Down Memory Lane

A quote from the famous American theologist Tryon Edwards goes, “Every parting is a form of death.” And so, it is with all the sadness of a mourning that i stand here before you today. Considerable training was given to me for this moment, and a long speech written. But as I stand at this podium this fine evening, I realise that no amount of preparation could have braced me for this. This might as well be the final time I speak on this stage, in my capacity as a student of this glorious institution. And that breaks my heart. The realisation sets in as I speak, and my heart hasn’t felt this heavy in a long time. “Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes. I’m afraid it is time to say goodbye again”, Billy Joel once said. And so my friends, the time has come to say goodbye again. Take my hand, and join me on this walk down memory lane.

Respected dignitaries on the dais, teachers, well-wishers, and my dear friends, it is with the heaviest of hearts I stand before you today, on behalf of the outgoing batch of 2017. As strangers we walked in, as a family we walk out. The sixty six strong bunch of the best boys and girls I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. After so many years spent together, it seems too formal to call them ‘friends’. They have become my family. Sixty brothers and sisters. Siblings united, not just by our friendship, but also by the utmost respect and admiration we hold in our hearts for our Alma Mater. We take a certain pride in calling ourselves the children of Christ Nagar, and therefore, as fledglings leave their nest once they are all grown, so must we. It is time for us to take leave of Christ Nagar and walk away from the outstretched arms that once so lovingly welcomed us.

In 2003, a four-year old child walked into his first Kindergarten class, crying. Today, a seventeen-year old boy walks out, still crying. Christ Nagar has been my home for the past fourteen years. And after fourteen years, one would expect I would have load to say about this school. Strangely enough, I find myself speechless and choked up. No amount of words can convey the emotions flowing through our hearts. As the Italian poet Cesar Pavese wrote, “We do not remember the days, we remember moments.” And these moments have made us who we are. The events our batch conducted and took part in glow the brightest. Last year’s epic Chendamelam and this year’s War Of Words will surely be two of the most beautiful memories I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. But then, there are the other littler things. The trivial everyday stuff that happens within our classes. The silly fights, the countless moments of laughter, the singing in between periods, the basketball and football matches, the concerts, everything. We’ll remember stealing food during the breaks. We’ll remember copying down homework from our more studious friends. We’ll remember rushing to the Physics lab just to get our rough records corrected, and then being rejected because our graphs were wrong. These are, strangely but not surprisingly, the moments we will look back at and smile in sweet remembrance when we are all grey and old.

Everything feels like a dream now. A dream that I’m desperately holding onto, but a dream that I know I’ll inevitably have to let go off. We are intensely aware that our Alma Mater raised us and made us who we are today, and so to give back to her at least a fraction of what she gave us, should be our purpose and our privilege. The legacy we leave behind will our gift to our school. I wasn’t so sure I would be able to deliver this speech without tearing up, but I realise that Christ Nagar has taught us to be strong. And strong, I shall remain.

As a Latin quote goes, dwarves have seen far and wide, standing on the shoulders of giants. And so have we. Our strength and courage to take on life and step into adulthood confidently stems from the advice and ability of our teachers. They have taught us, not only lessons in various subjects, but also lessons in life – ethics, etiquette and poise. They have taught us how to be gentlemen and ladies. It is the duty of each and every one of us to upkeep the decorum of this prestigious institution, wherever we go in life.

And thus, my friends, the time for us to part has arrived. Thank you, Christ Nagar, for everything you have been to us. To my teachers, thank you for your maternal love and constant support. We shall strive to make you proud. To my juniors, let us serve as role models for you. Do not be afraid to approach us on whatever matter. You will all still be our younger siblings, wherever we end up. And finally, my batchmates. Do not worry about the future for you have been trained by the best to tackle whatever hurdle opposes you in your path. And so today, when you step out of these gates, do not weep, for, long after we’re gone, these halls will resonate with the sounds of our laughter and these walls will have a million stories to tell. Do not weep, for, these gates, they will always stay open for you. Remember to keep your chin up and your head held high. Be proud of where you come from. It is an honour to graduate from this magnificent institution. Brothers, sisters, it was an honour to know you all. After all, as a friend once put it, “All men are born equal, but some become Christ Nagarians.”

