Tuesday, January 28, 2014 3 comments

A Letter to Myself

When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person that walked in. That’s what the storm is all about” – Haruki Murakami.

Dear Future Me,

I decided to write this letter to you at a moment when I feel I have hit a new low. I feel this letter will help you in the months, or possibly even years to come. I will be harsh, yet extremely honest about the past. Right now I am hurting, low on confidence and distraught. Wait till you eventually start feeling the effects.  If I was asked to sum up the last few years of my life in one word then it would be ‘delusional’. It hurts right? Stop complaining! You deserve it.

Living off false hope for a long period of time has its effects and the day when you come face to face with that false hope, you will feel the weight of world on your shoulders. If burying yourself in the deepest of holes was an option, you would. You will doubt everything you've ever believed in, you will feel alone and lonely. You will resent the decisions you have made over the years. Fret not! because after all the self-depreciating, you will slowly but gradually start coming to terms with your situation and will accept your misdemeanors. The trick is to be able change tracks. It’s not easy and chances are you’ll stumble on numerous occasions.  The past can’t be undone or forgotten, so all you can do is put it aside and do your level best not to think about it.

Believe that it’s never too late to turn the tables. Travel, love, study and most importantly, stay busy. You are an emotional fool. There is nothing wrong with that and you should treat it as a sign of humility.  Remember, there is nothing wrong in that either. Constantly think about the ever-growing list of things you’d like to do and get them done when given the opportunity. If you grab them, this complicated jigsaw puzzle called life will start falling into place even before you know it.

Don’t be scared. Yes, I know that your love was honest and pure and there will be a lingering pain. Too bad it didn't work out and probably never will. Hide only the scars, but be very careful not to lock yourself out. Let the heart and mind wander and let it take the risks it needs to take. Keep smiling. Yes, I know you have a terrible smile but it’s always better than that hideous, murky look you have on your face now.

Read this letter everyday if the need arises. For the foreseeable future, I know you will be requiring it. Right now you’re fighting your inner demons. It’s going to be the fight of your life, but if you play your cards right I’m sure we’ll make it.

The Present Me

Friday, July 26, 2013 3 comments

The Two Week Trip

It was my 25th Birthday. I reached the NTA Head office shortly after 9am. I was one of the first visitors. In line ahead of me were a group of teenage boys (rich, spoilt party hoppers), a pair of couples of neck-deep in love and a family of six spanning three generations. Within 10 minutes I was in a small room with a NTA representative who patiently went through all the required documents.
“Since you’re travelling solo we shouldn’t have any problems with bookings. When do you intend to travel?”
“As soon as possible. Any slots available before the end of the week?” I enquired.
“Does Thursday afternoon suit your cause?”
“Thursday evening will be perfect.”
“Great! One last thing before we wrap things up here. Your itinerary shows you plan to make four trips? Now as per the teleportation rules set down by the government, you can make a maximum possible of three trips on a single journey. So I’m afraid you’ll have to scrap one of the locations. I’ll give you till the date of your departure to decide provided your first destination is still Trinidad” she said looking through my file.
“Yes, my first destination is Trinidad and I would be requiring those extra days to decide.”
Other formalities we cleared in a matter of minutes. As I left the office, the queue had increased ten folds. Ironically, nobody was travelling alone.
I left the National Teleportation Association building and headed for the coffee shop across the street for a light breakfast. It had been four years since the invention of teleportation and two years since it was made available to the general public. However, there were a limited number of seats available and one had to go through a length application process to procure a place. The first two rounds were all about getting hold of a few dozen documents from various government offices. The third and final round was where close to 90% of the applicants were rejected. Those who had a genuine reason to make the trip were the privileged few. A dying lover, war veterans or a family ravaged with the pain of losing fellow family members were the people most likely to earn a ticket. In short, this prestigious ticket was for those seeking a flicker of happiness in their otherwise dark, unhappy lives.  
My story was simple and uncomplicated. I was neither dying nor was I drowning with pain and anguish. I was just a lonely man who had spent my entire life jumping from one city to another every couple of years, living the life of a nomad. I have never had the pleasure to call any place my home and neither have I had a friend who I could say I have grown up with. Ofcourse, I have made a few very good friends over the years in different, important phases of my life. My reason for this trip was to be able to meet them again one last time before we decide to settle down to start families and hence, more grounded lives. One last trip, an adventure with each of the few people I cherish in my life.

