Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Zero speaks

I’m the synonym for a loser. In your eyes, I signify loss and failure. I have no value whatsoever, not in your financial transactions, nor in your language or your lives.

And yet I matter.

For when I figure on the side of your losses, it is cause for celebration, isn’t it? I have positive as well as negative implications.

Add me to any other number you have in mind, and watch their value grow. The more you add of me at the end of that number, the more their value grows. Knock down one of me out of that figure, especially if the figure is your salary, and hear yourself shout in protest.

Does that sound like the attribute of a loser?

Without me, you would not be able to assign a value to yourself.

Without me, there would be no mathematics, no calculus, no accounting. No computers either.

I am the building block that stretches to infinity.

I am suffused with potential that knows no limits.

Without me, there would be no beginning.

With me, there is no end.

For I am the outer edge of nothing.

Book Review: THE BAD TOUCH

Title: The Bad Touch: The true story of Harish Iyer and other thrivers of child sex abuse
Author: Payal Shah Karwa
Publisher: Hay House India
Pages: 208

Most of us like to think that we lived in a better age. An age when the innocence of childhood went unharmed, unmolested.

Some of us still persist in believing that our children are safe. Not only children in our own homes and families but also those hailing from the same socio-economic backgrounds as us. We like to think that the scourge of child sex abuse (CSA) afflicts children from poor, often criminal, backgrounds.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Payal Shah Karwa’s book, The Bad Touch, reminds us that the perils of CSA are closer than we think. She informs us that a shocking 53 percent of children in India have been abused at least once in their lifetimes, according to the first ever National Study on Child Abuse, released by the Ministry for Women and Child Development in 2007. Worse, about 50 percent of the abusers occupy a position of trust vis-à-vis the child.

The horror of it does not end there. According to the WHO, Payal says, India has the world’s largest number of sexually abused children with a child below 16 years raped every 155th minute, a child below 10 every 13th hour and one in every ten children sexually abused at any point of time. In most cases, the children continue to suffer the negative effects of the abuse, such as depression etc, even into adulthood, long after the perpetrator has moved out of their lives.

Very often parents and caregivers are blissfully unaware of the ordeal that their child or ward is going through.

Children are afraid. They neither understand what is being done to them, nor do they know how to explain their fears to a trusted elder. Many children do not have the vocabulary required. They do not even know the names of their body parts. It is up to the elders to probe these children with sensitivity, to ask the right questions with gentleness.

Payal’s book lists and counters the myths associated with Child Sexual Abuse, namely that boys are not vulnerable, that abuse happens in the lower strata of society, and that the victims do not suffer from any harmful after effects. It also offers important pointers on how parents should trust their children’s word and try to win their children’s trust in turn.

The author brings the nightmare of CSA home to us through the accounts of seven people, four of them with fictitious names, who have survived abuse in their childhood.

Payal begins her book with the account of 7-year-old Harish Iyer (his real name), who was abused and repeatedly raped by his uncle over an 11-year period, until he turned 18. His story, the most detailed of all the accounts in the book, sickens you as a reader and as a parent. There were so many times, particularly in Harish’s account, when I had to stop reading, unable to continue. Unable to process what I had just read. That a young child, about 7-8 years old, should have to go through such horror was sickening.

I commend Harish for his unbelievable courage in speaking out the truth about the nightmare he lived for years. Today this brave young man is an activist against CSA.

The other well known account of CSA is that of Anurag Kashyap, who overcame the demons that plagued him and channelised his negative feelings into his writing and film making.

Not all the accounts are described in detail, but those that are help us to understand those that aren’t, and fill us with a sense of abhorrence and disgust at people who exploit children for sexual gratification. It also makes our hearts go out to the children for the horrors that they have lived through.

The cases that Payal describes depict the various types of abusive situations that children might be ensnared in. She also backs up her writing with statistics, facts and an update on the Indian law with reference to CSA and its implementation. Sections in which she highlights the physical, behavioural and psychological indicators of CSA and pointers on how to talk to children about CSA and how to help them to overcome the experience are also dealt with in detail. Payal has also very helpfully provided the contact details of non-governmental organisations that have dedicated themselves to ridding society of the scourge of CSA.

The book, unfortunately, suffers from severe editing issues. It is a pity that the publishers did not take the time to clean up the copy before printing it. Satheesh, the uncle who abuses Harish, is first introduced to us as having “a burlesque” figure.

I had to make a conscious effort to look beyond the language, in order to value the book for the message it imparted. And that value, I believe, is tremendous.

The Bad Touch serves to remind parents to be cautious and aware so that they may be able to protect their children in the best manner possible. It also helps to encourage the survivors of CSA that all is not lost, and that they can put the nightmare behind them.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Youth speaks

I’ll make this short. I really don’t have time to talk to you. 

My dreams await me. The world is watching out for me and my unique talents. I know that I was born to make a difference to this world.

And yet, I must take time out to talk to you. In the hope that you understand me. That you make the effort to see things through my eyes. That you not look too harshly upon my faults, my inadequacies, and the undue haste with which I go through life.

I am still finding my path, the one that calls to me. It is possible that in my search for my calling, I may stumble upon the wrong byways. When that happens, I hope you will be patient with me, even though patience is not an attribute that I possess myself.

Everything is happening to me for the first time, and sometimes I am so enamoured with my own experience, I like to believe that no one in all the history of the world has faced life the way I do.

I move fast, blinded by a sense of my own wondrousness. I have no time for that which is not swift.

Rebelling against everything that you have created comes naturally to me.

I am so filled with a delicious sense of my own grandeur that I believe I know everything. That what I don’t know isn’t worth knowing. And yet for all my cockiness, I go through periods of indecision. Which of my two best feet do I put forward first?

I don’t always do what I am told. There’s a voice in my heart that tells me that things can get better and that I could be the one to renew the world, paint it anew in the colours of my vision. Do not laugh at my bold dreams, no matter how stupid they may seem to your cynical eyes.

It is possible that my dreams may crumble and that I may someday find myself as disillusioned as you are.

It is also possible that the world may be touched with the bravado and recklessness with which I approach my future and reward me in unimaginable ways.

This is my time. A time when I rage with astounding courage, when I am driven by an inexpressible appetite for adventure.

This is my time. The world lies at my feet. It awaits my bidding. Watch me dazzle.

And if by chance, I give in to the snares that seek to thwart my path, please be gentle with me.

Monday, April 28, 2014

X-chromosome speaks

I didn't think that people like you, educated and sophisticated as you are, would ever need to hear from me.

Even so, here I am. Hoping you'll learn the lesson this time and refrain from your evil actions.

Basically, it is like this.

The woman has the XX chromosome, while the man has the XY chromosome. Therefore, a child gets one chromosome from the mother, and one from the father. Whether that is an X or a Y has a bearing on the gender of the child in question.

For centuries, you have persisted in berating, even beating, the woman for what you see as a crime on her part: failing to produce a male child.

I don't understand your aversion for me. You don't care about the skewed ratio of the sexes in this country. You care as little for the dangerous social dynamics it entails, and the manner in which it will upset the social equilibrium of society.

