Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Anonymous Phone Call

At 16, Christian was a grown up man. He had to do what he had to do.

At 16, Christian was gangly and excessively thin. Not uncommon in the Poland those days. There just wasn't enough food and he had to feed his three younger siblings. Christian cursed his parents for dying out on him and leaving him alone. He did not know how to survive this constant hunger, this disease, this constant bickering of his siblings. He did not know how to survive this war.

It was cold. Christian was shivering. He only wore a thin shirt and a trench coat. He had given his only sweater to his youngest sister to keep her warm. Lucja was the apple of his eye. She had in return tried to mend his trench coat as best as she could but it still had holes. And the brutal freezing cold air rushed in through those holes. He felt the cold seep down to his bones. He pulled his trench coat closer. The sole of his shoes was torn. He had fashioned himself a makeshift sole out of his coat's pocket. 

If only he had some money but working as an errand boy for whoever would want him did not earn him enough. Sometimes it did not earn him anything at all. christian was fighting his own war every day of feeding four stomachs at least once every day and he was loosing this war. He was tired. He did not want to soldier on. 

He cursed his fate. Oh why was he born in this cursed country in these cursed times!! Oh why was he born at all?

The only hope in Christian's life was Anne. She was his light. He had met Anne while delivering a sack of potatoes to Mrs. Stoppleman. He liked Mrs. Stoppleman. She was a kind lady and she would sometimes give him food even if he hadn't worked for her. He had tried to run multiple errands for Mrs. Stoppleman always secretly hoping to meet Anne, but he did not get to see her often.

Once while he was cleaning the yard, he heard Mrs. Stoppleman shout out for Anne to hide as someone knocked on the door. Christian was befuddled. Why would Anne need to hide from whoever it was unless...
Christian sank to the ground as the truth dawned on him. There was only one reason why someone would need to hide in Poland those days. Anne was a Jew. As the reality hit him, he was horrified. What was Mrs. Stoppleman doing hiding the Jews!! If any one in the gestapo ever got wind of it, they would kill all of them and their neighbours. Anyone who ever helped Mrs. Stoppleman would be killed. But how would the Gestapo come to know of this? Christian was afraid, but that moment he resolved that this secret would die with him. He loved Anne and he will do anything to protect her. This secret will go with him to his grave.

It started snowing. Christian realized he was late. It was time for him to go home. He did not manage to get any food or money today too. Lucja was ill and she needed medicine and food badly. But how could he buy it when he had no money? He went home which was a sheet of tarpaulin spread atop the broken walls of a bombed house. As he reached home, he saw there was no fire. He cursed Frank, his younger brother. The only task he had given Frank was to take care of Lucja. He kneeled over to check on Lucja and saw that she was shivering. He placed his hand over her forehead to check her temperature. She was burning up. Just as he turned her face towards himself, he saw blood on her face and her neck. His heart stopped. He did not know what to do.

The doctor over at the Gestapo base could help her. He was the only person in this godforsaken place who could. But he was a mean man. Christian carried Lucja on his back the entire way to the Gestapo base. Christian's coat was covered in blood. His sister had stopped coughing blood and was breathing raggedly. Her temperature was soaring. Oh what can he do? How will he save her? She was his responsibility now?
He would do anything to save her, if only he knew what it was that he should do.

The doctor was heavily drunk. He looked at the boy with the girl on his back. The girl was apparently spewing blood. He knew just from the looks of her that she had been ill for quiet a long time now and that he couldn't save her. Why not put the boy to some good use? He met the boy and agreed to save her sister on one condition.

At 16, Christian was a grown up man. He had to do what he had to do.

Christian picked up the receiver at the bakers shop near the Gestapo and made a phone call. He could not bear anyone knowing what he had just done. He then ran over to check his sister at the doctor's place. He stopped as he reached his door. Lucja, his dear Lucja, was lying at the door. What was the doctor doing? Why was she lying there out in the cold? Why was she not breathing? He knocked and knocked relentlessly at the door. There was no response. He kept knocking and after sometime he just stopped. He just sat there looking at his sister.

