Friday, February 21, 2014

Touched by a Dark Angel

I see Her sometimes out of the corner of my eye, a flitting dark shadow far away, right there in front of me, going about her work, and I always try to watch the expression on her face. She's sometimes absorbed, serious, curious... sometimes wistful, even compassionate... and sometimes there's a cool, unimaginably alien indifference as She shatters lives and breaks hearts, a remote blankness the ant sees on the oncoming car's wheel... 

We've never spoken, but I could swear She knows what I'm planning, exactly why I'm trying to stay just far away enough so She can't reach for me, but keeping Her close enough to watch, make sure She can't sneak up on me on one dark night, around a blind corner. So far She's mostly amused, not insulted... and why wouldn't She be? She's seen this before. So many billions of times before. The ways and means have varied, but in the end it's all come down to that moment, when the light fades on all the pleading, the tears, the fights, the pain. 
The moment when the light fades away into the silence. 

A baby and a middle-aged man, one a stranger, one the remotest acquaintance, yet...
One is dead, the other is dying, and behind each unknown face I see a familiar one looking out, through that tangle of hair, and is that a wink?

We've all been there, she whispers, done that. Give it your best shot. You're interesting. Maybe I'll give you a little chance. Just to see how far you get. I got the razor to your throat, the bead on your head, but... let's run, anyway. It's fun. 
And who knows?

She's looking directly at me now, like the few times before, and wherever I am, whatever I'm doing, I can feel that glance, sliding in like an abstract icicle shard, a diamond-edged scalpel slicing through hopes, dreams, fears, desires, wants, plans, every resource I've saved and every defense I've built. Straight to the heart it goes, and stops, with the faintest single crystalline-cold tingle of a touch that reverberates through my life, then goes back, a little reminder of how close she can get, and how ephemeral the world and all I held close in it was, to begin with. 
A little reminder of how it can all end. Anytime. 
Anytime She wants. 

That's fine, I whisper back, I know you're there, but let's run anyway. It'll be fun. 

And her razor grin widens as her whipcord body relaxes, and - yet again - that tiniest nod. 

And we run. 

We run through traffic, through blaring horns, skidding rubber, and hurtling metal; we run through the billion, trillion little killer lives hanging in the air waiting to take root; we hurdle open manholes, dodge fizzing, spitting power lines, skate under crumbling, creaking edifices, and past dark alleys glinting with watching eyes and waiting steel. We run past claws, teeth, stings, and talons, we run through deserts, skate over thin ice, jump dark chasms, through freezing cold, open flame, and a witches' brew of poison, we run through night and dark as thunder growls in the building clouds... 

We parkour through that dazzling, dizzying obstacle course called Life and and I can still see Her, still here in the corner of my eye, effortlessly pacing me in the distance, and She's laughing in delight. 

And She's laughing because, no matter how tired, how damaged, how heartsick, I'm laughing too, and I will keep laughing till all the laughter runs out, into the silence at the end. 
But for now, this is the most awesome thing ever. 

And we run. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The best of all possible worlds

There was a interesting ethical question doing the rounds on Quora - would you go back in time to kill Hitler?

I don't think so. It's not about one man and his evil masterminded scheme; it was a result of history, economic factors, social, political... there would still be nationalism, frustration with the '18 treaty, still the Nationalist Party, still Nazism. 

Kill one baby Hitler, there would still be the same factors - and the times make the man, someone else would simply step up and take his place. 

And maybe not make any of the same mistakes - not invade Russia, not lose the cream of the scientists and fail to make the A-bomb, doesn't alienate the Japanese...

You know, this timeline, this reality may be a result of several - maybe dozens, hundreds of interventions from a time-travelling corps - as a best possible outcome. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

sensory continuum

i stood in an empty room
halogens glowed in pools of oil and water on the concrete
rows of chrome gleamed in silence, perfectly disciplined machines, waiting

...nothing happened. 

no sound
no clocks
no people
no change
no footsteps
no breath

the silence sucks the thoughts out
pushing on my eyes

roars in the blood
screams in the tendons
reverberates in the lungs
echoing slam of eyelids

...nothing happened. 

i could stand there forever
i could stand there a precious empty few seconds
no difference
no time
without sound to push it along

perfect, frozen silence

between timelines

haunted by the ghost of a boy who never existed
stepped back a decade or two through the portal
everything changed
forget the family left behind
forget the son
he ceased to exist, never had been
as soon as I went. 

