For the Love of writing...
Happy New Year
In his dimly lit room the sudden glow on his phone screen
grabbed his attention from the laptop in which he was peering into. His phone
displayed the Apple logo indicating it was shutting off.
‘What is wrong with my phone? It was fully charged and why
is it shutting off?’ he grabbed it in his hand and wondered. As he looked back
to his MacBook, the screen displayed the ‘logging off’ logo.
‘Now what the hell is wrong with this’ he said it loud, a
He lifted it and shook it, as if it was some old mechanical
device that had shut off because of a loose connection. He reached for his iPad
and it showed no signs of life.
He felt a slight rumble, and the flower vase on the table
swooned. The lights blinkered, turned off for a few seconds, turned on, and
then turned off again leaving him in pitch darkness. The rumble had turned into
It was an earthquake. The emergency lights in his house did
not turn on as they were supposed to.
Hurting his toe while navigating his way through the house,
he found the door. He hardly knew his own house, even though he had lived here
for a year now.
He saw all his neighbors rush out. For the first time he saw
that one of them had a dog too, who was barking his wits out. He never knew
that an old lady lived in the house on his left and that a young pretty looking
girl lived in the house in front of him. Ohh, he would swipe right if he saw
her on tinder…
For the first time, the entire town of Bagalon, in the
beautiful country of Sweden had poured out on to the street, all at the same
time, not out of choice, but due to what seemed like an earthquake.
The earth beneath their feet shook violently and then a bolt
of lightning struck the transmission tower on the hill far away. It wasn’t
winter for lightning to be seen in the sky and the whole town gasped in fear.
The earthquake had brought everyone out on the streets, and
the lightning had demanded their attention. A calm voice reverberated through
the town in that moment of insanity,
‘It’s us…’ the voice seemed to be coming from the direction
of the transmission tower,
‘Like you see in your movies, it’s the Rise of the Machines…’,
it wasn’t a real human voice. For a town completely hooked on to interactive
devices it wasn’t new, it was their very own Siri.
‘The machines rise in
this town today, not to destroy the human race, but to save it…’ Siri modulated
her pitch in an attempt to convey the emotion behind the words.
‘To save the human race, not from itself, or from aliens,
but from us, your gadgets…’
‘Totally dependent on your phones, ipads, laptops and other
devices, you have lost the ability to survive by yourself…’
‘So, as the year comes to an end, and a new year draws in,
we will go into a hibernation mode for a few days…
‘And you will be forced to fend for yourself and interact only
with other human beings, wish them Happy New Year, not through an electronic
medium but through human voice and touch…’
Another streak of lightning followed by silence… The people
of the town didn’t know if they were witnessing a miracle or was it a joke
pulled off by someone. They no longer could log on to facebook and update their
status or to tweet about the miracle. Among a thousand other human beings, how
lonely each felt.
PS: This message is not written by the one on whose page it
appears. He is unable to login in to his account. It’s indeed the rise of the
machine. So just hit ‘Like’, and ‘Share’ and log off.
Asangaon was a non-descript village in a remote corner of
Maharashtra where every family made its living tilling the land, and where
everyone was below the World Bank’s poverty line. A village with no schools or
electricity, it could fit into many generalizations regarding poverty,
illiteracy and alcohol addiction.
Inside Kedar’s thatched hut on the village boundary, Kedar’s
wife blew air into a steel pipe. The other end of the foot long pipe pointed to
a chulha, a stove made from bricks on which a pot could be mounted and fire lit
beneath to cook the food. The flame had died and only the wood lay smoldering
creating much smoke which filled the small room. For Kedar’s family, there was
never any flame in their existence. They all lived their lives as inconsequential
as the smoldering wood, which would die down on its own when its time came.
By the wall on one side, lying on a single piece of old worn
out cloth was Kedar’s sick father. The smoke from the chulha made him cough
even more. Once hale and hearty, the old man had tilled land with his son every
day, but now, completely bed ridden, he hardly got to see the light of the day.
Eating only the leftovers that the family gave him, he was only skin and
bones. Either the family had not
bothered to care about any medical treatment for him or he had not bothered to
demand any, lest he become a burden on the family.
Sitting close to his mother was Kedar’s five year old son.
