Posted in prose

The Lifecycle of a Bong

He bought me to his home on a wet July day. My first impression of him was that what we are normally expected to have from someone like him; Shaggy haired hippy with a cigarette on his lips. In his studio apartment there were more people like him; passing around their smokes, with unkempt hair, and lazy eyes. They each took me in their hand and examined me and without much comment got down to work.

I was brand new and my blue fiber glass was as clear as the blue sky. My wind pipe was as clean as a new born baby’s. Each of them took turns to fill the nozzle of my pipe and smoke the weed to satisfaction. All of them seemed expert at their work. Passing me around in a circle with speed and expertise as the stuff burned down and the smoke rose up. Every day, they would gather and smoke at ferocious speed till my base was filled with the burned ash and char of the weed.

In these early days, it was hard to differentiate my owner, as all of them used it equally and regularly. But I knew who he was – Saman. I stayed with him, always by his bedside, ready to be used. As time passed, fewer people came to use me. I also became dirtier. My sky blue turned dark and opaque. The smoke inside was no longer visible. My windpipe choked and no-matter how much one cleaned it now, it only took a few shots to fill up again.

Saman wasn’t discouraged by it. He cleaned me up before every session and whatever my condition, he filled me up and smoked his stuff.  But the others started having problems with me. My stuffed windpipes made them cough hysterically, sometime bringing tears to their eyes. They demanded a replacement but Saman, didn’t replace me. For him, it worked just fine. Although, that was only half of the truth. Saman didn’t have the money to replace me and nor did I want to be replaced, but I could see I was taking a toll on him. Like my windpipe, his windpipe also seemed to have dirtied. His voice  became hoarse and was often prone to whooping coughs. He didn’t replace me but became embarrassed of me.

He used to take me to his friend’s houses but that became less frequent, till it was almost once in a blue moon. People complained to him about my dirtiness and he gave silly excuses for it. Ultimately, he stopped taking me anywhere. Alone, in his room, he smoked his stuff by filling me up. Time went on and I got older still. My rubber base came loose and the water started leaking off me, but still he didn’t replace me. Instead he wrapped my rubber base with a cloth to absorb the leakage and continued to use me. I became the butt of jokes amongst his friends but he kept going. Embarrassed by me, but too much in need of me, to abandon me, he persisted with me.

I was getting old now and Saman’s condition also wasn’t too good. Whooping coughs, bloody mouth and fainting fit. Both our condition seemed to parallel each other. Our insides had rotten. We had become dirty. I wanted to die and seemed like he wanted it too.  Unable to continue, the rubber base gave way, it could no longer contain the water inside me.

We were finished.

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Vignette – Secret of Cigarettes

It started with cigarette after sex, soon he wanted cigarette before sex, and could do with it during sex too.

Then it became essential for him to have cigarettes before and after every meal. Thereafter, every morning, the first thing he wanted was cigarettes. Cigarette before crap.

Soon, it became requisite for him to have cigarettes at every event of the day. Going for an important meeting -why not have a smoke. Waiting for a taxi – cigarette, talking to a friend – cigarette, talking to an enemy – cigarette, before a run in the park – cigarette, after a run in the park – cigarette, had a big success – cigarette, suffered a massive failure – Cigarette, nothing to do – cigarette, something to do – can still smoke a cigarette.

Finally, it became karmic that he smoked cigarettes before death.

Posted in prose

Project Narcissus (Complete)

1.

Faces are masks of the mind.

2.

He had always struggled with his face. People think vanity is a character of the beautiful. How wrong they are. Ugliness breeds vanity too. The need to cover up deficiencies may breed vain monsters the likes of which no beautiful person may ever imagine or understand.

3.

Reed also thought of his face as ugly and thereby devoted his whole life to find the elixir of beauty. Unabashed in his choosiness, he loudly proclaimed his reason for love was only one – beauty. He proclaimed hypocrites of those that said otherwise. He would make mocking noises and faces when people said they were together for reasons other than beauty. In his good days he may admit there may be other reasons but termed them “secondary”.

His opinionated nature on the order of things made him unpopular but he didn’t care. All he cared about was there be a beauty beside him. His strong nature had done him good in other fields though and he had gone through a slew of beautiful women who were initially attracted to this strong personality and finally repelled.

