Sunday, December 28

Black Star

We follow the old laws.
An eye for an eye.
In his case, a life for a life.
Only, he was special. Different.
There had always been something about him.
A smell. A look. The shape of his face.
We follow the old ways.
We recognise the signs.
He was born to make trouble. To be trouble.
I was present at his birth, like I was present at the others'.
He was not like the others.
He did not cry. He would not make a sound.
He just stared.
Even I, who had seen so many children, shuddered.
That night, I made the blood sacrifice to our gods.
I looked into the fire to see his fate.
What I saw, I could not comprehend. That is when I knew.
He would be the end of us.
18 years later, I looked into those eyes.
Black. Blank. Cold. Lifeless, even in life.
He had killed.
That in itself was not unusual for us.
We follow the old rules.
Death was part of life. And killing was the instrument of death.
He had not killed an equal.
He had not killed in a fight.
He had not killed to survive.
He had killed.
For pleasure.
We found her body easily enough.
I wish we had not.
He had done unspeakable things. Unnatural.
Only then had he allowed her to die.
The old laws, the old ways, the old rules had only one punishment.
But we would not shed his cursed blood on our earth.
So we bound him and took him to the solitary rock.
His death would not be a punishment.
It would be a sacrifice. To cleanse us. To cleanse the world.
But his depravity called for more.
So we chose the weakest one to accompany him as well.
On the rock, we lit the fire and made the first sacrifice.
An insignificant gesture with an insignificant man.
Then, he ran.
Evil spirits aided him. He was one of them, after all.
He was their king, I knew.
We gave chase over land and water.
Even though we knew it was futile.
Men don't capture demons. Demons capture men.
Suddenly, he stopped and turned around.
And I saw the image from the fire.
The ghost.
My fellow hunter died first. Quickly.
I chose to fight.
But my gods deserted me in the hour of need.
I heard the roar and the heat pierce my heart and I fell.
But I did not die. I could not die.
Not then. Not there.
He came up to where I lay, his lifeless, cold, blank, black eyes looking...
Through me.
Then he turned.
The ghost looked at him for a long time. 
He could not see what I could.
He did not know what I did.
That he was face to face with the devil.
As my breath ebbed away, my blood warming the sand, I saw them meet. 
Then the ghost spoke.

"I shall call you... 

Song for the moment: The thing that should not be - Metallica  

Friday, December 19

Just an illusion

On a recent evening, I found myself outside a house in one of Pune's older, fancier and leafier (mercifully) suburbs. Winter meant that it was well and truly dark by the time I reached the place accompanied by an old schoolmate, who complained incessantly about the cold weather. We had come to visit (hang out with, in our jolly modern lexicon) one of his close friends, a very tenuous connection for me.

Another old school friend was already there. As is usual in these situations, I kept to myself, happy to sip at some rum and water and listen in to the humorous bantering that still marked the conversations in this group. At some point, one of these guys, all of whom freelance, run their own companies or work with their fathers, pointed out how unusual it was for me to be in town on a weekday, which is when I told them about quitting. Their reactions were worth noting. The guy who didn't know me so well was lackadaisical about it but my 2 school friends, who have known me, in a general fashion, since '93, were amazed enough to repeatedly mention the fact that I'd quit with looks of wonder throughout the evening. 

It got me thinking about how we grew and changed, from children to adults, from 11 year old boys to 31 year old men, and yet, never managed to fully shrug off the spider web-like wisps of who we were and what we were like in school. At least, it felt that way. My friends still viewed me through 21 year old spectacles and saw, nay expected, at least some part of the idiotically innocent, convoluted, painfully shy kid from the 90s. So, to them, my quitting was a bit of a shock because it was such an unexpected event. Were they wrong to 'expect' that I wouldn't change?

Perhaps not. In fact, the more I pondered, the more it seemed like jumping ship from the last workplace had been one of the most atypical things I could ever have done. Completely out of character for a man largely given to routine, like the dutiful bank clerks in "Psmith in the city"; in fact, very much like Mike Jackson quitting the bank.

Psmith has always been my favourite Wodehouse character and probably my favourite fictional character ever. Bowing to human instinct, I have always fancied moulding myself in a similar vein. Genetics put a firm spoke in the wheel to ensure that I would not be tall & thin with a face resembling a llama. Quite the opposite, in fact. But I fancied that, at least in thought, action and zest for life, I'd come close to emulating Rupert / Ronald Eustace. Instead (and disappointingly so, I might add) I seem to have graduated from the Mike Jackson school of life. Heaven only knows if there is something deeper to this peculiar turn of events. More judicious excavation is needed, I suppose.

At least no one can say I resemble Rupert Baxter, with or without his lemon-yellow pyjamas. There's some cold comfort in that.

Anyway, whether it is as Mike or Psmith, choosing to do something completely out of character like quitting that job, is hopefully the signal that there are more unexpected & pleasant surprises for me around the corner. 

Song for the moment: A fortune in lies - Dream Theater

P.S: Having said that, it is to be noted that Psmith himself quit his uncle's fish business at Billingsgate Market and plunged into the unknown. So, if there's an Eve Halliday out there, now would be the time to run into you. I can write enough smarmy poetry to assume the temporary role of Ralston McTodd, that's for sure.