I had never once seen what the teleporter looked like, and was genuinely surprised at the simplicity of the machine. On completion of the usual formalities similar to those one forgoes at airports, a batch of twenty, including me, were led along a well-let, exquisitely designed hallway. My curiosity for what lay ahead had heightened. The room was a sharp contrast to the layout outside. Twenty capsules each with sufficient space lay across the room. Each capsule was large enough to accommodate one person and whatever bit of accompanied luggage. Beside each capsule lay a complicated bit of machine manned by a scientist. Well-trained, highly qualified and some of the brightest minds from all corners of the world, these scientists were responsible for ‘teleporting’ each individual from one place to another, in one complete piece. Their success rate had been 100%.
I took my place in the capsule assigned to me. I studied the machinery beside my capsule. It was hard to believe that a computer would be sending me across thousands of miles in a matter of minutes. Technology and science had come a long way. A dream of creating memories with some of my most beloved friends, spread across two continents was now an unfathomable reality.
“We will be putting you to sleep”, he said shutting my capsule, “It’s what we do so that you don’t have to feel a thing and also to avoid our travellers from suffering any periods of shock”.
“Alright, but how long will I be asleep?”
“An hour at the most. Teleportation takes about 10 minutes but we take extra precautions by giving our travellers a higher dose.”
 “Don’t worry, the sunny beaches of Trinidad await you. I hear this is the best time of the year to visit the Caribbean”, he said reassuring me.
“I know.”

It had been over fifteen years since the day I left Trinidad. My first years of school, my first best friend and the weekends spent at the beaches with my family came rushing back to me as if it all occurred a few days ago. I opened my eyes to see a friendly, warm face staring back to me.
“Welcome to Trinidad and Tobago. I hope you had a relaxed trip. Your friend is waiting for you outside. Do enjoy your stay here.”
“What time is it?”
“It’s 2pm in the afternoon.”
“15th February.”
“Unbelievable! I’ve gone back in time. Haha, this is crazy.”
“Indeed you have, I understand you have another trip due in a few days time. You’ll be jumping forward then.”
“Wow, this will take some time getting used to.”

I stepped out of the capsule feeling extremely good about myself. My two-week road trip, spread across three continents, with a teleporter as my primary form of transportation. Beyond the wildest of my imaginations.
Garrick Lyder was my first best friend. Drawings and gifts to sooth each other in times of ill-health, to writing letters to keep in touch, the two of us went back a long way. The expression on his face as I stepped out of the building would be one I’ll take to my grave.
“Holy shit, you’re actually here. You’re physically here. Bredrin! Unreal! You actually took that thing to get here. Tell me, when did you leave and how long did it take you to get here?”
“About an hour. But here’s the real deal. Technically, I haven’t left as yet. The time difference is so vast, that I’ve actually gone back in time. I left India, or I will leave tomorrow afternoon at 2.”
“This is mindfuck of the highest order. Lemme give you a hand with your stuff and let’s get out of here before I lose my mind”
I couldn’t have felt any better. Fifteen years, and we still got along like a house on fire. Garrick had gone all out in making this trip memorable not only for me, but for the both of us. It was Carnival Season and the whole island was in the mood to party.  Garrick’s house was very similar to whatever was still etched in my memory from 15 years ago. The pets, the lovely family, and the warmth was the still the same. After a scrumptious late lunch, the two of us set out with backpacks on a four day expedition across the two islands. Maracas Beach, calypso, limbo, ferries to ship us across the two islands and innumerable Carib beers, the two of us were on a journey to make up for lost time. Stories we shared, stories we wrote, people we met and memories which we weren’t going to forget for a lifetime, four days flew by in no time. Before long it was time for me to undertake the second phase of my journey.
The alps of Switzerland was just an hour away. Saying goodbye to a dear friend was hard enough but the thought of meeting two of my friends drove me forward. We vowed to meet more regularly. We vowed to continue to be in touch no matter how far apart we were. Afterall, we were best friends since the day we learnt about our sheer existence.

