Thursday, September 29, 2016

BE(LOVED)

“Stephen Dayashankar is a visual artist who has been taking photographs for over fifteen years. He became interested in photography at the age of sixteen upon seeing the works of Robert Capa and has since devoted his life to creating expressive images.” The announcer’s voice barely registered in his mind. “Why do you want to kill me? We were friends yesterday.” A little boy engulfed in terror. A masked face brimming with anger! He closed his eyes. It made no difference!   

The anchor’s words resonated across the audience. “In Stephen’s own words, the language of photography is potent and expanding by the day. Photographs hold infinite power to influence, reform, incite, heal, provoke and cure. The pictures that hold the most power are quite often the ones that are the most devastating.” A sword smeared in warm blood flashed through his mind opening up a wound in his heart.

“Stephen has dedicated his life to mirror people’s lives, echo their sufferings and transmit those emotions to the world. We pruned several hundreds of photographs before selecting his masterpiece for the “Photograph of the Year” award. This picture was not powerful because it was on the front page of newspapers. It is powerful because it is in the minds of the people of this country. Its influence was birthed by the audience and the movement that it spurred.” The voices in his head were getting stronger. “You should not be here Sir. You should leave right now if you want to live.”

“His dramatic capture etched the entire horror of Deogarh into our memory. The small boy running for his life being chased by another young lad clad in saffron will haunt us forever. A blood dripping sword in his hand, his assailant’s masked face conveyed an emotion unlike any other. The small boy’s visage and fate half captured as he runs past a brick wall with the sword inches away from his neck.” The anchor’s chronicle of his photograph sent a shiver down his spine. He could hear a distant wail. A helpless yelp of looming death amidst loud cries of anguish, clanking of swords and disturbing smell of rotten flesh and frozen blood! He closed his ears. It grew louder!

“So without further ado, we present to you the man who inspired us all to rise above communal hatred and work religiously towards bringing down the iron curtain of religion with his poignant photograph: Mr.Stephen Dayashankar.” A headless torso twitched violently trying one last time to hang on to life. Acid smoke engulfed his lungs. A tear droplet made its way out.

 “Sir, could you please come forward to receive your award?” The sea of people in front of him metamorphosed into an ocean of corpses and skeletons. One of them slowly limped towards him with one arm extended.“Mr.Stephen… Are you all right?” 

He walked out of the auditorium with tears running down his cheeks profusely.


---------------------------------#**********#-------------------------------------

Ravikant Pandey sat at his desk sipping his tea lazily and glanced through a case file rather reluctantly. He thought a few inmates would trickle in but did not expect a visitor.
“You don’t seem from around here. I don’t think you have come to the wrong address either. What do you want?”

“My name is Stephen Dayashankar. I am a photojournalist. I believe you were the Inspector in charge when the riots of Deogarh happened.”

The mention of the riots brought a stark change in Ravikant’s expression. “Your face seemed familiar. Now I know why. What do you want now?”

Stephen ignored the generous sarcasm in the Inspector’s voice. “I want to know what happened to a few people who were entangled in the riots.”

“The ones in your photograph?” Ravikant’s voice was stern.

“Yes. Have you seen it?” Stephen offered a copy. The inspector showed it away. 

“Everyone in this country has probably seen your photograph. It is not worth seeing again.”

Stephen was prepared for insults. “Do you know what happened to these kids?”

Ravikant continued perusing his file. “Probably dead!”

The lack of emotion in Ravikant’s voice annoyed Stephen. “Probably? Are you not sure?”

“More than 200 people died that day. I didn’t keep track.”

Stephen was clearly flustered. “Please don’t be so irresponsible and insensitive to human life.”

Ravikant was nonchalant. “If you see as many deaths as I do, you will be worse.”

Stephen was writhing in anger. “I will probably do something to prevent those deaths. Back to my question: Are both of them dead?”

“I can’t say for sure. Several bodies were mangled so badly that they were completely unrecognizable. But as far as I could tell, Ilyas, the boy who was being chased was most likely killed. There was no way he could have escaped. As for the boy who tried and probably killed him, Neeraj, there is a chance he could have fled the town, though I would give it a very low chance.”

Stephen was not impressed. “Can you give me their addresses?”

Ravikant gave him a sharp glare. “You have done enough already. Can you leave them alone?”

Stephen had had enough. “Look here Inspector. If you want to play hard ball, be my guest. I can make one phone call and you will get one the very next minute from your superiors and then you will be forced to give me the address yourself. I don’t want to that yet. And trust me, I am not here officially. I am here for my own sake. Any conversation I will have with their families will stay and die with me.”

Ravikant grudgingly wrote the addresses on a piece of paper and handed it to Stephen who walked out of the police station in a hurry.

---------------------------------#**********#-------------------------------------

Mustafa was a middle aged man in his late forties. He was tall and well built, walked with a slight limp and had a long half white beard. He seemed quite surprised to see a visitor at his door. He ushered Stephen in. No words were spoken for several minutes. Stephen finally decided to break the silence. “I am here to talk about your son.”

Mustafa remained stoic. “What is left to talk?”

Stephen spoke with a heavy heart. “I had seen his eyes just before they disappeared behind that brick wall. He was pale and terrified. Fear and horror had engulfed him. But I also saw a small glimmer of hope in his eyes. I couldn’t understand that. How can one feel hope in such despair? How can one think about life when death is inches away? Those eyes have haunted me for the past six months. I haven’t been able to sleep. He must have been a special boy.”