The dawn came and Christian got up from the doctor's door. He was blank. He couldn't feel anything. He got up, looked at his sister one last time and left her there. He came back to his home, lay down on his bed and tried to go to sleep.

Two days later, Christian sat near the Gestapo base, with a torn out piece of newspaper in his hands. The Gestapo had raided Mrs. Stoppleman's house and killed all the Jews hiding there. Anne was dead. The Gestapo was informed about the Jews' hideout  by an anonymous phone call. Christian sat there staring at the newspaper in his hands. The air was biting cold. Just then the doctor came out flanked by two soldiers.

Christian saw him. He felt the rage rise in him. He picked up a big stone and threw it at the doctor, shouting curses at him. The stone hit the doctor on his head. The soldier standing to the right of the doctor took a careful aim and shot the boy.

At 16, Christian was a grown up man. He had to do what he had to do. Lying there in his pool of blood, Christian wondered why was he born at all?

P.S. - The story is my first attempt at Historical fiction. The only truth in this story is the incidence of Anne Frank's death. The rest of it is just pure fiction.     

Monday, September 9, 2013

All in a day's work

He loved the way the sunlight lit her face.
Lying beside her on the bed he felt he was the luckiest man in the world. He adjusted himself and slowly removed his arm from under her head. It had gone numb but he did not mind it. He propped up on the pillow to face her directly and gently removed the curls of gorgeous red hair from her face. He smiled remembering the innumerable times he had heard her fuss about her wavy hair and each of those times he had told her they were perfect. She was perfect. She would always roll her eyes and purse her lips in exasperation and turn away from him but once, he thought he caught her smiling while turning away. Oh he loved her, he loved her so much and lying there beside her he almost choked on his own happiness.

He let his hands trace the contours of her face. She opened her eyes and smiled at him and he was born again.

She said to him - "Sir, your drink !!", in that lovely sweet baritone of hers...!!

Wait, something was not right. He looked into her eyes and then her smile and then into her eyes again - "Say that again".

"Sir, your drink !!", she said in that harsh baritone and suddenly he was in a bar at the counter and there was a man standing infront of him.

"Sir, your martini !!" said the man in that hateful repulsive baritone and he lost it. He wanted to throw the drink on the bartender's face. That damned man! and when he was having such a wonderful dream.

"That's not my drink.", he said through gritted teeth."I want it shaken not stirred !!". 

The bartender looked at him, sighed, shook his head a little, shrugged his shoulders and took the drink back. He looked at the bartender, who the f**k did he think he was? He turned away from the bar, seething. 

His eyes scanned the bar. He looked at his watch, it was time, she should have been here by now. He checked the day, it showed Wednesday today. He also checked the calendar stuck at the top of the wall behind the counter. It indeed was a Wednesday. Then why wasn't she here yet. For the past 3 months she was here every Wednesday and Sunday. He got worried, was she alright  Was she sick? She looked fine this Sunday. She looked in good spirits as she sat at her usual table with her friend. Her friend! He scanned the bar for her. She wasn't in the bar too. He knew they both lived together. Should he try calling her friend? He had her friend's number. After all he had acquired her number after much pain for this very reason. Her table was still empty. He looked at the door again. What should he do? He was really worried for her now. She had never missed a Wednesday!! He took out his phone and started searching for the friend's number. Damn! he didn't remember her name!! What was it? He searched for it frantically and dialed two wrong numbers.

"Can I have two Grey Goose martini, stirred, up, with a twist?", said the soft, silky voice at the other end of the counter and he melted. She was here finally!! He turned to look at her. She caught his eyes and smiled. He quickly averted her eyes and started looking fixedly at the wall behind the counter.
"Sir, your martini, shaken not stirred.", said the bartender with a hint of amusement as he placed the drink infront of him. He involuntary turned towards her and saw her laughing. F**k.Was she laughing at him? Did she think he was another James Bond wannabe. The cursed bartender. He wanted to punch the man so hard.