I've traveled the world, met some of the most interesting and nicest human beings. Deep down, I still yearn to have one more opportunity to relive memories that I've cherished for the past many years. Indiblogger and Ambi Pur has given me an opportunity to be able to re-live those memories, in my terms. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013 1 comments

Under the Influence

It’s a universally accepted fact that under the influence of alcohol, one tends to speak exactly what’s on his mind. The truth. Indians tend to go a step further in that respect. Upon downing a few glasses than what we can handle, we not only speak what’s on our mind, we even let our heart pour out. “Tu mera bhai hai...tere liye mein apna jaan bhi de sakta hu”. One of the many common ‘dialogues’ you tend to hear every now and then. So in such situations when the heart and mind combine, promises are made, which usually lead to regret the following morning, adding to a bad, throbbing headache.
College festivals are a time cherished by one and all. Bars and alcohol vendors – ‘thekas’ have their cash registers ringing. Many look forward to this period to make their move on the girl(s) they fancy. Many just look at it as an excuse to drink like there was no tomorrow. Infact, it’s a time when the human body probably takes in more alcohol than water. Once the dust has settled, heads have stopped spinning and normal vision is restored, there’s already a pile of regrettable promises made to friends, girlfriends and enemies. Promises that will never be fulfilled and fights for reasons that are outright laughable.
I was sloshed, yet I could still stand firmly on my two feet. It was the last day of our three day binge. The ten minute walk from my hostel to the college grounds took a good half hour. It was the three of us and halfway through our journey, and under the circumstances a seemingly brilliant idea struck me. Considering that it was the last day of our college fest, we just had to do something that would be memorable. We were each to confront that one girl who we had feelings for, and we had to do it whole-heartedly. We straightened up, washed our faces from the nearest tube well and looked as presentable as we possibly could. As we reached the college grounds, we spotted a number of our fellow classmates, many like us, stumbling around making a nuisance of themselves. Others danced to popular Hindi songs blasting out from the substandard, ear-wrecking speakers spread all around the ground. Before we could ascertain ourselves to all the mayhem around us, Kairo had walked off towards one of our classmates. A pretty, shy girl who he had fondly liked for the past three years. Though he was back within a couple of minutes, it was commendable that the quietest among the three turned out to be the first to make a move.
“What the hell Kairo, nice man!” I said, greeting him with a wide, appreciative smile.
“What nice?” he replied
“You set the ball rolling man. Never expected it from you” said Anthon, his 6’5” frame hugging the much shorter Kairo.
“Haha yeah! I have no clue what I said to her”
“What did she say?” I inquired
“No idea. Couldn't hear a thing she said. Anyways which one of you is next?”
It was to be me. I saw her standing by the auditorium with her best friend. The two seemed inseparable, wherever they went, they went together. I drew in a deep breath and went forth.
“Wish me luck guys” I told my friends as I began to walk off.
 “Go get her bro” said Anthon
Hair Straight. Check. T-shirt in order. Check. Breath. Could have been much worse. I stood about a metre away from the two. It was a while before they realized I was there. Our eyes met. Mine were groggy and red. Her exhibited a sense of uncertainty and confusion.
“Excuse me! Can I talk to you for a couple of minutes...please” I said looking her straight in the eyes.
“About?” she said in a barely audible voice.
I looked at her and then her friend who stood in anticipation of what I was to say next.
I smiled. “I have a massive crush on you and I’d like to tell you about it if you have a couple of minutes.”
She was shocked. I had her attention. Her friend giggled, turned around and took a couple of steps back.
“Ok” she said hesitantly.
I poured my heart out. I told her how I’d like it to be more than just a crush. I asked her out formally. She wasn’t sure. I made promised. Still there was a sign of hesitancy from her side. More promises, this time the moon and stars were mentioned. Eternal happiness, undying love, honesty were thrown in. This went on for a while, and till date I don’t know how it ended.
