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Crossroads. We encounter them every now and then. Every once in a while, we come to that one point where we have to make a choice, embrace some kind of change.No matter how old we get, the hardest part is always choosing the road to take. Sometimes, neither is easy, but we have to make the choice anyway. Careers, friends..lovers..something in between..everyone’s always making choices Sometimes, these choices aren’t necessarily what we hope for..and sometimes, we don’t have a choice at all.

We often wonder why it’s this hard. Why is it, that after every effort put in, every word said, every move made and every thought processed, we land up at a point where we have to chose which way we must go. For some of us, there is no choice. That road has already been chosen. We decide to travel upon it anyway, because staying back never makes it any easier.

They say the future is almost never what you plan it out to be. Somewhere between the leftovers of yesterday and the curiosity that tomorrow brings, we’ll find our choices. Some answers we will never find. Others, we just have to live with. As we grow older, the crossroads become more frequent, and the choices harder. Maybe we need to take it as it comes, embrace the turning point when we come across it. Or maybe, we need to find the beauty of simplicity in the complexities of choices…

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I dont know how far I’ve gone

wading as I struggle to see what’s in front

There’s no turning back

For I’ve lost my way

I wonder if I’m lost to stay.

 

All humans have a basic trait of fending for themselves. Our minds are programmed in a way that no matter where we might be, we always manage to find our way home. But is that really applicable to everyone? How far is too far? And is it possible that sometimes we might be lost to stay? As we move on to different things and people, we look back at what we and our circumstances have been, but how do we know if we’ve really left it all behind to embrace something new? Is pushing it into the attic enough? Or do we actually need to pick it up and throw it out?

Right now someone is at a place in her life where she needs to throw away the old and go pick up something new, something that fits better. But how do we know what is worth the purchase? It needs to look good, feel good and something we want to flaunt, no matter how the rest of the world may perceive it. Sometimes, it may not fit well, it may not be vibrant but we never let go of it because it feels so comfortable, and we feel safe in it. But sometimes it lies at the back of our closets and we never take a second look at it. Those are the kind that are bought because they seemed so attractive for that split-second.  Is it okay to wear something that doesn’t bring out who we really are? Do we wear to reveal or conceal? Clothes and masks- they’re all the same. Always concealing what lies beneath…

 

 

When you’re young, love is wild. We all go through a number of bad and good relationships that help us grow in some way or the other. Relationships without love and love without relationships, we get the best of both. But just because we have been through one rough patch, doesn’t mean we’ll keep going through it. There’s no doubt that there’s no such thing left as a true and genuine relationship, but does that mean we can’t recreate the magic? To get something you never had, is to do something you never did. Why are we never ready to treat every person we meet as an individual being? Why are we so scared to give something we always wanted just one chance?

I sat talking to my friend about troubled relationships and the baggage people carry. When I came home, I wondered why people are so afraid to let go of their past and the pain it has caused them. Why do we lug it everywhere with us when all it does is prevent us from experiencing genuine happiness? Why do we always keep it as a part of who we are, but pretend to have let go? Life is too short to say no and overthink things, and its definitely too short to have suppressed issues.  It is easier said than done, but we will never know unless we ‘t don’t try. One bad experience doesn’t have to define the rest of our lives. Are we out of strength, or out of  time?

Some of us may have the maturity and sensibility to treat every experience as an individual one, irrelevant to the past, but some use their past to be cautious in the future. If I remember correctly, we’ve all heard time and again that those who never make mistakes never get anywhere. So is the caution a guard or a roadblock? Life is at it’s best when we can differentiate-when every thing is in black and white. Grey only comes with rain. Are you ready to bring out the sun?

