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A story is only as good as the storyteller.

Of Endings.

I believe gradual ends are better than the ones that happen all of a sudden. Some people believe that it’s better if the pain is excruciating but only lasts a moment. Me? I’d rather it lasted a lifetime, an instrument not for torture but for sorrow, a dull heartache that never seems to end. Because I believe that this pain lets you know that you are alive, that there was something worth losing, something worth mulling over for hours at an end. It’s easier to forget such pain and for a moment you are happy. The other kind -the one that comes from something being snatched away is the one that you should be afraid of, for it comes back in snippets, a ghost of that which once was – that which you can never forget. But it’s okay. Because after a while the day comes when neither of the two matter, a day when you are invincible. It’s only a day and maybe you won’t even remember it, but it’s enough to know that such days will always be there – the ones where nothing really matters and you don’t care.

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Isolation

I believe isolation is key to creativity. Because the way your mind works when you’re all alone, standing on the edge of society….your mind would never work that way if you were surrounded by people.

The First Copy

So I received the first copy of Mudmen in the mail today, and I have to tell you, it’s the best feeling in the world.

Grab your copy here of the book here –

 

 

The Haze

A haze of forgetfulness seemed to have settled over the world, pervading lives that had earlier been untouched. People forgot their names and names ceased to have any meaning. And once that came to pass, there was very little left to hold the fabric of the world together. And happiness was gone, just like that, a candle snuffed out by a wayward wind. And the flimsy winds of change too failed to bring about change in this constant buzz of the memories, the dead and the dying, the lived and the universe. Imagination became just another imagined word.

Book Review – Mudmen by Shitij Sharma

A Review of Mudmen by Eric Lahti

Eric Lahti

Mudmen: The Quest for Humanity is one of the more unique books I’ve read. It starts with a question I think everyone has asked themselves at some point or another point in their lives: could I do a better job than God?

Don’t worry, the jury is still out on that one.

I think at some point in their development, every writer goes through a deeply philosophical phase. Most books don’t go too deep into philosophical territory for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is takes a steady hand to make such huge things small enough for most people to wrap their heads around.

Mudmen follows the events that take place after the world comes to an end and the whole of humanity is reduced to ashes. One person winds up with the ability to rewrite reality and sets out to do exactly that. Unfortunately for him…

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PRISONERS AND MONSTERS

This is a story about two brothers who are captured and imprisoned by the secret police. Even though this is a fictional story, similar things have been known to happen. There may come a time when mother’s tell there kids- not that go to sleep or a monster will come lurking around but go to sleep because the monster may be the man who lives across the street.

He looked as if he had seen a ghost.His eyes were wide open and even though his gaze was upon me,his thoughts seemed far away.”They are here”,he finally managed.I raised my eyes only to find his conveying the fear I felt.The fear we all felt.

It is not the dead I fear for they have served their term in this Hell on Earth and now rest in peace.It is the living I fear for they can be far more inhuman.I am a prisoner here along with my brother.We do not know the reason for our imprisonment.My name is Ali and I am fifteen.My brother’s name is Hamid and he is seventeen.We share this cell along with thirty other prisoners.

I clearly remember the day we were brought here.We were roaming the market,searching for the items which mother had sent us to buy.The items weren’t many as we could not afford much.A couple of men smoking cigarettes stared at us as we passed by.Then one of them caught my brother by the collar and punched him in the face.My brother tried to fight back but there were too many of them.We were beaten in front of everyone.The men said they belonged to the secret police.They handcuffed us and brought us here.

No single person from our cell has been sent home alive.Our families usually receive our bodies in body bags and that is if they are lucky enough to receive a body.I am not sure our parents have been informed where we are.

We are tortured in the hope that we may agree to having committed treason,but most people here are innocent.The nights are the worst when the screams of tortured prisoners echo through the prison cells.

