Alive

I sat next to the hospital bed with my head bowed and watched my friend breathe. The once mighty chest rose and fell with a meekness he never showed in life. And yet, the monitors with the squiggly lines and the beeps said he was alive. Was this life? I remembered how he had behaved when someone tried to mug him. I was there, but a few seconds into the intended mugging, you couldn’t understand who was mugging who. The only explanation he gave later was “When life comes at you with a knife, you go at it with a pickax”. I smiled at the memory, but mourned the present. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

I pulled the cables. I turned off the monitors and knocked over the IV drip. His eyes fluttered open and looked at me, even as his body shook and struggled. But his eyes stayed fixed on me, till it glazed over in the end. Eyes that had remained closed for the past two weeks, reopened to see the end. I kept looking back, even as they rushed in and dragged me away. They would not believe it and I did not say it, but I knew what I saw in his eyes. They saw him die helpless, unassisted. I saw him die just as he had lived, just as he had wanted- defiant.

An ultra short story I wrote in 2016 and rescued from a now defunct website

Words worth

A picture is worth a thousand words

Said an ad-man counting money

We forgot why

Coz he didn’t say it with pictures

So we flocked to the gram

From the tyranny of words

Words that shaped the world

And ended empires

Words that made us weep

With joy, with grief, with life

Are refugees now

In a world of colour

Posing for screenshots

And asking how much

A picture of a thousand words is worth


Note: They told me no one reads blogs any more. You have to do Instagram. I realized it does work well, and helps me write poetry which I had assumed I couldn’t. But had to write how I felt about the whole thing

Why do we put silence on a pedestal?

Indian mother looking outraged and dad looking like he wants to beat you
Exhibit A: When you’re young and want to speak your mind in India

If you were asked to choose who is better – a person who stays quiet and keeps their opinions to themselves or a person who is vocal about their opinions, I bet most of you would select the former. Staying quiet = being good has been drilled into our heads since childhood. Don’t talk back, don’t question your elders. After all that quiet time you would think we would be a nation of good listeners but our most viewed TV anchor is a man named Arnab Goswami, so what exactly is going on?

Truth is, we do like it under certain strict conditions. You are allowed to have opinions. You’re just not supposed to let anyone know what they are until you are above a certain age, or you get rich or famous. The rules are kind of like the ones governing underwear use. It’s OK to wear them as long as you don’t let anyone else see them. Unless you wear khaki shorts, in which case you exhibit it in public events and get called a patriot. If you’re young and unproven, you have no choice but to swallow your opinions and dream of a day when you too can wear your underwear outside your trousers and your heart on your sleeves, like a Desi superman.

Govinda in Superman costume.
Exhibit B: When you’re all grown up and ready to express yourself
Continue reading “Why do we put silence on a pedestal?”

A place to play the fool

The Fool, Tarot, Card, Magic, Fortune, Divination

Buying a domain for your blog is very much like getting your first business card. It’s like that photo Will Smith takes in The Pursuit of Happyness. The one where he’s standing in front of all the handheld scanner machines he has to sell with a big hopeful grin.

The rest of the movie however looks like this.

You burst out onto the world wide web with a song on your lips, ready to share your life-changing ideas and middle-of-the-night philosophical discoveries with a waiting, appreciative world. And then you realize 10 people including your mom read the last 3 things you wrote.

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On my watch

I was there when you took your first breath.

I was there when you took your first fall, with a bandage and lollipop, and courage to try again.

I was there when you paced outside, helping to bring a part of you to life.

I was there at death’s door, keeping it shut a moment more.

And yet, you called my gifts poison, while others sold you water.

You thanked your Gods when I saved you, and raged at me when they failed you.

Do you deserve me, and do I deserve you?


Dedicated to doctors around the world

10 drops

When does a war end? Is it when victory is declared? Is it when the last innocent dies? When the last shot is fired?

When is a disaster over? When the earth stops shaking or when the stormwinds fall quiet?

Is it when the last tear is shed? Is it even then, or is it when the edge of memory is dulled enough to lose its edge? Does it end at different times for each, relative like everything else?

I like to think it is when you rediscover hope. It can be fragile and easily broken, but it still rises through the mud and blooms, welcoming a new day, doomed though it might be.

Today, I got a 0.5 ml shot in my arm and watched my spouse get it, a small amount of liquid signifying a large amount of hope, fragile as it might be.

I was already one of the privileged, able to stay locked at home and safe with everyone I love. But fear is the same everywhere if you have something to lose, although we, the privileged might deserve a weaker claim to it.

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When a circle becomes a point

My desk at home has plenty of space, but I realize now that a cramped cubicle meant a friend three feet away.

The day has two hours more than before, but fewer for myself.

The air is cleaner outside, but I only get to inhale my own stale breath.

I can watch a new movie without getting annoyed by a couple making out in the next row, or a kid throwing popcorn. But I realize now that I was witnessing a hundred different stories, not one.

