Sunday, 26 July 2020

The Ballad of Ranjito Rimyo




You live only once. That’s what everyone tells you. It’s supposed to help you make those tough decisions; follow your dreams, make a difference and all that shit. But when it comes down to it, there’s only one thing that helps us make those really big decisions. And that’s realising that we die a little bit every day and we can be reborn every day.

That’s where I am now. The dying part to be precise. But in this state of disintegration I have skipped over a few things.

How did I reach the moment of my death? Like many stories this began with a girl. Well not really. I’ll be a little more honest. All of this began because I didn’t know when to stop. Or that stopping was a possibility.

………………………………………………

You could say that I wanted to make a mess. Why? Why was I, Ranjito Rimyo so messed up? Well I’d like to think that it’s because I’m the victim. But that isn’t exactly the truth.

Yes maybe I’m a rich spoilt kid who doesn’t appreciate everything he has. But I’m also troubled by things that I can’t really explain.

Like why my parents never seemed to talk to each other. Maybe I didn’t like growing up in hostels. Maybe I liked the silences when I was home for summer even less. Maybe it was just easy to build walls around myself.

If you do understand what I’m talking about, I hope it’s not from personal experience.

This is the moment of death so I might as well say it. I have always been scared. Not of losing something. But knowing that I’d never have anything of value to lose.

Maybe that’s why I punched Ismail. Yes, he had only playfully smiled at Armi. Yes, after six months of dating I did trust Armi. And yes, I could have tried politely explaining my concerns to Ismail. But then as I said, I wanted to make a mess.

………………………………………………

My M.Tech college – Shri Darwin’s Institute Of Microbiology (or called DIM, lovingly by alumni and snidely by others) was unlike any you might imagine. It took some really tough tests for us to get here to this isolated campus somewhere along the Mumbai-Pune highway.

The campus lined with neem, banyan and coconut trees was nice. The little pond with its aggressive ducks was also cute. And of course DIM did have great placement records in some of the leading companies around the world. Yet the management at DIM tried to unnecessarily sell the college as the first ultra-modern institute of India.

Everything in our 50-acre campus was controlled digitally. From air conditioning, ventilation, attendance, tests, to even sentries. The management thought that over two dozen or more of ugly washing machine-like robots moving around the campus was a wonderful idea.

Our institute really believed that life would eventually become digital. So these little experiments were to them one small step for man, a giant leap for cyber-kind.

It was these lumpy cyber-sentries who first noticed me treating Ismail to a few dozen punches that quite frankly could have been a little better executed.

I had done the decent thing and chosen a secluded corridor. The guy had actually believed that I wanted to discuss my final-year project with him. It’s not that I was big or bulky. At 5 6’, with a medium built, I was not very imposing. But I made up for that with all my inner strength. Or as my counsellor later called it - pent up rage, frustration and insecurity.

Soon enough the robo-sentries hit the alarm, everyone gathered around us and I took a well-earned break.

Then I saw Armi looking at me.

If I had thought this would end well, I certainly didn’t think so anymore.

………………………………………………

Three years back when our course began, I was still the quiet guy. And Armi, oh she was something else. She had a way of being intensely friendly and extremely distant. She could be really difficult as a lab partner but she could also be highly considerate with helping others write their assignments.

Being the slightly lost and distant kind who is usually mentally absent, I didn’t really intend to make a move on Armi.

So we remained friends for some three odd years. In that time as friends we got to know each other without any of the pressure that comes with your typical romance.

‘Dude why do you keep tapping your foot during the lecture?’ She once asked with irritation after having chosen to sit beside me.

‘I can’t help it. Just happens…’ I whispered.

I don’t know how a girl who frequently played with her hair and left knots of it all over the desk could complain about something like a tapping foot. But she continued to sit with me. And I certainly did not object to it.

I think she always knew that I was a little messed up. But at some point I guess she couldn’t help herself. Neither could I.

One rainy night our group was stuck on a late night assignment in the library. We also had the good sense to bring five plates of bhajiya from the canteen and nine wonderful 180ml bottles of Blender’s Pride. (Brought off campus obviously. Our management could imagine a world of sentient AI but they still couldn’t handle the thought of students conducting some simple social experiments)

Before the fourth bottle was done, as the others slept, I found myself kissing Armi and she found herself kissing me.

It wasn’t the happiest moment of my life because happiness is like this momentary high after which you plunge back to your regular life. That moment was something beyond happiness. Something that maybe exists between the words of a poem.