My brother looks at me as if he has seen a ghost.His eyes are wide open.”They are here”,he manages.His eyes meet mine reflecting the pain and fear in mine as I stumble through the door of the prison cell.He catches me before I fall to the ground .He knows they have electrocuted me from the rotten smell which rises from my burnt skin.I would like to tell him that it’s not so bad,except for the fact that they have cut off my tongue.

THE UNFORGIVEN

The unforgiven

Chapter  1 – The meeting

I first met her at my mother’s fortieth birthday.It seemed as if she had got it all wrong. She was still hugging me and my shirt was damp from her tears. She stepped back to look at me. She was now laughing and crying at the same time. “Abdullah”, she shouted , ”I found him, I found my little boy.” A refined looking old man who had been in conversation with his peers broke apart from them and rushed over to us. “I’m so sorry”, he said. He held the gently but firmly by the shoulders and turned her around to face him. “It’s not him”, he said. “What?”, she stammered. “It’s not him”, he repeated. She looked at me more closely, realization dawning on her face .the light went out of her eyes. “I’m sorry”, she said , “it’s just that you look  so much like him” , and then she collapsed.

I caught her before she hit the ground. I looked up at the old man. I had been speechless all this while. “I am sorry, I have no idea what she was talking about”, I said. He brought up his grief stricken eyes to meet mine. He asked if I could help him carry her to the car which was parked nearby. Together we lifted her out to the car.We put her in the back seat. He told me that he recognized me and was a good friend of my mother’s. He gave me an  address and asked me to meet him there for dinner and with that he got into the passenger seat. They drove off.

Chapter 2 – The letter

I arrived at his place a little after six. His house was huge, a haveli situated on the outskirts of Delhi.A servant opened the gate and led me inside. My host was there waiting for me but the woman who had hugged me was nowhere to be seen.

He introduced himself as Dr. Abdullah Zaffar . Over dinner he told me his story. The woman i came to know , was his wife Dr. Riya Zaffar. They had a son , he told me, his name was Suhail . Suhail had always been quiet as a kid. They had sent him to a boarding school in Nanital . He had been studious and sincere. He never complained. A few months after his nineteenth birthday, he left home. In a letter he told them that he was going off to fight for Islam.

It came as a shock to his parents. They had never been very religious. They both attributed more to Science than God the workings of the world. His father kept the news a secret from the world and told all their friends that they had sent him to study abroad. It had been five years since he left.

Mr .Zaffar suddenly became silent. He poured himself  another glass of whisky. My wife’s resting upstairs just in case you’re wondering”, he said. I did not reply. “ I received a letter from him a few months ago”, his voice was barely a whisper. “He said that Allah was nowhere to be found, only talks of him and acts that would repulse the only one true god, acts that he had been a part of”, he looked directly at me, “My wife does not know any of this. I burnt the letter but kept this”. He took out a photo from his pocket.

“I want you to burn it because I cannot.”

He slid the photo across the table to me. In the photo there was a skinny young man in uniform. He was standing on a chair and there was a noose around his neck hanging from a fan in the ceiling. I turned the photo upside down. On the back he had scribbled,

‘The forgiveness which I will never find in your hearts I go to seek in heaven’.

The Search

How are you today? What have you been up to? How long did it take you to answer these questions? I mean how long did it take you to give an honest answer and not the usual drivel that questions like these usually call for.

But of course the second of the two questions does not really entail much so lets take it out of the equation. Why did I ask you that question in the first place? Hmmm…..let’s think. Because it seemed like the obvious follow up to the previous question. Hmph..well small talk does make up for a huge chunk of everyday conversations.

All right…let’s get back to the real question. How are you today? How do you feel? Are you happy or sad? Maybe you don’t know how you feel, after all it’s all just chemicals anyway.The elusive quest for happiness, for your mental well being but then again mental health does not really have anything to do with happiness. I mean a crazy person can be happy can’t he. How would you know? You’re not crazy. You’re sensible. You fit in with the norms of society so why would people not love you. You are just like them. You must be so happy among these people who are just like you, upstanding citizens of a civilised society. People who are always looking for those cues so that they can smile or they can cry or feel whatever outside stimulus allows them to feel instead of just breathing and letting go, instead of exploring your own mind because everything that’s in there is a product of what is out there.

