Soldier of Fortune

I have often told you stories
About the way
I lived the life of a drifter
Waiting for the day
When I’d take your hand
And sing you songs
Then maybe you would say
Come lay with me love me
And I would surely stay

The cliff seemed just too big. It could house a 40 storey building, may be 45. There was no way he was going up and doing this. He was standing there peacefully, why would he give his heart a faint chance of an attack by going up there and jumping. He was sure this is not happening and he is going back. He turned around and started walking away. The image of the scene just would not go from his mind. So what if it is just water at the bottom. So what if everyone says that he will be fine. No chance. He started running. But the cliff continued to attract. His speed increased, the image became even clearer. He stopped. Turned around. Saw the cliff once again. Alright. A blank mind. The fastest sprint of his life. Twenty minutes and he was there, at the top of it.

But I feel I’m growing older
And the songs that I have sung
Echo in the distance
Like the sound
Of a windmill goin’ ’round
I guess I’ll always be
A soldier of fortune

The world had never looked more encouraging. Large mountains in front, greeting him with respect. The river flowing below, saluting him in honour. The blue sky above, smiling at his charm. The strong breeze gave him a strong hug. He looked at the river again. The fear was beginning to rise again. But he was not giving it another life. Eyes closed. One. Two. Three. Jump.

Many times I’ve been a traveller
I looked for something new
In days of old
When nights were cold
I wandered without you
But those days I thougt my eyes
Had seen you standing near
Though blindness is confusing
It shows that you’re not here

He opened his eyes. It felt like magic. His body was freely falling down. For a few seconds that felt like a lifetime, he felt like air. Flowing freely without any weight attached. For a moment he spread his arms and swayed like a bird. The mountains around seemed a canvas where he was the brush. For those moments, he had no past, no future, he was the present. He felt nature. He screamed like never before. Not out of fear this time. But of ecstasy. He touched the river, went down for a few seconds, came up, went down again. He was just going with the flow. He shrieked again. There were tears in his eyes. Something was patting him on his back. He had found the courage to go up but not to see backwards. The force increased. He felt pain on the left side of his chest. The scream was of pain this time. He just gave it away. It wasn’t clear, but he could see, before it became dark. Seemed like a dolphin. Seemed like a friend he had never found.

Now I feel I’m growing older
And the songs that I have sung
Echo in the distance
Like the sound
Of a windmill goin’ ’round
I guess I’ll always be
A soldier of fortune
I can hear the sound
Of a windmill goin’ ’round
I guess I’ll always be
A soldier of fortune

Dreaming Desire

Manzil woh hai jo tum sochte nahi,
Manzil woh hai jo tum dekh sakte nahi,
Manzil woh hai jo laati hai chehre pe muskurahat,
Manzil woh hai jo tum chal sakte nahi.

Baadalon ke aage badoge toh aasmaan fir paaoge,
Zameen ko kuchh aur khodoge toh ik nadi fir paaoge,
Panchhi ko do sahara, woh manzil pehchanta hai,
Apne sapne ko do mukaam, woh tumhe shayad jaanta hai.

Tum jo aage badhe aaj, kuchh aur apni manzil ko jaanenge,
Tum jo jee liye apni hasrat, kuchh aur tumhe sarhayenge,
Zindagi ko do ek mauka, woh shayad kuchh jaanti hai,
Jeeti hai roz tumhaare jaison ko, kuchh aashiqon ko toh woh pehchaanti hai.

Aimless Endless

An ant smells a distant Krackjack biscuit. Seeing is believing. It runs as per recommendations of its nasal sensors and confirms the biscuit’s presence. It sprints back to its colony and is out of breath while making a public announcement of their next project. It is given its business development bonus. A fresh MBA with specialization in biscuit assignments is assigned as the project manager. A detailed project plan is made with timelines, responsibilities, milestones and remunerations. Teams are formed. A first batch of fifty ants is sent with one team leader to bring back the first part of their target. They march past in a straight line following their leader. Digging up the biscuit starts at full swing. Nobody gets to taste it while the project is on. The complete colony always tastes a catch in unison in the end with grandeur and last week’s collected champagne. The team lead assesses the progress in a couple of hours and e-mails back the updated gantt chart to the project manager. A reinforcement team is sent to be on track with the initial timelines. Performance based incentives of extra biscuit bites are announced to further speed up the work. As the first batch leaves back for the colony, the next one starts its work. The first batch deposits its collection and starts filling the project feedback forms. Their performance assessment starts. They could hear a radio nearby.

