I was sitting in an unnoticed corner of a not-very-popular yet, ‘hyphy’ cafe in San Diego, you-know-where. The furniture was a bit creaky there but the place suited me best: lonely and hidden. The cafe had an Italian name that roughly translated to ‘rainbow’. Though, save for a few designs on the wall and a big advertising banner near the cash counter, the whole café looked pale and colourless. The glass panes showed a mute traffic stricken road that was on the other side, people probably buzzing their vehicle horns, checking their watches and running back home this late in the night. Without the noises, the busy road looked as boring and peaceful as the soundless movies of the early twentieth century. The noises, however, did creep in, every time someone pushed the door to get in or pulled it to get out. The traffic from inside the cafe looked starkly contrasting.
The aroma of coffee, whose flavour I never ever care to recognise, put my thinking on pause. The coffee was placed with a gentle thud on the white, porcelain table before me with a forced Sunday night sleepy smile. Before I even stretched for the coffee, the peace of the place was beginning to break-up.
“What do you mean uncompatible?”, the lad, who looked like he had come straight here after scoring a homerun in a thrilling baseball encounter, yelled at… well… his future ex-girlfriend.
“Ok. Let me say incompatible! Is that any better?”, the girl who looked like a Super Mario doll in an American bar replied quite gently. By then, I had twice tried to move my seating forward, in vain.
“My friend used to say Betty girls are just bitc..”, he paused and rubbed his forehead. He took those ten seconds probably to compose himself and continued politely, “Veronica! We can’t breakup… like… just like that!”
“Oh! Are we breaking up because it sounds cool or”
“Because you thought love was your refrigerator defrost button?”
“Trying to play the smarter one eh? You ain’t got nothing in your head? Hella lot of times I’ve told you! We can’t be together. ONE you aren’t the swagger you think you are TWO”
“You are mentally ill THREE Let’s stop talking about breaking up every week… thrice”
“If you can complete the sentences I start, please fast forward to the part where we say good bye and walk out”
“Then you’ll have to wait till the next week… No… Every next week”
“Where on earth did you learn to annoy people?”
“From a girl who thinks she’s beautiful, gifted and courageous when the best thing she has done anyone was moving out of her parent’s house in Long Ilan”
The girl who looked rather cool and patient all this time secretly searched for something and finally seemed to have found it on my table: the coffee mug.
The lad was licking the coffee on his face within 3 seconds. By then, she had stormed out of the café pretending to be crying. For a second it felt like a sandstorm had just passed over a music concert making howling sounds as it passed over the microphones.
“Great way to skip the billing part, ladies and gentleman” the lad said smiling and continued “Thank God this place doesn’t serve coffee hot!”
Nobody cares these days. I meant… for the privacy and coffee of another individual. They all take it for granted and make it part of the viewer’s fee.
The whole of the attention of the place was on this young lad’s table. The lad did not seem the least embarrassed or shaken. Meanwhile, I had ordered another coffee and specifically asked for it to be hot or else I won’t pay for it (and for the previous one that broke a beautiful couple). The occasional glances decreased exponentially and things were returning to normal, except for the coffee’s smell and stain that remained on his T-Shirt.
The fifteen people in the café after fifteen minutes looked and behaved like nothing had happened. Further ten minutes later, after the lad had washed himself off the coffee and ordered twice for garlic bread and cappuccino, he received a phone call.
The ringtone turned people’s heads towards him. It was Celina Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from ‘Titanic’. Not what you set as a general ringtone.
“Veronica! I’m sorry”, he said.
Well I’m sorry tooI made you read this sh*t.
(I’m basically a very low IQ person and have absolutely no creativity to boast of.
The gentlemen stood blank. Their device had picked the first signal in ten months. Too Late. Things were falling apart. They hoped this wasn’t bad news.
The Officer scratched his head in confusion. ‘The signal is from his gadget. No doubt. But Sir…’ He recollected his thoughts and continued. ‘This does not completely match his gadget’s signal transmission range. Though most of the received signal is in the range, the rest looks like it has been added which could mean interception and decryption of his messages before they reached us. And curiously, the presence of these additional signals is uneven’.
‘Then how did our device detect an out of range signal’, the first gentleman quipped.
