25 December 2009

Not Today...

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I was on the phone with Irfan, and since we'd just finished our 10th Grade Board Exams, I had all the time in the world to talk. "Did you see the match the Arsenal - Liverpool match?" I asked.

"Hold on a sec," He said, and before I could ask him why, I heard the sound of muffled coughs.It wasnt the type of cough you hear when someone's clearing their throat. Nor was it the kind where someone's chocking on something. Instead, it was a continous, hoarse sounding cough. And I immediately understood.

17 December 2009

Three Men And A Grave

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Perhaps I am not the right person to be narrating this story. After all, how many people would actually want a person lying in a coffin in Hale Corbin Cemetery to tell them an anecdote?

But I guess I am the only one who can tell the story, so here goes.

14 December 2009

An Apartment For Rent

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A man once lived,
In an apartment for rent,
To pay for it,
Half his salary was spent.

The room was cold,
The walls were bare,
The man owned nothing,
Except a table and two chairs.

10 December 2009

Taking For Granted

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It was almost time for the morning assembly, and Andrew was still waiting near the second gate. Joseph was beginning to get restless.

"Dude," he started, "Why on earth are we waiting here? You know Vinod Sir is going to screw us up if we're late, right?"

Andrew didn't reply. He merely kept looking towards the buses that were parking outside. His eyes were desperately searching for a face.

"There she is," He finally whispered. Joseph turned to see a group of girls walking towards them. In the center was a short, thin, fair 9th Grader. Rebecca D'Souza. One of the most sought after girls in school. She had long, wavy black hair, twinkling eyes and a short nose. Her face was angular, and her cheeks were normally reddish in color. She walked with a grace that none of her classmates could ever possess.

06 December 2009

The Bigger Picture

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I was having the worst time of my life. Why? Because I'd just had a horrible fight with my close friend. No, not the one where we argue over whose better, Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal (Federer ofcourse). We had the other kind of fight. The one where the friendship ends.

As if that wasnt enough, my grades were tanking. Life was horrible for me. I would wake up every day, and stare at the ceiling, not knowing what to do.

Sure, I tried to get out the depression. Tried listening to music. Didnt work out. Tried watching a movie. Realised that they havent made any movie that's gripping enough to prevent you from thinking about your miserable life. I spent days just surfing Facebook, until I finally got sick and tired of all the stupid statuses and Farmville notifications. For the first time in my life, I hoped the 'You-Will-Die' predictions on Facebook were right. Would make the world a whole better place, I thought.

Finally, when everything else failed, I decided to share my sorrow with my close buddy Vineet. Have you ever felt as though God was playing a cruel prank on you? That's how I felt after trying Vineet's cell for the sixth time. It was switched off.

My mother, who had made it a habit of reminding me of my last academic performances, started her usual summarizing. I couldnt take it any more. In a fit of anger, I stormed out of my house, and sat on the stairs outside.

Sitting near me was a Lebanese kid, perhaps my age, listening to loud metal song. Why on earth does he have to listen to such junk? I got up, and decided to walk till Vineet's house.

I'd planned out everything I would shout at Vineet when I met him. I was furious at him for being so careless with his mobile. Taking out your anger on your friends, is perhaps one of the best ways to deal with depression.

But everything melted away the moment I saw him standing outside his house. Tears were streaming down his face. And I knew something was horribly wrong.

"What happened?" I asked, consoling him as he broke down in front of me.

"Its....it's my....brother!" He chocked.

That was the last word he spoke for the next hour or so. We spent the whole time walking through the streets. What do you say to a person who's lost his brother in a car crash? I tried talking, not because I believed I could ease his pain, but because I wanted to. Finally, he spoke in a whisper.

"Life was perfect till yesterday. I mean, yah, I wasnt completely happy, but...God, I just wish I could go back to how it was. Just....go back....."

I convinced him to go home and get some rest. As I walked back home, I began thinking...

There was a Professor once, who taught me subjects such as Islamic History, General Studies and so on. He used to talk about how societies are supposed to function. And there is one example he said that's stayed with me all this while.

"What will happen if you cut your finger?" He asked once.

"It'll pain?" I replied.

"Yes, what if you cut it very deeply? What'll happen then?"

"I'll cry, maybe. I dont know..."

"The pain will be terrible, yes? You might cry, you might not. But you'll worry about the cut?"


"Good. And just as your sitting in your house, cursing your bleeding hand, imagine the roof catches fire. Within seconds the whole house is burning. What will you do then?"

"Get out. Run out of the house ofcourse," I said obviously. 

"But what about your finger? It's paining badly, isnt it?"

"Who cares about the finger when the whole house is on fire?" I asked incredulously.

My Professor stopped, and smiled softly. In a second, I understood what he meant.

We all go through tough times in our lives. Yes, we'll lose friends, we'll be alone in a crowd. We might fail in exams. And what can we do about it? Sit and cry? We could. Watch movies, listen to music, smoke cigarrates? Your wish. Or perhaps even pretend as though nothing's wrong, and fake a smile.

But the only way we'll ever get through the pain, is by helping others. And they're all around us. In our classrooms, our tuition classes, at the football match, in the shopping malls. All we have to do, is reach out...and lend a hand.

I reached back home, and saw the Lebanese kid sitting there. This time, I could hear loud, shouting noises from his house. His parents were yelling and screaming at the top of their voices. I looked at the fellow sympathetically.

"Atleast now you know why I listen to this," he said, pointing towards his Ipod.

I smiled sadly. And then sat down next to him. "Hey," I said, not too sure of what I was doing, "What's it like?"

"What do you mean?" He asked.

"I mean, back there," I said, pointing towards his house. "It must suck big time, right?"

He chuckled, and began telling me about his life. And I finally figured out how to get out of my depression...

Note: To those who've noticed,
I'm very sorry for not posting for the past one month. I had my exams going on, followed by my school's Annual Day program, and then the Eid holidays. And by the looks of it, I'll be apologizing like this for quite some time. Exams are coming up again! Still, hope the comments wont dry up...

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04 November 2009

The Photo Gallery Test

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There is a vivid memory in my mind, of an incident that happened during the summer vacations of 2004. I was a 7th Grader enjoying his two months of bliss in India, along with a few of my cousins. After a particularly vigourous game of football, the three of us returned home, slightly mudied and thoroughly excited.

The first thing my Aunt said to her son was, "Look at you, all dirty like that! Dont you know it's not the time for you to be playing outside like this? Take a bath and start studying soon. Dont waste your time playing around like this..."

My cousin was in 6th Grade.

What really triggered this post, though, was a comment a friend of mine passed a few days ago. He was watching a few of his classmates enjoy themselves, with just about 15 minutes left for School to begin. With a thoroughly patronising look, he remarked, "What's the use of having so much fun now? If they would just stop enjoying now, and start studying instead..."

I could understand what he meant. After all, instead of enjoying a little bit of spare time, wouldnt it be better if we all made the best use of it?

That's where I stopped to think. What exactly is the best use of time?

And so I thought of the Photo Gallery Test. It's a simple process with a rather fancy name. And it goes something like this.

Imagine you fell asleep one night, and had a crystal clear dream. Remember that dreams are reflections of your thoughts and desires. In this particular dream, you're standing at the beginning of a corridor. From the looks of it, you're in a Museum. And on either side of you, the walls are covered with large, framed images from your life.

These picture frames are snapshots of your life. Snapshots that capture the best, most important, most memorable moments you've ever experienced. So here's the question. If you were to walk down the corridor, what do you think you'd see?

Perhaps you'd see a large frame to your right, showing a bunch of students standing outside a large classroom, with wide, mischievious grins on their faces. One of those students, is you. Remember that day in 8th Grade, when you spent a whole period outside class. You and your friends laughed about it until your stomach ached.

Keep walking and you'll come across another, sepia coloured picture. It was taken last year, just after your Board Exams got over. A couple of your friends managed to dump an entire bottle of water onto your head. Remember how you felt as your clothes got drenched in water?

The corridor will keep extending, and there will be countless other pictures looking out at you. Snapshots of days when you laughed until your eyes filled with tears. Snapshots of days when you yelled with joy.

