Saturday, September 23, 2006

A Night at The Underground (Part 2)

(Work Warning: Contains some profanity. I really wouldn’t want you to be caught reading this!)

(This is the second and concluding part of the story. For the first part click here.
A quick gist of the first part so that you can start on this. But please do read the first part, as the fun of writing is more in the language than the plot the "Fun is in the journey rather than the destination" cliche in tourism.

In the first part, Victor Banks goes to his favourite bar, The Underground. There he meets the usual characters:
Des, the Floor Manager of the bar and casino
Steve, the reired Champion swimmer,
Natasha, the Mayor's perfect wife,
And then, after all these year he sees Alexandra in the bar...)

Victor felt a sudden knot in his stomach. Alexandra meant bad memories. He gulped down his drink and ordered one more. The memories overwhelmed him. To cut a long story short, Victor had been head over heals with Sandra (Vic’s name for her) and had thought that this was it, until one day she had just disappeared from the city. Mystified he made enquiries to find that she had left with a millionaire from out of town and worse, he, Victor, had been just one of the many guys she had been moonlighting with. Turned out that she was a gold digger and had simply used him as a “hedge”. Once she had found someone richer, she ditched him. Simple.

Then, they had started; the voices in his head. “It doesn’t matter, you are being a sissy, she is a gold digger you don’t want her”, one voice told him, “You were just a contingency, a just in case”, sneered another. The days after the break up the voices in his head took full control of him. They gave him a mindfuck. “How could you have allowed yourself to fall for a Player like that, you gullible arse? How could you? Clearly you were not good enough” After that, he would suddenly stop what he was doing and just look blank, a prisoner of wandering thoughts, centered on her. What was bad, he thought, as he gulped down another drink was that he had hinted often enough but she had led him along, waiting for what? “Waiting for someone like Briggs”, jeered the voice. And now after these years, the voices were back again!

He snapped out of his reveries. He looked again in her direction and much to his surprise Briggs had left. Why would he leave and that too at the moment when their game was reaching it’s peak? To the toilet, Vic thought to himself mockingly. It didn’t make sense but that was that… and there was Sandra perched gracefully on the barstool. He decided that he would confront her. Mustering his strength, for he was quite drunk, he tottered up to her chair.

“Hello! Ms. Alexandra Walker. Remember me?”
“Oh! So nice to see you! Obviously I remember you! How could I forget? How have you been?” she asked as she flashed a thousand watt smile. So fake, thought Vic, as he could detect a look of nervousness in her eyes.
“So you remember me? What do you remember?”
“Of course, I remember you Victor Banks, you darling you. Manyata would not have been such fun without you”, she smiled and hugged him.

He inched closer, and whispered to her “You people always have such good memories. Tell me is it some sort of racket or was it just a one shot thing? Do you go from city to city trying to lay the richest man or just go for the one big jackpot? Looks like a high return business”

She turned away from him. She swallowed hard and tears welled up.
“Oh! You are so cruel. What do you mean? You are so drunk, I am scared”, she said as she stifled a sob
“Bah! Don’t try that old trick. Where is Briggs?”
“That’s none of your business.” she got up to leave.
“Hmm… so mission failed. What will you do for tonight?”
Sandra slapped Victor. “You bastard! What has happened to you? You disgust me!” She started walking away.
Victor felt subdued by the slap. But the memories still rankled.
He ran behind her and said, “Then, tell me why did you leave without telling anyone?”
“I got news that my father died. I had to run home, when I learnt my family had been plunged into a financial crisis. We recovered just now… Trust me Vic”, she said.

Bunkum, he thought. But the outburst had mellowed him and he thought, what the heck, what is done is done. “Whatever”, he said dismissively.
She sidled up to him, gave him a coquettish look and caressed his shoulders. “Shall I get you a coffee, Vicky baby”, she cooed.
“No, some water would be fine”, he said as he sat on the nearest cushion.

Victor felt a sense of exhilaration. He had actually confronted her, he had dreamt of this for so many days and now he just felt release. Sandra was chatting away but Vic didn’t pay any attention. After all these years, his head felt empty no voices. He drifted to a dreamless sleep.

Victor awoke. He found himself on a hospital bed. His hands were tied to the side of the bed. His legs were tied to a pillar by the side. His posture was like that of a patient with a fracture in his legs. He struggled out, but he had been securely tied with roped around his stomach binding him to the bed. Vic couldn’t move. As he looked around the whiteness of the room scared him. It was a smallish room perhaps fifteen feet by fifteen feet in area, but the whiteness gave an impression of infinity. He felt that he was in heaven and half expected angels to fly in though he didn’t even believe in all that bullshit. The lighting was perfectly uniform. The room was perfectly white! He wondered about the lighting. It must be a technical marvel to achieve such uniform lighting. As a kid, the uneven lighting in his room had greatly irritated him.