‘Well… It falls within our tolerance range sir. Not too off the mark’, The Officer answered, quite ridiculed by it himself.
The Officer continued, ‘So the interceptor possibly didn’t know that our device had a transmission band?’
The first gentleman spoke again, ‘Rubbish.Anyone intercepting this signal would have unmistakably identified the uniformity. So we assume the other option’.
The second gentleman completed, ‘The interceptor wanted to establish his presence‘.
‘Try finding what the additional signal corresponds to’, the first Gentleman said. Though this had turned out to be one tight mission with very little time to spare, the three men in the room were immensely educated to not make blunders out of rush. They liked to play things slow and, more importantly, safe.
Though the signal contained plenty of these off-the-mark ones, the Officer selected the first one and clicked icons so fast that it seemed random. Now he had better riddles to solve. ‘The message is 8 words of text with two pictorials in-between Sirs’.
There was a moment of silence. The last thing they wanted to see was their dead ‘leader’ and a threat message. The message wasn’t any better though.
“If you call it then I’m ’s Observer “.
The first scientist, the physicist, was the only one to decipher the two signatures instantly. If he hadn’t, he had no eligibility to stand in that innovative place. ‘Galileo’s and Newton’s’, he thought about the signatures. Yet, he didn’t want to make mistakes of memory.
He waited as the Officer searched for the two signatures and found matches instantly. The other two looked lost.
‘The Interceptor knows a lot. A hell a lot about us’, the second Gentleman, the All-powerful, thought.
The Officer started aloud, ‘There is something else. The message came farther from where he was sent’. Just plain faces this time. They were just recovering from the message and this one hit them off guard. ‘Now show the other part of the message supposedly from the President’, said the first gentleman, the Professor.
‘Not a message sir, more of an essay. Five pages of text. And Sirs, the in-between signals are clearly poetic’, the Officer said.
‘Poetry?’ The physicist vented. He knew poetry was definitely the President’s favourite piece of art. He suddenly felt a surge of hope. ‘Was the President too pleased with the proceedings? But then, it shouldn’t have been in the out-of-range part’ he thought.
‘He was well informed that the messages had to be short. This can’t be from the President. Even at an utmost emergency he’d simply follow the protocol’, the All-Powerful said with a voice that flickered between trust and suspicion.
‘I’m afraid’ The Officer murmured without taking his eyes off the gigantic screen. The second Gentleman’s gaze flickered through the page of text spotting a poetic part in the middle before it finally hit the first line.
‘Holy Shit!’ the All-Powerful cursed for the first time in a decade.
The three lost even the slightest hopes they had. They felt like staring at a sky high white wall.
‘So five pages is all we’ve got?’ The All-powerful enquired suddenly feeling it was not enough.
‘We had only two pages of data ten minutes ago. It is being sent in parts’ The Officer said still petrified by the first line.
‘So what do we do? Keep reading an encyclopaedia of text? Don’t we have action waiting to be taken’ The Physicist’s ego protested.
‘Is there an alternative?’ the All-powerful erupted. He was too preoccupied to be at his dignified best.
After a few exchanges of looks and fear, the three, with no other immediate alternate, stared at the screen. The Physicist felt a blood curling chill all of a sudden. He cursed himself. ‘You enjoyed the Nobel. Now take its complimentary.’
I lay with no recollection of where I was. A troubling feeling of hallucination gripped my thinking. As my eyes adjusted to the high contrast of the orange-ish sky above, I doubted my vision. My eyes saw the two sources that supplied this place. Astrophysicists would call this wonder a Binary System. ‘A system of two ‘suns’ orbiting their centre of mass’ reminded my mind. I painstakingly lifted my head pushing my hands on the ground which felt more like rubber. My eyebrows hindered most of the view. Even then, ‘The place’ looked sylvan and breathtakingly colourful. It was a garden of colourful flowers I hadn’t seen anywhere my entire life. My head fell back to the ground. My body felt numb. Before I closed my eyes, to the best of my memory, I saw a small bright fly.
There on the bare floor,
Slept your dear hero,
Not in the comfort of his room,
Not with his Earthly mind,
But In some land far away,
Far from his legendary memory,
Farther from his homeland,
In the Traveller’s Inn,
Which you call Galileo.
