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.

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.

Chancing Paragon

Do you know how it feels, when you come across something absolutely perfect?

I know how it does. It was not planned. It was an accident. I came across this something that was absolutely perfect. And when I saw them and absorbed their perfection, I went spell bound. I was speechless, tongue tied. And then… it all happened.

Like a how a roller coaster starts, slow at first. It climbs a considerable height, the accelerating tinkling sound of its gears and wheels as it climbs the height and then the roller coaster reaches the top and stops just for 3 seconds and your breath sucks in, you stop breathing, you close your eyes, you prepare yourself for the plunge. And then it happens, your gut goes hollow, your lungs are vacuumed and then you fall – the plunge.

That is how it happened with me. It was like a blizzard. A blizzard so strong that had the power to destroy every standing inch of God’s creation but instead nothing got destroyed. Instead, it just left me with an undying, inexplicable, wordless felicity. My eyes welled up and before I knew the tears were out, streaming down as if all dams that were holding them had broken.

I wanted to hold them. I wanted to touch them with my bare hands. But then how do you touch WORDS? How? That too with your hands?

You don’t because they touch you. Somewhere deep. Deep in those trenches of your mind, your heart and your soul that you never knew existed. It is a discovery for you. And they touch you so that you are suddenly at your happiest, and you are shit scared too and you cry and you laugh and then there is this whole big typhoon of feelings inside you rising like a tumult. And on the outside it is all numb.

That was what happened. I stared blankly at those perfect words. Words that may not mean anything to anyone. But words that were perfect for me. So perfect that when I tried to write them down my hands trembled and the pen rolled off my fingers.

And I just sat there staring at those words, smiling and beaming on the inside, weeping and numb on the outside, blanked out from everything around me, just staring at those absolutely perfect most extraordinary string of most ordinary words. 



Life

“You know how all those people use to say that Life is short. Well I know now that people need some personal experiences to realize it beside knowing its literal meaning.”

~ Abhishek (@gairo0)

I couldn’t find better words to introduce this poem. And what can be better other than the words of the poet himself to introduce this beautiful piece. Thank you Abhishek, for bestowing this privilege on me. For letting me put this amazing piece here. You are one amazing word wizard. I only wish the best for you in Life.


oh life… oh what a fragile sweet little thing you are,
like a toddler in a willow cradle.
so soft in the beginning than grows out into a strong stem.
concrete in the appearance but abstract,
full of possibilities and predictions.
simple looking yet complex…
individual yet entwined with a gazillion souls.
spiritual yet full of vanity and facade.
connected with the one yet bombastic.
reflection of the universe yet meaningless.
so weak that even its frailty effecting many.
oh life… what are you? are you for real? or just a muse?
oh life… who are your friends? you must be happy.
oh life… whatever you may be, you are beautiful, interesting oh life.


Dear life, 
the puzzle that you are, abysmal,
filled with unceasing amazement,
seeming frivolous, but oh so precious.
The one with the countenance of 
the bountiful Goddess, the unnerving God,
today I bow before thee, beseeching,
embrace my surrender.



To the angel and the cherub

What is the point in wearing that frown. 
Let me smile, smile, smile.
Today I cherish your place in my life, 
the two pillars of my strength,  
the two important people of my life – 
the angel and the cherub –
I dont say often, 
Never enough in words. 
The ripples you create, 
the colors you paint, 
filling my life with unbound love.
The million laughters, 
the countless hugs. 
All the spoiling, 
turning me into a kid again 
and bearing my brunt.
Just so much more 
than what you both are. 
Friends, 
Best friends, 
philosopher, 
guide, 
mentor, 
motivator, 
confidantes –
almost my parents – the second set.

Wishing the best-est bhabhi and bhai a togetherness of life and beyond, filled with smiles, contentment and ever growing love.

Bhai, thank you for being in my life and much more thanks to you for bringing Bhabhi to my life.

Love you both a lot.

Contagious

She tugs at me,
with her constant jests,
trying to upturn
this frown on my face.
I sit in gloom
and wonder again
of what fragments
has she been made.
She is like
the heat of the sun
that comforts
a dreary cold morn.
She is the warmth
replaced of the
coldness of my heart,
the one we all want.
I watch her keen
as she smiles at me,
her lashes fluttering by,
a mischief of a
in them mirrors
a past long gone
and I just sit
letting out a sigh.
She hops and
skips and hug me
tight, free of
all the cares,
then she dances
amidst the crowd
that stands astound
and stares.
A spirit so free,
she revels in what
she speaks of
her momentary glee.
She touches me,
my hand, my fingers
gently, cascading her
untainted bliss to me.