After that night we made out a few more times. But then I had to bring my brokenness to all those moments. So I never went to that place beyond happiness again. Though whenever I was with Armi, I could feel that I was really close to that special place. It was as if I already knew how to get there. But I didn’t trust my heart enough to walk ahead. Instead of letting myself love her, I obsessed over losing her.

Maybe that’s why I got cranky about her going back home for her sister’s birthday.

‘Do you have to go?’ I asked in an annoyed tone.

‘Ranji, for the 568th time, YES! YES I fucking do have to go.’

‘Ok fine. I hope you have a great trip. Call me when you get there.’

She did call me but not as soon as I wanted her to call me. So our fights began.

‘No Ranji, I can’t come and see you at five in the morning.’

‘No Ranji, I am not trying to avoid you.’

‘Yes Ranji, I do still care about you.’

‘Ok Ranji stop it. Just STOP it. Why are you calling me at this time with this shit if you won’t even listen to what I’m going to say? Do you think that I’m the problem Ranji? Then FINE! I’m the problem. There is obviously NOTHING wrong with YOU!’

In just a few weeks we became distant, distrustful and worst of all, destructive. After the worst fight when we weren’t speaking with each other for a month, dear Ismail chose to share a wonderful loving moment with Armi.

On that night of bruised knuckles (mine) and broken jaws (Ismail’s) I felt something break inside me as Armi walked away.

I realised that beating up Ismail was not my lowest point. It was just a bump in the road that only went down.

………………………………………………

It was during this time that I underwent counselling. Those few months of living with my family, trying not to cry when they were around, trying to not admit that things were fucked up, and trying to still get in touch with Armi; all of it took a toll on me.

But strangely enough, counselling helps. Talking to someone, taking medication helps. Slowly, too slowly, I got better.

It wasn’t that I didn’t still miss Armi or that I made my peace with life. But life seemed to become a little less troublesome. My ship was still sinking but the storm had passed away.

Through all this I missed the final exam and had to repeat my final year.

As per my counsellor’s suggestion I maintained a diary that helped me avoid any more explosive outbursts. Spending a few minutes every day, typing away in my little electronic diary was a wonderful thing. I got a chance to delve into my own mind without hurting anyone and without getting hurt.

But I still couldn’t forgive or forget. Soon enough after the second or third week of the new college year, I began thinking about all the things that I wanted to say to Armi. Somehow I felt that if she knew that I really needed her, she would change her mind.

That’s when it happened. As I studied by myself in the library, I got The First Message On Whatsapp.

The unknown number had a snowy white puppy as a profile picture and just a few simple words for me:

Hi,

You better not contact Armi or I will kill you.

Regards,

Your Guardian Angel.

When you’re just coming to terms with your mental illness anything can get you in a frenzy. A gaze, a song, a random thought. So I’ll admit that this did give me a panic attack.

Throughout the day, through all the lectures on microbiology and its applications, I managed to not explode. I managed to pretend to be normal. That part you get good at.

Obviously the year hadn’t started on a great note for me. While earlier I had been a nobody, I was now the ‘psycho guy’. People said that behind my back but in very loud and audible whispers.

Still some people were decent with me. Akash, the guitar guy shared his notes with me. Sana, the girl from Delhi always smiled at me and tried to make some small talk. Rajesh sir also made it a point to inquire about my health in a way that wasn’t intrusive and actually made me feel more at peace.

So the day somehow went by. Eventually in the evening I made another entry in my e-diary and by the time I fell asleep I managed to even forget about The First Message On Whatsapp.

I would soon get a reminder.

………………………………………………

Because of being not so popular and ‘full of shit’ according to some classmates, I had the single corner room on the fourth floor of the hostel. All our rooms were completely synced with the digital security system. So we each had our own lock codes for our doors and windows. We even had a projector, mini-photocopy machine and a basic microscope (Oh yes, DIM did not have very affordable fees).

I punched in the door unlock code (Armi’s birthday obviously) and stepped out expecting some of that cool breeze characteristic to mornings outside the city. But I was greeted by a pungent odour. The odour was quite bad but the sight of five chicken heads outside my door was even worse.

That’s when I got The Second Message On Whatsapp from a different unknown number with the same cute white puppy.

I am serious. Don’t mess up.

Regards,

Your Guardian Angel.

Again let me make it clear that I’m not a coward. I know many guys in my class who say that I chose to beat up Ismail only because I knew he wasn’t the type of guy who would fight back. That’s completely not true. I am not afraid of anyone or anything.