An ocean of thoughts, dreams, sounds, hatred, violence, stars, planets, Physics, happiness and arrogance flipped like the pages of an album. I woke up to a melodious sound. The sound of rushing wind. This time I was sure I wasn’t dreaming. The hallucinating feeling was gone.
I tried to stand up, my body resisting the sudden work my muscles were required to perform to get me upright. The floor’s softness kept poking my curiosity. After a few steps of laboured walking, I yielded to my desire to try jumping on this rubbery ground. This is one hell of a dream. The jump immediately took me some 10 feet upward. Air borne, I wondered what units people used on this planet for distance. The possibility of not landing on the ground loomed large. Midway down, I let out a loud cry. The cry gave me a feeling that I was indeed enjoying. I wondered if any Earthian physicist, Newton in particular, could ever be trusted in this strange place. My nose touched the ground 5 seconds later. I fell flat on the ground, face down, completely unhurt. I tried it a few more times, shouting an extra decibel each time. Adrenaline consumes glucose. I may need it later. This activity better wait.
I went down on my knees to examine a curiosity invoking multi-coloured flower. The stem was as slender as a rose’s.On it stood a flower, which looked dense and heavy. I touched it. This could only be felt. Not described. I pulled the plant up with the fear that it would indeed trigger a Hydrogen Bomb. Even that wouldn’t surprise me given the things I had seen the past few minutes. There are only two possibilities. Either I’m dreaming or… I’ve gone nuts. The plant had stood on the ground. It had stood on the ground. I meant what I said. It had no roots. The VIBGYOR of the flower was why I was examining that in particular. Otherwise, I’d have gone for those black ones or better, the shining gold ones.
All of a sudden, a strange fragrance took hold of my olfactory. The smell grew larger each passing second. I had the feeling this would suffocate me to death. A few choking seconds later, the smell seemed to have got to the acceptable range of my olfactory. The fragrance reminded me of a song people loved in my world. I felt a sudden warmth. Warmth I had never felt before. My shoulders felt easier. Her hands had eased them. I turned to see her.
Struck by her immense beauty and the depths her eyes took me, I wished this dream continued at least for a few more days. She then leaned onto my shoulder. The first women I’m ever touching. She guided my hand onto her waist. It was the endorphins this time. I knew what next to do. Walk. I see movies.
They walked like the hopeless Romantic,
Though he felt like a lost lunatic.
In this dreamy a place,
They walked with the slowest pace.
Two stars are less calm a sight,
Than a full moon on a breezy night.
‘Haven’t you still not got back your memory? What is the last thing you remember?’ she asked me rapidly.I gave it a thought. I could remember graduating from college, then, receiving my first salary, almost dying at the hands of Tuberculosis and finally, Riya’s death. I was sure that was my last memory. Before I could speak, ‘So Riya’s… is all that you remember?’ she asked.As if all this mind-reading, rubber flooring and the twin stars weren’t enough, I understood the language unmistakably. It was my mother tongue, Tamil. Her voice brought back memories of a jungle safari I undertook, when, I couldn’t place. The waterfalls, the lovely spotted deer, the smell of pristine greenery and the chilled body of dead Pinto, my cat. We walked for a few more moments as slowly as I could because I kept thinking about my last memory. Riya’s death was the last chronologically. But I had a feeling that it happened long ago.
I was completely unsure why I didn’t ask her questions. I must have asked her a million by now. She felt home.
‘Don’t wanna ask me where you are, who I am, what you are doing here and why you are bald?’. I checked my head and looked at her.
‘Well. To begin with, to answer where you are, you are at Atuka. It is a planet by the way. To be precise, it is some other planet other than the Earth. If some fellow Atukan asked me where he was I’d have said “The Windfield” though I don’t even have to ’. As my ears listened, my eyes were busy studying her. She looked completely Earthian and was wearing a saree with a few bangles on her right hand and simple ear-rings hung from both her ears. That should have been why I felt home with her.