Suddenly he noticed an oscilloscope to the side of his head. It showed his pulse rate. It was steady. He just couldn’t make sense of where he was. Had that bitch Sandra popped a pill and kidnapped him here? It looked more like a hospital. Had he gotten into trouble and been admitted here? Why was he bound up this? He didn’t feel pain. Sandra meant trouble. Why the fuck hadn’t he just avoided her?

Then he heard footstep. He suddenly saw two small black lines walking to him. Then the oscilloscope started flickering and the cartoon Powerpuff girls appeared on the screen. What the hell? Meanwhile the black image got bigger and bigger and gave the impression of a ghost. What the fuck was wrong with this place? The footsteps got louder. He made out that the black object was in fact someone’s hair. A woman was walking to his room. Must be a nurse, thank God he thought. Then he slumped back. It was Alexandra. He felt bile rising through his body, half a millmeter a minute. He wanted to shout at her and spit the bile at her. She opened the door.

Alexandra was dressed... differently. She wore a perfectly white nurse’s dress with the skirt going upto her knees, exposing the legs between the knees and the ankle and then... perfectly white shoes. Also, she wore a pirate’s patch over her left eye. Why the fuck was she dessed like Elle Driver in Kill Bill, Vic thought?

She came in, glanced cursorily at him, pulled a chair by the oscilloscope and started watching Powerpuff girls. Victor pushed against his bonds and shouted at her,”Why are you doing this to me you? What is this place? I will not leave you for this!”

She continued watching, unaffected by his delirious ranting. Powerless, Vic turned to the screen and watched. The show got over. Sandra got up, stretched herself like a kitten and said,”These Powerpuff girls kick ass, don’t they? My favourite is Buttercup. What about yours?”
“Oh, I forgot we removed your voice box, you can’t speak”, she grinned, the corner of her lips curved mockingly.
"Is my outfit cool or what?" Sandra asked. "Wonder why I am wearing the patch? I lost an eye. But I got this artificial eye made for me. It is detatchable" She lifted her patch and took that eye out. Victor felt a feeling of nausea overpowering his body. He wanted to spit his kidney at her.
"It really freaks people out when I do this", Sandra giggled and put the eye back. She lit herself a cigarette.

The door opened and suddenly Natasha walked in. Victor couldn’t believe his eyes. Could this be the infallible Natasha? So both of them were in this racket together (whatever it was)? Who else was there? He had always suspected the Oh-So-Perfect Natasha. Now his suspicions were confirmed.

“Come Tasha”, Sandra said with a flirtatious look and led her into the room. She passed the half smoked cigarette to Natasha.
“So Vic is the Day’s Special is it? I feel bad for Vicky baby. But business is business, we got to meet Dr.G’s target…sigh”, Natasha said.
What was the fucking business these clowns were talking about?
“Let’s get done with this loser, before we start with our own work baby”, Sandra cooed and winked at Natasha.
She went out and brought a huge syringe, as big as a two Cuban cigars. It contained a fluorescent fluid with a huge needle. He squirmed. He had a phobia for syringe needles and this was one was big. “Nooooooooo”, he screamed tears welling up his eyes. Were they in the organ business? Would they kill him and take his organs?
He felt sick.
“Looks like we could use something as big as this” Natasha sneered, as she examined the syringe.
Sanda took the syringe and squirted some of the liquid on to his face, inched closer and placed the tip of the needle on his shoulder. She bent so that her face occupied his whole vision and said, “Tch tch, Vic you were always such a naive arsehole”. She plunged the needle on to his shoulder.

Consciousness came slowly back to him. He was in a dark dungeon and he saw a sliver of light through the space between the door and the floor. His hands were tied to a bar above his head and he was suspended such that his toes barely touched the floor. Pieces of clothes were clinging onto him but he was practically naked. It looked as if he had been whipped but Vic felt nothing. He was too tired to feel pain. Suddenly he saw a snake sliding up the pole towards him.

