Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mr. & Mrs. Unwelcome

He squeezes his wobbly bulk through the narrow doorway, an eccentric toothy grin plastered on his face. She follows him closely. She is too busy fidgeting with her outfit to even notice me. With one hand she holds her intricate saree steady while she uses the other to absently fidget with her hairdo, repeatedly running through her hair the stubby fingers, whose nails are adorned with chipped red polish.

"We were in the neighbourhood. Haven't seen you in a while, how are you doing, by the way? Decided we would stop by." He mutters as he makes his way to the sofa and plops down into it. I hastily try to clear up the messy table, but he's already managed to grab something. A book. "What is this?" He opens my journal, fetches out his glasses and starts reading. Aloud.

Ignoring her husband, she adds, "Looks like you are busy these days. No time to look after the house, huh?" 

I smile awkwardly, stuffing everything else on the table into my bag.
Mr. & Mrs. Unwelcome have arrived... unannounced.

"Do you want something to drink, maybe?" I mutter, positive that the only that I could offer is water.

"Oh no." He says and continues reading. "I keep thinking of ways to switch off all the thoughts in my head, without even realizing the irony in it..." 

Aw, no, not that. My face flushes with embarrassment and I just look on, helpless, as he reads an entire page of my journal. "It's actually my..." I say, after a while, "...I just write it, you know, for me... it's not exactly supposed to be read by..."

"I didn't think you could write so well." Mr. Unwelcome declares, completely unfazed.

"Gee, thanks." I mutter just as Mrs. Unwelcome hurries into the kitchen. I follow her, confused.

"I just want a glass of water." She says and shoos me out of the room. "I'll take it, you don't have to bother. You two have a good chat, you haven't met in a while."

For an entire second, I attempt to console myself by imagining how worse it would have been, had Mr. & Mrs. Unwelcome had a kid. But then I think of all the things I'd planned for the day, and decide to take some action.

"Well, actually..." I hesitantly announce, "I just have to run a few errands. You know, go to the market and the bookstore. It closes in a half an hour, so I just have to go now! If I'd known you guys were coming..."

"Don't worry! Don't worry!" His voice booms over my journal, which, I notice with utmost displeasure, he still hasn't stopped reading. But Mr. Unwelcome doesn't get up to leave. No. Instead, they both beam at me and he adds, "We'll wait. A half an hour is nothing! You do all your errands, don't let us disturb you!"

"And you'll just wait here?" I cast a doubtful look around the place.

"Sure. We can talk." she says. "Or read" she slyly adds. "I've been also meaning to ask your mother if you've got all the utensils I recommended. I could check it myself! You come back, we'll wait!"

"Wonderful." I say, struggling to maintain the smile on my face. I grab my bag and keys and head out. As I close the door behind me, I catch a glimpse of Mr. Unwelcome pulling himself out of the couch, undoubtedly to explore this hitherto uncharted territory. I can see his pudgy face almost glowing with excitement at the prospect. I sigh and leave.

If only Mr. & Mrs. Unwelcome knew just how unwelcome they were.
If only, like with vampires, I could rescind their invitation.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Why do atheists have to be so bitter?

Image courtesy of BJWOK at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A blog post about atheism got me thinking. I really don't remember where I read it: if I do, I'll add a link. It started with a quote about belief by Woody Allen that I can't remember, either. 

So, I'll quote my philosophy text book instead - Atheism is rejection or absence of the belief in God. Atheism is not the knowledge that God doesn't exist, it is just another belief. Considering how 'cool' atheism has lately become, there are many atheists out there now but very few who understand this. Instead, you find people bashing each other, intolerantly professing their disdain for that irrational belief in God and all the name calling, which just really gets on my nerves, "Dawkins", "Darwin", "Evolution", blah. Unless you actually worked with Darwin to figure out how ape turned to man and all that, unless you saw the proof yourself (as opposed to reading about it.) it's not a fact for you, it's just a belief. You may believe in evolution, you may believe in Darwin, you may believe in science; you couldn't possibly be sure of any of it.

Sure, all these religious fanatics have ganged up and led wars and mass murders and what not throughout history, but that was because of their intolerance, not their belief. It's not like atheists are very tolerant, either. They try to force their beliefs down people's throats, act very bitter, smug and smirk and laugh at the God-worshippers, and pretend to have had some sort of a great epiphany, a revelation that puts them above the theists, much like the moral high-ground established by the theists. Here's something Karen Armstrong (author of The Short History of Myth, a delightful book) has to say about God, and the same applies, I think, to atheists:

“If your understanding of the divine made you kinder, more empathetic, and impelled you to express sympathy in concrete acts of loving-kindness, this was good theology. But if your notion of God made you unkind, belligerent, cruel, of self-righteous, or if it led you to kill in God's name, it was bad theology.”

