7 stones

Back then in school, oh yes, you remember when you were in school, don’t you? When the biggest possible worry was what the questions in mid term results could be.

When chief amongst the wonders of the world that you couldn’t figure out would be the acute deprivation in that human mind that caused him or her to think up of something as weird as Trigonometry. And then roll your eyes with even more wonder on the mind that thought of including as vile a subject as that in the syllabus!

These were brief interludes. At other times, you were free to do as you thought fit. Many times you just did and only then thought about if what you did ‘fit’ into acceptable scheme of things.

Ah. School days.

No this post is not about school days. Technically. No. this post is about a game called ‘Seven Stones’. That’s a game that caught attention much before games like basketball and volley ball emerged in the horizon.

It didn’t predate cricket, but then, cricket required equipment that was banned by the school. You had to be a Houdini to be able to smuggle in a bat and three stumps. Tall ask. But you could always find seven stones and on the field, and take aim with a smuggled rubber ball.

The rules were simple.

1. There were two teams. One that had to aim the rubber ball at those stacked up seven stones. As soon as the stack was broken, the same that broke it attempted to rebuild all of the seven stones again.

2. Oh yes, the other team weren’t twiddling their thumbs or picking their noses while this restacking happened.

3. They had to aim the ball and hit the members of this ‘rebuild’ team beneath the knees to get them ‘out’. If the ball ‘hits’ you, you are out.

4.Eventually there are fewer and fewer players around to rebuild.

5. The team that would build all of the seven stones before all its players are knocked down, or the team that knocks down all of the players before they can build up the tower of seven stones, is the winner.

Detailed rules are here

After this game ‘players’ would then go back to wondering whoever invented Trigonometry. Or why some crazy Midsummer Nights dream wasn’t as interesting as some of the other dreams that they would rather talk of.

Does this sound familiar ? Well, hold on. The world thinks that the Iraq war has no precedents. I beg to differ.

Examine it if you will. What were established cities, dams, roads , hospitals and the like were pulverised with remarkable accuracy. The news channels giving it a coating of pulchritude, as though it was some fireworks show! People died. Many were maimed. And many more left to fend for themselves.

Ofcourse, the rebuild effort started with greater speed by the same folks who pummeled the land. Like in the game of seven stones, the other team werent sitting there twiddling their fingers. They hit the re builders, usually, beneath the belt.

The other day in an animated discussion about the validity ( or the lack of it ) about the Iraq war, an animated participant said that this was the original idea of one Mr.Bush and another Mr.Blair.

Which is when the animated participant was calmly told that it was a ‘stolen’ idea. With an ever smart twitch of the corporate collar, a smirk and a slanted neck ( which is corporate speak for ‘ha ha you moron you shot yourself on the foot – I got you’) “so whats the evidence ? How can you prove this? “ the participant asked.

With an all pervasive calmness that would befit a zen master, the participant was told ‘go get me seven stones and a rubber ball’ !

Herd Wisdom !

One of those days, we drive. From Diveagar to Shriwardhan. It’s a nice drive. As is typical of me, I am unsure of the way ahead. We look around, alight from the car and walk a bit. The landscape is inviting. We aren’t keen on arriving at Shriwardhan ‘on time’. We are just headed in that direction.

We look around.

He walks by. He. His goats. His calfs, cows and buffalos. Bermuda shorts. T-Shirt. Baseball cap turned backwards, as a baseball player would. Umbrella. A huge stick that could almost excite an amateur pole vaulter. A tan on the skin and weary twinkle in the eye.

He squints at us enquiringly !

I ask him, ‘Shriwardhan ?’

Before I could complete, he says in what seems to be indifferent yet focused tone : ‘Go straight and stay on the right’. The speed and ease, combined with the seeming ease of getting there by just ‘going straight and staying on the right’, for 20 odd kilometers dont add up in my educated mind.

Truth be told, i dont know if he is telling me or this is a standard instruction for his cows and buffaloes !

I repeat, using my professed urban intelligence : ‘Shriwardhan’. Slowly. Like a teacher of a English pronunciation class working on a group of students who have studied through Tamil medium.