The bartender brought her drinks. She collected them and walked back to her table. That was it. He will go to her table today and end the misery he had been for the past three months. He would tell her that he is not a James Bond fan and that he truly, madly, deeply loved her. To the extent that he had spent 3 hrs every Wednesday and Sunday at this bar just to catch a glimpse of her. He will walk up to her table today and no he will not be stopped. Come what may.

"You should give up. You don't have a chance with her.", said the bartender. He stood there, with both hands on the counter, looking at her. The bartender then looked at him, sighed, shook his head a little, shrugged his shoulders and went to attend to other customers.

He was frustrated. Who was this man to judge him. He stood up. Straightened his jacket. Picked up his drink and started moving resolutely to the girl's table. He will tell her today. Come what may. She was giggling with her friend. He moved closer to her table. He wanted to turn back, but he kept moving forward. He will tell her. She was in an animated conversation with her friend. He reached the table just infront of her table. He will tell her that she is his life. As he reached her table, her friend leaned in towards her and they kissed. He stopped. Looked at them. They kissed again. He stood there, frozen and blank. She noticed him and asked annoyingly - "Yes?"

He looked at her again. What the hell just happened? He turned back and came back to the counter. He needed to breathe.

"Told you, you did not have a chance.", the bartender said nonchalantly as he cleaned the counter. He looked at the bartender, took his drink in his hand.
"F**k you!!" he shouted as he threw the drink on the bartender's face. Immediately, the bouncers wrestled him out of the bar. He kept shouting "F**k you" at them.

She looked at him. What was wrong with these people she thought. And then she got lost in her girlfriend again.

The bartender looked at him being wrestled away. He looked at her still kissing. Then he sighed, shook his head a little, shrugged his shoulders and got back to making drinks.

Friday, June 14, 2013

What Do You Do?

What do you do,
When the words are not enough?

When you can think the words but not the meaning.
When three words nor a thousand words can ever suffice,
To pierce this unending numb blanket of silence.
That is as much outside as it wraps and warps your inside.
Permeating deep within becoming as much a part of you as life.

Where do you start? 
How do you pierce this silence?
How do you undo what's done?
How do you go back the path you've covered,
When you are struggling to even stand.

Maybe the silence is there for a reason.
Maybe you hesitate for a reason.
The mind cannot fathom what the heart knows as true.
But really, What do you do?  

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Why You Should Read Harry Potter - A ToastMasters Project 4 Speech

I completed my ToastMasters P4 speech this week. This was a memorable speech for me.

The objective of P4 is - "How to say it", and I tried very hard to come up with a good speech satisfying this topic. I even tried converting my experience of cooking pasta into a speech however, the speech turned out as dreadful as the experience itself. In the end I decided to give a speech on a topic which is very close to my heart and which I have already addressed in the blog before.

Here is the video and the speech. Please feel free to give me any feedback.

Why You Should Read Harry Potter
In the summer of 2006, I made one of the best and the worst decisions of my life. It was that fateful time when I decided to finally give in and read Harry Potter.

Good AfterNoon Fellow ToastMasters and guests.

Why worst you ask? My relationship with Harry Potter is like an addiction. I suffer from a self proclaimed Obsessive Compulsive Reading Disorder. I invariably end up reading any one of the Harry Potter books every other month. When I read these books I literally live in that magical world. I remember reading the first 6 Harry Potter books over a span of a week and being so lost in Harry’s magical world for a long time after that; that I kept on blurting the spells from those books subconsciously. I vividly remember this one instance. I was on my bike, speeding down a slope and was actually about to crash into a car parked there. Instead of applying breaks I kept on repeating “Impedimenta”, the spell to slow down moving objects. The crash still happened though, one more realization of damned reality. Not only this, I kept trying to scare away lizards with – “sssaayahaa sssiheth”. Never mind that lizards weren’t snakes but their being reptiles, was reason enough for me to practice my “Parseltongue”- that’s snake language on them.

