Saturday, November 22, 2003

T h e L a s t B a t t l e

Ever wondered what is the final battle you fight ? No it is not with death. It happens much earlier. After this battle, you are pretty much a useless vegetable.

T h e L a s t B a t t l e

".. The commander stood up and looked in through his field glasses. The terrain was rough, and he could see several thickets where the enemy could ambush. His troops had a fatiguing journey, the last few months being the ones which demanded extreme vigilance and efforts.

He put the glasses aside and looked at his troops. A few were trying to eat what remained of their morsels; their rations were quickly running short. The others were lying down crouching on their backs. But everybody was awake.

The commander rose to speak to them, his voice was deep but very clear.

"Soldiers. You shall rest today. However I need a few of you to help me survey the territory - carefully avoiding the eyes of the enemy. And by this late evening, we shall be ready with the plan for the offence. But we cannot afford to make any mistakes now."

The weather was rough, the early onset of winter brought with it the cold chill from the plains below. A thin shower of snow put a coarse blanket in between the two fighting parties. There was no interruption in the weather in the past week. This had tremendously delayed the battle, and the soldiers were growing restless. His troops had survived major losses. Some of the commander's best men were lost in the last battle.

Their army was outnumbered by the enemy, but had crucial advantages - in weapons and training. But they were losing out on the most important factor. Time, and it was running fastly against them. The commander could feel the fatigue of his troops. Yes, he realized, the soldiers did not have the energy that they possessed before. He did not anticipate that the offence shall be delayed by this long.

His senior lieutanant approached him, with his report on the weaponry. But before he could speak, he stumbled upon the eyes of his captain. They were not the same.

He knew his commander for long, and deeply admired his calibers. And he remembered the twinkle that always rested upon his eyes. But that day, those eyes were different, and spoke nothing of the childlike excitement that he always felt. They were dark instead, and were reflecting the dark clouds which were looming overhead in the sky.

There was something in the air, something very ominous. And this something made the lieutenanat sad.

"Lieutenant, I wish to speak to you in private"

"Yes Sir"

"These are my orders. Listen with attention."

"Yes Sir"

"In the case of looming defeat in the battle, collect all the weapons and take half the best men in your command."

"Yes Sir"

"Immediately evacuate the frontier and lead them back into the plains. Do this when I am still fighting."

"Sir. But this will be paramount to defecting."

"You are right Lieutenant. But this is what I am ordering you to do."

"Sir. This will be against my alleigance to the army."

"Lieutenant. Do you have the authority to question my intelligence ?"

"No Sir. You are my superior."

"And this is my command."

A cold wind started blowing from the hills. The soldiers started moving towards shelter in the rocks.

The commander squatted down to the floor, and begun thinking deeply. He was planning for the offence, the lieutenanat knew that. He always felt awed by the conquests of his commander. But he had never seen him so tired, so helpless, so eager for ... He wished the next day will turn in their stride.

But they never made the offence the next day. The offence was made by the enemy. And that was done meticulously in the night. The next day turned out to be the last day of the battle."

"And what happened on the last day ?", asked the little girl.

"So dear, that was how your grandpa got married."

"But grandma, you are not telling me what happened on the last day !"

"Hush darling. Now go to sleep. Because it is too violent to tell."

T h e F o u r t h L a n e

Okay :) Check it out

T h e F o u r t h L a n e

"Mommy, I want it"

"What ?"


"What ? ? ... Stop bugging and speak out"

"The toy"

"Shut up and get ready for school"

"But you promised to get it to me. Yesterday.."

"Listen, you little rascal. I would be happy to get it for you. But I told you. I dont have time. And they dont sell that thing anymore besides in that god forsaken shop. Why dont you just pick up something on the internet ?"

The old man turned uneasily over his bed, his sleep disturbed.

"And I have asked your grandad to pick it up. And here the lazy boy, he wouldn't leave the bed even for the sake of the pot. Now can you please shut up if that's making my life easy."

There was something about his daughter that sharply reminded him of his wife. The old lady had been dead for 5 years then, but he was still reminded of her, especially when in times like this.

He was brought back from the seniors' home. That was two months ago, when his daughter divorced her husband. It was an unhappy marriage, the third one in a row. But this was unlike her mother, he mused. Her mother had only one unhappy marriage.

He got up. And walked towards the little girl.

"Look darling, go to school. This evening, I promise I'll take you there"

So that evening, the old man walked out the house. This was after a long time, may be after two months, maybe even longer, he couldn't say. He was losing his memory.

They lived in a high rise building, on the sixth floor. His room overlooked the busy seventh avenue. And beyond into the far, he could faintly see the uptown. But he never had the occasion to walk outside.

The toy-shop was in the fourth lane, and it was a fair enough walk. He was not very sure if he could do that with ease. But he had the company of the little girl, and that kept him happy.

"Hmm.. darling. Do the little girls play with toys even now ? "

Whenever the grandpa asked her a question, the little girl always got confused. Her answer was always simple. But she got confused before she could answer.