“ Shriii-Wardhan ????”…

He replies with a tinge of irritation and a twang of dismissal. Accompanied with a body language which lets me know that I asked the way to Shriwardhan and not to the South Pole. “Go straight. Stay on the right”

He speaks Marathi which the missus struggles to pick up, much evident from her furrowing eyebrows. A couple of staccato sentence exchanges. She translates. ‘The scenery is beautiful, he says, but he urges us to go straight and stay on the right’

He moves on. Tending to disobedient cow and the svelte buffalo with swagger. We drive on too. Driving by such splendid scenery as I can ever imagine.

Roads. Greens. Sea. Roads with a view. And a view with no roads. Of cattle. Of boats. Occasionally of people. And of course, of bobbing fishing boats in every fishing hamlet !

In some time, we reach Shriwardhan. A simple quaint and wonderful place.

That evening, I walk by the sea thinking of the day that’s been. The waves rush to shore, dissipating into nothingness, at the speed at which they arrive. A smile escapes my lips. Thinking of us, our lives, our strifes and such else, much like the waves in perpetual quest of the shore.

A dog runs by giving me a sympathetic look. Bubble crabs run all around the sand. A few kids are wading into to the water.

For some reason, the mind races to a svelte buffalo twitching its dirty tail. Just as a voice rings in the ear : ‘Go straight and stay on the right’ !

A pause and a full minute later, i realise that is sure something to keep in mind.

Sure !

Salted history

I used to hate him. Hate him with the bottom of my heart. For what he did to his father. For what he did to his brothers. For what he did to many many thousands of people who he killed and mowed and so on.

Yet today, i want to see him. Kind of go stand where he lies. Its ironical. For my friends don’t want to go anywhere close. Not because they hate him as much.

But today to go close to him, you have to go to a small nondescript place. A place nondescript enough that without direction and desire to get there, missing it would be normal ! He perhaps had all of India under his thumbs. Palaces were built and minor empires destroyed with a casual wave of a hand.

And all who talked thus far, about him, talked with a sense of borrowed spite and frown. The eternal bad chap image stayed fixed. Today, the simplicity of what i hear moves me to think.

Today, another man gives us another angle:

Imagine being born in a royal family. Imagine seeing your head of state dad, spend crane heaps of government money on a tomb for his wife. Imagine you having consternation about it. Imagine having the resolve to fight for simplicity yet scale. Fight anybody.

From an aggressive neighbour to your own father. Imagine ruling the land with great simplicity and methodical precision. Imagine living a simple frugal life when surrounded by royal splendour.

Imagine stitching caps and writing the holy scripture. The proceeds of which, you mandate, is all that would go to making of your own tomb ! I

Imagine, first of all, mandating that there wont be a significant tomb, despite being the emperor of India ! Imagine Aurangazeb.

As the shudder runs down the spine all the way to the left toe, he adds. “History is written by the victor. Its never factual”. The tourist guide moves me.

In some time we reach Khuldabad. In what appears to be another mosque in a predominantly muslim neighbourhood, Aurangazeb’s lies at the feet of his guru. No grand structure. Simple and quiet.

The Taj loses sheen in the mind. Think of it this way: Shah Jahan built the Taj out of government money and emptied the state coffers. His son threw him in jail ruled the land ably and died a simple man.

Well, i dont know what the truth is. None of us will never ever know. But then, i have resolved to read history with pitchers of salt by the side.

And as Dylan says, “All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie”

On the Wall : Ilusory Irony !

The mention of the word Maya, gets me philosophical !

All of the world is Maya. Thats what i knew. I thought of Maya in great awe, and uttered ‘MAYA’ with an air of respect, and a circle of awe. Until a couple of days back.

‘All of the world is Maya’, i have read in the epics. Everything is but an illusion and everything is taken from HIM, says the Gita.

Realisation that the world has moved on from there, caught me by surprise. Completely. That for sometime, i thought of myself as a lost soul getting off a ship that was moored in the middle of the Indian ocean for a million years !

Actually, this poster sent me scurrying for knowledge.

And i returned with understanding that Maya is the name of an animation software. Aha !