Suddenly the door opened and the light blinded him. Steve and Des came in. By now, Vic was so emotionally overwhelmed he didn’t care. Everyone was a bastard. Suddenly, Des said, “Hey man! What the fuck? This is Vic? We can’t do this!"
“Shut the fuck up. You want to get sentimental go fuck yourself in an old age home. We got to meet Dr.G’s fucking target, remember arsehole”, snapped back Steve.
“But this is family you motherfucker”, replied Des.
Steve caught him by the collar and pushed him onto the wall.
“Listen he knows about us. We got to kill him anyway. So shut the fuck up and let LeBrand do his job”
Suddenly, a barbaric figure entered the room.
Vic looked at it startled for it sounded like a familiar name. The figure seemed familiar. He seemed to be a torturer of some sort. Interestingly, he resembled Vic’s teacher at school, the one whom he hated so much, the one whom he considered his greatest tormentor.

Suddenly everything came back to Vic, this dungeon resembled something he had seen in a film, Sandra looked like Elle Driver, Natasha and Sandra in his favourite fantasy, there WAS no snake, it was a Fredian association! Fuck… Fuck… he was dying in his own fucking dream.

He wanted to shout but his throat was blocked. Someone needed to help him. He could feel the vomit stifling him. He was choking in his own vomit!
Suddenly, he felt a slap. The dungeon was engulfed by a flood and he floated out of it like a rubber object rising through water. As he floated up, he saw a giant porthole. This was sucking everything into it. This must be the porthole out of the subconscious he thought. He must get out...

Vic got up with a start and puked all over the sofa. Des, Natasha, Steve and Tom the waiter were around him, looking at him anxiously.
“Just take me home”, Vic croaked.

(Obviously “inspired” from many sources. If you find that objectionable, well, as they say, imitation is the best form of flattery!)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Sleepless in Ganga Hostel

Senti Warning: Step in at your own risk!

(I am unable to sleep. It was that Expresso I had at Qwiky’s at the Ascendas Tech Park at Taramani. I had had a horrible headache. The Asecendas Tech Park represents the new India - BPO offices, high-disposable incomes, pretty BPO people. My sleep disappeared with the headache. I hate deviations from routine that affect my sleeping rhythm. This one time, in the second year, I went sleepless for two nights without a point, just after seeing Fight Club for the first time. I really wanted to see if insomnia was that powerful. The essence of the experiment is to keep oneself pointlessly awake. If there is some motivation, then it wouldn’t count as insomnia. Managed to do that. I saw numbers popping out of the blackboard the third day. Friends said I looked drunk. This was when I hadn’t started drinking even. It was scary. And trippy.

I hate building a sleep deficit. The rational part of my brain loses control and the emotional part takes over. In common language, I become cranky. The irony is: I can see it happen, I can see my emotional part dictating my chain of thoughts against the protests of the rational part and I feel helpless. My room is stuffy. Al of a sudden, I can hear the Fight Club sounds in my brains and then suddenly the Reservoir Dogs theme. Really love it when this happens. But I have an exam tomorrow and a long day after that. I need to sleep. I decide to go to the terrace. There is a pleasant breeze blowing, the soft glow of the sodium vapour lamps under the green canopy provides a calming effect. I lean back against the low wall in the terrace. The cold of the wall feels deliciously soothing and I am calm enough to observe my own train of thought)

I hate quiz weeks. I always become edgy and nervous. Thoughts of the impending CAT rat race (cat-rat?) and the spectre of the Darwinian placement process are enough to induce extra edginess. It is one of those times when the monotony of being and the constant throb of ambition threaten to hijack the fun from life, the joie de vivre, as the French so seductively put it. Suddenly I think of my schooldays. A time of innocence, a time of concentration. Have never reached those levels of concentration since. Did the TM (Transcendental Meditation) have anything to do with it? A feeling of yearning for that simplicity. Reminded of the teachers of the IIT classes at Satyamurthy School. Epitomes of the “Simple Living, High Thinking” philosophy characteristic of teachers of a bygone era. I am reminded of my own disillusionment with academics and big thinkers ever since leaving school. Doesn’t one commonly observe the very same experts who study their own fields with insight, being extremely pedantic? Don't they let their judgment be clouded by their egos when it comes to anything outside their domain? Vidya Dadaathi Vinayam, goes a Sanskrit saying (Education leads to Humility). Mostly it is the opposite, I think to myself, bitterly.

I realize that my philosophy after coming here has changed and today, I look down upon the very idealism that I once treasured. I feel a knot of fear in my stomach. The world seems so intimidating all of a sudden. It is all very fine to pontificate about the notion of God being only an idea, but involuntarily I recite a shloka I learnt as a kid.