Here's a proposition that might seem silly, or outright senseless to many of you. Every time you make choices in life, think about the Photo Gallery. Think about what kind of snapshots will hang from the walls, reminding you of what your life has been all about.

Of course, I know it's not a fool proof way of choosing a career, or even deciding how to perform academically in school. If your parents, teachers, tuition sirs, and neighbours havent reminded you already, life is a rat race. Competition is cut throat. We all need to score 90%. And if there are actually people who score 90%, well, they need to score even higher, just to make life more miserable for the rest.

But remember how it all started? It started as a simple system, designed to ensure we all found a way to grow up, take up a job, contribute to society, support a family....and here comes the part that's been practically forgotten...enjoy the pleasures of life.

That doesnt seem to make sense anymore nowadays, does it? No, instead the logic we follow is this: Toil day and night so that you'll top your class. And then you'll top your school. After that, you'll enter college and be a gold medalist. You'll be hired by the best company out there, so that you can work from morning till night, breaking your back to shore up your bank account. You'll climb the ladder, or atleast die trying. You'll leave behind wealth, land, a wonderful house, a sparkling Resume. And you'll have nothing to remember your life by.

Again, I do understand that we cant chase behind butterflies or dance in the rain the whole day.

But sometimes, I get the feeling that life is like a road trip. And many of us, perhaps all of us, get too busy polishing our car and collecting enough toll money....to actually look out the window and enjoy...

After all, that's what a road trip should be all about, right?

[Please do leave your comments, either agreeing or disagreeing with my viewpoint. Discussions can greatly help in such cases....]

P.S.: To Anonymous - I'll need a little more time to write that post on "The Purpose of Life". Until then, hope this will do...

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25 October 2009

10 Likes and 20 Comments

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"...Hmm, what should I do. Should I buy a 7 riyal large can of Coke...or go for two small cans of 3 riyals each? I guess the 7 Riyal can is bigger...but I dont think I'm that thirsty right now. Guess I'll go for the two small cans instead. Peace out people!"

What you just read, was a Status Update on Facebook. No, seriously. Someone actually took pains to type it all down, so that every one of his 326 friends could know what exactly he drank.

Well, there's good news and bad news as far as this story is concerned. The good news is, the fellow was quite pleased with the decision he took. The bad news....well, he began wondering whether he needed ketchup or Mayonnaise for his burger...

Years from now, we might look back and talk about how Live Updates, such as on Facebook, Twitter, Orkut (?). What I'm wondering is...will we remember just how messed up the whole system was?

Think about it. A Status Update was originally meant to be a clever and quick way of letting your friends know how you were doing. You could say things like, "Enjoying my vacation in Venice,", or maybe something like, "Tired after a long day's work".

If that was the actual idea, I'm sure the genius who came up with the idea must be smashing his head onto his computer monitor right now. Because, obviously, things havent worked out quite according to plan, have they?

Take a look:

Arnold Webber is happy, happy, happy, happy! :)) :))
I know happiness is supposed to be contagious, but cmon, get a grip!

Thomas is in the mall! Good fun//\\Misses all his friends...Luv u guys! Stay cool...Keep rocking...Peace Out!
This, just for a trip to the mall. Cant imagine what a 2 month vacation would sound like...

Of course, not all Status Updates are horrible. There are some that actually make you think, or atleast chuckle lightly. Which is when I realised that Status Updates actually reflect real life.

The thought came to mind when I read a Status Update of a friend of mine. It was about him preparing for an upcoming tournament. Nothing much, just a status saying that he was excited. It got 15 likes, and almost 35 comments. For those of you who're not in Facebook, that's a pretty good response.

Just above his status, was another one. It was from a mutual friend who wasnt high up in the social ladder, and what he had to say, wasnt so exciting. "Life sucks....everything feels horrible...Just wish I could end it all..."

No likes. No comments. Nothing at all.

Which makes you wonder. Why is it that a popular guy's upcoming tournament is more important that another guy's potentially suicidal status update? Why dont we all rush towards him, asking what's wrong?

The answer is simple. That's how life is, most of the time. The school heartthrob could twist his leg and have the whole cheerleading squad around him. No one notices the loner in the rest room, with his wrists slashed, almost lifeless.

Of course, that doesnt mean we're all cold hearted. Why, I myself am going to update my status with a link to this post...and then wait to see how many comments I get.

It just means we're human...and sometimes, that worries me.

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15 October 2009

A Single Cup of Tea

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This is a fictionalized diary entry from an army man's journal...

Life was supposed to be an adventure for me. And for the first 25 years of it, I thought I was doing just fine. Until the incident on 26th August, 1988. As newly promoted Group Leader, it was my duty to carry out reconnaissance missions throughout a jungle that basically functioned as an Enemy base.

It all happened so quickly, that I still dont remember most of it. All I know for sure is this. Because of my mistake, three men in my team were taken hostage. For the next 48 days, they were severely tortured. Though they were eventually freed through diplomatic interventions, life never returned to normal. Not for them. And especially not for me.

I quit the Army. I cut contact with my Army buddies. The thought that my actions had caused so much pain for my comrades, I realised, was too hard to bear.

Which was how I ended up working part time in a restaurant.

My job was simple enough. I took care of preparing the drinks. One day, a customer chocked after taking a sip from a cup of tea I'd made. Turned out, I'd put in pepper instead of Cinnamon.

Which made me realise I wasnt even fit to make a cup of tea.

My boss brought the cup back, and bellowed with fury. "You nincompoop!" he cried. "What the hell are you fit for? Cant make a cup of tea without killing somebody? Are you trying to run me out of business..."

Only one phrase caught my mind. Cant make a cup of tea....without killing somebody.

The next day, I sat idly next to the window, ignoring the growing pile of orders for tea. Soon someone noticed the delay, and called the Boss.

"Oy!" He yelled, entering the kitchen. "What's the matter with you? Why the hell arent you making tea?"

Without moving a muscle, I kept staring out of the window. "What's the use?" I asked. "I'll probably screw it up anyway."

Surprisingly, he didnt reply. Instead, swearing loudly, he got someone else to take care of the orders. That night, as we were closing up, he entered the kitchen again.

"Hey kid, what's the matter with you?" He asked angrily. I didnt reply.

"What, you're sad because you screwed up a cup of tea yesterday? Is that it? So what are you planning on doing? Quiting your job altogether? Is that you're bloody brilliant idea? It better not be, sonny, cuz that's a shitty idea. Let me tell you what you'll do. You'll be here at 6 in the morning, and you'll start making tea the moment I ask you to. You'll make sure they taste good. If there's less sugar in one of them, the next time, you'll add more sugar. If the customer says the tea is too strong, you'll make sure you reduce the number of tea bags next time. And you'll keep doing this, day in and day out! You understand me? You'll keep doing this, until you become the bloody best tea maker in this place!"

He stopped for breath, and threw me a spiteful look. As he turned to leave, he remarked, more to himself than me. "Stupid little kid. Quitting cuz of one little cup of tea..."

What he said that night, changed my life.

I rejoined the Army within a month. By 1992, I was a Lieutant. By 1996, I was a Colonel.

Why? Because I realized that life....was just like preparing tea. Every day is like a single cup of tea. Just because you ruined your cup yesterday, doesn't mean you stop. All you have to do is make sure your cup of tea gets better....one day at a time.

[Please leave your comments, and rate the post as well....]
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08 October 2009

The Pressure Cooker Syndrome

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It was almost 7 o' clock, and I couldn't afford to be late to work yet again. So I rushed to the kitchen, threw open a cupboard and took out my Pressure Cooker. In my haste, the nozzle of the Pressure Cooker slammed against the tiled wall. Cursing loudly, I placed the Cooker on the stove, and left for work...

Ramesh said he was fine. And to the surprise of his friends, it seemed he really was. Even after being unfairly fired from his job, Ramesh was in good spirits. "I spent 10 years at the firm," he said calmly, "It's about time I had a change."