वापसी

वो उस शाम से लौटी है
जब काँपते हुए, झरोखे में खड़ी थी,
वो उस शाम से लौटी है
जब मन से बरसात में भीगी थी।

जब बारिश की बूँदों से
उसने अपने आंसुओं को भिगोया था
हाथों को फैलाकर 
किन्ही मोतियों को बटोरा था।

नंगे पैरों की उँगलियों को
ठण्ड से सिकोड़ती थी
अपने हाथों से ही
खुद को जकड़ती थी।

नन्ही बूँदों को 
नन्ही आँखों से निहारा था
फिर आँखों को टिमटिमा कर
किन्ही सपनो को झकझोरा।था

पेड़ों की डालियों पे लटकते,
सरसराते पत्तों की तरह
मुस्कुराहटें घोली थी उसने हवाओं में 
अज़ान के कलामों की तरह

एक अरसा हो गया आज
उन मुस्कुराहटों को
उन पेड़ो से गुज़रती हवाओं को
ज़मीं पे बिखरी घटाओं को ।

रुकी थी की कभी तो
उस शाम को वापस वो लाएगी
उन बिखरते मोतियों से
आँखों के सपने फिर सजाएगी।

इंतज़ार की उम्र जब हो चली
वो शाम तो आयी नहीं
तो अपने सपने समेटकर
वो उस शाम से लौट आयी।

Mirage

… And while some would go ahead and become best sellers and master story-tellers, few would continue to go through the daily grind of their current jobs, pouring out, their so called thoughts and words on some random blog portal, gallantly flaunting it in their inner circles. And I, of everybody, would probably be lying drunk on the floor of a dingy flat in a rundown building in some slum like corner of this city, celebrating the nth rejection of my manuscript.”  

Sitting in his 4’x4’ cubicle, Shiva Prasad Mishra, 35, continued to scribble away in his black diary.

Aspirations never see limitations; their wings are seamless and they can take flight to anywhere, without bothering about the improbable or the impossible. It was the same with Shiva’s aspirations too. This middle aged, grubby looking, lean call centre employee, was once an enigma amongst the girls in his college. Girls swooned over his dreamy looks and flocked around him, while he was busy carving out the one love of his life, “Manifestations of An Extraordinary Mind”. Yes, that was the name of the book Shiva had scripted.

He still remembered the day his literature professor had returned him his work, with tears in his eyes, showering praises at the beauty of his work.  It had filled Shiva with ecstasy, hopes and a dream. But today, all that seemed like an unreal scene from a long forgotten déjà vu.
Anyone who comes in this world has to survive, and the foremost rule for the survival is to keep the bellies filled. It is agitating, how few morsels of grains can conceive in them so much power that they can make humans, quit chasing their dreams and chase money instead, just so that they can buy few pounds of grains. Shiva was also one of the many victims of this power game.

After numerous rejections, freelancing, part-time jobs and squandering away his prime youth in chasing the dream of getting his book published, Shiva had come to terms with the reality that however mightier the pen may be from the sword, the real power lies in the stench of those bundles of paper, stamped with the face of a man long gone. And thus, Shiva had grabbed whatever had come his way and here he was today, toiling away, at 10 o’clock, on a Monday night, in this dump of shit which boasted itself to be a call centre.
“Hey Shiva… your cab is here dude.” one of his colleagues called out.

“Finally…” muttered Shiva, getting up from his chair and picking up his things. He had just lifted his bag, when there was a gentle tap on his shoulder.

“Excuse me?” came a little voice.

 Shiva turned and saw a mousy looking, girl, dressed in starched cotton salwar suit standing and looking at him anxiously.

“Excuse me?” she repeated. “You are Mr. Shivaprasad , right? Sir… I am Mitali. I have recently joined and it has just been a week. Actually… Sir… I was wondering… would you mind, dropping me to my place in your cab?” blurted out the girl as fast as she could, fidgeting with the corner of her dupatta at the same time.

Shiva gave her a “Do-I-Even-Know-You” look.

