George Orwell’s 1984 

It has been 3 days and I am still not able to gather appropriate words to describe this book. Orwell wrote 1984 in 1949. And it baffles me how he imagined such a world. Was he in cahoots with Nostradamus? If he were alive today he would have looked at the trends of the world and smirked at us and said, “I told you so.” The man’s a pure genius to have imagined a dystopia which almost seems real today.

1984 is a story of an extremely totalitarian society the signs of which terrifyingly matches with what is going on around the world presently. Orwell has created a world where people are being watched and heard constantly by the ‘Big Brother’. This is a world scarier than the one created by Hitler or Stalin.

Orwell’s concepts of thoughtcrime, doublethink, newspeak, sexcrime, the thought police, and his portrayal of propaganda and obliteration and re-composition of news and history is all just so brilliantly designed and executed.

In Orwell’s dystopia, the world is ruled by the ‘Big Brother’ and the ‘Party’. The Party wants power for its own sake. It is constantly monitoring everyone’s behaviour. It has a set routine for everybody which is mandatory to be upheld, starting from the morning exercise. It succeeds in admonishing any or all resistance; one can survive only with absolute, unquestioning, blind allegiance to the Party. Sex is condemned and people are brainwashed right from childhood. There is no concept of  ‘family’, and kids are on a constant lookout to report any deviations from their parents to the Party. The Party controls everything – the past, the present, and the future – by controlling historical records, language (yeah, they have developed a whole new language – Newspeak), and even thought. And those who of think of rebelling are ‘vaporized’. Citizens live in dilapidated conditions, eating bland rationed food, and wearing drab uniforms commissioned by the Party.  But they do not know better.  No one is ever alone. ‘They’re listening. There is no place for love or freedom.

I can only hope that the politicians are not reading this book. And if they have, then I can only hope for them to be less intelligent to comprehend what powerplay is given in the book. Another thought that doesn’t leave me is ‘what if we are already living this dystopia and don’t know it yet.’ It definitely scares me.

This book is powerful and terrifying. It is a testimony to the hunger for power. Not wealth, but pure power. To close, just want to leave with these lines from the book.

“But always – do not forget this, Winston – always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – for ever.”

Time Bound

I always thought her eyes were black. But now, as I looked, I realised they were shades of deep brown. She always got crows feet around her eyes when she smiled. But right now she wasn’t and yet I could see those unruly, thin folds of skin around her eyes.

There are spots on her skin. But I brought her that expensive anti-aging skin cream from my last US visit. Isn’t she using that?

What is that shining near her temples? Whoa! her hairs have also started greying.

When did she grow so old? Hell! she can’t grow old. She still needs to teach me so much.

Her eyes seem glazed. Tears have started pooling in them. She is going to cry… as usual. But why are my eyes pricking?

“Why are you crying?”, she asks in a quavering voice.

And that is when the first drop exits from her left eye. The drop moves slowly and settles on two of the lower eyelashes. The prick in my eyes intensifies. I can feel the weight of her tears in my eyes now.

“I am not”, I say.

Her face contorts in that usual sob face. She moves closer and hugs me. “I can’t see you crying”, she says and that is when I feel a warm drop plop on my neck. It trickles down and merges with the hem of my t-shirt.

My chin is hooked in her nape and my eyes are closed. My cheeks are wet.

I don’t want to lose you, Ma. I want to tell her this.

“You always make me cry”, I say.

And both of us just keep weeping onto each other’s shoulders.

Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami

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Name: Norwegian Wood
Author: Haruki Murakami
Genre: Fiction, Romance

This is only my second Murakami, but what caused me to pick this one and read was the many reviews which told that this one is totally different from the standard Murakami books. Not a proper authority to judge yet, I shall give you a POV of a rookie Murakami reader.

Norwegian Wood, the title is derived from the song of the same name by the famous band, The Beatles. This book caused me to obtain the majority collection of the band and now I am totally in love with their music.

Set in the 1969 Japan, this is the story of 19 year old Toru Watanabe, who is in love with Naoko. Both, Toru and Naoko, are connected through the life and death of Kizuki, Toru’s best friend and Naoko’s boy friend. While Toru leads an oblivious life of a normal Japanese student, he is devoutly in love with Naoko, who herself is troubled by her own demons. A patient Toru bears with all of Naoko’s whims, while waiting for her to accept his love. Meanwhile, Toru is also drawn to Midori, a self-reliant, independent, and highly out-going girl, who has fallen in love with him. But his wait for Naoko is holding him back.

