Saturday, July 29, 2006

Revenge (A Short Story) - Part 2

Vijay is a MBBS student aspiring to be a neurosurgeon. He has been dating Kavitha for the last three years. Vijay wants to marry Kavitha soon but Kavitha's parents want him to become a doctor first. They have been going to the restaurants and parks a couple of times a week as part of their dating. While Kavitha is content with holding hands and chatting, Vijay wants more out of this relationship physically. So whenever he gets a chance, he will try to kiss her or caress her. And these things always make Kavitha uncomfortable as she is a traditional person who thinks that only married couples can have physical contact and that too, not in public.

As always, Vijay was trying to get as far as he could with Kavitha in the park that Ganesh walked into. Vijay was trying to kiss Kavitha and she was resisting it playfully in the beginning. Vijay should have stopped there but he did not that day. He continued with his efforts while Kavitha's resistance grew louder and stronger. When Ganesh saw them, Kavitha was lying on the floor yelling "no, no" and Vijay was on top of her trying to calm her.

This was the spark that ignited Ganesh's mind. He assumed that what happened to his sister was happening to another girl and then that girl was replaced in his mind by his sister. So he felt like he was actually watching his sister getting raped. He was so angry that his body started to shiver. He was incapable of thinking at that point, and he lunged towards the couple on the ground. He ripped Vijay off of Kavitha and started wrestling with him. Vijay was saying that they both were just playing and Kavitha was standing next to them helplessly. While they were wrestling, Ganesh applied undue pressure on Vijay's neck and snapped it. In a moment, Vijay was dead. It took a while for Ganesh to realize what he has done. He just looked at Vijay's body in shock and then looked at Kavitha to see that this was not his sister. Kavitha started screaming and running towards the park gates.

Ganesh wondered about what he had done. How could he have taken somebody's life? How does this compensate for what happened to his sister? Why did he do that? While there was remorse, there was an ugly satisfaction as well. There has been a bad act and Ganesh has done something about it and he justified it by saying that Vijay might have done the same thing to Kavitha. He slowly started walking towards the road. Only he knows whether he is going to the cops or his home.

(The End)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Revenge (A Short Story) - Part 1

He was walking down the street completely lost in his thoughts. His name is Ganesh and he works as a regional manager in a bank. This is what happened to his sister earlier that night.

His sister, Poornima, is doing her MBA and has been dating one of her classmates for the last five years. They both plan to get married once Poornima finishes her MBA. Normally, Poornima goes to college in her moped but since it broke down, she took the bus that day. She had to stay late to get one of her assignments done in the library that day and was waiting at the bus depot to come home around 9 pm that night. Ganesh or her boyfriend would have given her a ride but one was busy at work and the other one was out of town. So she had to wait for the bus that late in the night. The bus depot was deserted and that was making Poornima a little anxious. But the bus should be here any minute, she kept thinking.

Instead of the bus, a guy in his mid-thirties walked by. He looked the usual kind but his eyes were intensely angry. Poornima always notices people's eyes as she thinks that they are the windows to a person's soul. She did not want to chit-chat and so she did not make any eye contact.

The guy who walked by Poornima is Anand who has been dumped by her fiancee just today. She had said that he was not daring enough (man enough) for her. He could not take this very well and was just wandering around when he saw Poornima.

Seeing Poornima, who reminded him very much of his fiancee, made him angrier - both at himself and at his fiancee. He wanted to do something to take out his anger. And so he did the unthinkable.

He went and stood by Poornima and kept inching closer to her when she started moving away. Small steps became a walk and then a run and Anand kept chasing her. Poornima made the mistake of going into a back alley that was mostly dark and completely deserted. She was so scared that she didn't even think about calling somebody on her cellphone. Once they got into the alley, he picked up his speed and came very close to her.

He pushed himself against her and she could feel his hardness. Now she was really scared. She tried to get out of his hold and that didn't work as he was quite strong. She tried to bite him but that was not effective either. Now he was unzipping his pants and thrusting himself against her and she could not take it anymore. She had tried everything she could and did not know what else to do but she was so angry, so sad and so lost now. He did what he wanted to do like an animal and when he was done, there was that one second when they made eye contact. She looked at him like he was the worst creature on the face of the earth and he looked at her like he had accomplished something. Then he left.

She just laid there for about 15 minutes. She was thinking that the author who wrote that if a woman ever finds herself being raped, she should try to enjoy it, was a moron. She did not know what to do but got up slowly after some time and walked up to the main road and looked around for an auto or taxi. There were a few people walking around that gave her a suspicious look as she was still disheveled, in spite of her best efforts to clean up. Luckily, an auto came soon and she got on it. The auto driver gave her a cheap look but she didn't care.

She reached home in 10 minutes and she kept thinking how different it would have been if she had just taken the auto in the first place instead of waiting for the bus. All this to save 20 rupees. Her mom was in the kitchen and so Poornima just ran into her room and locked it. She usually likes a little alone time when she gets home and so her mother wouldn't think anything about it. She laid down on her bed and kept staring at the ceiling. There were too many incoherent thoughts going through her mind and her head started to ache. She removed her clothes and threw them in the trash as she did not want anything to do with that guy and went to the shower. She took a long shower and came into the kitchen. When she saw her mother, she had to muster all her strength not to cry. But she went and hugged her mother, which was unusual and her mother teased her about it.

