Friday, December 30, 2016

When The President Passed By...

                            When The President Passed By.....

I perched on top of a branch that would give me a good view of what was happening in the entire Street. It was what humans would call "A Bird's Eye View". Being a Pigeon, I definitely qualified for that metaphor. 

Something seemed unusual. An air of eerie discipline seemed to be settling on the Street through the day. I ignored it initially - but as a restless afternoon turned towards the evening, there were unmistakable signs that the Street was preparing for something big. The hugest betrayal was when one of my loose feathers fell on the street as the wind ruffled my wings and a man clad in Khaki - who humans call the Police Constable -  rushed to pick it up and throw it in the dustbin. His eyes gave me a piercing look that warned me against littering the street again. Funny, I thought. Nobody had cared for bird feathers earlier - not when hordes of human generated garbage piled on the Street everyday.

I overheard some of the humans talking on the lines of "Revolution" in the shade of the tree I was perched on. From the snatches of conversation, I could understand that things were about to change forever. The cleanliness drive launched across the country was about to finally percolate to the Street. The Street would not be littered. And littering would attract huge fines. The system would be hugely disciplined from now on. The President would be inaugurating this new state-of-affairs tomorrow! 

The President - he was this Head of the Nation that humans talked about with great reverence. Being Head of the Nation meant he was respected by all of us as well. I mean we are his subjects too - the homeless birds, the stray cattle and the street dogs. We silently wondered what would be the consequences if we chose to empty our bowels on the Street as usual from tomorrow - specially my kin, who air drop their waste like missiles in times of warfare.

As night settled in, machines and rollers entered the Street with a team of White uniformed Traffic Police along with Police constables. And within minutes, all potholes on the Street were filled with tar and concrete. Though most of it was patchwork, the Street seemed to bask and blush  as Moon shone through the tree branches and illuminated the newly laid tar. I couldn't help but wonder if  elections were approaching in the human world. The last time I saw these machines on the Street was during a period when there were lot of public announcements and cacophony going on. My Granddad had told me that humans choose their leaders during these elections and it improves their life. Well, I'm not qualified to comment on the improvements - but the Street sure needed some tar to look beautiful again!

The Khadi and White Policemen now ran an evacuation drive on the Street. Vehicles parked in front of homes were towed away without mercy. Stray cattle that settled on the footpath lazily everyday and mooed without a care were shooed away to their sheds with purpose. Humans who were tired of campaigning and complaining against these issues were delighted that their prayers were answered at last. Somewhere, someone, somehow had galvanised the system. The clean footpaths, the clear road. For a moment, even I felt I was missing something by not being human!

The Street spent the night in palpable excitement. I joined the frenzy as well - asking my little kids to hold onto their bowel and not spill its contents on the Street.  I wanted to do my bit to impress the President. Who knows...may be the next step was a toilet for the animals!

Morning dawned to last minute preparations and checks. Bureaucrats clad in spotless attire were there at sunrise to examine the spotless Street. Workers from the municipal body were cleaning the Street again - and again. Their Boss-who most of us were seeing for the first time - was instructing them to do it again in an hour's time. Policemen took up vantage positions throughout the Street anticipating the arrival of The President.

Suddenly, my kids started squeaking in excitement. I looked around. In the horizon was the Presidential convoy. It was the moment the entire Street was waiting for in the last 24 hours. The ushering in of a new normal. As the convoy passed I could feel those human dreams manifesting themselves in the Street. Tarred roads, clear footpaths, litter free surroundings, well behaved traffic - seemingly insignificant yet so critically important for a high quality life.

Life seemed to stand still for a minute - as that convoy of 52 cars and 2 ambulances passed through the Street. It was tough to spot the President - sitting snugly in his Mercedes Benz. But seeing the Presidential Benz itself was a life time achievement for most humans. As the moment passed and chatter broke out, many claimed they had seen his face; Some claimed they saw his upper body and he was busy talking to his colleague in the car. Some ventured to say he waved at them. Most ludicrous was the argument that the Mercedes was a decoy and he was always in a police van, surrounded by commandos for security. My kids were still in salute with their chest puffed out - a mark of respect for our First Citizen.