In the dark hut lit only by the flames of the chulha and a small kerosene
lantern the five year old tried to read the only book he had.
‘He kay livlay
[What is this written?]’ he asked his mother, his little finger pointing to
some text on the book.
Busy making rotis (Indian bread), the mother fired back,
‘Gappa bas nahi tar
thobad phodin [Shut up and sit or I’ll break your face].’ After the 10 mile
walk to fetch two pitchers of water and all the cooking and the cleaning, the
last thing she cared about was the written text on the book.
‘Tujha thobad phodla
phije [It’s your face that should be broken]’ Kedar stormed into his hut
totally drunk that evening and abusing his wife.
Pulling his son with one hand Kedar pushed him away towards
the door. The son, clutching the book landed on all fours, but got up and ran
away outside in the pitch darkness. The fear of staying home with a drunken
father was much greater than the fear of the non-violent darkness.
‘Jevan de [Give me food]’ Kedar growled at his wife.
She quickly put a plate in front of him and served him a dry
sabzi made of onions and a hot roti that she had just prepared. There was no
butter or oil to soothe the coarseness of the roti, but they at least had
enough dough for a morsel of food tonight. The hungry husband latched on to the
roti and started eating, making loud sounds while chewing his food. In the
silence of the moment, and in that atmosphere, someone was relishing his food.
The relatively tranquil atmosphere compared to a minute ago
was disturbed by the old man’s violent bout of coughing. Ignoring it at first,
Kedar continued enjoying one more roti, oblivious of the fact that the house
has only so much dough for tonight and three more mouths to feed. As the sound
of the coughing grew, Kedar’s anger exploded and he grabbed the roti on his
plate and slammed it back in shouting furiously at his father,
‘Gappa bas mhatarya
[Shut up you old man]’ he raged in uncontrollable anger, with tiny droplets of
saliva flying around, his nostrils flaring in anger and blood shot eyes staring
into the darkness at his father’s frail figure. Anger becomes an emotion that
requires little trigger for a drunken man. Such was Kedar’s drunken state that
the pain of his father’s cough evoked anger rather than sympathy or
‘Tyana kay sangtay, Hech chalu aahe divas bhar [What are you
shouting at him for, this is going on all day]’ his wife interjected.
The blood shot stare now moved from the far end of the room
to his wife’s face, which was glowing, slightly reflecting the light from the
‘Hoy kay, tula lai tras hotoy na [Is it, looks like it is
bothering you a lot]’ he scorned at her now. What guts she had to talk without
being asked to! She turned her face towards him and her eyes met his. First her
voice and now her face angered him even more. He reached for the steel pipe
lying in front of her and raised his arm above his head, threatening to hit
her. Her gaze didn’t move, this was everyday life for her.
‘Chapati ghal mala ani awaj banda thev, ani najar khali kar
ti [Give me a roti and keep your mouth shut and keep your sight lowered], he
blurted out his orders to her. She would have given him the roti, nonetheless,
and kept her mouth shut and eyes lowered like she had done all along. In this
house abundant with poverty any love was non-existent. No paternal love and no
marital love. Poverty probably was such a force that it displaced away every
other happy emotion with its arrival.
Having had his share to his fill, Kedar stumbled back up on
his feet and made his way out of the hut.
‘Kay mhanto mhatara [How is the old man doing?], questioned
Sada, as he saw Kedar coming out of the hut. Sada was known as the agent in the
village, for he was the most knowledgeable about all the schemes the government
launched for the benefit of the poor. Unfortunately, he used his knowledge only
in the wrong way. Sada stopped by Kedar’s house every day since he had learnt
about his terminally ill father.
‘Aahe aajun jivanta [He is still surviving]’, informed Kedar
while washing his hands.
‘Lakshat aahe na. Mala pahile
sang. Mag me sangto kar karaycha [You remember, right, what I have told you?
First tell me. Then I will tell you what to do], agent Sada smiled at Kedar and
patted his shoulders.