"Yes grandpa"

"But how did you see that thing in the first place ? "

"Oh ! I found it with one of my friends after the school. She wouldn't give me. The bitch. But I found where she got it from ", the little girl giggled.

And where did she get it from ? The Old Buxons Toy Shop. That was an ancient establishment on the Fourth Lane. He heard about it, but he'd never been there. In fact, he never had anything to do with toys.

And rather, he never had anything to do with the Fourth Lane. Crossing the Fourth Lane, that never crossed his mind ! The solicitors' office that he used to work, that was not on the Fourth Lane. And his wife or his parents, they never lived on the Fourth Lane. And the occasional pub that he used to go to, that was not on the Fourth Lane.

Finally, they arrived at the place. The little girl led him inside.

With importance, she walked to the manager and spoke something. And the old man was pleasantly smiling, watching her.

"Oh, Young lady !! We do not keep that stuff anymore. I think the last one was sold out years ago. We are sorry "

"No sir. I believe somebody made a purchase just few weeks back. Please check again"

The old man was smiling.

One of the employees was overhearing the conversation, and he barged in, chuckling.

"Well dear ! You are right. There are some of them, lying here. But hidden somewhere. We do not know where to find them though.. Hmm.. But you can do one thing, you can make a call to the old lady who works here. She knows, but she comes only occasionally"

So the old man dialed up a number and waited.

"Hello. Who is speaking ?"

It was an odd voice, one that you find very rarely amongst people - one which has lots of happiness blended into it, and hearing which makes you smile even before you could notice.

"Well.. Here my grand-daughter is looking for a toy.. Thank you.. Yes she would be delighted ... Yes, it is so nice of you... I know.. these children.. Yes I will hand this over to Bob"

And then Bob was back with the toy in a few minutes. The old man picked up the phone again.

"Sir, I would have been happy to fetch it myself... Oh no. It is a pleasure.. I would love to see the darling.. It's so nice of you to walk all the way for this... Yes, say my Hi to her... Have a nice evening"

"Yes Ma'm. You are such a dear.. Have a good night"

And then, the tired old man and the delighted little girl came back home, both smiling.

The old man retired into his room, but something was not right. Yes, his closet was missing. With impotent anger and deep hurt, he walked into the main room.

"Right old boy. I had to empty that out. You dont need that stupid box anymore."

"But dear, all my dearest things are in there."

"Yes ! But stop sulking. Your past is as good as it is lying inside that trash"

So the old man walked to the trash, and picked up those totally unworthy things from his totally unworthy past ... that old notebook of law, that slightly broken baseball bat, that small wooden flute which he never learned how to play, and some random little things. And this old black coat which he wore till its own old age got it into the closet.

Instinctively, he felt inside its pockets. Nothing ! But inside the breast pocket, there was an envelope. It was dated forty years back. "These little things.. they just lie inside the breast pockets.", the old man chuckled. Then he found it was still sealed.

Startled, he opened it up.

"Dear young man
Yeah ! I am the little red haired girl on the commuter train, that you were so desperately trying to flirt with !! Yes, I still have that stupid caricature of mine that you drew. So what do you say about coffee this evening ? At the corner on the Fourth Lane ?"

Thursday, November 20, 2003

A s s i g n m e n t s I n C i r c l e s

After a gruelling battle with splay trees, I finally submitted a geometry assignment. Had a happy sleep yesterday.
But alas, there's another submission tomorrow. Life is turning in
circles, me chasing the assignments and the assignments chasing me :)
But tomorrow's one is a cool one, so no need to worry.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

S h a s h k a ' s T o w n

hi folks
This is a story I have written down today. This is called "shashka's town"

Disclaimer : I'm not a NeoLuddite. This story is not intended to debate the
progress of science or its benifits to humanity.
This is just one speculation about what .. might .. happen.
All sorts of criticism invited.

S h a s h k a ' s T o w n

This is about a small town that I visited last weekend. Yes, it was small. Like any small town that you visit on your last weekend. It was small and dainty.

What kind of folks live there ? Well, you guessed it right, ordinary folks - tiny folks, mighty folks, busy folks..
business folks, lazy folks, lousy folks.

And why did I want to visit that place ?

It was about a girl that I know.

Oh ! What was her name ?

Already curious.. Okay. I will tell you.
But you have to promise that you won't complain.

It is Shashka.

Wait ! I know what that means. That means a knife.
Isn't that a weird name for a girl ?

But I told you before. You should not complain.

Infact, nobody ever complained about Shashka.

I have first seen her when I was a kid.
Yeah, she was also a kid, a grown up kid.

We used to walk around that dusty mill that runs atop the hill.
Yes, sure there was a hill inside that town.
In fact, it was located right in the middle of the town.
But it was tall and usually no folks would climb up there.
But if you did climb up, you could behold a pretty sight, for certain.

We would watch the rivers, the woods, the fields, and the factories.
And then we would watch the people - tiny people, mighty people, busy people, lousy people...
Just what you would expect to watch around a small town...
Around a small town that you visit on your last weekend.

And when it turns dusk, Shashka would be very excited. She could then watch
a thousand lights glimmering, all over, beneath us.

How were those lights ?

