September 30, 2003

Tripwire

If Pandora's box was all yours and if the single word that would unlock it was just on the tip of your tongue, would you rather let it roll out by itself or would you let the moment pass, forget the word and forever live secluded from the results of the averted action, but always in doubt about what it could have been? Only if you had walked that extra half distance towards the known conclusion, even if is was just to prove a point. Is the responsibility towards another, as it is often claimed, or is it only towards the self? As it remains as the veiled truth. Just another of those games, that forms the part of another, patterns that refuse to take any form, like rings of smoke.

Exhaustion is a well-earned punishment. The trick is to keep you away from yourself as much as possible. Minimise the damage, restrict access and a pleasant dullness prevails as we wander over countless miles of routine and norm. Useful pollution obscuring the skies when there are no stars to be seen. What cannot be seen cannot exist. Every inch of earth has been traversed, we have studied all the patterns, we know each symptom by heart. Two ounces of shifting winds, three units of loose red soil and a bit of inexperienced rain for taste and we have cracked yet another of those 'complicated cases'. One of those must be mine. Keep searching.

As the solitary sidewinder too slithers into the unknown and yet another hot, burning day changes into some cool, airy night clothes, we master the art of walking the desert. Wherein the trick is to forget speed, irrespective of whether you run or you walk, there is always more of the same till it consumes you out of its own free will. As the dunes fall over each other, we learn to give each one a name, form associations, note patterns and learn. To unlearn all that was learnt and to re-learn it all over again. For the dunes they keep shifting, what was there yesterday is no longer there today. And tomorrow is just another mirage for the believers. Look.

Fear of reprisal. Bad karma. Unsettled spirits. What you do unto others, would some day happen to you. Nonsense. Poppycock. There cannot be ledgers large enough to keep track of all that. Why fear what will eventually happen. For it would happen anyway. Does clerically administered divine absolving defer what is on its way anyway? Or does pages and pages of scientifically interpreted phrases achieve something to that effect? What does it matter if "D" is what you get in the end, irrespective of whether you put A and B together or if it was X and Y. Are we interpreting the end from the beginning? Are we interpreting the beginning from the end?

Finally we measured the distance between us in words spoken and noted it down in units of words unspoken. The unit that had an inverse relation to what it measured was named silence. As we approached values high enough to be happy, we realised that there was nothing to be left unsaid, since we had said it all. We took down astonishingly high values of silence. And that is how we came to talking without talking, where I could say everything that I wanted to say and you could hear everything that you wanted to hear. Eventually, we could not remember if there was anything to be said, we just hoped there was. Maybe there was nothing.

September 21, 2003

Hopscotch

I can almost smell the dust here. Been quite a while eh?

For starters, I put in my papers sometime early last week. I am leaving what has essentially been my problem child over the last three years. It has been some ride, one that has taught me quite a lot more than what I ever expected to learn and changed me in more ways than one, a pleasant mix of the good and the bad. It has been pretty hard work, but I guess I owe nothing to anyone. Guess it is time to try and create another little corner of comfort from scratch. Another place, another time, another cause. Forward ho! We do not look back.

If anyone were to have told me in early 2001, after two disastrous one week stints in two major media organisations, that I would be working the three years that were to follow on minimum 8 hour a day shifts, six days a week, I would have laughed it off. Me, the forever restless human doing something like that? No way! Never! Unthinkable. That is the sort of thing reserved for ordinary mortals, no, not for me! And how the mighty fell and rolled further and deeper into the ravine of a set routine and an ordinary existence.

Honestly, I do not have any regrets, nor am I complaining. I am just serving the facts on a neutral plate, ruminating, contemplating during one of those rare periods of time off work. The effort has taken its toll though. Strangely it has been pretty impartial and the effects are pretty much across the board. I have lost a little bit of everything, cynicism, optimism, pessimism, and any other "ism" you can come up with. I have come quite a long way and yet I am nowhere.

I am relieved though, to be away (hopefully!) from pushing news on a daily basis. Every now and then you do end up questioning if there is any bit of shame or humanity left in you when all you can think of, even when reading about some tragedy, is how well you can play it up. There is one photograph I will never forget, of a man dying slowly at the site of a train crash. It still disturbs me, makes me wonder if I would have still seen it just as "saleable news" if it was someone I knew, someone I cared for. Maybe I won't feel anything. After all, it is just a symptom of a deeper-set malaise.

On a news desk you get to see all the agency photographs, raw and unedited and also stuff clicked by your own photographers. At the high resolution that we get to see them, you can see every cut, every drop of blood and the pain and agony on the face of every victim of disasters, created by man or nature. When you read around 70 odd stories in a day as a part of your work, there is a lot of crap that runs through your mind, makes you feel so bloody helpless. There is so much of it out there and all you do is to try and sell it well.

I know I am doing it knowingly. No one is forcing me to do it. Still, I cannot just ignore the detached irony of the situation. It makes you feel so yuck, still all that you are going to do is to push it. Laughable, two-penny, pathetic sensitivity that is of no good to anyone. Every story has spin, every story ignores some important fact, every story makes or destroys a case. Fact? What is it? I do not remember when was the last time I saw it. Do you? I am just a conduit to push an agenda and I am a pretty good one at that. I speak the language they love to hear.

And they do love me. They love the fact that I am dependable. I am clockwork personified. 6 days a week I can be found here from 9:30 PM to 7:00 AM, come rain, snow or sun. It is not rocket science. It has been more about endurance than ethics. It has been more about escapism than principles. If the cowardice in sheltered survival is mistaken for outstanding acts of bravery, who am I to complain? Who am I to reject another of those shiny medals? But I have to admit, it does amuse me to work the system. It is fun.

Actually, I do not know for sure anymore what is real. Any given point there are two other referential points. One, the old rough, reckless, raw self and the second the new, smooth, calculating one. I am neither. In fact I am not sure if that is actually the case or is it just that I want to believe that I exist somewhere in the middle, detached from either. Gives you the best of both worlds, minus the responsibility of either. It was not me monsieur, it was him! Schizophrenia elevated to the status of a practising art. Not a bad prospect?

But I do miss the certainty of the old days, of actually being able to just move on as and when the need was felt , as well as believing in it. The old days when all I had in this strange, alien city was a duffel bag, a mattress and a bucket. An ode to choice, out of it or the lack of it. I am getting rooted. It is not a comfortable thought. I want to have a mobile foundation. I miss the days when I could comfortably find a couple of hours in a day to finish a hundred pages of a book or when I could think of wasting five minutes in my day without having to think about a similar five in the coming day.

But I am having fun. Yes, I am. To let you into a secret, I really do not believe in the crap that I am good at. I am just bluffing, you see, and everyone thinks it is genius. It is like you are the emperor and is yelling at the crowd "Damn it, I am standing here stark naked" and they think that it is something like a cool new fashion statement. But it is time to leave this beast and head for the new one. Yes siree, I am now giving "internal examination" a totally new meaning. I am looking at the beast from the inside and the view is.. umm.. cool?