Mustafa smiled for the first time. “Extremely! I have not seen a happier child in my life. He was happy with everything. He lived life with abandon. He had a small world. He painted it with smiles. May be God wasn’t happy without him and wanted him back to spread joy in heaven. In a way, I am glad I didn’t see his corpse. I have never seen him without a smile on his face and at least it will stay that way. I can spend the rest of my life with the image of his beaming face emblazoned in my heart.”

Stephen dreaded his next question. “Why are you still here?”

Mustafa had made his peace already. “This is my home. This is my world. I have lived here all my life. These are my people. The people I have known for years. I have spent my life’s best days here, shared happiness and sorrow alike with my friends. What happened that day was unlike this place. It was possessed by some evil spirit. Darkness had consumed us that day. The people who killed were not from here. They came from some wicked place, unleashed terror and slipped into the night, leaving us broken and battered. But they still could not divide us. No one will ever. I will die here knowing that there will be more than four people ready to shoulder me to my grave.”

Stephen decided not to rekindle any more painful memories. “Thank you for talking to me. I can’t offer you any solace but you will be in my prayers every day. I need to talk to some more people. Can you tell me where this address is?”

What Mustafa said sent a shiver down Stephen’s spine. “Oh… they are our neighbors. Wonderful people! Ghanshyam and I have been best friends for the last 20 years. Ilyas and Neeraj were inseparable. But life has played a deadly game with them too. They lost Neeraj that day and have never been the same ever again.”




                                                                                                 TO BE CONCLUDED (NEXT WEEK)…. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

MY SECOND SECOND LOVE LETTER

A few months ago, I wrote you my first letter. And dare I warn you: The first of many. It still seems like you came into our world yesterday. But very soon you would have spent a full year lighting up our lives with bliss and excitement. Time just flies by at break neck speed and before we know it you would grow from a tiny little prankster into a cute little monster. You have given us a lot of firsts and very soon they will turn into lasts and there will be a new set of firsts and so on. In this crazy maze of time I don’t want to lose track of all those beautiful firsts (and lasts) that you give us every other day.

The firsts will be precious, the lasts will be agonizing, but several years from now, they all will be precious little bits and pieces that we will have of you to savor. I don’t want to lose those to time. Your mom and I would love to treasure every single moment of your existence but it is not humanly possible. But we will try our level best to lock up as much of you as possible in our brain cells and pen scribbles. 

Putting you to sleep on my shoulders is a bliss that I have grown too used to in the last year. It is something that I look forward to every single day. The way you wrap your arms around my neck, bury your head in my shoulders while your gentle breath tickles my neck thaws my heart. I know you are getting bigger and stronger by the day and soon there will be a time when I can no longer put you to sleep in my arms. I still don’t know how I am going to handle that. We will deal with it when we get there. But for now, I am not letting you out of my arms.

I have grown into such a big fan of your toothless smile that it almost feels weird when I see those little teeth trying to make their way out. I know your smile is going to look as gorgeous as ever, but still it feels like I am going to miss something so precious. It has been a while since I have felt time move in my life. But now you have given me a new meaning for time and its mystique.

Very soon you will take your very first step. Literally! Without our support. With your very own tiny little feet. We will try to hold you, clasp you so that you don’t fall. You will signal us to stop. You will say you have got it. And then off you will go. Exploring our little house two baby steps at a time. And soon enough, before we realize, our legs won’t be fast enough to keep up with you as you set out to explore bigger things. 

Whenever I think of you, the first thought that runs through my mind is that how cool it would be if time stops right now. At this very second! Why do I think that way? Why? I don’t have the answer to that question. Well, then, I don’t have answers to many more questions. Why is it that I cry sometimes when I sing you a lullaby? Why is it that I don’t want to let you off my shoulders long after you are sound asleep? Why is it that I find it idyllic to sit next to you and watch you sleep? Why is it that I find it hard to decide whether to smile or cry when you wake up from your sleep and give me your cutest smile? Why is it that I don’t want you to grow out of that cute little dress? Why is that I find it difficult to replace your toothless smile with your twin bunny tooth giggle even though it is equally gorgeous? Why is it that I don’t want to wipe off the guacamole mustache that you have expertly designed after you have tired your mom off trying to feed you?

Why is it that I want to keep smelling you? Where does that divine scent come from? And how is it that it has already changed 4 times? Why is it that I want to gently bite your silky soft ears every time I see them? Why is it that whenever we go to buy you a dress, we come back with three? Why is it that when I am in office I can’t resist the urge to pick up my phone every half an hour to see a picture of yours? Why is that I melt like a chocolate every time you look at me endearingly with these big eyes and a beaming smile as you jump up and down in excitement? Why is it that I feel I have infinite energy inside me when I am jumping and singing and dancing with you? Why is it that I feel I am a child all over again? So many questions. So many emotions. So many memories. I don’t know but I don’t want to lose any of it. I know I will but I am sure you will replace those with more amazing and exhilarating antics of yours.

I guess I can go on and I sure will. I will keep pouring my heart out into these letters. These will serve as my version of the Hogwarts’ pensieve (remember Albus Dumbeldore’s memory machine) to immortalize and crystallize some of the many beautiful and precious memories of your childhood. I guess you will read them when you read them. And probably you will laugh at some of the silliness in those letters like any adult would. But I hope somewhere in the back of your mind, the child in you would vaguely remember your miniature version of the great times we had and giggle gleefully (the toothless version). And then when you look at your old man, you will realize how much he has loved you!



Sunday, September 11, 2016

ALIEN-ATED

A couple of aliens wanted to explore the outer space and somehow landed on Earth. Since we have so much to offer, the aliens had a tough time deciding which place on earth they should visit first. Check out what they decided!



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