Thursday, July 19, 2007

Gift of Life

Well, this could be really interesting. Last night, we walked with three childhood friends, a photographer, a writer and a journalist.

The last time the three had met they were in school finals. The journalist used to sit in the front bench, pretending to be studious. The writer, in his very own imaginary world, right behind, will be watching the world through that green window. The photographer, in the third row, was the innocent fellow, who liked to be himself.

Years have passed. None of them ever thought they would travel this far in life. How far is difficult to say. For, we are not talking about the distance between the city and their hometowns nestled in one of the fertile valleys in the tamil country. It was truly a countryside. A hundred kilometre stretch of green carpet, gurgling small streams criss-crossing the fields, a string of small town gods along the narrow reddish roadsides, a radiant sky littered with purified clouds.

Nature, in its pristine beauty and godly glory. The abode of simple souls. They too were simpletons in childhood. The world was very limited then. Like anywhere, they were taught to dream of becoming a doctor, engineer or an agricultural scientist. Professionals, in short.

The journalist had no great ambitions, we know. The writer wanted to be a writer. We had no clue as to what the photgrapher wanted to be. Last night, we were there, with them together. They were a bit surprised at what they were. All three had come to occupy a respectful position in the society and a bit known, and even prominent (the writer and lensman) in a wide circle.

Over to the party. The journalist quit drinking. He still likes liquor and smoke. His system rejects though. The other two friends had a hearty drink after a long time. They had only few minutes in between all the introductions and hand-shakes to be friends again for a few moments. In childhood dreams, we can see that journalist, with his vacant eyes, wanted to be with women, all the time. If we read the semi-autobiographical stories of the writer, then we will know he was waiting to fall in love with any girl, anytime. The lensman never said or shared such things in life then.

In the party we spot the photographer's father whom we recall from childhood. We overhear the friends tell him that his son has succeeded in life. He feels happy and extremely satisfied. Later over a drink, we listen to the photographer whishpering to his friends. ``I owe most of what I am today to my wife.'' That is nice of him. Even before meeting his wife, he was successful in modelling, his chosen profession, definitely not a male domain in this conservative city. At the party, we could see his wife. Full of life and energy, dancing to any numbers. We could not speak anything to her as she was busy all evening. We could sense her in him. She looked like life's gift to him.

Well after midnight, the journalist went to drop the writer at his home. As he has never been to his friend's home, he walked up with him in one of the first apartment to be built in the city. We may not be able to comprehend how the writer creates characters staying in one n'th floor of a bare building, seemingly without any life.

``My wife is not at home. So it will look like a bachelor's,'' the writer said, taking his friend in. As we enter, we, walking with the friend, can't miss the framed photograph. The writer, looking calm and composed, and his wife, revealing her warm heart in a rare smile, stare at us.

Opening one of the doors, the writer shows the sprawling city's skyline. ``You jump from here. I promise you heaven,'' he tells his old friend in the balcony. Within the walls, the writer shows us the world he lives in. The world of words. We catch a glimpse of J Krishnamurthi's translation in Tamil. Truth is a pathless land, reads the chapter's title.

Knowing not that we, with his friend, already have seen his wife, he gives his friend the marriage album. The city's whos who were there. They will be there for him. His words have the power to take them to millions of homes in the tamil country. In his heart, there is only one.

``I fell in love with so many girls. She was the only one who fell in love with me. My lovable girl.'' The writer went on to tell us the wonder his wife is. Brilliant, intelligent, caring. Simply, out of the world. We will have to agree to him. Seeing her in photograph enough could be a testimony to all that the writer said. To know her in person, we, like his friend, will have to wait till September when she will return home from United States.

``She is life's gift to me,'' he confides. Later, we hear the writer telling his old pal how to reach out to the climb the tallest mountains and reach out to the peak or how to look beyond the horizons and travel that far, letting the world know that we were masters in our profession and to be helpful to those in need.

At the end of it all, the writer said, the friends should go back to our valley of streams and sit with a meditative mind to contemplate the cosmos and sleep staring at all those stars littered along a clean, deep blue sky, resting in the shades of eternity, where words will be the winds and rhymes, the rivers.

By now, the journalist was thinking about his wife. After a bear hug, the journalist drives home in his half-broken bike as it drizzles. At home, we see the journalist's wife waiting for him well after midnight for her half-stupid husband had failed to inform her of his late coming. Totally disorganised, this fellow has this habit of coming home after midnight regularly.