‘There is a bomb threat in Vasant Kunj. People are advised to be out of their homes.’

A group of humans rushes out. The second batch of ants gets squashed. The team leader survives with serious injuries. Emergency meeting is announced. Project team gathers. One minute mourning for the accidental deaths. Project plan gets revised. Third team becomes larger with aggressive performance targets. It begins its march with black bands on their arms behind a more experienced team lead. The digging resumes.

‘The bomb scare was a hoax. People are advised to get back to their homes.

Raju and His Madventures III – Love Eggtually

Oye Raju pyaar na kariyo, darriyo, dil toot jaayega..

Raju fell in love. For the first time.
She was there in the market. He had come to fetch some eggs. He took a dozen from the trusted Mohan Lal Kiryana Store, recounted them, turned around while recounting again, bumped into her.
The eggs fell down. Both of them were down, picking up the lucky unbroken ones from the ocean of transparent and yellow liquids. He tried looking at her, but she was looking at him already, he blushed and quickly went back on picking up his potential omelettes.
‘I am sorry’, she sounded like a princess.
‘Its a pleasure..I I I mean, its Ok’
They got up. ‘This is for you’, Raju squeaked. One future half fry gifted.
‘Thanks’. She smiled and turned away. Raju stood there, looking at her, remembering her, her voice, that lucky egg in her purse now.
‘Turn around, Turn around, Turn around.. Now!’.
She did take a 130 degree turn. That wonderful smile again. Raju blushed. Her smile got bigger, a small paper got dropped. She ran towards a waiting auto rickshaw and disappeared.
‘She forgot her paper’, he thought to himself.
He went ahead and picked it up. It had a phone number and a name, Rani. ‘This must be one of her friend’s number’, his thoughts had taken a new plane altogether. But the smell of the paper was mesmerizing. ‘It is either Rexona or Hamam’, he blushed again. It smelled of freshness, it smelled of those beautiful eggs, it smelled of her.

He went home polished the two remaining eggs with rosewater, kissed them and then set out to make two half fries of them. He could imagine her doing the same with that token of love he had given her. The scene flashed back in his mind several dozen times. His smile size increased with each repeat telecast. The half fry could no longer be called that. It had turned black from the bottom and brown from above. Raju finally smelled the burn, but did not frown or panic. Just so smoothly and effortlessly closed the knob. He kissed his favorite fork and knife and savored each bit of those monumental memories. Delicious.
He could not sleep. He was restless. He was smiling. He was frowning. Oh, he was definitely in love.

Sardi, khaansi na malaria huaaaaaa, yeh gaya yaaron isko Love, Love, Love, Loveria huaa..

After days of pain and ponder, he decided to call up on that number, her friend, Rani.

‘Is that Rani?’
‘Yes, who is this?’
‘Actually, Rani you don’t know me but I know a friend of yours.’
‘Sorry?’
‘Do you have a friend who recently cooked an egg?’
‘What kind of crap is this?’
‘I mean one egg. I think it must be a half fry but it can be boiled as well, depends on your friend’s taste actually.’
‘Listen mister, whoever you are. Stop dialing random numbers and trying your luck with girls. And for heaven’s sake, think of something more interesting than eggs. Will you?’
Bang!

There were two pearl like tears in Raju’s eyes. His heart was broken. He felt like an egg that comes out of the refrigerator with excitement but falls down on the floor into pieces by someone’s buttery hands. The result – a high potential rounded personality becomes useless, smelly and gets treated like garbage. He put his head down on the dining table and cried endlessly.

Tring Tring. Tring Tring.

‘Hello.’
‘Hell..sob sob..llo’
‘This is Rani, is that the egg person?’
‘I am sorry Rani..sob sob..I did not mean that. I am not that kind of person.’
‘Actually I am sorry, I mistook you for the everyday stalkers that keep troubling.’
‘You don’t need to be sorry Rani. I can understand. You can keep the phone down now and I won’t disturb you again.’
‘I wanted to tell you that I made an omellete of it.’
‘Of the phone you mean?’
‘Of that one egg stupid.’
‘Really? But why did she gave the egg to you?’
‘Who, she? I am Rani, you gifted that egg to me.’

Blush. Blush. Blush.
Raju was speechless.

