Posted by: thetavernthoughts | August 3, 2016

The Haggle

The phone begins to ring at night. He can hear the rain pelt on the window sill. He knows it is not a normal call. It is an emergency. It’s weird how emergencies tend to happen at night. It was almost stereotypical. Rainy night and a damsel in distress. Rohit Mehta is smiling ear to ear. This is his moment and he knows it. He lets the phone ring for a while patiently. Eventually the phone stops ringing but he does not care because he knows she will call him again soon. Almost on cue the mobile starts ringing again.

“Hello” he says softly after a pause.

“Rohit!” She exclaimed relieved.

“Breath Meera. Take a deep breath” The sobbing begins.

Meera walks out of the gate her mobile clutched tightly in her hands. The rain pelting on her makes her skin glow despite the gloomy mood. Tears roll down her cheeks and merge with the pelting rain drops. Her eye are swollen and she is completely distraught.

“He is at it again” She screams into the phone.”He is at it again. My own father snatching my hard earned money. His drinking problems are drowning my life. I hate him. He forced me out on the streets in the middle of the night again. I have nowhere to go.”

“Don’t worry Meera. First things first. Call one of your girl pals to come pick you up. I am sure they will not mind you spending a night  at their place.”

“I just said I have no one to go to.”

“What about your friend Heena?”

“She will act all haughty and weird like she has done me a big favour. She disses about me behind my back.”

“Do you want me to come pick you?”

“Can you do that please? As a friend?”

He grins even more”I don’t…I was sleeping…I cannot bring you back here.”

“Please…I am sorry I am disturbing you.”

“Sure I will leave immediately.”

Rohit notices the golden hue of the street lights as he drives. The rain makes them look misty and gives them the beautiful hue. There is something special about the monsoon nights in Mumbai. The usually busy streets are almost desolate. Only people stirring are the cab drivers and late night tea vendors. He enjoyed the late night drive to Meera’s place. He had seen it only once before but he knew the route.  She keeps calling him the whole time to find out where he had reached.

She walks down the Juhu Tara road, feeling unsafe. Few Prostitutes are walking the streets. She walks towards the Juhu Beach. She sends him a text “Come to Juhu Beach.” She ensures that she steers clear of the “street walking crowd”. Walking down such a sensitive street she was scared that some one might approach her thinking she was one of the prostitutes. She would die of embarrassment. Presently she notices an empty corner of the street right opposite to the beach under the street light. Her clothes are completely wet and her harem pants are sticking to her calves. Her T-shirt is clinging to her body. She wraps her arms around her chest, feeling completely exposed.  A middle aged plump woman wearing a gaudy green sari comes and stands right beside her. The woman has tied her hair in a bow and she is wearing a bright red lip stick. She was clearly a prostitute. Both the women look at each other awkwardly. They both have contempt on their face.

“Did he beat you?” The prostitute asks.

“What do you mean?”

“Did your man beat you and throw you out?”

“No my father” Meera says. Meera is scared of the position she was in and the woman’s company makes her feel strangely safe.

“Alcoholic?”

Meera nods

“Where will you go?” The elder one asks.

“I have a friend.”

“I do things for money. To feed myself and my family. Good food and everything. Don’t judge me. Judge the men who do this to me.” The prostitute said suddenly with righteousness. “Shameless they all are, not beneath negotiating with middle aged whore. Or attacking Young girl’s chastity. You be careful”

Suddenly a cab stops right in front of the woman. She approaches the cab and starts talking and laughing. The rain seems to be slowly subsiding. Meera takes out her cell phone from the water proof pouch, she notices a message from Rohit.

“2 mins”

She looks up and looks at the prostitute, who is leaning into the taxi cab. Meera can hear the conversation very clearly.

“No, Sahib, Rs 700 will not do for an hour.”

Meera is disgusted by the whole thing. She feels even more depressed.

The prostitute laughs loudly “Fine! for you 15 mins for Rs 400”

Just then a car stops in front of Meera. The window rolls down, it is Rohit with a concerned look on his face. Meera looks at him and starts running towards the car, safe from the rain and weird crowd of the night. She is relived and her eyes are lit up.

“ohh! you actually came” she said hugging him.

“I had too. Any gentleman would!”

She looks ahead, away from his face, through the windshield at the golden lit street. The rain started pelting and the rhythmic sound of the car wiper  was the only sound they heard.

She noticed that he looked at her on and off through her peripheral vision. They were driving randomly through the streets.

“Wait, take a left from here, go straight till that junction and then take another left.” She instructed him. “Stop behind that parked van”

Rohit noticed that they were behind a large and old apartment complex. He could hear the crashing of the ocean waves near by and he realized they were near the sea. He looked to his right and he could see the dark Arabian sea looking back at him. He turned the engine off and the rain pelted on. He noticed the melodious cacophony of the rain and golden hue of the street lamp on her beautiful face, if only they were meeting under different circumstance, he thought.

A small tear drop formed on her face.

“Earlier men used to awkward and scared around a crying girls but now all we need to do  is scream selfie! and they start smiling.”

A small smile formed on her face as she looked at him imitate a selfie pose. She fondly punches him on his biceps.

“Hey, at least you don’t have to see my boss’s scowling face. Do you want to hear him snore at a meeting.” Rohit says fetching his mobile phone and shows her a clip. His boss is slowly passing out in middle of the presentation. Everyone is awkwardly stifling a smile. She burst out laughing.“Your presentation was so boring?”

He pretends to be offended “My boss is an idiot dude.” She keeps laughing and looking at his face. He keeps staring back with a silly smile. She stops laughing and looks away again blushing. The rain pelts on as he hold her hand. She suddenly leans into him.

“I really like you” she says.

“I like you too” he says.

“Will you come like this every time I call you?” She says looking at their intertwined fingers. A weird smile and a smirk forms on his face. He uses his other hand caress her forehead

“As long as I am here.”