The problem is not religion, the problem is intolerance. Your need to make everyone agree with you; that's what causes all the trouble, irrespective of where your faith lies.

All these debates pro and contra God made me realize that people don't really understand the importance of an irrational belief. There was something in The Short History of Myth that I'll have to rephrase - When it comes to mythology, whether it happened or not doesn't matter, it is how effective the myth is that matters. Everyone has a different way of dealing with things, and each way is correct for that person. If believing in God helps you sleep peacefully, get up every morning and live, then who am I to tell you it's wrong? If the thought that "God will protect them" gives someone strength, why is it silly? Believing that my bike won't stop functioning in the middle of the street, I won't have an accident, helps me get out of my house every day. People drop dead on the road all the time, but my belief (in what? science, statistics, someone else's "proof") stops me from hiding under my bed. 

An atheist and a theist are about to go into surgery. The atheist has read that the chances of that surgery failing are minuscule, knows the doctor has three specializations from some fancy university, is certain that he won't bleed out on the operation table, because someone has assured him it rarely happens. The theist prays to God every day, has performed all the necessary rituals beforehand and knows God will respond by keeping him safe. They are both beliefs, equally irrational and in this terribly unpredictable world, equally essential.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Shooting stars and candy bars

"You know what you should do? Paint the ceiling", she had said, "So when each morning jerks me out of my dream world, right before my groggy, reluctant eyes would be another dream world."

And so he did. And then they lay back on the bed, holding hands, looking at the bluey darkness hanging above them, at the dull, dying stars falling towards them, at the yellow brushstrokes curling around the stars with a faint glow, at the strange dead starfish scattered in their midst.

"It is so... chaotic. Beautiful..." She whispers, "A mixing of two worlds, even that jagged horizon that separates the dead and the living, the heavens and us has faded away. The seas have spilled into the skies and the stars are tumbling down towards us. Poor confused souls. It is real and it's here and it's incredibly menacing. My roof seems to find it hard to bear the weight of the destruction, don't you think? Look how the paint is seeping through the cracks, trying so desperately to hold it up! If it does collapse, imagine what a beautiful mess it would be."

"Words, words." He mutters, sighing, sleepy. "Did you check your mail today, or has today already become yesterday? Nora Ellis of The Art Review called my last painting 'an inconsequential jumble'."

"Who? Nora Ellis of The Art Review!" she imitates him in a shrill voice. "Nora Schmora. She doesn't understand you, she doesn't know you like I do. I wish you'd let me write about you."

"Why would you want to? Words could never be enough. Explanations, reviews, justifications destroy art. And if someone does require these.. words.. to understand me or any artist, for that matter, to grasp the meaning beyond the obvious, then they would never really understand us, anyhow."

"You know, you say that, and I tell myself, 'It doesn't bother me.' and it really doesn't. I could tell you, that prose is an art. I do with a pen and ink, or a keyboard lately, what you do with a paintbrush and a palette. I could tell you so much, but I decide not to. And then you go and create something like this for me." She points emphatically at her lavishly painted ceiling. "And there's a flurry of words in my mind." She closes her eyes now and whispers. "An iridescent blue. Darkness. Frozen wishes and shooting stars and candy bars and childhood dreams." She smiles. "Morbid."

The word hangs in the air between them.

"I experience the world in words, and I know no other way. I look at a violin and somewhere in my head a quill rears up and begins to describe it, in a startlingly Victorian font, as a drop of rich molten chocolate threatening to fall off and the music it makes as evocative, soft sounds that ring like strands of chocolate hitting the air, creating ripples in time. Or on a rather inartistic note, when someone says apple, my mind goes "a-p-p-l-e" rather than providing me with an image of that little red fruit.
I like to believe there might be people out there, who won't know what they are seeing till I put it into words for them. I really do wish you'd let me write about you, someday. I'm no Nora Ellis. I can write well, I really can and I'm not the only one who thinks that. I know that I'll manage to capture you far better than anyone else. It won't be a review, not really, it will be a dedication."

He stares at her for a moment, quiet, a slight smile playing on his lips. "Writing is your passion, I may not understand it, fully. Yet. But I do appreciate it."

"No, it's more than that." She sits up, suddenly. Then she shrugs. "Or, maybe, it's less." She waits, collecting her thoughts, as he looks at her, eyebrows raised, smirking. "Writing, to me, is like... breathing. Regular, routine. Involuntary!" She laughs, adding, "But if I ever did stop, I'd die."

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda