Thursday, March 09, 2006

THE AGEING WARRIOR 4

“Imagine the infinite…close your eyes”, said the Warrior
“It’s impossible…I’ll need forever to imagine the infinite”, replied the Little Girl.
“Yes because wherever you stop, it will set a limit.”
“Hmm…”
“Allah-u-Akbar!”
“Hmm…”
“Do you know that it’s the most simple yet most profound statement.”
“No I didn’t. Doesn’t it mean ‘God is Great’?”
“No…exactly it means that ‘God is big’.”
“Ok!”
“So one day, a Ghazi asked the Prophet: how big?”
“What did the Prophet say?”
“The Prophet gestured towards the hills of Meena and said: He’s bigger than that. The Ghazi asked: what about the Sahara?
- He’s bigger than that. Can you imagine Aa-be-azeem, the sea?
- Yes I can.
- He’s bigger than that too.
- Is he bigger than the Noor-e-shab, the night sky that is full of so many stars and the moon?
- Yes, He is bigger than that too.
- This night sky, which is so big…if Allah is bigger than that then how will I who is so insignificant ever be fortunate enough to see Him?
- Allah is not deedaa-e-chashn; He cannot be seen with the mortal eye. He is deedaa-e-dil and deedar-e-jigar; it is an affair of the empty heart.
- How will I see him? Does He know about us?
- Kam-nazr! When your heart’s eye will open you will see him. When your small eyes can see the whole hill of Meena…this whole huge hill…then the sight of the heart can go farther. It can see Allah. And rest assured, he knows about us. This is why I tread softly upon this sand of the desert. When the eye sees something a relationship is established between the person and the object. Each one of us sees differently, each set of eyes makes a different relationship. Your relation with the sea is different from mine. Thus when the heart is empty and receptive it sees Him. We don’t have to worry our heads about Him. He will care for us. That is why I say that He is big. We are the ones who look up to Him.
- Huh?
- Look here. This desert that we ride our camels on; there is a relationship between my feet and this one grain of sand on the ground. Don’t I know that this grain of sand exists?
- Yes…you do.
- In the same way He knows about us.”
“Aha!” The Little Girl exclaimed at the dawning realization of what the Warrior just told her.
“Devi, now can you imagine the infinite?”
“Tell me more”
“Devi, let me tell you a story that is exactly the opposite. The Buddha was once asked by a member of his congregation the Sangh: I have heard that the Vedic scholars say ‘Satvam tat brihat’, that which is true is also big, if one were to make a rough and crude translation.”
“What did the Buddha say to that?”
“The Budha said: Look at the world around you. It’s so vast, but it is possible to close your eyes in just one fraction of a moment and it is no more. Yet the eye can still see the after-images. So imagine a closed mind…imagine how much it can see. Then imagine what a closed heart can see.”
“Wow!”
“I mean if you look at it in terms of today’s new fangled ideas…it is said that sunlight takes eight minutes to reach the earth. That means we see the Sun after eight minutes are past. And the Sun sees us eight minutes earlier. Never are Surya and Manushya interfaced in real time. The good Hindus of the ancient past have a term for it…they call it YugPath. When Treta, Kali, Dwapar and Sat Yug…all four…merge.”
The hairs on the ageing Warrior’s stood on end…his skin was alive. The Little Girl was amazed…every time he spoke of the Truth he came alive. The Warrior continued, “to translate YugPath as simultaneous is also not possible, because simultaneous takes too long to say and mean in real time.”

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Ageing Warrior 3

He was an ageing warrior; his body was betraying him everyday. Every time when he pitted his strength against younger partners at sports he was re-introduced to the frailties of age. The need to employ his wits and his cunning grew increasingly as he found himself often out of breath. Soon slyness would leave him too. It was only a matter of time. He knew it. Why, only last night he meekly followed as the Little Girl led his feverish body to bed. And despite all desire to treat his illness callously, he found himself unable to hold his fort. He gave in to her home remedies: soaked his feet in hot water, popped a pill, had a couple of drinks (this was a ritual he couldn’t give up) ate dinner and went to bed early.

In the morning, he felt well enough to classify it as semi-strong. Most of it had to do with the Little Girl; all through the night she clasped his back and drove his fever away.
“I had a dream last night.”
“Strange, so did I”
“In my dream, someone woke me up…I think he looked like the Teacher…and told me that you have a fever. Did you have a fever last night?”
“Yes! I did.”
“Anyway, he told me that I had to grab you…that it was the only way your fever would go away.”
“If you didn’t hold me the way you did, I would have woken up…that would have meant less sleep for me…and I would have woken up un-rested, feeling really shitty for the rest of today.”