And then, life on the Street hit reality again. The vibrant White and Khaki that adorned the Street over the last 24 hours slowly moved out - like dreams slipping out of a waking mind. Cars and bikes suffocating in the stuffy compounds of their owners' homes slowly came back to the freedom of the Street. Garbage stored carefully inside homes for the past day came back whizzing into the Street again. And as more vehicles plied the Street, the potholes would inevitably resurface. We watched life unfold on the Street in the next one hour from our perch atop the tree. With each passing minute, my mind was becoming clearer. And as I watched disappointment on the faces of the few campaigners ,that regret of not becoming a human was ebbing away too. We were better off having a "Bird's Eye View" of their life - not living their infinite complexities and compromises.

My chain of thoughts was broken by a loud plop. I looked around to see what happened. My youngest had decided to break her penance of constipation. Toilets for animals - well that would be a story for an other day....or generation perhaps!
                                                               
                                                                                   - 30th December 2016, Friday
                                                                                 






Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Lament Of An Old Textbook

             The Lament Of An Old Textbook

"I still remember the day I came to life. Yeah..I know it's weird to remember that. But we do. All of us books do. I can still remember the soothing splash of words on each of my pages. And the tug when I was bound by a cover page. It was a tender tug - not the rough one like the one for those hardbacks. I mean..I sure understand why they are valued and collected now. Perhaps I was never meant to be one.

Being a Chemistry textbook is not easy. And being a Chemistry textbook across owners  - is nothing short of an ordeal. I still remember those younger days of mine. The way I sat on a bookshelf in a posh bookstore along with hundreds of my siblings. We were the first textbooks of a new syllabus - and boy! Didn't we get the attention! Our father - the writer - was particularly popular in academia and we were reaping the rewards. We were literally flying off the shelves and even before I could thoroughly bask in the attention, I was picked up by a young boy. The first thing I noticed about him was his gold rimmed glasses. One look at him and I was sure he was what we in our world called "The Geek". "You'll have sleepless nights!"one of my siblings called out, as I was thrust into a polythene and carried to his home.

Sleepless nights it was indeed. I was stacked in between his Maths and Physics textbooks. I still remember the sensation when he wrote his name on my first page. It was a proud feeling. I had found an owner at last! It is the moment all of us textbooks wait for. A sort of coming of age for us. He then took me in his arms and smelled me. That was weird....but it was kind of -for want of a better word - cute. I knew I smelled fresh and am sure he liked it. 

But then the rigor started. He was a Geek and spared no effort to master my contents. Soon, my pages were strewn with scrawls and side notes. There was underlining with a pencil. And then there was highlighting. I enjoyed the attention at first. But then...it got tiring along the way. I figured he never enjoyed Maths or Physics and particularly enjoyed Chemistry. Which meant it was hardwork for me. I would be the first one to get up in the morning and the last one to sleep at night. My pages started fading. And I no longer appreciated being scrawled all over the place. It didn't help that my pages had so many incomprehensible equations. This meant there was more scrawling and side-notes. Over time, he spent a particularly long time on those pages with equations that I lost interest too.

I started wondering if the world was this mundane after all. I was bought by a Geek. He used me and mastered my contents. What after that? It was a stalemate. I would forever be a book of incomprehensible equations. I hated it when the lights were switched on in the morning. And because his exams were closing in, I didn't get proper sleep in the night as well. The Maths and Physics textbooks chuckled as I returned to the stack late in the night. They envied the attention I got initially. But now, the tables had turned. I'd give anything for the extra hour of sleep they got.

The day he finished his Chemistry exams, I slept peacefully for a whole day. I wasn't disturbed for a month after that - when the results were announced.  He topped his college in chemistry ofcourse. I'll forever remember the special pride with which he looked at me that day. The Maths and Physics books got none of it. I must say I was proud of my owner that day and of myself too. It is what we set out to do as books. Give the owner the knowledge we endeavour to and make this world a better place to live. 

I was ruminating about these larger philosophies of life when I was hurriedly removed from the shelf .The next thing I remember is a sharp thud on the ground that hurt every inch of me. Then the haggling ensued. And then reality hit me. I was being sold to a seconds vendor. This was probably the hardest moment of my life. My self esteem took a beating. I had looked up to the owner - inspite of all the difficulties I faced with him. He had given my life a meaning. But here he was - selling me at less than half the price without a sense of attachment. 

                                                 .................................................................................

The seconds shop lacked the class of the book store. We were commodities here. I met a lot of my siblings who had their own stories to share. There was space constraint and dust accumulated quickly on my covers. The shop owner dusted us nonchalantly and it made me sick. More than the environment, it was my state. I kept brooding. My siblings tried to cheer me up saying it is a part of life. But I always felt I had a higher purpose than a second hand shop. May be a university library! There I'd be an object who'd command respect. I'd feel treasured and valued. 