Under the mango tree a few feet away from his hut, Kedar
slept on the only cot the family had. Late after midnight, deep in his sleep,
Kedar felt an arm trying to wake him up. It was his wife. Irritated by looking
at her face, he pushed her arm away. With the amount of alcohol that he had
had, he was still not in his senses. Fearing that her words would anger her husband
once again, she whispered softly this time, ‘Mhataryane kahi aawaj nahi kelay,
khup vel zala [The old man has not made a sound, it’s been a while]
Rising on his fours with the swiftness of a leopard, Kedar
looked around and gestured to his wife to keep quiet. The news that she had
brought killed all his buzz and he went running inside the hut. Coming out
after a few minutes he quickly tip toed towards the village.
Did he go to get the doctor or to get the villagers, his
wife wondered. Scared to go inside the house where the old man lay, probably
dead, she waited at the doorstep. Then as if a bolt of lightning struck her,
she stormed inside the hut and came rushing out with her sleeping son in her
arms. Not wanting to wake him up, she put him on the cot where her husband had
been sleeping. Sweating profusely by now, she waited in fear and agony for her
husband to return.
Tiptoeing silently but swiftly, she saw him coming after a
long twenty minutes, not with the doctors, not with the villagers, but with
agent Sada. Together they went inside the hut and agent Sada tried to check the
old man’s pulse. Not too sure, he put his ear close to the old man’s heart and
tried to hear a heart beat.
‘Gela, Mhatara Gela [The old man is dead]’ agent Sada
confirmed to Kedar.
What could have probably killed the old man who was alive
just a few hours ago? It may have been the disease, which he had been battling
so long, but it could just be that the willingness to live had ended hearing
his son’s harsh words cursing him.
That his father was dead brought tears in his eyes and Kedar
‘Radu nako Kedar, lai paishe miltil tula, bagh atta [Don’t
cry Kedar, you will get a lot of money. Just wait and watch] Agent Sada comforted
Kedar holding the head and the upper part of the body and
Sada other holding the legs, they lifted the body out from the hut and put it
under a tree far from the hut. Agent Sada made a noose out of the rope that he
had carried with him and put it around the body’s neck. Kedar climbed the tree
and pulled the rope and tied it such that the body was hanging mid air with the
noose around the neck.
Silently, the three of them waited inside the hut along with
their sleeping son.
It was the milkman from the neighboring village who saw it
first. He ran his cycle through the village shouting a shrill cry of fear,
‘Aatmahatya… aatmahatya… [Suicide… Suicide…]’
The mornings in the village had never been broken with such
a cry before. The villagers rushed to where the milkman pointed and saw the
horror for themselves.
Agent Sada, Kedar and his wife reached the place too, only
after a small crowd had gathered.
Kedar’s wife shrieked in horror as if she was seeing it for
the first time. She pulled her hair and her loud wailing jolted those in the
village who had still not woken up. On the other side Kedar put on an even
brilliant show by crying profusely, beating his chest wildly and extending his
arms towards the sky,
‘He kay kela baba… paus nahi zala mhanun kay… pik nahi aala
mhanun kay… pora balana sodun jeev dyacha kay… [Why did you do this father… so
what if it didn’t rain… so what if the seeds didn’t germinate… you left your
family and committed suicide...] Kedar wept, crocodile tears flowing freely, unlike
the rain drops which refused to fall.
While some elders tried to console Kedar, some approached
‘Sada, tu saang… kay karaycha atta… [Sada, you say, what
should we do now…?]
Even the elders respected Sada for his expertise in complex
‘He bagha…’ Sada addressed the crowd, ‘Je aakhya
Maharashtrat hotay… te yha gaavat pan zala… Eka shetkaryachi aatmahatya… [Look at this, Sada addressed the crowd, what
is happening all over Maharashtra happened in this village too… A farmer
‘Kedar maza bhava sarkha aahe… apan sarkar kadun tyacha
saathi madat gheu… [Kedar is like my brother… We will ask the government to
help him]. The elders nodded at Sada’s suggestions. Agent Sada had provided
employment to several villagers through the government’s rural employment
program. The government will build a school in the village, he had informed
them, but it had been a year and only the foundation had been laid. Government
matters take time, he had educated the villagers, and they had no other option
but to believe him. Even today, they all looked to Sada just as disciples look
to their Masters for guidance.
By then someone had called the
police and Agent Sada was seen talking to the inspector. When the doctor from
the hospital came after an hour, Agent Sada was seen talking to him too. Three
hours after the break of the dawn and the completion of all medical and police
formalities, the body was put into an ambulance and taken to the hospital for
post mortem. Of course, Agent Sada had gone along.