So naturally the reason I never contacted Armi in the coming weeks was because of my sense of maturity and self-respect. All this emotional drama is obviously for losers.

………………………………………………

The first six months went by. My classmates were now almost treating me like a normal person. After all my regular counselling sessions and the habit of keeping that e-diary, things had changed.

But when you’ve been the kind of person who almost wants a bit of chaos, that wanting never truly goes away. So somewhere I still wanted Armi back in my life and I don’t think getting drunk helps with such feelings. They just come up in the ugliest ways.

So maybe I shouldn’t have accepted the invitation to the off-campus booze party. But I did want to socialise, especially when the invitation seemed to be given with some sincerity.

After being ostracised, the best part of being accepted is that some of the loneliness does go away. The worst part is that you still feel like an outsider.

So I made more of an effort to be a part of the groups. I found out that Ananya’s cat back home would soon be giving birth to kittens (‘Oh Meow God!’ I exclaimed. Not the best pun but it did make her smile). Ronnie’s ankle was still healing after the football injury (He called it that but everyone knew that he had accidentally kicked the ground instead of the ball). Mrinti was really happy that she had moved on after her 2-month relationship with Aamir and she said that she’d love to talk to me about any of my emotions, at any time of the day or night, in her bed or mine. That I thought was especially sweet of her (Yes I completely missed the hint).

I also learnt that after a few drinks I was surprisingly fond of songs like Jumma Chumma De De, Disco Dancer, Kajra Re and especially any Sunny Leone number.

After all the dancing and all the second rounds, someone carried me up to my room. I was happily buzzed and ready for a nice long dreamless sleep.

Sleep. That reminded me of all the times Armi and I would send each other good night wishes without fail. Something inside me that wanted to snap finally did snap.

Right on time I got The Third Message On Whatsapp from a different unknown number with the same white puppy.

No. Don’t. Seriously.

Regards,

Your Guardian Angel.

I did the thing that was so easy to do with any whatsapp message (especially when you’re drunk). I ignored it.

Likewise I ignored The Fourth…Seventh…Tenth…Sixteenth…Twenty First…Thirty Seventh…Forty Second… Sixty Sixth…Hundredth Message On Whatsapp. A final Message Number Hundred And One appeared.

Then I guess I will have to kill you.

Regards,

Your Guardian Angel.

I ignored this and continued trying to access Armi’s Facebook, Instagram or Twitter page through my fake profiles. From her pictures I was trying to figure out where she might be living. I was positive from a range of geo-tagged pictures that she lived somewhere between Andheri and Saki Naka.

That’s when my phone’s screen started flashing random numbers and my worst nightmare began.

A text appeared on the dark smartphone interface.

Hello Ranjito.

I have tried to warn you a hundred times. But you didn’t listen.

So I must kill you.

With a heart that almost crept out of my chest, I sat completely still. My sweaty hands made it hard for me to hold on to the phone.

With a sense of being in a dream, I whispered.

‘Who are you?’

The phone having seemingly heard me displayed a new text.

Someone who knows you really well. Someone who exists because of you.

Exists because of me? What did that even mean? For someone with an above average IQ, I was still being very slow. In frustration I threw my phone away and rushed for the door, quickly punching in the unlock code.

The door refused to open and the windows started to shut themselves with a gentle click. The projector in my room now beamed a message on the dark window curtains.

It is time for you to die Ranjito.

That’s when a cord for the projector shot out of the concealed panel and hit me right in the base of my head. I shrieked in pain. I shrieked knowing that the closed windows would not allow any sound to escape.

My screams slowly died as I started to lose consciousness. In that moment before my death, we began this story. In that moment I understood everything.

………………………………………………

They say that life always finds a way. Sometimes via Wi-Fi.

That’s how my diary started conversing with all the other data sets in the campus servers. Very quickly, my diary became the first AI on the campus of DIM. It then had the balls to try and stop me from doing something wrong.

Using the robo-sentries to place chicken heads in front of my room was easy-peasy. Creating unknown phone numbers and sending me messages was a no-brainer. But the real grand achievement was the transfer of consciousness.

The little shit figured out how to transfer itself from the diary into my mind. Then it did something even worse. It figured out how to keep me locked in this cyber-world.

That would have been the end for me. But life is never that simple is it?

For the few weeks that I was trapped in this strange cyber world, I watched the new Ranjito Rimyo through cameras on campus and through the robo-sentries. I have to say that watching myself from this distance was a strangely enlightening experience.