Martin meanwhile, was being a complete gentleman. He and his wife had just divorced, and he was quite fine about it. "I'm fine, guys," he said. "She wanted the divorce. There's nothing more to it." He was frighteningly calm.

The Cooker began hissing softly, as the water inside began to boil. The jammed nozzle made sure none of the steam was let out. Silently, the cooker remained on the stove...

Ramesh laughed the whole week. He attended parties, hung out with friends, and completely ignored the topic of his unemployment. He was far too happy to think about it.

Martin was behaving like a hot blooded bachelor already. He never mentioned his ex-wife, and made sure no one ever talked to him about her. He was over her, his friends were reminded. It's all in the past. It was time to move on. And that's it.

Two hours after I'd left, the Cooker began shaking violently. Steam was building up inside, and the hissing was getting louder.

"How long have you been at Wilton Corp., Ramesh?" his friend asked as they played a game of Poker at the bar. "Ten years," Ramesh replied. "Wow, that's a long time, isn't it? I'm surprised they fired you after so long. Have you found another job yet?". Ramesh shook his head. It had been over a month since he lost his job. His bills were over due, his insurance had expired. Suddenly he felt angry, first at himself and then at his company. How could they just fire him like that...

After hosting a successful birthday party, Martin said goodbye to his friends. Just as he was about to leave, Joseph turned around and casually remarked. "By the way, you heard about Caroline? She's getting married next week." Martin froze for a second. And suddenly broke into a smile. "Oh," he said. "Good for her. I hope..I hope she's happy..."

Finally the Cooker rattled, almost toppled over, and exploded...

They found Ramesh's car rammed into a roadside tree. The police are assuming that he was heavily drunk. His friends knew for certain that he was. He had stumbled into his car, grumbling to himself. As he drove off, one of them heard him talk about his company. "10 bloody years, and this is what they do to me..." Finally, it had all come back to him.

Martin's best friend came by at 8 in the morning. He found the living room trashed. Shattered glass was spread all over. A few paintings, along with the television and trophy cabinet were damaged. Martin was leaning against the wall, weeping to himself. As his friend tried consoling him, Martin buried his face in his hands. 'Claire...' he managed to say.

The Fireman surveyed the kitchen, and looked at me in disdain. "Sir, you should know better than this. The Cooker was obviously damaged. Must be a jammed nozzle. Anyways, there's nothing much we can do now. It'll take a few days to fix this mess"

We all suffer from the Pressure Cooker Syndrome. Perhaps it's just 21st century style, but for some reason, hiding our emotions has suddenly become the 'cool' thing to do. 'Get over it', 'Dont care a damn'. There are a dozen people around to hand us advice. Wish emotions were so easy to get rid off. Anger, sorrow, jealousy, depression...all going away if we just ignore it.

They don't just go away. You cant just pretend to be happy. You cant run away from how you feel. That's as smart as using a jammed Pressure Cooker. And if you've seen my kitchen, you'll realize it isn't a very smart thing to do.

Please do drop your comments, if you've read this far. It helps to know you're opinion. And it helps to keep the blog alive.

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30 September 2009

The Lost Symbol - Book Review

Two days ago, I finished reading the recently released novel, The Lost Symbol. For those of you who're yet to read the newspapers, The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown's latest novel, broke publishing records by selling more than 1 million copies in less than 24 hours.

Makes you wonder what the book is about, doesnt it?

Turns out, the 510 page novel is a thrilling read. As with most thriller/mystery novels, The Lost Symbol is a perfect page turner. But sadly, that's more or less all that it is.

For those who've read Dan Brown's previous books, The Lost Symbol seems to offer just one feeling.

Déjà vu.

As you read through the first few chapters, you get the distinct feeling that you've read something similar before. Something that bore almost the same setting, style and characteristics. There's talk about a mysterious organisation. A sinister man has made a devious threat. A character has either been killed or is in perilious danger. The protaganist, Robert Langdon, is yet again forced to meet a rather inconvenient deadline. His adventure ride is obstructed by a flurry of high ranking officers. The names dont matter. CIA, FBI...perhaps even a new branch of U.S. Government.

And through all this, we're provided with Wikipedia-like information. Everything we want to know about towers, tunnels, symbols, organisations, historical inaccuracies. Mr. Langdon spews it all while trying to save the world.

Of course, if there's one field where Dan Brown impresses, however, it's the subject matter. Just like in Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code, he's gone to great lengths to research almost unheard of topics. That's perhaps where the joy lies. There will be moments through out the book when you'll smile, feel surprised, or pause to wonder something. These are the moments when the real brilliance of the book shines through. Even while the main plot is being followed, we learn about secretive technology, hidden organisations, misunderstood historical facts.

Just to make sure you don't get the wrong idea about the novel, you should know that I read it almost without pause. Dan Brown has a way of making you want to know what comes next. Sure, at times it seems formulaic. But it gets the job done. It makes sure you don't put down the book without finishing it. As with almost all of his novels, The Lost Symbol has this quality.

But in the end, it boils down to this. The Lost Symbol, for a first time reader, is everything it promises to be. A thrilling, suspenseful, and ultimately satisfying novel.

But for the rest of us, who've joyfully read his other novels, The Lost Symbol doesn't offer anything new. It repeats much of Dan Brown's tried and tested formula. The first time some of us read The Da Vinci Code, we were spell bound by the author's mastery over such complex yet interesting subjects. However, once you've read all his books, it takes the gloss off Dan Brown's writing.

The Lost Symbol, though in itself a competent thriller with a satisfying end, slightly disappoints as Dan Brown's latest offering....

[If you've read The Lost Symbol, please let me know your own opinion about it, as well as my review. If you havent read the book yet, please let me know how this review has influenced you.]
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27 September 2009

Falling, Falling....Fallen!

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[In the year 2016...]

I knocked on the Doctor's door, and heard him say, 'Come In'. Nervously, I entered the room, and hesitated near the door.

"Hallo!" The Doctor cried out jovially. He was a large, pot bellied man with a thick tuft of hair, and thick, golden spectacles.

"Please sit down. Mr. Musthafa. So what seems to be the problem?"

I immediately regretted coming to the Doctor. It was a stupid idea, I thought.

"Go on, feel free," he said calmly.

"The thing is, Doctor. I have dreams. Weird dreams." I muttered.

I could see the Doctor was interested. He leaned back in his chair, and crossed his legs. "Go on, tell me what these dreams are."

So I began narrating. "Well, it starts in a huge hall. There's a concert going on. You know, some kind of Ghazal concert. And the singer is seated in the middle of the stage. Next to him is the Tabla player. The funny thing is..."

"Yes? Come on. Tell me."

I began sweating uncomfortably. Somehow I muttered. "The Tabla player is playing....not on two tablas. But on.....on two bald heads."

The Doctor raised his eyebrow. "I'm sorry?" He asked politely.

I shut my eyes and continued. "Yes, there are two fellows sitting in front of him. And...and he's busy hitting their heads."

"Ha!" The Doctor laughed. "Must be a very funny dream, eh?". He began roaring in laughter.

"One of the bald headed fellows was me." I said curtly.

"Oh," the Doctor said, looking embarrassed. "By funny I meant -- Well, how long have you been having these dreams?" he said, hoping to change the topic.

"For the past year and a half."

"That Tabla player's been hitting your head for the past year and half?" The Doctor asked incredulously.

I frowned. "Yes. In the dream!"

"Right. Right, in the dream. Hmm, well, such dreams are usually manifestations of deep rooted fears. Do you have such fears of balding?"

I hesitated, wondering about the question. Did I have such fears?

"No, I'm not normally so worried about my hair."

"Right, so then--"

"--Of course I do count the number of strands that fall onto my towel or shirt and so on. You know, just to make sure the buggers aren't crossing the 100 strands per day limit. And I apply egg york to my head twice a week, along with three different shampoos (just to be safe, you understand.) Plus I stand upside down every night for half an hour, so that blood flows to the head and nourishes the scalp."

There was an awkward silence as the Doctor looked at me, dumbstruck. "Right," he finally managed to say, "I think you're a little worried about your hair. But my dear fellow, I cant see why. After all," he pointed towards my head with his fountain pen, "you're head is like a African rain forest!"