‘To answer who I am’, she continued ‘I’m just one of the 1.5 billion Atukans, and am a descendant of migrants from Earth. Well, a lot of species, races and life forms live here. A total of 53 unique ones so far. As to what you are doing here or why you are bald, I have no idea and you should tell me that. Ya. I know you have forgotten a lot or maybe even the reason why you came here but just try.’ My memory felt intact and perfect except when I tried to think past Riya.
‘You said you are a descendant of people from the Earth’ I pressed. She answered ‘Yes. I am. My great grandparents were offered a place here and that was too much to refuse even back then. They hated the Earth because science was unwelcome there. Religion eclipsed Science. They had migrated some 400 years ago. You guys didn’t know things like ‘codes’ that decide who we are and that they are they are passed through parents.’ ‘We now know that and we call your ‘codes’, Genes’ I thought. ‘Ya. Genes you call that this late?When my grandparents came here, Atuka was doing ‘assisted Code enrichment’by which we disabled or created new sections of codes and improved ourselves. My Grandfather said he hardly had an IQ of 150 when he came here. When my father conducted those IQ tests, I scored 320’. She said with a matter-of-fact tone.‘What is 13301 times 11056?’ I asked. ‘One four seven O five five eight five six’ she said almost instantly. Though I did not have a calculator to verify her answer, I knew that was right, because the answer was a turning point in my life (on Earth) and I’ll never forget that. It was, by the way, my first lesson in failure.
‘Is that how you are able to read my mind?’ I asked. ‘Most Probably’ she said and I could detect something absurd in her. I might not have an IQ of 320 but I definitely knew something was amiss. That was my instinct, something that DNA will never explain. ‘Human instincts have to be trusted’ is what I’d always tell myself when I faced dilemmas in my life. I never did that and that was the primary reason for my miserable life (Yeah. On Earth). ‘For a change’ I thought and asked her, ‘Are you capable of reading any life form’s mind or is it just humans’. ‘Humans, I do well. Other species I’m not very familiar.’ She said now sounding in control. It was the better-luck-next-time moment and I had to stop it there.
I wait with my hands hovering over the keys of my amateur keyboard. I stare at the keyboard display, not knowing what note will complete what I’d started playing. I place my hands on the middle C, a regular in my random compositions. “That didn’t work”, I tell myself. I try it a few more times with a few variations and finally step back and stare at the sound I recorded on my phone, “Useless Junk!”. “I’m done with originality”. I start playing compositions of composers I love, not Mozart and not Bach but, Ilaiyaraja and AR Rahman. The playing goes well, at least to my ears. But some feeling of inadequacy grips my conscience. “Now let me do something original”.
In two minutes, I sit in front of my laptop. WordPress.com. The reader shows a post my name ‘Weekly Writing Challenge: Collecting Detail’.
I scratch my head in confusion trying to comprehend what is written. “What should I do?”. I leave a comment in the post stating my confusion and I get a reply within minutes. Though I’m still unclear, I’d started considering writing on the challenge. I check a few other ‘pingback’ articles. They only make the challenge much more ambiguous.
I decide to write it in my own stupid way.
Before I started typing, my friends had arrived for the ‘group study’ thing for the upcoming semester, half-knowing we’ll only keep talking. The talking goes on for ever and ever till I’ve gone an hour without a single word on the untitled Word document I’d created. We talk about things starting from the evolution of Indian Film music to the Engineering Graphics paper that is haunting these semester holidays of mine. A friend of mine checks a tutorial to play ‘Tum Hi Ho’ on his Guitar.
Check this out if are in the mood for good music:
And finally I complete the article and add two photos to it (To make it less boring for other people).
And that’s how my day ended. Because in India, the time is 1:55 a.m, 4 hours past my usual sleeping time.
/* My native place Vedaranyamdoesn’t have world class hotels or shopping malls or big theatres. But when you go back after giving it a visit, these things will hardly stand against the million photographs you’d have shot and the animated memories you’d have. Beauty isn’t in Luxury. It is rather in simplicity. */
In every one of our lives there’s someplace where we wish to go when we face adversity, sorrow or heartbreak. It can be a terrace, a personal room, a friend’s place or a bathroom. Also, it can easily be your native place.
I have friends who are Chennai (read city) natives. This post is to inform them of the fun of village life. I love Chennai and my native in the same way as I love both poetry and prose. I write this post with the intention of highlighting the happiness of village life.