This is not an everyday love triangle. This is a train ride which will take you to the depths of all kinds of emotions. Murakami has rendered a story so beautiful that one cannot help experiencing what the characters are going through. You will get high when they get drunk, rejoice with them, relax with them, get all worked-up, and even feel spaced-out when the character does so.

Norwegian Wood is a poignant, deep and a beautiful love story. The romance is pure and is marked by its own imperfections which only goes to make the story so real.

The characters are powerfully sketched but each has been molded with edges so soft that it really hurts to see them hurt.

The story flows just like a calm crystalline stream, meandering gently through the plains, which is in no hurry to reach its destination. For me, it almost worked like a travelling-capsule, which transcended me into a zen space everytime I have picked it to read it.

The story contains its own gentle highs and lows. And the prose is as beautiful as a love letter written during the classical era. All I feel after reading this work is a weightlessness that one feels when one gets totally separated from the chaos going inside and outside of them. A detached bliss that only a love story like Toru’s is capable of giving.

The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination

This speech by J.K. Rowling was shared with me by my favourite teacher Prof. Tareque Laskar. I am forever indebted to him for sharing with me this piece of gem. Today I share it with you with a hope that it brings to the same enlightenment that it brought to me.

Harvard University 375th Commencement Address

J.K. Rowling

As prepared for delivery

President Faust, members of the Harvard Corporation and the Board of Overseers, members of the faculty, proud parents, and, above all, graduates,

The first thing I would like to say is ‘thank you.’ Not only has Harvard given me an extraordinary honour, but the weeks of fear and nausea I’ve experienced at the thought of giving this commencement address have made me lose weight. A win-win situation! Now all I have to do is take deep breaths, squint at the red banners and fool myself into believing I am at the world’s best-educated Harry Potter convention.

Delivering a commencement address is a great responsibility; or so I thought until I cast my mind back to my own graduation. The commencement speaker that day was the distinguished British philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock. Reflecting on her speech has helped me enormously in writing this one, because it turns out that I can’t remember a single word she said. This liberating discovery enables me to proceed without any fear that I might inadvertently influence you to abandon promising careers in business, law or politics for the giddy delights of becoming a gay wizard.

You see? If all you remember in years to come is the ‘gay wizard’ joke, I’ve still come out ahead of Baroness Mary Warnock. Achievable goals: the first step towards personal improvement.

Actually, I have wracked my mind and heart for what I ought to say to you today. I have asked myself what I wish I had known at my own graduation, and what important lessons I have learned in the 21 years that has expired between that day and this.

I have come up with two answers. On this wonderful day when we are gathered together to celebrate your academic success, I have decided to talk to you about the benefits of failure. And as you stand on the threshold of what is sometimes called ‘real life’, I want to extol the crucial importance of imagination.

These might seem quixotic or paradoxical choices, but please bear with me.

Looking back at the 21-year-old that I was at graduation, is a slightly uncomfortable experience for the 42-year-old that she has become. Half my lifetime ago, I was striking an uneasy balance between the ambition I had for myself, and what those closest to me expected of me.

I was convinced that the only thing I wanted to do, ever, was to write novels. However, my parents, both of whom came from impoverished backgrounds and neither of whom had been to college, took the view that my overactive imagination was an amusing personal quirk that could never pay a mortgage, or secure a pension.

They had hoped that I would take a vocational degree; I wanted to study English Literature. A compromise was reached that in retrospect satisfied nobody, and I went up to study Modern Languages. Hardly had my parents’ car rounded the corner at the end of the road than I ditched German and scuttled off down the Classics corridor.

I cannot remember telling my parents that I was studying Classics; they might well have found out for the first time on graduation day. Of all subjects on this planet, I think they would have been hard put to name one less useful than Greek mythology when it came to securing the keys to an executive bathroom.

I would like to make it clear, in parenthesis, that I do not blame my parents for their point of view. There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you. What is more, I cannot criticise my parents for hoping that I would never experience poverty. They had been poor themselves, and I have since been poor, and I quite agree with them that it is not an ennobling experience. Poverty entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts, that is indeed something on which to pride yourself, but poverty itself is romanticised only by fools.

What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure.

At your age, in spite of a distinct lack of motivation at university, where I had spent far too long in the coffee bar writing stories, and far too little time at lectures, I had a knack for passing examinations, and that, for years, had been the measure of success in my life and that of my peers.

I am not dull enough to suppose that because you are young, gifted and well-educated, you have never known hardship or heartbreak. Talent and intelligence never yet inoculated anyone against the caprice of the Fates, and I do not for a moment suppose that everyone here has enjoyed an existence of unruffled privilege and contentment.