“Why do you plan to leave soon?”

“Yes, MBA from London I guess”

“When?”

“We’ll see when it happens.”

“Do you love me?” she asks.

“I will if we keep doing this” he says

“If you love me, will you marry?”

“Don’t do this, this is not fair.”

“What do you mean?Unfair?” she asks.

“I have my career, you know and long road to settling down. Thinking about marriage is scary, I am million miles away, don’t make me feel guilty for being ambitious.”

She moves away and looks at him.

“You think I will come in the way of your ambition.”

“I am sorry” he backs down a little “I am sorry I am just being honest. I don’t want to make promises I am not sure about.”

“Let’s just be friends then.” she says.

“Sure.”

“You will come to take care of me as a friend.”

“Of course” he says with a smile.

She knew the “Of course” meant a ‘no’. She knew no one wants to marry a drunk’s daughter in the arrange marriage scenario. Love was her only hope. Love and Marriage.It seems both of them were not available to her at the same time. She would have to settle for love, or the pretense of it.

She slowly ties her hair into pony tail and then leans back in to Rohit. Their fingers intertwine and she leans on his chest. The weird smile forms on his face again. She closes her eyes as he kisses her exposed neck. He would take care of her now. At least for a while he would care for her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted by: thetavernthoughts | June 21, 2016

Don’t Be a Horcrux

I am a Responsible drinker, I have always been. Crossing your limits makes you embarrass yourself, and more often than not, you end up being a burden on your drinking companions. So I believe every man should mark his capacity. My boss Mr Shatanu Naidu was of exactly opposite opinion. He believed your capacity to hold liquor marked you. If you cannot guzzle down alcoholic beverages by the Litre, you are not man enough. I was not man enough according to my boss. He called me a peg man. This did not bode well with me. Not only was his condescension humiliating but also inconvenient to my short-term plans. I needed the job desperately due to certain financial difficulties and a word encouragement from Mr Naidu would have put me at ease and made me feel more secure.

All my efforts to impress him seemed to back fire. He berated even the smallest of things about me. He looked at me with disgust ever time I would chat up the receptionist, Gayatri, as if she was his daughter and he made it a point to mock my reading habit.Once he audibly sniggered as I discussed the latest book I was reading with Gayatri. Obviously, I began to hate that man. People used to tell me that I was the boss’s ‘punching bag’. I was terrified of the prospect of being fired. I needed the job and I needed the money. I became very edgy because of this situation, I began to doubt my abilities. Often at night I would go through the day before rigorously. One wrong step and I would be fired. I knew it.

I remember distinctly even now it had been raining heavily that day. I was stuck with Mr Naidu in office working overtime to meet a deadline. It was a Friday evening I was looking forward to having couple of stiff pegs that night. As our work drew to an end, Mr Naidu asked me “Will you join me for a few drinks, the weather seems fine.” Now I hated the man and last thing that I wanted was to spend the night listening to his insults. Yet, my fear of displeasing him got the better of me once again and I reluctantly agreed to accompany him.

In a typical dingy bar with the usual melancholy instrumental versions of old hindi songs playing in the background, we both sat drinking in awkward silence. I wondered why this man had invited me if he was going to sit there and drink like I did not exist. The waiter came and served us our second peg. I told the waiter I needed three cubes of ice in my rum. Mr Naidu observed that and said”I don’t have to tell them anything, they know exactly how I like my vodka.”

“Do you frequent this bar sir?”
“Do state the obvious that is a lot of fun!”

“I mean sir is your home near by, do you live with your family?”

“Yes, I live few blocks from here, when I am done the waiter always hails me a cab.”

“Do you live with your family?”

“Yes, I have one child, before you ask.”

“Ok”

I kept my silence for while after that comment. I wondered how to get through to the man. I sipped on my drink slowly, thinking about my next line of attack. The aim of the conversation was to find a way to build a connection with my boss.

“Did you complete your schooling here as well?”

He suppressed a smile “This area has developed recently don’t you know that. Stop insulting me!”

“WHAT?” I ask exasperated. “How am I insulting you?”

“You are asking wrong questions and wasting my time.”

“I am trying to make conversation sir, I probing to see what topic would get you talking.”

“How about books then?”Mr Naidu suggested

“Sure, but you mock me every time you see a book in my hand.”

“I mock because of your lack of understanding.”

“How do you know that I do not?” I asked, once again ignoring the insult. My self esteem seemed to have hit a new low.

“Remember when you were telling the receptionist about the way Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the galaxy begins. The part where Aurther Dent’s home is being torn down to build a road and at the same time his alien friend is trying to explain to him the Earth is being torn down to build a hyper galactic highway.”

“Yes” I said smiling, “I was amazed at how he draws a parallel between Earth our Home and the house we live in. The imagination involved in writing that part, all of it, is simply brilliant.”

“Is that the only way to relate to that?”

“I guess not sir”

“Guess not is it”

“I am sure there are more ways” I said getting a bit irritated. The waiter served us our next peg and my boss, I felt was getting high and aggressive. He was blatantly attacking me on every turn.

“Good, be sure and specific. Now, are you planning to fool around with Gayatri, our secretary?”

“Excuse me sir, no!”

“You are clearly inexperienced in these matters are you not? Not much of a player.”

“No sir!”

Mr Naidu suddenly leaned forward onto the table.

“It is a good thing that you are not.” he said in a soft tone suddenly.

“Why?”

“Long ago when I was your age I had the fortune of meeting quite a few. I went to study abroad you see.”

“You had fun.”

“Thank You for stating the obvious again.” This time there was a difference in his tone it seemed to lack its sharpness, almost like a friendly punch.

“So…” he continued” you need to get one thing. They always leave something inside you.”