4.

Currently, Reed is in his longest relationship of his life. Anita is a beautiful intelligent woman, working in finance. Blonde with green eyes, she, like so many before had been attracted to him for his fierce boldness. She also agreed with him partially about the importance of beauty in the general order of things. The reason this relationship had gone on for so long was her ability to intellectually match Reed as Reed was a person who constantly got into shouting matches with his partners and gloated and terrorized them through intellect, often going on to insult these gorgeous women he dated.

5.

This obsession of Reed went beyond private life. His work life was also related to this obsession. A geneticist, he was on the forefront of “Project Narcissus”. A chance for everyone to look exactly as they want. Genetic manipulation to help in diseases had already made giant strides but Reed now was in the forefront of manipulation of physical traits. This was his life’s work and his ultimate aim. He, through his work wanted to end the power play of beauty in the order of things. How? By making physical traits something that can be changed and chosen according to individual preference rather than stuck with some face which they did not want for themselves.  He liked to describe it as – “Turning everyone in the world to Narcissus, so they can fall in love with themselves.” Then he would smirk and add, “Isn’t that beautiful”.

6.

An announcement from Project Narcissus

We are proud to announce the successful trials of project Narcissus. We have successfully managed to change the physical traits of ten adults of different racial backgrounds with astounding success. Further we have managed to change traits of pre natal babies to the desired traits when born. This is a huge step towards the release of these methods in the market. For further detail on the successful experiment, please visit the project site. Thank You.

7

Both, Reed and Anita are sitting for dinner, at their home. “Congratulations on the successful trials, Reed.”

“Thank You”

“You must be fretting over this, I know many are”

Anita does not quite understand the insinuation. “Your best trait, your good looks, will stand for nothing now. Project Narcissus is going to make everyone beautiful.”

Anita ignores this jibe and in a friendly manner and smiling face, replies, “How far in the process are you to bring it in the market?”

“Further than we showcase, I think in about a year this will be in the market and people will be using it. The tests published are just the tip of the iceberg. We actually tested fifty people from diverse backgrounds. We gave an African blue eyes and silver blonde hair. We changed epicanthic folds to round eyes and vice versa. Changed the skin color of every shade to the required results and the most revolutionary part is this can all be done relatively cheap. I think the world is going to change”

Anita is eating her Broccoli, and musing what to say next. She almost does not want to say it but does, “And you think this will be change for good?”

“Ahm, Ahm, no matter how much you try to hide your inner feelings, they just come pouring out. Of course, it is a change for good. You know my position on this, it has not changed. This is my life’s work and for you to question it again despite knowing the answer all along shows maliciousness. I am giving everyone what they want; I will be remembered as a revolutionary.”

Anita was quite skeptical of the changes this will bring in society but keeps it to herself. She is looking at him, wondering what will satisfy this man in front of her. She does not argue with him but is generally worried about Reed. Thinking, even in success, this man has no grace and is seems unsatisfied. She is starting to doubt herself for remaining with such a unpleasant person, trying to remember why she got on with him at the first place.

8.

Six years later. The streets are filled with beautiful people. Everyone is being the best looking version of themselves. There are combinations which no one would have imagined a decade back. Reed is alone. Anita is not with him anymore. He has slept around. He is what he always wanted to be but so is everyone. It turns out, when everyone is beautiful, no one is beautiful. But the biggest problem with him is there is a loss of excitement. He could never have imagined that there may be some upsides to being a non-looker but he definitely has one now. He misses the adventure, the heartbreak, the turmoil, the angst, the journey, of love that he had to make previously. Every day was like an adventure then. Rejection and heartbreak was at hand and so was the joy of outdoing oneself. Project Narcissus seems to have turned everyone towards nihilism. Love suddenly matters a lot less than it used to before the project.

With all adventure gone from his life, Reed’s sexual attraction also seemed to have lapsed. When beauty is not in scarcity, it seems it’s not beauty at all. No one seems to attract him. All these gorgeous people everywhere and he mind insipid and dull, instead of arouse and excited. No arousal at all. There is only one person in his mind that he still wants – Anita, but she seems hell bent of teaching him a lesson and proving him wrong. Attraction is not solely based on outer appearances. She has not changed her look nor has she made herself look younger. She is exactly as she was and evolving as people did before. Her appearance is that of an old woman – wrinkled and loose.