I sat crouched up behind the dilapidated wall. My heart raced as I felt sweat beads form on my temple. I hadn’t mustered up the courage to turn around and look at the man I had grown to fear and admire. The squad was on its way, I knew I would be out of there in a while. But what was I to do till then? I could hear him talk, conversing with someone else in the room. I didn’t want to look at him just yet. I was buying all the time I could to avoid the gaze of the eyes that pierced right through your mind every time they looked at you. You couldn’t deceive the man, but you couldn’t be honest eitherr.  I knew he wasn’t pacing the room, worrying and wondering about what to do next. For some reason, I felt he already had a plan in mind. A plan to leave this place free and unscathed.  I didn’t want to confront him now, for I needed this man alive and talking. He was the strongest link to a global industry worth billions. I repeatedly convinced myself not to shoot him. As I waited for my men, my mind wandered back to the day when I first met Roy Khan, the day I planned to destroy his empire, his life.

Roy Khan was a man every  police officer wanted, dead or alive.  The king of one of the largest drug empires, he was a man of few words. But every time Roy Khan spoke, his men listened. For he had this unusual and funny command over them all, one that made them love him and fear  him. I vividly remember the afternoon my boss came in and said “Dewan, I have a case for you, but it might just take your life.” I was scared, but once I had heard what this case was about, I said yes immediately. I knew what lay in store for me if my cover was blown. But I didn’t care, a case as big as this doesn’t come your way every day, and for some reason, I knew I could handle it. For months, we wanted this man in our cell, dead or alive and now I felt we were this close to getting him.  The initial frenzy of tracking down Khan’s men, their whereabouts, and finally his location was another task in itself. A man like him was meticulous in the placing of his men, his weapons, and his drugs. It doesn’t take much for a cop to look like a gangster, but it takes a while for him to behave like one. Roy Khan wasn’t your dark-ally small time suburban don; he was a man of class and command.

As I sat listening to the sound of my own breath, I could hear him talk, he was still standing immobile, his voice still flat. I could feel his presence surround me, but I didn’t want him to feel mine.  I was this close to being found out, but I could not afford to let out everything before this man was handcuffed.  I wanted to lean in closer to know who the third person was.

The night was warm and still when I first walked into his office. Dimly lit, filled with cushioned chairs and a huge book case, it seemed as though I was in the wrong room. As I entered, I saw a huge desk lying in the center, with the man himself sitting behind it. Dressed in a black suit, he looked calm with himself. I observed my surroundings and realised there was nothing that was even remotely dangerous about this place, but at the same time I was aware of the monster that was waiting to unleash. The cigarette kept burning. I noticed the fumes curl up slowly into the air. But what really stole my attention was the Rubik’s cube lying next to the ash-tray, half solved. Roy Khan looked calm and composed; his hair slicked back, his jacket in place. He didn’t wear flashy rings or watches, but his appearance demanded respect. As he fiddled with the cube, he finally spoke. “So Dewan, I’ve been told you’re good and you do exactly what is asked?” I simply nodded. “I’ve also heard you’re pretty clued up with the drug trade? You know exactly what gets transported where and you can tell the difference in quality?” I nodded again. He played with the cube for a while before he spoke again. “Do you know why I deal in drugs Dewan? It’s because it’s something that everyone thinks they need, but actually want. And what better satisfaction is there than having your demands met?”  He took a drag of the cigarette and as the smoke created a haze around his face, he spoke again. “When you satisfy people’s needs, you take control of their minds. There is no greater power than that.”  I sat there with a straight face, absorbing everything this man was saying. We were alone in the room, my first instinct was to take my gun out and shoot him, but that would foil the plan. “I built this empire from scratch, the coke, the chemicals, the ganja, it’s all substance to the rest, but to me? Its money.” The cigarette kept burning, nearly towards the end and the fumes became fainter. I finally found my voice, “Don’t worry Sayyd, I won’t let you down.” He gauged my face as I said those words, and for a moment I thought this was the end. He gave out a sigh and finally spoke. “I hope not. You won’t survive if you do.” And with that I left the room.

