Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Fairy Tale

On winter nights beside the nursery fire
We read the fairy tale, while glowing coals
Builded its pictures. There before our eyes
We saw the vaulted hall of traceried stone
Uprear itself, the distant ceiling hung
With pendent stalactites like frozen vines;
And all along the walls at intervals,
Curled upwards into pillars, roses climbed,
And ramped and were confined, and clustered leaves
Divided where there peered a laughing face.
The foliage seemed to rustle in the wind,
A silent murmur, carved in still, gray stone.
High pointed windows pierced the southern wall
Whence proud escutcheons flung prismatic fires
To stain the tessellated marble floor
With pools of red, and quivering green, and blue;
And in the shade beyond the further door,
Its sober squares of black and white were hid
Beneath a restless, shuffling, wide-eyed mob
Of lackeys and retainers come to view
The Christening.
A sudden blare of trumpets, and the throng
About the entrance parted as the guests
Filed singly in with rare and precious gifts.
Our eager fancies noted all they brought,
The glorious, unattainable delights!
But always there was one unbidden guest
Who cursed the child and left it bitterness.
The fire falls asunder, all is changed,
I am no more a child, and what I see
Is not a fairy tale, but life, my life.
The gifts are there, the many pleasant things:
Health, wealth, long-settled friendships, with a name
Which honors all who bear it, and the power
Of making words obedient. This is much;
But overshadowing all is still the curse,
That never shall I be fulfilled by love!
Along the parching highroad of the world
No other soul shall bear mine company.
Always shall I be teased with semblances,
With cruel impostures, which I trust awhile
Then dash to pieces, as a careless boy
Flings a kaleidoscope, which shattering
Strews all the ground about with coloured sherds.
So I behold my visions on the ground
No longer radiant, an ignoble heap
Of broken, dusty glass. And so, unlit,
Even by hope or faith, my dragging steps
Force me forever through the passing days.

-Amy Lowell (1874-1925)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities

There was once upon a time, in a big city, a colony of fish who lived in a pretty plain little aquarium on a bedside table. There were three couples - goldfish, angelfish and shark. They lived in mutual harmony, swimming around the tank peacefully, with no reason for any discord. They were fed, they had plenty of fresh water, air and light.

Then one day, they were shifted to a smaller city (a hamlet really) and two new fish came to live in the aquarium. They were smaller in size but they immediately started marking their territory. The earlier residents of the aquarium were startled by this aggressive approach, having lived happily for so long without every thinking on the lines of property dispute! They huddled together discussing this new turn of events. The goldfish thought they could act as mediators since the new fish were from the same community as them. But the shark warned them that the new fish were from a small hamlet where such issues as sub-caste were of great importance. 'Might is right' said the shark. 'From now on, it has to be to each his own.'

The next day brought even more alarming changes in the tiny colony. The goldfish, being gentle creatures decided to try and talk to the new residents. But much to their complete horror, the aggressive goldfish turned on them, attacking them viciously! By nightfall they had pecked away at the fins of the male and he had to be quarantined. Though he was admitted to the ICU, and they took good care of him, he did not survive very long. A few days later, he had to be sent to his watery grave. Pining for her soul-mate, the female slipped away and was found one day, lying dead on the bed of the aquarium.

A tremor of shocked silence rocked the aquarium and the shark and angelfish bid their sorrowful goodbyes to the goldfish as she too, was taken away. They were still grieving when the goldfish took possession of the square inches that belonged to the deceased goldfish, claiming blood relation! Not content with their increased property they next turned their attention to the gentle angelfish. Within days both angelfish were found slinking in corners nursing their injured fins...they had to be rushed to the hospital where they too breathed their last.

Now it was just the goldfish and the shark remaining in the aquarium. The male wanted to get rid of them as well, but the female warned him not to cross swords with the shark. 'They may seem quiet, but they have a true predator's instinct. Let's not be too greedy. After all we have increased our property three-fold. We don't need anymore darling,' she pleaded...she was being tormented by nightmares and couldn't seem to wash her fins clean. Day and night, she heard the feeble cries of the goldfish and the angelfish, begging for mercy! The male, indifferent to her plight, could only think of his evil plot and he didn't realise that his girlfriend had slipped over the edge. One day, unable to take her guilt anymore, she jumped out of the aquarium, commiting suicide.

The next day, at the solemn prayer meeting held for the deceased goldfish, the shark rounded up the male and asked him if he was satisfied. 'The colony, once such a happy place has become a graveyard now thanks to your evil greed. Are you satisfied now?' The male finally realised what his plotting had done but it was too late for regrets...his conscience ate at him and soon he fell ill. But there was no one to take care of him. Diseased, he soon developed a strange disorder and his whole body was covered with a repulsive fungus that ate away at his body and he died a tormented death...

Alone now in the aquarium, the shark swum around the deserted colony wondering what awaited them, till one day the aquarium cracked in the middle of the night and they were shifted to a make-shift refugee camp in a bucket till a better solution was found and they were released into a nearby pond, free at last...

(Inspired by a true story which I narrated over lunch recently, to the amusement of my companions. I've added some more mirch, masala and twist to the story but respected the main events and characters)