But think of the irony. The poster that advertises to make you an expert in animation, by studying Maya….is stuck on top of another that announces the death anniversary of a gentleman !

Maya ! Huh !

Javas transformation from coffee to software gave didnt excite me. One bit. I hope Maya stays illusory !

Saturday Lazing : Staying Tethered.

Walking by a lane in Matunga is indeed a sight. For one, slippers that hang by a string, kiss flowers hanging at the next door store.

Well, almost !

But what a sight they are. Neatly ordained. Well, merchandised. And the slippers managing to catch the attention of those that would walk in to buy flowers. Ditto with the flowers catching attention of the slipper buyers.

Isn’t it ironic ?!?

At a temple, the slippers are left far behind. Right at the entrance. While the flowers go on to adorn the deity ! So is the case with homes. And every other place where they are used.

But at the place of purchase, they seem to be fountainhead of communism and equality ! Just hanging on with so much elan and showcasing a commercial value, functionality. ‘Meaning’ and emotion are not here !!

So that strings that hold the slippers vie with the strings that hold the flowers. But here is a difference : when you purchase the flower garland, the strings go along ! Needless to say, the strings don’t come along when you buy a pair of slippers.

So…eureka. eureka. ( A zillion light year far cry from the brilliance of Archimedes, I am all clothed and still sitting in front of computer !) But here is my thought…Here is my lazy Saturday hypotheses :

‘It boils down the string !’

A string alters meaning ! A string of slippers can have other uses. Like this one. But without the string, well….

So, there it is. My eureka discovery and prompt discourse for the weekend: ‘ Find your string. And tether yourself to it. And hold strong ! It shows you in a different light !’

The moment you are untethered, you fall to the ground. Be it a slipper. Or a flower !!

And i guess one can still fly, yet stay tethered. See this decoration piece that hangs from the side view mirror…..

Phew !?! That’s one string full for what began as a lazy Saturday post on a snap that stayed on the hard drive for some time.

But that discovery (sic) has my head spinning…phew..I am stopping. Excuse please!! How do you copyright this..!! The commercial possibilities are mind boggling. I want to copyright this ‘Tether philosophy’ ! Oh yes…

My head is spinning at double the speed.

‘OK. OK. Get me a rope. I want to stay tethered.

I want too want to hang’.


Trophies & a Class X lesson!

It was last week that my mother told me that she had rearranged all the medals and cups that me and my brother had won as kids. As kids, the significance of each trophy was immense. We would dream of that medal. That podium finish. That photograph of receiving a prize from the ‘chief guest’.

I recall winning medals and cups for quizzes, debates, tennis tournaments, essay competitions and such other sundry activities. Even for maintaining a perfect attendance record.

Today, these trophies sit in silence at my home in Madurai. Many miles away. Each carrying with it a memory and an emotion. And of course there is my mother, who tends to these, wiping and cleaning them up as though they were her sons themselves. And not just trophies her sons won many years back.

On an abaxial plane, our lives seem to revolve around such trophies ! Trophies that held maximum significance when on the victory podium and the immediate days after. The halo around them fades like the setting sun’s crimson streak. Sinking into oblivion along with a clutch of memories & a warm fuzzy feeling. The trophy by itself becomes a piece of metal that needs care and polish. The memories remain! Perhaps they are the real trophies!

For me, ‘trophies’ have taken have changed over time. From hard metal to Hush Puppies shoes & Van Huesen shirts. To becoming a manager inorder to be ‘eligible’ for a laptop & fly between cities. The car. The house…These are all trophies in a way. Trophies for breasting the tape.

Many years back in Standard X I had ‘Commerce’ as a subject. We learnt about ‘human wants. And I remember some features that we discussed about wants. They went like this.

a. Human wants are unlimited
b. When one want is satisfied, new want comes up
c. Wants are ever present…

As I write this, I look up to find a sheet from todays newspaper. An ad catches my eye. “50 % off. On-first-come-first-served-basis”. My eyes dilate & wander.

Ah ! Trophies. If only we treasure the real ones. Ourselves. Our loved ones. Our ability to impact. Our planet. Ah.