this, the world has stopped growing. People don’t take care of themselves anymore. They don’t want to grow. Now, would you take efforts to grow up? Of course not. That it is where it will stop. But it doesn’t. It cannot. Right from the beginning of life on this planet, we are all growing and developing. We adapt ourselves to atmosphere so that we can survive. And our growth stops only when we die. Death is rest. And resting is being stable. So basically, the whole race is about living which leads us to death. We compete with each other and strive to be better. Why? Because we see others doing the same. Because someone began this race and we should complete it. We should run.

That’s life. It’s about running so that we can stop. We live so that we can die. We run in hopes that someone will blow the whistle soon and tell us that the race is over. Everyone hopes the same and that’s why, no one can think of blowing the whistle.

I believe the Red Queen kept running not because she needed to stay at a place, but because she saw everyone else in her country running like that. But then, Lewis Carroll knows better of course. I can just make a wild guess.

By the way, I have a little advice for you all: run faster. 😉

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Shantaram: As I Saw.

Shantaram.

Many lives and many stories, all woven together beautifully in one tale. I have read a lot of novels but there are a very few of them which have made me fall in their deep sedating hum around my mind for a long time.

Shantaram is one of those. The first thing that came to my mind at the sight of the book was this: “damn! It’s too big.” And why won’t I say that? What was it? The story of a man who escapes prison. I wondered what was it that made people attract towards the novel so much. I mean, escaped prisoners don’t really have an interesting life, have they? But anyway, fortunately enough, something compelled me to read it. The size maybe. Yes, I admit it. I wanted to know what was it that made the story so large. And as I read it, I realized that it’s the people and the reality that made the book so large. It wasn’t just another story. If it was a work of fiction, the author could have done anything with it. he could have killed all his friends in a gang war, he could have made Karla and Didier disappear altogether, he could have destroyed Leopold Café is some unfortunate incident and with a sad end, he could have touched people’s sentiments. Then he could have more copies sold, he could have made larger profits out of it. But that wasn’t what it really was. It is a true story. A story that doesn’t end happily and doesn’t end sadly either. That’s how life is, isn’t it? Plain, glassy and introspective.

There are a very people across the globe who can live two identities at the same time. In Australia, from where he escaped, he was still Gregory, a convict. And thousands of kilometers away, where a place called Mumbai adopted him, he was another person, no, not Shantaram, here he was more of Linbaba. The only thing that resurrected this man from his own past was this new identity. He lived as Lin, he made friends and enemies with that name, he had joys and sorrows, and he found his love on the sole basis of this identity. That makes the story what it is. It isn’t about a man called Greg who escapes an Australian prison; it is about a man called Lin who lives in Mumbai.

There are many people in the book (too many, as Prabhakar would have said). There are people who are good and bad. Godly and devilish. And again, there are people who are above all that. Karla Saaranen. She just knows what is right and what is wrong. She doesn’t care if she behaves good or bad. That clearly makes her one of the most powerful personalities in the story. And there are others too. Khader, Abdullah Taheri, Prabhakar, Johnny Cigar, the list won’t end, it cannot end. Because this book isn’t a story that has characters, it is a book that has people and their stories.

And there are places. The Kulaba Causeway, Regal Cinema, Haji Ali, Cuff Parade and Navy Nagar slums, Tardeo and the Leopold Café. These aren’t just names. These are places which give a footing to the people in the story. And all this in the heart of Mumbai. Mumbai, that gives a meaning to the lives of many. The city of dreams, the city which doesn’t let you sleep hungry. The city which has work for everyone who wants to work.  Mumbai, which makes you fall in love.