Her boyfriend called after some time and she managed to chit chat with him quite effectively. She was surprised at her own resilience but she did not want to give in. She kept telling herself that she should not let this unfortunate incident ruin her whole life. As her boy friend was very tired, the phone conversation was short. Then her brother Ganesh came and he immediately knew that there was something wrong. They both have shared a special relationship and are best friends. When they got a moment alone, Ganesh asked her what was going on. Her immediate reaction was to lie but she decided to tell everything to her brother as she wanted so badly to share it with someone.

Ganesh listened to the whole story in a deafening silence. When she came to the end, he asked her if she knew who it was. She said no. Then he asked her what she was going to do about it. And she kept staring at the wall and then said (after what seemed like a very long time) "nothing". This infuriated Ganesh who kept shouting "how can you not do anything and let him get away with it". She said that she didn't want everybody around her to get hurt because of this and also that she might not even be able to identify the perpetrator. Their mom called them for dinner and so they both calmed down and went to the kitchen.

This is why Ganesh was so lost in his thoughts. He was quite impressed at how his sister was handling this, which was quite different from the character in that book he recently read, who wanted to commit suicide after getting raped. He had a lot of anger in him and wanted to do something about it but did not know what. He realized that his sister has to move on with her life and can't throw away her life because of a single event (no matter how big an event it was). But still, there needs to be some consequence for an act like this, right? Ganesh thought so as he entered the neighborhood park.

(To be continued)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Dreaming while Awake

If you are ever feeling great about your vocabulary in a language, you just need to try translating a song (assuming you are bilingual), and that experience will humble you. I used to be a big fan of the Tamizh author Baalakumaaran (the reason for "used to" is a post in itself) and have thought of translating his novels into English, so that more people could read him. But I have never done it and may never do it after this. But then maybe translating a novel is easier than a song...maybe.

One of the recent songs that I very much like is "suttum vizhi chudarae" from the movie Ghajini. I can listen to it five or six times in a row, much to the chagrin of my co-listeners. One day, I happened to be listening to this song with some of my friends who don't know Tamizh and so I translated some of the sentences for them. As a credit to this song, even my not-Tamizh-knowing friends liked the song (or so they said!) and figured out that it was romantic (maybe because it was a duet?!) . This, combined with wanting to translate for some time, prompted me to translate this song from Tamizh to English. But now I wonder what got into me to want to do that.

First of all, translating a song is difficult. You realize that it is hard to find words in another language even if you understand what it means in the original language. I like languages, especially Tamizh and English (the ones I know) and Spanish and Italian (which I don't know but like to hear them anyway), but now I have better appreciation for the nuances in different languages. These two languages are so different that it is a wonder that I can speak both :-)

Without much more rambling, here is the translated song in English.

Light from bright eyes
Light from bright eyes
My world revolves around you.
Your photo in my shirt pocket
Is touching me and
My heart is on fire.
I fall in your sight and
Fly in space.
I dream while I am awake
Because of you
I dream while I am awake.

I saw softness on your chest
Hardness in your sight
Searched for the in between
But didn't find it.

I blabbered in my sleep
Stood in the drizzle
And thought of you
When I sneezed.

Are there black and white flowers?
I saw them in your eyes. Your eyes
are flowers that eat the bees. Your eyes
are flowers that eat the bees.

Female: (Light from bright eyes)
A certain wood pecker
Snatched my heart and
I gave my body and soul.

With neither fire nor wick
That bodies would burn
I realized only today.

Is rain more beautiful? Or sunshine?
When you flirt, rain is beautiful.
When you are angry, sunshine is beautiful.
When you are angry, sunshine is beautiful.

(Light from burning eyes)

Notes on the translation:

The translation does not do much justice to the beauty of this song and so one is better off listening to the song either at Raaga (original version) or at Swarasthaanam (a beautiful rendition by Meera and Jo). "Light from bright eyes" does not come close to expressing all that is in Bharathiyaar's phrase "suttum vizhi chudarae" (I could not translate "suttum vizhi chudarae" and had to ask a friend for help and I don't mean to discredit the friend's translation but just want to emphasize the difference in the beauties between languages). I still don't know how to translate "mellinam" and "vallinam" into english and have went with substitutes like "softness" and "hardness".

The biggest challenge in translating is to choose between the literal translation and taking some liberty so as to convey the message. I think the above translation has both, as and when convenient for me! Regardless of the fact that the English version is not as mellifluous as the Tamizh version, it was a new and enjoyable experience.

Thanks to Selvaraj for helping me with the translation. If you have a better translation for any of the words/phrases in the song, let me know through the comments.

And folks, try to dream while you are awake as well (not the same as day dreaming!).

