Sunday, 28 November 2010

The Old Man & The Pot

The mud track took one last turn around the hill, and a smile vanquished the last of those fretful lines upon his face. The boy, tired as he was, was finally nearing the end of his almighty quest. The meandering road had taken him through several villages and shanties, over treacherous rope-ways and some insanely beautiful scenery. But he was glad that it was all over now, for his legs: they were pumping acid; and his vision was blurring from fatigue. And thus, he threw himself around the bend with whatever energy was left in him, unconsumed.

Voila! The sight he beheld astonished him as much as it bewildered his senses, for beauty in its most consummate form can hold one in a trance forever; he held the vision in veneration and fear. The trees were taller than many mountains he had seen in his life and they were richer than the richest of kings. Snowflakes, like little stars, floated down through their almighty canopy into the bursting stream which ran down the hill. And in front of him was the most queer looking house, made of logs and bricks and stone - and yet it didn't look out of place.

He was rejuvenated by the glorious sight and he felt like he could run all the way to the house. For it was for the house that he had undertaken this perilous trip once again. Memories of his previous encounters with the wizened inhabitant of the house flooded his thoughts. It had been two years now...

* * *

"Welcome, welcome..." the old man had said, stroking his flowing beard. “What must I owe this delightful honour to? Not many lads come by these days," he had sighed.

"N… nothing sir..." the boy had stammered. “ I am merely an admirer of nature... and a lover of unadulterated beauty.”

"Oh, come now... Let me boil you some tea," the man had said, as he ushered the boy into his austere dwelling. "But you don't have to lie. I know why you have come. I know why all boys come!"

Then he had meticulously boiled the tealeaves in a large kettle and he had returned to the boy's beside only when he carried two mugs of tea.

"Sip on it when it's hot," he had commanded and the boy had obeyed. All of a sudden, he had found himself fully strong: renewed. The old man then posed the question: "Now that you are better, tell me... What are you willing to trade? I know that you have come for the Pot."

"Trade?!" the boy remembered himself faltering, shocked by the old-man's deduction.

"Of course... A trade! It's only fair, isn't it? And how is it you don't know about the trade?!" He had asked. The man seemed menacing now; no longer friendly and definitely not affable. "The pot isn't free of cost. What will you give me in exchange for the pot?"

"I have some gold...?"

"GOLD!" He had laughed, but without mirth. "You can keep that! It is worthless to me. I am looking for something far more precious."

The boy had stayed silent. The old man had played this game far too many times to lose at it. He always won. Every lad eventually gave in! They all knew that their lives would remain miserable without the pot. It was their only way out!

"You know what it is..." he said, slowly. “I know you lead a wretched life! You have nothing more than a pocketful of gold... You believe Life is unjust to you and you have come to me. But you have something I can trade the Pot for..."

The boy had stared mutely.

"Your dreams, your heart! Your soul..." The man went on. "I am willing to trade."

"My heart is mine to keep and mine alone to give. One cannot forcibly claim it. My dreams serve me as an infinite staircase to eternal glory... If you want me to trade that, you are fooling yourself sir. I might be poor, destitute, distraught and ill-omened, but I'm willing to walk back home empty handed. There will be no trade today. Now, will you give me the pot? Or must I walk?"

The man had then smiled, like he had smiled before. "Bravo, boy! Bravo..." He had cried, for never before had he listened to such words. People, usually, willingly submitted. “For you lad, free of cost!” And he conjured a small earthen pot out of thin air. "Just promise me that you will never trade. Otherwise you are not worthy of the Pot."

* * *

The boy was once again at the door of the strange tenement, and he stood on the threshold staring at the large oak door. He had once sworn to himself that he would never make this trip again. And now, he was here. He had promised never to trade, even for something he valued as much as the pot. His life had dramatically improved ever since he had sipped some of its magic. And Life had become fair and beautiful and lovely and grand. For two long years, he had ruled his world, but now he found his pot empty. He felt things would go awry once again. He was afraid: afraid to lose it all and return to square one. He felt now like it was worth a trade.