Maybe it is the rising of the sun or the delicious wind blowing but I suddenly feel a revival of my spirits. Correspondingly, the rational part of the brain seems to gain hold again. It is all fine to mourn a lost idealism but a very important thing to keep in mind while following ideals is to constantly question the relevance of the ideality. That is, as societies change the values change. Agreed there are a few basic values which are eternal. Truth and Ahimsa are absolutely essential for a sane society. But beyond that most of the values are the dictates of the economic and social compulsions of the times we live in.In fact, most morals and values are often the reflection of the values of the powerful classes of that society.

Another key point which I think most of us know at an unconscious level is this: Any tradition/movement/idea will survive at a mass level, only if it will bring about economics returns at some level, maybe not immediately, but it should bring an economic incentive. If it fails to do that and is carried on by the force of emotion, then people will start questioning it and quietly breaking such traditions, before it eventually disappears. (I have based these arguments on some instances. Going into them here would be tedious. There maybe practices which do not have this feature. But they will be followed by small groups, or tightly knit communities. Even in those communities there should be an element of choice in the framework. If arrogantly imposed, even those will perish.)

Therefore, practices which were attractive or elegant once have to be jettisoned if they are not relevant for the times. There will always be old people saying that things were better during those days but they too are looking at the world through rose coloured glasses. That does not mean we should lose all sense of idealism. It just means that we review our value systems and goals periodically to see if they are consistent with reality. For example, I still think that “Simple Living, High Thinking” is the most elegant and satisfying way of living. However, simplicity thirty years ago may have meant having a cycle if you could afford a Bajaj. Today it means owning a Sumo if you could own a Land Cruiser :-)

Coming back to the changing nature of moral values: Herein lays the problem of the idealist. An idealist may take a prescriptive stance but the compulsions of change will lead that notion of idealism to be changed. However, she cannot change it as the act of changing would reflect on the idealism of her stance. Therefore, the idealist preacher is stuck in a situation where she has to impose her philosophy or be caught on the wrong foot. That is how many well meaning thinkers have ended up becoming hardliners and contributing more to the untruth of the World. In other words, idealists and crusaders are more likely to cause non-ideality than the Average Joe.

Therefore, what we are left with is an Absurdist view of life. Yes, there is no inherent meaning to life. But that is a liberating notion, not at all a sad one. Since my existence doesn’t have a pre-ordained meaning I can go about shaping it whatever way my intellect leads me to. Therefore, the only thing left to do, given that we have come into existence, is to plunge into the world with complete involvement and determination to experience all that it offers. The determination to experience the world should be so complete that if there is any obstacle then we must invent ways to go over it. Hedonism is my religion :-)

Feeling clearer, I walk down to Hot Chips for an early breakfast.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

On Relationships

Ever since a boy crosses the Rubicon and realizes the hand may be used for, ahem… well, other purposes, girls and women come to play a large role in his life. As he matures and comes into the early twenties, the desire to be in a relationship with a woman is a strong one, perhaps the strongest. (Of course, due to the surfeit of sex in cinema and television, the thresholds are reducing, but I speak of the average.)

Tune into SUN Music and every second one sees SMSs flashed on the screen which indicates that some X loves some Y. If you see SUN Music long enough, you would think that Tamil Nadu must be teeming with young couples. Whether that is true or not, one simple fact is that one sees a lot of people openly proclaiming their “boyfriend”hoods and “girlfriend”ships like never before.

It is interesting to see how all this starts. From common observation, I think the “Girlfriend getting process” is best classified as Darwinian. Every young man worth his salt starts off (or rather should start off) lusting after Aishwarya Rai or Bipasha Basu or whoever is the flavour of the day. After much struggle he realizes that the Ms. A. Rai or the Ms.B. Basu is out of his reach and downgrades to the Asin or Samiksha or whoever is the local babe. (An aside: I think what would put off a full blooded man from pursuing Aishwarya is not the threat of Salman’s muscles but rather the possibility of Vivek Oberoi’s effeminate “threats” over phone) He soon realizes that even they are out of his reach and now looks for the babe in his circuits. Even that is not so easy due to the “Hot Girls Date Only Losers” Theorem. Therefore, our wise and more importantly, horny hero settles for the policy of “Carpe Babeum” (Seize the Babe) and proposes to the first girl who laughs at his jokes and listens admiringly when he speaks of his tooth picking strategies.

Please do not mistake me. I do not intend any disrespect but I couldn’t help the sarcasm. And that sarcasm is because, I consider the “Boyfriend – Girlfriend” relationship as a strange one. For one, it is a loosely defined and predominantly convenience based relationship. If it were purely so, I wouldn’t have any problems. But for such a relationship the emphasis on fidelity is quite senseless. Due to this stress on fidelity, the relationship essentially is like a marriage without its main perk, the sex.