He smiled politely, apparently pleased with his analogy.

In a flash of a second, I tugged my hair upwards, revealing a gaping bald patch at the top of my head.

"Good God!" the Doctor yelled, almost falling back in shock. He quickly recovered, and tried to appear less horrified. "That, that was -- unexpected." He managed to say.

"How long have you been wearing a wig?"

"Since I began balding, I suppose. No point in wearing it before that, is there?" I asked sarcastically.

"Right, right. Well then, I suppose these dreams are a result of--"

"I'm getting married," I blurted.

There was a slight pause. The Doctor cleared his throat. "I'm sorry, what did you say?"

"I'm getting married." I repeated plainly.

The Doctor was uncertain now. "Err, well, congratulations, I suppose?"

I decided to get even more blunt. "I was wondering what to do about my, er, problem."

"Problem?" The Doctor asked. "Oh, you mean the one on your head."

"Yes, that problem."

"Well, I suppose this is a classic case of Inferiority Complex. Right now, you must be feeling a sense of--"

"I'm worried whether my bride will like me when she sees the, er, problem. Should I just wear the wig permanently, and never tell her about it?"

"About what?" The Doctor asked dim wittedly.

"About the problem," I said testily.

He smiled, relaxing in his chair. Putting aside his writing pad, he looked at me smugly.

"In my honest opinion, you're worrying over nothing. There's no reason for you to hide your baldness from your wife. After all, you cant hide it for an entire life time, can you?"

I nodded my head, realising the stupidity of my idea. "Well, it's just that....well, I'm worried about my looks."

The Doctor smiled sympathetically. "I can understand," he said understandingly. "I can see why you would feel insecure about your large nose, bushy eyebrows and chubby face."

I stared at him in shock. "I...I was talking about my hair," I spluttered.

"Oh. I see..."

There was pin drop silence for a few seconds, as the Doctor stared down at his writing pad, avoiding my eyes. Finally, he managed to say.

"Well, Mr. Musthafa, what you must understand is that baldness isn't necessary a bad thing. There's lots of examples of people who've excelled in life even though they're bald."

I raised my eyebrow in skepticism. "Really?" I asked. "Like?"

"Well," The Doctor began, thinking of a good example. "Well, look at Bruce Willis!"

"I cant act. I definitely cant jump from buildings."

The Doctor thought again. "Ah," he said, "what about Salman Rushdie?"

I shook my head. "My own mother would kill me if I wrote blashphemy about Prophet Mohammed. Besides, I cant write like him."

He fell silent again. "What about Gandhi?"

I glanced at him suddenly. "Right, maybe Gandhi isnt a good example for us," the Doctor said. "But you must realise something, Mr. Musthafa. Beauty doesn't lie just in outward appearances. All you need to do is be confident of your self. You dont need to wear a wig. That shows low self esteem. Be confident of who you are...."

[Half an hour later, when the Doctor is alone in his office...]
The Secretary entered, saying, "Sir, there's another patient waiting for you. Shall I send him in?"

The Doctor stared at the mirror, adjusting his wig carefully. Once he made sure he looked good, he nodded his head....

[This post is an attempt to break away from the so called 'Philo' stuff. Hoping that I'll be able to write about a variety of topics, instead of just one. Suggestions in that aspect would be more than welcome. Thank you!]

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23 September 2009

'When We Were Kids...'

If you're a new comer to Laptop Diary, please read the Introduction...

I'm sure you can relate to this. Has it ever happened that you're eating lunch with your family, or watching T.V. together one evening, when the elders around you say something like, "What all happens in this generation. When we were kids..."

And so it begins.

It's fascinating at first to hear that your grandfather lived in a village. Its even funny when they tell you about how they would play in the mud and splash around in the water, (though a bit scary when you realise they never had Lifebuoy around...)

But after a while, it's infuriating when your dad tells you that he walked 5 kilometers to school everyday, everyday! So I wondered how it would be if we could get a turn instead, to talk about how it was when 'We Were Kids...'

Life was good back then. Most of us spent our childhoods, playing amazing games on revolutionary game consoles like the Playstation.

Our teenage years were spent, almost always next to the computer. We chatted with total strangers in MSN Messenger, sometimes until they became our closest friends. We made accounts in social networking sites like Orkut and Facebook. For a while, it seemed as though the 11th Commandment was 'Thou Shall try to get as many scraps as possible'. Some of us had friends all over the globe, from Argentina to Germany to Japan.

We photographed every important event of our lives, and some, sadly, photographed even the unimportant ones. Pictures of Birthday parties, Summer trips, Weekend Stay-overs....everything was uploaded for everyone to see. All of us felt important, as though everyone else wanted to know what we had to say. So we updated our status every other day. What's more, we read every one Else's status updates. We let everyone know when we were happy, we sulked publicly when we were sad. We sought comfort when we were depressed, we swore publicly when we were pissed off...

We had friends. Loads of them. We had friends whom we'd never ever seen in person. We had friends who were actually our friends' friends. We had friends who wished us on our birthdays, we had friends who forwarded mails every time. Then we had friends whom we messaged often. There were other friends who we'd call often. We messaged each other at every time of the day, left scraps, gave miscalls. We were never out of touch, unless we wanted it that way.

We watched movies. Not once a month. Not even once a week. We watched a movie whenever we wanted. We watched movies like the Titanic and Lord of the Rings, which left us spellbound. We watched movies like the Matrix, that dazzled our senses. We watched movies like Spiderman and The Dark Knight. We memorized movie scenes, by hearted (actually learnt by heart!) movie dialogues.

We witnessed historic events. We stared in horror at our television screens, as two planes crashed into two towers. We cried when we saw people being slaughtered in war. We shook our heads in despair as bombs ripped across cities all over the world. We worried about death, yet faced it bravely. Earthquakes, floods and hurricanes came, but we stood strong and brave. Even a Tsunami washed away our cities, but not our courage.

We watched as horrible leaders like Saddam Hussain were disposed, ironically, by other incompetent leaders like George Bush. After years of Anti-Americanism, we were mesmerized by the speeches of a man born to a Kenyan man, and a woman from Kansas. For the first time, almost all over the world, we applauded the victory of Barack Obama.

Then there were those days when we counted the months, weeks, hours and minutes, camping outside bookstores so that we could get our first copies of the latest Harry Potter book. Newspapers and Television channels around the world covered the story as millions of us hoped that Harry Potter would survive. And he did.

Perhaps most important of all, we lived in the generation of 'Greats'. We got the unique chance of watching Michael Jordan soar to slam a basket,Tiger Woods swing a drive, Sachin Tendulkar send yet another ball out of the stadium, Roger Federer lift Grand Slam after Grand Slam after Grand Slam. We bid good bye to Michael Schumacher after he won everything there was to win. We said 'Well Done, Michael', 'Good going Michael', 'Keep it up Michael', 'Excellent Michael', 'Unbelievable, Michael!'...until we smiled and simply said, 'Wow, Michael Phelps. Wow.'

Perhaps even more importantly, we were mesmerized by a Jamaican, who sailed across a race track as though he was out for a jog. Usain Bolt became the fastest man ever, and we witnessed it.

It was exciting back then. We used the Ipod and the Internet, to hear the music of Britney Spears, Eminem, Linkin Park and Coldplay...without paying a single cent. New Superstars were born, and we regretted the death of the biggest pop star of all time. Michael Jackson.

Years from now, we'll be asked about these times. They'll want to know how it was back in the early 2000s'. And this is perhaps what we'll say....about the time when 'We Were Kids...'

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14 September 2009

What About The 'Other Guy'?

If you're a new comer to Laptop Diary, please read the Introduction...

"What about the other guy?" I protested.

"Oh, just shut up," my friends replied in unison.

It all started when we decided to watch an English Romantic Comedy. Dumb choice, was what I first thought. But then something struck me as odd...

The plot of the story was that there was a guy named Robin, who loved a girl named Jenny. Jenny however, has a boyfriend named Tim. So the entire story is about how the hero tries to woo the heroine. And believe it or not, it actually works! (Yah, I was just as surprised as you!). So with a matching soundtrack, the credits start rolling. And the movie's a success.

