Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Coloured Perception

“Don’t trust those neighbours”, my mother yelled out as she picked up the newspaper that was left outside by the delivery man. I looked outside with my beady eyes, I knew who she was talking about. Our lane was a small one with several bungalows on either side.
The untrustworthy neighbours were the ones who occupied the last bungalow at the end of the lane. At first, I never knew why my mother said that those neighbours couldn’t be trusted. Then, one day the newspaper was not outside our home like it usually was. Immediately, my mother declared that those neighbours had robbed it.
When I was small, I never saw the neighbours. It was only when my legs grew longer that I was tall enough to peek out the window and to notice the world outside. Old man Raju always left for his early morning walk, Sanchita left for work sometime after that, Ajay, Raveer, Sameer and others left for school in the afternoon. When those neighbours from the last bungalow left the lane, mother always grunted out, twisted her face and looked at each one of them with unforgiving eyes.
I grew bigger and soon enough I was running out on the lane. Mother loved a stray cat that she fed milk and food every day. Then it stopped coming. I found it near the wall of the last bungalow. My feet took me sprinting as fast as possible to my mother. She came running and picked up the dead body of the cat. She demanded my father to take the dead cat and nail it to their door. As always, he responded with silence and a shoulder shrug. “Coward”, that’s what she kept calling as she rummaged through his tool box. I didn’t know what it meant at that time. She marched to the last bungalow with a hammer, a nail and a dead cat. I don’t know what happened, father didn’t let me out, but I heard screaming. The vision of my mother’s unforgiving looking came to me.
When I grew older my mother told me, “They can’t be trusted, they filed a case against your grandfather and put him jail. That’s the reason why I grew up without a father.” I wondered who these cruel people were at the end of my bungalow lane, but I could never know because I knew my mother would never forgive me.
Outside the lane, we had a growing problem of stray dogs. One day I was returning home from college on my bicycle. A small boy was fighting against the dogs that violently snapped, bit and tore his clothes. I slowed down to pick a stone and chase away the dogs. Then, I saw who the boy was - the neighbour in the last bungalow who put my great grandfather in jail. I dropped the stone from my hand and I let him be.
Don’t judge me, my perception was coloured…
Or, judge me.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Conformer

It’s a classroom. Everyone is talking, the children are yapping away. Philip was talking too. The teacher entered the classroom and everyone fell silent. Maybe Philip didn’t see the teacher walk in, or maybe he didn’t realise that you’re not supposed to talk when the teacher walks in. Either way, Philip continued to talk. He found it odd that his listener, all of a sudden, went stiff and looked dead straight and away from him. Philip did find it odd. It was then he noticed that the classroom was dead silent.
Philip looked up, the teacher stood above him. “Show your hand!” she commanded, “Show your hand.” The wooden ruler was lifted up and struck down. “Be happy she didn’t use the metal ruler”, his listener said as the teacher moved to the front of the classroom.
“Good morning, children”, the teacher announced.
“Good morning” all the children chimed in together, Philip added his voice with everyone else’s just because they were all saying it.
They were all meeting after a long time. With the constant pressure of work and a so-called professional life, gatherings like these were rare. Philip was glad to be here. A gathering of friends who hadn’t met in a month or longer, Philip couldn’t remember.
They’re all talking; talking about the past, the present and future. There is so much talk about on what each other are doing now. A few friends have surprising news. The conversation moves on to salary.
“I’m earning 20K”
“I’m earning 18K”
“I’m earning 20K”
So and so forth, each of them gave their salary rate that was around the same figure.
Philip’s turn came and he wanted to tell them that, he just started working, he just started this job and it would be impossible for him to earn so much. Yet, it was happening so fast, he didn’t have a chance – “Of course, I’m earning 18K”.
They all nodded their heads gleefully and laughed. They all must be doing something right if they are earning that much.
For whatever reasons, Philip had long ago lost faith in religion. Religion was a pointless way to connect and worship God according to him. Yet, here he was in the church. A familiar tune was being played on the piano. He looked behind to see the massive crowd standing up and everyone waiting for the bride to walk through.
When he had announced his marriage to his family, there had been no question of it, that yes off course he had to have his marriage in the church. There was no chance to protest, this sense of taking his beliefs for granted was so powerful, Philip could not fight against it. He could only conform.
Life had passed him by and now death stared him in the face. Philip could feel it, his body had aged, become frail and now was dying.
As death approached, of the many thoughts of his children, his wife, his friends, his family, there was one thought that dominated his mind, I am conformer. There were so many things he wanted to do and so many things he didn’t want to do, yet Philip failed to fight against the powerful and hell bent force of society. He sighed to himself, what a hopeless thought, to be part of society, you have to conform.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Bertha Benz and her Cross country drive