And though the author lives more with the name Lin than Shantaram, I don’t know why is the book called Shantaram. Maybe because Lin would have been too firangi for our tastes, right? I don’t know actually. I don’t know if Lin gets Karla in the end. How does he escape his life of the underworld? What happened to Didier? What is the real name of Khader? And is he, our Linbaba, our Shantaram, is he happy? I don’t know. I have too many questions. But I’m not sad. Not sad for what happened to Modena and not sad for the death of Khader. And I’m not happy either. Not for Abdullah’s ‘surprise comeback’ and not for everything that looks so picture perfect in the end. Because what I learnt from the book is that it may not be the same when you wake up tomorrow. There’s too little in life that can stay stable. Everything else is just our struggle to keep it stable. That’s life. That’s what it’s all about.

That’s Shantaram.

Lord and Master

Venue: Peshawar

Time: One of the hardest in Indian Cricket.

Many Indian cricket fans gasped and saw a little boy whose nose bled due to a bouncer and who yet refused to leave the field. Waqar Younus and Imran Khan had created havoc. Abdul Quadir spun a web of deceit with his long fingers. And they all looked at the boy with a gleam of arrogance. “Who’s this kid?” they laughed and continued their demolition job. But over a matter of time, the ‘kid’ began to seem a problem child. Square cuts, leg glances, late cuts, upper cuts, hooks, pulls…it all looked like a never ending show that his bat displayed. And just when people began getting curious to know who he was, he threw Abdul Quadir out in the stands. The kid had saved the day for India. Over the years everyone got acquainted to his name.

Yes. Sachin Tendulkar. I’m writing this particularly for all his fans. Other words, I’m writing this for all the Indians and all the cricket fans across the globe. I have personally always enjoyed his game and further, I have also developed devotion towards him. Here I want to talk at length about his greatness and him and I won’t throw the scores at you. Scores are the greatest conmen out there. Because what Sir Neville Cards once said is absolutely true- “Numbers and figures are like bikini bathing costumes. What they show is interesting, but what they hide is more important.” Score cards will always tell you that Ricky Ponting is a better run-scorer than Sir Gary Sobers and Harbhajan Singh spins better than Jim Laker. That’s what the scores do. They overshadow the truth.

Anyway, back to where we were. Sachin Tendulkar, a man who has seen both the ends of the Indian mentality. At times we have loved him more than anything else, and at times we have stomped him under our very feet. He brought a kind of magic with his cask of strokes. Like a snake charmer makes the snake move to his pipe, Sachin Tendulkar drove us crazier and yet crazier. We have always demanded the best from him. Always. Yes, he is the lord of the field, but at the end of the day, he is just another human. And that’s what we could never digest. When, like millions of other humans, he did a mistake, we opened fire at him. Every time he failed, we shouted and told each other that the magic is over; it’s time to pull the curtains. But when the same Sachin Tendulkar led us safely to a victory through the wraths of McGrath and Lee, or the terror of Akhtar and Younus, when-ever the magician mesmerized us with a fine knock, we all shouted and told each other, “Did you see that? I always told you Sachya still has a lot of talent! See?” This very Sachya has sailed our ship through innumerable dangers. And he hasn’t stopped there. He has led us to a better place, to the Shore of Glory.

All over the world, there are people who discuss about him, people who admire him and people who worship him. The fame he has achieved isn’t a cakewalk. But what is yet tougher is staying there, handling the fame and displaying to the crowds what they want to see – a class. His humble nature is one of his greatest attributes. I have never seen an arrogant Sachin Tendulkar, nor have I read about it, ever. Not once in his career of 23 years, and not once in the 20 years of my life. The level Sachin has attained is more than enough for people to forget the ground. When sky seems smaller than you and greatness is left miles behind, who would stay to the ground and walk? Sachin Tendulkar did.

And he stood there with a firm foothold. Nothing could shake him. The crowds booed him in his bad patches and the critics wrote the bitterest columns about his ‘poor skills’. We spat our hatred towards him and again, looked at him with expectations. Expectations to score more. We always wanted that extra-bit from him. If anyone wants to know why is it tough being God, I’d suggest them to look at this man, Sachin Tendulkar. We always prayed and this God delivered. His empire of runs was so huge that we could not bear to see him fallen even in the worst of our dreams. Looking at the unbearable strain of expectations from the crowds and the team, Gilchrist had once awed, “How can you handle all this?” What Gilly received in a reply was that million-dollar smile at the moment, and an unbeaten century at the end of the day. And whenever he failed, he rose up and showed what he had, the magic that was still with him. Be it the nightmarish ton at Sharja which dreaded Shane Warne, or be it the Pepsi-Cup century which made Shoaib Akhtar smile in despair, Tendulkar has always proved himself.

