Jun 28, 2012


The little girl had run out of the palace gardens again. The maid sighed as she stepped out of the cool shade, muttering to herself about having to run after her ward in the blazing sun. Her back wasn’t getting any better, and she felt her bones creak with every step, but thankfully her mind stayed quick and nimble. She knew where she would find her little princess.

Sita smiled as the sweat trickled down her brow while she out-ran her mates. Some of the boys were taller than her, but she had picked up this trick of changing track suddenly and hence could dart out of their reach while they struggled to catch her. She could sense that the boys chasing her were tiring, and she turned around and started running backwards, to tease them. “Faster, you idiot. Are you lame like your father?” she mocked, feeling a strange thrill at mouthing such uncouth language which she had learnt from her best friend, a daughter of one of the palace’s maids.

“Lame he might be, but at least I have a real father. They say the king just picked you up from some place, and that you are not his daughter” the boy sneered.

Sita charged at him, her fists bunched up tight, and punched him hard on his face. As he fell back in shock, she turned and darted back towards the garden, passing the old maid in a blur.

The maid sighed again, this time partly in relief since she was headed back to the shade of the garden, and slowly started back. She was surprised that her princess was done with her play session so early, since Sita usually spent all waking hours outside in the filth in spite of her repeated threats that the sun and the dust would burn her fair skin.

“Come here, little princess, you should stop running like that. Soon, you will be married and become a queen, it’s time you learnt to walk gracefully.”

“I don’t want to be queen. I want to be like these boys, to wrestle in the mud, to shoot arrows, to dive in the river...”

“Those violent games are for those street urchins. A high-born princess like you should be learning to sing, to converse with poise and to walk with dignity. ”

“Who said only boys can have fun with violent games? Besides, they say I am an orphan, not some high born princess.”

The maid took but an instant to recover from her shocked silence before asking who had dared call the princess of Mithila an orphan, and how she would get the king to cut their tongues for such blasphemy.  Sita noticed that initial hesitant silence, and knew that her words had struck a nerve. She hadn’t believed her playmates, had thought they were just teasing her since she was better than them at their stupid games. But her maid’s confused silence, followed by the loud denial had just confirmed the bitter truth. At the court, I am the princess of Mithila, daughter of mighty King Janaka, but in reality, I am but an orphan.

She clenched her fists and bit her lower lip, the way she always did when she was angry. Her nails dug into her palm, the physical pain somehow diverting her mind from the emotional wound. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she turned and ran, as if in a trance. Her maid started after Sita, took two steps before her aged knees buckled and gave up all thoughts of following her. Again, the maid knew where she could find Sita.

And as usual, she found Sita sitting in the trench with her back against one of its mud-walls, knees bent up to her chin, her face hidden against her hands trying to muffle her sobs. The maid backed away, knowing the child would calm down, as she always did when she sat in her favourite place. “A princess who has golden thrones embedded with rubies and emeralds, and she still chooses this hole in the ground” mused the maid, “Maybe because this was where she was found.” 

Jun 22, 2012



So it has all come to this?

Is this how it will end?

Will the world sing “She was put through a test of fire for chastity and she was burned to ashes”?

She looked at her husband, the king of Ayodhya. He stood with his face impassive, his eyes straight ahead, refusing to look at her, refusing to acknowledge his feelings for her.

Is this the man she had loved? The one whom she had followed into the forest? The one whose memories had kept her brave while the rakshasha women of Lanka had tried to frighten her?

In the court, he was not her husband, he was the righteous king who shall not tolerate accusations hurled at his ideals. And so, to prove the crazed utterances of a foolish washerman false, she had to step into the fire.

She looked around her, wishing someone would step forward and stop this atrocity. Her eyes searched for her brother-in-law, who had worshipped her, and nearly died for her. He too did not meet her eyes, merely stared at her feet.

She searched for the devoted soldier who had come all the way to Lanka alone, when no one else could have dared to. He was busy arranging the wood for the pyre, ever the obedient servant to carry out his master’s wishes.  He was done sooner than she liked, and he stepped forward with a lighted torch and announced “the pyre is ready, my king.”

Her husband, brave conqueror of the demon king, mighty ruler of Ayodhya, was too cowardly to personally carry out his sentence. And so, his most trusted soldier held the torch.

Then he looked at her. At least he is brave enough to look at me. She caught his eyes, and unblinking though they were, they seemed to convey a message.

For an instant, she was puzzled. And then she understood.

She stepped forward, folded her hands in prayer and sat on the pyre.
PS1: Culled out from an old draft, when I still had dreams of actually writing a book-sized story, chapter by chapter. And chose to reinterpret the Ramayana for no reason. 

PS2: Like so many other stupid dreams, this one too shall pass.

Jun 13, 2012

Cynicism - the secret to being happy!

"Why are you so cynical?"

"To be happy"

"What do you mean? How can you be happy if you have such a negative outlook?"

