In Our Time

The young boy didn’t need his mother’s help to wake up that morning. Despite the cold, which ensured that the process was gradual and unpleasant, he prevailed with what he deemed as a satisfactory display of early morning courage. He had managed to sleep soundly amid intermittent dreams about the coming day and about what it promised to entail. He sat up on his bed and, ignoring the silent pleas of his left arm that lay well ensconced within the warmth of the thick quilt, used it to draw the curtains aside from the window above his left bed post. The view increased his excitement even further and made him leap from his bed on to the cold floor.

He immediately regretted this unplanned leap and climbed back in. Another look outside restored his enthusiasm and he stayed still in that position until his mother arrived. She wasn’t surprised to see him awake.

“Yes,” she said with a wry smile. “Everything’s closed.”

The root of his excitement, confirmed by the most reliable source he knew, made him laugh loudly with pleasure. He affected his mother alike.

“Everyone is at home then!” he exclaimed.

“Yes” laughed his mother. “But they are all sleeping so be quiet.”

“I’ll wake them,” he said and started to remove his quilt.

“You may try,” she said but then stopped him. “But I better not see you outside this room without your socks and sweater.”

Some moments later, having appropriately clothed himself, he rushed inside his elder sister’s room. He began prodding her on the back, gently at first and then, realizing that the quilt was softening his finger’s impact, with much greater intensity.

“What is it?” she asked in frustration.

“The snow! We’ll be at home today.”

The sister, in accordance with the universally accepted way of displaying disappointment, tried to bury her head deep within her pillow but then, remembering that she was a rebel, sprang from the bed and looked inquiringly at her brother.

“Are you sure?”

“Mother just told me.”

“This is perfect.”

“Yes,” the boy beamed with pleasure, still too young to understand the devastating simplicity of sarcasm. “I’ll wake up father.”

After her brother left the room, she retrieved her cell phone from somewhere within the folds of the quilt and texted her friend. The two had a forty minute conversation about the misfortune that had befallen them that day, the inadequacy of the government’s snowfall mitigation techniques, and how all of this was their parents’ fault.

During those forty minutes, the boy tried, rather unsuccessfully, to wake his father. The only responses that he managed to elicit out of him were “So you will all be at home today” and “Let me sleep. I love you”. This was followed by long and deliberate snores that finally made the boy leave the room in search of his mother.

The mother had been rather busy all this while. She had been trying to think of activities that would engage her son and hence act as effective channels for his burgeoning enthusiasm. She knew that he wouldn’t get very satisfactory responses from either his sister or his father and would then eventually rely on her.

No house should suffer the misfortune of having all of its members present inside at the same time, she thought. It leads to such conflicts of interests.

She saw her son leaving his sister’s room with a surprisingly happy disposition. It wasn’t something she generally expected whenever he did venture near that area. He waved at her and, using small brisk leaps to propel himself, entered inside the adjacent room. She smiled at him and then frantically turned her attention towards the television. She realized, at that moment, how she had always underestimated its importance. She said a quick prayer to the Gods of Unwholesome Entertainment, apologizing for her ignorance, and switched it on. A sea of black and white dots danced mockingly in front of her. She said another quick prayer that mostly contained curses for the Gods of Unwholesome Entertainment along with a derisive footnote for the Gods of Weather.

While the Gods reviewed the mother’s contradictory prayers and tossed them into the “They don’t know what they want” pile, her phone gave two sharp beeps. It was a message from her boss who wished her a very good morning and expressed his concern about the weather. He then reminded her of the irregularities in the media budget that they had come across yesterday, and how, after much thought and consideration, he had taken an executive decision that made it solely her responsibility to make the necessary rectifications. He hoped that she wouldn’t let her inability to reach the office deter her and that she would provide him with the corrected data by tonight.

“Mother? You look red.”

“Oh,” she replied, noticing her son. “It is the cold I suppose.”

“I thought the cold makes a person blue.”

“Well it makes me red. Now, could you wake them?”

“Yes,” he said triumphantly. “Almost.”

“This is perfect.”

“That’s exactly what she said,” he smiled.

