Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Just a story

Ordinarily, in Creative Writing class, it takes me much time to put pen to paper and write something. So much time sometimes, that I leave with a blank sheet :(. This is a story I wrote at home for an assignment. The object was facial description. I thought up two different expressions and emotions on the same man's face, and then connected them with a story... The good thing is it took only an hour or so.

Asai Nagamasa cupped his plams and splashed his face with the cool water. His breathing was fast and he studied the image in the looking glass, taking in short gulps of air. His moist breath clouded the reflection which stared back at him, the water dripping off his high cheekbones and his moustache, which drooped low. The eyebrows were strained into thin lines, his forehead knotted like a tree’s roots. The front part of his head was shaved, a scar running a short length from left to right the only reminder of the hundred thousand battles he had fought during his life. He had undone his oiled topknot and his graying hair was spread unkemptly upon his long neck. His lips, pink and full, spread slightly apart and quivering, showed his tightly clenched teeth, coloured alternately black and blue, the mark of a master samurai in assault. Hot steam escaped his mouth every time he exhaled, depositing drops of moisture on his philtrum. Yet, the rest of features were overshadowed by his otherwise unremarkable narrow eyes. He opened them as wide as he could and looked at the mirror with fury and hatred, and they glared back at him. Fiery and reddened, they seemed to boil the water on his smooth skin and heat the air around him. His muscular chest rose and fell, stretching the fabric of his kaleidoscopic kimono, like the high tide on the Shirahama beach lashing and pounding the sand. For an instant, he remembered his dear wife Yuri and his unborn daughter, and his face twitched from the agony. It was only for a moment, and before his eyes could become moist, he filled himself again with rage and resolve, reminding himself of the great Matsuo Basho’s haiku:
Summer grasses,
All that remains
Of soldiers’ dreams

“Bushido. One must follow the way of life.” He called out aloud to himself. “Let not emotion weaken the temper, for a warrior’s greatest strength is not the weapon he holds in his hand, but the spirit in his mind.”

Asai Nagamasa washed himself with soap and ash, taking the usual time to complete the ritual. He lighted the incense sticks in front of the temple to his ancestors, put on his sandals and drank cold tea. Once again, the pangs of memory struck at him and once again he steeled himself. Trying to keep occupied, he read his favourite Kabuki script and made his bed. With a soft puff, he blew out the candle. He was soon fast asleep.

* * * * *

“Don’t go out today, please,” begged Yuri. Her oval face was the Sun glowing even in the dark morning, her eyes were little slits, her voice soft yet wispy. Her lower lip, red like a rose blossom, held pouted, she pleaded - “The dogs bark and the clouds are black, the omens foretell misery.”

Asai responded matter-of-factly - “This will be the last time. I have routed enough of Hojo Ujikuni forces, that today’s last blow will shatter him. I must leave, and leave I shall.”

“May you be safe. I’ll have warm sandals and hot tea waiting when you shall come back.” Yuri came up behind him and helped him adorn his kimono and chain mail. Her swollen belly brushed against his back, and his face lit up and he smiled - “What shall we call our daughter, Yuri-san?”

Yuri blushed - her cheeks turning beetroot, rivaling the blood red of her full lips. “If you win today, we will call her Shouri, Victory.”

Asai fetched his katana, the longsword and his wakizashi, the dagger and wore them. Humbly, he bowed before his ancestors’ place and planting a kiss on Yuri’s forehead, left for the road.

* * * * *

With a cold sweat, Asai woke up and sat on his bed. He took a towel and wiped his forehead. A tidal wave of emotion swept him over. His memories haunted him again. He had led his men to battle, and they had routed the last surviving enemy force. But, Hojo Ujikuni had escaped with a small band of whatever was left of his men. The coward! No one knew where. He left him for another day, and thought sweet thoughts. He would go back to Yuri and Shouri tonight. He would buy toys and sweets and decorate the room for his firstborn daughter.

Instead, he came home to despair and suffering. Yuri had been slayed by Hojo’s men. Shouri had been swallowed by the darkness of death before seeing even her first light.

“Avenge them. But forget not the Bushido. Go and calmly slay your enemy.” said a voice in his head.