Yes, you are allowed to laugh/ mock/ ridicule me all you want, but for me it really is one of the best books I’ve read.

What is it about these books that is so enticing? Today I am here to answer that. I hope after listening to me some of you decide to try these books. Now I sound like a salesman.

Aside from all the magic and the promise of the uncharted, unknown and unforeseen, there are three main lessons I learnt out of Harry Potter books.

Open Mindedness – This may sound ironical but once upon a time I was among those people who used to hate all fantasy books treating them as meant for children. But Harry Potter changed that. Not only did these books force me to adopt an open mind and but also to not reject anything as downright ridiculous. I noticed a very visible change in myself. I became more accepting of other people’s views.

Team Work – The protagonist of these books, Harry Potter, is an ordinary wizard. There is nothing exceptional about him at the outset, but even then he manages to courageously confront and conquer all the hardships presented before him. Harry manages to accomplish what he does because at each and every step he has the support of his friends and loved ones. They tackle each problem as a team making the best use of each other’s strengths and compensating for each other’s weaknesses on the way.

Take Action -It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” The books may on the surface be about the more generic idea of good vs. evil and an orphan boy’s taking up the mantle against evil. However it is the importance of these words that the author J.K. Rowling chooses to emphasize through the actions of her protagonists and host of other characters that make the books what they are. I for one can vouch for this. I had been contemplating joining Orators ToastMasters club since early 2011 but one fine day I decided to join it and today I am standing infront of you. You can see for yourself the change in me because I chose to act.

Magic, kudos to J.K. Rowling for plucking at that chord in all our hearts, for deep within don’t we all want to believe that it really does exist? Haven’t we at some point or other in our lives wished for a miracle or a magical solution for all our problems? But Harry Potter books are much more than just magic. Not only does J.K. Rowling force us to abandon our predefined notions of what is acceptable but she also makes her characters impress upon us the importance of teamwork and converting our thoughts into actions.

So take a chance and read Harry Potter. Who knows maybe someday you may be giving the exact same speech as me.

P.S. - This was the first time I gave a speech in another ToastMasters club. I give my sincerest thanks to the HoneyWell ToastMasters club, for hosting me and making the environment very comfortable for me. It did not occur to me for one moment that I was giving a speech in another club.
My evaluator, Mr. Murajith Menon helped me a great deal his insightful evaluation. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Dekhiye To Lagta Hai

Dekhiye to lagta hai,
zindagi ki raahon mein,
aik bheer chalti hai,
sochiye to lagta hai,

bheer mein hain sab tanha,

Jitne bhi yeh rishte hain,
kaanch ke khilone hain,
pal mein toot sakte hain,
aik pal mein ho jaye,
kon jaane kab tanha!

Dekhiye to lagta hai,
jaise yeh jo duniya hai,
kitni rangeen mehfil hai,
sochiye to lagta hai,

kitna gham hai duniya mein,
kitna zakhmi her dil hai.

Woh jo muskurate thay,
to kisi ko khuwabon mein,
apne paas paate thay,
unki neend tooti hai,
aur hain woh ab tanha!

P.S. - One of my absolute favourites by Javed Akhtar. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

"The Aero-Drama" - ToastMasters Project 3 Speech

I finally managed to deliver and clear my P3 today. After the disaster that was my last speech, I was really nervous before delivering this speech. More so because the another speaker, Mrinal was delivering his P10 today.Let me put in a word for Mrinal, an absolutely mesmerizing speaker. He has the capability to grab your attention and take you on an emotional ride with his words. I have never heard someone like him before in person.

So you can realize what a nervous wreck I was, when I was walking to the podium. I was invariably gonna be pitted against this stalwart speaker, but as Randy Pausch says in "The Last Lecture"- "Brick walls are not there to stop you. They are there for you to climb over". I took a deep breath and delivered my P3 to much applause and appreciation.