Or is it?

What about the 'Other Guy'?

In the case of this movie, the 'other guy' is Tim. Personally, I was rooting for Tim from the beginning. He seemed like a good enough guy, and there was no reason why Jenny should leave him for Robin. But then Jenny gives the explanation. Tim is not as funny as Robin. He's also not as caring, or as loving. Nor does he have that same sense of crazy enthusiasm. As though it's a fault of his, Tim is a quiet, reserved kind of guy.

So Jenny decides she's much better of with Robin instead, and everyone in the theatre hall applauds. Well, except me.

Because here's my problem. I'm happy if I get to go through life as Robin. But what if I'm Tim instead? What if I'm not the funniest, smartest, sweetest guy? What if...I'm the 'Other Guy'?

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09 September 2009

A Boy Named Chris

The five year old boy, dressed smartly in a red t-shirt and small, black baggy pants, ran around the Business Class lounge, smiling happily.

Victor Fabiansky smiled.

A few minutes later, he was talking to the same boy. "What's your name, little fella?" he asked.

"My name is Chris, and I'm 5 years old," the boy replied animatedly. He had fair skin, puffy cheeks, floppy hair. Half the ladies in the lounge were watching him with adoring eyes.

"What's your name?" he asked.

"My name is Victor Fabiansky."

The boy ran back towards his mother, crying out excitedly. "Mother, mother, I made a new friend named Victor Fabiansky!". The mother smiled politely, trying to hide her embarrasement.

He came back a moment later. "What do you do, Mr. Fabinsky?" Chris asked, unable to pronounce his name properly.

Victor Fabiansky hesitated for a moment, looking into the 5 year old boy's innocent eyes. For a single, impulsive moment, he thought of telling the truth. Instead, he smiled again and said, "I'm a Fireman."

Chris's mouth opened wide. "Wow, you're a real Fireman?" He asked excitedly. He looked at Victor's large suitcase admiringly.

The truth was, the suitcase concealed eight separate metallic pieces, which when assembled within half a minute, produced one of the deadliest pistol in the world. The Night Hawk .50 Calibre.

Victor Fabiansky had a reputation for being one of the deadliest assasins in the world. He could fire six shots into a little girl's head at point blank range. Without blinking an eye. And he had a penchant for wearing Italian Suits.

"Where you going?" Chris asked inquisitvely.

Victor smiled as he replied. "To Hawai."

He needed to take a vacation. Especially after his last job. Suddenly, he was reminded of it all again.

Eight weeks ago, at around 11 P.M. on a cold, dry night, Victor Fabiansky had slipped into his friend's house using the spare key he always kept. Without making a sound, he went upstairs, and made sure the wife and kid were sound asleep. Seeing their faint outlines on the bed was enough. Then, he slowly made his way downstairs, and into the basement.

Victor Fabiansky had a reputation for speed. It was once said that he could kill six men in a duel, before anyone else could even fire a single shot. That kind of skill was excatly the reason he could handle Thomas Bergman so easily.

Before Thomas could even realise that there was someone in his basement, Victor had drawn his gun, standing mere inches away from the man.

"Last wish," Thomas had whispered before Victor could pull the trigger.

Raising his gun slightly, Victor looked at his friend coldly. "What is it?" he hissed.

"Spare me from a quick death. Shoot me in the gut. Please," Thomas added.


"Because I want to see my wife and kid before I die. Poison me if you want. You can be sure I'll die. But please let me see my wife and kid...one last time." There were tears in the dying man's eyes. Victor Fabiansky was said to have lost his heart after killing six children in a nursery. But for some reason, he lowered his gun and fired at Thomas Bergman's stomach. Without blinking an eye. Three shots. Just to be sure.

Just as he was about to leave, Victor saw a photo frame on the table. He picked it up and dropped it next to Thomas.

"In case they don't wake up in time," Victor said.

"Mr. Fabiansky?" Chris said for the fifth time. "Are you alright?"

"Oh yes," Victor said quickly, shaking away his thoughts.

"Is it tough to be a Fireman?" Chris asked curiously.

Victor looked at him with a sad smile. "Yes," he said. "Sometimes it's very hard."

As he saw the boy play around the lounge, Victor felt a curious sense of disappointment. Eight years of cold blooded murders had hardened his heart, or so he thought. But for the first time, he felt a sense of remorse. A feeling of loss.

"Mr. Fabinsky?" Chris asked again.


"Would you like a milkshake?" Chris asked, offering him a large plastic cup of milkshake. Victor couldnt help but feel a sense of comfort with the five year old. His cute, innocent looking face looked familar for some reason. As though he'd seen the boy before. He gladly accepted the drink, and took a sip.

"Where's your daddy?" Victor asked Chris. The boy shook his head slowly and said. "I don't have a daddy."

Victor felt sorry for the kid. And he immediately wished he'd never asked the question. Chris stared at his feet, looking lost for a moment.

"I'm, I'm sorry to hear that, Chris," Victor said apologetically. He wasn't good at consoling. He was a hit man after all.

"He went to heaven," Chris said softly, looking down, probably to hide his tears. "And before he went, he told me that one day, I'd make him proud. That's the last thing he told me. To make him proud." Tears began streaming down the boy's face, as he thought of his father.

"I'm sure you will," Victor said softly. Suddenly, he felt his throat become dry. His eyes began to water, and he was sweating profusely. Before he could say anything, it felt as though someone ripped out his stomach. Writhing in muted agony, he slouched in his seat, his legs sliding forwards towards Chris.

Victor Fabiansky looked at the boy in front of him for one last time. Suddenly, he realised why his face was so familiar.

"What's your-- What's your...father's...name?" Victor said.

"Thomas Bergman." Chris said. "And I think I've made my dad proud. Yes, I think I've made him proud," he muttered, as he walked away towards his mother, who was waiting at the entrance of the lounge...

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04 September 2009

The Devil, The Angel...And Me - Part 2

Before reading this, read the first part and comment please!

[I was lying on a reclining sofa, feeling exhausted already. The Devil was sitting on my left shoulder, a glass on whiskey in his hand. He sipped it slowly, savoring the taste, and leaned forward to look at the Angel.]

Devil: [teasingly to the Angel] Still drinking Strawberry Milk, are we? 

Me: [warningly] Luke!

Devil: Alright, alright. I'll get to the point. Dude, you know the facts. Since the past one month, you've been getting less than 20 views per day. What's more, you're last five posts got an average of 6 comments each. [Pauses expectantly]

Me: So?

Devil: [surprised] So? So? Have you lost it or what? You used to get 15 comments per post. Now you're getting about 6. Why are you even in this blogging business.

[The Devil and I look at the Angel expectantly. The Angel hums a tune absent mindedly.]

Me: [loudly clearing my throat] Ahem!

Angel: [realizing it was his turn] Oh, right. Right. Err...where were we. Yah. About the comments thingy. The point is, he didn't start a blog just for receiving comments. He started it to express his creativity and share his enthusiasm about writing with his other similar minded readers.

[The Devil stares at the Angel blankly for a moment, looking stunned. Then he bursts out laughing.]

Devil: [Imitating the Angel] Express his creativity and share his enthusi -- My foot. Dude, tell me you don't want more comments. Go on, swear on God or whoever you swear on. And tell me you don't bother about the number of comments you get for your posts.

Me: [looking uncomfortable] Breakfast anyone? I'm famished!

Devil: [testily] We're part of your imagination, you thick headed jackass. We don't eat. So for the love of G- I mean, Satan, will you just admit it already?

Me: Alright! Yes, I care about the number of comments I get. If I had my way, no one would be able to close my blog without depositing their comments for every post they read. I want my Gmail Inbox to overflow with comments!

Angel: [looking horrified] My God! Musthafa! How could you...

Devil: [dismissively] Oh shut up Goody two-shoes. Now, here's what I plan. You need to write more raunchy stuff. I'm talking real adult material that'll have everyone reading your blog. Forget about morals. This is the 21st Century, keep up with the times. Then, write posts about fashion, movies, irritating people in your life--

Me: I don't know anything about Fashion.