"Ah, I see yet another victim of the positive thinking myth. it's ok, there are millions like you."

"What do you mean myth? Everyone knows that optimists are happier people!"

"That's like saying ignorance is bliss. Doesn't mean that people who are ignorant of reality lead blissful lives"

"What are you saying exactly?"

"All I am saying is, positive thinking may be one way to happiness. Certainly not the only way. And sometimes, might even be the wrong way. Especially if you lose touch with reality..."

"But we have great examples of people who achieved so many great things against all odds, people who dared to dream big, and refused to succumb to the so-called 'reality' of their circumstances."

"Survivor bias. Please also look at the vast number of deluded folks still waiting for the whole universe to conspire to help them achieve it because they really want something. I have a simple message for them: The Universe doesn't give a rat's ass about what you want. In fact, from the point of view of the Universe, you would be tinier than the said rat's ass!"

"So, what do you suggest? People stop thinking positive? Stop dreaming about things they can achieve?"

"I never said stop dreaming. Dreams are precious. Life is meaningless in general, and dreams at least help you pretend that there is some purpose to it all. But yours dreams are yours. Nurture them. Help them grow. Watch over them carefully. Don't let the quacks of positive thinking lull you into believing that things will work out well in the end. Sometimes, they do. Most times, they don't.

Life isn't fair. Even if we accept that 'fairness' is an impartial concept, which it is not. At the end of it, everybody thinks they didn't get a fair deal, which just proves that only things that benefit us seem fair to us. It also proves that Life, or the Universe, isn't concerned about fairness and justice.

Hard work doesn't always pay off. The guys who work the hardest need not always get the highest rewards. And don't fall for the 'Work Smart, not Hard' myth either. The core message of the Gita might just have been misinterpreted. Efforts don't matter, results do. No use whining that I put in my best effort, but things didn't work out. The fact that they didn't just means you don't control all the variables. Accept your limitations. More importantly, when things do go the way you want, don't get puffed up on how you 'visualized' your way to success. Accept your limitations. The world could certainly do with less hubris.

What you believe is merit might in fact be, in the words of a famous investor, a winning ovarian lottery ticket. Besides, believing that merit should be rewarded is a proxy for believing that the world should be fair. Which it isn't. Some people luck out. Others run out of luck. So, deal with it.

Be cynical. Expect the worst. That way, if things don't go your way, you can fool yourself saying that you knew life was out to screw you anyway. And then when things work out less disastrously than you imagined, I promise you that you'll be really happy."

"Wow, now you are beginning to sound like the very preachers you hate."

"Guilty as charged..."
PS1: This is a note to self, but written here since I don't keep a separate diary. Not to be taken as "Preachings  of Kirukuananda".

PS2: Reflections caused as a result of reading myriad stuff such as the smug, self-congratulatory pieces of some bankers in the Voices of Finance series, the rabid comments to the same pieces, the debate on whether the markets reward merit or not, and seeing people crib after getting bonuses that some people would be happy to earn over half a decade, and wondering whether it all makes sense and what the heck am I doing in the middle of this race that I don't want to run!

PS3: As one keeps getting older, one tends to delude oneself with such pseudo-philosophical gyaan. Hoping for inspiration to strike for a bout of good old PJs to feel a bit younger again!

Jun 6, 2012

You know you are getting into the 'Uncle' stage of your life when:

All your sporting icons are retiring and you are disdainful of the new 'kids' on the block. All the dream girls from your teenage are now playing mommy roles, and your new dream girls are all  younger to you!

You meet a younger cousin after almost a decade and tell him "My! How tall have you grown! The last time I saw you, you were this small!" You tell the same cousin to concentrate on his career and to focus on what he wants to do with his life, when all he wants is to have a friendly chat about the above mentioned dream women.

You cannot see your own toes, and cannot tie your shoe-laces standing up, and you attribute it to 'prosperity'.You can see more and more of your forehead when you look into a mirror, and you attribute it to 'wisdom'. Speaking of which, you are reminded of 'early to bed and early to rise..." and conclude two out of three isn't bad.

You no longer dream about making billions, becoming great or changing the world. You console yourself that it takes great maturity to come to terms with one's own mediocrity. You smile patronizingly at teenagers who still dream about making billions, becoming great and changing the world. You hope they'll nurture their dreams better than you did.

You find toilet humour juvenile, and practical jokes silly. You are fed up of puerile puns, random rhymes and even  average alliterations. You come to appreciate subtlety in everything, and irony is now your favourite form of humour. Tragically, you can't come up with any ironical statements, and so revert to silliness.

You try your hand at fancy video-games and embarrass yourself. You start thinking how much simpler life was when playing Pac-man and Super Mario. You wonder when video-games became so violent. You tell yourself that you are too old to play video-games anyway.

Your friends no longer come to kick your ass to mark your birthday. And you are thankful for that because you are worried about back pain.