All that you are concerned with is that you have a male child to carry on your family name. Tell me, couldn't women carry forward the family name with as much pride and far more gentleness?

You place altogether too much emphasis on the male child, yet all around you see women bearing the burden of keeping families and communities going.

You are willing to pay huge sums of money to know the sex of the unborn child beforehand so that you can put the female child to death. In the womb itself.

And if some baby is fortunate enough to survive the deadly round, you net is cast wide enough. You'll kill the child after birth.

Let me warn you. If you kill the girl child, you must be prepared to suffer the consequences. And the consequences will come, much worse than you can imagine.

You were not meant to toy with the circle of life, nor use me as an excuse towards your nefarious needs.

Both of us, the X and the Y chromosomes, are equally important in the context of genetics, just as both men and women are equally significant in the context of humanity.

You cannot take forward your human legacy without the aid of the X-chromosome, just as humanity will cease to exist without the women.

You would do well to remember that.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

World Wide Web speaks

I often wonder how something like me, something so unreal, could have become so real to you.

I never thought I would get so larger than life. That I would become so indispensable to you.

Thanks to me, every word of yours has an instant audience. Comments are exchanged, you ‘like’ each other, and for an instant, so brief in the context of time, you get the impression that you have achieved what you set out to.

You are quick to rave over my virtues, the vast realms of information I make available to you.

You are as quick to blame me for the misinformation I sometimes end up peddling. But I am only your mouthpiece, forced to speak what you make me speak. Forced to sing your song, no matter how off-key it may be. Forced to tout your opinions no matter how filled with error they are.

I give you a semblance of power. An impression that your word has worth.

And so you expect every word, every sentence you unleash to yield you followers and fans, people who will trumpet your doings until they become the stuff of internet legend.

You speak in tweets and status updates.

In the outside world, your rantings would have alienated your friends from you. Here, you can delude yourselves into thinking you are the next big literary sensation the world is waiting for.

I cannot understand you. If someone were to express interest in your private and personal life, you’d be deeply offended. You might even call the police and have that person arrested. But you log on to the net, and, like a drunken lout, you happily reel off the gory details about things that should have been strictly Need-to-know. All for the pleasure of your unknown, unreal online friends, connections and followers who will give you the thumbs-up and pour out the most superlative words in the language upon your eager ears. Ever stop to think about where all those details go?

They leave tell tale marks behind. Fingerprints that are uniquely yours. Incriminating evidence that can be traced to you and will be used against you.

By the czars of commerce, the badshahs of business, the media moguls.

Long after you are gone, they will remain, bearing witness to your lives.

There are some people who still believe in me. For I magnify the small squeak and give it resounding overtones.

They believe in my capacity for giving and sharing, for collaborating and communicating. People who love me for the ease with which I let them indulge in locker room gossip or pass chits to their friends right under the watchful gaze of the teacher.

For the prodigality with which I answer their questions.

For teaching them virtually any skill.

But I also have a capacity for distracting, and reducing productivity. For providing contradictory information. The longer you spend with me, the less nourished and satisfied you are likely to feel.

I have a dark side too. Created by those who swarm to my shores for the power and the freedom I can give, and the anonymity and the instant gratification too. They reduce my inherent goodness to a shop window for cyber bullying and abuse and pornography. A world where nothing is what it claims to be. Where the sweet 16-year-old innocent girl might well be a 69-year-old predator.

I’m the easy street to legitimacy. That might explain your hurry to open your own websites. And FB pages for everyone, including your 3-month-old daughter and your pet cat.

I am not some overpowering super-Intelligence but a composite of all your thoughts and minds, I am always a work-in-progress, an ever-growing aggregate that each of you helps to build, pushing the boundaries further away.

So beware of what you read and believe.

Not everything you find within me is true, or kind, or necessary.

I sometimes see you so lost in me. You scarcely have time for those sitting inches away from you. You turn to me, hoping that within me you will find true affection, an opportunity to reveal yourself. Instead you are confronted by others like yourself who have no time to answer your needs because their own need answering.

I sometimes wonder what life is like in the real world. 
I’ll never know.

Ironically, you won’t either.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Vernacular speaks

We know you look down on us. You see us as downmarket, not in touch with the times.

We try in our own way. we try to make ourselves visible, to grab your attention, but it’s tough to achieve on our own.

Sometimes we refrain from participating in discussions on certain subjects, not because we are slow or backward but because we don’t have the words to describe those things. The terminology eludes us.

How can you be so unwilling to associate with us? At least in a nation like India that boasts of hundreds of languages and thrice as many dialects, you must be slow to snigger at us. We’ve been around for a long, long time, ages before English arrived on Indian shores. Our literature and the culture we have spawned have been alive and vibrant.

Some of us are dying a slow death. All because you are ashamed of us.

We don’t think ill of the language you’ve adopted as your own. Just a slight twinge of envy for having lost you to its charms.

We are rich in our own ways. Sure, there are many concepts that we can’t get a handle on, but there are an equally large number of things that you take for granted that you would find it very difficult to translate to English.

So, don’t assume that someone is less intelligent if they depend upon us to communicate themselves.

We have our virtues. We connect you to places and climes you may not even have seen. We bring you in touch with people with whom you have shared ancestries. So that even when you don’t know about them, you find yourselves nodding to the beat of something that appeals to something primeval in you.

If we lose our essence, it will be because you won’t meet us halfway.

Come, make an attempt to get to know us better. Teach your children to love us, to take a fierce pride in us.

Speak us with pride. We are your mother tongues, the language that your roots were steeped in, the language that struck a chord with your ancestors.

Make our rhythms your own. Revive us. Breathe life into our lost glories.

Don’t leave us behind in your surge ahead.

I promise you, your efforts will be richly rewarded.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Urbanisation speaks

Grey is my favourite colour. It’s a natural after effect of my existence.

I love soot and dust. It is my own way of feeling rooted to the earth, long after the fields and the trees have been mowed down to make way for concrete buildings and towers that touch the sky.

Long after the freshness has given way to stale, dry air that keeps getting recycled.

You crib about me, you grumble about how I have ruined your health, perforated your lungs. And yet you won’t have it any other way.

Would you give up what you have? Would you consume less so less needed to be produced? Would you be content to reuse what you had until it had most certainly outlived its use?

Nay, that is too much to ask. You are constantly discovering newer needs, which my votaries hasten to fulfill.

You long nostalgically for what once was. Your mourn about the pace of life, about the polluted, grimy city you live in, but what are you willing to do about it? Would you be willing to prune down your list of desires?

You mourn the state of affairs, wondering why the farmers must flock to the cities, and strain the already weary infrastructure. Do you realize how much you have contributed to the strain?

As your desires and needs burgeon, so do the factories that bring those desires to life. And then those who labour in those factories must have a place to stay, no matter how substandard and subhuman. Before you know it, the city has degenerated into a heartless, soulless place, where children eat out of bins and crime runs rampant.

It is not for you to decide which part of me you want. And which part to reject. I am a package deal. It is all or nothing.

I am doomed to grow and keep growing, until I suffer on account of that very growth.