And in spite of  being the best batsman out there, in spite of scoring more than anyone else has, and in spite of insulting the bowling of the greats- Akram, McGrath, Warne and Murlitharan, he has never looked aggressive. He never displayed even the slightest signs of Gilchrist’s demolition or Sehwag’s fire. And yet he was the most feared of them all. It was his calmness that has played the major role in creatint the sovereignty he enjoys today.

Greatness has to be achieved. And you can understand that greatness only when you see it through the spectacle which displays the struggle behind the greatness. To know Sachin Tendulkar, just one article won’t be enough. Many people have tried telling who he is, and in their attempts all of them have realized that it’s not just this much, it’s more. And today, another man has been added to the list. This is not how much I wanted to talk about Tendulkar, this isn’t how much I had decided to display him. It’s more. Because the sun will keep shining and his magic will keep mesmerizing us. There will be many like him, but none would attain the God’s place.

And tomorrow, when another young lad pulls Indian Cricket out of the batting hazards and goes on to become a legend, we will all cherish and say,

“Looks like Sachin, doesn’t he?”

Identity

What is a fox without its brains?

and a bird without its wings?

What would be left to admire

in a Koel that never sings?

 

What is Rapunzel without her hair?

And who is Simba without his pride?

And who would have known Romeo

without Juliet on his side?

 

What is an eagle who doesn’t soar in the skies?

And what is the grandeur of a lion that doesn’t dwell in the wild?

And who would have sung for Mother Mary

if it wasn’t for her child?

 

Who would respect a king without an army?

And who would admire a player if he cannot win the game?

And when an athlete is lazy

why would anyone care if he becomes lame?

 

What are the Spartans without their courage?

What is a gladiator who cannot fight on his own?

And pray tell me, what would have happened to David

if he never hurled the stone?

 

And yet, what use is a deer’s running

if the tiger catches it before the rest?

Why would have Alexander ruled

if he wasn’t of them all, the best?

 

We all have something within us

that gives us a face,

We are nothing without that identity

which decides our race.

 

So know who you are and where you belong

be responsible, grow mighty and fight brave,

For tell me once, my dear, what is a man who lives like a coward

and quietly walks in his grave?

Solitude

It’s funny how, on a cold monsoon afternoon, you sit in your room staring out of the window and everything looks still. The birds, the trees, the people, what’s more? Even the air seems to have halted. A little bit of gloom has filled up all the empty space and the air of melancholy around you has grown thicker.

Your dad is out for work, your mom is taking her afternoon nap, the TV has bored you to death already, facebook isn’t being interesting as well, porn has made you sick, too much of reading has made you sleepy,  friends are nowhere to be found at these hours, your phone is dead silent and does not ring except for the service calls and messages and your girlfriend is off to some kind of exam. There is just nothing that can make you feel nice for the moment. Not that you are sad, you are just not getting that ‘something’ which otherwise always occupies your mind. You look forward towards the evening, hoping it to be a time full of fun. But it’s still a few hours away. And in the current circumstances, it’s quite a long way to go.

You keep thinking. Your mind has a lot of things to do now. You can think about your own little problems, about your relationship, it’s future, your friends, what you want to do in the next few days and all that stuff. You can even stray in the past and get a little nostalgic. There’s a lot to think about. You remember that crazy party you had been to a few days back, and the kind of people you met there, those rich one’s with Rolex watches and Armani shirts, those pretty girls who gave you alluring smiles, and after a few shots of vodka, fell in your arms.