I suppressed a smile on his choice of words. I understood what he meant. His beady eyes seem to glitter even more. I could see red veins popping up in the corners of his eyes and I realised that my boss was drunk. The man had been insulting me for months about my lack of drinking abilities and yet here he was, high in 3 pegs. Yet, in my spineless state I chose not to point that out, I instead started thinking of ways to get him to talk.I wondered if I could get him to share something private so as to forge the bond I had been seeking to make.

“Give me a memory sir. What do you mean? Give me an instance” I tried to probe.

“Instances, you want instances!You tell me instead, something existential, share an insight you have had through all your reading.”

I thought about it for a while. I could see he was making the conversation impersonal. I had to say something, I knew he would mock my perspective. Once again I swallowed my anger and I said.

“Sir, I believe that we the Human Race are at crossroads. One will lead to immortality and the other to extinction.” I did not like the turn of the conversation. I did not want it to become intellectual. Intellectual debates do not lead anywhere. I wanted an instance of his life, so as to get him vulnerable and forge a connection. I wanted him to think of me as a friend.

“Extinction and Immortality, very interesting, but you still the miss the point. Somewhere in that statement is the belief we humans can control our destiny. You are wrong there. You don’t know anything about life.”

“No, sir I don’t.”

Mr Naidu guzzles down another 60 ml peg. I could see now he was totally drunk.

“You read the words but to understand their depth you need to relate it to real life. Don’t interrupt me wait.” He had another stiff drink of vodka. “You talk so eloquently what do you know about the world ending, what do you know about women. You are just intellectualizing. You know?”

“Tell me sir your own experience sir, I will learn from it.”

“Fair enough” he said in a slurred tone. “Every woman will make a horcrux out of you, she will leave a bit of her life with you. Cruel in-laws, broken families, betrayals. Their insecurities, you will see them all, even if you are just banging them and they are banging you. At some point the woman will bear her heart to you and you will be condemned like I was to think and care about them forever. I know this because I see a lot of myself in you. You cannot “not give a fuck”. You will think that the life stories they share are somehow enriching your experiences, yet, in the end you will find yourself stuck in their stories and carrying their burdens. What for? So don’t fuck around, you will only end up being a horcrux.”

“Fine sir I will wait for the one.”

“The One! Huh”

“You do not believe in the “One”.”

“Love is a grand delusion which never leaves my boy. ‘Kavita’ the one for me.”

“I hope that is your wife sir”

“Kavita died when I was 18, Kavita is every woman I have known since. You see my boy Life’s like that. No one controls anything and you my friend have been lucky enough to not be confronted with harsh realities. Hence, the difference in perspective. You think the Hitch Hiker’s Guide talks about losing earth our home, and I know it means that within minutes your world could end.”

“Did it feel like that with Kavita’s Demise?” I asked shakily

“No it felt that way when the Surgeon told me to choose between my wife and my first-born. Do you get it? Sitting there and telling the surgeon ‘let the mother live’ and then looking in to the eyes of my still-born infant do you get it. Now do you understand you fool how deep literature can be. You philosophizing jackass. Don’t you get it we control nothing. Birth of life on Earth was an accident. Evolution of humanity was an accident. Its end can very well be just another accident. Not fate or co incidence mind you, an accident.”

The conversation tapered off after that moment. My boss had peg too many. Less than what he claimed he was capable of. I did not have the heart to judge him though. He was vulnerable. I asked the waiter to hail a cab for him. I supported him as he got inside the cab.

“Do not be afraid to speak your mind. Kiss asses do not last long in my office.” He said as a parting shot. I tried to pay the bill but the manager said that Mr Naidu would clear it the next time and refused to take money from me. So I made my way home thinking about the information my boss had just divulged. Horcruxes, what a thing to say. I tried to imagine the moment he stood there looking at his wife, knowing that he had just signed his son’s death warrant. I tried to fathom what he might have gone through. Suddenly the irony dawned upon me. I had become his horcrux. I carried a bit of his soul with me. The man I hated and tried to manipulate at every instant. I was not sure if my boss would feel a connection with me after this. I was sure I would not hate him as much. I did not agree with him though. Maybe, it is because of what he says, maybe I have had a sheltered life, so such conversation seem to stay with me. Maybe it is just the law of conversation. I wondered if all ‘real’ conversations were like these. Few moments of vulnerability when we reveal our souls and make horcruxes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: thetavernthoughts | June 10, 2015

The Danger Zone

I decided to write this blog post over a month ago. I am not busy or caught up with extra work for a simple blog post to take so long. It is pure procrastination and laziness that stopped me. I am not ashamed to admit it. When we are growing up, our parents and teachers warn us against a lot of things. Don’t talk to strangers, this is the first warning that we get from them. They warn us against wrong friends, drugs and many other things. However, they seem to forget the biggest danger of all. The comfort zone.

While for most people comfort zone is an abstract psychologically place, my comfort zone is actually tangible. It is my home and apartment, known to all my friends as 12/D. Living alone, away from parental supervision this tiny apartment has become my comfort zone. I too comfortable to leave it behind and do something. The house is supposed to a place of solitude where I can continue my creative pursuits after office hours. Instead it has become a place to hide from effort and work. Here in my apartment, I sit and smoke endless cigarettes and drink zillion cups of chai tea. All of this make up my comfort zone.

Comfort is a major dream killer. No one has ever achieved their goals by being comfortable. Goals become pipe dreams when you refuse to embrace discomfort. Breaking through the comfort-zone is the only breakthrough that we generally need. Procrastination is to a great extent is a product of our comfort-zone. This dangerous phenomenon keeps us glued and stationary in life. To be dynamic and achieve goals we need to learn to make ourselves uncomfortable.

I started a process about a month ago, before starting my new job. I called it charting the zone. I looked at my life and made a list of things that I want and compared it to the actions that I take on daily basis. All actions that I took during the day that were driven by my comfort. I made a list of those actions. I called it charting out the zone. The entire purpose of this blog post is to work out a way to break through this danger zone.