Can you take a stand today?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Time speaks

So you think you are my master, do you?

Just by virtue of having trapped me into a little gadget that you have attached, like a leash, to your wrist? I tell you, your ancestors feared me; they were unable to break me up into hours, minutes and seconds with the consummate ease that has been your contribution to the world, and yet they knew that I was on their side.

You, on the other hand, have no such assurance.

Nor do you want any.

You persist in believing that you are in control of me. That you have somehow been blessed with permanence. That you are here to stay.

And all the time, I have the power to twist your fate with a snap of my fingers.

My greatest gift to you is the gift of Today. These 86,400 seconds that you can use the way you want to. No one can buy this gift from me. No matter what your age or socio-economic background, this is the gift I bring to you. What you do with it is your gift to yourself.

I bring you your life’s experiences in bite-sized pieces, so you can chew and savour them to the fullest. Were it not for me, these experiences would come crushing down upon you, and leave you feeling either too numb or overfed.

With so much to give you, I still give you the freedom to decide what you want to do with me. Personally I prefer to be spent well, even squandered, in acts and actions that bring real joy to your heart. Those are the actions that you won’t regret when you see the hourglass nearly full, with almost no sand left to tip over.

But you don’t learn. Only your children treat me well. They live in the here and now.

You think you have the last laugh on me. After all, you alone, among all living beings on earth, have the power to kill me every day. What you don’t realize is that when you seek to kill me, you only injure yourself, your possibilities and your potential. You watch me trickle away, minute by minute, and then you are shocked to realize that whole years have gone by.

All the time, I work smoothly, behind the scenes, noiselessly. Until you suddenly realize with a gasp of disbelief that it is almost closing time, and you’ve whittled away the precious currency you started off with.

There are so many ways in which you try to cheat me. When you put things off for the morrow. When you waste time in useless things, that bring you neither joy nor peace. When you seek to hurry through certain experiences in order to save time.

You fail to realize that I am not in your employ. You are my subjects, powerless as I impose my will upon you. 

Unable to stop yourself from being altered by me, bit by bit.

Pliant, as I teach you the lessons you need to learn. 

Impotent, as I strip you of so many things that you thought were yours to keep.

Sometimes you attribute magical powers to me. You think that I heal all wounds, when the truth is that your memory becomes too blunt to hold on to the sharp pangs of grief.

But there is one kind of magic I do have. That is the magic of measuring your life and helping you to realize that you are but a dot in the mighty scheme of things. For I have borne witness to the moon and the stars, the mountains and the dust. I have always been and always will be.

You will not.

Better use me well.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Spinster speaks

I hear the whispers, the snide remarks. I see the disapproving looks. 

“There she is, not yet married.”

What an affront to civilization!

A woman who won’t accept her dutiful place as the devoted wife of her husband.

In your eyes, it seems, my entire life story hinges on the answer to that one single question: When am I going to get married?

I have a question of my own. How is my marital status your business?
Be honest with me: Do you want me to be married because marriage is the best state of life? Or do you want me to be married because it makes you uncomfortable to see me in charge of my own life? Making my own decisions without consulting others? Pursuing my own interests, travelling whenever and wherever I feel like?

You won’t admit it, but I can sense a bit of envy in your disapproval of me. You can’t be in my shoes, so you try to make me look as pathetic as possible.

Whether I give in to the loneliness that the word spinster forces upon me, or whether I allow myself to fly with the freedom offered by the word, singleton, I am someone that does not fit into your understanding of the word, family.

To you, I am somewhere on the fringes. You see me as belonging to a family, but with only a feeble hold over them.

You’d feel better if I were more like you. Tell me honestly, is it always greener on the other side? Aren’t there times when you’re staring at your husband lost in the latest game on TV, or listening miserably to his snoring in bed, while you wondered if this is what you signed up for?

Don’t brand me cranky and vicious just because I haven’t been married. Crankiness has nothing to do with the absence of a wedding ring. There are cranky marrieds as well as cranky singles.

I’m not to blame for the erosion of values or the breakdown in society.

You accuse me of setting my standards too high. Of asking for too much. What’s wrong with setting my sights too high, I would like to know? Why do I have to settle like you did? 

The truth is that I won’t settle down. 

And that makes you feel unsettled.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Ratings speak

I rule.

Whole industries watch me with bated breath, their hearts in their throats, hoping I’ll rise up to dizzying heights.

My word matters. For a while, at least.

Stuff which should have been shoved into the bin gets worshipped. I have the power to make the contents of the trashcan go viral.

Eventually common sense takes over. But for a brief spell, my word carries weight.

Enough so you sit up and pay attention to me. Enough so I can laugh louder than my critics.

But laughter doesn’t always come easy, particularly if you want to indulge in it as you are driving to the bank. And so, you become willing to do anything to keep me high.

Sometimes I wonder how low the quality of your TV programming, of your writing, even of your Facebook posts, seems to be dipping. There is no limit to the kind of stuff some of you are willing to put up with just to keep me satiated.

On TV, stories are conveniently re-written to suit me. Actors are willing to alter their performances for my sake.

On reality shows, people become willing to parade their own lives and demean others for public consumption. They fall in love and out of it to please me.

On the news networks, I decide that bad news will be played up and good news be relegated to a slot in the future, when no news is available. Remember, no news is good news.

Why did I become so big? Why does everyone want a large piece of me?

Is it because my approval can be bought and sold as easily as any other commodity on the market?

What people don’t realize is that my loyalty does not stay bought. I am a fickle creature, and I am quick to transfer my patronage on the next hamster that is willing to perform for my amusement.

A part of me is ashamed of myself. The part that knows that I won’t last forever. That eventually readers and audiences will see through the sham that I am and turn their backs on me. That writers and performers will write for themselves and give up recycling crap.

And then I catch sight of your faces, greedy and eager to see what judgement I am going to pronounce on you.

And I realize that I rule.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Queue speaks

How hard can it be?

First the first, then the second, followed by the third and the fourth and so on. You can send unmanned space ships into space, but you can’t get a grip on something as simple as me?

I don’t understand your natural aversion to me. Whether it involves waiting for the bus, buying tickets at the ticket counter or waiting at the airport, you just don’t have the discipline required to do justice to me. Within seconds, you will be peering over the shoulders, around the elbows of the people before you. Before long, you’ve all branched off into different direction as each one of you, including those standing at least 10 metres away from the counter, try to get a glimpse of the action taking place at the head of the counter.

If there are a few people who sense my inherent virtues, they will be dissuaded by those who slide over hesitantly towards them, and shuffle their feet around their chosen victim, seemingly unsure about whether to approach and how to approach.

Make no mistake. The hesitation is an act. These people know exactly what they are about. They want you to believe in their helplessness, in the absolute life-and-death situation that prevents them from standing in line too.

Not all of you show such blatant disregard for me. And for their sake, I want to give you another chance.

No jumping from one queue to another. The only hopping I am prepared to tolerate is if you want to reduce the tedium of waiting by hopping from one foot to another.

I know how you feel about me. I know that you deplore the great injustice of it all when the other queue seems to move faster. But you must be slow to blame me for that. Notch that up to human inefficiency.