There was work to do. Fresh kill to be made in the garb of a business deal, if the taxonomy was right. Most of it was still in the realm of wheeling…no dealing as yet, but there is always hope. The carnivore cannot afford to close both its eyes at the same time, not especially if it hunted alone. Unlike lions that have the rest of the pack to bank upon, the tiger has to prey on its own. Being human, even though he wished he were a tiger, a huge Siberian, the Warrior had little more than keep both his eyes open. In the fickle world of commercial machinations he had to keep his ear to the ground, keep one eye on the future and one eye guarding his back, ensure that the left hand did not know what the right hand was doing and above all keep two or three, if not more, steps ahead of his rivals. In absolute physical terms such contortions seem impossible but he manages because he’s has long practice at it. After a while, even Ashtanga Yoga seems naturally easy to the practitioner. Though the onlookers may be very confused.

“How will you untangle yourself?” asked the incredulous Englishman at the airport many years ago. If his accent wasn’t a dead giveaway, then his attire would have served the selfsame purpose: the white slacks with the button down cream shirt and the hat. His fat, sagging wife, had to be his wife, no self-respecting man would be seen with a mistress that hideous, in a flowery holiday smock that unsuccessfully covered her lardy, lumpy middle aged body yawned. She was perhaps tired of her husband’s inquisitiveness, she was perhaps tired of the heat in Abu Dhabi, she was perhaps tired of her weight…she was perhaps tired of everything.

“I am not tangled at all”, said the Warrior. He was sitting in the Lotus Position, making a perfect pyramid out of his lithe starving body. Was there any other way for a civilized Hindu to sit while waiting at the airport? The Englishman took a step back when he saw the handcuffs as the Warrior stood up. The Warrior was waiting to be deported. Something was the matter with the plane…he was in a brown, standard issue, Indian Embassy blanket and underwear. The Englishman had perhaps imagined his clothing to resemble that of a Fakir…a Hindu sage.

“I think that is an announcement for my flight”; the Englishman beat a hasty retreat dragging his wife along, distaste writ large on his face. He was aghast that he spoke with perhaps a common criminal. It was the 1980’s, but if it were a world today, he could have bragged at his local pub, “I think he was a terrorist.”

The Warrior once again assumed the Lotus Position. Was there any other way for a civilized Hindu warrior to sit while waiting at Abu Dhabi airport to be deported? At least there was water to drink. This was perhaps the worst time to be locked up in prison in a Muslim country. He had followed the Nautch Girl to this place. She had danced her way into his fancy. And then, ever so cruelly, like all beautiful women do, she withdrew letting him know that the affairs of her heart were complicated and that it had room for more than one man.

He didn’t want her all to himself; no, he followed her to see who the other men were, what was their kind, and what was the extent of her involvement with them? In an up-market arrangement in the city, the Nautch Girl was to peddle her talents in front of numerous teetotaler money throwing Sheikhs and hooting South Indian immigrants. The Warrior, yet again after many long years, found himself in a place where women were objects. Yes, he had gone whoring once, but that was eons ago. But he had always been respectful, even if he had paid for it. Here a man tried to grab the Nautch Girl, “Did she look annoyed? Yes she doesn’t want this kind of cheap attention. I must do something.”

The Warrior stopped at the buffet table, nibbled on some salad and quietly concealed a butter knife into his sleeve. Sheesh! A butter knife, but that was the only piece of cutlery that had the delicate balance of a weapon. The others were either top or bottom heavy. Sheesh! A butter knife! Well, international flight regulations did not allow a man to carry a Muella Scorpion, and he didn’t think he’d need one here, so he didn’t go shopping. It was the Sheikh’s paradise; everything was on sale in its well-designed malls.

He waited till the fellow had to go to the men’s room. The Warrior followed the Fool who had lunged at the Nautch Girl. The Fool took out his penis, aimed at the lavatory and began humming the song that the Nautch Girl was dancing to just a few minutes ago. The Warrior waited till the Fool was in midstream, when he launched himself with the ferocity of a hungry polar bear and cunning of a man who has fought many battles and lived to tell the tale.

“Bloody kafir! He has stabbed seven times with a butter knife. I never knew that they could do such damage. Son of a pig!” The policeman was angry…it was the holy month of Ramadan. He was at Iftar, breaking his fast with his brethren. As if it weren’t enough that nautch girls were performing in the city; here was a man with murderous intent. To commit a crime was unthinkable during the month of prayers. It was a gruesome sight. A man lying in an expanding pool of blood and urine, gasping for air, calling out to God in a rasping voice, with his pants around his ankles. The hotel security had already detained the Warrior. They were alerted by another guest who had thought that now would be a good time to pee.

