Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Girl on the Train

You know that realization when you read the first few pages of a book and you feel the protagonist is just like you? Every characteristic of them reminds you of a trait you have. That's how I felt when I started reading Rachel Watson's story. But the feeling soon changed. Her character progressed to be more muddled, raw and messed up.

The Girl on the Train is a smooth, easy read. Racy and engrossing. The climax grips you. Makes your heart beat faster. Just like a thriller should be.



That man whom you see in the same lift as you every time you take the lift to your office floor?
That girl in the metro whom you notice standing at the same spot near the window every morning?
That old lady whom you always find singing to herself when you are out for a run in the park?

Those familiar strangers. We all have a list of them. They all take up some space in our mind, in our thoughts, even if it's just for a couple of minutes a day. We try to imagine their lives. We construe their stories. We cook up their quirks. We relate to their mannerisms.

Rachel Watson did the same. She was just like you and me. Her only mistake - she stretched this seemingly innocuous habit into a frustrating, annoying obsession. Conceiving stories around strangers. Imagining herself in their stories. Fighting hard to be a part of their stories. In the end, it messes up her life even more.

Moral of the story? Sometimes, it's better to be strangers. We are meant to stay strangers in certain stories.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

I met a timekeeper

I met a timekeeper.

As I climbed up the steep steps of the clock tower and entered the top chamber, he welcomed me with a smile.

The pride in his eyes preceded his age.
The stories he had were far in number than the wrinkles on his face.
The job he was proud of even 40 years later.

Below him lay a market brimming with people from around the world, and he sat separated from the cacophony in his chamber, manning and winding a 105-year-old clock.  

Yet, the smile did not leave his face.
Yet, the solitary job did not dull his warmth.
Yet, the years gone by did not leave him bitter.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Wall of Fog

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He opened his eyes as he felt something solid under his feet and tried to gain balance. It was like someone had picked him up, and plopped him gently on the ground. Now eyes wide open, it did not seem like a normal ground. It didn't seem like anywhere he'd been before. There was an eerie silence, and yet his ears were ringing. The ringing that he felt after listening to loud music constantly. In front of him was a wall of thick fog, the kind that he experienced every winter; but this time he did not feel cold. 

Gingerly, he took a step further, hoping to see what lay on the other side of the fog. But it continued with him, it was like a tunnel, not dark, yet not lit up. He kept walking. With no recollection of time. With no memory of how long he had been walking. "Is it a dream?", he wondered, looking at his hands. And a shiver ran down his spine. His hands looked the same, yet weren't like his. The jagged lines had smoothed out. The calloused edges had eased. The ugly scar, just below his right thumb had faded. Instinctively, his hand moved to his forehead, fingers searching for the stitches, which he presumed would still be raw. But all he could feel was smooth skin. No pain. No stitches. Flustered, he shook his head to break away from the dream, closed his eyes and turned around.

"Take a deep breath."
"Count to five."
"It always works." 

He willed himself, opening his eyes. But, he was still there. Amidst deep fog. He continued walking, knowing that the dream would eventually end. Until he heard his name.

He blinked and the fog had disappeared. And in front of him, stood an old gentle man. Gentle, the first thing he thought of looking at the man. His kind eyes. His warm smile. His soft voice. Calling out his name. He responded, "Where am I?"

"In transition."
"Before I get to choose between heaven or hell?" He chuckled.
The old man smiled. "You don't get to choose, because there is no hell or heaven."
"Then why am I here?"
"To answer one question."

He sighed. Eyes expectant.

"Who would you be?", the old man continued. 
"If they wipe away your work?
If they strip you off your talents?
If they seize all your possessions?
If they take away all your money?
If they un-changed what you have changed?
If they take away what you have brought?
If they destroy what you have created?
If they forget who you are?
Would you still be you?"

The old man's kind eyes were piercing him now. Probing for an answer. He held out a glimmering shard of glass to him. "Look into this mirror. You will know the answer."

He took the mirror in his hands. The razor-sharp edges not hurting his fingers. Taking a deep breath, he held up the mirror in front of his face. The mirror reflected a thick wall of fog, instead of his reflection. In the mirror, in his own reflection, he did not exist. He had ceased.


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