It’s never easy being an undercover gangster. You have to get accustomed to being on the wrong side of the law. I had no idea how dangerous this man was until he had pressed me under his thumb.  I realized that the men around me were mere puppets in a scandalous and dangerous business that appeared to be an amusing game to Roy Khan. In more ways than one, he reminded me of a mad genius.  For days I was an observer, learning the tricks of the trade, the destinations of imports and exports and how not to be explicit about the precarious business I called my job.

The room was dark, except for a flashlight lying on the floor. It was dim and  I could see Khan’s shadow on the floor.  I could see him, still mumbling. He kept saying no, as if he was refusing to part with something. “No, it’s mine; it is the saviour of my empire. I’m this close to getting it.” His hand went into his pocket, as if he was desperately holding onto something in there.  I turned away; else he should see me.

In the months that I had worked with Khan, I always managed to stay on top of my game, giving him no chance to believe that I was actually an outsider.  By the end of the one year that I had been with him, I began administering a large amount of the trade, but I was still a stranger, waiting to unearth the dirt that I needed to find.  One night, I sat with Khan discussing a few financial issues he was yet to resolve. I sat across him and I still felt like I was meeting him for the first time. But this time, my voice came out steady and firm. “You have a two billion debt pending, Sayyd. There’s no flow of real money. The coke is stuck in Russia. How do you expect us to arrange for the money?” Khan took another drag of his cigarette as he absent-mindedly looked around the room.  “Don’t worry Dewan, we’ll get the money. If worse comes to worst, I will give Marco something that will definitely save us from drowning.” And with that, he went back to solving the Rubik’s cube.

As weeks passed, I spent more time with Khan, administering his finances and trade, but I still had to become his closest confidante. One night, he called me and his gunmen into the room. Khan sat calmly on the big armchair. In front of him lay a sealed packet of cocaine, a rather full ash tray and a glass of scotch. The smoke from the cigarette was soft and translucent; looking like it had been lit but not smoked.  The glass was half empty and the packet lay on the table as if it had been kept there carelessly, like an invaluable.  Khan frowned as he  fiddled with the Rubik’s cube, like a little child trying desperately to find the answer.  As he talked, we sat still and listened. “Once there is no Marco, there is no debt.”  And with that, we left the room.  As I walked out, Khan spoke again. “Dewan, wait a moment.” “ Yes, Sayyd?” He finally sipped at the neglected drink and said, “Whatever endeavor you chose to achieve, make sure you succeed.” And then I knew, I needed to leave.

Now as I sat listening to Khan and waiting, I felt guilt. Guilt in letting him down, in deceiving him. I sat staring at the ground and tracing his shadow. He knew he had no help here, but  he was confident that something or someone could save him, because for the brief second that I looked at his reflection, I saw no worry, no hesitation.  “My empire is mine to keep, and no one can take it from me.” I struggled with my vision as I tried to spot the other person in the room.  I hid back as soon as I saw Khan’s emotionless gaze shift.

As I left the mansion with the gunmen, I thought over what he had said. Little did he know that in a few days it would all slip out of his hands. I was finally getting close to my target, do what I had come here to do. But Roy Khan’s blank but affectionate face crossed my mind. His subtle words of support, his commanding tone, all appeared at once. But I knew I couldn’t back out now. I threw the thoughts out as I focused on what lay ahead of me.

We wandered around a seemingly empty house and I put the flashlight on.  We made our way to a room and Shane turned around to whisper “You keep a guard outside; we’ll go in and finish the business.” I simply nodded.  I waited outside while they crept in. While I waited, I heard footsteps, and a light go off in a distant room. The door clicked and I heard footsteps again. Suddenly, the light from my torch bathed him and he was coming towards me, I signaled my men in the room and we left. The man kept shooting as we dodged the bullets. I had taken a bullet to my arm and Shane reached the car untouched. We had left Hisham behind, and in all likelihood, he was dead.