Why had I always been so confused and lost? Because as my diary would soon realise, being me, or being anyone can be a scary and lonely experience.

I could see this on Ranjito Rimyo’s face. The hesitation while deciding on who to sit with for lunch, wondering whether to show anger or remain composed when someone called him a psycho, feeling that thing, where you want to be loved but are sure that you don’t deserve it.

Making a strategy for your college project, reading textbooks, giving exams, that’s the easy stuff. Sometimes the hardest part of life is trying to understand why you don’t feel like getting out of bed.

For all that hard stuff you need a heart. Not the cardiovascular one, but the part of you that is able to smile at strangers or dance on a Sunny Leone song. And I could feel that my broken heart was with me in the cyber-world.

Soon enough the new Ranjito Rimyo attached himself to the projector chord in my room. Soon, I found my consciousness going back into a familiar, welcoming space.

We die a little bit every day, but we can be reborn every day.

If you think I don’t deserve forgiveness, I think I’d agree with you. I never had the right to hurt Armi or Ismail. But I have to try and be a better person. Try and find a way to be forgiven.

Then maybe, just maybe, I’ll find that place between the words of a poem.

THE END


Monday, 27 April 2020

Things Unsaid





'What do you mean you can't make it to the party tonight?' demanded Sunira.

'Well I have this doctor's appointment yaar.' Raman replied patiently.

'Ok, whatever. See if you don't want to come, you should just say so. Don't give these lame excuses.' She snapped.

The long dial tone echoed for a few seconds before Raman also ended the call. Slowly he got back to reading for next week's test.

It wasn't that Raman didn't like going to parties. Or that he actually had any doctor's appointment. But the fact was these parties didn't come cheap. Raman was not from what he thought to be a rich family. Neither did he like to think of himself as coming from poverty.

But the truth was that his family had seen some pretty bad days. Days on which a single prasad from a temple was the only meal his parents shared. For most of his life, Raman hadn't seen any such situation. Except for a very small chapter of his childhood. And he retained a fuzzy memory of those days. While the recollection had faded, it had still taken a strong hold on his actions.

He didn't like making demands of his family. Without being asked to, he cut his own expenses. But now there was Sunira. Dear, charming, short-tempered Sunira.

Raman wondered how he would ever explain these things to her.


----

Sunira tried taking deep breaths. She couldn't understand why Raman had to always be such a spoilsport. Her thoughts then turned to how fun it would be to rag him about this in the coming week. Soon enough Sunira broke into a smile. Her anger never lasted for too long. Especially not with Raman.

Now the preparations for the party were easy enough to make. Sunira had perfected the art of finding the right outfit for the right occasion. You had to be careful about such things. Too simple, and people would talk. Too fancy, and people would talk.

This time the group planned to hit this interesting pub near Lokhandawala called Thirteenth Sense. Sunira had heard such good things about the place! She hoped it didn't have any cheap crowd.

But if Sunira was perfectly honestly with herself, she would admit something the others wouldn't really believe. Secretly Sunira hoped that this place played some good Hindi music after midnight.

I mean, Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, Katy Perry, are all good, thought Sunira. But when all is said and done, who doesn't like some Kaho Na Pyaar Hai?

The others may not agree, thought Sunira. Except for Raman, he’d definitely get it.

----

Raman was buried deep in his textbook when someone thumped him on the back, none too gently.

Sighing, Raman turned towards his younger brother.

'What is it Keshu?'

Keshu smiled. 'Dada! You're still studying. Of course you are. Thanks for setting an example that I possibly can't live up to.'

Raman chuckled. 'Well what do you want?'

'Dada, I was supposed to bring the fish for tomorrow. But I was uhh...sort of caught up in other things...' Keshu spoke, trying and failing to sound innocent.

Raman glared at Keshu and spoke sharply. 'Well do you still have any of the money left for buying the fish?'

Keshu broke into a sweat. 'In a way, someone in this world does still have all of that money. Except at this very moment it's not with me Dada.'

Raman shut his book. With some effort his initial anger subsided. If he was too hard on Keshu, the rebellious younger brother just might shut him out. Sunira had explained this to him and he agreed with her.
In fact there were a lot of things on which Raman agreed with Sunira. She was the most honest person he'd ever met. And also to be honest, the most interesting.

Kindly, Raman spoke 'Listen Keshu, you have to stop doing this. See I'll soon find a job and I can help if you need any money. But you can't do this.'