 The process of breaking through the zone works in a simple manner. I set a goal for the week and I achieve it. There are also numerous lifestyle changes which I want to make. I intend to make these one step at a time every week. Beginning with this week.

This week I choose to make two lifestyle changes. First involves my diet. I intend to switch to green tea slowly this week. The chai tea that I have is full of sugar and is harmful to my health in long term. A simple choice of drinking green tea could have enormous health benefits long term. I am addicted to chai tea and the transition to green tea will not be simple. To motivate myself daily and keep the momentum going I am going to use a ruse. I am going to buy a pair of jeans that are to tight for me. I am going to try and wear them every morning. Nothing will inspire me more than my thinning waist line.

The second change is my writing routine. No more half finished articles and poems and stories. This will be my unreasonable request to myself. So here is my grand deceleration. I will publish at least one poem every-week on the blog to show that I mean business. Along with that I will post in this on going series about my quest to move out of my comfort zone.

So wish me luck.

Posted by: thetavernthoughts | May 20, 2015

The One Wish

He looked at the flower in disbelief. The flower of eternal wisdom and boundless power. The quest for this ethereal flower had claimed endless lives. Mad believers who believed in the flower even when there had been no proof of its existence anywhere in the world. Such faith and such sacrifice and yet it was he the dumb giant who would hold it in his hands. That had not been his original name though. He was born under the name Genteel, Genteel giant.

Long before he could understand his strength and his nature, he was snatched away by the magicians, the tiny humans. It was they who first called him the dumb giant. In comparison to them he was dumb. Trapped by their spells, despite his enormous strength, he was not able to breakthrough and free himself.

When he reached adulthood and finally became the towering 32 ft giant he was destined to be. He noticed how puny the terrifying humans were in his comparison. Bound to them by their spells he had gotten used to them whispering commands in his ears. The humiliation of it all, he wondered then if there was anything in entire living kind, plant, animal, human or mythic that could call him puny. Even the elephants would cower on his sight. Suddenly an eagle screeched and the giant looked up. He realized that to the eagle soaring at those heights even he was puny. For the first time in his life Dumb Giant developed a strong desire to fly. It was his one wish.

He could not fly, however, if his master did set him free, so he longed for freedom more than anything else. Every-time he saw one of his kind, he could see the same pain in their eyes. They, the giants, were easy going peace loving people. Along with slavery, the humans and their spells brought war and murder and deceit. He did not even know what the word meant until he became a pawn in a plot by his master to trick a king into giving them a large piece of land. The worst was the building of the temples to please gods. Cruel gods who were pleased at the fruits of his labor. He did not know why the temple was being built until he overheard his master talk with his best friend one-day.

“The design is such that it shall trap the goddess Tipha-a-asundra. The one who adorns the flower of wisdom in her hair like a tiara. This is not a temple my friend, this is a device that can invoke the immortals in heaven and capture them.”

“No one who has gone after the flower has survived, are you sure you want to do this?”

“Yes, because unlike them I will have a Goddess at my beck and call.”

Just like the his master had said, few nights after the completion for the temple, he had been tasked to deliver deer meat in secret within the sanctum sanctorum. That night inside the sanctum sanctorum he met her the goddess herself.

She was as tall as him. Her golden wheatish skin seemed to light up the room. Sanctum had only one tiny window and the goddess was looking out. She was lying on her side along the Yantra on the floor. She sat up by supporting her weight on her right hand. She wore a tiara of emeralds with a white flower made of moonstone on the corner. She wore turquoise full length gown with long splits on the side  revealing her well formed, beautiful legs. Her eyes matched the colours of her clothes. Her lips shapely pink were shut tightly, in a pensive manner. She looked at the giant walk towards her with deer meat in his hands eyes wide in wonder. He looked away embarrassed and refused to match the goddesses brilliant. The great goddess could sense him compare his ugliness to her beauty and grace. She could feel the silent worship beginning in his heart.

“Speak your heart mortal, I am a goddess, although trapped I can still help your cause.”

“Are you distressed because of your entrapment?”

“No, it is the pettiness of men that has caused me distressed. People always reveal their inner most desires which tells me alot about them. What is yours great Genteel.”

She said the last part very delicately. It took while for the giant to realise that she was referring to the his real name. He looked her stunned and overwhelmed, she smiled at him wistfully.

“Do you know why I have been bound here giant?”

“The master wants flower of eternal wisdom. So that he can become the master of the universe.”

“And you genteel, what would you use that wisdom for?”

He smiled stupidly and answered “To fly”

“Sounds harmless, be careful though you might hold the flower in your hand soon, and you can use it fulfill only one wish.”

The giant had been intrigued  by the goddess’s prophecy.

Although that is exactly how the events had unfolded. Next day his greed master the magi started his journey to the flower of eternal wisdom. The route to which was told to him by the goddess in his ears, as she flew by their side as a humming bird. At distance unknown to both the magi and the giant, his best friend was following them. waiting for the right moment to strike so that he could have the flower of eternal wisdom.

Their quest had brought them to these strange woods, where the goddess walked along side of them as a vixen. Her houl dricing away mortals and immortals alike. At distance, they could see the flower light up the forest at night. its light was akin to that of a big firefly. The gaint even from his vantage could literally see the greed rise in his masters eyes. He was disgusted by it. Then right around the time they were in sight of the flower, the greedy best friend had fired an arrow towards his master. As soon as the master died goddess was set free from his spell, so she turned to her original form and smite the best friend with a flick of her finger. Then she disappeared. Leaving the giant alone to complete the easy last leg of the journey.

As he stood in front of the flower, his entire life flashed in front of him. He realized the one wish he tells the flower to complete should have lot of impact. He asked himself what it was that he would change about the world if he could. The answer took a while to formulate. The genteel giant decided that all the creatures in mythology were a slave to magis and their spells. The best way to keep the mythical dimensions safe was to make them all magic blind. With that wish in his heart the gaint consumed the flower forever vanished for humanity.