However, the fact that you are graduating from Harvard suggests that you are not very well-acquainted with failure. You might be driven by a fear of failure quite as much as a desire for success. Indeed, your conception of failure might not be too far from the average person’s idea of success, so high have you already flown academically.

Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies.

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned.

Given a time machine or a Time Turner, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.

You might think that I chose my second theme, the importance of imagination, because of the part it played in rebuilding my life, but that is not wholly so. Though I will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

One of the greatest formative experiences of my life preceded Harry Potter, though it informed much of what I subsequently wrote in those books. This revelation came in the form of one of my earliest day jobs. Though I was sloping off to write stories during my lunch hours, I paid the rent in my early 20s by working in the research department at Amnesty International’s headquarters in London.

There in my little office I read hastily scribbled letters smuggled out of totalitarian regimes by men and women who were risking imprisonment to inform the outside world of what was happening to them. I saw photographs of those who had disappeared without trace, sent to Amnesty by their desperate families and friends. I read the testimony of torture victims and saw pictures of their injuries. I opened handwritten, eye-witness accounts of summary trials and executions, of kidnappings and rapes.

Many of my co-workers were ex-political prisoners, people who had been displaced from their homes, or fled into exile, because they had the temerity to think independently of their government. Visitors to our office included those who had come to give information, or to try and find out what had happened to those they had been forced to leave behind.

I shall never forget the African torture victim, a young man no older than I was at the time, who had become mentally ill after all he had endured in his homeland. He trembled uncontrollably as he spoke into a video camera about the brutality inflicted upon him. He was a foot taller than I was, and seemed as fragile as a child. I was given the job of escorting him to the Underground Station afterwards, and this man whose life had been shattered by cruelty took my hand with exquisite courtesy, and wished me future happiness.

And as long as I live I shall remember walking along an empty corridor and suddenly hearing, from behind a closed door, a scream of pain and horror such as I have never heard since. The door opened, and the researcher poked out her head and told me to run and make a hot drink for the young man sitting with her. She had just given him the news that in retaliation for his own outspokenness against his country’s regime, his mother had been seized and executed.

Every day of my working week in my early 20s I was reminded how incredibly fortunate I was, to live in a country with a democratically elected government, where legal representation and a public trial were the rights of everyone.

Every day, I saw more evidence about the evils humankind will inflict on their fellow humans, to gain or maintain power. I began to have nightmares, literal nightmares, about some of the things I saw, heard and read.

And yet I also learned more about human goodness at Amnesty International than I had ever known before.

Amnesty mobilises thousands of people who have never been tortured or imprisoned for their beliefs to act on behalf of those who have. The power of human empathy, leading to collective action, saves lives, and frees prisoners. Ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and will never meet. My small participation in that process was one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life.

Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s minds, imagine themselves into other people’s places.

Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathise.

And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.

I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces can lead to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.

What is more, those who choose not to empathise may enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.

One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.

That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people’s lives simply by existing.

But how much more are you, Harvard graduates of 2008, likely to touch other people’s lives? Your intelligence, your capacity for hard work, the education you have earned and received, give you unique status, and unique responsibilities. Even your nationality sets you apart. The great majority of you belong to the world’s only remaining superpower. The way you vote, the way you live, the way you protest, the pressure you bring to bear on your government, has an impact way beyond your borders. That is your privilege, and your burden.

If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped transform for the better. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

I am nearly finished. I have one last hope for you, which is something that I already had at 21. The friends with whom I sat on graduation day have been my friends for life. They are my children’s godparents, the people to whom I’ve been able to turn in times of trouble, friends who have been kind enough not to sue me when I’ve used their names for Death Eaters. At our graduation we were bound by enormous affection, by our shared experience of a time that could never come again, and, of course, by the knowledge that we held certain photographic evidence that would be exceptionally valuable if any of us ran for Prime Minister.

So today, I can wish you nothing better than similar friendships. And tomorrow, I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom:

As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.

I wish you all very good lives.

Thank you very much.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

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Author: Ransom Riggs
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Jacob Portman grew up listening to the stories of his grandfather’s childhood which for the most part contained descriptions about peculiar children and monsters. At the age of 16 when Jacob is wise enough not to believe the bizzare stories that his grandpa told him, a mind-numbing incident takes place which leaves Jacob questioning his doubts.

The quest to demystify his grandpa’s last words and also to clarify his own doubts takes Jacob to a remote Welsh island where decades ago a home had given refuge to Abraham Portman. Here unfolds a series of secrets that divides Jacob’s life into a ‘Before’ and ‘After’.