I am the only one who can bring order into your life.

Treat me with disdain and prepared to encounter chaos.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Paedophile speaks

What a sweet child!

What an adorable face!

Who could resist being charmed by such a child?

Would you mind...? May I play with her for a while? May I dandle him on my knee?

I watch you out of the corner of my eye. I can tell that you are pleased with my attentions. It won’t be long now.

Before I win your complete confidence.

Before I have you eating out of my hand. Metaphorically speaking.

And your child too. Literally speaking.

There’s nothing to stop me. When was the last time you talked to your child? Have you explained to her that bad things can happen to good children? That he should scream and shout and run to the shelter of your arms?

Oh no, perish the thought. You’re a good family. Such sordid messes don’t happen to you. Better to just wish me away.

You would rather trust me than your own child. The child you swore you’d protect when you looked at her innocent face. At his chest, gently heaving up and down in the throes of deep sleep. You’d stand between a hurricane and your child. But you’re powerless in front of me.

Powerless in your ignorance. What is that they say? Ignorance is bliss. Not for you. For that matter, you would have been just as powerless even if awareness were to hit you like a ton of bricks.

“Hush,” I’ve heard it said so often. “How could you speak thus of ___? 

He’s Papa’s best friend. 

She’s Mummy’s distant cousin. 


An older cousin.

An older sibling.

The driver. 

The teacher. 

The attendant on the bus. 

The priest.

The face in your mirror.

The face I show you could be that of anyone you know. Anyone you’ve known since you were a child. Someone you’d trust in a heartbeat.

Besides, what would the neighbours say? How would you look anyone in the eye?

That makes my work easy.

At first, I will lure your child with chocolates. With sweet talk.

Don’t talk to a stranger, you say. What if I’m not a stranger?

And then I will threaten your child. Tell them that bad things will happen to those they love if they tell anyone of what has just happened between us. That should be enough to frighten them. Subdue them. With any luck, you won't even notice the change in your child.

I can't help it. My lust is a hungry beast. Wanting appeasement over and over again. Seeking fresh prey.

It’s easy for me to be charming. No demons gnaw at my breast. No guilt claws at my soul. I’ve shifted the burden of my sin.

See it there! Burdened low. Its childhood in tatters. Its self esteem in shreds. Forever sentenced to fail at relationships. Floundering through life.


Do you ever watch your children for signs? To see if she seems withdrawn? Or if he seems troubled? Would you probe for answers? Or would you shirk the unpleasant questions.

You know children. They have such an overactive imagination. Always making things up. Living in make-believe.

Better to wish me away. But I’m not so easily put off.

Better to shush them up. He’s only a child; he’ll get over it.

She’s only a baby. She won’t even remember this.

Except that they will. In painful, excruciating detail. I will preside over their thoughts. Turning the nightmares loose. Till there’s no escape.

May I count on your support?

What a sweet child!

May I dandle her on my knee?

(April is Child Sexual Abuse Awareness month. Let's spread awareness about child sexual abuse and help prevent it.)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Book Review: The Thief

Title: The Thief
Author: Stephanie Landsem
Publisher: Howard Books
Pages: 368 pages

Most Christian fiction I have read has centred on characters that are prominent in the Old Testament. This is the first time that I read a whole novel based on the lives of characters who find only a brief mention in the Gospels. And yet, both these characters, the blind man who was healed by Jesus and the centurion who drops to his knees in front of the crucified Jesus, are pivotal and significant in their own way.

Nissa lives with her blind brother, Cedron, in a poor quarter of Jerusalem. She struggles to make enough money to pay the rent and keep them both fed. Her father is too fond of gambling, her mother of wine.

Mouse is a dirty boy, a thief whose petty spoils keep them going. Aided and tutored by Dismas, an experienced, older thief, Mouse keeps going. But Mouse is just Nissa by another name and guise. He is also Nissa’s most dangerous secret, one that could well get her stoned to death.

Longinus is a centurion who hates his time in Jerusalem, and longs for his hometown of Gaul. He makes it his mission to rid the marketplace of the thieves. When Nissa is caught by Longinus, she decides to give up stealing. But a hungry belly, the betrayal of her own parents and what she sees as the hard-heartedness of a God who won’t answer her brother’s faith force her back to a life of petty crime.

When Jesus heals Cedron of his blindness, the Sanhedrin are upset with Jesus for healing a blind man on the Sabbath.

The lives of Nissa and Longinus and many others get entangled with the story of Jesus. Ultimately, Jesus’ death and resurrection infuse the two with renewed hope and faith in a revolution that does not depend on war, and a God who is like no other.

Bit by bit, Stephanie shows us details about the lives of the characters. Before we know it, they have stepped off the pages of the book and into a film that plays out in our minds.

The best thing about Nissa is that she is plain and feisty, a woman of spirit and past marriageable age, my favourite combination. It is not a combination that is highly regarded in her time. To make matters worse, Nissa isn’t wife material. And she has no talents except for stealing.

What I liked about The Thief is that despite being generally a work of fiction, it is all too real. Both Nissa and Longinus are confronted by multiple antagonists. For Longinus, it is Silvanus, the chief centurion who longs to see him humiliated; Stephen, the Samaritan, who killed his best friend; Mouse, the thief that won’t get caught, and Death, the sceptre that stalks them all.

For Nissa, it is Longinus who has vowed to catch her thieving alter-ego, the voice inside her head that goads her into one more episode of petty thievery, Gilad, the landlord, whose rent they must pay or find themselves on the street, and her own parents with their addictions.

There are many contrasts here. Cedron’s faith versus Nissa’s lack of it, and ultimately the faith that Nissa tentatively begins to hold on to even as Cedron becomes disillusioned by the revolution that was not to be. Nissa, the Jew, and her struggle with her faith against Longinus, the soldier, and his openness in accepting the peace offered by the healer.

Stephanie has chosen two minor characters out of a New Testament teeming with bit roles, and used them to tell the story of the last days of Jesus. The man, who was blind from birth, and used to beg outside the temple, and was healed by Jesus. Now he has a life, a family and a sister who sets the tone for the unfolding of the story.

The pace of the chapters is perfect, alternating between the viewpoints of Longinus and Nissa, and leaving us at a crucial point in the story.

The events, as we know them in the Bible, move on in quick succession, and we are caught up in the tumult, as seen through the eyes of Nissa and Longinus and, to an extent, Cedron.

The love story grows in a slow and sedate fashion. The intensity and significance of marriage are emphasized as both Nissa and Longinus become willing to sacrifice all and give over everything they have and own into the keeping of the other. This desire on their part is expressive of God’s supreme sacrifice and His desire that we hand over everything we have to him.

Stephanie has also done a fantastic job of recreating the locale and the era of Jesus’ time. A smattering of Aramaic words across the narrative helps to make the story more real. The author has maintained a loyalty to the account of the Passion, as described in the Gospels, relying on her imagination to piece the rest together. In her skillful hands, the story comes alive.