While the earlier part was quite frivolous, in the following lines I will talk about my idea of an ideal relationship. Put simply, the basis of the man woman relationship should be sexuality. But the problem is that sexuality encompasses many aspects namely, the attraction based on looks, intelligence, personality, fetishes etc. Therefore, it is highly probable that an individual (man AND woman) finds one partner inadequate. (Of course, if you are in a relationship and perfectly satisfied by it then you could be one of those one-in-a-million guys lucky enough to have found your dream partner. Alternately and more probably, your standards are too low.) Therefore, at least in the years before commitment, people would want to experiment in various kinds of relationships.

Therefore, in my “model” of the ideal relationship, we have at the core of the relationships, the “companion”. This “companion” is that someone with whom you connect and see a future with. But the future is distant and as far as today goes, the field has to be played and it is quite unsatisfying to settle for one person. Therefore, around this core you can build multi-dimensional relationship polygons. (Why settle for the old triangle when there exist polygons I say?). The aim is to experiment with various kinds of relationships. However, you have to work out an agreement with your companion wherein you agree to tell each other everything (a la Sartre and de Beauvoir) or choose not to say anything. The companion will also have his/her love polygon. Then each one explores relationships on his/her terms and after a certain number of years the both of them sit together and review the relationship.

Obviously there are many loopholes to such a proposition. The greatest problem is that of jealousy. It is for this reason that such an approach to relationships may not be suitable for everyone. Heck, in fact it will cause problems even to the most broad-minded. The next problem is the other partners in the loop may feel cheated, if they come to know, and this could lead to ugly situations. Therefore, the essential ingredients to such an arrangement are maturity and honesty. Another angle is marriage. Is such an arrangement feasible for marriages? I think not. I guess the willingness of two people to enter into marriage implies fidelity.

Despite all these safeguards, common sense suggests that such experiments, from an expectation point of view, are doomed to fail. Even a simple analysis of the situation indicates many emotional complications. Yet I wanted to articulate an alternative to the current trend of relationships, after all what are jobless thinkers for? ;-)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

God as the Final Variable!

I guess this kind of a post will be skipped by the experiences reader simply because of the millions of theories floating about. Almost all self respecting bloggers would have given their version of God/Religion/Mortality. I normally refrain from talking about religion and the “higher things in life”. The reason for that is two fold. Firstly, my own philosophy is that, there is no point worrying about the questions of higher powers, destiny, fate and related terms, at this age (meaning eighteen to thirty). My attitude can be summed up by Kahlil Gibran’s beautiful verse:

Yesterday is dead,
Tomorrow is unborn,
If Today be sweet,
Why fret?

The second reason is a basic question of how to think about abstract terms like “God” and those associated with it like soul, duty, heaven, hell and so on, without getting caught in a web of semantic confusion. In fact a simple cause of confusion could be the practice of capitalizing the “God” and “Him”. My view on such terms is this: If you cannot define a term properly, you MUST NOT use it.

(A digression: I am aware that this view follows from the so-called “Picture Theory” put forward by the great and equally enigmatic German philosopher Wittgenstein in his seminal work, Thr Tractacus Logico-Philosophicus . The problem is, after great effort, I did find a copy of the TLP, but unfortunately, I couldn’t make much sense of it. So I shall continue with the idea which captivated me though, I am not even sure if that is the “Picture Theory” that Wittgenstein intended.

Second Digression: Do Google about Wittgenstein. In my opinion, Wittgenstein, Von Neumann, “Che” Guevara, Camus are the most charismatic thinkers in recent times.)

The problem with much religious discourse is that the key terms used are value loaded i.e they immediately conjure up an impression/value associated with them even though the author may not imply it. Another problem is that in many cases, multiple meanings are attached to each word and therefore, there is just too much scope for interpretation and misinterpretation by followers.

It is for these reasons therefore, that writing about these topics is loaded with pitfalls. But I shall nevertheless put forward my interpretation.

One of the most striking features about Hindu Philosophy is the multitude of theories of God which exists in its framework. On the one hand, we have works like which seek to establish this “God / Ultimate Being”’s supremacy in terms of physical characteristics or some special powers. For example, the Purusha Suktham talks about the Purusha or the Ultimate Being having a thousand heads, a thousand eyes and his presence encompassing the Earth and so on. On the other extreme, we have philosophies like Advaita and Dvaita which are extremely sophisticated and abstract apparatuses to understand the “Supreme Power”. The beautiful thing is all these approaches to understanding God are equally relevant. It is this multitude of approaches which has led to me to come to my own view of God.