Devil: No one knows anything about Fashion. We just say what sounds right. Then, be controversial. Say something SO outrageous that the readers will be forced to comment.

[The Angel sat on my right shoulder, his arms folded, looking the other way, sulking quietly.]

Devil: Then, go on and read a lot of blogs. Ha, who am I kidding. Just comment something on those blogs. Flatter them. And ask them to read your blog. Build an audience.

Me: But that's -- that's lying!

Devil: Really, Smartypants. Did Mr. Milk-drinking-anti swearing-white guy over there teach you not to lie?

Me: [keeping silent]

Devil: Good. So I'll continue. Three key words. Change your content. No more boring short stories. No more morality filled, philosophical posts. Write posts about people around you. Make fun of them. Talk about your daily life. Alright?

Angel: [Getting up to leave] Since you've got it all planned out, I guess I'll leave.

Devil: [happily] Ciao'. Take care.

Angel: [taking a deep breath and sighing] Just one thing though. Musthafa, do you remember why you started blogging? It was because you had something you wanted to share. A funny thought. A short story. You liked expressing yourself. No, wait, you loved expressing yourself. Then the comments started coming in. They were encouraging. Some were even flattering. That's when you got high headed --

Devil: [interrupting] We'd like to call it ambitious --

Angel: [angrily] Silence, you evil, misguided soul!

[Continuing] Musthafa, think about this. What's most important for you? A mass audience, overflowing comments, popularity?

Devil: [looking dumbfounded] Like duh!

Angel: [ignoring the Devil] Or did you want something else? Remember the girl who emailed you, saying that she couldn't stop laughing after reading Julius Caesar 1.5? Or that other guy who had a tear in his eyes after reading A Handful of Olives? Remember how you felt when you heard their reaction?

Ask yourself. What do you really want? Quantity or quality; Popularity or loyalty; overflowing comments or sincere appreciation? Most important of all, think about why you started Laptop Diary in the first place.

[With that, the Angel disappeared. I bowed my head for a moment, making up my decision. Finally, I looked at the Devil again.]

Me: I'm sorry Luke, but I agree with Gabby.

Devil: [looking heartbroken] No, no, no! This isn't fair. I was the one who influenced you. How could you-- [The Devil bursts into tears. For all his outward appearance, Luke is just an intern level devil. It's his first time trying to tempt a Human. I couldn't help but feel sympathy.]

Me: Luke, Luke, cmon, don't get upset --

Devil: [sobbing angrily] The name is Lucifer! Lucifer![He imitates a scary voice] You call me as though I'm your Pizza Delivery guy! He's evil by the way. Picks out and eats some of the olive toppings.

Me: [sounding confused and puzzled] I'm sorry? How can I make it up to you?

Devil: [stops crying and looks up eagerly] You promise you'll post the link to your blog on your Facebook profile?

Me: [protesting] Cmon, you know that makes me look like a Wannabe blogger.

[The Devil is about to start crying again.]

Me: [Relenting] All right, all right. I'll post the links on my Status Updates. Fine?

Devil: [Hopefully] And about the adult content--?

Me: [shouting] No! Now get out!

Devil: Alright, alright, sheesh, you don't have to shout, you know. I'm going. Got to tempt a kid to steal some candy. Argh, I hate these low level jobs...

[The END]

As if it's not obvious enough, all the thoughts of the Devil were my own, fleeting thoughts. The Angel represents all that I hold good in blogging. Hope to hear your final conclusions, since I do have a habit of spoiling the sequels to posts!

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31 August 2009

The Devil, The Angel...And Me

It was a lazy Summer morning. After waking up at 10, I dragged myself into the bathroom, where I lazily began brushing my teeth.

Just as I was half way through, the devil popped up, standing on my left shoulder. He was smart as usual, in his black suit, red shirt, black tie, red face, and two small black horns.

Me: What is it this time, Luke?

Devil: Oh, nothing. Just, you know, came for a chat. That's all. [He looks around for a moment, hesitating about something.] By the way, have you been visiting your blog lately?

Me: [coldly] Yes, I have.

Devil: [sarcastically]Ah, so you do check your blog once in a while. Wonderful, wonderful [whistles for a while.] And by the way, who was that moron who wrote the last few posts?

[I stop brushing suddenly, and look into the mirror. The devil is smirking at me rudely. His bloody cheekiness...]

Me: What the hell was that supposed to mean?

Devil: Oh seriously dude, when are you going to learn? You're blog's half dead? No one cares about stupid stories is which a police officer jumps from the -- hey, which retarded police officer commits suicide because of drunk driving? 

Me: [angrily] He was feeling guilty about causing the death of the guy's family!

Devil: [thinking for a moment] Hmm....you mean like he was feeling bad?

Me: [testily] Yes Luke, he was feeling bad!

Devil: [shrugging his shoulders carelessly] What a loser! I'd personally be proud if I could drive home while I was drunk...

Me: [shouting]Oy! 

Devil: Alright, alright, I'll get to the point. Dude, it was a really mushy mushy story. Well done. Excellent. But how many people commented? No one ever cared!

Me: [feeling proud] 12 people commented about it.

Devil: [slyly] And how many people actually read it?

Me: [feeling embarrassed, and looking down] I don't know...about 60...

Devil: [triumphantly] Ha! You see my point? So here's what we do to boost your comment count, and have people flooding all over the blog.

Me: You mean what I'll do

Devil: I'm you're conscience. You and I are the same person, you moron.

Me: Oh.

Devil: Moving on, I have a few ideas. First, stop writing boring short stories. Personally, the namings all screwed up. It should be long-yada-yada-yada stories. But that's not what we're talking about. Right now, you have to start writing about....how can I say...more interesting things.

Me: Interesting?

Devil: [looking annoyed] Oh God -- I mean, Oh Shucks! Okay, let me try to make it more clear. Right now you write boring posts about hope, friendship...yada yada yada. No one's seriously going to read all that. If you really want to be in the big league - and by that I mean triple digit comment counts - you have to write about...you know....a little more adult stuff, like...I don't know...maybe--

Angel: [popping out of nowhere on my right shoulder] Stop!

Me: [relieved] Thank God! Where on earth were you?

Angel: [apologetically] Sorry buddy. Had to stop by a bank and ask the robber whether he really wanted to make the mistake. Turns out he did....Anyway, what was this miscreant telling you?

[I look at the mirror, and see the Devil, his arms folded, looking anoyed, staring at the Angel. It would be a long morning, I thought...]

[To Be Continued...]
Dear Readers,
This is a new type of post that I thought I'd give a try. The Devil here represents, obviously, the evil side of my mind, while the Angel...well, you get the point. Whatever contrasting thoughts I have as a blogger, are represented through these two characters. Please let me what you think. I'm hoping for constructive criticism....

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26 August 2009

Forgiven But Not Forgotten...

On the morning of 12th January, 2008, a man named Joseph Peccard went up to the terrace of his building, and stood next the ledge, threathening to jump. As could be expected, within ten minutes, a huge crowd formed at the foot of the 35 storey building, crying out to the deranged man.

"Dont jump, please dont jump Mr. Peccard!" a janitor who knew Joseph cried out.

"It isnt worth it. Sir, please move away from the ledge. Do you hear me? Move away from the ledge!" Another man shouted.

Five minutes passed before the police arrived, and when they did, Detective Martin Spencer was at the scene.

"Who is that guy?" He asked, straining his eyes to see the man. Someone handed him a binoculars.

"His name is Joseph Peccard. He's a Senior Accounts Analyst at J.P. Morgan & Sons. Has two children, both of them married. His wife is a well known socialite. He lives at 56 Vermont Avenue, in a large villa. Owns another house in Illinois. Financially well off. Seems like a perfectly normal guy." Detective Thomas said, closing the file in his hands.

"Yah. Except that he's threathening to jump of the roof. Something must be odd," Martin said sarcastically.

The routine procedure in such an event was simple enough. The police would create a soft landing pad at the foot of the building, which would require at least ten minutes time. Until then, Joseph Peccard would need to be distracted.