She started again, “Sir actually, my shift usually gets over at 5.30 but today due to some reasons I had to stay back. Most of the times, the other female colleagues of my team accompany me, but they are already gone today.” She rattled on. “Shipra, my team-mate… since she knew that it would be late for me, she had suggested me to ask you to accompany me in the cab, while going back home.”

A throbbing pain had already started to rise in Shiva’s head. He was almost on the verge of losing his temper, but somehow he contained it within himself. With utmost disinterest he asked her, “Where do you live?”

“Sir… Shankar Nagar”

“But it is completely opposite to the place where I am going.”

“Sir… I am sorry to be causing this inconvenience, but sir, I am a little scared to go back alone at this hour and as I am new I don’t know anyone whom I can ask to accompany me. If Shipra wouldn’t have suggested me your name I wouldn’t have bothered you sir… I am really sorry sir… But I would…”

“Ok, Fine…” snapped Shiva, interrupting her midway. “See I am leaving now, so, if you want me to accompany you, please pack your stuff soon and meet me near the entrance lobby of the building.”

Hearing so, the girl scurried away.

“Yeah right! Now I am the last modest man, standing on this earth.” Shiva grumbled under his breath, while he moved towards the exit, knowing not whom to curse, the girl, her team-mate or his fate.

~~~~~~

Mitali returned to her seat and immediately started stuffing her things inside her handbag. Her table was a mess. Most of her things had automatically found their way out to her desk, during the longest day that she had spent in this place. “God! So much work in the second week itself.” she thought to herself. “Don’t know for how long I will have to stay in this job.” While her hands were busy choking her bag with her things, she ran a look over the cubicles on her office floor. “Freaking hell… This place looks so eerie at this time of the day.” She thought.

When she was done packing, she made her way towards the exit. Thoughts kept whizzing in her head while she climbed down the four floors of the building.

“Shit man, this is so awkward. Shipra has really pushed me into some shithole of a situation today. This Shivaprasad guy is just so weird and rude, arrogant too… But for this situation, I wouldn’t have even looked at him. Anyways, he looks like a devdas, as if he has not shaved or bathed in ages.”

Mitali Kumar, 22, was new to this kind of life. She had worked in a call centre before, but that was a completely different experience, more like visiting a college canteen and getting paid for the same.  After all who really works in the lazy, somber call centre of a small town, which on a whole was sleepy most of the times? She was born and brought up in the same small town which in her words “was difficult even to place on the map of India”.

She wasn’t extraordinarily beautiful to look at, but her face bore a sort of an innocent charm. Like every other young Indian girl of the present times, Mitali had grown up with stars twinkling in her eyes. She didn’t like the fact that she lived in a small town. She often complained to her parents that why didn’t they live in a big cosmopolitan city.  She hated her hometown and also the conservative mindset that people there possessed. She hated the restrictions. What she wanted most was to get out of that small town. She wanted to get away from all the narrow mindedness and the restrictions. She wanted freedom. And the best opportunity she knew would come to her way once she finishes her graduation. And the same did come.

Mitali graduated from the local girls’ college and after much sweet talk, temper tantrums and three days of food strike she had finally convinced her dad to send her to this big city where she would pursue her post-graduation. The terms were clear from her father’s side. Mitali was to receive only enough money that was needed to fulfill her basic necessities and she was supposed to report the account of each paisa spent to her dad every week. Her dad exactly knew how thrifty a person his daughter was.

But Mitali knew too, that the allowance that her dad provided was not enough to help her get rid of the tag of “small town girl” and so, she had taken up this call centre job without informing her parents. Even though she hated the work and the rules in this place, it was helping her earn enough money to get all those things that the girls from the cosmopolitans usually possessed. Her roommate, a veteran wannabe-cosmo girl, was being her guardian angel in this mission.

~~~~~~

Mitali was almost near the entrance lobby, when she spotted Shivaprasad. He was sitting on the front seat of a white Indica parked right outside the building entrance. There was one more guy sitting on the back seat of the car. Looking at her approaching the cab, the guy on the backseat, shifted to the other side. Mitali opened the back door of the cab and moved inside. She passed a smile to the guy sitting next to her as she settled inside the cab. As a response to her smile, the guy flinched slightly on his seat, adjusted his glasses back to their assigned position and turned his head to the other side and started looking out of the window.

“What a weirdo!” mumbled Mitali.