I'm haunted by the ghost of who I'd been
who I might have been
haunted by the future and past I killed

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Faffing around Furniture

You know, it's the weirdest thing, but I've come to realize that there's one piece of furniture we always overlook and ignore, but when I think about it, plays a very important role in... I don't know how to describe it better, in sorting out life. The humble desk. 

We buy the beds and the cupboards, then the sofas and coffee tables, a dining set, display cases and sideboards, kitchen cabinets, shoeracks, and then if there's place left over, a desk. 

I think we don't take seriously enough the role rooms and items play in organizing our minds. 
Beds are private places, locked away inside. Cupboards absorb messes, store, and close.  Bookshelves call out your intellectualism. The table's to eat, the coffee table's to socialize. The TV dominates the room, the mind, and time, and stops anything else from happening. 

But my personal favorite is the desk. It's also a private place, but one where your mind is awake, active, and free. You can read, draw, listen to music, play games, work, nap, snack, socialize virtually, and just think. Plan your travels and sort your memories. Organize your life. What's on your desk at any point of time is a snapshot into your mind and psyche. Cameras, cards, disks, accessories. A diary, a sketchpad. A keyboard and mouse. A tablet. Phones. Hobby stuff. Glue, paper, wire, tools. Paint. A poster in front, a to-do-list tacked to a board on the side, a dustbin below. A coffee / water / coke. 

These are all things you do, you love, and cherish time on. Things that give you something, do something, take you somewhere. 
The desk is an active space, probably the most versatile, positive, active space in the house. I miss having this space around. If you don't have a workspace like this set aside somewhere, all the time you spend in the house will feel... wasted, somehow. Unproductive. You'll be itching to get up and go out, do something. You'll be confused, lost, disorganized, mired in ennui. You'll turn into a couch potato, an alcoholic, a  socialite, anything that takes up the time and energy you don't know how to work off. 

Damn, I need a bigger house. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Looking at the other side

Note - this post is likely to depress you

A few days back, a friend of mine posted a (probably by now a much-shared) link to a series of photos a Chinese tourist took in Varanasi, of corpses abandoned in the river and washed up on the shore. His tone was one of (in my opinion, slightly gleeful) horror at what looks like the rejected props from a Walking Dead episode coexisting with daily life, which goes on like it's nothing out of the ordinary. 
Other than the tone taken, I don't really disagree. Yes, these are corpses, the decaying remains of what was once human beings, abandoned and left to rot like refuse in a public river, with nobody to lay them properly to rest, to clean up, to even bat an eyelid. 

Nobody's disturbed because this is daily life. This is how things are. The only people who get disturbed and upset are the people coming from places where their society has the time, the resources, and the inclination to handle corpse disposal properly. 
On the opposite end of the spectrum, but in a similar way, we get shocked when we go to a first-world country and find we can drink the water coming directly from the taps, no filter, no UV, no boiling. 
The truth is, there is no regard for human life here. nobody cares when you're alive, why would they care about your corpse? 

Think about poor Varanasi's history. For centuries, the city has lived under the plague-ridden burden of perception that it is somehow spiritually elevated, that a death here is different, more meaningful in some way for the one dying. Freedom from reincarnation? Spiritual upliftment and enlightenment? Privations in this life rewarded in the next? 
It's meant a flood of people with nothing left but death, a flood of people hungry for soul-cleansing, a flood of people trying to understand something of what's happening. The tourist money keeps the economy running briskly, but the concept of a just reward in an afterlife has left little motivation to improve this one. 

There is no enlightenment here, no spiritual reward. It's something we make up, desperately, to somehow justify the appalling conditions we see, the misery, poverty, deprivation. People don't choose to be poor for a spiritual reward, they are poor because they had no choice, and every waking moment they fight it. There is no alternative. 
Be, or die. 

That's why the tourists flock here, too. They cannot imagine a life that is so bad, yet continues to be lived. They're convinced there's some great secret behind it all, something that we know and they don't, something that justifies this horror. Some mysterious philosophy of rebirth, reincarnation cycles, karma, an understanding of the nature of reality that they haven't got yet. Some knowledge that lets us continue to live in this place, walk these streets, where corpses wash up on the banks and lie putrefying in the sun. 

Chill, guys, there's no great secret. Step back and look at the big picture. We live because the alternative is to die. We live here because there are a thousand million little threads that tie us here, because there is nowhere else to go. 
The native will keep the farce going. The yogis and godmen will speak about this great secret in hints and allusions, translated into the guides' commentaries, the documentaries, the book and the stories. 

We live, and we die. There is nothing after, but as long as people believe there is, the money keeps coming, the stories keep perpetuating, the society keeps functioning. 
We make the tools we need to survive, and faith and hope are just some of those tools.