We sat motionless in the room, with Khan still busy with the cube.  “You have failed me. I do not want to know what happened there. I have no interest in knowing. Marco will know I had sent you, and he will come for me. When that happens, you will give your lives to save mine. There is no other way out.”  As I walked out,

Now we were here, in this decaying and empty bungalow.  The walls were breaking, there was tall grass growing all around. I was hiding behind a half broken wall. The emptiness and dust surrounded us. Just a few hours ago, we were in Khan’s office and I was staring down at Shane’s dead body. And now, now we were here. While Khan stood hiding from Marco and his men, I lay waiting for the moment when all this would come to an end.

As Khan vigorously moved the columns and rows forming the cube, I stood puzzled. Without looking up, he said “I know what you’re thinking. Once I have the brooch, all will be well again.”  An hour or so later, there was an encounter at the mansion. I fled with Khan.  I drove at top pace to wherever he told me to. Soon, we were in an uninhabited surrounding, with rows of empty houses. As I drove, Khan worked more robustly on the cube, “I’m this close to solving it. I can save the empire if I just figure out the last bit. Then Marco can have all his money. I will not let this collapse.” He then went back to solving the cube with more fervour.  Soon, we stopped at a fragmented bungalow. Khan kicked open the door and we went in, guns ready to shoot. We then took refuge in a room. Empty and dark, there was no furniture. Only piles of rubble and dust lay all over. I left a flashlight on the floor, to provide some light. The only thing standing erect among all the rubbish was a mirror. Khan looked into it, almost puzzled to see his own reflection. “Sayyd, I’m going outside to keep guard for a while” I went outside and tipped off my team. The sirens would be heard in a while as the cars would surround this structure. And then…and then it would all crumble to irreparable pieces.

As I walked back in, I heard Khan speak. I saw his reflection, but I couldn’t hear what was being said. I leaned in closer and suddenly, everything became clear.  Khan stared into the mirror as he spoke “No. I am close to solving it. The brooch will be Marco’s, and all will be well again.”  I wasn’t looking at Khan yet, just listening. “The brooch is worth more than this inane debt. Marco will be pleased, very pleased.” He started solving the cube again.  I traced Khan’s movements through the shadow. His hands moved faster and faster as he tried to coordinate the colours. “I know I can get the brooch out, if only I can solve this before Marco gets here.” I still could not spot the person he was talking to.

Khan stood in front of the mirror. In the distance, I could hear the sirens. I knew my time had come. Slowly, I got up. Now, Khan and I were both looking into the mirror. I was over his shoulder. He now worked harder than ever on solving the cube. “The brooch is in here, I know it is. Those stones embedded in it are worth my empire. It’ll be out and soon it’ll be in Marco’s hands. “I stood puzzled. Now Khan looked worried. I finally understood what this man was talking about. It all suddenly began to make sense. My voice came out firm this time “Khan, drop the cube, Marco’s not coming.  He now looked into the mirror, his gaze piercing me. He knew.  “I will not give you this brooch.” For the next minute, he looked into my reflection as he spoke. “Marco is coming to take his money, I will not have him seize my business.” That is all Roy said. Then his hand went into the inner pocket of his blazer. He was still staring into my reflection. I had now lowered my gun, and he had raised his. As his gaze pierced into me, I heard the gunshot. He now lay motionless on the floor as my men walked in. I sat there with the cube now broken, and empty.

Even then, his eyes questioned me, asking me why I ‘foiled’ Marco’s murder, why I betrayed him at a crucial moment. I had no answers. As my men examined the body and collected evidence, I felt a sense of relief knowing he was dead. How do you explain a liar’s schizophrenia as the truth? I’ll never know.  But Roy Khan escaped- safe and unscathed, just as planned.

   A bridle is something  used to direct a horse. It goes across the horse’s mouth and limits his vision. The horse only sees what is in front of him, never getting the bigger picture. Sometimes I wonder if we’ve all turned into horses harnessed with bridles. Controlled,   directed and restrained. Bound by invisible boundaries that we are too scared to erase. Is being bridled really worth it? What joy do we get out of being controlled by a force that doesn’t come from within?