The old Reed could not have imagined that he will want to be with someone like that when the world is filled with drop dead gorgeous women. Despite this acknowledgement in his mind, he cannot come to agree with it. He has argued that his personal life history and transformation has something to do with it. For the major population, this still remains a boon and he still remains a revolutionary. He has become a recluse and suicidal, hiding from his own invention. It seems to be the final indictment of the vanity inside him.

9.

The only place a reclusive Reed felt comfortable going now were bookstores. On one of these store visits, he comes across Anita. Old but beautiful. Golden locks with twinkling eyes. An innocence no one could grant – no geneticist, biologist, or a make up artist. At that moment he felt a pang to live again. To go to her and beg her to take him back. To say to her, you were right, there is more to love than just outer appearances, but then his whole life would be a lie, a life based on something untrue. Doubts still lingered. Could this be his desperation of love talking. Muddling up his well thought life principle. This remain his thoughts as she crosses him, nods in acknowledgement of his existence and leaves. Thoughts remain thoughts and does not become action. He watches her go, for the last time. Pride and Vanity intact, love lost.

10.

The Epitaph of Reed, “There comes a time when you look in the mirror and you realize that what you see is all you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself.”

11.

Vanity working on a weak head produces every sort of mischief.

– Jane Austen

Posted in prose

Vignette – Staying connected

Life is about living in the moment. God knows, we humans have so much to worry about, in our lives. Yesterday evening, I was doing exactly that. Drinking and smoking with my friends, completely immersed in that moment, lost in the conversation. I was having one of those rare moments, when you are completely there at the moment, happy, without a past and future.

The cellphone distracts me. Ping! Ping! I got messages. When this happens i habitually pick up the phone and start scrolling, reading the messages. It was one of my exes, inquiring about generalities. I also reciprocated, asking her about her health, job, and other formalities. Nothing untoward has happened. I am being very nice to her and she is being nice to me. But out of nowhere, she conjures up this message, ” I don’t know what I was thinking, when we were together, those were my crazy days, I guess”.

This sentence hit me in stages. At first, I didn’t realize how such a sentence was malignant, but after a few moments, it hits me badly. I am irritated and angry. Blood boiling, i wanted to write something terse about her, to make her suffer, to insult her. I start with a small – what the fuck message.

But the message does not go. She has moved offline. Furious at her actions but ultimately unable to do anything, I kept me phone aside and looked up. I had lost my immersion, my happiness, my moment, and even the conversation that had me immersed and happy. She had completely soured my mood. A promising evening had turned grey and dark.

I blame the Ping. Its all because of the Fucking ping.

Posted in prose

Vignette – Relationship Junkie

I remember the last time I spoke to Sammy. We were both very drunk. She was telling me how we could not be together anymore – for various reasons, blah-blah. After an hour or so of arguing back and forth, I could not care less. I just started repeating a single phrase, “You just don’t understand me”. This frustrated her even more, and with increasing decibels, she asks-

” Then who understands you? I know your relatives don’t and nor are you close to your friends anymore, so tell me who understands you?”

At this moment, I started to sing in the tune of one of my favorite song – My Favorite Things by John Coltrane, but I changed the lyrics slightly-

“Alcohol and weed and bottles of syrups. Pills and amphetamines and pipes of opium. Laudanum and Mescaline and rooms full of smoke. These are some of my understanding things….”

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Aphorism – Role in the Universe

Today, I again did what I was not supposed to do. The world abetted me in my wrongdoing, and while helping me perform these evil acts, it banished me to suffer. The world conspired with me, to do wrong, and punished me for the very same acts.

What the world made me do, you ask?

It made me do everything I didn’t want to do. The world should have been punished with me, instead, it punished me.

Posted in prose

Vignette – Taciturn-ity

My friend, Sam, calls me Mr. Carver. I have no idea what this means. On Sam’s next visit, I ask him why he calls me by that name. He says that am as laconic as one of Mr. Carver’s stories. I get it but it hardly interests me, so, I let it go.

Another day. Sam is in a jolly mood and playfully asks me, “Hello Mr. Carver. Why so silent-silent?”.

