Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hamelin


I look out my window at a world full of cars, buildings and suits; the Armani’s and the Cavalli’s; the Aston’s and the Volkswagens; the Rolexes and the Tissot’s; each and every one a fancier imitation of the other.

A mere 19 years of existence seems like a lifetime with the monotony I see around me. The faces on the bus all seem to have the same tired, sullen expressions, staring at me with their identical, bored eyes. The halls in every building containing life in identical seven foot high corridors seem to be an extension of one another, never-ending, suffocating.

Everyone wants to finish first; everyone wants that tiny edge over everyone else. The problem is, thanks to our overachieving lifestyle choices and continual desires for excellence, in our attempts to be proud with humility, affluent with empathy and authoritative with magnanimity, we all pretty much touch the finish line at the same time.

When I was younger, I’d often read about the legendary Pied Piper. The man who was paid to rid the city of Hamelin of its problems eventually led the entire city to its end, pulling away the children of the city with his mesmerizing music.

Now that I’m much older, much wiser and much sadder, I see that we’re all really following our own Pied Pipers. Chasing our dreams, mesmerized by the promise of a tomorrow brighter than our brothers and sister, we race blindly through our lives, existing for tomorrow, not living for today.

Just like the story, we’re all hoping to rid our lives of our problems thanks to a future that we’ve built in the landscape of our minds. A place where, as Axel Rose puts it, “the grass is green and the girls are pretty”. This is a future that we dream of, but are not prepared for.

The thing about dreams is that they never die. They grow bigger every time you come close to realizing them. This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily, except everyone’s dreams seem to be headed in the same direction.

We’re all aiming to be rich, happy, successful, powerful people in the near future. You see a bright, promising future of hopes and dreams; I see a dark era of monotony and imitated existences. Everyone is a leader or a follower, there are no individuals. Everyone wants to be an Investment banker, a lawyer, a musician, an actor, an artist or a doctor.

No one seems to want to go live on an Island; no one seems to want to invent a cocktail that rocks bartenders across the globe; no one wants to grow up and read all the classics; no one wants to be the alphabet-burping champion of the world.

Don’t dream small, dream different.

We’re not confined by society anymore. We’re not confined by the desires of our parents; we’re not confined by our financial conditions. We’re trapped in the prison of our own minds. We’re so eager to please our own sense of achievement we forget to please our sense of contentment.

It’s usually the ones that are different that are left out in the cold, and that scares us sometimes, I suppose. No one wants to be a Graffiti artist if it means they’ll spend their mid-thirties living in their parents’ basement. It’s the fear of failure; the fear that our dreams will be overshadowed by the achievements of our peers, that drives us further and further away from where we could have been and closer to where we simply ‘want’ to be.

It’s a difficult, twisted logic, but so is the whole concept of conforming to our own perception of normal.

Why can’t I eat rasgullas with chocolate sauce? Why can’t I wear beach shorts with a waistcoat? Why can’t I run along the highway in the middle of the night?

It’s when we start asking ‘why’ that a lot of the questions we might be posed with in the future start getting answered. Everyone wants a shiny golden star on the pin-board of the world next to their name. They don’t understand that there are few who care. You don’t live for that Shiny star, you live for yourself. You don’t need to shine to glow.

In a world where everyone is free to do whatever they want, people usually conform to what everyone else seems to be up to.

The Piper’s calling you to join him.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The life and Death of My best friend


Co-Written by Onaiza Drabu as Rostam.
Follow this amazing writer at http://dilliauto.blogspot.com/

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Rostam

It has been a while since I’ve had guests over. I cannot remember the last time someone visited me. It comes with being old I guess, this ostracism. But Cyrus; good old Cyrus; he is different. For a while there, he had me scared not having called on this old man in a while. I almost thought he was avoiding me, like the others. Like them, he too, wanted nothing to do with the lonely man. Zahra’s death hit me hard. I don’t meet people anymore. Strangers; they scare me. I cherish the few friends I have, strive to keep them close. I fear abandonment.

Cyrus is staying over again tonight. Hes been here a while now. Dinner time was always his favourite. I smile at him, beckoning to help himself with the lavish spread I’ve laid out. Clumsy old Cyrus, he has a piece of paper stuck to his lip. Tch. How did he not realise it? Must be the age getting to his head. I lean across the table and gently flick it off.
Old age, you sly bastard. You get us all don’t you.

Surprisingly, Cyrus is awfully quiet tonight. A jovial old fellow, this man’s roar could be heard all across the hallway in our college dorms. I try making conversation but I think he doesn’t feel up to it. He’s barely eating too. I remember how he once hogged an entire four course meal without even so much as a burp.

I sometimes feel like quite a bore, ranting on and on about the old days and Zahra but that is all I have left; memories and a resounding emptiness in my life. I cling on to whatever I can get. My eyes moisten, thinking about my beautiful wife and how she would hate the loner I’ve become, when suddenly the sound of shattering glass brings me back.