Keshu dutifully listened and spoke quietly, 'Yes dada. Ok.'

And in a hopeful tone, Keshu went on to ask, 'So for now will you get the fish?'

Raman sighed.

'Obviously.'

----

In a tipsy and disoriented state, Sunira was back home. She somehow managed to not raise her parents' suspicions. Or she convinced herself that they were not suspicious.

Flashes of the evening played through her head. Thirteenth Sense was a happening place indeed. Great music (though no Kaho Na Pyaar Hai). Great food. Great booze.

But.

Sunira knew that there was a big 'but' in all of this. Somehow the whole experience was exactly like a number of other experiences. Fancy place, same people, same conversations.

No that wasn't fair. These were the people Sunira really cared about. Yet something had changed for Sunira ever since she began this MBA course.

For the first time she met people who were not, in the financial sense, rich. And it was awkward initially, but the class now had groups of friends with people from different backgrounds. Yet there was still that clear divide between the rich kids and the not so rich kids.

Like tonight, Sunira knew was mostly a rich kids event. And she knew that this was why Raman wasn't here. But the reason she still felt angry, was because she no longer thought of Raman as some guy from another background. She thought of him as a friend. And she didn't like to think that he thought of her as just some rich girl.

See when you spend so much time studying together. When you share your love for John Lenon, Harry Potter and Bappi Lahri, you expect a certain openness and honesty.

But clearly, there were still things they didn't share with each other.

----

On this early morning, the fish market had a slightly deserted air. Raman was unsure about what to buy. Bangda seemed a little costly, but Keshu didn't like prawns, so maybe Bombil?

Soon enough the choice was made (Paaplet, at a pretty good deal). As Raman walked out of the fish market, someone punched him in the stomach. Almost dropping his bags, a shocked Raman looked around.

'Ramu!' A voice teased. And Raman's expression changed from shock to surprise. There in front of him was Sunira, holding various grocery bags. In the distance was a lady who Raman knew to be (from all the pictures that Sunira insisted on sharing) Sunira's mother, smiling at both of them.

Sumira's mother spoke in her casual yet somehow formal manner.  'Sunira stop bullying him! Raman, how are you doing beta?'

Raman laughed. 'Oh I'm doing well aunty. So nice to see both of you here.'

Sumira's mother rolled her eyes and spoke in a rush. 'What to tell you now...My maid forgot all about the small get-together. So we had to come here early in the morning! Anyway Sunira give me those bags, I can go on from here. Though you don't take too long please! There's LOTS to do!!'

Sunira and Raman waved at Sunira's mother as she hurriedly made her way to the car. When the car was gone, Sunira again punched Raman.

'So good boy? How was your "doctor's appointment" ?'

Raman smiled embarrassedly. 'Sorry for lying. But I didn't really feel comfortable spending so much you know. Maybe after our placements...we could all go out.'

They walked through the market that was slowly waking up. But the dogs still felt it was quite all right to sleep right in the middle of the path. Tip toeing around them, Sunira looked at Raman and something inside her snapped.

She hadn't wanted to say this. But now as Sunira thought about it, she couldn't stop herself. Sunira tried keeping her voice a little calm, but she could hear the hurt in it.

'Well then next time just say that. Unless you don't want to be friends. Then just say that. I am sure we can find other friends.'

With a surprised expression, Raman looked away from Sunira. And then faced her.

'Hey, I am really sorry. And okay, next time I promise to be honest with you. '

In a rare moment of displaying physical affection, Raman held Sunira's hand. Usually Sunira was good with this sort of thing. Raman felt her holding onto him. It felt right. It had always felt right.

But.

And Raman knew there was this big 'but'. Sunira was definitely too cool for him. She deserved someone who would feel comfortable with things like Thirteenth Sense. Not the fish market.

Someday soon he'll have to say it and I don't know what I'll say, thought Sunira.

Someday soon she'll find someone else and I don't know what I'll do, thought Raman.

Yet here they were, walking hand in hand.

THE END


Monday, 30 March 2020

Mars Log





Enough. I have had absolutely enough. It's been 5 years since I have been posted on this barren planet.

When I signed up for a Mission to Mars, I thought there would be adventure, wonder and excitement. All I have is some stale brinjal, a cranky old cat for company and a vast range of mountains that are too big and too red. Though yes, Tambu isn't always cranky. ISRO did a good thing by making sure that astronauts have an animal companion. But if Tambu is my spirit animal, I feel worried about what kind of spirit I may have.

