Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Examination

5...4...3...2...1...and the bell rang. The time was up. The examination was over.

I stared at my blank sheet, exasperated. When the teacher asked me to hand over my paper, I didn't resist like Akshit or Ramya who were still penning down the last few words in a desperate hurry. I just didn't feel anything at all. In fact Mrs. D' Souza was quite puzzled to see nothing on my paper. With closely knitted eyebrows, she whispered to me, "Is everything alright with you?" I nodded feebly. The room was full of sounds. From cries of happiness to anguish, from the sound of pencils and pens to the click-clack of pencil boxes, all girls and boys were talking loudly, verifying the answers they had written. Some had their eyes closed, with a word of thanks on their lips. They had managed to ace the paper after all. But nobody looked at me. Nobody asked me if I had answered it well. After all, I was repeating the grade. I was "the" weak student, the rotten apple of the class. I silently exited the examination hall, collected my bag, readjusted the locket with Lord Shiva's picture on it, and headed downstairs.

Anxious parents had already arrived way before the end time of the exam. They were yelling excitedly at their wards. As I pushed my way through them, I felt insignificant, too small, like a speck of dust that could be blown away miles without any notice. There was no one waiting for me though. I had to trudge back home with heavy steps. I did not wish to take the bus today. Didn't want to hear anything about school, syllabus and exams. As I walked a few blocks away from school, all I could hear was muffled voices... "What! You didn't answer this? " "How did you solve this sum?" "How could you forget it?" "Did Rajan get all his sums correct?"

It was 4 p.m. I was hungry. I walked to the nearest bench alongside a park. I took out my tiffin box. It contained a packet of biscuits. I tore it open, and fished out the first biscuit. I took large bites of it. Its tiny crumbles hung onto the corners of my lips. I relished it. The breeze was quite cool today. The summer's heat felt no longer scorching. The rustling leaves and the cawing of the crows made me feel at peace. Made me feel like a different person altogether. So who was I ? I was a student of class 5 who couldn't add or subtract, who failed to memorize equations, who had no idea about the rise and fall of Indus Valley Civilization, didn't know the capital of Indonesia etc. etc.  In a nutshell I was dumb, dull, and what my mother called "a good-for-nothing" chap. It was not that I didn't try. I had tutors for every subject. My parents took turns to help me understand my lessons. But my brain was like a bucket with a large hole. No sooner did information seep in than it would drain out. My parents feared that something was wrong with me. At times I feared it too. My classmates laughed at me. My teachers either pitied me or scolded me so hard for being clumsy, that school days were really not the best of my times. But then what was I really interested in? Nothing. I loved doing nothing. I loved staring at the wall. Once I had stared at the wall for three hours straight!

I was munching my fourth biscuit now. I was thirsty. I sipped into my water bottle. Life was good on this bench. A stray dog sat himself before my bench. It was a lean-framed brown and white dog. He had noticed the biscuits and was looking at it with hungry eyes, with its pink tongue hanging out. I threw a biscuit at him. The dog sniffed at it and looked at me again. I didn't understand? I didn't have anything else to share? Stupid dog. Doesn't like good quality biscuits. Biscuits are healthy. They don't make you fall sick like the oily parathas and the butter laden butter chicken. Chicken..perhaps the dog was craving for meat. Stupid dog. You don't always get what you want. Stupid dog. Stupid dog.

And then as I kept on wondering at the stupidity of the dog, I caught him gently wagging his tail at me. Somehow the dog seemed to be less stupid to me now. It was not barking at me. It wasn't growling at me. But there was some kind of affection for me in those brown watery eyes. All for what? A biscuit, which he didn't even touch. Perhaps the dog wanted to talk to me. "What is your name stupid dog?" I asked, squashing a mosquito biting into my thigh. The dog woofed and sat up on its paws. Hmm. So he did understand me. And in his doggy language, he said that his name was 'Woof'. Hmm. Interesting. "OK Woof, what do you want from me? I have no more biscuits to give you. " "Woof", came the reply. I was not understanding. Did he want to play, did he want to eat? I was all confused. Mother said that I was too dumb for anything. The dog didn't know that perhaps. Just as I was about to put forward another question, a stone came flying by and hit the dog's head. Frightened and terrified, the dog yelped to its feet and ran away. The stone was thrown by a young man holding the hand of a pretty girl, with her hair braided in knots. "Ha ha ...stupid dog!" said the man, while the girl looked at him in an expression of mock-anger.