And the weirdo heard it. It wasn’t the first time that he had heard that word being used for him. He very well knew that none of the girls who had come across him have ever had a normal impression of him. He was always the weirdo, more commonly known as “CM” in this office.

CM aka Chashmish was the name by which Nandan Bodhi was famous in the call centre. Everyone from the Team Lead to the office boy was used to addressing him by those two letters “CM”. Very few people actually knew his real name.

It was his famous thick rimmed spectacles, which often kept slipping off his nose that had earned him the name. It was a name that had been tagged to him since his school days; the only different thing here was that now it had been shortened to “CM”, which was the coolest thing that had ever happened to Nandan.

Nandan, 28, was the replica of the dictionary definition of the word nerd. Eyes enclosed by thick, high powered glasses, Nandan had been the front bencher all along his life and had graduated as a chemical engineer. After getting placed in a famous research company, Nandan had thought that his life was set. He had started weaving dreams of getting promoted to the higher echelons of the company and turning into a famous scientist one day. It was a dream that he had harbored in his heart since he was a kid.

But little did he know that the company, whom he thought to be his alma mater, would turn on him so brutally. Three years into the job, Nandan, with lot of hard work, had made a breakthrough in the research on which he was working.  Ecstatically he had gone ahead and told it all to his boss, who had then, like a well-wishing mentor, advised Nandan to not disclose the same to anybody till he gets the proper instructions. His boss had congratulated him on his breakthrough and had lauded him, by hugging him. Nandan had been on cloud nine that day, only to fall back right into the gutter.

A week later, when Nandan had picked up the newspaper, he saw the picture of his boss shaking hands with the MD of the company, for a miraculous breakthrough in his research. Nandan’s first thought on seeing the same was that, either he was dreaming or there had been a grave mistake. He had rushed to his office only to find his department toasting to the success of his boss for the breakthrough that Nandan had made. Nandan felt as if he was punched in the guts.

Later when he had confronted his boss, the so-called mentor easily dished him out the consequences that Nandan would face if he opens his mouth. The boss had laughed like a demon and had said, “Who would believe, that a rat like you could make this breakthrough, who remains absent from work, every other week?” Nandan had stood aghast, not believing that it was all really happening with him.