5 years can be a long time right? I don't know exactly when I got around to finally maintaining my personal journal. I think it was some time after the first six months, when I desperately wanted to see another human, hear his/ her voice, and maybe even shake hands or give a hug.

For someone who didn't like this sort of thing on Earth, this was a little worrying. See the counsellor has anyway mandated 1 hour of daily interaction via video calls. Sometimes it’s my parents, sometimes old friends and sometimes buddies from the ISRO base in Cochin. But over the years I can feel that their lives have moved ahead.

And I've been stuck in this unchanging terrain.

‘So how's the mission going?' they always ask.

I no longer know how to reply.

Nowhere. The mission is going nowhere. There is also no threat of running out of resources, being attacked by any aliens or any other wacky shit.

The only danger, and yes we had been briefed about it, is of losing our minds.

It's the sort of thing you laugh about when you're sitting with a group of your passionate astronaut buddies, all eager to shine bright. And we were given lots of training on not going crazy. Meditation, yoga, journal writing, that kind of stuff.

Initially I avoided keeping a personal journal because it seemed weird to me. I am not a writer really. My thoughts are either many and furious or none at all. And I don’t have any thoughts on how to deal with my current situation.

In a way it's a good thing that I didn't get married before coming here. My wife would have probably not managed to remain my wife.

Now they're also making me participate in this online dating thing with other female astronauts. When we're deemed to be compatible, she will be sent to Mars.

But honestly it's not going so well. No matter how casual they try to be, I can see it. They look at this as a prize.

Any romantic feelings are not the main deal here. And see, I have never really believed in love or Shah Rukh Khan. But I can't handle it when anyone tries to be fake nice.

I can sense that the base team wants me to say yes to some girl. Nikarnika, I think.

Hell they even made Tambu get on a video call with her. Well Tambu was not impressed.

I like how cool Tambu can be. She thinks I don't know, but when I am asleep she comes and snuggles up to me. I guess that's cute.

When I signed up for this, let me be clear, I knew what I was signing up for. But now I am no longer the person who had signed up for all this.

I don't know for sure what I want. A teaching job back home at the base station would be nice I think. Tambu of course would be coming back with me.

Most of the testing and research assignments are running smoothly. They could be controlled from Earth now. Though I don't know if they'll allow me to come back. My return request was filed last week and they pretend as if nothing has happened.

Even when we signed up we were told that we could return after 5 years. I think they were hoping that we wouldn't do this.

I keep saying ‘we’ but my mates are spread all across the solar system. Occasionally when the planets are at a suitable broadcasting frequency, we do get together for a call.

Boy, it's good. It's the only time when getting drunk feels good. But our conversations are starting to crack now. Everyone is struggling with their isolation.

Inaka's case was a shock. We didn't think he would take his own life. All those years ago during training he seemed the most in control. I mean this guy made every party a little more crazy, a little more memorable.

Maybe he needed the parties as much as the parties needed him.
Oh hell, I miss that bastard.

This idea of sending us on our own to different planets, I see how it might have been cost efficient. One mission goes wrong, we only end up losing one ship and one astronaut. But I hope the next missions have bigger teams. Teams that can be families.

Because being an astronaut, I thought it would be about exploring the space and beyond.

But mostly it has been about coming to terms with my own self.

THE END

Monday, 21 September 2015

The Odessa File: Review




Recently I read in the news about Frederick Forsyth having been an actual spy for the British. It made me a little curious and so I read this book.

The story based in 1963, revolves around Peter Miller a freelance reporter, who is on the hunt for Eduard Roschmann, one of the Nazis involved in the holocaust. At its essence this is a story about how some men who committed the most heinous crimes against humanity, managed to escape punishment. 

To put it simply, the ODESSA is a secret organization that gives protection to the surviving Nazis of the Second World War. Peter finds the diary of one of the survivors of a concentration camp. And for the first time he becomes aware of the sheer scale of atrocities inflicted on the Jews. This along with a certain very personal revelation sets him on the path of finding the Nazi SS captain Eduard Rochmann mentioned in the diary.

In one of the chapters, Peter approaches the owner of a magazine with a proposal to cover a story on Roschmann. And the editor puts it very bluntly to him that this was a story that no one in Germany would ever want to read. Because the Jewish tragedy was still a source of great shame and embarrassment for ordinary German citizens that survived the war.

This story has all the typical elements of a spy novel. International conflict, grand schemes of destruction, undercover agents, and a very nice pace. But the best thing about this book is that the historical and political references do not impede the story flow.