If you ask me, I cannot say.
Because I do not know.
You should ask Shashka.

Because all the time, I would be watching into her eyes instead.
I would be watching for the last gleams of the sun.

And none of us ever wondered about what was running inside the dusty mill.
True, it did make a curious wheezing sound. But we never used to bother.
Though we never used to bother, that mill was a big secret.

I should say it was a top-class secret. Because no people knew about it.
And all people speculated about it. Infact, talking about the mill was the favorite pastime of the town.

Some people said that if you poke your nose inside that mill, you could see into the future.. like a magic crystal ball.
Other people said if you did something like that, all you'd get is just one big red nose.
Once I have seen a man poking his nose inside the mill.
But I didnt see him afterwards. Sorry, I dont know what happened to his nose.

And there were some people, who just said that all the mill was making.. is one nasty noise.
I have to admit, I said that once myself !
But what a dumb comment was that !!
Yeah, these were crazy people, the people in the town.

I have to tell you one thing about these people that I found.
It is very amusing.

You have to kidnap one of them and put her alone.
Put her in a place where she cannot see any of the folks.
What would she do ? Then she would start crying !!
Untill you promise her and take her back into the town, she wouldn't stop crying.

I know you wouldn't believe me. But this is true, take my word for it !

I did this experiment many times.
And not just with girls. With boys too.
And with old people, business people, busy people, lousy people.
But this was what always happened.

There was only one person who didn't cry.
That was Shashka.
And that was why I was so surprised.

Even if you take her atop the hill and run out of sight, she wouldn't cry.
She would just watch at the thousand lights beneath.
And she'd have a huge smile on her face.
I have to say - I have never seen a more beautiful smile.

But this was all when I was a kid. The next time I visited the town, I was slightly grown up.
But to my delight, the town didn't change. Not even a bit.
No, wait. One thing happened. But it was so very slight and minute, that you
have to excuse me for not noticing it in the first place. It was this.

The people were a little happier. The fields were a little greener.
And when it gets dark, the lights were a little brighter.
Maybe they were all a little richer.
And I had some trouble in figuring out who is who.
This never happened to me. They looked more like each other.. the tiny people,
the mighty people, the busy people, the lousy people.

And I found a little girl who almost did not cry when I kept her inside the woods.
This was definitely strange.
And when I returned her to her friends, they smiled happily and gave her a hug.
But was something not right ? Was I imagining something ? But it was so faint and
I don't remember now.

"It is all because of the mill"
That's what I heard some folks say.
I didnt believe it quite.
And Shashka didnt believe it for sure.

That vacation of mine was pretty short,
and so I didnt have much time to spend.
The next time I visited the town was on the last weekend.

Yes, I was looking for Shashka.

But I couldnt find her.
I couldnt find her anywhere in the town.
In fact, I didnt find anybody in the town.

Where was everybody ?
I dont know, maybe they were inside their houses.
My manners prevented me from disturbing their privacy.

I was disappointed, and wanted to go back.

But then, I heard a week voice and I looked back.
It was a frail loathsome woman, not very old, but not very good-looking either.
Infact, she was ugly. Somebody so ugly I didnt see in this town.

Did I want to speak with her ?

"Where is everybody in the town ?"
And then I saw an amazing sight.

All the men walked out of their houses.
Accompanying in their hands were the loveliest women I have ever seen.
So bewitching their beauty, I wondered for a second if they looked better than Shashka.
Did they look like Shashka ? A little.

But lo, they all looked more like each other.
They all looked alike !!
From the faintest curve on the brow, to the softest texture on their lips
From the slightest pressure of their waists to the minutest trace of their grace.

Instantly I looked at the top of the hill. No I couldn't see the mill.
And I didnt see any women either, I mean, real women.

I turned back.
I felt that I didnt have anything to do with the town anymore.

"No. You cannot go back"

"Why ?" I mean "Why not?"

It was the frail loathsome woman.
"And who are you to say that ?"

"I should have expected to hear this from you.
But it was so hard to my heart, I didn't see it."

Was this my Shashka ? Were those her tears ??

"The mill that you built was gone. There is no use for it anymore.
The beauty that I had was gone. They don't need me anymore."

Where were her friends ? How could they be so cruel ?
Yes, but they were with her, they were all playing with her.
They were all playing with a reflection of her.
Or rather with that of her past,
or rather with that of the curse of her past,
and the past of all the Shashkas that came before her.

I ran away, I didn't want to face any other woman in the town.
And needless to say, I never had to do my experiment again.

Monday, November 03, 2003

H o m e w o r k S u c k s

Today is a really depressing day. As usual, I picked up the Homework to do at the last minute.
This was for a course control systems. I really like the subject and the prof.
But I find the material totally new and deserving lots of time.. Time, exactly - which I am too lazy to give.

I picked up the homework last night and struggled. I managed to do some stuff, but couldn't complete it.
I was stuck in a bad shape today in the morning. Finally I decided to quit and give up. I am dropping the course, and this thought gave me sad & gloomy feelings :( But my grades are already below average, and they'll be falling further
down. I cant go ahead.