Here is my P3 speech for those interested. As always any and all reviews are more than welcome -

The Aero - Drama
 “All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players”
One fine day while I was reading Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” on board a flight, I was intrigued by what Mr. Shakespeare had just proposed and decided to test his hypothesis and try to identify what characters do people play. But due to the humble origins of my brain and my limited access to the vast resource called “Intelligence” very much unlike Mr. Shakespeare, I had to settle for a much smaller sample of available test subjects – the people on the airport. On that fateful day my friends, I created, consolidated and coined the “Aero Drama”.
Good Afternoon my fellow Toast Masters and guests.
“Aero-Drama” is the drama that enfolds everyday at the major airports in this case the Bangalore International airport. As with all stage productions “Aero Drama” has its set of props and the backstage crew. But what makes “Aero Drama” really special are the various complex characters and the stellar cast that gives life to those characters with perfection and such élan.  Trust me they will pique your interest as soon as you see them.
So without further ado let me introduce you to these characters or rather categories of characters due to the sheer number of people playing them.
1)      The New Born: This category was inspired by Mr. Shakespeare. Not that these people retch and howl like newborn babies, but because they look at everything with wide eyed wonder. It’s as if they are seeing everything for the first time. I once saw a woman pointing out the Café Coffee Day counter to her companion with such wondrous excitement  as if she had never seen a Café Coffee Day before in her life, that too in Bangalore where you find a Café Coffee Day at a stone’s throw away at every nook and cranny. And God forbid you sit next to one in a flight. I once had the misfortune of sitting next to one and the poor fellow kept bending over to my side of the window so much that I offered him my window seat, for the fear that he may cramp his back out of his sheer curiosity. And once the airhostess brought the trolley it was the other way round.
There is a nervous energy around these people and they are either at the verge of tears or are ready to snap back because they are either too late or too early.
2)      The Young Adults: These are the people who are now accustomed to the general routine of the airport. You will see them going around the airport as if it is their daily business and with a perpetual smirk on their faces.  What is really noticeable though is the way their faces contort in disdain when they see the newborns uh! Despicable species them newborns. So to avoid any such confrontation these people are mostly seen spending their time at the various shops at the airport. Nothing seems to ruffle their feathers except a flight delay/cancellation announcement, a foreigner or the rumor of a celebrity landing on the airport. On one occasion I had just arrived at the airport, and found the entire place in mayhem. Rumor was that Priyanka Chopra had landed on the Bangalore airport for a hush-hush soiree with her friends. Poor Newborns were just left crying as the Young Adults went berserk.
3)      The Old Observer:  In my opinion this is the classiest and the most dangerous category of characters at the airport. These are experienced veterans having earned their fare share of King Fisher miles, though of what use they are now only they can tell. Nothing seems to have any effect on them as they have seen it all and then some more. You will mostly find them carefully observing each and every nuance of people on the airport from behind their laptops, their Victorian classic romances or while pretending to doze off. Nothing misses their eye, talk about taking a leaf out of Sherlock Holmes. This is the category that is the most interesting and terrifying at the same time. They give you that creepy feeling on the back of your neck when you are being watched.

If you look at them closely enough, the characters of “Aero Drama” though specific to the airport bear a more than general resemblance to the characters we encounter in our everyday lives. We can all identify some aspects of “The NewBorns”, “The Young Adults” and “The Old Observer” in people we meet everyday.  Well  -“All men and woman merely players”, Mr. Shakespeare rightly said. Hypothesis hence proved.
So the next time you are at the airport try identifying these characters for yourself and see which one are you. And for those of you trying to guess which character am I? well I wrote the speech, go figure.

P.S. - I got a video recorded. Will post the link here as soon as I have it. I added a lot of anecdotes at the spur of the moment and changed the order of a few of the ones mentioned here.