I look at him while simultaneously ruminating for an answer – but nothing specific comes to mind. The only answer is an inadvertent exhalation which he mistakenly takes as a sigh of exasperation. Sam then tilts his head, looks at me, and smiles. The look on his face tells me he has his answer.

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Suggestions on ways to improve democracy as a system of governance

Much discussion has taken place about the best form of governance. There is a consensus that democracy is the lesser of the evils. It is the best form of governance out of the other alternatives of communism and monarchy. Democracy with capitalism is the default setting of most governments and economies of the world.  In this essay, I want to suggest certain reforms that can be made to the administration of democracies around the world. The ideas hypothesized here have been conceptualized keeping in mind my home country of India, although, these reform suggestions can benefit all democracies around the world and may even be more feasible for these other democracies, than India. This is because the problems permeating the Indian democracy are also, in different orders of magnitude, plaguing all other democracies in the world.

One of the problems of the Indian and other democracies around the world is the rise of demagogues. Politicians around the world are famous for unfulfilled promises. Add this with the current misinformation problem around the world and you will observe that the problem grows exponentially.  Politics, in general, are filled with morally unscrupulous people who are all about power than any sort of societal improvements. With the rise of right-wing nationalism around the world, ethics also seem to be taking a back seat, with the blurring of the moral standards that such politicians are required to follow.  Most educated people’s vision of the future does not match the political vision being laid out by politicians around the world. Now, having laid out in very brief the problems plaguing our beloved system of governance, here are some of my revisionist ideas.

The first suggestion involves the changing of the election system. Though the suggestion might sound unfeasible, it surely is an interesting suggestion of improvement. This directly relates to the unfulfilled, false, or simply unachievable promises that our politician’s lovemaking to us, the common people.  WE all know that various papers have to be submitted by the politician who wants to run for election. These details include their income, criminal record, and other basic information. What I want to add to this is a quantifiable plan that each politician must submit, to the election commission, the people, and a greater focus on these quantifiable objectives rather than just mouthing insane promises to the public.  These submissions need to be detailed and made public, and further, a commission should be set up to see whether the promises made are being fulfilled or not. In a stringent law, non-fulfillment of a certain percentage of the objectives may also lead to disqualification from re-election, but we will leave the more radical for some other essay. Not only will this solve some of the demagoguery and false promises problem, but it might also help bring in a more ethical and educated class of politicians to the forefront rather than goons and strongmen.  Now, I know this won’t bring about Plato’s philosopher-king or Bacon’s educated administrators but it will bring us much nearer to that than we have ever been. Education is also a big lack, at least in the Indian political system where I find it hard to believe that these people (uncles), who make terrible general knowledge gaffes, have any understanding of the economy or other technical part of governing a country. I am not saying that none of these have any idea. Nothing is so black and white and definite, but I feel pretty sure in assuming that most of them don’t know anything about such matters. Therefore, a detailed objective official pre-plan submission with a focus on these set objectives by the authorities and general public,  may lead our democracies in the right direction.

Another suggestion which is even more radical than the previous one is the direct engagement of the public in not only election but also the day to day functioning of the parliament where bill are passed. With the advent of technology, the public can directly vote for the matter in hand which our politician submit. This can be done through the use of mobiles and other internet sources. Already, most governments communicate with us through these modern technologies. Why should we delegate our authority to politicians, when we, the general public, can ourselves, take matters to into our own hands and vote for each and every law that is being passed by respective legislatures. There will, of course, have to be various rules laid down for participation, Quorums, eligibility, reach, and many other smaller issues of these electronic votes, but once sorted out, we can have a much better informed public who is much more involved in the administration of their countries. This will be most feasible in countries with high literacy rate and high coverage of the internet and other tools required to make this revision legible, but the same is not impossible.

These were the suggestions that I had discussed with my lawyer and political scientist friends and even though they disagreed with the practicality of the suggestion, they agreed upon the novelty of the ideas and that if somehow successfully implemented, these suggestions have the power to bring about the improvements it seeks. But then these ideas if implemented will bring with them their set of circumstantial challenges and on this point, I wholeheartedly agree with them. In writing this article, I hoped to bring to notice some changes that can be made to better the functioning of our democracies and encourage all readers, through this piece, to contemplate their own ideas of how our democracies can help serve us better.