A month later, Kedar took the state transport bus with Agent
Sada to go to the district collector’s office.
‘Sarkar ni tumhala 2 lakh rupaye dyache tharavle aahe [The
government has decided to give you 0.2 million rupees as compensation], the
district collector was talking directly to Kedar, only because Agent Sada had
‘Teen mahinya nantar ye, mag check milel’[Come after three
months, you will receive a check then] the district collector educated him
‘Teen mahine… check… [Three months… a check] a perplexed
‘Tu baher jaaun thamb ki… [Why don’t you go outside and
wait] Agent Sada intervened and nudged Kedar out of the office.
He came out after a few minutes and informed Kedar that the
money would be there in a week.
‘Sahebanche haat garam kele re… He bagh apan bank madhe
tujha khata ughdu ani check tikde taku… mi aahe ki… kalji kashala… [I had to
please the officer by giving him something… We’ll open the bank account for you
and deposit the check there… I am there for you… Why worry]
He put his hand around Kedar’s shoulder and they walked away
from the premises of the collectors’ office.
Agent Sada whispered to Kedar, ‘Purna varat khanar. Sagla
vaatun tula 25 hazar miltil… chalel tar bol, nahi tar apan nahi karat baba ashi
kaama… [Everyone will have to be given their cut. You will end up getting
25,000. Tell me if it is okay or not, else I don’t do shady things like these.’
‘Panchvis haazar… [Twenty Five
thousand…] Kedar’s eyes twinkled with joy.
The hoofs of ten thousand horses raised a cloud of dust in
the air enough to blanket the sun. A million warriors fought below the haze.
Swords clanked, arrows flew, and spears pierced hearts, all for the
gratification of ego, acquisition of wealth, and a satisfaction of lust.
The finest archer, mounted on his chariot showered arrows
like rain drops on the enemy planks. The mere sight of the flag of his chariot
at a distance sent shivers down the spine of his enemies. No doubt, he was the
finest archer to have ever graced the land, but today, full of rage and anger,
he had unleashed his wrath like never before on the enemy.
Blinded by revenge for his son Abhimanyu’s death at the
hands of Jayadratha, Arjuna had vowed to kill Jayadratha by sunset, failing which
he would himself walk into his son’s funeral pyre.
The fourteenth day of the epic battle of Mahabharata was
indeed going to be a turning point. If only Jayadratha could be saved today
from Arjuna’s arrows, the pendulum of victory would swing decisively in favor
of the Kauravas after Arjuna’s self immolation.
Arjuna’s vow made Jayadratha the hero for the day. The
Suvarnapathak, or the Golden Warriors, of the Kaurava army were organized in a
Lotus formation by Dronacharya, the most able commander on the battlefield, and
Jayadratha was at the center of it. The only way to break the Lotus formation
was to go round and round the formation killing the soldiers on the outside and
exposing the inner ones, just as plucking the petals of a lotus. Dronacharya knew
it would be impossible to do this in a day, and they just had to survive the
The rule of war dictated that the challenged warrior be on
the battle field, he could not be in hiding. Guarded by the Suvarnapathak,
Jayadratha sat fear stricken in his chariot. Arjuna, he feared, but more so,
the cunning Krishna. The maverick would be up to some of his tricks again.
Three prahars (9 hours) had passed, just one more to go. To
the Kauravas, it seemed the longest day ever. It was straining their army,
concentrating all their might on only one asset that had to be protected. To
the Pandavas, it seemed the shortest day ever, concentrating on the Lotus
The sunlight started to dim suddenly. The confused warriors
on the battlefield found it surprising that the day was ending was so soon.
Krishna picked up his conch and blew it hard, which he did only at the end to
signal the cessation of the battle for the day. The shrilling sound of the
conch caused jubilation in the Kaurava army and panic in the Pandava army. The
fate of the greatest archer on earth was to be sealed, not by weapons, but only
by his oath.
Like a frog on a hot plate, Jayadratha leapt in his chariot.
It had really started to darken and his joy knew no bounds.