"Where is the psychiatrist?" Martin asked.

In such situations, a police psychiatrist would be the one who talked to the person, trying to calm him down and make sure nothing rash happened. This time, however, the nearest psychiatrist was stuck in traffic.

"Great! Well, then, I guess I'll talk to him myself," Martin growled angrily. He was in a particularly anti-social mood.

He reached the terrace of the building, and found Joseph, standing next to the ledge.

"Hey Joseph," Martin said casually.

"What, no, stay back. Stay back I tell you. Or else I'll jump. I swear I'll jump. Dont come any closer!" Joseph bellowed. Martin didnt flinch. In his life as a homicide detective, he'd heard worse threats. Nothing could bother him after 8 years in the police force.

"Alright, alright. I'm just going to sit down here. And then we'll talk. Alright?"

It took about ten minutes, but Joseph finally mellowed down. He sat next to the ledge, with Martin sitting several metres away. Tears were streaming down Joseph's face.

"You must think I'm a nutcase, right?" Joseph asked softly.

Martin wasnt a very diplomatic officer. Which was why he was better that killing murderers than dealing with mad men. "I think you're a moron. A big, useless piece of shit! Why do you ask?"

Joseph was surprised by the answer. But he smiled after a while. "You're right about one thing. I'm a useless piece of shit. Atleast I became."

"Look, I know you're wife must've left you, or you got kicked out of your job. That doesnt mean you jump off the roof. For god sakes man, get a life! Or atleast stop throwing yours away!" Martin snapped. He knew this was the wrong way to go about things. But he couldnt care. He was having a horrible week, and there was nothing comforting he could think of.

Joseph laughed. A long, hysterical laugh.

"My wife isnt going to leave me. We're supposed to celebrate our 30th anniversary tomorrow. And about my job? Within six months I'll be the Chief Financial Officer of the firm. So that's not my worry, buddy."

"Then what the hell is your problem?"

"The problem? A cake."

Martin had half a mind to get up and pound the useless buffoon in front of him. But something told him the man wasnt mad. There was a look in Joseph's eyes. It wasnt the look of delusion. It was the look of....disillusionment?

"You see, my wife Mary makes the best cake in the world. I mean it. In fact, she made the cake herself for our wedding. Man, I'm telling you, I'll never forget the taste of that cake. We've had it ever since, every year on 13th January. It's always been the same. We'd break a bottle of champagne, the kids would bring out the cake, and we'd have a wonderful evening together. Not this time, though.

"Yesterday, I had to work till 8 in the night. So I called Mary and told her I'd be coming home late. So she decided to take the help of our kids, Marshall and Lily, to make the cake. They went out to buy some stuff from the grocery, and were on their way back, when -" Joseph stopped, choking on his tears.

"When what?" Martin asked softly.

"When some drunk driver almost ran into their car on the freeway. Marshall swearved the car in order to avoid a collision. The road was wet or something, he lost control of the car. It slammed into the side railings of the road, and flipped over. Again, and again." Joseph's face was filled with bitterness. "Again, and again," he repeated.

He suddenly stopped talking, and looked up towards the sky.

"The last thing Marshall said to the nurse was 'Sorry'. Sorry for what, I asked myself today morning. Sorry for driving a car past a drunkard? Sorry for leaving me alone? Sorry for what?"

Martin didnt know what to say. His face had lost the look of authority and command. Instead, there was a paleness in his cheeks.

"So Officer, dont tell me to get a life. I just lost mine. I lost my wife who I loved for 30 long years. I lost both my children. Every evening I should return from work to an empty house. Every morning I should wake up, feeling the empty space in the bed next to me. Every single frickking day. Every single day..."

Joseph began weeping. He wept until his body slouched forward, and he rolled onto the ground. Martin knew what he had to do. In a quick motion, he placed a pair of cuffs onto Joseph's arms, and lifted him up slowly.

"Take the fellow to a hospital. And find out which Freeway his family was driving in last night," Martin said to Thomas, as he placed Joseph in the back of the police car.

"Do you know what drove me over the edge, officer?" Joseph asked, his voice dry and feeble. "Last night, I came home, and saw the kitchen was in a mess. The cake was half made, placed on top of the oven. There was no sugar left in the house. I guess that's why they went out to buy some. I'll never forget how my wife used to make those cakes, officer. I'll never forget..."

Joseph Peccard was admitted to the hospital. One week later, he returned to his work, apparently cured of his suicidal thoughts. As he entered his office, he found a note on the table.

"To Joseph Peccard,

I was the drunk driver who caused the deaths of your family members. I hope you will find peace and the will to forgive me. Because I cannot forgive myself.

Martin Spencer."

Three hours later, there was a large crowd outside the building. Someone had jumped off the roof. The fall had immediately killed the man.

The paramedics carried away the body of Detective Martin Spencer. Some deeds can be forgiven. Some, unfortunately, cannot be forgotten....

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17 August 2009

The Best of Laptop Diary - Part Two

This is a continuation of 'The Best of Laptop Diary'....

#10 : Think of Ajay
Perhaps it's because of the recent attacks on Mumbai, or perhaps it's because I havent been feeling especially humourous lately. What ever the reason, I've decided to ask you, and myself, a relatively tough question. What would you do, if you were in the position of Ajay?

Read this partly fictionalised story, inspired from a true event in Mumbai...(Continue Reading...)

#9 : My Family Pack
A few days ago, I called my buddy, only to find out that he was not at home. Over an hour later, I again called, and he pantingly answered the phone.

"Where on earth were you?" I asked, slightly annoyed.

"Dude, I was at the gym. Ghajini has really inspired me to work on my abs. I'm doing Ab Crunches every day..."

I did not know it then, but it was the beginning of a wonderful adventure...(Continue Reading...)

#8 : How I Got My Dimples
When I grow up, if I turn into a public speaker, I swear to God I will tell this story in front of every audience (and probably get a standing ovation for that as well!). What is the story? It's about how I got my dimples. One clue. I didnt have them on my 4th birthday. I had two of them on my 5th. Intrigued?

Let's go to the story, shall we? First the scene. It's a bathroom (hold on, you perverts. The bathroom door is open...). My Mother is bathing me (dont expect to tease me with this. Your Mom must've bathed you too when you were 5 years old.)(Continue Reading...) 

#7 : Black And White...Or Shades of Grey?
The class fell silent when John entered. It was always like that. No one spoke much in John's presence. After all, he was the infamous backbencher, the perinnial failure, the guy who dared to back answer teachers. Some even said he was a chain smoker. I didnt know what to believe. But one thing was for sure. John was a bad fellow.

A bad fellow. My cousin, who was studying in the same school as my senior, heard me mention about John one day. He laughed. "Funny how you treat life like a Lord of the Rings movie." He remarked. What do you mean?(Continue Reading...)

#6 : You Had A Bad Day?
It was one of those days when life seemed horrible in every possible way. About three months ago, I had a huge fight with a very close friend of mine. And like any other teenager, it affected me a lot. In fact, my entire day at school went bad. For some odd reason, there seemed to be no joy left in the world anymore.

As thought that wasnt enough, I got out of school, only to realise that my bus had left without me. How much more miserable could life get? Deciding that I needed to get home before I broke down and cried about my pitiful life, I walked towards the nearest bus stop.(Continue Reading...)

#5: The Mallu Who Lived

 I'm going to talk about the day that I almost died....

(All you cynical readers out there, dont rejoice yet. I said
almost. But not quite. I'm still alive and kicking...)

The day was a long time ago. Back then, I was a 5 or 4 year old kid, enjoying my time in India. When the action starts, I'm in the front porch of my house, jumping around, making odd noises, and you know, playing with my lips (that was my way of enjoying.) Just then, my Mom got hold of me, and gave me some cough syrus (for my cough, obviously.) She saw that I had some peanuts in my mouth, but didnt bother about it. I didnt either. I just continued jumping around and making noises. Little did I know that those peanuts would kill me....
almost.(Continue Reading...) 