But how can you make sense of what is out there and your place among it all unless you look inside or look in the mirror and understand what you are? You are a building block of society but that does not mean that you cannot change your shape. That block does not have to be square, it can be a circle or a straight line or it can be ragged around the edges. Would it really matter as long as it supports the weight of the rest of the structure? You don’t have to carry the weight on your shoulders, you can place it on your palm or balance it on a fingertip. What is that burden after all, the one that society places on you? It’s intangible. It’s not really a burden at all. Gazes can be shrugged off, words can answered, fists met with fists and in all of it lies the seed of anarchy. But isn’t present society the very example of anarchy, leaders without a purpose, laws without basis and in the middle of it all you, still searching for happiness in a world where misery and confusion has made its home in every heart, fear behind a facade of confidence. Because we know that it is fleeting. Society is fleeting and so is anarchy, happiness is fleeting and so is misery. The only thing that remains is the search, because the search can never end, it must go on. The search for happiness, for purpose, for it is the only thing that gives shape to our dreams and for a moment peace lives in the heart that is plagued by turmoil.

THE UGLY TRUTH

In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of. – Confucius

There is an eternal truth, one with which Einstein, Newton, Hawking and even Aryabhatta would agree; numbers don’t lie. They don’t lie because human emotions never come into the equation. Thus, numbers are a ruthless representation of the truth, ruthless because the truth depicts a rather grim reality.

India is home to a population of 1.2 billion out of which 269.8 million were below poverty line for the period 2011-2012(Number of Poor Estimated from Expert Group (Tendulkar Methodology)). Uttar Pradesh had the highest population below poverty line at 535.73 lakhs.

1/3rd of the world’s hungry reside in India and over 25 lakh Indians die every year from hunger. More Indians have died from hunger in the past decade alone then the total number of people who died in World War I. India has an undernourished population of 212 million.

There is an estimated population of somewhere between a 100 million and 1 billion individuals that are homeless (2011 census). The value of human life is deteriorating even as the cost of survival in the form of food and medical aid skyrockets.

According to a study carried out by the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) a few years back, nearly 836 million people, which constitutes roughly 1/3rd of the Indian population, live on less than Rs 20   per day.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the monetary fence; there are approximately 14,800 multimillionaires residing in India who account for only 0.00123333333% of India’s population. Even then the top 1% holds close to half of the country’s wealth leaving 1/4th of the total wealth to the remaining 9% of the top 10%; which further leaves the remaining 90% also with only 1/4th of the total wealth.

Mumbai in itself is home to not only the most number of multimillionaires in any city in India at 2700 but also approximately 90 lakh Mumbai residents living in slums. Dharvi, home to somewhere between 300000 and 1 million people, is the largest slum in Asia.

Economic disparity is just as visible among the various states of India. According to a list compiled from the Annual Report of Reserve Bank of India published in 2013, Goa ranks the best with the least poverty at 5.09% and Chhattisgarh the worst with 39.93% of people below poverty line (report based on MRP consumption).

Chanakya, in his Arthashastra, states that, “the king shall not act in such a manner as would causes impoverishment, greed or disaffection among the people; if however, they do appear, he shall immediately take remedial measures.” The ugly truth is that this economic gap will not be filled at the end of this year or even this decade. India is not the only country which suffers from the problem of economic disparity; it’s a problem that plagues the entire human race. The richest one percent of this world hold nearly half the world’s wealth where as the bottom half of the global population owns less than 1% of the total wealth, which begs the question – Is everyone born equal and if so where did we go so wrong that some people’s dogs are fed better than a third of the world’s human population?

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