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Monday, June 20, 2016

Shorts 2

As I requested in the previous post, my LoudSpeak Listeners have come up with more cue-words for me to write about. Admittedly, not all of these are very short, but compared to the 1500+ words of rants I come up with when left to myself, I'd say they were microscopic.

The pioneering cue-word contributors of this series are:

  • Sonakshi, a Physics research scholar from my college (CMI) who also happily turned out to have been associated with an activity from my far past -- The Statesman Voices. When not Physics-ing, Sonakshi paints and takes wonderful photographs, mostly natural compositions within the CMI campus. Since my first semester at CMI, she has been one of the regular supporters of my literary adventures.
  • Nihal, a recurring character in this blog, who I believe needs no introduction to regular readers. To newcomers: Nihal volunteered with the Students' Council of HSMS when I was already a member, in Class 11. In Class 12, Nihal and I earned the top posts in the Council, those of Head Boy and Head Girl respectively. Let's just say he wasn't as bad as I thought he was. Across time and space, though no longer colleagues, we remain great friends.
  • Ashmita-di, who I am yet to meet in real life. I know her through her mother who, as a teacher in HSMS, was instrumental to my short student life there. Ma'am introduced me to her daughter because she thought the interaction might be fruitful -- and so it was (only to me, I'm afraid) since Ashmita-di patiently reads everything I post and leaves me advice.
The following are my attempts at expanding their cue-words, in the order in which they are named.

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Pencil Box

Sometime in high school, I realised that if I wanted, my mother would buy me that fancy quadruple-decker that came with sharpener and eraser-case, and also magnet, compass, pinball, vacuum cleaner, AK-47. When changing schools in Class 11, she asked me to get a good pencil box for the new school, and I knew that financially, it was no big deal to ask for a properly swanky version of the utility (as long as I didn't ask too often). Yet the swanky pencil box never happened, for there was a snag -- I was way too attached to my (t)rusted free gift from Horlicks. For ages, I carried it through school years and board exams. I leaked ink into it until the stains wouldn't go, I hoarded pencil shavings and spent refills in it during my phase of making art with them; its lid was always the makeshift water holder when we 'legally bunked' class to paint charts for school events. My teachers and fellow students made fun of me for carrying it around and not getting a new one, leaving no holds barred including jabs at my socio-economic status -- and I wondered how I would have felt if I really couldn't afford a new pencil box, and how their behaviour contradicted everything we were taught in school about judging people by how fancy their things were.
Eventually, though carried to college and kept as a box for sketch pens and post-its, the old Horlicks box, now discoloured beyond recognition from the old blue-orange-silver and sports pictures, was finally too beaten up to hold its own against the most basic of travel bumps -- and, guilty of spilling all my stationery into my bag about twenty times (and being too small to hold new grown-up things like a stapler and binder clips which I'd never owned separately from my mother's stash before), the Horlicks box was replaced by a double-decker procured by Maa from Navalur -- a neutral-coloured one with an easily removable (as I promptly did) silly sticker. The new one now accompanies me on every academic trip, and is proudly set beside my pillow in ISI Kolkata, basking in glory that I know to be superficial. The old one sits somewhere in my cupboard in CMI, waiting for me to return to it, as we both know I always will.

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Debt

debt. noun.
noun: debt; plural noun: debts.
  • a sum of money that is owed or due. "Nihal paid off his debts to me for last week's Diet Chewda and juice". synonyms: bill, account, money owed, amount due.
  • (in -- debt) the state of owing money. "Nihal bought me ice-cream, so now I am in his debt for ten rupees." synonyms: owing money, in arrears, overdrawn. antonyms: in credit.
  • a feeling of gratitude for a service or favour. "I would like to acknowledge my debt to my friend and former colleague Nihal Singh, for being a steadfast sounding board in tumultuous times, for pushing himself to learn a new job, and succeeding spectacularly in cutting in half the phenomenal workload I had come to expect would be mine as Head Girl of HSMS. While a Head Boy did exist, sorry, buddy, but I underestimated you grossly. I underestimated you as a colleague and as a friend, despite having seen the lengths you go to when you put your mind to something (the poor Samsung Champ still weeps at times) -- jokes apart, while life in CMI and its ups and downs may put you out of my mind at times, you are remembered every time I rally a group of people to get something done, because the best times spent doing that job were as a team, with you. Lives do grow larger, with new knowledge and adventure, new achievements and pitfalls -- for that is in the nature of lives; and try as we may, friendships sometimes spread themselves a bit thin over life's ever-expanding canvas. Yet, a daub here and there via the occasional reunion is enough to prevent it from ripping altogether, given that we hold dear the insurmountable debt that comes with being comrades-in-arms and partners-in-crime, a debt that transcends all repayment, all definition, all clarification. As J.K. Rowling aptly writes (of the lead trio in Harry Potter): 'There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.' While I'd not go so far as to compare our adversaries in Council work with mountain trolls, I dare say that the daily grind and frustration of the rather thankless work we had was another of those friendship-cementing things Rowling mentions." synonyms: obligation, liability, gratitude, appreciation, thanks. "I learned much by working with you, and grew much in having you as my friend -- and so you have my lasting gratitude. As I do every year from time to sentimental time, I now wish you good luck for your life in the years to come -- and since there will be no better chance (I have probably exhausted my creative appreciation skills for the week), I wish you a happy birthday in advance. Thanks for everything, buddy! (Fist-bump)"
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Apathy

There are those that are blinded by light, and those that are afraid of the dark, and then there are those whose eyes are forever closed to external stimuli -- not the physical eye, perhaps; no, there seems to be no difficulty in paying the rickshaw-puller, answering emails, fixing a meal, making the bed... and at some point paying the rickshaw-puller again -- but the eye that can find light in souls brighter than one's own, the eye that can selfishly pick out the dark souls to shun for the fear of losing one's own brightness, is glossed over in disuse.
These curiously afflicted ones are creatures of the twilight -- they have minds like empty fields, where unfounded machinations grow. They create emotion for sport and necessity (for they have forgotten how to feel them), to store and use in perfect wisdom. Warmth and touch and ice and flowers are all products of the machine that churns out existence, cog grinding on dreary cog, gliding on the vast knowledge of all that is to be felt in order to be human, in order to make others feel just enough to let you live. There is routine, rules, destinations, deadlines -- and so all can see -- but deep beneath the surface of the creature's mind, unseen to all the world, a perverse glory begins to fester. The creature that is stoic to the world swells inside, the glory of knowing all rising until the superficial joy of understanding the known no longer excites. The shoulders stay squared, the chin stays up, the eyes stay bright and the smile shines like there's no tomorrow -- for so the machine crafts the creature's skin, for so the machine knows the creature has to be -- and so the creature lives, quietly swelling with the glory of impervious nothingness.
At times, of course, there are breaches -- holes that break containment and let in frivolities like seeing, believing, liking, loving, dissecting, debating, understanding -- they are quickly filled in with wisdom, of course, for they are no match for the machine and all the things it knows.

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Much thanks to the cue-word providers, and I hope I have done justice to your ideas. As always, more ideas are invited.

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