  For a while now, I kept laying emphasis on everything that was wrong and out of my       reach. Im sure there are many  like me who keep fussing over everything that isn’t going as planned. In all this mess and frenzy, I wonder if we’ve all forgotten what it means to take life as it comes. Have we really forgotten how to dance in the rain and just enjoy the storm? Maybe, because from the way I see it, most of us are too scared and running from things that in the long run, prove to be insignificant. In all these years, I never understood why people stress over everything that is out of their control. It might be a natural human tendency to do so, but shouldn’t we be curbing it before it takes us to somewhere we can’t come back from?

Someone once told me to stop being so restrained an uptight. I was told that the whole point of living your life to the fullest is to just let go and be the best you that you can be, everything else will fall into place. Ultimately, people will remember you for the person you are, and not what you achieved. If I really wanted to be at peace with myself, then I needed to learn how to breathe, and look at the bigger picture. A horse looks most beautiful when it runs free through the open grounds and the green grass, looking elegant and strong; no harness, no control. Isn’t it time we all got rid of the bridle?

What could have been, what should have been

Still searching for all that is unseen

Somewhere a soul aches to escape

Wondering what miracles will come his way.

He wades through a dark and lonely night

Searching for what is just and right.

A battle lost, a war won

Patiently waiting for a new sun.

Our minds search for inner peace

As people come and people leave.

Always forgetting who we are

Our goals and dreams torn apart.

Each new day we create false hope

While our souls struggle to elope.

Trusting those who always deceive

Inhibitions and fears we come to receive.

Some may fall and some may fail

That’s when the ship of hope sets sail.

Our dreams only hope to come alive

As we forget to enjoy this life.

Each mind exploited to the core

Each soul left wanting more.

Lifeless eyes and weary arms

Forever exposed to every harm

Believing in ourselves is all we’ve got

Sadly we’ve left our souls to rot

Tomorrow will bring hidden treasures

So let’s rise to discover life’s finest pleasures.

 

As we grow, we draw boundaries. They’re the kind of things that set us apart from the rest, form our morals, values and virtues. But then as we begin to grow older, our boundaries change and we blur the lines to form new ones. As much as we’d like to admit, more often than not, we follow a protocol that is set for us and it may not necessarily be something that we want, but we go along with it anyway. So they aren’t necessarily the lines that we’ve drawn. The real question is, how far is too far? When do you really say no and how much can you let pass? We’re all looking for love but how do we know that the price we’re paying to obtain it is too high?

For years, we’ve seen poets and authors glorify the feelings of love and lust. A lot of us claim to be able to differentiate between the two, but how articulate can they be? What interlinks the two and what makes people blur the boundary between these two highly complex things? Different people hold different views, and at some point, our views will change. As we change, we forget how to gauge between the right and wrong. Are we really losing sight or just losing focus? Or is it just a way of filling in emptiness that we’re too impatient to bare? Old school love is probably on it’s way out, and its being replaced by something more rapid, more meaningless. None of us have the time to stop it, or we’re just too exhausted to do something about it.

As I lay to think,  I know I’m waiting for an emotion to take over me, one that makes me feel secure about the world around me. I don’t try and look into my future, because I’m too busy building my present. In the frenzy of the rising sun, the wrinkled sheets and traces of cheap cologne, somewhere the love is lost. But I know, someday as I wake up to a new sun, chasing something new, I’ll run into love.

When you read the prologue to Moni Mohsin’s End of Innocence, you feel as if an exciting and dramatic story awaits you. But as you flip page after page, you realize that there is nothing that exciting after all, and you keep searching, until you reach the epilogue. Set in 1970’s West Punjab, the story is told through the perspective of a naive nine year old Laila. Being the daughter of influential and liberal parents, Laila knows nothing of the evils of the outside world that she is constantly protected from. Her world is one of fairy tales, filled with adventures from Enid Blyton books The only love the innonocent mind is aware of is the one she has for her family, which makes it harder for her to connect with Rani as Rani walks into the teenage world, experiencing emotions that are way beyond Laila’s comprehension. What Moni Mohsin managed to pull off really well is to tell the story through a child, who caught up in this not-much-of-a-whirlwind of events, begins to understand the deeper rooted evils that exist in her society.

The one thing that makes this story interesting is the concept of honour killing. When the servant child Rani gets knocked up and is “destined” to give birth to a bastard, she is eventually murdered by her step-father, which the reader finds out towards the third half of the novel while Rani is killed close to the end of the first half. So what happens from that point till the ‘suspense’ is finally over is something that would probably put someone to sleep or just put away the book. The usual misunderstanding and lack of communication between the characters leads to this tragic death along with the perspective oscillating between a nine year old and an adult of the story which honestly, is taxing to read more than anything else.

The life of the woman is shown in every stage, starting from Laila, who is a mere child still protected, moving to Rani who is the free-sprited teenager exploring the outside world and its temptations. Then comes Fareeda, Laila’s liberal and modern mother who is the model housewife with her clockwork home and finally Begum, Laila’s widowed grandmother who is a staunch believer in the old values. All this finally boils down to the exhausted debate of old values versus new and embracing modernization. The claustrophobic atmosphere and the need to break free reeks through the writing, which is good (at least the author manages to put one point across).

One more of the very few things that makes this book an average read is the portrayal of the psyche of the killer. He is stubborn, and almost illiterate to not have even an ounce of humanity in him. The description of the crime is fast paced, visually detailed and thus, easy to imagine. Its only when you get to the epilogue of the book that you understand the full impact of what has happened (which is also very momentary). The title is apt and does manage to generate curiosity. After reading The Kite Runner and a Thousand Splendid Suns, you expect stories against this backdrop to be a little more exciting and this one really doesn’t do well on that front.  End of Innocence? Yes. End of boredom? Maybe not.

“As she picked up her things to leave, she looked around the room one last time. Everything lay around just as it had been last night, when it had all come to an end. Now it’s time to move on to something new, but  right now, she felt as if she could fall into empty space and just keep falling until something or someone finally caught her.” Is it always about the choices you make, or is it about the ones you’re forced to make? Has anyone ever wondered that maybe, just maybe, there’s never a choice left to make? Do these decisions really define us or are they just a part of the journey we make? I wonder if anyone ever stopped to bother, not about ourselves but the people around us. How often do we really stop to get to know someone and try and see the things that are hidden behind the brave face? Often, we give others the power to decide and make opinions about us, but have you ever stopped to wonder about the kind of person  you are, and the the person you’re becoming?

“She looked through the pictures, the gifts, the notes, and everything else that reminded her of the time gone by. It’s always the hardest to let go of something that you tried to save. Now she can’t hold on any longer, because its just slipping out of her hands.”  There will be all kinds of people surrounding you,  the toughest part is dealing with the ones who fail to empathize. What do we do about the ones who fail to understand us, and respect us for who we are? Change is an inevitable part of life, but how much is too much, and how do you differentiate? We’ll never be satisfied with the kind of people we are, but we can’t change the crux of it all.

“She walks out the door, slowly, absorbing the last of her surroundings. She’s leaving with nothing but memories of what was, and in all likelihood, will never be. She isn’t hurting, she isn’t grieving. She’s just wondering what could have become of something that could have been saved, but was thrown away as an invaluable. It is now time to move on to something new, to build something new, on the same old crux.” Our memory is our greatest power, and our worst enemy. We can recall everything that made us and broke us. It always comes down to what we learn from the memories, and what we cherish out of all the moments that have made us into the people we are. Love is what I remember…do you remember?


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  • Vrit: Nice , After reading this i gotta watch this movie yo !
  • vrit vaibhav: How do you know for sure that Osama's dead !! I mean .. It's the friggin' US thts saying all of this .. They've apparently disclosed a picture of him
  • rishikam: @Vrit-Even if it is a new start, we're better prepared this time. @Tej- Thankyouu. No idea, although terrorism is always an issue I've had very stron

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