Chinna, Kutti Poem:
I’m in the land where the soil is still visible,
A land where sparrows still live to sing,
A place where spirituality hasn’t died yet,
A region where salt runs the stove thrice a day,
Where the neighbour is treated a fellow human,
Where Children still have to come out to play,
Where movies are the same, theatres are different,
Where Channels are the same, Televisions are different.
No English, its Ok, we speak what comes naturally!
No Internet, Thank God, We aren’t monitored!
No Malls, Thank God, The purse is safe!
Family. Nature. HappYness: The price we pay for civilisation?
Cliched childhood Flashback:
Vacations, Festivals and even two day holidays, I utilised to visit my native. As Abdul Kalam mentions a change in landscapes as he travels by the train (Wings of Fire), there is a stark landscape difference which is noticeable even when you are 50 km away and into my native by bus. My native was a ‘village’ some five years or so ago and is now a ‘Municipality’. But it still fits in the stereotypical ‘village’ image of Kollywood films. So that’s still a village for me.
There is this classification of Fantasy Fiction, namely, the ‘Wainscot’ (A fantasy place which co-exists with the real world) which best describes how I see my native.
My native is my parallel world. A World a lot of people aren’t aware of.
You’d possibly know my native from the History books (Vedaranyam, the second Salt Satyagraha Site) or the Geography books (close toPoint Calimere, a sanctuary) or even the Tamil books (Thayumanavarwas born here). You’ll often hear this name if you happen to tune into a news channel whenever a depression is formed in the Bay of Bengal.
Vedaranyam (in Photos):
WE (if you are studious, you aren’t part of the ‘WE’) often ignore, or worse, hate things our syllabus books say. But there isn’t many a thing in Vedaranyam that you’ll actually hate.
Since I always went to my native on holidays, I never associate it with studies (or anything else that I hate for that matter). I’d leave the very day the school closes and only come back the morning the school reopens. The first day I’m there, I’d count: x days more for School. X would seem very large. That is hardly the case when you are enjoying your heart out. Remember, Time is always your enemy (And so is the part of the brain that perceives time). When you are bored out of your wits, you think time runs slow. When you’re enjoying your heart out, time seems to be running too fast. (This was an exam hall thought. I had a lot of time to spare but the invigilator didn’t let me out and also forced me to take an additional sheet. Merciless 😦 ).
Time Demolition zone, my native is. How much ever time I give it, it churns it into seconds. I mostly remember it for two of my friends, Hari and Shyam, a brother, Parthiban and the 14 year old local thief Abhi**th and our combined adventures. Cricket, Temples, Functions, Long chats over the local government school and its teachers, the Sea visits, Music, Dancing (I don’t do that and you know that), the silly 1-day breakups, the movies at ‘The Addicted theatre’ and last and nowhere near the least, Hide and Seek at night. (I guess you did a face palm for this one).
People who visit my native come primarily for its ‘Lord Shiva‘ Temple and the adjoining Kodiakkadu (in Kodiakkarai).
What Kodiakkarai does to children and the children-at-heart
Some miles from my native is Kodiakkarai, wild life sanctuary and a stunning beauty. The road that lead to it is a vista that you’ll never see elsewhere. On either side, in the beginning of the journey, are salt dunes, that’ll be exported to the metropolis. The deeper you get into Kodiakkarai, the more striking it is. Getting yourself a ticket for entering into the Sanctuary is the best thing you can do for your current day. A Highly camera friendly region it is. Deer, monkeys, horses and occasional wolves is what you’ll see once you are inside the sanctuary.
For the secular ones and the Christians is Velankanni, miles before Vedaranyam. Velankanni is well known in Christian circles for the St. Mary’s Church it houses.
An interesting anecdote: Tsunami struck India on December 26th, 2004. The Velankkanni church is only 325 feet from the Sea. Pilgrims were attending ‘mass’ there because, and most surprisingly, December 26th was a Sunday. Water did not enter the shrine and all praying people lived to tell the tale.
What you’ll like or find, if you happen to visit my native on a holiday, I don’t know except for the fact that you’ll see me running by the road, cricket bat in hand on the South Street amongst a bunch of happy people.