I couldn't fathom the reason why the perfectly intelligent young man stoned a stray dog. I couldn't fathom the reason why the girl was going out with this young man. I couldn't fathom why the young man was stealing a kiss of the girl's rosy lips right before my eyes. The world around me was too complex. I couldn't fathom anything at all. Not addition, not different civilizations and capitals. The blue of the sky was now crimson red. A red ball had appeared in the sky. The birds we twittering back into their nests. I threw the wrapper of the empty biscuit's basket in a dustbin, and adjusted my uniform. I had to walk back home. It was getting late. Perhaps Mother would be angry. Perhaps Mother would be worried. Perhaps Mother would want to know what I had written in my answer script. I had to think of a way to avert the scolding. Stupid me.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda

The Night Circus: Where dreams come to life

"The circus comes without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

The opening lines of this magnificent book "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern had held me captive right till the end. It is not everyday that you come by a book which is steeped in fantasy and carefully balanced with reality. The opening chapters may seem a little befuddling but it is only a matter of time when the reader is drawn helplessly into the fantastic world of Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair. And then there is this circus, this beautifully scripted enchanting circus- where everything is possible, where the tricks never fail to confound the spectators, where magic meets scientific logic...The Circus...Le Cirque des RĂªves ...where dreams come true.

The outline is simple. Two great schools of illusionists put up their players against one another. The contenders haven't seen each other. They are educated, groomed and raised to fight each other in a venue. The Circus. But there has to be a victor. There is no time allotted for the completion of the challenge. Who'll be this last person standing? Or is the challenge not as simple as it seems to be?....

 Well, at the very onset of this blog I would like to declare that this isn't any book review. I am terrible at reviewing books. The excitement and thrill that I experienced while reading this book cannot be aptly put in words. It just opened up a whole different world to me.It also sort of reminded me of my memories of circus as a child. When I was young, a circus was synonymous with joy and a day off with friends and family. And popcorn. Those days popcorn wasn't easily available in our locality. I remember holding onto my Grandpa's fingers and walking with little steps to a large tent which smelt funny.  It smelt of sweat and dirt and animal poop. But the odor was exhumed by the loud gasps of spectators at  the sight of men walking on tight ropes ten feet above the ground, the trapeze artists where young girls and boys flung each other off like a ball, the fire-eaters, the clowns who were either too large or a dwarf, the lions and tigers jumping into the loops, the monkeys cycling across the stage. Yes, it was fascinating. And there was always popcorn and cotton-candy to hold on my interest.

But today in the year 2013 I don't come across that kind of circus at all. In fact, a circus rarely comes to our town. People have lost their taste for it as every extraordinary feat can be digitally mastered. Why waste time watching cheap theatrics? There are no takers for that unusual talent. And the idea of a live-show now remains buried ten feet into the ground till there is some 'scoop' involved.Here is where I loved the book. The book recreates a circus which is not caught in the web of the sameness of tricks. It creates something different each time you visit it. It doesn't take place in a large tent but several tents are set up in a large piece of land. It is like a maze and one cannot be to sure to have seen the whole of it, as there is no one to assure you of the same at the exit.The description of the circus was similar to Life. Life is a circus and at every corner we come across something new, something exciting, something that may startle and astonish us and probably even exact a a little gasp of disbelief. But nevertheless, we carry on and at the end when it is time to make our Exit, we don't fully realize if we've seen the all of it, if we fully comprehend the whole of it. The enigma mystifies our senses. That is why we hold on to our lives. Not because we love it, but because we love to explore its hidden possibilities.  

The rest of the fiction is of course conjured by the magical realism, where you seem to take a ride on the bewitching carousel, with your hair gently blown by the soft wind smelling of caramel and an exotic essence. "The Night Circus" is simply a story of love camouflaged with layers of magic, unprecedented circumstances.It is the reality that we feel everyday, but are scared to admit. It is a celebration of words melting into sensation. It is "like stepping into a fairy tale under the curtain of stars".

This book made me fall in love with magic all over again. The love, the passion, the pain is felt by the reader each time you flip through its pages. It makes you fall in love with Circus once again, in fact you yearn for it once the book is over. It has been a week now but I have failed to get past this book. It has altered my perspective about life. "People see what they wish to see. And in most cases, what they are told that they see." It is really weird to realize that the entirety of our perception is controlled by the society. That there are things beyond our comprehension, existing by our side, unraveling their mystery right before us yet unknown to us. The idea is both exciting and frightening. Yet it makes you live your life large and go beyond the pettiness of routine and walk into the circus of whose confines one feels more real and closer to life. But then again, one must not lose the grasp over the Real for it will only drive us mad, insane, burn our insides with the pangs of curiosity.  Yet "the finest of pleasures are always the unexpected ones" and I hope to dream on, live on and await the arrival of The Night Circus. 

Will you?