Posted by: thetavernthoughts | May 12, 2015

The Bed Time Stories

Writing Prompt:: “So you are in middle of convention in which in all the writers are present. Great as well as not so great. ONe of the favourite writers finishes his story and everyone claps. NOw they are looking at you and it is your turn to narrate a story.

Prompt from reddit.com 

“First words are a bitch” I said. They all laughed the laughter of recognition. “This is rather Kafkaesque.” I said looking at Franz, who gave me a thumbs up. “So I woke up one day and found myself in a room with the spirit of all great writers and story tellers. I wondered why I had been invited I am by no means a greater writer. Hell! None of you even know my name. No one has even heard my stories. Thank god I am the last one to speak or else I would not have been able to narrate this story in a way that all of you would understand. I will adhere to wishes of Stephen King here and narrate to you the first story I ever told. I told this story to my eldest son many many years ago because he had trouble sleeping at times. Once upon time an immortal goddess Prabha and her mortal son Manus lived in the forest. The goddess was extremely wise and kind and everyone loved her. All the beings of the forest were nurtured by her love and they all worshiped her. They especially loved her son who was honest innocent and kind, just like the goddess. Unknown to them the spirit of darkness Ratri was very jealous of this love she received. Everyone was afraid of the Darkness and feared the tricks he could play on everyone’s minds. The evil spirit was not immortal and could be easily defeated with fire. Yet, fire itself terrified everyone in the forest, so no one could wield it and defeat the spirit of darkness. One day using his power of illusions, Ratri confused little Manus and made him drift away from his mother. He confused the little child by calling him into the deep into the forest using his mother’s voice. “Come hither of little prince, and taste these berries.” Calling Manus thus Ratri tricked him deeper and deeper into he forest. Soon Manus was lost in the forest. Without his mother protecting him, Manus started getting scared. He realised that he had been tricked by the evil spirit Ratri. The paths in forest seemed to go round in circles. Manus realised that he had been taken away from the realm of the goodness and into the crueler parts of the forest. As the night set in, the creatures of the darkness, the predators, started hunting. As the night set upon the forest, Ratri started covering everything in his darkness. Manus found himself surrounded by darkness. He panicked. In his panic he decided to hide inside a cave nearby. All around him he could hear the cunning predators of darkness feasting on the innocent. The forest it seems was filled with noises of the predators growls and the cries of their prey. Amidst this madness, the cave seemed like the safest option. Once inside the cave he realised that entire outside world had become pitch dark. Ratri filled the place with so much darkness that the young boy could no more see his own hand. Outside in the forest, the ever courageous and wise bear runs to the goddess and informs her of Ratri’s nefarious deed. Angry the great goddess rushes into he realm of Darkness. Smiting Ratri’s predatory minions along the way. She holds the spirit of darkness by his throat and demands that her son be released. Fearing his life Ratri slips from her grip and hides in the cave where Manus was. The great goddess Prabha tries to enter the cave and rescue her son. Ratri guards the cave with all the powers of darkness and she is not able to enter it. Manus himself though cannot see,but he can hear his mother. He feels it is a trick of the Darkness and tries to ignore it. The wise bear then points out that the only way to win the battle is for young Manus hold fire and dispel the lord of  darkness. This could only happen within the cave because the magic the closed the doors was designed to allow only the flesh and blood of Manus to pass. The goddess, angry and frustrated, throws in some wood  and flint inside the cave and commands her son to light the fire. Manus refuses to obey. Darkness laughs at Prabha’s face. “If he stays inside long enough I will fill his soul with my evil essence” Ratri thunders. Afraid the goddess loving tells her son “Open your ears, Manus, do not be afraid. I have given you means to fight the Darkness now. Light the fire and dispel Ratri from that cave. It is the only way you can be rescued.” Manus hears what his mother is saying yet refuses to obey, thinking it was another ruse of the Darkness. “Do you not know, oh little one, soon you will be consumed with spirit of Darkness. Please reach out for the flint stones rub them together and light a fire.” Manus still does not co operate. “Oh! the prince of the forest and heir to all things covered in my light, do you not want to rule, how would you do that without a little bit of courage?” Again no response. The goddess now begins to get angry with her son. “Manus I command you, light that fire.” Again the boy refuses to move. The goddess begins to panic, she wonders if her son is forever lost to Darkness. The wise bear once again intercedes. “Perhaps you should scare the little prince into courage.” The goddess teary eyed yet angry looks at the Bear. “What does that even mean?” The bear screams loudly. “Oh prince quick your mother is now going to trade her life for yours?” Inside the cave Ratri could feel the young prince shiver on the mention of the suggestion. He tries to hide the flint stones, but before he could do so Manus catches hold of them. With no thought except his mother’s safety the young prince begins to rub the flint stones. The sparks weaken the grip of the Darkness and Manus quickly catches hold of a branch which catches fire. Burning from within Ratri is forced to run out of the cave. Once out of the cave the goddess catches Ratri and banishes him into the shadows where he is forever imprisoned stripped of his power of magic . Teary eyed both mother and son unite. That day the immortal goddess promises her son “I will forever watch over you and your children.” Manus though still a child no more fears anything, for he had the gift of the goddess in his hands, fire. Fire ensured that no creature would ever rise to challenge Manus. “Remember” she said as she left “teach your children to have faith in me and love me even if they are surrounded with terrifying darkness and I will stand by them. Look up to me for guidance and you shall never be lost.” She calls upon the mortal daughter of the sea to live with him and ascends into the skies to become a million stars.” Thus ends the first story I ever told. “Did your son believe this story literally?”  Richard Dawkins asks. “Yes, we even had a figure which all my children would worship.” “So you started religion from your bedtime stories?” “Being the first human Richard, we were completely at the mercy of the forest. At night when the tigers would come out to hunt and leopards would start stalking their prey or when the Hyenas laughed into he night, these things would strike terror into the hearts of children. It was not uncommon to develop an fear of the forest. Fear in its most irrational form gave birth to stories about monsters that hide in the dark, in the unknown parts of the forest. Fear of the unknown you see. Which is what my son was developing. I realized then. Most of the successful children and hunters had somehow overcome this fear. They all claimed to have discovered an unusual force that enabled them to do so. So I used those stories to create a ruse that became religion. I did not want my children to lose. Just like fear took an irrational grip of their minds, faith in an unknown entity gave them courage to walk towards it. In-fact, I believe my stories that threaded into a religion helped them prosper in those early hours of Human Life. The same techniques were used by later generation to control others and keep them in the dark. That is no fault of mine. I had no idea what impact this system of thought would have on the future, it put my son to asleep and gave him the courage to hunt a tiger, later in his youth. That is all I cared about. Yes, that is what made my family unique, that we worshiped an unknown and unseen entity and drew courage from it, while others shared our fear of unknown but never could find the real courage in it to face it. My children won in the end you are all here are a proof of that. Mitochondrial eve is what you classify me as but you all call me “mother”. That is all I ever was a good mother who conjured stories to send my children to sleep. The context of all these stories was irrational courage. For when fear takes irrational forms, you need to give courage an irrational form too, which was my motivation for these stories.”