Neverthless, the wife waits for him. We can't ask her to sleep and not to mind his stupid being. She will not listen. She will be there waiting to prepare food for him. We premise that it is not about the food. It is all about her feelings for him.

The journalist has never confided before that his wife is his life's precious gift. Well, he has!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

sea, sorrowful

for a few fortnights,
melancholy visits often;

the wandering waves,
wash ashore wantonly;

the sea, sorrowful,
groans and mourns,
the death of two:
born and blossoming.

the first, a baby, of,
almost an angelic sister,
still nursing lost little one.

then this distant friend,
known for the first time,
sadly, after she lost breath.

the answers are not known,
that vain search though is on.

words, like wavelets,
wash my worried soul.

the sea, sorrowful,
sinks into the silence,
of simple looking sky.

when will we know,
what depths we go,
when we wear out.

welcome to this harbour,
where love plays valour.

dears depart to distant shores,
yet your ship has to be anchored,
not to be drifted deep into the sea.

the sea, sorrowful,
waits without waves,
with deep blue waters.

let me untie the knot,
let us drift against waves,
to be that sorrowful.

when will we know,
what is with this death,
when we sail itself.

sorrow visits me often, by the seaside;
thinkin of those two, travelling through;
troubling my heart, cleansing the soul;
deaths do purify, mending the mind.

the sea, sorrowful,
wavers, then waves,
wanting me,

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Nimitz has Nukes.

Well, USS Nimitz, the lead ship of the United States's aircraft carriers, has nuclear weapons on board as it is anchored peacefully three nautical miles of Chennai's coast.

No more. May or may not. To the media, Rear Admiral Terrence Blake and ship's Captain Michael C Manazir have confirmed that they were heading back to the Persian Gulf. For Iraqi Freedom. The ship has come to the city from the Persian Gulf only.

It is sheer common sense for anyone to infer that the largest warship of the United States, infact of the world, in an assignment as volatile as the Gulf, must have nukes on board. It will not have nukes, only if it had transferred the tactical weapons to USS Princeton, the destroyer accompanying it. I am not sure, nukes would be handled like other cargo.

There is another possibility, Nimitz could also have dropped its nukes at Diego Garcia, if it respected India and her sentiments. And might pick 'em up again. But the world knows that, the Americans have no respect for anything and believe in only their audacity.

Tonight also, Chennai will sleep without the knowledge that there is a warship, with about 80 F-16 and F-18 fighter aircrafts that can reach even Delhi and beyond, could actually be armed with nuclear weapons. The city is happy looking at the crew having fun.

Of course, India can be proud of United States's clean record in handling nuclear facilities, including its 9 aircraft carriers, led by none other than the USS Nimitz.

Now, Comrades step aside. Welcome Nimitz!!!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Gogol's Overcoat.

I wanted to write a review for Mira's Namesake. Without reading Gogol's `Overcoat', I thought I was not in a position to write that.

For my friends who watched the movie and who couldnt come to know of the complete cycle.

Here's The Overcoat:

From that time forth, his existence seemed to become, in some way, fuller, as if he were married, as if some other man lived in him, as if he were not alone, and some charming friend had consented to go along life’s path with him—and the friend was no other than that overcoat, with thick wadding and a strong lining incapable of wearing out. He became more lively, and his character even became firmer, like that of a man who has made up his mind, and set himself a goal. From his face and gait, doubt and indecision—in short, all hesitating and wavering traits—disappeared of themselves.

It is interesting to learn that Fyodor at somepoint had said: ``All of us (Russian Realists) were born out of the overcoat.''

Monday, July 02, 2007

Ship, eh?

My first trip to a warship. It happened that I landed right on the lead ship of the nuclear powered aicraft carrier of the mighty United States _ USS Nimitz on a sultry Sunday. The namesake had listened to sea stories from his grandfather at a small German-like town in Arizona and on seeing a Captain in uniform one day turned a sailor and led the Pacific Fleet after Pearl Harbour.

The warship, in the eye of the storm, was sailing towards the city. And we were to fly to the ship somewhere near Sri Lanka. ``There is a 99 percent chance that you will be back here,'' said Capt Gillis of US Navy, on introduction. Briefing about the ``flight'', he asked us (a dozen scribes) not to expect the ``luxury'' of airlines.
``You will be flown in a C2 - Greyhound. It is a military aircraft. It is bare. You will have to sit backwards''. Thumbs Up.

