Friday, October 21, 2005


Before, now what looks like a eternity, a week, a couple of my friends, and their friends and colleagues left for Honnemarudu - A forlorn place next to the river 15 kms from Jog falls. A 9:30 ultra-deluxe Rajahamsa left us at Tadeguppa early morning in the company of a LOT of stray dogs and some early morning fisherman.

Soon a sumo materialized. We and the first rays of sun landed together, after traveling together on rain sodden mud roads, before a shackle and bleary eyed Nayan, who was going to be our guide for the next two days.
The conditions were read out - No plastic covers, bottles or any form of non-biodegradable trash; Blue colored drinking water from a well garnished with dead leaves and algae; Two toilets to be shared located on the far end of a little road with a huge sintex tank with water outside;
Our accomodation (rather the cloak room) on top of a little hill making sure we climb a hill if we forget a towel or a soap. What wasn't told but was later found out was that we have company. Space wouldn't be a problem until you let them rest on you for sometime because they grow on you - LITERALLY! Leeches. Lots of them. My only images of Leeches is from the movie Anaconda-II where co-travellers gasp at a guy's back teeming with crawling vermins. Was quite surprised to see how small they actually are, and how fast they could grow (on someone else's hand!). Was granted closer examination of look and feel inside the loo in the worst possible position and time (when mobility is quite limited as you might agree)
All this and more were compensated amply by one pristine elixir - Water! Long long ago, a lean, chirpy 22 year old swimming ignoramus decided to try scuba diving in the Mediterranean resting his faith on the blond trainer and buoyant waves. Exactly 13 minutes and 42 seconds later, the oxygen valve slipped out his mouth and he had a whole sea for an evening drink (a little tangy, I should admit). Since then, he's stayed away from water because the moment he dips his head under water, he was practically reliving the whole experience. He didn't believe Nayan, those around him or even his own eyes. But by jolly! You actually float when you wear a life jacket. And soon you realize you are the thorpe-(do) and swish swash your arms around pretending to do back stroke (.. and the whole package!).

And now that you are comfortable with water, bring on the coracle and the canoe baby! The nearest island? Miles away? No problem! Hop in and we shall travel even to the stars (rowing our way through the milky way, wow! how romantic! :) And so rowed and rowed until we tired and bored. Nayan would then give us permission to jump into water and watch the heaven beyond the blinding rays.

The shower, which feels wonderful when you are in water doesn't really paint a pleasant sight when you are getting ready for a campfire in a deserted island. But we did go. Rowed our way to an island which is a forest with cleared spaces like bald spots right on top. We set up our tents, found
whatever firewood was dry in the forest and burnt effigies of rafi, kishore kumar in a game called Anthakshari. 8 o clock - hot dinner (hunted and barbecued wished I, but packaged and carried unfortunately) served in open spaces that were surprisingly warm.

Another day of rowing and swimming after that. By noon, when we left we had enough fun for a weekend! Brief stops in Jog and Sagar. Some more photos ("cheese please" moments reminding me of those days in school where they make you stand on green benches and take a classroom photograph, the flash going just when you are eyeing the girl in the row below!).

The best thing, as always was company. Most of the faces there were unknown and now after the trip we are not chuddi buddies. But excellent sense of humor, wonderful company for adventure and very affable! What more would one need in a trip!

In keeping with the tradition of long posts, here's 7000 words more. If the link doesn't work > Honnemarudu.


Saturday, October 15, 2005


He inhaled whatever little life was left in his cigarrette in one drag, held his breath as he watched the crimson end die into ashes right till the stub, and slowly puffed out rings of smoke to the horizon. Beyond the tents raised to form a local market, beyond the endless sand dunes and the sparse pastures, blood red sun was finding its way home painting the skies with a whole pastel of bright emotions.

He dropped the stub into the ground beneath his feet, stamped it while looking around for that one familiar stubbled face among a sea of beards, purdahs and turbans. A seasoned journalist - A camera with a conspicuously long lens, a crafted beard covering his chin, khaki shorts and a sleeveless vest with enough pockets for camera rolls, cigarettes and antiques that were sold for throwaway rates in these markets ... and for secrets the air here was infiltrated with; Nation building, senate rocking secrets that spies and double spies had to offer; A whole battle of information that was fought by men challenging each other in contests of scruples, rather the lack of it.
An unnamed stubbled face; A crumpled bit of parched paper; A scoop for all the newspapers around the world; And he was the chosen vent - The messenger boy to the civilized world. They were supposed to meet at five, a whole hour earlier. Such delays were rare in this kind of business, inevitable signs of a disaster ahead. But he knew that the news was worth the delay. He rubbed the film of sand from the dial of his watch and saw the second hand tick for the nth time that minute. Right then, he heard foot steps behind him. He turned around expecting to find his information source and ....