// Down Memory Lane is an annual
farewell speech, dedicated to the outgoing batch
. //

Advertisements

Beneath The Veil

His breath mists in the cold air. His heart beats fast and he realises he is gripped by something he hadn’t felt in a long time – fear. He looks around in the darkness. He couldn’t make out the tops of the tall black trees rising up around him. A dozen paths spread out before him. A maze, he realises. He had been in mazes before but this one was different. It had a sinister aura surrounding it. A vicious labyrinth, not to be trifled with.

Suddenly, a gentle hand grabs onto his. A warmness washes over him. Soft flesh grips his arm and pulls him along with a playful haste. His legs take a life of their own and follows her obediently. Dressed in a flowing white gown, complete with a veil across her face, the woman guides him down one narrow path between the dark trees, where the mist hangs low and dense. She leads him deeper into the labyrinth. He couldn’t see her face in the dark, and every time he got close, she would shy away. The teasing aroused him. It awakened him.

He enjoys this game, this charade in the dark. He enjoys the touch of her skin. He enjoys the simple but clear urgency with which she takes him along. The darkness surrounding them doesn’t bother him anymore. The fear within him melts away. He trusts his mystery lady and her judgment. He gives himself upto her.

The forest stretches for miles in all directions but she seems to know her way through. Thick roots snake across the ground like wooden veins, alive with the pulse of the forest. The woman leads him through, skilfully navigating the path. This was obviously not her first time. Something about her intrigues him. It wasn’t the way she moved, he’s seen women move with far greater grace. It wasn’t her dress, it seemed to be an ordinary wedding gown. It might be the air she carried. Or the mischievous smile he knew she wore on her face. Oh, how he wishes he could see her face just once.

The darkness spreads out. They arrive at a clearing. The mist still hung low but he could see a few feet ahead. Dark blades of grass prick his bare feet. His soles are wet from the dampness of the soil. Dew, maybe? The lady looks sideways at him. He still cannot make out the face beneath the veil but he can feel her gaze boring into him. She lets go of his hand and runs further into the clearing, and all of a sudden, the feeling of terror returns. A wave of nausea hits him as he stumbles forward, desperate to find her again. He opens his mouth to call out for help, but his voice fails him. The wet soil made it harder for him to walk, almost as if it was pulling him into the ground. The blades of grass seem to be cutting into his feet now.

A loud hum cuts through the air. It was a rumbling sound, varying in shrillness, as though the speaker was underwater. Almost as if in response to the command, the mist dissipates. A few feet away, in the dim light, he sees a huge dark figure looming over him.

The man stands still, his height dwarfing his surroundings. His figure is shrouded in black, a hood covering his head. His face is a swirling whirlpool of impenetrable darkness. Black mist hung to him, rolling off his body, dissipating and reforming, with each raspy heave of his chest. One of his hands was held close to his body, while the other held a long scythe of dark ebony, the black blade gleaming in the dim light. The dark gloom surrounding him seemed to attract everything towards him, a black hole swallowing matter as a whole.

Beside the Reaper, in striking contrast, the lady stands. Her gown flows long and white, falling around her feet. Her hands are clasped in front of her, but her veil still remains, covering her haunting beauty. He staggers over to her until he is face to face, with only the veil separating them. He can feel her cold breath against his skin. He longs to lift the veil and behold
his bride. The dampness in the soil seemed to engulf his feet now.

“Do you take her?”, a deep raspy voice emanates from the darkness beneath the Reaper’s shroud.

“I do.”

The Reaper’s head tilts to one side, almost
as if bemused.

“You may kiss the bride.”

The woman reaches up to lift her veil. The soil seemed too wet now. A consistency too dense. He looks down, and notices the texture for the first time as the mist gives way. His feet were stained a crimson red. It seemed to be rushing up through the soil, the blood flooding the clearing. His eyes widen as he looks up to his new bride for the warmness he had found in her before.

His heart stops, and a scream slips out. His eyes clamp shut but the image was already burnt into his mind. Beneath the veil, the lady had no face. No nose, no mouth, no eyes, no eyebrows. She had no face. Only porcelain white skin stretched taut in its place. His bride was faceless.

The Reaper’s crackling laugher fills his ears. He feels rivulets from the pool of blood snake up his body, drowning him, owning him. She put her hands on his face again, but this time, it numbed him.

The last thing he’d know would be the cold steel of the blade, cutting into his neck.

Let’s Get Back To It

Garbage. Utter fucking garbage. A complete disgrace to the comic book movie franchise. How far up my own ass must I stick my head in order to disappear completely, because else I shall have to slink away in shame.