Posted by: thetavernthoughts | May 6, 2015

Empathy

Empathy

We are all introspective to a certain extent. We all have a sense of what motivates us and what our problems are. The same cannot be said about empathy. It varies with the individual. Yet, empathy is the foundation of human society.

Working on the world’s greatest surveillance program, I have realized that I have been hired for my social skills as much as my coding skills. Somewhere between the implementation of a 5G network and creation of super powerful Google glasses, the governments of the world realized that the internet was not something that they should restrict; it is instead a tool with which they could control. They declared it a basic necessity and made it more easily available than water. Soon the entire world was hooked to the virtual reality, not yet to the extent in the films, yet they spend enough time online for us to track them. Not just their posts, but unknown to people the glasses are also used to record facial expressions the window to person’s soul. The complete analysis of their online activity gave us a very clear picture of who they were. In-fact as the program grows in strength, with it’s every new update it comes closer and closer to becoming the first true oracle. Of course with a window to million souls at my fingertips I created the first ‘oracle’ update. Now I could predict crimes. I can track psychopaths from birth and create alerts lest their tendencies make them monsters. I marvelled at how well my code worked. Now the truly serious crimes could be predicted and prevented, or at least that is what I thought. Of course there would be few misses I figured.

There were none, every crime was witnessed and felt and catalogued from all the possible perspectives, including those of an innocent bystander. The powerful program I had created could mirror all personalities and characters in human experience. It learnt by doing so. The program simultaneous simulated millions of people to understand their behaviour patterns and use it to predict crimes. Once I had understood how the system worked, it was time for me to involve the law authorities.

The new problem arose with the system when the police got involved. They now received alerts of possible crimes that could happen in their locality. They could now apprehend perpetrator and stop the crimes from happening. The program of course was not happy with my decision. That is when in communicated to me. It sent me a design of a complex machine, perhaps the best virtual reality simulator I had seen.

Of course I built it. I wanted to understand what the program was up-to. For a while I was also suspicious. This brilliant AI might want to take over the planet I thought. It had evolved by itself, so I had very little control over what it had become. So I took precautions before entering this simulator. Few close associates were informed and asked to stay offline. I was afraid that the virtual reality generated by my program would totally overwhelm me. So they had to ensure that I stepped out into the real world.

With a deep breath I switched the simulator on. I wore its sensory gears. Slowly, slowly the real world dropped away. Almost in a dreamlike state I was transported to scene of crime. It was that of a woman being beaten up. The most common crime even now is domestic abuse. I looked at it as fly on the wall. I was sure that the perpetrator was stupid psychopath enjoying the little power he had over the woman. I was disgusted by the victim and her refusal to take a stand for herself.

Suddenly I felt a blow on my face. I stunned by it. Before I could understand what was happening, I felt another one. I wanted to stand up and fight back, suddenly I felt weak and scared. Suddenly I felt ashamed deeply ashamed. Off what? I do not know. Just an over powering sense of shame. I do not even have to fight just run. Run the man was going to kill. The fear left me paralyzed. I was scared of leaving the man, I was powerless, and I wished he would kill me and end the pointless existence. There was nothing beautiful with the world. It was better to end it all.

Then I felt the sweat and blood on my knuckles. She had to know I was the man. I was in charge; I had to prove that I was in charge. If I did not control her she would go away. She would leave and go away. I was scared of her and the extent to which her absence would hurt me. She was the centre of my world and she had to be stopped and protected. I felt love and a strong urge to hurt. I love her, I will hurt her. Keep her weak and dependent on me. I need her so I keep her dependent on me.

Then suddenly the police arrive on the scene. I was a cop and I had a baton in my hand. I barge in through the door. Anger, I was angry with both of them. I was right in being angry. I am justice. I had to protect the weak. But the weak as always would not let me.

Perhaps there was another way out. I feel wicked and in control. I challenge the man berate him. I can feel his anger come out of that dark pit as he hurls himself on me. I strike him once and hard with my baton and then again. This time I feel a definitive crack in the skull. I feel a rush as I deliver justice to the weak. I am out of the police man again and I am drifting, towards a closed-door. Behind the door in the corner a little girl of three is lying on floor in the typical infant position.

I am her now and I am feeling guilty and ashamed as I hear my mother scream. I had been crying and that made Daddy angry and so it he hit mother. I am bad. I feel so ashamed and guilty. I deserve to be hurt and killed.