After mulling much over his bad luck, Nandan, had gathered enough courage to file a suit against the company and his boss, in return of which Nandan was slapped back with a notice of perjury and selling company secrets to the competition. After staying behind bars for one whole week, the realization had dawned on Nandan, that the people whom he had tried to mess with were powerful beyond imagination. He had to withdraw his case and had to pay heavily for getting the suit against him withdrawn, which had left him with an empty bank account and a resume containing qualification of a chemical enginner, which was now tainted for life.

~~~~~~

Nandan, was jerked out of his dreaded past as the cab started.

“Lal Ji Bhaiyya Shankar Nagar chaliye, pehle Madam ko drop karna hai, uske baad CM ko Patel Nagar” said Shiva to the cab driver, as the car exited the building premises.
The cab moved at a normal pace. The streets were fortunately not much crowded at this hour. There was enough traffic to sail past smoothly. It was cool outside and none of the passengers sitting in the car felt the need to turn up the windows and switch on the air conditioner. Infact the natural coolness came as a happy change from the artificially created winter that loomed in their office all throughout the day. Shiva had rested his head on the head rest of the seat, trying to evade his headache. Mitali was enjoying the cool breeze, while texting on her cell phone, and Nandan looked blankly outside the window, occasionally stealing glances at the girl sitting next to him, through the corner of his eyes.

An awkward silence hovered inside the cab. As seconds ticked by it made Mitali more and more uncomfortable. She was a fairly talkative girl, and was clearly not used to such long duration of silences.

“You people usually stay this silent on your way back home is it?” asked Mitali, attempting to break the silence.

Shiva ignored the question and closed his eyes, while Nandan shifted on his seat uncomfortably, looking at Mitali.

“Hi, I am Mitali” she said to Nandan offering him a handshake. Nandan gave her a sheepish look and shook her hand meekly, saying in an almost inaudible voice, “I am Nandan.”

“CM, she might not remember that name, you better tell her that you are CM.” came Shiva’s 
voice from the front seat.

“Oh!  So you are CM?” said Mitali in a tone louder than her usual.
Nandan gave her a questioning look.

“Yes, he is CM… and judging by that tone of yours, I guess your gang of girls has already updated you about him.”

“Oh No… nothing like that sir…”

“Shiva… my name is Shiva and you can call me that.”

“Yes Shiva, sorry… I was telling that I just happened to hear about him in quite a few office conversations, and so I knew about him.” said Mitali.

“I can bet on the kind of office conversations that you have heard his name in Miss, but FYKI I should tell you that CM is much more hard-working than 90% of those large mouthed gossip-mongers in our office.” said Shiva.

It was that moment, and Nandan had almost christened Shiva as his God.

Silence crept in again. But Mitali was not going to accept defeat so easily.

“You know what! I am new in this city too.” Mitali started again. “Actually… I am from Vasantpur.  Do you know where it is? I bet you won’t ever be able to find it on India’s map. It is a very small lazy town. There aren’t much great facilities over there like there are in this city. I am here to pursue my postgraduation. But I am working here just so that I can earn some pocket money. You people have been in this company for quite some time now, right? How has it been working here?” asked Mitali.

“I’ve been here 2 years.” said Nandan, “For me it is nice here.”

“Yeah, I know, for you it must be really nice right? I mean after all that has happened with you, this job must have been like real arse savior for you… Hai na?” blurted out Mitali in all her excitement, not realizing what she was actually saying.

Nandan’s eyes were almost in tears. He looked away from Mitali, nodded his head and said “Yes it is.”

It was too late, when Mitali realized what damage she had caused. She was guilt struck and so she tried apologizing.

“I am really sorry CM… I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“It is OK” replied Nandan.

She tried to further cover the damage.

“See I know it is not the best thing that should have happened, but you should be glad that atleast now you are out of the jail have a decent job too. This ain’t that bad you know. Yeah I know this job ain’t as good as the scientist stuff you were doing, but then in the situation that you were in, you couldn’t have asked for anything better.” said Mitali.
Nandan shot her a look filled with hatred.  His patience had been tested to the hilt and the dam of his self-control finally broke.

 He said, “What do you know about good or bad miss?”

“You… who has been here in the office for mere countable days. You… who do not even have the slightest of hint of what hardships are. You… who has no idea how it feels to see your efforts and your hardwork go down the drain.  You will tell me what is good and what is bad…? Miss, you are the last person on this planet who needs to enlighten me about that. So it would be better if you could please refrain yourself from telling me that.”

Mitali was shocked with this sudden outburst, little scared too. She started, “See mister, I said I am sorry. Moreover… you have no right to assume what I have faced in my life and what I haven’t and dare you talk to me like that. I was just trying to be friendly with you and you are being so rude. No wonder you are a loner. No wonder no one in the office talks to you.”
“I know why I am a loner and why no one talks to me. I also know what people talk about me behind my back and I also know that you find me a weirdo. But I have never complained about it and so Miss it would be better if you keep your opinions to yourself as I really don’t care about them.” hushed Nandan bitterly.

“Calm down CM.” said Shiva trying to referee in between.

He continued, “Miss Mitali here is new, and I feel she has a little problem keeping reins on her tongue. So calm down CM, because there is no point enraging over her right now.”