Yes, I endorsed Joketo. Yes, I showered him in glory. Yes, I may have even thrown praises at him. I fought against the current and took a stand on firm rock. A rock that over-acted every scene like a wannabe theatre artist on smack. A rock that chose to went so crazy with his method acting that he shoved all our compliments back down our throats.

The Clown Prince of Crime was basically reduced to just that! A clown! And it wasn’t even funny (unless you’re on of those people with courlophobia, then it really wasn’t funny).

The trailer was luxuriously splattered with scenes of the Joker; oh, how I wish the movie were so. And what is up with the romance between Harley Quinn and Joker? Yes, I understand that they’re portrayed as a couple, but if the writers had had the basic decency to read the comics before indulging in that appealing money-squeezing circus sideshow of a movie, they’d know the Joker was an abusive partner, who has not only assaulted her, but also, in numerous occasions, left her for dead.

Apologies, I digress. I started writing this piece of opinionated rubbish, not just as a vent to my feelings about the movie, but also in an attempt to get myself writing again by ridding myself of the huge writer’s block I’ve been harbouring for months. Now, it is my intention to continue these random presumptuous tirades and melodramatic short stories and pseudophilosophical rants once more. At the risk of sounding clichĂ©, and in complete knowledge of its overuse in contemporary cinema, I say, “I’m back!”

To that one lovely soul reading this, whether you stumbled upon this blog perchance or whether you were actually stupid enough to follow me, thank you. Thank you for having read what garbage I have written and thank you for patronage. I appreciate it immensely.

Soon to be back with more, yours truly.

Aftershocks

[On the 25th of April, 2015, at 11:52 am, Nepal was struck by a 7.8 moment magnitude earthquake, which destroyed cities and towns, razed historical heritage sites, killed more than 8000 people and injured twice that. This is a tribute to the victims and the wounded.]
My entire world has turned grey. Dust swirls all around as I stand in the midst of destruction. Faces of agony and despair surround me. Faces of pain and sadness. Of grief and disbelief. It seems only moments ago, when our whole lives came crashing down on us. The earthquake took everything from us. If not our own lives, then our families’. Our friends’. Everyone had been affected. The world was not the same for us anymore. Never more.

**Earlier that day**

It was a great day today. I usually have mediocre to bad days, but today was good. Today was special. She had smiled at me today. And that made all the difference.

I usually sit on the back row of the classroom. I wasn’t the typical “backbencher” student who messed around without showing much interest in studies. I was just an introvert. The bell signalling the end of the lunch break had just rung and all the other students were just entering the class again after their respective escapades to the canteen or the playground. As I did everyday, I kept my eyes discreetly focused on the doorway. Through my months of practice, I had become extremely skilled at this task. She came in a few minutes after the bell, sashaying her way to the front row where she sat with her group of giggly annoying friends. I knew she liked me, even if it was in the most minutest of amounts. Most days, she would not even look to where I sat. But some days…some days, she would just steal a glance my way. Today, however, today of all days, when she looked at me, she stared for a moment, and then ever so slowly, her lips curled into a smile, not one of mock, but of something else. Affection, maybe?

It was Math period now. I liked math, I was good at it. I never had much of a problem dealing with numbers. Our math teacher came in shortly and announced a surprise test. A long moan left the lips of the students but they had no other choice. The papers were distributed and the answering time had begun. The questions were not too difficult. There were some tricky ones, but nothing I couldn’t solve. As a result, I could finish the paper quickly. Feeling pretty satisfied with myself, I handed it in, and sat back down on my seat, content with my answers. I capped my pen and put it back on my desk. That was when I felt it.

It was just a tremor at first. A slight vibration, not much different from what you would feel if you moved your chair back forcefully. Most of the students did not notice it, and those that did dismissed it as some inexplicable oddity. Even I would’ve missed it, had I not seen my pen move slightly from its former position. But then I noticed something else. A low rumbling from far away, not moments after the tremor. A deep vibration within the ground, bringing with it a sense of foreboding, of doom. Then it hit. The big one. It was sudden, like a car crash. The tables rattled and fell sideways. Pens flew around the room. The lamps on the ceiling shook violently. The students were screaming and rushing out the door. It was absolute chaos.

I looked around to see if I could spot her, but all the commotion made it practically impossible. I joined the flow of students and teachers running down the steps. My mind was still preoccupied with finding her, so much so that I found myself drifting to the back of the crowd. By the time we got to the lowest level, most of the throng had already exited. A few others and I had just run out of the main doorway, when we felt the next quake, almost as powerful as the previous. The old building could not take the force. We heard a loud crack, and then the building caved in on itself.