Poor Cyrus, he dropped his bowl of potatoes on the floor. He is weak, probably sick tonight. He wants me to feed him, the pitiful soul. Times like these are probably the ones I live for, making me feel useful and indispensable. I like being there for this weak little creature that was my friend. No no, don’t get me wrong. He still is my best friend. He listens to me talk about Zahra all day long. We talk of days gone by and times that will never come back. Oh yes, we spend plenty of hours sitting here, reminiscing. Occasionally, he chides me for living in the past displaying remnants of his old boisterous self. I chuckle to myself at these times. Oh how the mighty fall. My dear old Cyrus used to be the boss everywhere. Whatever we did, whatever happened, he decided. Now he’s weak, crippled by the wrath of time. I have to care for him; decide for him; nurse him. I’m glad he came back to me. He couldn’t have gone long without having someone there for him. Even now he can’t give in without a protest here and there. But my best friend Cyrus learned to live with me, under my rules.

Sometimes he acts like a child refusing to finish his meals and now he wants a cricket bat to play with. This man is losing his marbles, I say. I struggle to make him finish his meal and he gives in. Once again, the flash of the dominating Parsi he once was, comes and goes. I pity him some of the times. At others I feel glad he has me. Ah, the clumsy old geezer fell asleep in his chair. Looks like I have to carry him to the bedroom and tuck the poor thing in. This is what has become of Cyrus Irani, the dreaded proud Parsi who refused to acknowledge anyone superior. I looked at his face, calm and expressionless. Sleep my friend, its the only respite from life.

There, you got him too. Old age, you sly bastard.

Cyrus

I stared across the table at the heaving, gyrating mass of flesh that had once been my friend. Rostam stood a good six-feet tall about two feet away from me. The smile on his face was that of a man satisfied with the way things had panned out for him.

Even as I struggled to break free of the roped binding my limbs together and tear through the tape stretched out across my face, I couldn’t help but think if “friendship” was too generous a term to describe whatever little contact Rostam and me had shared over the last few years. It wasn’t any particular incident I could tell you, no falling out of any kind. With time, as it is with any set of friends, me and Rostam had grown apart.

The giant of an old man leaned over me and put his hand to my face. As his fingers casually stroked the skin under my nose I felt shivers run down my spine, engulfing my body in chills and quivers.

He pulled at the edge of the tape, his cold hands making their way under the stickiness of the adhesive. In a cold, brutal pull, he tore the tape of my face, stealing away a considerable amount of tiny white hair that covered my upper lip, the sign of a respectable, ageing gentleman.

It isn’t impossible to breathe through your nose, but after hours of having nothing but my nostrils to provide air for every part of my body, feeling the air brush across the inside of my mouth felt like a luxury no less than feeling the finest wine at our ancestral home smoothly making its way down my throat.

Luxury is relative, I suppose. Maybe, at the end of the day, the poorest people are the happiest.

I’d scream with the pain of the tape stripping my face of all its hairy glory, but I’m exhausted from an entire day of writhing and shaking, trying to break free of this prison, with no food or water to ease my suffering. I was simply too tired to try and live. Up to this point, he had captured my person, disabled my physical being. He hadn’t broken my spirit.

Now that I’d given up, he’d imprisoned my soul.

He filled a spoon with the most foul-smelling pile of potatoes I had ever encountered and reached his old, shaking hand out to my face, pushing me to put that vile excuse for food in my mouth. Had my father known of my eating rejectamenta unfit for even the foulest of beasts, he’d have beaten my arse silly for not having protested this treatment, in captivity or otherwise. The Iranis were better than that. We were a nobler breed of Parsi. We ate only the finest food, drank only the finest wines and walked on only the finest marbles. I suppose with a rope the width of a small snake tightened around your limbs, you’re only as noble as your captor enables you to be.

I opened my mouth reluctantly and felt a lump form in my throat. Cyrus Irani was about to shed tears. I bit down on the spoon, more to stop the crying than anything else, and swallowed the entire bite of potatoes, gulping it down with ferocity.

Before I knew it, Rostam had another spoonful at the ready, with a distinct gleam of insanity in his eye.

I don’t know why I did it; I don’t know what pushed me to it, but I swung my head around like a madman, hitting Rostam’s hand as i did so, spilling potatoes all over his floor.

The next thing I knew, something hit me right across the face. It must have been the bowl. I fell to the floor, shaking in unbelievable pain. Soon, the pain in my face was replaced by the one in my ribs from Rostam kicking them repeatedly.

“You think I WANT this?”, he screamed, “You think I WANT to hurt you?”

I think, or would like to, that somewhere in my head I chuckled, because all I could think was “Yes, Rostam, I do believe you’re enjoying yourself just a little bit there”.

I didn’t realise, in my brief moment of dark hilarity, when Rostam brought the cricket bat to his aid. As he brought it down on the side of my arm, I felt my skin breaking under the pressure, warm blood soaking the gleaming white of my shirt.

The blows kept on coming, one after another, till I was too used to the pain to care anymore. Rostam pulled my frail, lifeless figure and dragged it along the floor, shoved me onto a chair.

I felt the blood dripping off the edges of my skin onto the floor. It warmed my skin, though it made me a little colder with every passing drop.

Soon it would be over, soon all the life would be drained out of me, and I would no longer be a slave to his demands, neither body nor soul.

As the lifeblood poured out of my being to the floor, I felt myself going dizzy. The world seemed to fade to black, the voices around me seemed to buzz into silence and nothingness.

It was almost as if I was drifting off to sleep. At my age, I realised, it was pretty hard to tell the difference. Old age, you sly bastard.