The bus took us to the tail of the runway where the two greyhounds were humming. A soldier stepped in to hand over the helmets and life jackets. Posing to the cameras, we boarded the flight through the tail. The 20 seater was truly bare. There was nothing except the twenty seats and belts. And the cockpit.

I took one of the two small windows in the aircraft. Jet Airways had to take off. The tail was closed and we sat sweating for thirty minutes. ``We are waiting for ATC clearance. Will leave shortly,'' said the other officer with a moustache. ``We will be flying over sea. In case of emergency landing (on the sea), you will have to open the door on the top and get out one by one,'' he had said earlier.

Finally, we took off. As the Greyound climbed up, the pressure went up the body felt so light. Thought of Sunita for a moment. Outside the window, there were houses, fields and lakes for few minutes. And then the East Coast. I was not sure of the location. A 90 degree small cut of the coast could be noticed. Then over the sea and soon above the clouds. By now, most were tired and sleeping.

After thirty minutes, the descent started. The sea was a brilliant blue with sparkling silvers. The other Greyhound was flying to the left below. It would land first. Landing on board Nimitz is a ``trap''. Flights at 150 miles per hour speed coming down from three storey height would catch any of the four ``steel wires'' on a massive flight deck, spread over 4.5 acres, to come to zero speed in four seconds.

``Here we go,'' said the officer on mike. With a thug, the flight came to a joltering halt. A smooth touch down. Stepping out, we saw a busy airport. F-16s and F18s were taking off every other second. Men in ``dirty'' blue, maroon and yellow were all around guiding the flights.

Straight away we were led into a VIP room. It looked like a Five Star Hotel. After the customary briefing by the Admiral and Ship's Captain, we were given a separate set of jackets and were back on the flight deck. ``You can be thrown into the sea. Don't step the lines. In case you are in the sea, pull the four buttons. We will get you before the sharks.''

The thirty minutes thereafter should remain as an unbelievable sequence in space and time in my memories. The Hornets, Super Hornets and Prowlers line up one by one for take off in a runway of 400 metres(!). The engines are on. The wings flap. The signs are shown. The pilot salutes. The tyres screech the runway. There is this silent thud in your heart. At the edge, the rockets fire and the flight takes off. In two seconds flat.

A little later you realise that the other runway in the aiport is also busy. It was amazing to watch two jets taking off and flying away in different directions. Time to move on and clear the runway for the flights to land. They did. One by one. About 20 of 'em. Except for the first one that caught the fourth (last) wire, all others were trapped in either the second or third. We are told that the flights land with full throttle to be air borne again if the tail fails to catch the wire.

Once the flight comes to a stop, the tail releases the wire. The aircraft is parked. The pilots walk past us smiling. There are girls too. ``We do it out of adventure, challenge and love for our country,'' said a girl pilot. They take out sorties in the nights also. Stunning Souls.

We are shoved in. Time to leave. It was a short trip. As you come out the cabin with the old life jacket and head gear (hurting the ears) and as you climb the stairs, you see water below. Only then you realise that you are actually in a ship. Occasionally, you feel the floating and a huge wave crashin on the walls of the 23 storey ship!

On the deck, you sense the enormity of the water around on which this mini-city is floating. To know more, visit the US Navy wesbite. Thrown back into the Greyhound with a warning, we perspire again. ``Wait for Here We Go. Sit Tight. In one-and-half seconds, we will be airborne,'' the radio in the ear-piece warns.

You can feel the full accelerator. The brakes are released. You feel like being hanged for a second. And then you are off. On air, leaving the ship and sea behind. It was like a giant eagle plucking you up by the collar, flying away, in a swift second.

``Hang on guys,'' the radio says. And you hang-on to the experience. Tired, most sleep again. I think the Greyhound is designed to sleep. Some sort of smoke comes from the sides. You sleep. The landing at the airport can't be smoother. In fact, those on that Sunday afternoon flight will never be afraid of landing or take-off in any of the airports around the world.

Shaking hands with the US Consulate officers, we salute the Greyhound's young (22 years!) pilot for flying us down. Looking very relaxed and calm, he said, ``Hope you enjoyed the flight.'' For him, its child's play. He does that day and night.

``Come again.''

Stories From The Soul Town

There lies a magical land. Surrounded by the green ghats to the west, gurgling great rivers on the east, the valley with the very blue sky. A temple town of the tamils. Sitting on the dancing rock on the highland overlooking the valley, the writer procreates the lives of the people of this lesser known south west. Full of strange yet simple souls.