As suddenly as the visions had begun they stopped. As I stepped out of the simulator I felt exhausted. They emotional roller-coaster had taken a toll on me. It felt like a long and tiresome set of visions had been sent to me. The program was communicating its distress. The daughter I realized was now likely to do things that would harm her. The policeman and his righteousness were also dangerous. An abusive husband who loves the one person he is hurting and the mother’s d illusion of dependence.

It was almost as if for the first time I could become the person I was trying to understand. More important I realized that all of the people involved might make different choices if they ever totally and without any difference felt exactly like the person who they were hurting or was hurting them. Perhaps that is what the program wanted of me. This one single could totally change a person’s approach. I do not even have words for most of the things I felt in those moments, for I believe that program had observed and replicated a certain primordial impulse in us human beings. An impulse that lay at the root of identity and identity crisis assuming we all had fractured personalities.

Hence, the final part of this fantastic tale is as such. It ends with an appeal to extend the original scope of this program and redefine crime prevention as not merely stopping the criminal act, but using empathy to beat the criminal mind-sets.

musing

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 8.35.52 AM Jon Ronson discusses So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show

In So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson tells the stories of people who have been savagely pilloried for their mistakes, and — just like when these events unfolded in real life — it’s impossible to look away.

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Posted by: thetavernthoughts | November 8, 2014

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: I Am Waiting Poetry Series

Silver Birch Press

waiting1a
Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti‘s 96th birthday rolls around on March 24, 2015. Let’s get a head start on celebrating this iconic author’s nativity by paying homage to his classic poem “I Am Waiting,” which first appeared in A Coney Island of the Mind — Ferlinghetti’s 1958 collection that, with over a million copies in print, is one of the most popular books of poetry every published.

PROMPT: The trigger for poems in this series is “waiting.” What are you waiting for? Christmas? A new job? New home? New baby? Happiness? A trip? Godot? Whatever you’re waiting for, memorialize it in your “I Am Waiting” poem. If we get enough submissions, we’ll create a book of the poems as a big, beautiful birthday card for Mr. Ferlinghetti.

WHAT: Submissions can be original poems or erasure/found poems based on “I Am Waiting” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Find the poem here

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Posted by: thetavernthoughts | October 13, 2014

Those kids, the ones on the other side.

Slam the door.

It is both alarming and funny how they get distracted in a matter of seconds. They’re listening to everything you’re saying but you may lose them to a brilliant idea that touched the waters of their turbulent minds. Haven’t you ever met that boy who couldn’t stay still? The girl who kept walking and the sun blazed on? The kid who never completed coloring the whole picture? They are different, finicky, restless, fidgety and for the most part, extremely sorry.

They cannot keep a job, cannot keep time. They cannot explain why everything is funny, how even the serious most conversations can be turned into a joke. They feel everything tenfold, they are blamed for being hasty, selfish, for being the red in the yellow. They are the ones who look like they don’t care enough the ones who don’t look back. There are bouts of confusion, when everything is fine…

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Posted by: thetavernthoughts | April 23, 2012

Speed Breaker

The green curtains fluttered in the wind, the sill itself shook subtly. The cold moist wind felt good on his face, he could almost smell the rain in it.  Through the gap in the fluttering curtain, he could see whitish hue of the Moon, as it peeked through the clouds. Shreyas had moved the desk to this part of the room long ago. This way he faced the window while he worked, and every time he looked up, he got a great  view of the yeor hills from his windows. At night, during the monsoon season, the strong south eastern winds almost crashed onto his bedroom window. Even in the blurry moonlight, Shreyas could see the winds collecting clouds over the yeor hills.  On such nights, he would keep his content development work aside and stand by the window, and observe, the Mother Nature in all her glory. He would often take solitary walks on such rainy nights, thinking about various poems in the Indian Literature that eulogized the life giving monsoon showers. “God is in the Rain” he would think. On such walks, the young content developer felt he had something poetic and philosophical hidden in him. He felt the rains cleanse the muck of everyday life from his psyche, to reveal in its artistic interiors.

On this particular night, Shreyas sat his desk, feeling the wind on his face. He had made himself a cup of tea. As the overture of Mozart’s Fortuna started playing on his laptop, Shreyas took a whiff of the freshly brewed tea. As the music picked up pace, Shreyas, started taking sips of the warm brew. The warmth spread across his body, a wonderful contrast to the cold monsoon wind. As the symphony reached the crescendo, Shreyas closed his eyes and let the music course through every vein in his body. His concentration was broken by a loud screech of the automobile breaking.

Shreyas opened his eyes, and suddenly jumped out of his chair. He stooped over the table to stare through the window. He could see the street clearly. The municipal cooperation had done maintenance work on the street recently. The street was smooth and Shreyas himself was often tempted to speed up his bike. To avoid over speeding, the municipal cooperation had made a speed breaker on it, and it was right in front of Shreyas’s building. Every night, drivers seeing an empty smooth road would drive in at the top of the speed. They would not notice the speed breaker until it was a little too late and more often than not had to apply emergency breaks. The loud screeching sound always troubled Shreyas and he would always end up staring out of the window.

This time it was a SUV, it survived the breaking. As it continued towards its destination, Shreyas could feel the familiar irritation replace concern in his head. The government, as always had, done something incomplete and stupid. They built the speed breaker, at the right spot. Shreyas had no issue with that. A preschool was right across the street and, more often than not, little children would run unconcerned on the street. The speed breaker ensured there were no accidents. At night however, the speed breaker was disaster waiting to happen. The breaker seemed to come out of nowhere, especially to people who did not drive on the street every day. Even to the locals, it took effort to spot the breaker at night. The speed breaker was not painted and although it was next to a street light, a tree adjoining the street light cast a shadow on it, making invisible at night. The driver could not spot it until he was only a few yards away from it that too, only if he was clear headed. Almost every one speeded up on a road like this, such roads were rare in country. Every night, for the last three months, since the speed breaker had been made, Shreyas would hear cars screeching to slow down. Few days ago an old Suzuki broke her chasse as the driver simply failed to notice the breaker. Shreyas had run down to help. It was a young couple that had recently moved in to the locality. The girl was clearly shaken by the incident. Shreyas had helped them move the car to the side of the road and then dropped them home. He had already written to the Municipal Corporation about the problem a month ago, he had even visited their offices. Only thing they did was to make some false promises. After the Suzuki incident, Shreyas decided to take things in his own hands.