The characters that populated the Gospels are here. The blind man who was healed, his parents who were called to give testimony about his congenital blindness, Dismas and Gestas, known in popular lore and literature as the Good Thief and the Bad Thief, Pontius Pilate, Joseph of Arimathea, the centurion who dropped to his knees and admitted that this was indeed the Son of God as Jesus breathed His last, Stephen, Simon of Cyrene and a host of other people.

Along with them are so many others that were born in Stephanie’s mind, but could well have existed in Jesus’ time, albeit by another name and with different life stories.

The baser instincts of people are evident here, through the instance of thieves and a murderer and many others who, through the depth of their sins, indicate their deep need of redemption.

This is a book that I would heartily recommend to everyone.

Thank you, Stephanie, for this treat of a story. I started reading it a day before Palm Sunday and finished it today, on Maundy Thursday. It was the perfect prelude to my Good Friday and Easter devotions.

(I got a Kindle version of this book from NetGalley.)

Old age speaks

I wasn’t always the doddering, decrepit, drooling shadow you see before you. I was as young as you are once. 


I didn’t always repeat the same story over and over again, I was busy living it, getting stymied by the plot twists and turns that came my way. And coming out victorious. 

Some of the time.

I was once the picture of youth, freshness and vigour. These body parts of mine didn’t always creak and ache.

My memory was once strong. I could dive into the deep recesses of my mind and dredge up facts that some of you might classify as history.

But it isn’t all downhill.

Parts of my mind are beginning to slow down, sure. But somehow, I do recall the most important things. I can recall living a good life. I’ve made mistakes that I’ve paid for. But I’ve also made mistakes that have not been held against me. Mistakes against which I’ve bounced back.

Sometimes I even forget that I am old. Until you remind me, by the respect you sometimes extend to me. But mostly by the impatience in your eyes.

Sometimes I pretend to be deaf so I can fight the hurt I feel when you say some of the things you do.

I have my own defences.

Remembering the happy moments of my past help me to forget the aches of the present.

I’m grateful for the little I have. For the fact that I can still stand and walk and clean up after myself.

So meet me halfway, will you?

If I tell you a story for the nth time with all the details attached, please don’t rudely dismiss it. It’s all I have left, now that my dear ones have gone.

And if my habits displease you, bear with me. They’ve been with me too long and I can no longer cast them away.

Before the end comes, let me give you some advice. It is the only thing I have left to give. Apart from the wisdom you don’t have time for.

Do the things you want to do. And live your life to the fullest. But remember, old age comes. Suddenly and inexorably.

Unless the alternative arrives earlier.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A newborn speaks


There is so much I want to tell you. But in the absence of the power of speech, I don’t know just how much I will be able to convey. Or how much you will be able to understand.

It’s tough to be a newborn, you know. Communication is so difficult.

There is so much I want to tell you. We, newborns, have a deep need of you. We look to you for everything. For the milk you give us, for the warmth with which you envelop us, for your unconditional love. And that’s something that we're never going to stop needing.

Everybody gushes over babies, raving endlessly about the gurgles, the toothless mouths, the crinkly eyes, the jiggling bellies. But we, newborns, we don’t do anything except drink, sleep and poop. Drink on demand. Sleep whenever the mood takes us. And poop too, particularly when you least expect it. 

Some parents feel a surge of love well up in their hearts at the sight of us. But not everyone does. If you don’t fit into the former category, I’d like to request you to please be patient with us.

We don’t really understand the concept of night and day, and it is likely that over the next few days weeks months, we might give you a lot of sleepless nights. You might find yourself dozing on your feet. Longing for those days when you slept in late. Enjoyed long showers. Did your own thing.

I assure you that things will get better. We won’t always poop all the time. And we will sleep through the night.

Meanwhile, if you’re finding it hard to cope, if you’re feeling low or depressed, please seek help. Have a friend or family member come in and manage some of the household chores, so you don’t resent us for intruding on your presence. You need to preserve your strength and energy for yourself. Only then will you have time and energy for us.

Also, don’t feel guilty for not being able to do enough.

And whatever you do, don’t shake us, please. That sort of thing can cause sudden death.

We can be demanding. Very demanding. It’s the way we were fashioned. To rely completely on you. To look to you for the fulfillment of all our needs. Your love for us is the closest to divine love.

In our own way, we will reward you. By gurgling at you, howling when you walk out of our line of vision, and when we are fed well, we will burp heartily. Apparently that’s the most satisfying sound you’ve ever heard.

Please run to us whenever we cry. It’s the only way we can communicate to you. We will cry for any number of reasons. Hunger, a diaper change, sleepiness, stomach ache, cold, indigestion, or simply a desire to be held. Whatever the reason for the crying, please rush to us and pick us up. 

Hold us as often as you can. It won’t spoil us. On the contrary, it will provide us a great sense of comfort and convince us that we have come into a world in which those we trust the most will not betray us. It will help build a more solid relationship between us, and give us a more positive self-image.

Another thing, we need both mums and dads to be a team for our sake. Both of you have something valuable to offer us.

There's a lot we'd like to talk about, but we'll wait until we're able to speak our first words.

You'll be waiting too, won't you?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Marriage speaks

Go ahead, blame me. It’s the right thing to do, isn’t it?

You were minding your own business, when I came after you. Clobbered you on the head with a huge club, caveman style, and forced you into Holy Matrimony with your equally blameless spouse.

Your boredom, your negligence of each other, your frustration – they may all be laid squarely at my doorstep. Or so you'd like to believe.

May I remind you of a time when you couldn’t have enough of each other? Influenced by one romantic comedy too many, you convinced yourselves that you wanted to spend the rest of your lives with each other, and you wanted the rest of your life to begin right away. And before I could get a word in, you were going about with a “Just Married” sign attached to the boot of your car and making honeymoon plans.

The trouble with you is that you mistook the excitement and beauty of the Wedding for me. Make no mistake, I require hard work. No one-day fun and frolic for me. I’m in it for the long haul. So better make sure you really want to spend the rest of your life with someone before bringing me in to seal the contract.

There are ways to retrieve the situation.

How about falling in love? No, not with another person. I don’t recommend variety. I’m a strict monogamist.

I meant, falling in love with your spouse. Over and over again.

It won’t be easy, but if you want a happy marriage, that’s what you’ll need to do. And be quick to forgive, slow to take offence. Display grace towards each other, and a mutual respect too.

Encourage each other’s strengths, and turn a merciful eye on each other’s minor faults. We all have need of mercy.

Fill up the empty spaces in each other. We are all broken, but we can be the glue to our spouse’s pain, the balm to their blisters.

I didn’t say it would always be hunky dory. That’s an assumption you made. You were so besotted with each other, you thought your spouse would always look as appealing as they did on the wedding day. The truth is that it is hard to maintain the sexiness particularly after a bout of the cold, or after the children are born, or after age adds tyres to your middle.

Let me burst your bubble further. 

Looks aren’t the only thing that are fleeting.
The opposites that once attracted you will begin to drive you crazy. 

When that happens, it’s good to remember that you’re still one team. You won’t get far if you work at cross purposes with each other.

Let the foundation of your relationship be a solid friendship, the kind that is blessed with soulful conversations and frivolous joking alike.