Bahaaron fool barsaao, mera mehboob aaya hai..

‘Hello…Hello. You there? Hello.’
‘Yeah..actually, actually..I thought..’, Raju managed to squeak again.
‘Firstly, can I know your name please?’
Blush. Smile. Blush.
‘Raju’
‘Raju, I had dropped that number for you that day.’
‘Oh Rani, you are so sweet.’
‘Raju, you are even sweeter.
When you did not call up for a couple of days, I even thought of looking for you in the market again. But your present did not let me do that.’
‘You mean that egg?’
‘Yes’
‘But how?’
‘I got loose motions because of it.’

Smiles. Blushes. ‘Really Rani?’ ‘Yes, Raju’ ‘That naughty Mohan Lal! Don’t worry, we will have the chicken out it’ ‘I love you Raju’ ‘I love you Rani’

Raja ko rani se pyaar ho gaya
Pehli nazar mein pehla pyaar ho gaya
Dil jigar dono ghaayal hue
Teere nazar dil ke paar ho gaya

An Unequal Music

She liked being silent. When her friends from school would scream and yell in the small movie theatre down the road, she would gaze at them, sometimes out of curiosity and at others, out of indifference. When her Maa would doze off in the afternoons, she would sneak out for a stroll. This three kilometer walk would take her forty minutes to complete. She had never counted but it seemed that much time only. The setting of this walk was fascinating. On one hand was the galaxy of homes superimposed on a series of mountains. On the other, was first a lake and then some more mountains. In the first half of the walk, the lake side meant purity and the homes’ side meant chaos. The homes used to lit up on her way back like a net of fireflies. The lake used to vanish in darkness and the homes now meant tranquility. This transformation used to shake her initially but she had got used to the two faces of everything. She would embrace that twilight phase sitting on the stairs of the mandir at the end of the road, with her feet gently swaying in the lake. This meant that when she had to begin her journey back, she would turn around, face the plethora of lights on the non-lake side, look back at the lake again, enjoy the reflection of what she had just seen and start back.

Reema was just ten years old. Maturity had knocked her doors slightly early. She was the fifth girl to her biological parents, who used to travel 480 kilometers, every time, to pray for a son. Reema, just like her sisters, was clearly not the answer to their prayers. One half lit night, she was left off at the mandir’s stairs. If it wasn’t for this Krishna devotee, Maa, Reema might have died there itself – walkless, nameless. Everything started afresh. Just that Maa was deaf.
They would interact by drawing things. When other girls would cry their hearts out for a sweet, Reema would fill the whole board drawing her wish. She would go to school, come back and paint for her mother, the lessons from the day. She would also draw her evening walk to Maa every night. Their whole house had become a whiteboard. It was a new graffiti everyday. At times it would reflect joy, at times sorrow. But it would always be full of colours, thoughts and conversations.

On the advice of a school teacher, Reema enrolled for a local music class. She realized she was good at singing. She would start singing and everyone else practicing in the class would start humming along with her. When she would practice at home, birds that she had never seen in valley would bunch around on the window and stare at her. Music brought peace to her soul and to the ones around. But it also meant less conversations with Maa and more confrontations. She could never write to her how she sang that day. The magic she used to experience in music was inexplainable through any piece of writing or drawing. For her, it was a new found meaning of life, for her mother it was their biggest enemy.

That evening, Reema, as usual, came back from her evening walk, cleared her room’s floor sat for the evening practice, closed her eyes and started singing. The birds were nowhere to be seen. There was a loud streak of lightening and it started raining heavily. There was a storm. But she was in a different world. The noise became louder. It was becoming difficult for her to hear her own voice. She increased her own volume. Maa had come in the room to check if her room was properly closed. Reema with her closed eyes and did not notice her. She sat alongside a wall and started seeing Reema sing. The thunder increased, so did Reema’s loudness. She was in a spell. Nature and she were in a fierce battle. There was big lightening this time and Reema shrieked in retaliation.

Silence.
She opened her mouth but could not hear herself. Neither the thunder. She opened her eyes and saw a clear sky with pouring eyes of her mother.

Deja Vu

It was quite a better evening than he was used to this summer. The weather was pleasing, she had sent a bunch of his favorite white roses, the watchmen had saluted him in the morning, they had repainted his cabin to a fresh yellow and the last meeting of the day got cancelled. He drove out of the parking, received by a hoard of black clouds. The most painful signal of his drive was green and welcomed him to a smooth pass. There was something with the world today, he could sense it, a conspiracy.