You suddenly think of your girl. She wasn’t at that party. And you promised her that you’d take her to some nice place soon. You care a lot about her and you’re madly in love. You want to go with this relationship all the way towards a marriage. Then that scary thought of a breakup comes to your mind. What if something goes terribly wrong and you go through a breakup? That happened to your best friend just a few days ago. ‘No! I won’t let that happen at all!’, you tell yourself. Then you come to think of the term ‘wedding’. What would you have to do in order to marry her? How would you do it? You’d probably need to show and prove them how much you love her. But, would that be enough? No. you need to be financially strong. Your dad could feed you, but for how long?  And would that make you look respectable? A big NO.  You should earn your own bucks and be a young success story. That would assure them that their daughter is with the right man.

Then a sudden thought flashes your mind. What if your friends read these marriage thoughts of yours? They’d certainly make fun of it and mock at you for a few days. Funny boys. They mean a lot to you. You smile to yourself.

You look at your Puma shoes in the corner. They look great. Your dad bought them for you as a surprise just a few days ago. You remember the video you had seen on YouTube a few days ago. People walking for miles with bare feet.

Do I really deserve these shoes? ‘No!’ someone within you says. Have you got your own identity? ‘No!’ comes the answer.

You’re 20 years old now, and sitting like a bum. You study engineering, but hey, what’s the big deal there? 20 lac people in the country are doing the same. What makes you different? Is there anything you are good at? ‘Yes!’ says the voice within! You are delighted. What’s that? People say you are good at writing. Maybe you should try doing something with it. Maybe you could work really hard on it and do something that will make your friends proud.

Beyond everything, you want to make your dad proud, and your mom, happy.

And your girl, she loves you a lot, you want to marry her and keep her in the best comforts of the world. Yes. You need to begin working towards it, NOW.

And then these thoughts suddenly lift your mood. You feel lighter and, nice.

The solitude has paid off somehow. You decide that you’ll have such solitary times more often now.

And then your phone blinks. Your girlfriend has finished off with her exam.

‘Solitude, goodbye for now’, you smile and reach for the phone.

The First Rains

Rains largely remind me of some things. It’s not always just love. It’s more. This relation I share with the whole phenomenon of rain is a thing of buoyancy.

Every year, it fools me at arrival. When I’m least concerned about it’s existence, at a careless moment while watching the TV or sitting at the desk doing absolutely nothing, the open windows bang on the sill and the little storms blow up the brown earth. And by the time I reach the windows to close them properly, it’s there. Grinning at me as it hits the ground in an unabashed beauty. It angers me. I’ve always hated it when the rains come without a notice. Partly because it creates a chaos in the house and partly because I miss their very first moments of arrival. But these very rains wash away all my anger with that one feeling. A feeling that says it’s finally here. It’s raining.

I’ve never rushed out in the first rains. As a little boy frightened of lightning, I was always reluctant to go out in the first rains. Hurrying out like everyone else was one thing I could never do. Instead I always preferred staying back in the balcony or at the closed window, where even a drop of the mighty rain couldn’t touch me, and admire it. Yes, I loved it that way. I observed what the rains brought with them. And looking at other children playing out under the showers, I always saw what I looked for. Happiness, the rains brought happiness. It was always there on everyone’s face. And for this, I used to adore the rains. That would be the beginning of our romance. And I believe that this was, and always will be a mature relationship. We never rush out at each other in the beginning, at the first sight. I always admire the rain from a distance, and in turn, it doesn’t touch me. And when we’re fully aware of each others existence, there begins an unending romance. The rain always makes me feel loved. Watching it wash away all the heat and dust of the passing summer fills me with a romantic energy.

And when it slowly fades away, and stays back only in the form of light drizzles, I get a step closer to it. I go out to feel the cool of the air. It makes my body afresh and touches my heart. At these same moments the rain-blessed soils, like a freshly married and dignified young lady scents after a shower, bring a soothing fragrance that reaches out to me in a beautiful manner. This gives me a sense of belonging. It connects me to the earth, to its depths, and its life. By this time, the world has been washed, and it looks cleaner and a better place to live in. Out of this beautiful feeling, I gain enough confidence to tell the rain what I feel towards it. I’m ready to go out and kiss it the next time it comes.