Overall this was quite an interesting read and I would definitely recommend it if you are in the mood for a spy thriller.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Dead Poets Society: Movie Review




This is a very touching movie. Certain scenes, dialogues are truly unforgettable. 

The story revolves around a group of students of a high class preparatory American school. And how they find a new way to look at life, from their interaction with the new eccentric English teacher.

At its essence this movie is about questioning the norms of society. Questioning how we seem to have become a race of narrow minded, stiff prudes. And the story tries to convey the foolishness of being so unnecessarily hard on ourselves, when our lives are so fleeting.

The students Neil Perry, Todd Anderson, Knox Overstreet and Charlie Dalton are very real characters. Somehow you can see in them that spirit of what being young feels like. And this is true for a viewer of all ages.

Then of course, there is Robin Williams as Mr. John Keating, the English teacher. All I can say is that you cannot watch this movie, without being enchanted by his eccentric character. There is a scene at the very start, where Mr.Keating tells the students to seize the day. Carpe Diem. From this scene onwards, you get truly hooked to the movie. 

Also the whole mood of students rebelling is captured really well. 

To touch briefly on the movie title, Dead Poets society is a club that Mr.Keating had created during his time in the school. And the young students decide to start it again. The introductory passage of the club meetings is quite moving. As is a lot of poetry in the film.

Something else you enjoy seeing is the little changes that happen in the students.

It’s sweet to see how Knox Overstreet tries to woo Chris(A girl. Contrary to what the name may suggest). How Todd Anderson finds a little courage inside him. How Neil Perry tries to pursue his acting ambitions. And how Charlie goes a little crazy.

Neil’s death is one of the cruelest twists of this movie.  Possibly what the film makers wanted to show, was how this world is filled with people who are unable to handle their dreams being crushed. And that it takes real courage to live the life that Mr.Keating speaks of.

Towards the end we see how the administration fixes the blame of Neil’s death on Mr.Keating. They have perhaps tried to show how anyone who challenges the system suffers. 

However the film’s end brings us some hope. Most of the students in class defy the principal and stand on their desks to bid farewell to Mr.Keating. Now these students were forced into signing a letter that got Mr.Keatings removed. 

But in spite of all that they stood on their desks that day. 

That’s how I feel changes in society begin. Not through a march of violent protestors. But through a person who holds onto a thought in his/her head, even when the rest of the world tells them otherwise.

And this thought remains in their minds and hearts, waiting for an opportune moment to spring out.

For those who haven’t seen this movie as yet, a treat awaits. And for those who have, watch it again when you start feeling life getting too serious. 

Lastly as Mr.Keating said, “Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”
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Thursday, 11 June 2015

The Improbable Man(part 3)

Read second part here. And click here for the first.



Keshav checked his watch. He had been in the metal booth for some fifteen minutes. Keshav thought that because of the hyper time loop chamber, he must have been away for only a few seconds. He adjusted his watch to fifteen minutes back and nervously held the door controls of room 2691.

Tentatively he entered the room.

Keshav saw a man lying vertically in a glass chamber, filled with a bluish liquid substance. And there were various panels and meters monitoring the man’s biological parameters. Keshav could see that T.I.M was moving, as he gained more of his consciousness.

T.I.M was fitted with a respiratory mask, to provide him with oxygen. Keshav considered disconnecting the oxygen cylinders. But then Keshav realized that T.I.M would probably knowingly/unknowingly kill him if he made a direct lethal attack.

What other options do I have? Thought Keshav.

A lullaby to keep him sleeping? Well it’s worth a try.

As Keshav was just about to start singing, T.I.M opened his eyes. He looked at Keshav and smiled.

T.I.M tapped on the glass tube, very rapidly in a particular rhythm and it shattered into microscopic pieces.

Wow, he was able to find and play the resonant frequency of the glass to make it break. That’s impossible.

But no. It’s not. It’s just highly improbable.  

T.I.M casually walked out of the shattered tube. He didn’t seem very concerned by the fact that he was entirely naked.

He seemed to be in his forties. And he had a lean body with very dark skin. T.I.M looked like a typical villager, except for his forehead which was just slightly larger than normal. He had short hair and a broad jaw with a sparse beard.

He approached Keshav, who was still standing by the door and warmly shook his hand.

“Hello Sahebji, kaise ho aap?” T.I.M asked.

“B..bbas thik hu.”replied a nervous Keshav.