A hangover is one of the worst feelings you could wake up to. A constant, throbbing headache that gives you the feeling that someone is constantly hammering a nail into your head. Moving a muscle takes ten times the usual effort. Water is suddenly your best friend. I got up to find my two friends giving me mischievous smirks. I knew something went terribly wrong, just couldn’t point my finger to what it was.
“So Deba, how are you man?” asked Anthon
 “You tell me, did you get around to doing what you were supposed to?”
“Yeah man, I eventually did. I got turned down pretty blatantly, but none of that matters because everything worked out perfectly for one of us. Back me up Kairo. ”
“Yeah man. Doesn't make a difference as long as one of us is happy.” said Kairo.
“Wait, what? What do you mean? You’re saying that I asked out a girl and she said yes?” slowly digesting the magnitude of what they said.
“Yeah man. You seemed to ride in like a knight on a white horse and you didn't return for a couple of hours.”
“And Anthon, you should have seen the smile on his face when he did. I haven’t seen a smile like that in the three years I've known him.”
 So I had asked her out, it was slowly coming back to me. I was happy, but I felt I was missing out on something. Had I messed up as the night progressed?
“What is it that you guys aren't telling me? Enough with the suspense” I said warily.
“You probably have a first date sometime today. If I were you, I’d call her up right now to confirm the timing and everything.” said Anthon
That’s right, my phone, my savior and my sidekick to putting together the missing pieces.
I opened my contacts list and typed in the letter ‘J’. There weren't too many people I knew whose name started with the letter and the results were a handful. Her name wasn't on that list. I looked up towards my friends with a sense of bewilderment. Kairo couldn't contain his laughter. Anthon looked into my eyes with a straight face. The signs weren't encouraging.
“Her names not on the list” I said meekly.
“Yeah we can tell. Your tiny eyes are on the verge of popping out of their sockets. How about you check your call history, it’ll be the last call you made.”
They were toying with me. I followed suit, not that I had a choice. What popped up, left me confused and annoyed.
“Alright, joke’s over. I see what you guys are trying to pull off here. You've changed my contact names. You think I was going to fall for this?”
“Call her up” they said simultaneously and with a certain conviction that was worrying.
“Oh, I will call her up, in a while. It’s still early and I have to get myself in order before that.” I said, buying some time.
“Dude, call her now. Don’t want you surprised when you go to meet her later today” said Kairo.
I looked my friends straight in the eye and then down at my phone. They weren't joking around. Slowly, the magnitude of what occurred last night began to grow on me. I had approached the wrong girl. I made a bucketful of promises, which I meant to make to her best friend.
“So what the hell am I supposed to do now?” I was clueless.
“Well it’s obvious you don’t have too many options. Either you come clean or you convince yourself to stick around with this girl”
My choices were indeed limited. Coming out clean with the truth was by far the most sensible option, though it meant breaking promises I made a night before. My headache wouldn't subside. I felt weak, sick and outright distraught. Considering the stunt I pulled off the night before, it was the least I deserved.  I ran out of my room into the adjoining balcony and stuck my head out through the railing...
Four months later...
I never could bring myself to tell the truth. One night of sheer madness resulted in four months of pretending to believe in something and be someone who I wasn't. I was rightly dumped and was one of the few during my years in college to suffer this fate. No, I wasn't heartbroken nor was I in shambles and tears. I had learnt a lesson.

Having a drink or two every now and then isn't bad as long as you aren't causing any sort of harm to yourself or others around you. Decisions are made which are more often than not regretted. The signs are ominous, yet we never take them seriously until and unless we are on the receiving end.  Indiblogger and Colgate have provided me a platform to reach out to my readers and I would like to thank them for this gentle smack on my head as a reminder. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 1 comments

The Diminishing Call of the Wild

"In the jungle, the mighty jungle the lion sleeps tonight..."