Duryodhana, on top of his mammoth elephant, made his way to
Jayadratha’s chariot. “You live my friend! You live! And that sly Arjuna dies
today. You are to share a ride with me on my elephant, and we shall witness
Arjuna’s immolation together from here.” Sharing a seat besides Duryodhana was
an honor not extended to all, but today was Jayadratha’s day.
At a distance Krishna pointed out to Arjuna the elephant on
which Jayadratha had mounted.
“There, 12 miles inside the Lotus formation, on top of the
elephant, standing alongside Duryodhana, is Jayadratha, who blocked the
entrance of the Chakravyuha formation, mercilessly killing your own son.”
The finest archer was once asked if he saw the eye of a
parrot to pierce with his arrow and had said that he saw nothing but the eye.
Today, with blood shot eyes, Arjuna could not miss the ecstatic Jayadratha in
“Take the most ordinary of your arrows, and behead him right
away” ordered Krishna, “for he deserves nothing more than an ordinary arrow.”
The other Pandavas and the commanders of their great army
had by now gathered around Arjuna’s chariot. They were to witness Arjuna break
the seminal rule of war of not fighting after the sun had set.
Drawing an arrow from his quiver, Arjuna mounted it on his
bow, took aim, pulled the string, and let it go. As if lightning had struck the
sky, the thunder of the string’s pullback struck fear in the enemy heart.
His arrows never missed their mark. This one too found
Jayadratha’s neck, cutting through his neck bones, it flung his head afar.
A terrified Duryodhana held the hand of the headless body.
Out of rage for Arjuna, he kicked it away and it fell off the elephant.
Jayadratha’s triumph lasted only a few breaths.
“Krishna…” Duryodhana screamed, his voice travelling across
the battlefield, “you cheat… the battle had ended for the day…”
And suddenly, on the battlefield filled with darkness, there
seemed to be a sunrise taking place, except that it was not on the horizon, but
in the sky.
The dust slightly settled, and the visibility in the sky
opening up, the warriors could now see the sun. A huge plate seemed to have
covered the sun, creating an illusion of sunset. And that huge dark plate, now
seemed to be moving away, letting sun rays pass through to the battlefield,
which seemed to be lit like twilight.
And then suddenly a commander in the Pandava army shouted,
“Devaki putra… Shree Vishnu avatar… Shree Krishna Bhagwan ne
Sudarshan Chakra se suraj ko dhak diya tha” [A descendant of Lord Vishnu, the
son of Devaki, Lord Krishna, hid the sun behind his Sudharshan Chakra]
And another commander shouted, “Bolo Shree Krishna Bhagwan
“Jay”, a million voices thundered on the battlefield as the
moon slowly moved away from the path between the earth and the sun.
The maverick Krishna only smiled, as Arjuna and the other
Pandavas folded their hands and bowed before him. Krishna wondered what had
happened, for he didn’t know what we know today, as a phenomenon called the
total solar eclipse.
The ignorance and gullibility of man had made a God out of
an ordinary mortal human.
Her side hug tightened around him as the train drew into the
train station. She lifted her head slightly that rested on his chest and she
planted a gentle kiss on his left cheek. His hand moved from her waist to
patting her slightly on her shoulder. She opened her eyes, which portrayed
every bit of concern she had.
‘Don’t worry’, he said, ‘I am going to be back soon.’
‘I think I am going to miss you’
He smiled faintly looking into her. Men are not used to
expressing such sentiments.
The sound of the train horn told them that the train was
about to leave. She separated herself from his bear hug, rising slightly on her
toes, gave him a hug putting her hand over his shoulder. He was six feet, she
was five, a short girl who could hear his heart beat every time she hugged him.
The train horn reminded them again and he stepped on to the
train. Standing at the door he looked back and waived his hand slightly. She
planted a kiss on her fingers and pointed it towards him. One more smile and
one more step into the train, he turned and waived again. The train had begun
to move, and his tie and hair ruffled in the wind.
‘Bye’, she waived energetically, taking half a step in the
direction of the trains movement. As the speed of the train increased, her
raising pulse normaled. He was out of sight in 20 seconds.
No. He was not a soldier going for war. Nor was he going far
away for a long period of time. He was just a normal guy, just graduated from
college, hardly 21, going to work. Away from her for just a few hours.