Friday, September 18, 2009

All about a quack

In his heydays, he was very old. Now he is a fossil of ninety four years, smelling of garlic and ginger that he once used to sell, from house to house. He doesn't do that anymore. He is totally into healing ailments by prayers in Dakkani. Earlier, he used to devote only a part of his time to the healing.It was in the evenings. After a day of selling the condiments.

At twilight, as the cry of muezzin emerged from the minaret, people would throng the small room opening into the road. The room was filled with bags of ginger, leaving little space for the crowd. They overflowed onto the road. They looked anxious like the visitors outside a house, where the dead body lay. He would sit down in the inner most corner facing Mecca. The walls of the room are red from the dust that wrapped ginger. They had to be frequently white-washed. This was sponsored, once a year, as a thanks giving gesture, by one of the healed. They didn't stay white for long. Ginger was loaded and unloaded, and the dust rose painting the walls red again. Matching the ambiance, at times, he used to dye his long white beard in crimson, making it look like a comet's tail.

The word spread quickly. People from distant areas would arrive to seek his healing. Many poor among them, who couldn't afford the clinic in the adjoining road, would wait for hours for a healing spell. He was reasonable, charging only a rupee or two based on the potency. Each healing brought in five other patients. Soon people started thronging the small room with wait times up to two hours.They started seeking spells for a whole lot of goings on in their lives. He would patiently reject most of them, except a few which didn't concern ending a life.He was a harmless experimenter.

As the number of patients grew, he retired from the selling of condiments to a full time healing with a break in the afternoon for siesta.He was seventy five then.He passed off the condiment business to his four sons who all these years were trained under him. They expanded it farther. Soon, patients from all these places thronged the small room, as if the smell of the ginger carried in itself a binding spell.

Years passed by and with them he became more and more sedentary. He could not walk back home for his lunch. One of his grandsons used to carry his lunch everyday and wait till he finished. The four sons by the night would come in a small auto and take their father home.This carried on for more than a decade, when his vision started blurring despite the thick glasses he wore.And one day he became blind. The word spread farther about this blind healer and the crowd increased in number.He still wanted to heal, as many patients, before his day comes. Only now, he groped for the patients in the dark corner of the small room.

That day, at the call for evening prayer people thronged as usual around the small room. He groped a bit for the first patient and uttered an ancient spell. A moment later he couldn't utter a word and move his legs and he slanted to the wall like a bag of ginger. Not to be lifted by one alone. Outside people stared anxiously with eyes flashing like lost sails.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Eternal recurrence of travel

I always liked looking up distant places like Mongolia, Chad, Irkutsk, Gdansk, Togo and some dots in the Pacific.The Atlas was my favorite book during the schooldays. Much admiration was for the time zones. The very fact that people were sleeping peacefully, when I was scratching my head in the summer heat of Hyderabad was a wonder. All was flat and fine, but for one thing about the USSR. Alaska was part of it. When I raised this doubt, the arms of The Atlas were twisted and the two ends were made to met. I gasped. Immediately it dawned on me that earth was round and what its diameter was. I then grabbed and pushed it under the bed so that it would be flat again.

Every summer I used to go to places that stayed almost static like a drowsy afternoon. I used to go on a journey, in search of roots, to the villages of my mom and dad. For me, the best part of the journey was the bus terminus. I would go round the platform and then read the names of the destinations written on the buses. Some of the names sounded strange and funny. I would come back and ask my mother, questions about these places and how far they were. She subscribes to the old school in geography. Even now she does the same. She would patiently explain which direction of the country these places were and what the characteristics of the soils of that country side. She never forgets her roots in agriculture. It's just built in. I used to be amused by the stories about the villages with red soil. How the people were very sly and cunning in those lands. I used to ask her more about these people. How she came to know about them and if she met anyone from those places. When I was too annoying, she would just say that she overheard this knowledge from elders in the evening parleys in her village and no more questions. I would then just walk away and start following a new bus that has arrived.

Such was my curiosity to know about new places. Just know them. Ever since I remember, travelling left me tired and piquant. I either catch a cold, even in the hottest weather, or fever or just a general weariness and slump in my mood, by the time the actual fun starts. The travails of travel always leave with me a bleaker image of the destination. And often I get blamed as an un-fun person. Naturally, I am all about Teleportation. How good it would be to just turn into molecules and then re-assemble at some other destination. It would be perfect for lazy bones like me. Talk about eternity and I know exactly what it means. The eternal recurrence of travel. An important piece of the existential jig-saw.