Mitali who was cowering in the corner of the seat was almost in tears right now.

Shiva continued in a straight and strict tone, “Miss Mitali, I would suggest you that you do not talk to CM like that anytime in the future. Not every one of us is privileged enough to get our whims served on a plate, like yourself. You are quite young and it would be better if you concentrated on your work here rather than getting involved in useless gossips.”

“There are harsher realities of life, which I hope you do not face, but in case if you do, I can bet, you would have wished that you had never come out of the comfort of your parents’ home and your small Vasantpur.”

“You seriously think this is a city where you would fulfill your dreams? Let me warn you, Miss, this is a city which would most likely shatter all of your dreams and would probably bring you down on your knees.”

“Take it as a free advice from someone who does know it all… start taking the realities seriously, because that is where life resides, otherwise, it won’t be too late when you would see your dreams turn you into a laughing stock for society.”

“It is a brutal world out there, and going by the tears streaming down your eyes, just by this little confrontation, I can’t say for how long you would be able to survive in the real world. You better buckle up Miss. For you the roller coaster has just started. We already have gone through our share of it’s ride.”

Saying so, Shiva pulled out a tissue from the tissue box kept in front and passed it behind to a weeping Mitali. After that, no one spoke anything anymore. Shiva went on to stare at the road ahead, while Mitali was back to texting on her phone, wishing that she should have never listened to Shipra, and Nandan returned his attention back to the trees on the road side whizzing past like a haze as the cab moved.


The awkward silence was back in the car.

Her One Amorous Dream

Dreams are momentaneous, and so were with her dreams. She was well aware of this fact but still, what she wanted most, was a taste of her one favourite dream. It was a dream which she had never dreamt, but had only imagined with her open eyes. A figment of her own witting, they were ingrained deep in the crevasses of her conscious. And all she ever did was to play it over and over in her head, with a hope that someday when she opens her eyes; she would wake up to her dream. She was eager beyond measures. So much so, that now those images seemed almost real.

And then one day, when she opened her eyes…

It was dark all around. An alien feeling gnawed her on the inside, when she tried to look around. She somehow had an inkling that she was not in her room. The place was cool and breezy and she felt herself lying on something soft. She was unable to appraise where exactly she was. All she remembered was sleeping in the hotel bedroom in Paris or was it a memory of some distant past? Her head was filled with confusion. She closed her eyes again. She needed to clear the confusion that had clouded her head. She took a moment too long to open her eyes. Her movements were slow. She was a little scared.  When she finally did open her eyes, it took her some time to get adjusted to the little light that was scattered around. She slowly rose herself up to a sitting position just so that she could gauge as to where she was. And what she saw, filled her with confoundment.

She sat there, almost stupefied, not ready to believe that she was actually there, where she found herself to be. What she saw was something, that she had only dreamt of, till now.  Yes, she had finally woken up to her dream, the one dream that she had most lovingly weaved during her flight of fantasies. The one about which she had filled pages and pages of her diary. And today, it seemed to her that somehow all those words had come to life.
She slowly stood up, wobbling a bit in her action. Her knees seemed to have dissolved in their joints, and it felt as if she was being eddied in the maelstrom of her own fantasy. Somehow she managed to steady herself and regain her composure.  And then she moved a few steps forward, letting her bare feet sink in that cool, soft, malleable sand, making way for her footprints.

What stood before her was the vast expanse of deep blue waters of the sea, which was laid just across the soft glistening white sand lying beneath her feet. She could see how those big white effervescent waves rushed towards the shore, filled with a tumult that was impossible for a sane mind to discern. These waves, it seemed to her, were in some kind of frenzy. From her vantage point she could see these enormous waves inaugurating at the horizon with all the strength and might, hurling towards her, from the far distance, with retribution. But as they neared the shore, they seemed to turn into some kind of timid, impotent creature, tamed by their own overbearing pride, trying hard to take their stab at touching the cherubic apparition who stood at the end of the tide; failing at it, retreating back silently and once again returning with the same vehemence.

She raised her eyes upwards and saw the midnight sky filled with stars. For once it felt as if all the galaxies in the universe have travelled across those million light years and have arrived here today, just so that they could adorn the blank charcoal canvas of the sky with all the constellations there ever were. In one corner of this canvas, hung the sole source of light, that lazy crescent moon, which almost resembled that smiling sleepy moon, the pictures of which she had seen in her book of rhymes when she was just a kid. The sight filled her with an ardor which was par her ability to describe in words and all she could do was to let her lips curve into a smile full of bliss.

She could no more keep herself from touching those waters. It almost felt like some kind of magic spell was working upon her, which was summoning her towards them. In her state of felicity, she ran towards the sea. She halted just at the edge, from where the waters retracted, moving just forward enough to let herself get acquainted with the ethereal feel of those waters. She was afraid to move any further. She feared that, if she did, her touch would taint the purity of those currents. And as she stood there gazing at the sea, she slowly raised her arms, and surrendered herself to that moment of eternity.