The engine trudge on the cobbled road meant for horses, the speed wasn’t magnificent, but it was surprising for a working engine… in fact, it got heads turning, noted Bertha Benz. That’s exactly what she wanted. Richard and Eugen, her sons sitting at the back glared, waved and made all kinds of faces at people who were shocked by the machine.
The first of its kind, the motorwagen steadily rolled across the street. Bertha’s hands clutched the wheel. Driving from Mannheim to her mother’s in Pforzheim was a 106 km journey. Setting out early in the morning, even before Karl Benz could get up, her children were sleepy at first. Now the sun had completely risen up in the sky and her children were completely quite wide awake.
Nervousness and excitement, that what’s she felt. Bertha wanted her husband to be here, but Karl was too timid, he was even afraid of the test drives. The idea of a cross-country would drive him with worry. “Non รจ disposto (It’s not ready)!” that’s what he would say.
With a maximum speed of 10 kilometers per hour, it was hardly fast, a horse carriage could easily overtake it, but the motorwagen was faster than any human striding on their two legs. A cobbled road meant for horses was bumpy and filled with jutting stones and open holes. However, Bertha managed to avoid them since the motorwagen was trudging at a steady pace.
When the engine grumbled, the first worry struck her. The fuel was running low, they were far off from the city of Mannheim and yet to reach Pforzheim. Luckily, a store appeared on the lone road. ‘La Farmacia’, it read, ‘Pharmacy’. The motorwagen stopped and she hurried inside. One must understand that petrol was not there that time. She got her hands on ligroin, a petroleum solvent, that was poured into the engine using a funnel.
The day progressed forward, the sun was directly above them, her children had grown silent. That’s when a loud snapping sound rang out. A quick check revealed that the chain had snapped. No matter, the motorwagen could still run, she just had to be careful.
The motorwagen turned heads again when they passed through a small town. Pulling off her gloves, she removed the broken chain, got it repaired, snapped it back in place and ensured it was well oiled. That’s when another problem occurred, the engine wouldn’t start. By this time, a crowd had appeared. Questions were asked, but Bertha was too engrossed to reply. Richard and Eugen gave the answers, one or two of them from the crowd seemed to be reporters who were busy scribbling down notes.
She twisted the ignition engine and it refused to start. She did so again. Her sons peered on and so did the crowd. It was a slow process of glancing at the engine, checking the parts were alright and then attempting it again. The engine refused to start. It was only when half hour passed that Bertha realised that the ignition coil was burnt completely. For five to ten minutes, she stood thinking on the problem. The crowd had already dispersed, giving up on it as another failed device. Then, it struck her. Bertha without embarrassingly  pulled down her thong, tore it a bit and pulled out a wire. Within ten minutes she fixed the problem.
Once again, they were on their way, leaving the town. Heads turned and surprised looks appeared on them. The wheeled machine that looked like another failure was running. News spread.
The closer they were to Pforzheim, the longer the motorwagen ran and the higher the chance of a problem occurring.
The third problem finally revealed itself and once again, the first cross country driver and perhaps the world’s first driver used her resourcefulness to clean the fuel line that got clogged. Her hairpin was used to give it a good clean and get the engine started again. The fourth and finally problem resulted in Bertha designing the world’s first brake pads from a local cobbler when the wooden one broke.
By the time they entered Pforzheim, a crowd had gathered at the entrance. Reporters and people mobbed her. The first thing Bertha did was send Richard to the telegraph to send a message to Karl that they had reached. He would be sick with worry wondering if car worked, and if they were safe.
Then, she began answering the questions from the reporters. “Yes, there was finally a working motorwagen in the world and I have driven it”.