We watched as our school collapsed, along with its side-buildings. We stood there, in overwhelming shock and disbelief, not one soul speaking. Slowly, emotions spilled. Wails of despair were heard all around. Not everyone had got out. Desperately, I searched the group of survivors for her face. I found her standing to the back, crying for one of her friends. I made my way to her. I wanted to hold her, comfort her. I could see that tears had stained her beautiful face, as she lifted her eyes to meet mine. Without saying a word, she fell into my arms, her warm tears wetting my shirt. We were both scared. Terrified. As we stood there, in the middle of the wreckage, realization set in. So many had died here. How many more back in the city? How many of our families? How many of our friends? How many more? How many more?

I close my eyes, trying to wake up from this nightmare. Silent tears roll out, despite my best efforts. I know when I open my eyes, reality would hit me like a brick wall. I would have to venture out into the broken world, search for survivors, family, friends. But right now, I weep. I weep for my brothers. I weep for my sisters. I weep for Nepal and Nepal weeps for us.

Concert

Sweat beads dot the bodies of everyone present. The loud sounds of rock, mixed with the shrill screams of ecstasy from the hyped crowd, overwhelm us. Standing on the lowest tier, along with my friends, I sing along with the band, with my hands raised up and my eyes closed. I can feel the music through the ground, vibrating with every beat. I can sense, with my shut eyes, the foglights changing their brightness and colour along with the flow of music. Slowly, the song ends, the vibrations cease, and my eyes open. The stage is dark. My heart is pounding out of my chest. I look around in the dim light, heaving, my head hurting from all the headbanging. My co-rockers, all of them doubled over, catching their breath, are waiting. A few minutes later, the lights brighten up. The band on stage begins playing one of their classic songs. All my mates start jumping, screaming, howling. One even walks around in a daze,shaking his head from side to side, as if possessed by some musical entity. Tripping. I glance at everyone around me. Some of them jump up and down, some bang their heads to the beat, some (in the back) sit quietly, simply enjoying the music and the strange antics of the fans. But everyone has a smile on their face. Everyone is enjoying this night. I grin at my friends, they grin back. I turn back to face the stage. My throat is painfully sore now, my voice audibly broken. But, watching the excitement around me, I soon forget the pain. As the song nears its chorus, I put my hands up, my mouth opens and my face contorts as I produce a loud scream, which joins those of the others to roll out across the whole stage, drowning out music and shrieks alike. Life is good.

Mom

Every organism in the world, irrelevant of the species it belongs to, or the realm of environment it inhabits, or even the stage of Darwinian evolution it currently is in, has an underlying instinct to protect its young. Now, the duration of this care varies from creature to creature, but the intensity remains more or less the same. This obligation of an animal to take care of its off-springs is seen most powerfully as the maternal instinct. The mother is naturally very protective of her children. In primitive beings, this maternal protective quality can expand to include severe aggression, when it involves the distress of her children. While my mother is a paragon of this unconditional love and care (as are their moms for every other person on this planet), this aegis feature can be particularly seen, with undying strength, in canines.

Yes. Dogs. Man’s best friend has apparently learnt from us the divine gift, that is children, and how to protect and care for them. Or have we learnt from them? Doesn’t matter. I say this, because I’ve recently been observing a small family of stray dogs that live in and around my neighbourhood and the adjacent compounds. One mother dog, taking care of its two pups. You can almost relate it to the impecunious scenario of a single mother, struggling to raise her bickering children in an hardened neighbourhood, where homelessness and poverty are looked down upon rather than helped to overcome. What follows is a imaginative piece on how a day in her life must be like.

******

For her, every night is a light slumber. She never sleeps deeply. She can’t afford to. Her pups were too precious to her. She feels them moving by her side, rested and content. They always get up earlier than she does. She grunts a permission for them to go ahead and play. Slowly, she too gets up, her knees unsteady beneath the weight of her emaciated body. The perils of old age. It was still dark, but she knew that daylight would come soon. And with that, the people living within the tall walls, behind the cold metal gates. The cruel ones who hurt her, shunned her, spit on her and scared her. She had learnt from experience never to be in stone’s throw of a human. It was a life-lesson she wanted to pass onto her children before long. She could see them playing with each other, rolling on the ground, frolicking without a care in the world. She stood there for a minute, watching sadly, and then strengthened herself for the burdens of the day ahead. She would get through it, but only for her children.