The calm atmosphere after the rainfall speaks for itself. The wide and clear roads, greener paths, the sediments of soil that form curvy shapes, the wet leaves that fall under a tree, the showered lives of plants and animals, and the clear skies. They reach out to me and tell me that God cares.

And the little puddles on a clean road remind my awestruck mind about what has happened. I realize that without giving me a chance to think, mesmerizing me in it’s maiden spell, it is finally here. Four months of endless love have begun. It’s raining.

Angelina Jolie’s Breasts and Us

It’s been two weeks since it happened but we just cannot seem to get over it. Yes, I’m talking about our fetish for Angelina Jolie’s breasts. I’m not here to talk about whether it’s medically correct or incorrect, nor do I tend to talk about if it’s socially right. I’m here to talk about us. Our obsession towards her mastectomy, is it kind of right?

So, to begin with, she did it like any other woman who values her life over her breasts. And since she is a star, we talked about it. Very natural it was. I mean, we talk about everything that the celebrities do, right from Mariah Carey’s wardrobe malfunction to LeBron James’ ankle injury, we want to know everything. But this was a little extra hyped. When one of the most beautiful women in the world does something to her breasts, it creates a buzz. In the beginning, we talked about it like normal fans, normal ‘public’, but the medical experts popped in the issue, and it was all spoiled.

‘Angelina Jolie did a wrong thing’ was what the whole clan of doctors cried. So what? Yes, that’s what I’m asking, so what if she did wrong? Everyone is scared that she might set an example for other women around the world to get there breasts removed if the foresee even the slightest chances of breast cancer. This, I think, is very stupid. The public, no matter how much they worship a star, have their own brains that tell them what is right and what is not. Tell me, how many of you would follow Steve Jobs’ example and go on a strict fruits diet? All hands down, eh? See. That’s what I’m talking about. We talk a lot about how her decision might affect women around the world, but when it comes to us, we do exactly what we want to do.

I remember reading an article by a transgender about how breasts are a symbol of womanhood. It may not be stated clearly in the article, but what he meant was that breasts are necessary to be a woman. Further, it also leads to the thought that breasts are the identity of womanhood. This is of course a hidden sentence that can be only read between the lines. So, without any offence, I want to know if men have to show what they have in order to tell that they are men? Okay, maybe we’re drifting a bit away from the topic, so back to where we were, Angie. Why does a transgender have a problem with her breast removal?

Chewing celebrity news and spitting it out after a while can be understood, but since when did people begin having problems with it? What if a pervert says that he has a problem with Angelina’s mastectomy because he cannot masturbate watching her videos anymore? Is that a valid reason? Would you accept that? That’s what I’m basically talking about. The only difference between a pervert having a problem and a doctor telling that she is wrong is their position in the society. Barring that, they are all the same- attention seekers.

Then there are some others who have been telling again and again how brave an act it is. These are the arse-kissers. They won’t appreciate it if a woman in their neighborhood does the same. They would mock at her instead. But when it is about Angelina Jolie and her curves, they are supportive. These people call themselves supporters of personal freedom. They support everything right from Kim Kardashian’s 72-hour marriage to Lindsay Lohan’s lesbian tastes, they support every damn thing. This is sick. If it isn’t going to make a difference to you, why do you have to brag about it?

I guess everything should be left behind at a certain point. That is how celeb-news should be treated. It should never be a huge issue. Michael Jackson’s nose, Pamela Anderson’s, wait what’s that called, buxom? No, it’s plastic, and Angelina Jolie’s mastectomy is all the same. A news that won’t change our lives and won’t change the world. So let’s grow sensible and talk about something better. How about comparing Kylie Minogue to Angelina Jolie? Just kidding there.

Give it a thought.