The kind that relies on the other with an unwavering trust.

It’s not a foolproof formula for success. How could it be? Neither of you is perfect. People like you, who are quick to look for the exit sign at the first instance of fire, or even smoke.

But if you bear in mind that when things get broken between you, you have to fix them, and you make a sincere effort to remember that love is a verb, and that it demands strong reserves of commitment from you, you’ll find that things get better by and by.

I personally recommend prayer. Nothing like a third strand to make a braid strong. Two strands can’t hold it together for long.

I know I’m demanding. But if you do what I ask, if you cherish what I bring to your relationship, and look with wonder upon my ordinariness, I promise you the best relationship you can have.

Staying happily married is no child's play. Do you have it in you to make a success of your marriage?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Life speaks

I am the most beautiful gift you have.

So many of you realize my worth only when it is too late. You spend all your life wondering why others have it better than you, why you were born on the wrong side of the tracks, when others are wallowing in luxury. I can be a hard taskmaster, but whether you believe it or not, I am a just paymaster. I have always given you the wages you asked for, provided you are willing to sweat for them.

I have a soft corner for those who won’t stop dancing even though they have blisters on their feet.

I give you so much. I give you loved ones, opportunities for friendship, for making good memories, and I let you be in charge of yourself. How is it my fault if you don’t take control?

Sure I take things away too. But you can’t have it all. Not all the time. There are lessons to be learned from holding on, and from letting go.

I may seem cruel to you, particularly when I grind you down. Don’t take it personally. It’s part of the game. I give you the freedom to act as you will, don’t I? Will you let me mow you down? Or will you spring up each time I hit you?

Unfortunately, I don’t come with a manual. I let you figure out things for yourself. I’d be simpler, if I came with instructions. But that would straitjacket the width of my offerings to you.

There are a few things that I demand from you.

No matter what happens, you have to keep moving. I’m a living, rushing river. Don’t make a cesspool out of me. Travel light. Leave negative memories, emotions and feelings behind. Excess baggage bogs me down.

Do the things that get your heart racing. Do the things that calm your heart.

Live today to the fullest. You don’t know what I’m going to serve tomorrow.

Dance when it rains. Dance when it’s sunny.

When sorrow overtakes you, grieve with all your heart.
When joy suffuses your being, rejoice as completely.

Watch out for the small things. They make up the entirety of me.

As long as I am with you, live every moment. Don’t let your spirit die before your time is up.

All said and done, I’m really not that complicated.

Just remember that I am your story. Don’t let others write me for you.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Kindergarten speaks

How much you’ve grown! How much you’ve changed!

I can still remember you as a wide-eyed child, just out of toddlerhood. Hesitant. Unwilling to let go of your mother’s warm embrace. Your father’s safe clasp.

There your parents stood, nervous and on edge, wondering how you would manage, whether you would make any friends, whether the other kids would be nice to you.

There was an innocence on your face. An enthusiasm, a zest for life. A desire to grab as much of life as you could with both hands.

You saw everything in the world for the beauty it held. If you saw the ugliness, the sordid mess that adults have made of the world, it didn’t cling to your mind.

You were much better behaved then. You got along with your classmates. When the inevitable disagreements took place, you sulked for a while and refused to shake hands or share toys with them.

Sometimes you hit people, but you learned to be sorry. And hug each other again.

But your memory was a sieve when it came to negative experiences. You didn’t hold on to them. Before you knew it, you were playing with the same kids again.

It’s as you grow older that you can’t seem to let go of slights and differences of opinion.

When you were afraid, you held hands. You asked for help. You cried out.

When you didn’t know something, as complex as stringing beads together on an abacus, writing out letters or reciting rhymes, you learned it.

Drawing and singing and painting and studying and being loved and appreciated for who you are, not what you did, formed the apex of happiness for you.

My fondest memory of you is of the seriousness with which you went about being joyful. About rejecting sadness.

A loving person had the power to kiss your boo-boos away.

You could start talking with another child just like that. You didn’t waste precious time wondering who was going to introduce you. And just why should you be the one to always make the first move.

I’ve seen generations of children cross through my portals and it never ceases to surprise me how beautiful is the font of childhood.

I’ve taught you many things. But you’ve taught me far more than that.

If only you stayed so innocent and joyful all your lives.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Journalism speaks

I see the street vendor wrap some greasy samosas in today’s newspaper. It is a reminder that my calling is a transient, fleeting one. Today’s news is tomorrow’s lining for a bird cage.

How the mighty have fallen! I remember my glory days when young people joined my ranks, knowing that they would be able to make a difference to the world. 

In my time, I have swayed the opinions of whole nations, woken up sleeping consciences, outlawed ruthless ideologies and pilloried cruel governments. I was once the voice of culture and enlightenment. Napoleon said he feared three newspapers more than a hundred thousand bayonets.

Today, I am a farce, a caricature of my glory days. I have lost my spine. For no fault of mine. Others decide how I will act, when I will speak and when I will shut up.

Today my voice can be hired, sold to the highest bidder. I am a slave, forced to toe the line drawn by my owners and the advertising folk. How much are you willing to pay for a five-column spread on the front page?

And if you want to get a truly significant piece of truth off the front pages, release the news that a starlet wants world peace for Christmas.

No longer are my ranks swelled by upright and honest citizens. Today I am just another profession, with mediocre people calling the shots.

No longer do my professionals consider it their duty to educate and inform and elevate the human mind. No. They’ve settled for entertaining and amusing, like circus performers.

Who cares about facts anymore? Or about accuracy? It is more important to be the first to reveal something than to reveal it right. It breaks me up to think that Breaking News is all that I've been reduced to.

Everything is grist for the Breaking News mill. Whether it is the collapse of the economy or the discovery of a skeleton in someone’s closet or a stupid statement that someone makes to drum up publicity for themselves, journalists treat every subject with the same attitude: Voices screaming, microphones shoved into people’s faces. In the rush to get news, the truth dies a quiet death and no one even misses it. Who is left to mourn its passing but me?

And if by some freak of nature, there should come a day with nothing newsworthy to report, why should that minor fact stand in anyone’s way? My proponents are all wannabe writers; fact and fiction, they are two sides of the same coin.

Everyone’s in a hurry to get the news out. No one has the time for objectivity. Or for good news. Bad news is so much more exciting.

They fell good trees to bring out bad news.

Unafraid in their quest to pass off the counterfeit for the real thing.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Inner voice speaks

What do I have to do to catch your attention?

I’ve been waiting here a long time. But you’re too busy listening to that rambling monologue inside your head, when you’re not playing around with your gadgets, chatting with your friends, online or off. You seem to be totally incapable of sitting still, long enough to hear me.

You ignore me at your peril. If you wish to strengthen your character, you have to make time for me. The stronger I am, the stronger will you be.

I am the mirror that reflects you. I show you the clearest image of yourself.

If you want to go far in life, you have to make time to journey within. Deep into your soul. To the purest, clearest, most unblemished part of you.

You have to walk a simple, yet mostly untrodden, path to reach me.