As a child, one of my favorite weekend outings was a day trip to the local zoo. Running around with my parents hot on my heels, starry-eyed watching the animals going about their day to day business, left me with a smirk on my face for a good couple of days. Afterall, for a child who had grown up watching Tarzan and The Jungle Book, it was all I could ask for. Throughout my initial formative years, a zoo was the only place I could visit to see my favorite animals up close,albeit in the confines of a cage. Visiting a national park had been a dream in those initial years, a dream that was eventually realized during my early teens. The wildlife has always fascinated me. The mysteries, the beauty and the diversity and richness of life makes it a special place.

Jim Corbett National Park is known for its tiger population. I wasn't lucky enough to see any of these majestic animals out in the wild, not in the confines of a cage, but the stories our guide told us managed to send a chill down my spine. My next visit was to the Kaziranga National Park which is known for its One-Horned Rhinoceros. My experience in the two days I spent in the Park has left me with memories that I will take with me to my grave. From a couple of Rhinos venturing out to take a sip out of a lake to a herd of Elephants crossing our path to a distant roar of a tiger, it was a bundle of memories to take home and cherish. Why I'm shuffling through these memories is not only because I'm a wildlife enthusiast but because I'm genuinely concerned and worried that future generations won't have the privilege to share the same experiences. 

The Lion is famously known as the 'King of the Jungle'and why not? The roar of a lion can be heard from many miles away, sending it's prey scampering for protection. It sits gracefully at the top of the food chain knowing fully well that no animal can come close to taking its crown jewel. But the lion, or any other animal has ever considered that one race which can completely displace, ruin and destroy this beautiful cycle of life and nature...Humans. 

The human race has progressed heaps and bounds in every possible walk of life. Yet, our demands keep growing to satisfy our sky high needs. We have single handedly wiped out scores of species of animals from the face of the planet, and we seem to be in no hurry to stop. 

Consider India, where some of the most vicious species are being hunted down for absolutely no fault of their own and are eventually ruthlessly killed for medicine, clothing and various other needless purposes. The numbers are dwindling at a mind-boggling speed and in a few years to come these species will only be spotted in the confines of a cage in various zoos around the world.

The Number Games:

 - The Royal Bengal Tiger, which roamed the forests in thousands dating back to a few decades, has seen it's number dwindle to around 1500. If the current situation doesn't change then in a couple of decades, there numbers will be as good as ZERO. 

 - The Asiatic Lion, which is only found in the Gir Forest and has been declared extinct elsewhere has a population of around 500. 

 - The One-Horned Rhinoceros, prominently spotted in the State of Assam are numbered at around 2500 as per the last census. 

The above are just a few from a huge list of endangered species of animals in the country. 

Shockingly low, yes, but the upside of this downward spiral is that these numbers have improved. Gradually, our eyes and minds have opened up to this issue and important steps are being taken. Various NGOs around the country are working tooth and nail to save the endangered. But they need help and support from me and you, the reader. PETA India and SAVE OUR TIGERS are two such organizations which are going out all guns blazing to stop various forms of animal cruelty. The least we could do is support these initiatives in the form of volunteer work or through donations. 

On an end note, I recently read an article in a leading English daily regarding Poaching in Kenya. To summarize, Poachers, who go about doing the dirty job of killing animals in the wild and then passing them on to the middle-men are paid to just about manage to put a roof above their heads and not to mention the shoot-to-kill policy that wildlife rangers are following, would eventually lead to death . Now, poachers have started turning into gamekeepers in the hope of rounding up fellow poachers, earning the trust of the local wildlife conservatories and being employed on a full time basis with a far better trade.

When you yearn for change you have to understand that it is solely not the work of one individual or organization but it's the collective effort of a large group of like-minded individuals. ISB Idiya and IndiBlogger have together ignited a fire, giving us the opportunity to write and spread a message. The ball is now in our court, it's our turn to make the next move, the decisive move. 

For more information visit: http://www.isb.edu/idiya/