He put on the car stereo and called her up. She would be on the local train at this point of hour. This was their way of spending some additional quality time together – listening to music together while traveling separately. Starting with Eagles, moving to Bob Dylan, then to Guns n Roses, then Floyd, then to Mohit Chauhan, the playlist was one of the very few they would enjoy. The choice of playlist would tell her what kind of mood he was in. He could always imagine her reaction to the choice and the expression that would have come out when the first song started. It was like having a wonderful conversation everyday without seeing each other, without even talking; only that there were just a handful of such conversations to choose from, just as many as the playlists. But today he played Deep Purple.

She texted. ‘Is everything ok?? Reply only when the signal is red.’

‘I love you!’

‘Even I love you sweetheart! But tell me, is everything alright?’

‘How much time it would take you to reach?’

Beatles.

’15 mins. Why don’t you tell me what has happened?’

‘See you at the bench near the coffee wala.’

Black Sabbath and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan did the honours before he took the ticket from the parking boy. As he started walking towards Central Park, it started pouring heavily. People rushed out of the park from all possible exits. As if the stage had been vacated for the big performance to begin. He continued to walk till he reached the bench. Even the coffee wala was nowhere to be seen. His vibrant blue shirt amongst the shining green grass towered by dark clouds sprinkling shining droplets – an amazing romance of colours. He spread his arms wide and looked straight up in the skies. There was a strong thunder, acknowledging his arrival. He closed his eyes, his eyelids also getting a chance to bath themselves in those moments of magic. He was drenched and using those wet eyelids as a big screen, he started remembering the beautiful snapshots of his life. There was a smile on his face that said it all. He put his earphones back. The call had not ended and he knew that.

‘You there Anjali?’

‘Turn around Vikram’

That beautiful face in a bright yellow suit. She completed the jigsaw so gracefully. His arms closed around her. They stood there for a minute and a half – smiling radiantly – until she made his arms spread out once again. She played Robert Miles on her phone and moved behind him, her arms over his arms, her palms over his palms. They could sense the unity of their souls – that were dancing to the same music, the same rhythm. Their eyes were closed and remained so until the song ended. There was a sudden end to the rain, as if it had completed her part. The clouds drifted apart, there was sunshine and a dazzling rainbow. She removed their earphones, came in front of him and sat on one knee.

‘Would you marry me Vikram?’

He smiled. ‘Again?’

Decoding life in fifteen minutes.

It was a long tiring day. I slept through most of it, but then emotions can tire you more than any form of physical exercise can. I made a drink, a real strong one, after a long long time. It was nice and effective. I felt like cooking something. I have always liked it; today was different. It was a feeling that you get when you pursue a hobby long forgotten: stamp collecting, maintaining scrap books, coins collecting, playing stapu, thinking uch neech ka paapda, seeing birds ( i wonder where the delhi sparrows have gone, i haven’t seen them for a decade now, and i used to see them everyday ) , spinning tops, etc, etc etc.
I was in the kitchen, and it felt like meeting an old friend. You talk apprehensively to start with, you try to check his or her facial emotions just to get a feel of where its going, dole out a random joke ( which has never made you laugh, but it has certainly made others laugh), see where he or she is looking, listen to what he or she is saying, laugh on a joke you normally would not have, and then immerse in the conversation. It was amazing. The whole experience was very uncordial to start with, but then I got used to it, and then I was rolling the dice. The result : A hot nice smelling chicken biryani. There is nothing more you can ask of an old forgotten friend.

Friends are nice but then only ten minutes were to go, and if no action were to be taken, the moment would have been lost. Some would say, c’mon, you could ve done it the next day, but then, it would have been tomorrow and not today.

We ran..until we found a rickshaw…what timing god!

It ran..until we were there..the shop.

We all started again: the rickshaw, me, the bottle, him, smiles.

We reached.

“How much?” “Twenty.”

“Are you sure?” “Saahab its night time”

Silence.

“Ok, ask for any amount and you will get it”

Silence.

“I am serious, ask for any amount, and believe me for a second..You will get it”

Silence.

“I am serious. Just ask.”

“100?”

The note came out and moved to who wanted it.

He could have asked for a thousand, and he could have still remained at twenty. He could have earned two times more, and he could have earned a heart.

He chose tomorrow, and he could have chosen life.