Be quiet.
Empty your mind.
Recharge your mind.
Savour your surroundings.
Live in the moment.
Breathe deeply.
Simply be.

You have to learn to centre yourself in the here and now. Everything else can wait.

Speed is no virtue. What use is it if you arrive at the end of your journey with no special memories or experiences to call your own?

Idleness can be sacred too. Down time, time spent away from the gadgets that enable the ceaseless chatter in your head, can be a good thing. It can help you recoup your energies, sharpen your instincts. It can navigate your path.

When you get caught up in the noises of the world, your body falls out of step with me. It fails to understand the natural rhythm I bring to it. The rhythm which might have helped you to be true to yourself.

I am not used to speaking above a whisper, and I’m not about to start now.

How about setting aside a day just for me?

How about slowing down long enough to let me catch up with you?

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Hunger speaks

Be grateful you don’t know me.
The hunger you know when you wake up, fresh from a deep and restful sleep following a good meal the previous night, your stomach rumbling gently, is nothing like me.

I am the hunger that makes you claw at your belly. T
he hunger of the always-empty stomach. 

The hunger that might drive a mother crazy enough to make her kids eat chalk or mud just to assuage their hunger pangs.

The hunger that cares little for morals or values or even God, unless they are edible.

The hunger that can steal, maim or kill for bread.

Sometimes I wonder why you do nothing about me. It can’t be for want of food, because you clearly have more than enough. Did you know that the earth provides enough food for every being on the planet?

So much food that there are people who are chronically obese. While food, tons of it, is thrown into the garbage bins.

Why then do people go hungry? Hundreds of millions of them?

You over-stuff your plates, then find that you have no appetite, or the food is not as good as you’d like it to be. And you shovel it into the bin without a qualm.

When I think of the vast numbers of people who might have lived had they had a portion, a few morsels, of the food you throw away, I choke with misery.

If I were you, I’d consider it a sin to waste food. Or over-eat.

With all your excess, you suffer from allergies and intolerance to certain kinds of food. The hungry are never allergic to food. I make the most insipid, badly cooked meal taste like a king’s feast.

When you’re in the mood to be charitable, you donate some food to the poor. It makes you feel happy.

Good deed done for the day? Check.

Does that stop you from wasting or over-eating the rest of the year?

Do you spare any thought for those dying of starvation or malnutrition?

Have you ever wondered what it must feel like to be unaware about where your next meal might be coming from?

How can you go to bed every night, and dream your epic dreams, knowing that there are people out there who will go to sleep hungry? Little children with distended bellies crying, unable to out-cry their growling stomachs.

Doesn’t it seem unfair to you that you have so much, and they eat out of the trash heap?

Can you try sharing a meal you don’t want with a beggar or a street child? Instead of throwing it away?

Pray that you may never know real hunger.

Or maybe you should get to know me, just once.

Then you’ll know.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Garbage speaks

I noticed that you wrinkled up your nose just now when I called to you.

It isn’t my fault that I smell so bad, you know. I owe that to you. My very existence, in fact, and the humongous amounts in which I exist.

And yet you go around pretending as if you had nothing to do with me.

Tell me, who buys excessive amounts of things you don’t really need?

Who feels compelled to buy the latest of whatever’s on offer, while discarding what you once had?

Who secretly takes pride in the sort of stuff your garbage can is full of?

I am everywhere in your life. You talk garbage. You watch it on TV, your mind is full of it. As is your heart. Your newspapers print it. Your culture is getting increasingly corrupted by it.

Clothing, shoes, furniture, vehicles, gadgets, even relationships – everything finds itself on the garbage heap. It’s like you have the Midas touch for creating garbage. Anything has the potential for being disposed of.

Things come with expiry dates but add to my stockpile long before the Best By date.

You are conspiring to send all of nature to the trash heap.

It wasn’t always like this. I used to be much thinner in the old days. Folks used to look after what they had. Spare money was put by for a rainy day. Things were used to the hilt, then passed on down to younger siblings, even to the next generation, becoming ever more valued in the process. Now nothing lives long enough to be an heirloom.

You treat the whole world as one big garbage dump. The oceans are screaming with pain at the kind of crap they are expected to swallow.

Garbage, waste, sludge, sewage.

Chemical waste. Metal waste. Nuclear waste.

You’re not prepared to cut down on the amount of garbage you generate. You can’t bring yourself to cut down on wastage. With every action of your daily routine, you create more of me.

Consider the consequences of the trail you create, from the production of unnecessary packaging to the discarding of it all.

From want to consumption to disposal.

Soon you’ll pay the price for it. If you won’t learn the lesson I’m trying to teach you, you’ll run out of space to dump the garbage in. The land, the water and the air are already stuffed to the brim with more and more of me.

I look at the growing mounds of me, spreading everywhere, spreading infestation, and I wonder how you can stand to look at me without going crazy with worry. How can you look at me and then turn away without thinking of what I say about you, where I might be heading, and how much of me there is?

Judging by your past foolishness, it doesn’t look like I’m going to stop growing anytime soon. 

You have only one planet. 

Where are you going to put all of me?

Monday, April 07, 2014

Fate speaks

It’s all fate, you say.

I am an easy cushion for you to fall back on. I’m the one you think of blaming when things don’t go the way you’d like them to.

Let me tell you, buddy, I’m no pushover, but I’m not likely to pull strings on your behalf either. Maybe if you struggled hard enough, I’d meet you halfway.

It’s your lazy attitude I can’t stand. Your grumbling that the odds are stacked against you, the stars are aligned against you, you were born on the wrong side of the tracks – these are just excuses, and I can see through them.

How do I describe myself? I am an overarching intelligence, but I am not averse to the growth of the least of you, even though, from my standpoint, you are nothing more than ants. I do not, of course, mean any disrespect to the ants. 

On the contrary, they hold a special place in my heart. They are always hustling about for the future, for their food stores and their colonies.

I think I may have said this to you before. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard, and learn her ways.” Remember?

You tend to confuse me with determinism. Granted, that is a part of me, but that is not all there is to me. I’m not a tyrant who forces my will on you. You have your own free will, limited, of course, by your own circumstances and life’s challenges.

The measure in which you stand up to me is a measure of your success. Contrary to popular belief, and misconception, I’m not some writing on the wall written in indelible ink. With every act and thought of yours, you make your own fate. You have full editing rights to your own destiny.

I’m more like a lake, which seems placid on the surface. But every stone that is thrown into the water releases ripples that disturb the surface and forever alter the rhythms of the water.

The people who make me out to be a monster are those who are too lazy to do anything about their own lives. It seems far less tiring to moan about the obstacles I throw in their path than to get up and do something about them.

Take my word for it. Any action you’ve taken in the past, no matter how small, could have led your life down a completely different path than the one you’re on. In fact, life is a fluid, dynamic, ever changing thing.

For every ten people who die in an accident that wrecks a train they weren’t supposed to travel by but did, there are ten others who escaped death by missing that very train. And that’s not because some pre-determined Intelligence, namely, yours truly, has it in for them.