Some days, they would have no food. Some days, they would starve. Some days, the food would be too meagre for all three, so she would let them eat it, because they were what was most important to her. But today, they were in luck. Someone had thrown left-overs onto the side of the road, and this was a feast to them. When they had their fill, they would begin their roams. They usually stuck to familiar territory. By noon, they would begin a drudging reconnaissance of the whole neighbourhood, searching for water or food. Usually they could find water at the bottom of the gutter, just a few lap-ups of it, but they had to make do. Then she would spend most her afternoons resting by the side of the road, while her pups roamed about the compound. They knew never to go too far without her accompanying them.

By evening, she would get up again, rustling her dirty pockmarked fur. The nights got cold, so they would have to find a place warm enough before nightfall. Their usual spot was the neglected car-shed a few yards away, but today the cruel people in the adjacent building threw stones and shooed them away. They would have to find another place now. It was late into the night when they finally bedded down beneath a parked car. It was dangerous, but it was the only way to avoid freezing to death. The kids, still oblivious to the pain their mother lived through everyday, playfully roll about underneath the car. She lays down, and gives a low grunt, summoning them to stop play and settle down. They run to their mother, tongues lolling, and nudges closer to the warmth of her body, each one vying for her attention. She lifts her head to sniff them (an acknowledgement), gives them a lick of her tongue (a goodnight kiss), and the pups gradually stop their restless motion to calm down. She lies back down, her eyes glistening. She knows tomorrow would be another day of difficulties, filled with new obstacles and hurdles. But right now, she forgets all that, as she closes her eyes, and, listening to her babies’ slow breaths, gently drifts off to sleep.

Of Love and Loveliness 

The Internet is a depressing place. And that is to say the least. The secular world most of us belong to believe not in a biblical armageddon, but in a modern apocalypse, brought forth by our own humans deeds. Movies and popular culture are testament to this fact. Most science fiction stories depicts this as a hostile takeover by the sentient beings we create, robots, with advanced artificial intelligence. They all have the same underlying premise. A world so dependent, so addicted, to artificial help that we forget not just ourselves, but our traditions, our culture and our background. But analyse yourselves right now. Take in the world around you. Look around. Is it beautiful anymore? No. It’s a horrid place. Desolate. Sad.

Isn’t this apocalypse under way already? Sans the hostility, of course. Aren’t humans already at the mercy of machines? Has humanity been so consumed by greed and self-imagery, that we have forgot what it means to be really human? Pleasure used to be derived through love, entertainment, and arts. What does pleasure and fun mean today? A few thousand pixels in a luminescent screen? Books were read far and wide then. Fate would have them turn into no more than toilet paper. People have become so self-absorbed, cocooned in insecurity, contorting to the whims of sycophants.

I pity the world around me. I know people who get anxious if they’re away from their smartphones for 2 minutes. I know people who mock me for not owning a phone. I know people who ridicule me for reading books. I even know a friend who asked me why I even bothered reading books in the 21st century; the importance of books are soon to be null. I sometimes wonder whether he was wise for saying so, or just extremely stupid. I am looked down upon by a group of philistines. I keep a stoical expression through it all.

To them, I’m a loser. I’m a loser because I don’t have a smartphone. Because I don’t have accounts in all the up and coming websites dishing out flattery in small packages. Because I don’t care about my place in the midst of attention-whores. My friends and I used to have genuinely fun times when we hung out, but lately, I’ve been noticing the only thing they’re interested in are their phones. A typical example of a snack outside with friends would be sitting at a table with all of them rapidly tapping their touchscreen, communicating with “girlfriends” they’ve never met, and my awkwardly watching this play out.

Does love have the same meaning today? Is it love if its online? Is it possible to feel the same amount of affection towards a person just by staring at their profile picture and exchanging a few lines of dialogue with them? I’m not an expert on romantics, but I say no. “Love”. How strange. Its pathetic how 12-year old girls can claim they’ve found true love with a guy they hardly know. Disgusting.

Am I the only one who feels this way? Am I wrong in believing that humanity is on a path bound to self-destruction? Am I wrong in believing the world is beyond redemption?  I contemplate these immoral thoughts as I log myself back into Facebook, smiling at the “friends” I hate, and pitying those I don’t, while the blue and white interactive interface gradually eats away at my self-respect, slowly but surely, till I too become a shell of my former self.