Posted in prose

The moth in me.

Sitting in my room, looking out the window, at the overcast sky, I see a moth enter, and start fluttering around at the edges of the windowsill. The coming rain must have made it seek shelter. Without any thought, I take my glass, and entrap the moth in it. It panics a little, before settling down to its fate. The rain arrives, the wind blows in the window, a strong cold gust. It would have surely swept away the moth, but right now it is safe in its glass confinement. It’s beige body time and again checks its confinement, getting restless before settling down again to its fate. I remembered that most moths live for a maximum of one day. I realize that in this half an hour, I have entrapped this humble insect for a good percentage of its life. I raise the glass and let it go. As I raised the glass, the moth realized its freedom and flew away, against the soft wind and drizzle, back to the open, away from its confiner and his room. 

The rain subsides, and I go out to get some work done. I have to buy tickets for a holiday I am planning to the mountains. I had just collected the necessary amount required for the ticket. It’s been on the cards for a long time. I reach the station, wait in the long queue, and when my chance comes I learn the price has surged due to some new govenment rules. Confused, then angry, I leave the station. Race back home as its again started raining. I rush to the door and step on something. I have squished something. I look down, and there is the beige moth, covered in lymph and blood. Its freedom only made him move two meters from my room window. That was the limit of its freedom -two meters. I wipe my shoes on the doormat and enter my home. Dry my self, change my clothes, and feel myself coming down with a fever. Lying on my bed, I think to myself – I guess this year also I am going to spend my holiday, my month of freedom, Trapped in this room, in this house. So much for freedom and holidays. The only event left to happen to me is some good innocent giant is waiting to squish me in the future. 

Posted in prose

Essay on Laziness/idleness

I meant to write this essay a month earlier, but my indolence made me defer the work, so here I am today, finally able to put pen to paper. Eh! No harm, no foul. The ancient greeks considered idleness a virtue. To be more precise, they considered contemplative idleness a virtue, and I agree with them, whole-heartedly. The greek society, considered the golden age of classic western civilization, the society that gave us Heraclitus, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, to name just a few stalwart thinkers of the time. All these bright minds considered contemplative idleness a virtue. It was the ethical way to pass one’s life, contemplating the deeper meaning of universe. From this virtue we get the theory of ideas of Plato, and the Pythagorean mysticism. When a man was punished for idleness in one of the lesser greek cities, the Spartans were outraged, and offered the man rank within their own society as they could not bear a man being punished for what they considered one of the greatest virtues. We have taken so much from the Greeks, but, Alas! Their greatest gift, the gift of contemplative idleness has not been accepted by our society, and for that, we have suffered immeasurably. 

Contemplative idleness is more of a classical term for the modern studied repose or laziness. A virtue that everyone should inculcate in themselves. It’s my sincere belief that if everyone would inculcate this virtue, many of the previous atrocities and coming savageries, could have and will be avoided. Had the regimes committing such atrocities, had an attitude of studied repose, they could have avoided the savageries and genocides they committed. The one thing you can say about the German people is they are industrious, and normally, that would be a virtue, but a little studied repose would have done them no harm. If only Hitler would have realized how painstaking and energy consuming his hateful ideology is, and he would have definitely realized this if he practiced a little studied repose. He would maybe had been a successful artist, as he always wanted to be, Gobbels a comedian instead of a propagandist, and Himler an archeologist rather than a conspiracy theorist and sadist. Stalin would have been living with the love of his life and never have joined the communist party. Nor would have the American people pursued the hateful Jim Crow laws. These are just a few examples where a contemplative repose would have helped our societies.

Lazy people, true lazy people, even find it hard to hate or be jealous. They have not the energy required for any racist, bigoted, jealous, hateful, energy filled legwork, that such thought and action requires. Oh! How I wish to live in a world of contemplative repose. When will we get another Plato, another Epicurus, or another Buddha. Even the Buddha wishes us to meditate, a type of contemplative repose, to think before we do and realize the futility of so many base and useless actions that we perform. Do me and the whole world a favor – listen to the teacher, the master – The great Buddha. Give contemplative idleness or studied repose or just plain laziness a chance. it might just make the world better.