Monday, March 26, 2007

His Midnight Eyes

I love his eyes
The haunted look in them
One broken dream
Through the silence it screams

Silence shriller than any war cry
This man fiercer than any warrior
Anguish running wild in his very nerve

The darkness in his midnight eyes
Naked defeat lingering in them
His gaze arrests mine
The reality so real, bare and stark

The battle is lost
But he continues to fight

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Tainted City

At that precise moment the loathsome city just got on my nerves. I clenched my fist, cursed aloud and kicked the rear tyre of my black dumb vehicle. The other guy looked at me, his face quite expressionless. Maybe he was trying to figure which one to wear and how he could pacify my suddenly upturned mood…

I had to bear with a long drive across the Mumbai city twice everyday. In the morning, I sometimes wished it could be a little longer and I could never reach office. The drive back home used to be different; I used to conjure up the images of my son smiling at me. In the evenings I wished there were no traffic signals between me and my happy family.

Today as I left office my thoughts were all a tangle, like the disobedient mesh of wires. I could see my son’s toothless smile, but my ears were listening to one of my particularly vociferous colleague’s shrill voice. Absentmindedly I drove across few lanes...

Few days back, on a late evening I locked myself inside the small space of my car. After the day spent with people asking for instructions it was a nice relief to retire in my own personal space. Enveloped in the cold, my mind was lazily grazing through a range of thoughts. My fingers were lightly tapping to the Jagit Singh number. Some lanes more to go and I would reach home, I thought. I was passing through a busy lane, this one being peddlers’ favourite lane to sell cheap Chinese products, veggies, clothes, fruits etc.

Elite households must have been empty at that hour, as they were on this street buying veggies and blocking my way. My fingers were still tapping on the steering wheel when I saw a guy pointing a finger at me. He was screaming something. Though I couldn’t hear him, his unheard scream could tell me that something had happened to my car. Or maybe he was looking past me at something else I told myself as I drove on. Now another guy was waving at me, signalling something. I kept moving. My car managed to move a few feet before the third guy came and almost blocked my way. It was high time I got of the car to see why these gentlemen were taking keen interest in me or to be more specific, in my car.

When I so wanted to reach home early and take my wife out, these gentlemen had other plans for me. The first word to fall on my ears after getting out of the car was FIRE. The honking impatient horns were unable to comprehend why my car stood there like a tomb in their way. One of the 3 guys, a lanky man in his 30s was trying to help me make sense of it all. He said he was trying to call out to me, stop me as he saw fire on the bonnet of my car. The other two just nodded or spoke in monosyllables.

I followed him to the front side of my car; he was explaining how he had seen sparks flying from my car’s front. In the midst of this crowded Mumbai Street I stood with my black car. My mind is programmed to resolve any situation quickly. As a manager I hate roadblocks of any kind. It irritates me to stand helplessly and let any situation loom larger over me. I quickly opened my car’s bonnet to check the damage. Then I noticed that one of the other 2 guys had a spanner in his hand. He moved swiftly to my side and requested me to move aside. I more than willingly moved, as I did not want to dirty my hands. My wife wouldn’t allow me to touch our son with those blackened fingers. It would take a few minutes to clean them.. and I hated the idea of not being able to touch my son sooner.

The guy was peering inside my car’s mouth. I could hear some sound as if dry leaves were burning and I saw what the 3 men were trying to tell me all this time…FIRE. Okay. So, there certainly was something happening to my car. The guy explained that the car’s carburettor was responsible for the fire. It needed to be changed, he further explained. This time I nodded and spoke in monosyllables. Then he said that he could help me change it as his buddy (the third guy) owned a small garage nearby.

I then realised what the media meant when they talked about the helpful Mumbaikar Spirit. He said a new carburettor would cost me Rs.2000. Whatever. I didn’t mind paying this money if it could save me time. I followed their directions and reached a small empty space. The 3 men made best effort to get it done quickly for me. Finally, they said it was done. My car got a new carburettor; the old one was thrown away. I glanced once at the new carburettor, paid the money quickly and left. Home was only 2 lanes away from this place. With these guys’ help I could reach home in time, take my wife out and also hug my son close to my heart the moment I reached home.

Next day in the middle of a meeting, a thought crossed my mind that I should take my car to my regular garage and get it checked again. I didn’t want my wife and son seeing something like the flames coming out of our car’s bonnet. In the evening, I loosened my tie and stood patiently as the mechanic examined the car as per my instructions and tale of the burnt carburettor.

There was something wrong about his expression. Was it the smirk or the raised eyebrows that made me inquisitive, I can’t remember. I made him explain what was so amusing about my car that made him want to smile. He took great joy in pouring in all the details. The fire, he explained was not because of the carburettor. It was because of the red and the yellow wires his dirty hands were holding and making the sparks fly again. The realisation hit me pretty quickly and I uttered many four letter words in its response. The mechanic looked at me, this time his face was devoid any expression…

I shared my realisation with only my wife. A few days later, a particularly vociferous colleague of mine was narrating one of his recent experiences. He said that on his way home, 3 guys stopped him claiming that they had seen FIRE coming out of his car’s front. They changed one of the car’s part. Some time later again 3 men stopped him, told him that they saw FIRE coming out of his car’s front. This trio helped him too. Later, he took the car to a service centre to realise that this bunch of men had replaced his car’s good carburettor with a faulty one. And, to top it all he was fooled twice on the same day in quick succession.

Today, as I left office my mind was unable to think straight. I sat there at the steering wheel trying to think past my colleague’s story. My son’s innocent face was unable to get me away from the unnerving thoughts. I am not sure what upset me more, the fact that I let 3 men fool me or the fact that I kept quiet about it unlike my absolutely vociferous subordinate…