Monday, January 30, 2012

The MAN behind the face !

I have often pondered about the real ‘ME’, the true identity of the homosapien produced from the loins of Sebastian and Magi, my Appa and Amma. I am known around in my limited small world as Joseph Sebastian a.k.a. ‘joe’ a.k.a. ‘ousu’, discounting the similarity in  nomenclature, I truly believe that the homosapien sure exist not just by these three names, but as a multitude of faces or rather masks, which no-one has christened.

If a man is defined by his thoughts or rather his thoughts are what sketches a mans true face, then from all the thoughts, which one is the real man.

Any second person in context would invariably know me by one of the three names or maybe all three, depending on the person in question and his association with me. I would be lying, if I say, I know not of the different avatars, I adorn before people. Irrespective of the name availed in addressing me, I expose the face or rather the mask, which I want the other to see and try comprehending.

 I cannot lie about the dozens of masks overflowing my closet, which I wear everyday, dealing with people. I am the arrogant jerk, the loving friend, the conceited savage, the compassionate brethren, the prodigal son, the altar boy and the nymph boyfriend, in my association with people, from the dearest ones in the family to the romances I have dumped.

Every conversation I have had or every interaction, be it verbal or mere gestures, I wait patiently absorbing the speaker, shrewdly contemplating the past experiences with the person and performing an act, based on the shrewd thoughts. I act in almost all my dealings with fellow humans, an act performed on the basis of past history. The actor whom the speaker gets to know, though he fails in distinguishing the mask, gets identified as the person, ‘ME’. But truth be told, it is not the real me, but only the mask that he has mistakenly labeled as ME.

Am I then the mask? I think, I am, but sparingly, for my closet is full of masks which I keep wearing. Amidst those hundreds of faces I portray, who is the real ME? I do not know!

While speaking with my Appa, I know I hide many a shade which flashes inside me and only the face I want him to witness gets displayed. He lives happily, not knowing half the thoughts that come in my mind or maybe he too is acting, by pretending that the words that came from me are my only thoughts about the subject in conversation. The hidden thoughts are also my faces, but they never get arrayed to be put up under the spotlight before him.

The face I wear before family, before friends, before acquaintances, before adversaries, before foes are all divergent; for I realize I am putting on an act, complying with their idea about me, rather than being the true ME. Amidst the distortion of a multitude of faces, I pretend to stand tall, while deep within, I have neither a clue nor a hint, who the real ME is.

Is it the alter boy or the drunkard? Is it the chivalrous gentleman or the flamboyant womanizer? Is it the compassionate friend or the venomous adversary? I can’t identify the true nature and being of the ‘man’ behind all these faces, for a friend might find more venom in me than a foe and the foe would be kept wondering why I never spat the venom.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

on a lonely road !!

The heavens opened up unexpectedly last night, with me caught in a friends place, hesitant to get drenched and hesitant to put an end on the conversation we were having. The showers didn't last much long, but the conversation did and I rode home on my bike, at the wee hours of morning, loving the moisture in the air, shivering and yet taking lung full of the 3AM cold air.

The roads were badly lit, which wasn't surprising, considering the pitiful shortage of electricity, that the State is professed to face in the summer. My mind still playing the loop of the conversation, I rode slowly absorbing the changes in the city from the last decade. The single storied houses from fairy tales been on the decline, instead landscaped apartment complexes been on the rise. But driving in the dark, I remembered the reassurance that the dim lights of the independent small houses brought in. Instead, there were lights marking the entrance of the apartments, but a big black shadow over whelming it.

The road wound its way through two christian cemeteries and finally by the corporation crematorium, the shadows of darkness greater than before. I saw the headlights of a scooter farther up-ahead, fumbling and hesitantly moving forward and finally getting to a stand still. I stopped by its side and the riders were a man and his wife. There was a fear on their faces, a fear about me, the barely covered youngster who stopped at their side on a dimly lit, lonely road.

Their fear made me not to appear to pry, and I started of again, not bothering to ask them a thing. And I heard the lady's voice, "how do we get to edappally?". I shouted back slowing down my pace, "take the road on the right, when this road splits to two and when you hit the main road, take the one to the left." I heard the lady shout a thank you and off I went on my ride taking the turn to the left.

A hundred yards up, I catch the headlights of the scooter taking the left, on the mirror, following the road I was on. Maybe they thought it better to trust their instincts than the directions offered by a stranger on a lonely road. I didn't bother warn them, this one lead to no-where, but the rail. Maybe they should learn it the hard way, driving for miles more on the lonely road.