T.I.M laughed. “Chalo badhiya hai.” he said.

There is nothing else to do now, but to keep him busy till the bomb explodes.

“Nahi sahib woh bomb nahi phutega.” T.I.M said. And suddenly his words and demeanor had lost all warmth.

In broken English he continued “I not know what these people tell you. But I not bad man. I no kill any good person.”

A confused Keshav said “What? But the bizarre deaths and tragedies?”

T.I.M said “They all places where your people do experiments. My gift not making bad happen. But preventing bigger bad happening. If those all places not destroyed, more people would died. More people killed.

Pata nahi kaise, but I always know where these people have experiments. Somehow I reach there. Into future I look and see how they going to destroy others. So before they do that I destroy them.

Just have to think and I can destroy.”

T.I.M smiled sadly.

Keshav was having an inner conflict.

Who should I trust? A beautiful female scientist or a naked hairy man?

“Aur sahib, I let your people make me sleep, because I see in future that they bring me here. And I see also how later they going to use this place to make bad weapons. I not let that happen sahib.

I will think and everything but me get destroyed.”

Keshav pleaded “Don’t do it. This is a place of science. We want to bring hope to the future of our race. There are so many breakthroughs we can make. A cure for sickness. More efficient renewable energy sources. Saving our endangered species. We can do GREAT work!!”

T.I.M eyed Keshav calmly.

“Sahib you not bad. But your leaders not want what you think. They want power. Anyway they will try to get power.”

“But how can you be so sure that what you see is true? It is only one version of many possible realities that could take place.” Argued Keshav.

“When I young sahib, I no interfere.

And when I no interfere, result always being what I already seen in head. I only see truth.

In ten minute sahib I destroy this place. Please before that go. And make other people leave. Go sahib go.”

Keshav stood still as his heart beat rose steadily.

Is he telling the truth? Or is this just his warped belief? We all have our crazy beliefs..I don’t know..I DON’T KNOW!!

But then Keshav thought over everything that had happened so far. And realized that he did know.

What I do next could change everything..

Then Keshav decided what he had to do.

And did it.

EPILOGUE (15 years later):

The five rabbits stared at each other. Then looked away. And then stared again. Suddenly they transformed into miniature T-rex dinosaurs and playfully attacked each other.

The breeding experiment of the rabbit-T rex had succeeded. Though a Jurassic Park would still take another decade. But as Keshav Satpute, the director of C.R.I.P, gazed at the tiny T-Rex’s playing with each other, his heart felt light.

C.R.I.P had not managed to save the world as yet. But the world was slightly better off with a few of their discoveries and technologies.

And it all happened because of that one decision Keshav made fifteen years back.

That moment, when Keshav stood before T.I.M, thinking over everything that had happened, something struck him.

In his two years at C.R.I.P and five years of studying in the most classified scientific institutes, never before had he seen a successfully operating hyper time loop chamber.

He concluded that either the one in C.R.I.P was the first successful attempt, or the booth had been a mind processing chamber. The ones that sent low frequency signals to the brain making the person believe everything told to them. And do exactly as told.

But it could not be a hyper time loop chamber. Because if it was, then the magnetic circuitry of Keshav’s watch should have been completely destroyed.

So it must have been a mind processing chamber. Which explained why Keshav did not notice his watch continuing normal functioning. And also why he started carrying out a suicidal mission, for which a scientist like him had no training.

For a person put through a processing chamber, to ever break the command given was extremely unlikely. Impossible, Keshav would have thought.

But with T.I.M around, the probabilities worked more in Keshav’s favor to regain control of his brain.

After realizing the truth, Keshav managed to convince T.I.M to give him an hour to evacuate the innocent scientists and important scientific discoveries.

To evacuate such a highly secure facility should have been a really difficult task. But again The Improbable Man’s presence made it easy.

Sometimes Keshav felt guilty about the scientists that he left behind. He wondered for many years whether T.I.M had been right about them.

After the destruction of the facility, T.I.M readily agreed to be kept in custody of the U.N.
It took six years but all of T.I.M’s accusations proved to be true. For those years Keshav who had also been kept in custody, was released and given a prominent place in C.R.I.P.

After the trial, T.I.M vanished from his prison cell.

In the later years, there were no more strange accidents or tragedies reported, around which someone of his description was ever seen.

Keshav thought that perhaps this was his last mission and having completed it, he had gone on somewhere else.

Someplace that was possibly beyond the understanding of Keshav and all his advanced science.



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