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Mumbai Train Tragedy

A heinous crime was committed in Mumbai on July 11 and about 200 innocent civilians returning from work lost their lives. The tragedy and the Mumbai pride have been expressed very well by Amit, Gaurav and Uma. In addition to posting updates on their blogs, these three and some others, did a terrific job at Mumbai Help trying to get in touch with stranded folks in Mumbai and keeping their loved ones updated on the internet. Now, that is useful blogging and one of the best uses of the technology, that I have seen. Thankfully, the city of Mumbai returned to normal (as normal as possible) the next day and there was no follow-up violence. Violence can never be the answer to violence and it surely doesn't help reach a solution. What happened to Mumbai train passengers can be compared to what happened in New York City in 2001, but still the coverage in the world press has been minimal.

I have been to Mumbai only once and spent only a few days there, but still I was sad for what happened there on July 11 (and it is not 7/11 but 11/7, according to the Indian style of writing dates) and at the same time proud to read about so many humanitarian acts towards strangers. The folks at Mumbai Help stayed up till the wee hours of the morning giving hopes to the ones in different continents about their loved ones and trying to contact them quite frequently. It was a day/night when both the best and worst of humanity was exhibited. Unfortunately, the worst took a toll of several lives.

The one thing I keep wondering (whenever a terrorist attack takes place) is what message do the terrorists want to send by killing normal working class people. Are they trying to threaten that they have the capability to cause damage and more might follow? Or is it just a senseless act on their part that we can't reason out? Why don't they want to sit and talk, like humans are supposed to resolve conflicts? What purpose can they be serving that needs 200 lives? I just don't get it.

Bombings seem to be continually happening in Mumbai. The previous big one was in 1993 and the culprit on that one is still at large. So the first and foremost thing to do would be to identify the responsible set of people for this one and bring them to justice. Only then can the common person feel safe in Mumbai. One can only wish that politics and money don't influence this in anyway. And then, security measures will have to be beefed up in the train stations and other transportation areas. Also, intelligence measures will have to improved (a cabinet minister said that there was some intelligence information on some activity but he did not know when or where, which is ridiculous as even I can say that). Providing safety for its residents is one of the most important duties of a Government and no amount of economic progress can substitute for that.

In the meantime, this incident illustrates the fragility and transience of life. So enjoy every day and don't worry much about the past or the future. Try to be nice to people and if not, stay away from such people. If there is nothing good to say about somebody, don't say anything. Perform random acts of kindness and spend a lot of quality time with your loved ones. Don't bicker about who is better than whom, as in the end, everybody is treated the same. And let us hope the people who died on the 11th rest in peace. And let us hope for peace.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


It is not very often that I am speechless in wonder. But that happened twice in the span of two weeks. First, when Bill Gates announced that he is going to leave day to day operations at Microsoft to spend more time managing the Gates foundation. Then, a week or so after that, Warren Buffett announces that he is going to give away about $30 billion to the Gates foundation. Wow! is the only thing I could say about that. At least, till now.

I have been a big fan of both these guys for about 10 years now. I used to admire Warren a lot when I started looking at investing in shares and mutual funds. It was inspiring to learn that here is a guy who made billions of dollars through his prudent investing. There used to be a time when I had hopes of attaining a bit of what he accomplished in the stock market. Not anymore. Now I will be glad to own at least a share of Berkshire Hathaway A fund. But after some time, I stopped admiring Warren as much as he was not big on charity and I used to wonder what could he possibly do with so many billions of dollars. But that was his choice and so I respected that.

Bill is another story though. Just like everybody, I learnt about him and his ruthless and overly aggressive manners in Microsoft related activities. I was neutral about him as quite a few businessmen behave in such a way and sometimes a little bit of it is even necessary to survive in the cut throat environment. But then came news about Bill and Melinda Gates foundation (it is awesome that the foundation is named after both of them, I think). And then, there would be pictures of Bill and/or Melinda spending time in India or Africa with HIV infected kids. This made me start admiring Bill and it just kept growing the more I learnt about his foundation.

Last year, when I was in India, Bill and Melinda visited India and that gave me an idea of how much they are influencing (in a positive way) the downtrodden. They were everywhere in the media and were treated almost like a country's President. Now with this announcement, it is clear that he is planning on spending his second half of life (with his wife) doing a much more noble thing that running a business (even if it is one of the leading businesses). Just the fact that a college dropout created a company like Microsoft is impressive. But then, after amassing a significant amount of wealth, he creates a foundation and puts a lot of thought into making it effective is even more impressive. It takes a big heart to give away money and it takes a bigger heart to spend your own time and life in making sure the money is spent on worthwhile necessities. This is what Bill seems to be doing and this is why he is on the top of my most admired list.

It seems to me that Warren has had a change of heart as regards to giving away his wealth. And that is a welcome decision. I cannot help think that this change is due to Bill (at least partly) as they both are pretty good pals (how cool is that?!). So while I admire Warren more now, I credit Bill for leading by example. It is not very often that one gets to hear news as good as this and so let us savor this for some time. Check out the Gates Foundation to find out more about what they are doing. I did it last week to see if I can volunteer but the site says that they do not need any (sigh). It appears that they are running the foundation like a business and since they are successful businessmen and woman, this will be a success story as well. So once again, kudos to Bill, Melinda and Warren. That is a terrific trio that is bound to affect a lot of people's lives in a very positive way.