Aristotle to Winfrey

The Jaipur Literature Festival been on the front pages of my news paper daily, for couple of days, thanks to Salman Rushdie and his "Satanic Verses", and some of our desi writers quest for the freedom of thought and its expression or maybe a little name for themselves. After my prescribed dose of news from the print media, I switched on to the visual one. And by some mystique twist, I got stuck with the face of Barkha Dutt and Winfrey Oprah against the Jaipur Lit Fest backdrop.

The talk loomed over diverse subject matters, as diverse as literature and marriage, social networking and American presidential elections. Winfreys answers were impressive and quite informative too. It had the honesty of someone who had 'herself' as the center of the world. Some one who didn't pretend otherwise, that there exist some other greater love in their life, than themselves. The scribes had the flashlights for ever and the new journalist on foot with the mobile cameras fought for their place in the front, for the perfect shot.

My upbringing or maybe the tastes in life, I acquired cause of the upbringing, makes me consider sacred, Voltaire, Russell and many others of the same genre, forming a 'league of elites'. It has Newton in it, Einstein and our own nearly nude Gandhi; enlightened souls, whose quest for excellence was about their beliefs in a general phenomenon, which made them immortals. Their pursuit of excellence in their beliefs, is what makes them sacred to me rather than the beliefs themselves. Physics to politics, from being the savage to the will of the people, excellence was what paved the change.

Maybe Winfrey and Barkha would be the torch bearers of the new kind of excellence, of the present times. The excellence in being a jack of all trades, Mr. Who Knows not all, but considerably. Some kids born by the end of the century would listen to these talks from Winfrey and Barkha and many others, with the same reverence I hold Russell and his friends.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Aaaahem !!

I stood under the shower, thinking about the conversation I just had with my little cousin sister. I did everything to her, that I despised while growing up. Imparted gyaan, reasoned and everytime it failed, snubbed her teen spirit to subjugation. All she wanted was to 'hang out' with her friends, the word ensured Appa said NO. A duel of words with Appa, his sword held high and she relentlessly yapping.

My peace on a sunday felt threatened, acting the big knowledgeable guy I intervened. I tell her the gyaan of not going out, my silly reasons of course. She looks infuriated, knowing fully well, I wouldn't ever let her win, not even for pleasure - would use the final trump, drawing attention to the so called 'experience' factor  and play the U.S. in the Security Counsel, vetoing any reason that she might rise. I loathed grown ups who snubbed me, while growing up and yet I am being one!!

A friends call late in the night and we were talking about the shallowness of the youth. Bitching, is what I would call it, if the conversation was between members of the fairer sex, any day of the year ! Women are supposed to do that, and here I was doing it with a friend from years back. The male chauvinist growing big in me with the knowledge I am growing old, each day living closer to the Certitude and in Anil's opine, a finality to the ME and my flesh. Maybe staying with parents makes me feel young and then with couple of sisters, who knows about space, I am quite invariably made to feel served. They wouldn't mind doing my bed, making sure the bed is made in my absence. They make me feel young, the whole lot, a prodigal sons return back home, quite unsure, how much bigger have my space grown. Quite hesitant, leaving me happy when the audience is not called for.

I look up to Ronaldo and Messi, dreaming about yet another childhood and some day growing to be like them. And painstakingly the reality sinks in, they are younger than me ! Thankfully the presence of a little God in Cricket, whose devotee I am not, makes me feel like a teenager, for he had been around, ever since I care to remember. The dreams of childhood, to have climbed every tree around the globe, to have ran in every race, to have done everything possible under the sun, have been chiseled away. A little of those remains, so precious to be scarred with the pain of being chiseled.

Monday, January 16, 2012

God of Small Things !!

Moments glory go fading in the realm of history, passion and sweat go forgotten, forming brass statutes for birds to defecate. The feet that trod on the soft green grass in the Garden of Eden, trod on blood, through the sins of the senses and finally stand as its stands today. The path has lead to the height of skyscrapers, in the form of space ships and every other man made thing inside the atmosphere. But looking back, the voice over the centuries, the voices that lead the torch, like Prometheus from the ancient greek myth, have all met with the one certitude, to which they been walking from the day, the sperm fertilized the egg in the woman’s womb. The vast wide universe, with mysteries hidden behind each layer of green and turning more mystique with each unravelling, sure would hold a key to the one certitude.

From the moment of conception or maybe the time the umbilical cord is broken , if your beliefs make you think of you as a being only then, every moment spend is a moment closer to the certitude, the time when the human flesh goes forming carbon and forming a part of ‘matter’ as the old physics student in me would say. Excellence is remembered, but only with an air of astonishment, filled with contempt, for having brought the fire down from the Gods, some feat the average human like me and you failed to do. Excellence stays always in the background, making things better for human kind at that period, but always in the background. But alas excellence never paved way for a path pass the wall, the certitude in life, death.