“I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.” When a book starts with a line like this, it surely grabs the attention of not only your eyeballs but your mind too. Indeed the book is filled with extraordinary. Ransom Riggs has carefully crafted this book which he has based on numerous photographs borrowed from various collectors. He has meticulously placed all the photographs across the book and has weaved a story, filled with mystery and fantasy, around them.

The book starts at a good pace, slowing down a bit towards the end with bit too many twists and turns and an unexpected ending. But unlike most fantasy books this one neither has any wizards, nor vampires. The book, as the title suggests, feature ‘peculiar children’ which bear the element of fantasy in the world of 21st century. The story has its own creepy and scary moments at times even edging along dark fantasy and even horror.

The book is the first part and its sequel “The Hollow” released in 2014 which I am yet too read. A movie based on the book is under process which is said to be directed by Tim Burton with its screenplay being written by Jane Goldman who has also written screenplays for X-Men – First Class, The Woman in Black, and Kingsman: The Secret Service.

Just like any fantasy fiction this book will garner equal interest from both children and adults and is a good book to read over a weekend. Grab this book and get along with Jacob into an adventurous, dangerous and brave journey into a world of unexpected and extraordinary.

The Incomplete Masterpiece

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That loss that you experience from the moment you are born. You are born a girl, your loss is you don’t know what it means to be a boy. You are born rich, your loss is you don’t know how the poor lives. Your loss is not knowing so much of reality that exists in the world.

The books that you will never be able to read and the places that you will never be able to see. All those wonderful people you are distanced from due to language or miles. All these obscure sorrows plague you and yet you move in life as if you own the world. As if you are going to live forever.

You are withering, every hour, every minute, every second, unaware of what is approaching and careless about it. All you think of death is like the thoughts of a distant cousin sitting in another land whom you haven’t met or spoken to… ever. You don’t think of old age which is creeping in your limbs without giving you any sign.

Time, the most powerful. It grows on you. You grow with it. Past is nothing but a painting which you consider you have finished but the truth is different. It is abandoned. It looks different everytime you see it. Look back into a memory which you thought would kill you, did it? Look back to a moment, a big achievement which you thought were your biggest. Does it seems so now? Has it changed? It is the same past. It is the same painting; the same indelible strokes; and yet it all feels different.

Time is the healer. It subtles your losses, calms your burns, and even smudges your sorrows. Those obscure sorrows, those nameless ones, which you feel, which you know but cannot define. Befriend Time. Befriend your losses. Befriend those obscure sorrows. Life is limited. Live on. It will see all of you but you!

You will never have enough of it to see all of it. You are not an expert, never can be. You are just a passerby. So while you pass, paint it into a good incomplete painting. And may be someday the world will call it a masterpiece.

Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black
Finally I succeeded in reading a non-fiction book. The inspiration behind reading OITNB was of course the popular tv show, but my caveat there was that I had just heard about the series and nothing more than that. When I started the book I neither knew the subject of the show or had even watched its teaser nor any trailer.

My interest was sparked purely on the premise that a tv show was based on this book and trust me, until I turned the first page I didn’t even have a clue that it was a non-fiction. That is how I picked up the first non-fiction book. And I must say, it was not bad. No, not at all bad.

Orange is the New Black, is a memoir of an American PR lady, Piper Kerman, who had to spend 13 months in Federal Prison at the age of 34, just because during her post-college days she got hooked to a life of reckless decisions. The book is quick and covers a lot of aspects about life in the all-women correctional facility situated at Danbury.

I haven’t read any prison diary till date so I can’t really comment on its similarity to one. The author has given quite a detailed account of the one year she spent at prison, about her lifestyle there, about people with whom she interacted, about the effects of prison on her family, and about her relationships with her co-inmates.

I found the start of the book really interesting but somehow felt my interest slipping towards the middle. I guess it was more my feeling because I am really used to the drama of fiction and OITNB is a pure factual narrative. But somehow I held on and it was because the author has been really good with her narration. My patience really did pay off as the second half of the book is full of the stuff that I really look for in a book.

The book breaks a lot of stereotype views that society hold towards prison and prison treatment. But one may note that this memoir is based majorly on writer’s experience in a minimum security facility.

The fact that the world of prison is a totally different one than the one on the outside is very true. This world has its own rules n corruption, its own education system, employment system, a tiny economic system too. People form families and friends and each have their own way of ‘doing their time’ than to let their time do them.

The second half of the book is filled with revelations and realisations that author experiences and a keen reader will find many of these interesting and quite relatable to real world life too.

