Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Unspoken benediction of calamities

26th January 2001. Republic day of India.
A holiday. A friday. A long weekend.
A devastating quake struck Gujarat, my home state in India.I was going home to Ahmedabad from Pune.
I reached Ahmedabad 20 mins after the quake.
This poem depicts my views on the quake and
the events in its aftermath. My attempt is to
see something good in this devastation.
The good is quite subtle.

A holiday.
A bright sunny morrow.
In the kitchen preparing my tea.
A spoonful of sugar as I took,
oh dear! the whole kitchen shook.

As I sat on the porch to read a book,
I fell on my back as the whole porch shook.

We scurried out in the open for our lives;
it was the speed of man versus that of quake.
We soon realized it was a mighty one
as it left thousands dead, in its wake.

Buildings pulverized to dust in seconds,
people crushed under the rubble.
The initial shock gave way to wail
for father, son, aunt and uncle.

When nature and man come face to face,
ironically, his home becomes the most dangerous place.

To save those alive from under the debris,
the youth pulled up their socks.
They began clearing the rubble,
ignoring the threat of aftershocks.

Commoners became heroes fighting against all odds.
To the rescued, the rescuers became the Gods.

Yesterday's perfunctory hug was an emotional necessity today.
A casual touch gave goose bumps today.
Unity in diversity was a redundant thought today
for mankind had just one caste, one religion today.
Life, in its rarity, was invaluable today.
Being alive was a reason to celebrate today.
'Mine' and 'yours' met obsolescence today;
'ours' was the rule of the day today.
Business for once gave way to humanity today.
In the sepulchral silence, an infant's cry had nuances today.
Man humbly realized 'Who is the Boss' - today.

In the ubiquity of calamitous death,
life survives.
In the worst fury of nature,
the spirit of humanity thrives.

As the wailing subsided
and the quake became a hazy memory,
the spirit of business took over
that of humanity.

The aids were picketted by ad hoc owners,
who sold them at a premium to fancied buyers.
Rehabilitation was a titanic task,
as land now belonged to land sharks.

Bemused, I chuckled at the irony
called man.

To show man what matters most,
to make him value the things right,
to bring him closer to humanity,
to keep his heart loving and pure,
shouldn't apocalypses perform
a more frequent encore?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Roads to Heaven

My first attempt at comedy and prose.


Old habits die hard. The aphorism stands true for any city and its 'city-zens' as well (Hope the purists would let me get away with the contortion). Also, older the city, harder it is to kill those habits. Hyderabad, the Nizam's city, which has held its own for the last few centuries is leading the IT revolution in India. The city, which was once ruled by the Nizams, has its roads still ruled by the direct or indirect posterity of the Nizams who are born with a license to fly on the roads.

The sleepy city of Hyderabad did see some rapid progress and light of modernity under the aegis and patronage of Chandrababu Naidu. Good roads and supporting infrastructure were built quite rapidly, but not fast enough to support the sudden rise in population which was the IT fallout. The result is for all to see. Traffic jams, accidents and pollution. Also, the traffic etiquette of the people make them as deserving of these good roads as celebrity marriages are for the contention of eternity.

My office is at a distance of twelve kilometres from home. For this much commuting, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that no two consecutive days pass without an accident materializing in front of my eyes. I'd rather keep aside the aside and hark back to relevance.

Did I say that Hyderabadis do not follow any traffic rules? No way.
Having stayed in Hyderabad for around three years, I dare say that, after all, there are certain rules that Hyderabadis swear by.

First: The distance between your vehicle and the one that immediately preceeds you should not exceed fifteen centimetres.

The autodrivers religiously follow this rule. They're always in a hurry to meet the Gods and take the lucky passenger along. Almost always, they run on a short deadline, a privilege denied even to the Prime Ministers.

Second: Green signal - drive fast. Yellow signal - drive faster.

This is the thumb rule. Even if, all one is going to do is meet an old friend at a paan shop and take a fag. Blame it on the crowd. What can a hapless individual do when everyone before and after him pushes the paddle at the remotest hint of the yellow signal?

Third: Colour blindness to red.

Red signals are very reverently treated as red herrings that are not supposed to be focused on or complied with while driving lest the ensuing driver, who almost invariably assumes you're going to ignore it, would bump into you.

Fourth: Zebra crossings are a mark from whereon you start applying the brakes, provided its been atleast five seconds since the red light was flashed. Otherwise, just vroom. Alternately, if there is a motley bunch leading you at the crossroad and has so far prevented the perpendicular flow of traffic in either directions, you are welcome to give a raise and augment the tail.

And if you think the above rules are a perfect recipy for an early appointment with God, you stand guilty of judging things too soon.

Fifth: Do not follow any rule. :-) ..

Signal right and then take a left.

Or signal left at the middle of the crossroad and turn immediately without a thought for the driver behind who is to run out of all the 'hard earned' luck very soon. You hear two sounds thereafter. A deafening din of the crash and an exasperated cry - 'What the @#$%'.

And the best of all, don't bother to show any signals. Just take a turn whenever you feel like and just hope that the following drivers have oiled and repaired their brakes in the recent past. If not, who cares. Both will go to the nearest garage very cordially. After all, the Nizams never fought on the road.
But if one or both are a posterity of lesser mortals, a fracas ensues. In the eventuality, the one with a larger frame and then the one with a better vocabulary in profanity, in that order, wins the duel. Profanity, in such cases, gives instant relief denied even to prayers.

And then there are the pedestrians who, in the presence of thoroughly incompetent traffic police, take matters in their own hands. They jaywalk by showing hands and stopping the rush of traffic in full throttle. But this may be a fearlessness acquired more out of natural necessities than anything else. He might just reach the wall adjoining the pavement and answer nature's call. He risked the traffic for this because he wouldn't want to pass it under his revered, late Chief Minister's statue. We hyderabadis love our legacies you see. And then there are stretches of roads that stink so obnoxiously due to this, that a daily passerby would gain enough immunity to survive Bhopal Gas Tragedy.

Multiple unsuccessful attempts have been made to free Hyderabad of this chronic recidivism. We need a more concerted effort on the part of the government, media and public to ensure our city is a better and a safer place to live in.
The sooner we realize this, the better.

Cities we build,
Characters we don't.
Joblessness we survive,
Lifelessness we can't.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Pregnant Walk

I'm learning to walk.
I fall at almost every step.
Every step is cheered and applauded.
I'm too slow for people.
But they wait for me with open, inviting arms.
The wait is a pleasure to them.
I'm a toddler in the making.

I learnt and forgot how to walk.
I almost fall at every step.
Every step evokes a rueful sigh.
I'm too slow for people.
They wait for me with an eye on their watches.
The wait is a burden to them.
I'm an octogenarian in the making.

This poem was listed as "Highly Commended" read for the month of October 2014 by Destiny Poet UK.