In the eyes of an atheist, death is the end of ‘you’, for you cease to exist and would be a part of matter. Now that is a pessimistic thought at its peak! For the optimist, the believer, there is a road farther up ahead. I know that there are two “me’s” inside this flesh. My-self and my body, which makes matter on earth, in this wide vast Universe of ours. I know this because, many a time it is not the real me who acts, but the flesh, because my body finds comfort in it, through the teasing of senses. The ME, believes I do have an existence after the flesh becomes part of earth. Maybe not as ‘ousu’, but definitely as some form, which maybe devoid of all senses, but sure an existence. The religion preaches about what lies in wait for these MEs, mine and yours, after the flesh cease to be identified from matter, maybe heaven and earth or nirvana or a hundred other ways one wants to call it.

The MEs would definitely be enriched by the process of knowing what lies beneath death and we have a second platform. Where the MEs, of all the dead, have the wide vast universe or some other space to assemble or be present, the super power we call the god, the forces of evil, maybe the MEs of animals and beasts. There the knowledge is bigger, the ME would have crossed across the Certitude and grown richer or poorer in wisdom. The big crowd of all the respected folks talked about would have a platform where they might or might not be equals, the chances of the latter far greater than the first. For there should definitely be a reason for having the MEs placed the way they are, while the MEs live inside the flesh.

Maybe the God, we understand now too would become small before some supreme force and the ME of the god would be just a little more wiser than the rest, of knowing about the mysteries of the flesh and the mysteries of the MEs, but definitely a subject to the one Force. With the knowledge about the journey from flesh to ME on the second platform, the ME too stands his equal. The ME too is a God of Small Things. The ME has a command over what he should be doing and he can only be coerced to do otherwise. Excellence is when the flesh tries to abridge the mysteries of things our senses are in contact, to the wisdom of the events on the second platform.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sorry, no dents in our States Exchequer please !!

Mulla-Periyar, seems to have quite dropped down in the news channel ratings, it doesn't any longer come top of the list. The after marks, like Keralites being supposedly mobbed by Tamilians in their cities did float on the surface, but then the Fourth Estate is all about living up to the expectation of the amnesic modern man. But, then, none can blame them, "the damn dam didn't break. How long is one supposedly to wait and lie in patience about the breaking of an adamant dam, which fails to break even after past its life expectancy?"

The long festive weekend during Christmas had began in my city, with not the slightest fear about the dam. People were out, either rushing to get back to their homes like me, the lucky ones were already out with family, to shop and some to drive away for the vacation.  An early drive back home, in the evening made sure, I was caught in the thick of action. My friend was driving me home and I was happy snuggling in the luxurious seat, aimlessly gazing at the people around, the spring in their steps and some untold sadness on their faces. What ever the secret behind the sadness, for one I was sure, it was not Mulla-periyar dam. The cold air from the AC, formed frost on the wind-screen, a layer of insulation, beneath which I sat pondering, about the year that was getting over.

Being immobile, moving a hundred yards and then returning to the state of rest, for some weird reason made me peaceful and not grumpy. I was enjoying my seat of a spectator, absorbing the order in chaos. A rogue Tamil Nadu registration tourist bus, broke the harmony with its maneuvers and jumped a signal, cramping us on to a side, and almost ran over the police cop, who tried stop it. It was unbearable, when a whole city, arrayed with miles of vehicles maintaining peace, what the rogue had did. The gears were changed as my friend had this sudden urge to chase the rogue bus and instill in them, the general etiquette of driving in traffic.

When you could christen every pothole in the roads of your city, even Sebastian Vettel would have stood little chance of breaking away and the poor driver of the bus, fared no better. In a matter of minutes, we were at the side of the bus, horns blaring, then in the front, gesturing the bus driver to stop and he had so little chance of breaking free, without running over us, my-self, my friend and his sedan. The traffic police cop, who almost had a whiff of the world on the other side, was not left behind, as he came riding pillion on a bike by the time we had got the bus to stop. The law enforcement agency of the State was in action and our role in aiding was over. Dutifully we stood watching the scenes un-fold in front of us. To a fast gathering crowd, the police guy narrated being almost killed and people kept a distant circle, when the driver of the bus stepped down fearfully.

It was a bus packed with Tamil devotees of the God Ayyappa, after their darshan of the deity. Maybe after the ants pace with which they got to climb the 18 golden steps to be blessed with the darshan, they were trying to get the blood flowing with the fast maneuvers on the road. The cop had the driver by the collar, the people gathered watching in silence and some old men stepped out from the bus to plead the drivers case before the cop. Fear was written all across their faces and the ones which were staring from inside the bus. They had the look of being caught in enemy territory during war, a prayer to be spared in their eyes. I couldn't quite understand the fear, because the quantum of the act was not in proportion to the fear in the eyes. The fear was not about just the repercussions of the rogue act with the bus on the road, but the fear was much more instinctual, of being mobbed, on account of Mulla-Periyar.