All in all, OITNB was a good non-fiction for me to start this genre and I look forward to reading more such books. One thing I do want to point out is that if you are looking for the interesting plot, storyline, drama et al that the tv series is providing you then you might feel disappointed because as I told before, the book is a complete factual narrative. But go ahead and have a read and don’t let my judgment prejudice you.

I took quite a few lessons myself from the book and enjoyed reading this book and therefore I write this with a hope that you experience the same.

The Book Thief

In the short life that I have lived I have read few books. And from those books only countable have been able to make it to the list of my favourites. Today one more got added to the short list – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Here is a book which I am sure I will read it time and again. If ever I become a mother then I will give this book to my children to read and perhaps grandchildren too. Yes, I even pictured a wrinkled, weak and frail me with sparse silver white hair on her skull, sitting in a wooden rocking chair and sifting through the book.

This book is ageless, just like how the narrator describes Werner to be. Werner, brother of Liesel Meminger and the first person to come in contact with the narrator. The Book Thief – here is a story about words, about love, friendship and relationships, about life and Death, about bravery and humanity.

This is the story which comes straight from the heart. It is filled with a warmth that seeps into the reader even as she eyes through those words that describes snow clad Germany. This story will make you happy, it will make you smile. This story will also make you sad and it will make you cry. It made me cry.

One cannot say for sure whether it has a tragic end because even though there is loss the story ends with a sunshine of hope. The characters are timeless. They will stay with you long after you have finished reading the book. But there is an end to each person’s story. And perhaps that is the reason that even though you are left with a hollow in your heart that usually accompanies the end of each book one reads, there is also a peace and a calm that it tags along and which continues to warm your heart.

All I can say is that today I earned a new friend, a new friend which will stay with me for a lifetime. And even though it is too soon, I wish that when I meet the narrator, he finds me lying amidst the words of this book.

23rd July 2015 – 8.30 am

Now that the hunger has subsided, let’s get down into the stream of consciousness. Travelling in train in the month of July is something I don’t think I have ever done before. And now as I sit in the sparsely populated 2-tier compartment, with people still devouring the depths of a slumber which eludes them during their mundane daily lives, I have finally gathered enough mettle to jot things down.

I would have loved to do it with a pen on real paper. But oh the spoilings of technology. That reminds me he had asked me yesterday about keeping a pen along with me. It had happened while I was giving finishing touches to my packing. It was a question that I had let gone unanswered. I guess it is Murphy at work all over again. I felt the need of exactly that what I had not bothered to pack.

Getting back to travelling in train during monsoons. Its certainly bliss. Especially if you have caught on to enough sleep during the dark hours to wake up at day break. The view from the window is serene. It is all green to the last inch of horizon. The air is cool and fresh and the entire nature seems to be on a weekend mode. Spring definitely is the weekend for nature.

There are the freshly ploughed fields with soil which is not caked but looks beautifully dark after being washed by a night pour. Then there are certain fields which are done with sowing and tiny plants have started to emerge from earth’s surface. Some of them probably celebrating the days when they finally witnessed the sky. They remind me of my own back at home. I am the careless mother to them who are being tended to with utmost love by their father. Yes, of the two of us he is the one with the green thumb. All I do is breath in their freshness and greenness that too for my own comfort.

This journey is turning out extremely blissful. With the company of a heart-warming book I have a vast expanse of green carpet laid outside the window. As the trees run past many things crop up in my head and all of them barely make their presence felt. It seems like a melee of thoughts but a happy one if something like that is even there.

I look at the tiny bird which is flapping its windows with all his might trying to soar to better heights. Then there are those stray skeletons of dwellings standing little away from the tracks which often make me wonder about their stories. There are those huge electronic grids the rows of which go till the horizon. And those hidden shrines and ruins of some small temple hidden beyond the dense wilderness.

All this raises just one urge inside of me and that is to know about their stories. Stories of those farmers who have ploughed all those fields, about those who used to dwell in those abandoned, ruined dwellings and about the million others who walk those small muddy roads, who live beyond the small stations beyond which I cannot see. I wish someone could tell me. I wish Ruskin Bond could tell me.

Stack of Houses

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The houses that were built upon me, they feared not of the doom that faced them. Happily unaware, they went on building them, one upon the other.

I am weak. I am no more able myself to carry this burden. Should I take it off? Should I take it off and keep it aside? And yet I wonder not of the weight that is burying me inside. I wonder of the fate of the houses.

I never wanted any more on me other than me. I knew I was not made of those bold stuff to carry them. But yet they thought I could. They stood on me and continued doing so. I carried them somehow.

One day I could no more. I took it off and kept them aside. Some fell and broke, some shivered violently. Some just shook in silence. I picked them up no more. I let them be off me. They yet stand still.