Date unknown. Place unknown. Past - a distant blurred speck, a loosely connected string of sensations; faces. No. Face.

A thin line of light on her cheek that entwines within her hair locks and extends onto her bare shoulder. Her eye, a storm lantern in the dark and when she closes it, her lashes and brows form a perfect ellipse that demands to be kissed. As you place your moist lips on her eyes, you feel the cheeks curve into a smile and you trace your way through the crests on the cheek, onto the line of light, right till the place the smile started. Her face is a blur but the sensations, the touch of lips, alive - here. Inside the head.

A deep stench of sweat, blood and shit. He wakes up again to find himself in a room he can make no sense of. The whole room is painted white; white-washed in the recent past, the windowless walls still reeking with the smell. Around him, in concentric circles are all forms of human stain - Sweat, blood and shit. Anger, hopelessness and numbness. And on this is a plate with food, the stench emanating out of every morsel, every drop. He closes his eyes and tries to remember the face again. But now he is awake and all his senses are fighting a losing battle with the human ruins. He looks for the door. Finds it and a table next to it. Dark brown thin legs contrasting the walls. A blurred face and a garb of colours sitting next to the table. A long sepoy rifle to his right. Stains of blood on the wooden handle.

He tries to remember the time when things weren't so bad. When there was a better lit room, better food. Conversations. Dialogues. Negotiations. Even occasional smiles. Hope of escape. He remembers the wasted chance of freedom. That flight of stairs that slipped from under his feet. The narrow door with the rusted knob in the end of the passageway that demanded to be opened shrinking with every passing second, till the dripping blood from the forehead shrunk it to a dot and erased it completely. Forever.

He remembers the papers on the table. Meaningless legal signatures in a world where law didn't exist even as a myth. Law was a witness. A proof of lawlessness. The deal was simple. A contract to be a spy - right under the nose of the torchbearers of truth; In the sanctum of newsrooms; Innocuous words added in news broadcasts that will make sense to a select few who sleep with rifles under their beds. terrorist messages piggybacking on national television. "Those CIA motherfuckers will be looking everywhere for clues while we use the national television to send messages, the whole world as a witness to our words", they guffawed. One sweeping signature that will wipe a whole body of work, values and ethics that defined a life worth spent.

Values. Ethics. Words that faintly made sense now. Edifices that have been stripped by more existential, banal conflicts. Of smell, touch. Survival. Moral values translated down to basic laws of reason - Signing the papers he knew will only prolong the end. Envelope his life with a shroud of paranoia, stress and finally shame and death. An inevitability much stronger than the one caged within this room.

Sounds! Human voice! Invisible speakers in the room had come alive. A crackling noise. A phone rings. A tentative voice. Hers! Hits him like a jolt, breathes life into him collecting every ounce of wasted energy to listen, come to life. Muffled tears. Conditions are read. Meeting is arranged. She was to meet them. Place unknown. Soon. "Is he ok?", a faint hopeful voice asks. The line goes dead. White noise fills the room. Arabic Gibberish. Guffaws. Wild laughter. "Kaboom". One word. Absolute. Kaboom - the end. A bomb. Her face suddenly becomes clear and so do her tears. The red lines within her eyes that closed as their lips locked for the last time. He pressed her face to his chest and felt her tears. Her desparation. He can imagine her now holding on the dead phone line, crying. He can imagine her with her brown leather purse, pressing it onto her skirt, her long hair tucked under a scarf, standing in the same market where he was kidnapped. Kaboom. Flesh. Blood. Her innocence.

Nothing mattered anymore. The moral edifices. The existential questions. What mattered was a face. Hers. He raised his head and called out for the now clear face that sat by the table.

The man was much younger than he thought. He was a boy, probably not even out of his teens with a face that was yet to weather experiences. He tried to read his eyes. The boy probably despised him, hated him for forsaking the only ideal that defined his life; Found his existence so trivial, purposeless compared to his which was spent guarding an ideal, fighting for a greater truth. But it didn't matter to him what anyone thought of him. Least of all the boy. The letters were indecipherable shapes of ink that didn't make sense to him. He looked at the boy again and mimed a pen.

Bang! Before they realized, the doors were open and a dozen soldiers emptied magazines into the room. He ducked under the table and sat there holding his knees, shaking. The volleys continued forever and finally the boy slumped on the floor. His eyes were still open and held in them a sense of victory, and a witness to his guilt. Carved in flesh and blood.

"Through all those dark times, didn't it ever occur to you Mr.Clark that you could just sign those papers and save your life?", asked the talk show host on prime television.
Pause. "Isn't a life spent guarding a greater truth worth much more than a life extended on a support system of deceit and hypocrisy?"

Not an answer. But a question, that two eyes had answered before closing forever. He is a national hero now, stands for values that define the nation's character. Nobody will ever know he tells himself. But buried now under the sands of time is a witness to his guilt. Carved in flesh and blood.