An hour later, they were all seated at the dining table, a bowl of cereal in each of their laps and a Monopoly game board lying between them. Two other board games, “Life” and “Scotland Yard”, lay beside the boy who really felt as if he was in charge of things. Ever since he had heard about the impending snow storm, he had prayed for this day. The Gods had tossed his prayer into the “They know what they want but we cannot give it to them because they will just want more” pile. In fact, on such occasions, they always ensured that the wish wasn’t fulfilled coincidentally through natural means lest it be attributed to the effectiveness of the prayer. But the boy didn’t know that yet.

The minutes progressed and so did the little coloured pieces on the board – both using similar cyclic trajectories that relied on repetition for progress.  The boy kept them all together, made them smile and occasionally laugh. He didn’t notice the similarity and the lack of spontaneity in their laughter. But for a few moments, spread intermittently and lasting merely seconds, the rest of them managed to focus on him and forget each other.

So it was quite a telling coincidence when the very moment that Chance provided his sister with a “Get out of jail free” card, her cell phone rang. She excused herself and galloped back to her bedroom. The boy, well familiar with the longevity of such phone calls, looked in dismay as his well constructed plan for the day suffered a major dent from a rather regular occurrence that he had somehow forgotten to account for.

“I suppose we should wait for her,” said the father and then gave the boy a quick pat. “I do need to finish at least a chapter today. I love you.” With that he rose, smiled at them both and retreated to his study.

“They shouldn’t take long,” said the mother. “We’ll play later. Why don’t you read your book?”

“I read my book every day,” he replied with a dismal look. “I don’t need snow to read my book.”

The mother tried to think of something comforting to say but her mind was too occupied by her boss’s message and the opportunity that this sudden interruption now presented. Even something as obvious as guilt, which usually manifested under such conditions, was finding it difficult to become a part of her thought process.

The boy walked back to his room, climbed inside his bed and looked outside through the window.  It was almost noon by this time and the heat of the sun had started to melt the upper layer. But the process was so slow and gradual that it would be completely undone by the chill of the evening.

The boy closed his eyes and prayed for the snow to melt and the roads to clear so that he could go back to school tomorrow and be with his friends. The Gods received the prayer, compared it with the asker’s previous entry, discovered the contradiction, and tossed it into the “They don’t know what they want” pile.

Yesterday’s Ephiphany

If only I were still a bystander
and mock those deeply entrenched
in the purportedly essential games
of daily life

Instead I use these feeble
and intermittent attempts
to find a certain solace behind
the thin veil of delusion

I couldn’t possibly be scraping at the bottom;
That’s a cowardly thought and
a surrender to the pervasive lethargy
that is so easily blamed on the times

If nothing else, I realize that
the old adage about work over ability
holds well in an attention deficit world
even if only till I choose to remember it

Prose

It was a holiday so I woke up on time
and before long I was staring at the black line
blinking in a sea of recycled text

The noise wasn’t deafening that day
and for a while the resulting delight
kept me unproductively occupied

It is never supposed to be pretty,
akin to pushing against a grind stone,
not for those of intermittent intent

Here, however, the freedom is terrifying
and the prerequisites accompanying the plunge
temptingly simple but deceptively evasive

What does one say to one
who doesn’t have the time for that
and wrongly construes their courage for this?

Some Realizations

Here is the visible misfortune of a friend
and the degree of my own indifference
surprises me.

It isn’t the same when,
far removed from my presence,
fanatics kill and burn strangers.

This elicits an immediate reaction
….but not for the stranger,
so perhaps it is the same.

Do I hate bad ideas more
than I love good people?
Is that a natural product of our times?

Or perhaps this is a grotesque evasion
of a problem that may not be singular to me
but is more intrinsic than I’d like to admit.

Tolerance

And now I find myself
filled with derision
for every strand of thought
not in harmony with mine

While consciously aware
that with each passing moment,
albeit with diminishing vitriol,
I am derisive of my own past

But wouldn’t concessions,
no matter how intuitive,
be akin to succumbing to
the mediocrity that comes naturally?

And perhaps a war over axioms
is doomed until we realize
there is no all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present
but only us and our conversations