Your friends start getting married, and having kids. You congratulate them in a very polite manner, instead of expressing your condolences at their loss of freedom in your most colourful "you are so fucked, da!" tone.

You write boring blog posts like this to celebrate your birthday. Instead of other boring posts. Thankfully, some things don't change!

Jun 4, 2012

Of teary farewells... and new beginnings...

I still remember the day you came into my life. You brightened up my day, made it colourful, and made a 13 year old the happiest kid on the block.

The memories come flooding back. You shared my craze for cricket (which in itself is unusual for a girl), and I still remember watching with you the 1996 World Cup when Sachin simply destroyed the opposition.  The sound we made was loud enough for the neighbours to complain. You rolled your eyes at my infatuation with pretty girls, and I still remember us sneaking around late at night, silent as a lover's whisper. You were a loyal friend, and I trusted you to never give away our secrets. A trust that you vindicated faithfully.

And the best time of all was when we played the video games together. Jumping hurdles with Mario the plumber, searching in vain for the princess, shouting in joy at escaping the monsters, and mourning with me as we lost another life. Those lazy summer vacation hours spent in your company were some of the best times of my life.

And then I left town while you stayed behind. I found new friends, but none that could replace you. None with whom I could sit back and watch a sleazy C-grade movie without any inhibitions. They were too snooty for that. Only here did I notice that unlike these city girls, you had curves, and you were never uncomfortable about that.

Every home visit in all those years, I used to look forward to visiting you. Never knowing whether you'd be still around. And luckily for me, you followed us all the way from Mettupalayam to Coimbatore to Bhavani, and even to Mumbai. I was surprised you made it this far, but in my heart, I knew you were dying.

But all good things have to come to an end. And so it is, with us. Has it really been 16 years? It feels like yesterday! Even as I move on to a slimmer, sexier model, I'll always remember you, my first love.

Farewell, dear Videocon Bazooka, they don't make 'em like you anymore!  

Jun 1, 2012

Aaru mudhal arubathu varai...

The Kiruku turned 6 yesterday. Like last year, I was again too busy to commemorate the momentous occasion.  But blogs, like people, grow up and become more mature, and hence don't throw tantrums when their birthdays are forgotten. Even if the blogs are written by people who refuse to have anything to do with growing up and becoming mature.

Six years is a long time. Especially for a blog. Even more commendable, in this age of competition from other social media like facebook and twitter. My PJs now find their way into twitter (while we are at it, do check out the ones following V. Anand's win tagged as #ChessPun), and my other short rants find their way on to facebook. Like Test cricket and classical chess being taken over by T20s and Rapid tie-breakers, the leisurely blogpost is being taken over by 140 character tweets and fb status updates.

Unlike years ago when I had too much time on my hands and this crazy urge to spew forth on every topic, I rarely find the time to devote to what has been the longest-lasting hobby of my life. Other than cracking really bad PJs which I used to do even when I didn't know what a blog was. But this is not about me. This is about Kiruku.

A birthday may not be the best time to talk about endings, but I have been tempted to kill off the blog (Don't tell Kiruku though!). Especially since I seem to have developed a writer's block more serious than that of George R R Martin (When is the next book coming out, btw?). What has prevented me from taking the step is the occasional burst of inspiration which takes the shape of one more senti post, one more lame rhyme, one more pun-filled look at the world.

Friends whom I started blogging with seem to have abandoned their blogs. As they get busy with their families, and start making plans for putting their kids in school. People who wrote far better, people who unlike me had something fresh to say each time, people who actually took time to polish their posts to make them look good... suddenly found themselves worrying about mortgage payments, car loan EMIs and vaccinating their kids on time. On top of worrying about coming ahead on the rat race.

In a way, Kiruku's solitary march mirrors my life, as I run out of single friends whose houses I can crash into unannounced, down a peg or three, and pass out on their couch. Friends with whom an impulse weekend trip can be planned. Friends with whom I can have profound conversations about the purpose of life, the importance of money in it, and whether Asin is proof that a Creator exists...

These days, I find myself worrying more about the Europe crisis (damn the Greeks!), the Indian GDP growth slowdown (damn the Indians! oops...) and whether I'll have enough cash when the EMI cheque hits the bank. Everybody has to grow up, whether they like it or not. Stupid blogs and crazy bloggers included.

But when we are too busy growing up, we miss the chance to crack a joke, think up a crazy rhyme or simply rant to our heart's content. The reason I have not killed this blog is in the faint hope that I will manage to find the time to do all this. If not today, then tomorrow... or the day after...

It's bad to finish on a sombre note. As my namesake hammed, everything requires "Happys Endings".

So, sing a raucous "happy birthday" to the Kiruku, wish that he lives for an eternity, and please go out of earshot before you crib "what a cheapo! not even a return gift!"

PS: May-June are months filled with milestones. So, the mood is likely to be a bit introspective for some time. But like a hangover, it'll soon wear off and we'd be back to inane PJs soon enough.