She reveled in that instant, letting those waters lap at her feet while she stood with her arms wide open, as if embracing the cool ocean breeze. She stood there with her eyes closed, basking in her delight. Her long brown tresses coursing away from her face in the same way, as her long white skirt did. She stood there, letting the chill seep in her bones and veins and her heart celebrate her being. That was her moment of communion. Communion with her one amorous dream.

Overwhelmed by the magnanimity of the situation, she broke into a dance. A dance to venerate the creation of the divine, which she had been long dreaming of. Her one craft, that she wanted to submit to the one who made her. Swishing with the breeze, skipping, hopping, and flowing with the rhythm of the waves, across the shore. The stars merrily gazed down at that lone soul, sashaying to the music of her own song on that beach.  She sang too, and when she did, it seemed as if, even the waves lulled themselves to silence, just so that they could hear her sing. She walked a little… she danced a little… and she sang. She sang to the waves, and the stars, to the universe and to the divinity, that seemed to have swept her off the hooks of any bounds that she ever had. This was what she had always dreamt of… the freedom that she had always craved for… dancing and singing under the starry sky, on a moonlit night on a white sandy sea shore… all by herself.

She was busy dancing in her merriment when suddenly her foot fell upon something sharp. She cringed in pain and fell to the ground. And that was when she was reeled back to reality…
There she was, lying on bed, her body all numb with paralysis, when she opened her eyes. Machines by her bedside, kept on making their faint noises, some beeping and some droning. The walls of the room that surrounded her were stark white, which on many occasions, she felt, chafing against her sight. Their whiteness tormented her. They somehow reminded her of her blankness. The only things in the name of color in that room were those blue sheets, which covered her limp body. She was surrounded by this void, which was filled with nothing but the nauseating smell of the antiseptics and medicines which was typical for any hospital. And that made her sicker than curing her.

The room was always unusually cold and hard as she tried she could find no source of warmth around. A nurse was there moments ago to administer her daily dose of medicine. It was the prick of that injection that had retroverted her back from her fantasy. She was awake but had kept her eyes closed on purpose. She hated the small talk that the nurse let her into. She hated that look of sympathy for her, which people carried in their eyes when they came to visit her. She hated being like that, helpless, dormant and dependent.

She was a dancer, a free spirit, just like the way she was in her dream. Her dance had led her to places across the world and everywhere she went she had searched for that place which she had seen in her dream. She knew that it existed. She had everything, but what she needed most was that dream and therefore wherever she went, she embarked on its quest. And it was during one such quest that she had met with that woeful accident and now she was here, lying like a vegetable, a deformed body that could feel nothing at all below her waist.

But still… she held on to her dream. She had to. There was no option for her to give up on that. It was the only thing that was keeping her alive. She believed that it was the singular reason for her survival from that accident and now she was more determined than ever before to get back to her feet and start her search again.

She knew that back at home somewhere in her room, midst all the mess, was lying her diary, the onliest confidant of her dream. The words written therein, waiting for her to come back and blow life into them. But she had to wait. She knew not when this wait will get over but she hoped and hoped to the hilt of her prayers that, that day comes soon enough.

She was determined that one day she would dance under the starry sky on a moonlit night on that white sandy sea shore. She was resolute in her desire to live her dream, to turn it into reality. And she knew nothing could make her believe that she could not. Nothing in this unparalleled world could flinch her from her dream. But the wait had not yet culminated and the search was still on. And thus… she closed her eyes and played her dream once again.

Verses of the Three

A Combined venture by @islejazz @SliceOfMySoul and @PoeticDisguise


Submerged dreams surfacing now,
They touch and go in a flash,
A glimpse, flaring a dead hope
Rippling the waters of the heart.
A leap of joy to touch the face
Of the gleaming mirror silver glazed
Reflecting desires, or is that fate?
Leaving me to an unblinking surmise.
A feat of my own volition, or
Is it a lagging decree of divine?
A question I would happily dismember
Lest upon me bechance their pique.
Tonight is the night of rendezvous
As I sit beneath the slow whirring fan
Eyes closed in a blur of white saline
Life being unreasonable and playing tricks?        
A multitude of emotions sweeps across
As the deafening silence leads to a cold shower
And first tear drops, of despair? Of loss?
May be of confusion.
A drop of sweat trickling down my neck
In the deafness of silence
A transition of outcomes unknown
The heart blossoms, binds, bursts & waits. 
For now is the time, to breakthrough..
Yearning wings have grown apart
Took a flight just to travel the pitch of sky
I run down to you every moment ripped
My journey is undefined yet meaningful
I adore each moment of bliss between those clouds
Transfixed between desires and dilemmas
I ought to take down every possible trick
More than my existence the destination matters
For I was born to rule, to live, to help others
Let’s not measure the heights of tomorrow
Make the present look bright, future never smothers..