I realize now that my daily circular commute was a window into many worlds streaming past, unlike the swiveling door I’m stuck in now.

A home isn’t a home if you can’t leave. All my life I tried to reach my destination faster, but never stopped to think if the journey was perhaps the point.

Writers camp #332

Asif sat up in his bunk with panic spilling over from his dreams to reality. The clock showed 9 AM. He looked down and cursed to see Paul already at his desk and typing away furiously. He jumped down and promptly fell flat on his face as his foot got caught in his blanket. He groaned and tried to get up again.

“Can you keep it down, please? I lost the thread I had in my head”, Paul said. “Ay biteerally schept gown”, Asif said, pinching his bleeding nose. “What?”, Paul asked. “I literally put myself down”, Asif said with some effort. “I don’t have time for your lame jokes”, Paul said and turned to his laptop, scratching his head and trying to remember the story thread he forgot.

“It’s not like you were on the verge of turning into Hemingway with your next sentence anyway”, Asif said and sat down at the desk right next to him, his elbows almost touching Paul. The labor camp authorities didn’t see the value of providing elbow space to writers. Paul tucked his elbows in with a long-suffering look and continued typing. Asif peeped at his screen quickly. “Hey, you can’t plagiarize my bloody nose when you didn’t even give a flying fuck that I got a bloody nose,” he said, angrily.

“I’m trying something new”, Paul said.

“Plagiarism isn’t new”, Asif retorted.

“Oh fuck off”, Paul said.

“If you’re trying to keep it to yourself, I can see everything on your screen”, Asif reminded Paul.

Paul sighed. “It’s a journal, except that I substitute the boring parts for something better. Like instead of a prison cell, we are on a cramped spaceship heading to Alpha Centauri, and instead of falling from your bunk, you floated up and hit the ceiling. Your blood is balled up and floating around”, he said.

“Wow, that was a hell of a lot of exposition. Haven’t you ever heard of show, don’t tell”, Asif commented. Paul snorted.

Asif felt a sudden rush of panic as he realized he lost 10 more minutes joking around. But don’t you need to do something to get inspired? This was the most eventful day in a month, except for the day when their neighboring cell inmates got into a fistfight to get inspiration for a supposed sequel to fight club. There were no issues with writer’s block in writer’s camp # 332. You write or you die. Does wonders for deadlines, even though it messes up world-building and character development. He rushed to start a new chapter on his writing software.

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Fake news, faith, passive and tail risks

The world was hit by a once in a century pandemic, a virus that was deadly enough to kill millions but innocuous enough to spread easily and widely. We battled to scale up intensive care beds, ventilators, testing facilities. Healthcare workers battled exhaustion and heat stroke in PPE kits. We pooled all our resources in a global effort to develop vaccines. What do you think was the biggest challenge of them all?

Not the challenge of developing a vaccine faster than ever done before, not keeping economies afloat while lockdowns and shut downs ran businesses into the ground. No, the most insurmountable challenge of them all is battling the misinformation sent on WhatsApp by your friendly neighbourhood fake news uncle. The one that sends you good morning GIFs followed by critical pieces of information about the pH level of the virus and how to counter it with warm water and juice that was stirred clockwise three times at noon.

A first of its kind mRNA vaccine was developed in 2 days after getting the genetic code of the virus and deployed in a year after testing, but no one can stop WhatsApp uncle and his fake news. Not all the governments or scientists in the world. No mask can filter it, no air purifier can stop it.

What are the implications? We will probably never reach herd immunity and end this pandemic. Governments are trying to speed up vaccinations but sooner or later, they are going to hit a wall and not have any more people willing to get vaccinated. The fake news virus got to them first and immunised them against the vaccine. Why risk living a long life when you can die early from a preventable disease?

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Little things changed by COVID-19

When we think about how the world has changed because of COVID-19, we tend to think of the big things – everyone (who can) working from home, schools staying closed, international trips becoming a distant memory. But a lot of these big changes will probably roll back to some degree after the pandemic is over. I was curious about the little things that changed and will probably stay changed. This is a quick list from my observations, but would love to hear about additions to this:

1. Wallets

I think I’ve always hated the two fold wallet but lived with, without thinking too much. Its too thick and is literally a pain in the ass. I would take it out of my pocket and put it on my desk, or stuff it in front of the gear shift in my car, but for some reason I would never leave the house without it, although I rarely use cash and keep little of it in my wallet. I have an assortment of cards and then an assortment of receipts and all kinds of junk that accumulated over time.

Since I became a near complete homebody, I’ve got used to not having the familiar weight of the wallet in my pocket, and consequently keep forgetting it. It also seems even more stupid than before to sit on a block of leather when I do remember to take it. I therefore started hunting for other options – a phone case that can carry a cards, a small card holder. While I was searching for this, I stumbled upon this CNET.com article about exactly this, and realised I’m not alone in thinking this. Link: https://www.cnet.com/news/a-slim-wallet-is-how-i-learned-to-ditch-cash/

Continue reading “Little things changed by COVID-19”