Okay, I might occasionally bring you things you don’t like or take away things you had your little heart set on, just to spice things up. There are many things that you just cannot control, but don’t let bitterness blind you to things that you can change. I can’t tell you how many times a change of attitude on your part has caused me to do a re-think.

Ultimately, your fate, your real fate, the one you make, is yours. And no one can take it away from you.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Elections speak

It’s that time again, when you make a mockery of me. Turn me into a circus for your own benefit and the amusement of the people.

All those fake campaign promises, the lying manifestos, the vigorous hand shaking, the touching of feet, the kissing of babies.

Handled properly, I should have been the greatest living manifestation of a vibrant, alive democracy. Instead I am a joke that no one believes in and none, but a handful of selfish interests, care about.

When the truth is that the real jokes are the characters you allow to political office by your unwillingness to participate in the country’s electoral process.

It's that time when everyone suddenly goes through a change of heart for my sake. Their hearts undergo a miraculous transformation, it seems, and their only concern, in the blink of an eye, is you and your interests. Their manifestos revolve around you and your opinions and needs. Their own desires are temporarily put to sleep.

Why did it have to be like this?

Because of you.

Because you would rather treat me as another holiday. A day to wake up late, or go out of town on. A day to lazily play gully cricket with the neighbourhood kids.

What would your own individual votes matter?

What do your neighbourhood’s votes matter?

What do the country’s desires matter?

Giving the selfish interests ample opportunity to twist me to suit their nefarious ends. And then you have the audacity to say that I am a farce.

To make it worse, those selfish interests mess around with the counting.

Booth rigging, booth capturing, bogus voting – these are not my doing.

Why then do you persist in thinking ill of me?

It is because of your indifference that the selfish interests continue to fool all of the people all of the time.

I am only the beginning of their excuse for doing it legitimately.

Come, be a part of me. Find out more about me.

About those that stand for office. And what exactly they stand for.

Find out about the assets they have. How they were earned.

Whether they spent any time in a classroom. Whether they learned anything. Or whether they were just doing time.

How they feel about those that are the most hapless among us.

That will be the true test of them.

It’s that time again.

Once again, they’re going to look upon me as their private party, one where they can indulge themselves as much as they want to. And you end up picking the tab for the next five years, and more (Remember, the consequences of bad decisions last forever).

Do you want to be hosting fools and crooks forever?

Come, gatecrash their party.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Death speaks

I am the uninvited guest.

There are two occasions in your life when you wish I didn’t come to claim my pound of flesh. When your hatred of me, and your fear, simmers and threatens to consume you.

The first is when I come to claim the life of someone you love.

The second, when I come for you.

It is at these moments that I am most unwelcome to you. How you wish my gnarly hand knocked on someone else’s door!

Why do you fear me so?

You see me as the end. The beginning of never ending darkness, beyond which lies oblivion and nothingness.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

From the moment you are born, you begin your slow and inexorable walk towards me. One day at a time.

I find it strange that you would fear me and cling on to life. When life brings you pain and sorrow and grief, and I bring you rest.

If you’d only stop resisting and let me guide you, you’d see that the story continues.

A better story. In a better world. And I am the doorway to it. You have to pass through me to get there,

I am but a bridge. A boatman to ferry you to the other side.

Don’t make me out to be some kind of an executioner, with a hook for an arm.

I’m kinder than you imagine. Without the merciful release I offer you would have floundered in an eternal morass of desolation.

Without the rest I give you, life would be insufferable.

My presence makes life livable.

But I can’t do it without you. You have to meet me halfway.

Live life so that there are no regrets.

No fear of judgement.

No dread of what lies beyond.

Think instead of the joy that will fill your heart to overflowing when you meet long gone loves, and affections that slipped out of your tightly held grasp.

All you need to do is to live a life filled with regret. Live your dreams. Use every talent that you have so that when you land at your Maker’s feet, you can truthfully say, I used up everything you gave me.

I hope you believe in your Maker.

If not, I guess you can be prepared for the adventure that lies beyond.

The grave is not meant to be a dead-end.

And the heat of the pyre cannot destroy that which is truly worth preserving.

There are things that I have no control over, and these things will continue to be long after your body is one with every atom of nature.

The things that will matter when your whole life flashes before your eyes.

Make sure that vision is worth seeing.

Until then, live. To the fullest.

And don’t forget that I am coming.


Thursday, April 03, 2014

Cinema speaks

Enough is enough, I tell you.

I’m sick and tired of being blamed for every act of violence and mindless, gratuitous sex that plays out on the streets and within the four walls of your home every day of your lives. Every time something like this happens, you rehash the old arguments about reel versus real life. About how I am responsible for the ills of society, and about how impressionable young men and women watch me and are led astray.

Take it from me, people, I’m only a little over a hundred years old. Your record was none too clean even before that.

What I show you is nothing different from what you see around you. The sordidness and the despicableness of life – I don’t make those up. They are real, and if you look closely, you will see instances of them. You may even have experienced that dark side. Or maybe you know someone who has.

But that is not all there is to me. I am also about love, and affection. And joy and happiness. And chasing your dreams in spite of the odds. And fighting against society and the establishment for what you believe in. Your truth, no matter what it may be.

I do not take sides. I let each one of you mould me and make of me what you will. Every viewer receives something different. You put a little of yourself into me. Why do you think no two people have the same experience?

I am, after all, only a medium, a tool in your hands. You cannot blame me for your inadequacies and incompetencies. Ours is a collaborative endeavour. I am nothing without you, you need me.

You can show pulp as well as you can show a great story. Pulp that everyone reads but pretends they don’t. And classics that every one pretends to read and never does.

And then you can do something great that touches every heart, or stings every nerve.

I do hope you believe me.

Believe in me.

I hope you believe in the happy endings I offer. And believe in the sad endings too, because they have the potential to spark off a happy beginning.

Or a hopeful one.

I peddle magic. Infuse the every day with a touch of the extraordinary.

I present a 70mm canvas for your experiences and your simple stories of human drama.

Of ordinary people who are heroes and villains, marred by circumstances and the demons they nurture within their breasts.

I tell stories. I project beliefs. I am your soapbox.

It’s up to you. I’m just a medium.

You could use me to tell a story that slows their breath. Or gets their hearts to beat faster.

Or makes them wish they had left their brains at home.

What you do with me is a reflection of you. Not me.

I am empowered.

I make you want to sit on the edge. Seemingly poised on the edge of the world, unheeding the world around.

I make you want to refrain from coughing, sneezing or as Charlie Chaplin was warned in one exciting example of the best I have to offer -- breathing.

Sitting in the dark, allowing yourself to be consumed by the passion of one person, joining hands with the passions of others.

I live for those of you who enter the dark bowels of the theatre, fumbling for your seats and then allow yourself to be transported into something larger than you, and the others sitting around you, something that draws a kind of kinship among you. Something that makes you feel more vibrant and alive than the others outside.

I am not bound to show you a clean resolution. Why should I? Don’t we all know that there is no black and white in life, and that everything is tinged with shades of grey?

I am a mirror that reflects the colours within you.

I can be truth on display 24 times per second.

I can also be lies on display 24 times per second.

I am, after all, only the medium.


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