Essentially, as human beings, we strive to understand the world around us and our own existence. There are two reasons for this. One is utilitarian, in the sense that it is in our interests to understand how the world works from a mechanistic, “How and Why Things Work” point of view. This desire is to a great extent satisfied by Science. But at the deepest levels even Science finds itself entangled in often paradoxical philosophical questions.

The other reason is purely aesthetic. Understanding how the various aspects of life interact leads to a sense of confidence and fulfillment. Most of the philosophical nuances belong to this category. From a day to day point of view, nothing more than a rudimentary philosophical model is necessary. Indeed, a person can climb to the very top of the industrial world without any refined understanding of philosophy.

Often the quest for knowledge arises due to a combination of these compulsions. Having started on a line of thought due to various reasons, one cannot draw the line and say, we will address certain questions because they are of aesthetic value and avoid other questions.

Therefore, I think we have convincingly established that the two main motivations to understand the world are utilitarian and aesthetic.
Having established why we need to understand the world, the next question is How do we go about doing it? We have tools like Logic, Mathematics, Philosophy and Language is the “currency”, the means to express concepts. Let us call these the “Tools of Thought”. So in effect, we try to understand the world through our senses and some tools we have developed. However, these tools of thought keep on developing and at any point of time there are many phenomena which we cannot explain with our current level. In those cases, we have no recourse but to attribute those phenomena to something beyond our understanding, something “miraculous”. That Unknown Entity to which we attribute phenomena we cannot understand is called as “God”.

To give an analogy, consider Regression analysis. Say, there is a variable y which we think is to be modeled as a function of u,v,w. So typically we would write it as:

y = a1*u + b1*v + c1*w

What if unknown to us there is some other variable we have not taken into consideration? Also, the coefficients a1, b1, c1 obtained by fitting historical data cannot forecast future data perfectly. There will be a deviation. In Regression analysis, to account for this an error term is included in the expression.

y = a1*u + b1*v + c1*w + ε

To come back to our initial point, the world is what we try to explain through the tools of thought and in that endeavour we need the concept of God to play the function of the ε variable; A variable to explain all that cannot be explained by the Tools of Thought at that given point of time.

Please do not take this analogy literally. The term “Error Variable” may seem to trivialize the concept. What I am essentially saying is this:

The conception of God we have at a given point of time, is a reflection of what cannot be explained by the prevailing “Tools of Thought” at that point of time.
A Corollary of this idea is that the functions or the powers attributed to God should reduce once the Tools of Thought become more sophisticated.

In this framework of God as the Unknown Variable, the question of creation has no been addressed. My argument is that God is a man made invention so creation is merely a set of one-in-a-million occurrences which happened to occur period. An important fallout of such a view is the realization that different views of God are acceptable as long as the user can navigate his/her life. As a human being goes through the journey of life, his/her priorities change. The knowledge sophistication also changes. Therefore, it is very natural, in fact, very necessary that one’s conception to God changes. More importantly ideas related to God like morality, duty among others will and should change.

The next useful conclusion is that any work of religion should be viewed as literature, even if exceedingly brilliant. The crucial difference between literature and divine books is that, in literature you can reject the author's viewpoints without any feelings of guilt, in fact, you are encouraged to do so. However, refuting divine works always brings an inescapable feeling of guilt. This should be removed.

Re-reading this article I feel I have done some of the common mistakes that I started to debunk. Aaah! Maybe we shouldn’t even attempt to talk of these questions. Maybe you just realize the truth but language is insufficient to express it. Maybe!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Lift Buddies

Sriraman “Nutty” Natesan hurried out of the subway. He realized he would have to run to be in time for his meeting with the interesting but loud, 'Peter' Raman. As he ran out, briefcase in one hand and some half read reports on the other, he cursed his tendency to get distracted. He had started to work the previous evening, after a soothing bath. Then Jerry had called him. And the rest as they say, was history and Nutty found himself all 'woozy' and tired in the morning.

He bumped into two kids ambling slowly on the footpath. Why can't people design a machine which would suddenly make children twenty-one once they crossed three, thought Nutty to himself as he suppressed a curse. He was almost there, one minute to the lift and three minutes thereon, should be there not more than a minute late thought Nutty, when a cold sweat broke over him. The ID card! In one swift move, he transferred the reports from one hand to the other, dug into his left pocket, transferred the whole thing onto his left hand and dug into the right pocket. Still not there. All was not lost, the guard knew him, so he could do it but it would be embarrassing. Then, in a last ditch effort he looked into his wallet. Vinayaka be blessed, he thought, as he triumphantly retrieved his blue and white card.