The average Malayalee, on the eve of Christmas, have much better things in mind than working out a mob frenzy, beating to pulp a group of Tamil pilgrims, who contribute heavily to the States exchequer. The average malayalee has chores to do for his family or himself and the time spend on pelting stones at a group of Tamilians stuck in the crowded road, never seemed appealing. The green bills with the father of the nation imprinted, exchanged hands and the grip from the collar was relaxed. Emotions could seldom be evoked in a group of Keralites, to go berserk and vandalize, unless the group in question, is one with a poltical or religious ideology. The average malayalee is the master of mob emotions, he knows to threaten, to make the necessary sounds, but he is wise to make himself richer than just making the other party grow poorer. He is an opportunist for sure, but still his emotional balance ranks high among his peers, for he doesn't believe that the group of Tamilians stuck in the bus had anything to with the Mulla-Periyar dam and its height !!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


The nights stood more cold this month of December, bringing forth in my mind the sorrows from winter. The world celebrates the birth of christ, following the winter solstice, and I think about the Decembers from my life, which I try consciously not to think about. When the whole world is rejoicing in the birth, I sit ponder about the loses that Christmas brought in my life. Blame it on all that mid-night masses I had been to forced to, when young. Hadn't I not found solace sleeping on the tombstones, I too would have been blessed to see the joy in the birth. I loved my sleep way much more than God and in sleep I felt no fear of the god or evil. 

I am yet unsure about my conviction in salvation. I feel the sense of my insignificance when compared to the universe and not stand in awe to the magnificent creator, whose matrix had me designed in it. But then, if he was as magnificent as he is said to be, then why a multitude of things which we wish would change, why this ignorance on so basic a thing as to our purpose of existence? To make life "interesting", for the lack of a better word !!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

hanging alone by the river side

I grew up in the small town of Shoranur, with picturesque paddy fields and the 'Nila River' flowing by. The "Valluvanad", from the erstwhile era, didn't embrace the saga of change post independence, through its many folds of revolution, the green and the white. Valluvanad still remains a cluster of small towns, frequented by the film crews with their cameras, to gift the average malayalam movie lover, a panoramic nature experience, not of the jungle, but the green of the paddy fields and the tranquility of the green carpets, meeting the blue skies.

Arun and Biju, my two friends from church, thought it hilarious that I was a novelty straight out from the movie sets of 'Adoor Gopalakrishnan', the 'Satyajit Ray' of the South Indian cinema, because of my profound silence for days, even while I was loafing around with them. We went for christmas carols, wooed females studying in the local girls school, got drunk for the first time sitting on the banks of the river 'Nila' and talked about the bitch called life. We were friends, poles apart, but holding a thin line of familiar notion about the 'concept of fun'. Another startling contrast was what music did to the three of us; for me music meant time to sleep, while for them, it was the time they really came alive, singing and playing many an instrument which I didn't even knew existed.

8 years have gone by since I moved out from the small town, and both were there helping my family not just with the packing, but the laborious un-packing in the new city.  Biju ventured into many a business and jobs, of which I lost track, while Arun shifted his base to the U.S of A and eventually got married couple of years back, with his childhood sweetheart, a wedding which I couldn't attend, because of some silly reason. Biju had called me on the wedding night and abused me for my absence and having not met either of them in years. I shrugged it off calling him drunk and asking him not to call me when slurred with spirits. The drunk sessions over the phone reminding me of my failure in meeting the friends from childhood repeated many a time, and I invariably laughed or shrugged, as the voice from the other end sounded. 

My friend was found hanging from a tree by the side of 'Nila' in early hours of dawn today, with his feet dangling inches from the ground. Hanging alone and cold, at a place, where the three of us have sat nursing dreams about the future and many a bottle neck. The pun artist God, made sure he was hanging stiff by the side of a river, around the same place that was surrounded by our laughter and dreams. People whisper about it as a suicide, tempted by financial crisis, but I find it hard to fathom. He loved his life, he loved the years passing by, bringing forth the christmas and the new year, he loved his existence and new reasons to celebrate it.

I can't remember the time I last met him in person, how much ever I try ponder, but his voice from some months back, slurred with alcohol, sounds so very clear in my ears, rebuking me yet again about my failure as a friend. I sit back laden with thoughts of growing up and realizing I wouldn't be meeting Biju again, apart from tomorrow, when he would be shrouded in a white cloth and buried in the cemetery, where we had sat for hours getting drunk on beer. The last few years I knew so little about him and he would laugh at me from his grave and remind me of how miserable a friend I am, not meeting him one final time when he could have actually talked.
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