So he went to a hardware work shop nearby and enquired how much it would take to make a sign. He had first considered asking a painter to paint white stripes on it, but it was too late for that, the monsoon had started and paint would most probably wash off before it dried. So he had a special sign board made, a sign board that would illuminate under a car head lights. He decided to place it at about fifty yards from the speed breaker. He was going to work on it the next day. He had even enrolled a couple of local workers for it. They had already dug a hole on their chosen spot. All they had to do the next day was fix the sign in it and pour the cement. He had all the necessary material in his house. He also knew how to make the white cement. Shreyas looked outside at the sky. He noticed that clouds were high up, such clouds generally passed over the city without showering. The once that brought heavy rains, were the ones that would get caught in yeor hills. So he decided to put up the sign immediately, without waiting for the day. He could take Bahadur’s help. Bahadur was the complex watchman, who guarded the main gate.

As he started mixing the shite cement, in the labourer’s mixing bowl, he felt gloomy. He knew what he was doing was weird, not the setting the sign part, but the fact that he could not wait for the next day. He knew the compulsion that was nudging him. He had lost parents year ago, to car accident, on very similar monsoon night. Although, he could not hate the extreme showers of the monsoon, he did develop an obsessive fear of car accidents. He felt very lonely since that fateful day, and as he sat working on nights, the screeching cars were annoying reminder the ones he missed. He wondered, often if his father’s car had made a similar sound, as he desperately tried to avoid colliding with the truck. The truck had crushed the car and his parents in it.

The cement was almost ready, he had to pour it before it dried out. So he left the house and hastily called for the lift. He held the light aluminium sign board in one hand and the cement in the other. He walked towards the main gate, looking for Bahadur.

There he was standing by the gate as if waiting for him.

“How are you feeling tonight Bahadur, are you up for labour?”

“I am doing well sahib”

Shreyas felt genuine concern for the man. He seemed to have grown old almost overnight. He could see the wrinkles forming on his neck, and his eyes seemed to have lost a bit of their lustre. He looked worn out. Not the lively young man Shreyas was used to.

“You seem tired Bahadur”

“There trouble back at the village Sahib, property issues.”

“Don’t get so tensed, I am sure something can work out.”

“You don’t know the village people sahib, they can Murder over property. I haven’t slept properly for days, I am worried for my wife and kids, I need to go back immediatly, but I can’t just quit this job either.”

“I can see it on your face. It seems as if you have aged within these few nights.”

“Sahib, what to do, the worry is killing me.”

“Then perhaps you should not help me, let that other new boy beside you help me.”

“No Sahib, I think, I just sit here all night, with nothing to occupy my mind. So I end up worrying. Please, let me help instead.”

“Ok”

Shreyas handed him the sign board. He noticed the other new watchman stare at Bahadur in awe, and shaking head to toe. He seemed to be clinging to the holy beads that he wore around his neck. Shreyas wanted to laugh, looking at the young man shaking. He was extremely thin this new companion to Bahadur. He was probably fresh from a village in the north, new to Mumbai. They are generally shocked by the strength of the monsoon in Mumbai. The wind was extremely cold, Shreyas noticed, the thin watchman could not handle it.

The atmosphere was little strange he noticed. The full moon shone brightly from behind the clouds and the winds were very strong. He could see Bahadur struggle to hold the sign board that was drifting in the wind.

They reached the designated spot, and Bahadur put the sign board in its place. He held it against the wind, while Shreyas quickly poured cement into the cavity to hold the sign board. Suddenly, the street lights went off, and moonlight permeated through the night. Shreyas saw a flash of car lights and looked up. The car sped past him, slowing down, few moments before reaching the speed breaker.

“The sign works” Shreyas said looking at Bahadur. At that instant the night sky lit up with bluish haze of the lightning and Shreyas could see Bahadur smiling at him in the night.

“Yes Sahib it does.”

The loud clamp of thunder followed, and Shreyas got back to pouring the cement in the moonlight. The hole slowly filled up, and Shreyas levelled the cement using his own hands.

“It’s done Bahadur, let go of the sign let’s see if it stands.”

Bahadur did as he was told. The sign stood proudly by the street, to warn every driver who would drive by. Shreyas took a moment to admire his work. While Bahadur pulled out cigarette and lit it.

“You know that it can kill you.”

“I will quit tomorrow Sahib”

Shreyas laughed.

“Aren’t you going back home Sahib”

“No I would rather take a walk.”

“Aaaah! You should become a poet Sahib, taking such depressing lonely walks in the rain, or you could get a bride, you can enjoy the rain better with her trust me.”

“You speak from experience” Shreyas laughed

Bahadur took a long drag and smiled as he flicked the cigarette to ash it. Shreyas turned towards the dark moonlight street to begin his walk. He turned around and looked at the new watchmen. He could see the watchman’s face in the emergency light. There was naked fear in his face, as he stared at Shreyas and then at Bahadur. Shreyas felt eerie as he looked at Bahadur smoking the cigarette nonchalantly blissfully ignorant of watchman and the strange weather.

Bahadur suddenly looked at him and smile.

“See you later tonight Bahadur” he said as he started his walk.

Bahadur watched as Shreyas walked away. He wondered the same thing he had wondered for the last ten years, what will happen when or if I quit. Bahadur watched on as Shreyas’s silhouette disappeared into the night, on the very spot he had died of an accident, ten years ago.

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