It was Thursday night. The Warrior was to be jailed until the Indian Embassy could be contacted and until they agreed to take custody. His clothes, his wallet, his watch, his shoes were taken away and he was given a robe. He was allowed to keep his cigarettes. Friday was Jumma when the faithful had to gather to pray; even more so in the holy month of Ramadan. No work was done in Abu Dhabi. The Warrior remained imprisoned…and without food. Saturday and Sunday being the weekend also saw him in the same predicament. Plus this was the holy month of Ramadan. At first on Friday morning, he smoked a couple of cigarettes. Then he realized his situation in the context of time and location. It was then that he decided to chew the tobacco inside the cigarettes instead.

Ultimately on Monday morning the Indian Embassy took his possession. And here he was, Monday evening at the airport waiting to be deported.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Saturday, March 04, 2006

THE AGEING WARRIOR 2

He was born a long time ago; he doesn’t belong in today’s world of cellular phones, Internet technology, I-pods and satellite TV. Sure, he uses all of these provisions, but only so far as they serve his purpose. Their utility for him is bare minimum. The phone was never meant for anything else but to talk to people, what is this thing called text-ing? Anyway he was a Warrior, he had no extended use for these pansy instruments…give his a Walther and it did feel like he was holding something.

“Devi, I’m not looking for a sleeker model of a mobile-phone”, he told the Little Girl.
“But, the new Samsung is only 33 grams, wouldn’t you be more comfortable with that?”
“When I was in the liquor business, I always carried two guns on me. On a good day, there’d even be the need of carrying a sharp long blade knife. You still think a cell-phone that weighs more than 33 grams would bother me.”
“Hmm… if you put it that way, it does sound na├»ve.”
“It’s just a phone…new technology means nothing. Even if everything goddamn facility is combined, say an instrument to make calls, write emails, cook, vacuum, wash…heck even flush the toilet people would still gather more things with newer technology, the so called cool stuff. In the end there’s always clutter.”
“Ok, so you don’t want another phone. I get it.”

He smiled indulgently at the Little Girl. She was so young, so fresh, so imaginative, still so optimistic. Her wry sense of humor helped too. When he played Solitaire on the laptop, the only thing he knew how to on a computer, she’d sit by him, the warmth of her thigh against his bony leg and come up with something like, “Nail biting finish…” and chew her nails with a mock look of tense culmination in her eyes as if Senna (god bless his soul) was about to win the Italian Grand Prix. Hilarious stuff…and boy did she tickle…she did. You could even tickle her palm. Often he would hold her in a pincer grip, he learnt it the hard way. If he didn’t hold her tight enough she’d slip to the floor, laughing and shrieking. So he’d pin her down and tickle her ever so affectionately just to hear her laughing while attempting to dislodge herself from his arms. Her face would flush red and she’d be panting. After a while in a voice desperately seeking some relief she’d say, “My heart just sank.” She’d really mean it, he could never understand, could a heart really sink?
“Where is your heart now?”
“It has reached my spine.”

Amazing, he thought as he looked at her. She was all that he wasn’t. She breathed a fresh surge of life into him. He was an ageing Warrior. Not that there were many battles to fight anymore than there were adversaries. He remembered his first, when he was perhaps six years old. He was sent to a boarding school. All around him were older boys… boys with nefarious designs. He was puny, even today he isn’t a big, broad, tall, burly man. Size was never how he won his battles. His strengths lie elsewhere; they have been honed in the war that he waged for thirty odd years. The first skirmish, ah…there he was, a puny boy finding his way through in the big bad world without the caring shadow of his mother’s watchful eyes. He was bullied, bullied brutally, a brutality that only young children reserve for younger children. He found that he had neither courage nor the strength to reverse the injustice. He suffered. He suffered for two long months. Then one day, as fate would have it, the Bully and the victim were both summoned to the Head Master’s office for unruly conduct. The Bully was punching him about some candy that was sent by his mother. As punishment they were to stand in the sun for the rest of the day. In the oppressive midday heat of an Indian summer, he saw the Bully, the cause of his nightmares faint. It was then when he realized that in spite of the size, the Bully was made of the same stuff he was made of. A germ of an idea began forming in his mind. It would crystallize the next day, but he had no idea. That night he didn’t wake up in a sweat. It was the most restful sleep he had had since he came to this school. Next morning it was back to the same routine, the Bully cut him in the line, took his lunch, tripped him and even landed an unfair punch during games. When it was time for bed, after the study hour that followed dinner, the Bully leered at his small frame and made a joke about how great a bitch he would make within a year.

The idea crystallized.

“You will have to sleep sometime. Your eyes will close. Then I’ll break your skull open with this.” He didn’t sleep a wink for the next week. Every night he stood by the Bully’s bed with a hockey stick and repeating the same words. This was his first battle!