At times, the Return On Investment(ROI) for travel is the company you get. Sometimes you do feel the whole journey as a lock-period. Man, people talk! They talk, talk and talk, like I used to do once. These days, I practice a trick to counter this. I carry two to three big books with me. They really scare people away. They would not want to indulge into talking because of two reasons. One being you are too absorbed in the book and two, the book is really fat and overpowering. Let me see what I have in store for the next week's journey home . I have, The Complete Novels of Kafka : The Big Red Book and The Penguin History of Early India by Romila Thapar: History minus romance. Kafka seems to be a better grab than Thapar. She can just bore some one to death. But the intrigue and incomprehensibility of Kafkan characters would put people to silence immediately. Poor souls! they would find themselves in a Kafkaesque setting next Friday.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Masking glory

Today was a day without that morning rush to the office. I had time to watch the kids waiting for school bus. I cannot see their smile like always and feel happy about it. They are wearing H1N1 masks. Since a month or so, masks have become an organ much missed by evolution. Talk about creationism and intelligent design! Masks got sold like hot cakes in the initial scare days, when every news channel bombarded the country with the breaking swine flu news. I even got few masks and put it in the refrigerator so that it doesn't spread through food. Finally, a chief minister had to abscond for hours and later die, to shift the focus off the virus. The ultimate sacrifice.

I am sorry, I almost forgot the penultimate one : Rahul Gandhi travelling by Shatabdi express. Might be inspired by those numerous train journeys of Mahatma Gandhi by third class. Fortunately we don't have third class now. Or else, there would've been a stampede to catch a glimpse of the Prince. This reminds me of a small confession of Sarojini Naidu. When someone extolled the greatness of Gandhi who was always among the poor, she reportedly confessed, that it costs more to the congress to keep him among the poor than in a normal state. For security reasons, many congress workers were dressed up as poor people around the leader. These guys were good actors back then and in expensive garbs.

Rahul Gandhi would've been better off spending that time studying the Human Development Reports of various states or atleast perusing his recent election nomination affidavit, where he categorically states that he doesn't own a car. I could own a car in another year. The humble of the humbles, our former president A.P.J Abdul Kalam could own a car. Then how come Rahul baba missed it.His mom doesn't own a car. A waitress in Rome can. She missed the bus too. I think we as a country deserve these kind of illusions. We accept these things like we accept the bad smell of a dead dog in the bushes. We wait for some one to clean it or die a natural death under the sun.

We are idiots. Let's not hide this with some false affidavits. What more proof than the reported death of 140 odd people in the wake of a Chief Minister's death. I say these were more valuable as biomass than the living. This is worse than the terrorist attacks carried out in Hyderabad, two years back. Funnily, some of them committed suicide. Stupidity causes internal bleeding and it can lead to sudden death of a person or a country. The so called responsible journalism of ear-drum-breaking news suddenly evaporates in their camera flashes. They shout to be pro-active, much so in a corporate sense. They make money out of it. Do you remember any scene in the old rags-to-rugs-to-riches-to-bitches movies, where the hero as a kid cries for money to cremate his mother's remains? Next time you see that, remember breaking news.

The flowing black gowns, without much going on behind them, suddenly started billowing like Marlyn Manroe's. What is with this Justice? Is it bought out or Is there some sanity? Is it virgin? Is it still blind? Is it still "your honor"? Someone had his share of questions and filed an RTI to know how much are these guys making anyway by writing down all those affidavits? Suddenly the gowns started fumbling. There was much discussion about who should disclose what. Finally the Chief Justice came down, bent backwards and with a hood-wink, formulated the voluntary disclosure scheme. I am sure it is already practiced by the Bollywood actresses. Ladies, JJ school of arts is in urgent need of young posers for a nudity appreciation course. All their models are over 40 and there is a drop in attendance. The script begs, for once, begs for it.

I think, I can suggest a remedy to the rottenness of the current state. Why don't we all gather at Ambedkar Samajik Parivarthan Sthal(Ambedkar's Memorial for social change) in Lucknow and sing bhajans to behenji while a giant stupa is constructed over our head, slowly plastering us into bliss?