Thursday, 28 October 2010


He died of a stifled thought
a thought
that never left his nicotine lips.

His lips were busy
faking smiles
too busy
to utter.

His eyes were busy
trapping tears
too busy
to speak.

He tried
drowning the thought
smoking it out
even at times
to swallow it
like forgotten pride.

But all thoughts
are cannibals
leaving behind
hollow as a riot.

Some say he confided
in the old tree
but leaves speak only to the wind
and the branches are too twisted.

And now
we shall never know
the thought that killed a man.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Ruth and the Sar ha-mashqim

The best thing about paucity is it's like a peeler of souls.

And a certain Dylan song keeps on playing in my head...

Friday, 15 October 2010

Of crying girls and swaying Romeos..

Well, I've had a fair share of strange incidents and people, as a friend once mentioned, I'm probably a weird-magnet of sorts. I've had spoilt rich brats doing wheelies while passing by me, only to realise in utter disappointment that they went through all the trouble for a guy; I've had eunuchs praising me for my hair quality and not even asking for money ( I was so startled by this that I even forgot to thank him/her ). But one of the queerest things happened to me couple of weeks back in the Delhi Metro.

So I was on my way back from a friend's place and had boarded the blue line metro from CP ( Rajiv Chowk, if you will). It was not too crowded, as trains come, however, I knew for sure that I won't be getting any place to sit on it. So, with the cultivated wisdom of a frequent metro rider, I chose to stand in the niche between the door and the seats. One of the few places in the metro where you can lean on the glass partition behind and not worry about people jostling you in their frenzy to get on or off the train. The rest of the train was fairly empty, people sitting, dozing off and a few hopefuls standing in front of them, hoping to poach a seat or two.

As I stood smugly in my strategic position, gently resting on the glass partition, she boarded the train. She was with her friend, who quickly proceeded to take position in front of one of the seats, joining the queue of the hopefuls. She however, did not. She chose instead to stand right beside me. Under normal circumstances this would have been a fairly massive ego-massage, considering she chose to stand beside me in spite of having a million other places to stand in an empty train ( including 7 other similar "strategic" positions by the door). But as is my fate, such luck, especially concerning women, was not to be.

Soon after, I noticed, to my horror, that she was sobbing inconsolably !! And so it went on for the next 12 stations ! Everyone who got on or off the train, saw this guy (me) standing by the door, and a girl standing beside him and crying.  I am sure some people must have thought I had something to do with it and cursed me under their breath . I got a fair share of disapproving looks from women and men alike. Perhaps, some of the religious lot even conjured up visions of me being burned alive or tormented in pots of hot oil in the deepest recesses of  Hell. The more moral might have nodded their heads in dismay and uttered stuff like " Boys these days..". The feminists perhaps secretly planned my castration.
Neither my formal education nor my survival training had prepared me for such a situation. I was at my wit's end, and so did what I could do best. I just stood there and absorbed the bad vibes and looks. At one point however, I did think of asking her, what was wrong, but her loud sobbing made it difficult for me to drop in a word, fearing it may lead to an outburst.

The only person who perhaps rightfully deduced the absence of any link between me and the girl crying beside me, was this wandering "Romeo". He took a quick glance at us and then perhaps satisfied with either the absence of a link or the presence of an opportune moment , decided to stand right in front of us. He stood facing the door, his profile towards us, without holding on to anything, like a seasoned Navy man standing on the deck of his boat. But of course he lacked the skills of the Navy man, that was the whole point of his "plan" I suppose. He would glance at me sometimes, otherwise too engrossed in staring ceaselessly at the girl, and gently rock with the motions of the train. Now and then he would rock too much, just-about-to-fall kinds.

Flummoxed, though I was, with a crying girl by my side, his shenanigans, however did not go unnoticed by me. So, at his moment of glory, his coup de grace, when he decided to finally fall over towards the girl as the train stopped at a station, I caught him, breaking his fall. Disappointed, perhaps, he slowly moved on to the front of a seat far away, without a word.

At this point the girl also decided to change her position and move on to stand beside her friend. I didn't check whether she continued to cry thereafter. I was far too relieved and besides, I was to get off at the next station.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Phantom of Shibpur

The Bengal Engineering College at Shibpur is one of the oldest Engineering institutions in India. Established in 1856, it started with a Civil Engineering department to supply engineers to the Public Works Department of British India. In 1880, it moved to its current location and became the Bishop’s College, Howrah.

Like most public educational institutions of that era, the college boasts of a vast and lush campus; roads thronged by deodar and palms, pristine pools and colonial style buildings lend a unique aura to this campus. In 1999, when I was an architecture freshman, it also happened to be the only and closest seat of an architecture department [other than our college, that is] in our state. As is the norm, there was a lot of interaction and healthy rivalry between our college and BEC. Also the zonal and national level competitions among architecture students under the national student body of architecture students meant, most of us knew each other regardless of which college you belonged to.

So I had gone to visit BEC during their annual cultural fest upon invitation by the architecture students that year. It was the final day of the fest and a popular rock band from Bangladesh was to perform as the main event.  I was looking forward to attend the concert and planned to stay over at the BEC hostel for the night after the concert. So I met another freshman at his hostel in order to proceed to the concert with him. I did not have any passes and he had promised to “get me in” as well as provide lodging for the night in his room.

By the time we left his room for the concert, both of us were fairly intoxicated on a heady cocktail of various intoxicants. So we tottered to the concert and as promised, he got me in. Somewhere during the concert, and given the state we were in, we managed to lose each other in the crowd. When I realised that my friend was nowhere to be found, I thought let’s enjoy the concert and I’ll find him after the show.

After the show, however, I still could not find him, mostly due to the fact of me being really high. In those days, personal mobile phones were a rarity, so there was no way for me to find him unless I physically found him. Assessing the situation I was in, in both senses of the word, I decided that the best thing I could do was to try to get back to his hostel room by myself. Unfortunately, given the large campus the college had and my state, I could not. After trying for about an hour, I decided that it was a futile attempt.

Suddenly I saw a nice white marble bench on a ground nearby. Being within a college campus, it was , I reasoned, safe enough for the night; moreover, I was barely conscious. So without further ado, I lay down on the bench.

I woke up sometime later. To my surprise, I found, that what I had thought of as a marble bench, was in fact a raised marble tomb and the ground was in fact an old British era cemetery  within the college premises. I had been sleeping over someone’s grave the entire while !

By this time, I was fairly sober and the realisation of what I had done sobered me even more. I got up and walked out of the campus. On my way back home, in the early morning bus, the entire time, I kept thinking about the feat that I had just managed to pull.

Couple of months ago, I met a friend who had studied at BE College. During our conversation, I happened to relate this incident to her. It is then I chanced upon some very interesting facts.

It so happens that the graveyard in question, is right in front of a Girl's Hostel. Some of the girls from the hostel had got up and got the scare of their lives that day. They claimed to have seen a person getting up from his grave and walking away ! And so was born another legend of the haunted graveyard facing the Girl's Hostel.

Unknown to me, I had, for all these years, and to all subsequent batches of girls staying in the hostel, become "the ghost who got up from his grave and walked away"..