He put the reports in the briefcase and straightened himself out. He gave a sigh of relief. He ran to the elevator and called the shabby looking lift. This lift was the worst part of Nutty's day. It was one of those old lifts which were being removed everywhere and replaced by the sleek chromium coloured lifts by OTIS or JOHNSON or some such manufacturer. Years ago it had had a green interior. Now it just looked plain dirty. It had two iron grill bars, both had coats of black paint which were peeling off. If the inner was closed without the outer first closed, it made an ear piercing ambulance-like wail, a wail so irritating that Nutty felt like strangling the person closest to him so that the “stranglee's” shout would drown this. In addition, the siren's fluctuating sound made him feel hot. Regulars never did that mistake, it was always the newcomers. In his better moods, the siren had brought memories of Kill Bill and then Pulp fiction and he half expected 'Vince' Vega and Jules to greet him at the ground floor.

The main cause of irritation was the lack of space. It was a small lift, maybe 8 feet by 8 feet by 8 feet. But during rush hour around fifteen to eighteen people stepped in. It was a gross violation of the permitted capacity. Nobody minded, actually. It had borne this load for as long as anyone could remember. In fact, people agreed heartily when a regular justified crowding on the grounds that lift design included a generous factor of safety anyway!

He whistled tunelessly waiting for the lift, when suddenly, out of nowhere, an Angel appeared. He took a deep breath. To add to his discomfort, she came and stood right behind him. He blinked twice and then looked away realizing he was being rude. She was fair, petite and had jet black hair. It struck him he had not given the beauty her due and should have another glance, purely for aesthetic reasons, and he turned round. When he had been in his world, a crowd had gathered behind him. As these things go, the burly and hearty Raman had also just arrived and he too was standing behind him, more importantly completely overshadowing the Angel. Raman bellowed, ”You too here eh? Was expecting you to bug me on my cell phone for being late. Being professional and all that jazz. I always like a meting between late risers. har har har”. Nutty smiled back at Ramon. There was a life in his laughter and he couldn't help joining him. As the twelve-thirteen people packed themselves into the lift, Nutty realized that he had lost the Angel behind Raman's bulk. For the rest of the tortuous journey up, he would have to be content with looking at the top of her head. He noticed that she got off the lift at the 6th floor. Good, he thought. Nutty and Raman got off at the 8th floor. The meeting was quite ho-hum.

The routine with the Angel continued for around two weeks. Whenever, they both were in the lift, there were always twelve, thirteen others. It is quite difficult to start an epic romance in such a fashion, Nutty thought angrily. For the two-three times, they were together, he could only manage the top of her head or the upper part of her back. By now, the Angel's had acquired a personality of its own. Her hair was not very long but it cascaded till about half her back. With familiarity comes more curiosity and Nutty wondered if the front was as perfect as this. Doubts gnawed him but there was no way he could find out. The 6th floor had an ad agency. He knew no one there and there was no way he could feign an excuse and go there. For one, the ad agency owned the whole floor and there could be many divisions. Mistakenly walking out was ruled out as ID cards were scrutinized properly. Plus he had read in the Reader's Digest that the Japanese had a word called Bakku-shana – a woman who looked good from behind but not from front.
This simple snippet acted in his mind like a corroding acid whenever he was admiring the hair.

One Saturday he had to come to work. Cursing his fate, Nutty dragged himself to the office drudgingly. As he was waiting for the lift,the cell phone rang. He picked it up and started talking to an old friend and got into the lift and suddenly heard that horrible wail. He looked up with mild rage on his face and suddenly he missed a breath. Could it be... yes... indeed it was the Angel herself and no one else was there. He gasped for breath, opening and closing his mouth like a fish. The Angel finaly closed the lift and the wailing stopped. To a Neutral Observer the scene would have played out like this.Girl closes the wrong grill mistakenly, mind numbing wail, girl doesn't know what to do, turns round to seek help, sees a man with a frown suddenly stop talking, man's eyes widen and he gawks like an idiot, man looks about, throws his arms in all directions (?!!!), by this time girl figures out and closes the door.

