Saturday, May 05, 2007

Chalk and cheese

This is the story of chalk and cheese. According to myths some people don't believe, the first cheese did not give an apple to the first chalk while they were both not in the garden of Eden. Many thousand years later, some people believe in a magical f-word, or more appropriately, a c-word, just to keep the story buzzing and away from the censors. Some others, like me, don't think much of it.

All very well. Trouble is, nobody knows what the f-word means, although the consensus amidst the chaos seems to indicate that all is not well between chalks and cheese. As per informed sources, at the very basic level, the problem revolves around whether cheese and chalk are equal, or equivalent or any related comparitive qualifier, whether physically or mentally or some other splendidly inappropriate adverb. There are as many definitions and interpretations of the word as there are people who don't know what it means. I will admit, first and foremost, I don't know what it means either, but with people celebrating a carnival of sorts of the f-word, I figured I could add to the noise as well. It seems that there is this whole-hearted personal connection and inclusiveness built into this f-word that makes it impossible for some people to understand yet irresistible for some others to comment on. This makes every person's interpretation acceptable (shhh! so long as its a cheese's personal interpretation.....or, a chalk's sympathetic interpretation if it is not wholesomely disagreeable to a insignificantly large majority of the cheese-folk). One of the more simplistic (and profound?) and most-commended interpretations to come up recently asks people to judge for themselvs if they are f-nists (believers in the f-word) based on their answer to the question, "Are you white?". The preposterous idea being that all things white being equal, if a chalk believed it was white, it was suddenly forced by default to become a believer in the f-word, lest it be known that it was probably black!

Some say there is a quiet movement taking place as well (with the aforementioned carnival supposedly most likely taking its rightful place as a part of that process) with the the modus operandi taking multiple grotesque forms. Some of these forms include perpetuation of the ever-growing repository of of existing interpretations, publication of inflammatory propaganda and anti-chalk rhetoric, confounding the uninformed and provoking unrest among chalk and cheese alike who would rather prefer hear George Bush talk on the pressing need for democracy in oil-rich countries. Needless to say, the views expressed in such propoganda are predominantly comprised of cheese-folk describing in varying levels of detail their chronicles of the systematic abuse, discrimination and violation of cheese-folk by the more-power hungry, dominating chalks. Their leit motif is a graphic tale of cheese-folk hitherto being chained to the lowly confines of the kitchen seeking escape and liberation in the chalk-bastions, those glamourous black-boards in offices. Some words often thrown in for good measure are freedom, respect, esteem and such. While some displays of emotionally violent rhetoric often make personifications of tradition, religion and society as the preferred scapegoats, there are more extreme advocates who want nothing less than making chalks redundant and inconsequential to cheese. It is no surprise, therefore to note that the all-encompassing circus of the f-word reeks of ridiculous hypocrisy, both in idealogy and practice. The righteous fight against oppression, exploitation and violence have been entirely consumed by jealousy, covetousness and self-gratification. With no clear purpose, unity will mean nothing. To gain something, you lose something. Equality is an abstract ideal, it will remain elusive for as long as you have incomparable entities. To the more practically oriented, the world is a marketplace - even for chalks and cheese. I couldn't care less if the f-nists don't buy that. In the end, strength and character come from within. A test of fire may help, perhaps.

A brief history of nothing

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

In search of my pet octopus

My pet octopus appeared quietly in a reverie. It was the best pet octopus I have ever seen or had as a pet all my life. I was hoping it would stay with me for ever. But apparently, it could not.

It looked very hungry and thirsty as well. So I fed it some Chinese noodles, and fetched a few cups of water from the ocean. As humans, we all love home-made food, so I guessed a pet octopus might love water from its home. As it turned out, it loved the sea water. And even more, it loved the fact that I understood its needs and tastes to perfection. So, it promised to be my friend for eternity. I was thrilled beyond words.

I just asked it if it would like to be with me for ever. The happy look on its face turned stiff, almost stoic. It said it could not assure me of that, but it would spend a whole day with me for sure. I knew that wasn't going to be nearly good enough. I loved this pet octopus. It was a gift from God.

I thanked it for agreeing to spend a day with me. I promised to take it around my city, to show it all the sights and spectacles that were on offer. It was the best day of my life. Ever. The pet octopus was having so much fun, and so was I. But the cold breeze started to affect it. So we returned home, earlier than we both would have liked to. In a moment, it began to get better in health, but I couldn't help noticing that the smiling countenance turned to an expression of a resigned acceptance. I wanted to know why it could not stay with me for another day. It did not answer.

I did not know too much more about a pet octopus other than it really liked sea water. So, I asked it if it would like some more sea water. After some thought, the pet octopus said yes. So, I went back to the ocean to get some sea water. By the time I returned, the dear octopus had gotten ready to leave. It gratefully accepted the water and drank it like a baby. And then, the pet octopus told me it was time for it to go. I begged the octopus to at least tell me a way to meet it later. It reflected on the question for an instant, before replying that meeting again would not be good for either of us. I asked why. I got no answer. Then, as it was just about to disappear into the distance, with that solemn, moist-eyed way of parting that can kill a man in an instant, it told me that if I truly wanted to find it, it would also wait for me in the middle of nowhere, till the end of time.

And since that moment, I have roamed every place in the world that could be nowhere, searching and seeking, failing every instance till date. But I continue today in that search, spurred on by an obsessive single-mindedness of pursuit, that like everything else in this story of my life, is hard to explain.