Suddenly, the door sprang open. But there was no old man this time: in his stead was a little boy.

"What do you want, friend," he asked to which the traveller replied that he had come to see the old man.

The boy looked sad now, and he replied: "You have come to meet grandpa! If only you had come sooner... He forgot to take his daily sip yesterday. I'm afraid he's no longer with us!"

The traveller stared aghast.

"Yes," nodded the grandson solemnly. "Grandpa used to sell Luck."

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Senti Mental

Another lazy morning reminds me that the calendar has turned yet another page in what has been a semester of erratic fortunes. The mellow light filtering in through the dusty mesh covering my window reminds me that the newspaperman will be here soon with his pricy Hindu newspaper. I remind myself to go to the ATM to forage enough cash to pay him off; that is when yesterday's copy of the paper reminds me that I haven't done justice to it.

I lift it off my side table meticulously, without disturbing myriad other things which lie beside it, and I discover day-before-yesterday's paper below it. I chastise myself for my shameless habit of not reading-up current-affairs, only to discover that my wrath is ill-directed. For I'm not really angry at myself for not reading the latest on the 2G scam, but for the fact that I let these things lie around.

I remember my mom admonishing me as a kid, when I refused to part with toys of yore, "Throw them out, son!" But I did nothing of that sort. I used to secretly stash them in the corner of my shelf along with the other stuff I couldn't bear to part with - books, worn-out crayons, old clothes and other stochastic paraphernalia. I knew that mom would find them out one day and then destroy them all with one cold-blooded swipe. But that never really hurt me, as I wouldn't know about it happening, until it was all done. And after that, I could barely remember what it was she had thrown away. So all ended well.

Now I am not that kid. And mom's not around to throw stuff away for me. And it hurts. I find myself drowning in a deluge of stuff I really oughtn't keep! I look around to find innocuous immaterial collections of Airline Baggage Tags and Bus and Train tickets, weird stationery items like a first semester notebook or a 'historic' pen, clothes which I won't wear ever - like the T-Shirt my dhobi ripped through, sentimental reminders of what I once thought important including wrappers, labels, boxes and memory-cards, empty cans of deodorant and broken knife blades.

I am determined now to rid myself of this horrendous habit. And what better way than to throw out these relics of the past. And thus I proceed to my shelf to blast them all into oblivion; but then the newspaperman is here. And I need to pay him. May be I should throw the stuff out some other day...

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

My New Roomies

I brought food from home: a bag full of it. In fact, I took pains lugging it through Security-Check, proving to them at certain points that the sweets and savories weren't in fact plastic explosives and miscellaneous children of modern warfare. It was, of course, totally worth the effort. Home-food is, as you will agree, unparalleled in awesomeness. And one can never have enough of it.

And thus food from home found itself in S7 - Cautley Bhawan after a rather painful dry spell. It doesn't require Einsteinian IQ to figure out that one can't bring Vadais and Appams and Payasams all the way here, and still manage to enjoy them as food few days later if one isn't anaerobic. Luckily though, the same doesn't apply to sweets and savories. And one can never eat enough of them.

The ants dwelling in my room can't get enough of them either. I discovered today, with much alarm, that (not only are there lizards on my walls) I share my humble dwelling with myriad ants as well. I haven't ever bothered their sedentary lives just as they haven't interrupted mine. But today marked an end of those days of peace. Quite obviously, there isn't enough place for both of us! And hence I took to arms.

But then I faced the tiniest of problems. They were feasting on my 'handmade murukku' which I valued simply too much. So bashing their skulls in with the umbrella handle was out of the question. So, I calmly broke off a piece and kept it beside the rest of the stuff. And presto, within quarter of an hour, the ants completely forgot the packet full of murukku and went after the measly piece. I smiled. And then I threw the piece out of my window. And with it, my roomies.

It surprised me that all those ants went after one single piece of food. They forgot about the whole packet of goodies. And they'll never find out about the bag (mothership) of food. Somehow, I find their behaviour appallingly similar to ours!