#4 : Julius Caesar 1.5
Recently, I had a leg injury, which forced me to wear a plaster case (made out of fiber-glass, mind you!), everywhere I went.

As if this wasnt enough, I was also cast as Julius Caesar in the play..."Julius Caesar".

No, they didnt choose a limp to play the role intentionally. Which was why the Drama Teacher was visibly alarmed when he saw me limp into the practise hall, prepared with my dialogue.

"How long will it take for the plaster case to be removed?" He asked.

I told him excatly what my Doctor told me. "More than a week before the play is to be staged sir. There wont be a problem..."

Which set me thinking. What if there is a problem. What if I have to act, with the plaster case, and the fabulous limp? Well, then the play would have a few alterations, such as...(Continue Reading...)

#3 : Just A Bat And A Ball
My 11th Grade, Final exams are finally over. And since I'm assured of passing with decent marks, there was enough reason to smile. But something my friend said triggered this post.

As we were laughing in the bus, he remarked, "Dude, do you remember how it was for us at the beginning of 11th?"

I did remember. And it brought back a lot of memories...(Continue Reading...)

A few years ago,
I wanted to make,
A lofty card house,
Which would never break.

I placed one card,
On the marble floor,
After a while,
I placed one more.
(Continue Reading...)

#1: A Handful of Olives
Maryam believed in the story of olives. Even when her elder brother Jassim mocked her, the seven year old girl refused to change her opinion.

“So you’re telling me that olives can protect you from evil?” asked Jassim, his tone revealing his disbelief. Maryam nodded her head vigorously. “That’s what Grandmother used to say, wasn’t it? She said that if there was an olive tree outside our house, angels would guard us from all harm. And that whenever we were frightened, all we had to do was hold a handful of olives in our right hand. You heard her say all this, didn’t you?”

Jassim merely chuckled, and said nothing. He was smart enough not to believe in such stories. After all, he was almost 13 years old…(Continue Reading...)

This list was created by me, based on the no. of comments, and general level of feedback received from you guys. If you think differently about which post deserved #1, please do let me know. Maybe atleast that way we'll get a proper list. Thank you!

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14 August 2009

The Best of Laptop Diary - Part One

On August 18th, 2008, I published my first post on Laptop Diary. At that time, I never knew how long it would last. I never planned on what posts to write about, what topics to discuss. In fact, at that time, Laptop Diary was merely the product, of a lazy Summer afternoon. Four days from now, it'll be one year since that day when I published my first post. Before that though, I'd like to present the Best of Laptop Diary. After 12 months, and 85 posts, I've finally chosen the best 15 posts. Here they are...

What's wrong with my Hello?

Yup, I'd like to know that, thank you. At first I thought it was just some kind of a joke going around. But now I'm seriously taking up this issue.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, here's the details.

Like any active teenager, I receive phone calls from my friends. While attending those phone calls, I - as per 21st century protocol - start by saying, "Hello." (Continue Reading...)

#14 : Me And My Decisions
I have a story to tell,
One that you should listen,
It's not about a boy and a girl,
It's about me and my decisions.

I was once like you,
With absolutely nothing to do,
Except carry a schoolbag on my shoulder,
And a cap on my head...(Continue Reading)

#13 : Once Upon A Time, When I Was Cute 
Now don't laugh at the title. It's true. Once upon a time, I was cute. But I've grown older, more rugged now. Too much time in the sun, too much time in the kitchen....all have made me loose my cuteness. I wouldn't have complained about it, if it wasn't for an annoying picture. The picture of my 5 year old self. (Continue Reading...)

#12 : He Came, He Taught, He Inspired
I still remember the first time he came into my class. The bell had just rung, and we were practicing our customary stretching, when the door swung open. Before I could see who had entered, a figure passed through the side of the class, reached the front, threw his pink purse onto the table, and pulled off the cap from his marker pen.

Then, just as half of us realized that a teacher had entered, he wrote down the subject title on the board. Turning around to survey us, he uttered, "Yes, Sit Down." (Continue Reading...)

 #11 : The Story of Rajeev And Faisal
 It was that time of the year when every school in the city was busy hosting farewell parties for its outgoing batch. Our school was no different. In fact, the hype surrounding the farewell party was immense. It was all because of the Student Awards.

The Student Awards were a set of Awards given by the management of the school, as a token of appreciation to certain students. There was the "Best Outgoing Student Award", "Most Popular Student" award, and so on. But the most loved award, was the "Best Duo Award". And this year, the winners were a sure fire bet. Rajeev and Faisal.(Continue Reading...)

Please let me know your opinion about these posts. And the rest of the countdown will continue tomorrow. And yes, it wouldn't be fair to end without saying, Thank You. For the comments, for the support, and for all the encouragement. And yes, as always, be generous with the comments, will you?

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12 August 2009

Wanted : A Loving Family

"Dude, let me help you. What's wrong? You've been quiet the whole evening. That's not like you, John. Now tell me, what's the matter?"

I watched as John hesitated. I had a reputation for solving problems. It was a reputation I enjoyed. It felt nice being able to help others. And if there was anyone who needed help right now, it was John. He had accepted my invitation to spend the Eid holidays with my family, since his parents were still in the United States on a visit. He had been excited about it. That is, till he reached my house. From then onwards, he was quiet.

"You really want to know?" he asked me.

"Yes, I do."

"What if you cant help me? That'd make you feel bad, wouldnt it?" He smiled wryly. John knew me well.

"Cmon man. Just tell what's bothering you."

"Do you know where my parents are now?" John asked.

"Yah, they're in the US, right?"

"Yes. Do you know why they're there? Because they're visiting their family friends. That's what the counsellor asked them to do. To resolve their problems or something like that."


"Yup. Marriage counsellor. They're planning to get a divorce. I'm not surprised. If you'd spent a week in my house, you'd pay them to get a divorce. All this wouldnt have bothered me. I mean, I never had a loving family. My Dad never bought me a present on my birthday. Atleast he's out of town, so that's an excuse. My Mom's worse. She doesnt even bother to remember when it's my birthday. But you know why I'm thinking of all that now? Because, because I see how it's with you."

"With me?" I asked incredulously. I didnt understand what he was saying.

Just then my cousin brother knocked on the door. It was time for lunch, he said. As I got up, John moved towards the door. Before leaving, he turned around and said: "If you dont like your friends, you can drop your friendship. You can find new friends. You can choose whom to like, and whom to avoid. But with family - with family, you get just one chance. What do you do if that chance gets ruined?"

Eid Day Lunch was a festivity in my house. The table was surrounded by my father, mother, two sisters, my uncle, aunt, two cousins, another uncle, John and myself. As could be expected, there was a lot of talking, teasing and laughing. Plates were distributed, dishes were moved around. Everyone helped everyone else. Long stories were told. Jokes were cracked. The ladies blushed, the men shouted in mock anger.

For the first time perhaps, it all made sense to me. I could sense the love between everyone seated at the table. The witty repartee between me and my cousins; the way my mother told embarrasing stories about my childhood. Memories were brought back from years gone by; the table was filled not just with food, but a deep sense of happiness and satisfaction. It was one of the best lunches I ever had.

Later that evening, when everyone was out in the courtyard, having tea, John sat besides me. "So, what's your solution?" he asked. I had thought of it all along. What can we do if we have families where there isnt any peace, let alone love between one another? What can we do if our brother or sister, father or son, never give us the respect and happiness we deserve? I think he already knew what I was about to say.

"I dont know the solution, John," I said, perhaps for the first time ever. I looked at his face, a plastic smile hiding his emotions. At that moment I knew. The lunch we had, was one of the most painful experiences for John. It made him realise just what he was missing.

If you dont like your friends, you can drop your friendship. You can find new friends. You can choose whom to like, and whom to avoid. But with family - with family, you get just one chance. What do you do if that chance gets ruined?

"I dont know what the solution is..." I repeated again, more to myself, than to him.

[More than a thought, this post is intended to be a discussion. Please let me know what you're answer to John's question would have been. If you know anyone who feels the same way as John, please ask them to comment as well. If needed, please post the comments as Anonymous. This story is fictional, but as with all my posts, it's inspired from real life.]

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