After the siren had died out, she regained her composure and looked at him with a mixure of bewilderment and disgust for his behaviour. Unfortunately, whatever may have been the angel's talents, reading other people's minds was not and she could not have fathomed the churning within him. Nutty's mind was plunged into turbulence. “Are you single?” “Are you free tonight?” “Or better,Pickup lines!” “My love for you is like diaarhoea, I just can't hold it in... naaa... too bad... how about just “Come here often?”... Good, he thought and said it. Said would be the wrong words, for a sound vaguely resembling “Cccome” came out, then a cough and the rest of the sentence went something like "Here Often?" But the Angel thought it was a sarcastic comment. Realising that, Nutty said, “The lift... it happens. I mean we all do such mistakes. Mistakes are to be made. It is human to err”. She just raised her eyebrows in response. Finally, in resigned state, he just said, “Hi, I am Sriram, friends call me Nutty. I work in this building”. She nodded her head and said,”I can understand that. Anyway, I am Diya and I am interning for the ad agency on the 6th floor. Oops, my floor has arrived”. She smiled, a polite one, and got off.

Nothing more than a cursory smile was possible during weekdays but he always made the Saturday trip when they usually had the lift to himself. (Unfortunately, she never came to work on Sundays) This had been going on for around five weekends and he pretty much knew all about her from these lift meetings. She had been born and brought up in a foreign country but was spending her summer here. Thought it would be fun to do an internship and meet a lot of people and so had landed up in that agency. She was enjoying her work and wanted a career in the field and things like this. The next weekend she dropped a bomb, when she casually remarked, “The next weekend will be my last weekend here. Have a lot of fun events planned this week.” (Thousand Watt smile) That is when it struck him it had not occurred to him to take the relationship to the next level. He felt as if some huge weight had fallen on him. He kicked himself for just being “Lift Buddies” with her!

The sleeping Tamil Tiger in him (No connection to any famous organizations!) had been awoken. He had to settle this issue and he would not take no for an answer. By now he knew which department she worked for and called her.
"Hello", a now familiar voice answered the phone,"May I know who is this?', the voice continued with a tinge of puzzlement. "Hi, It is Nutty here", spluttered the caller.
"Was wondering if you could squeeze in a lunch with me amidst your busy schedule and all...?"
"Oh, that would be a pleasure!", Diya squealed.
"McDonald's?", suggested Nutty.
"Great! Will be there in 45 minutes. Okay?" "
"Purrrfect, in fact! I have a couple of things to attend to. We'll meet at the ground floor. Bye then!", said Nutty
"Byeee", relied Diya in a sing song manner.

They both gave a look of surprise and burst out laughing simultaeneously.
"Is this a dream?", Nutty asked.
"I KNOW... How surprising is this? Talk about one in a million probabilities!", Diya said.
"So how have you been?", Nutty asked as he pressed the button for the 44th floor.
"Great! You haven't changed one bit!", Diya replied as she reached for the 40th floor button.
She DID look great, Nutty thought to himself. She had put on some weight, but then both of them had. She now looked more like a professionally succesful woman, a marked difference from the wide eyed, wet-in-the ear intern he had been smitten by.
There was an awkward pause for a moment. The elevator counter showed 20th floor.
"I am now a copyrighter for this ad agency. We are new to this field and run more like a startup", she said as she flashed her thousand watt smile.
"I am still in Insurance. Here to meet a client", said Nutty.
"So what happened that day... remember we had an appointment for lunch at..."
25th floor...
"McDonalds", she finished the sentence for him. "I know... I was suddenly called off for some work by a really senior guy. It was really important and all... and that day I went home really late! I felt bad about it and tried to reach you the next day..."
30th floor...
"Ha ha ha... when you wouldn't have found me as I had to fly off for a week at short notice, to meet a big ticket client and thrash out a deal!"
32nd floor
"The victims of modern commerce, I guess", Diya giggled.
"Hey, so what about catching dinner today. We can exchange notes on our lives?", Nutty asked, expectantly.
"Hmm...", Diya thought for a while. She was especially cute when she was thinking, the pursing of the lips, the concentration in the eyes.
35th floor...
"I have a dinner with my fiancee... what about lunch?"
Nutty suddenly swallowed hard. He felt a sinking feeling in the stomach, the kind of feeling you get when you realise that the chair that you were supposed to sit on has been suddenly removed and you are already falling, so you really cannot do anything but fall.
37th floor...
He felt hot inside and was reminded of the siren back in the old lift at his office.
"Yes.. yes... wait... actually no. Oh Damn no. I have a lunch meeting with this client! Damn it!", he flushed
40th floor...
"That's okay. It was just SO great talking to you. We'll work something out. Byeee", as she walked off the lift and perhaps from his life.

(The End)