* * * * *

Asai Nagamasa cupped his plams and splashed his face with the cool water. His breathing was controlled and relaxed. His beard was trimmed. His hair was oiled well and folded first front and then back and tied into a tight top-knot. The water drops danced on his face till they reached his elegant moustache, then dropped from the ends. His forehead was clean like a washed slate today, the eyebrows were steady. His tenacious expression still had a hue of pain, but he put on his eboshi, the ritual armored helmet, till only his fiery red eyes showed.

The warrior proferred the lighted incense sticks to his ancestors. He put on his kimono and his armor. In his belt, he fixed in a knife. In one hand, he grabbed the sharpest katana, in the other his dagger. As Asai Nagasama marched out of his house, the wind itself seemed to grow shriller and the Sun less bright in the face of this valiant warrior. Elsewhere, Hojo Ujikuni’s aides gaped dumbfounded, discussing about their escape plan from the region, when they saw dark raincloud beginning to form suddenly out of a perfectly clear sky.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

You win some, you lose A LOT

hi all

Congratulate me. Pat me on the back. Shake my hand. Crack a joke or two. Feign a laugh as I fake mine. Swear to be my friend forever. Lick my feet for a co-ordship. I'm now the co-curricular affairs secretary of IIT Madras, the first ever "northie" to do it. To win an insti-based election for Shaastra. But at what cost? Why, oh why, did I ever stand for this post? What was I ever thinking?

There are "friends" all around, congratulating me, saying I was worth it. Saying that my opponent deserved to lose. So many of them were openly supportive of me before the elections. Yet, what was the margin? 23 out of 3033 votes!!! Is that all I'm worth?

Barefaced liars. Bastards with no souls. I don't care how many of them even went through my manifesto, went through my credentials. I believe there were only 23 who really did. Those who made the difference. The others? Whores who sold their support for a co-ordship. Prostituted themselves to get a hold on the Saarang bandwagon. Motherf*ers who just saw the names "Uthpala Raghavendra Rao" and "Aditya Pandey" and figured out the longer one made the grade.

They predicted a hands-down victory. They foresaw a 500+ margin. They pledged they knew better than to vote on vague "fundaes". They promised they'd act sensibly and without prejudice. They cheered and applauded at the soapbox. They met me afterward and said I was great. They asserted that they knew me as a person, not as a candidate. Some of them were later surprised to know I'd won.

I always thought that people in general were sensible. The mass was sensible. The majority saw the manifestos and the credentials, and voted with objectivity. It's all wrong! And I thought that this was a pinnacle of an engineering institution, where logic and reason prevailed over regionalism and casteism. Oh, how naive I was! And yet, one expects politics to be clean. The truth is we have the keenest brains here. And that spiderman saying is all hogwash: There's just great power, there's no concept of responsibilty. With great power, comes a large cache of false friends, of sycophants of the highest orders, of two-faced people so full of themselves they'd do anything to be the next me.

And my best friends. I did it for them. To serve what I thought was some sort of "poetic justice". To see to it that their dreams left unfulfilled were finished with my beginning. They turn around now. Look the other way. They say it was a waste of time. It wasn't meant to be.

I am a fluke. I got into this place by accident. I was involved in Shaastra by mere chance. And here I am, a general of a force of enthusiasm, left hanging by the sheerest of margins. My opponent calls up and says "No hard feelings!". I reciprocate. At least he acted sensibly. No one else I know did.

The day is over. A new dawn begins. I must put all this behind me, they say, and work out a new and better beginning. But I am lonesome. I am afraid. I am looking the future in the face and it's staring right back at me. The past meanwhile is chuckling, at my naiveity and inexperience. At my failure to judge. At my over-confidence. At my inability to come to terms with what I thought was right, but in effect was a pile of smelly crap.

So here I am again. I have power. I have responsibility. They expect me to judge truthfully, but discount objectivity for "friendship". Some of them are as afraid as I am. Thinking I will seek "revenge". Contemplating my moves to suck out their blood. Yet claiming to be the truest friends I will ever know.

They congratulate me. They pat me on the back. They shake my hand. They crack a joke or two. The feign a laugh as I fake mine. They swear to be my friends forever. They lick my feet for a co-ordship. I'm now the co-curricular affairs secretary of IIT Madras, the first ever "northie" to do it. To win an insti-based election for Shaastra. But they don't care about what it cost me, emotionally.

Why, oh why, did I ever stand for this post? What was I ever thinking?