I never thought she would choose me. I mean, a number of good looking girls had visited the seconds shop. But no one particularly showed interest in my siblings or me. So it was surprising when her smooth fingers ran through my pages. I felt invigorated. I quite liked her touch. Without hoping too much, I hoped she'd buy me -for once I didn't bother about the price - and lo! she did! I can never forget how cosy I felt as she held me to her bosom and walked all the way home.

In the next two weeks, I regained most of my lost fervour. It was sheer joy to be woken up by her tender fingers every morning. And she would just stare at me for a whole half hour before putting me back in the shelf. There was no scrawling or highlighting. Occasionally, she would doodle an abstract image on one of my pages and that was it. The other textbooks received similar treatment and I must say we were all happy.

As time passed, she started scribbling a name on my pages. And then she would spend a long time just looking at it. Sometimes with joy; sometimes with longing; sometimes with sheer frustration and hope. I could never make out whose name it was until she took me to college one day. She showed the pages to a guy. I then realised that it was his name on my pages all the while. Ofcourse, Chemistry could mean different things to different people! From then on, I made that trip to college often. Messages of love were scribbled on my pages and passed between the guy and my owner. It felt weird to play Cupid in this age of smartphones. But again - I enjoyed a position that none of my siblings would! 

Over time, I realised she never had the academic interest of my previous owner. The Chemistry text for her meant a storehouse of her guy's handwriting and words. She was a queer romantic that way. She would come back home and spend hours looking at his handwriting. She would smile at those messages. I was obviously unhappy because being a romantic conduit between two young lovers was never part of my life purpose. As the exam season started, I went back to thinking of my previous owner who made optimum use of me. I felt I belonged in such circumstances.

Then one day, she came back home and pulled me out of the bookshelf with a force I had never experienced. She started tearing out pages with his name and handwriting (which was practically half the book!). I feared the worst. Somehow better sense prevailed and she took to tediously scratching out all the messages. It was painful to see so many scratches being made on my pages that day. But even more painful to see her pale face. As tears streamed down her cheeks and a couple of drops fell on my pages, I felt eternal sympathy for her. The love story had ended before it had blossomed.

She never took her Chemistry exam seriously. She pulled me out of the shelf a couple of times before the exam and crammed into her mind whatever she could. Scribbled a bit here and there. I didn't mind it as I knew my journey with her was coming to an end. Once exams ended, I hoped she would hold me to her bosom and take me to the seconds shop. It was not to be. I was bundled with other textbooks and her Father dropped me off at a seconds shop. She was not even there to see me off. Perhaps I reminded her of a lot of things she wanted to forget.
   
                                         .......................................................................................

My second stint at the seconds shop was longer than the first. My pages were now faded. As a book I was two academic years old, which meant a syllabus change was due in the next couple of years. I'd be rendered obsolete and die a natural death. The innumerable notes and scratched love messages that I inherited from my previous owners didn't help my cause either. They sure enhanced my appeal with my siblings I met at the shop though. I now had two different stories to tell them. And the storyteller that I was, I always used my skills of weaving a narrative to keep them hooked. It helped that not many books there had been to two owners. I was respected. But the flipside was I had very few takers now. 

My University Library dreams still lingered on. But from where I was, it was difficult to be picked up by a librarian. After a couple of months, life definitely got boring. My siblings eventually got tired of my stories and I longed to be picked up by someone - anyone.

This was the time my current owner entered my life. He dragged me out of the shelf in a tearing hurry and left the seconds shop. I was rather excited as I travelled home on his bike. There was plenty of hope that this owner was like my first one - an academic who wanted to consume the immense knowledge hidden in my pages.

How wrong I was! He brought me home and dumped me in his cupboard with the same force he had dragged me out. And then he left. Days passed. There was no sign of him. The darkness of the shelf was tiring me out. The closed space suffocated me and all other books. But the owner was not to be seen. My strength left me and I could sense old age. The pages seemed strained and the cover weak. I silently noticed as the ink started fading in a few pages. And then the worst happened. Dust started accumulating. Darkness and moisture bred termites and cockroaches. I felt terrible as the cockroaches crawled on my cover. I was never meant for this. I pined in pain and prayed to see the light of day again. 

And as though answering my prayers, I was dragged out of the shelf one day. It was forceful, but I felt happy that I was atleast seeing light again. But something was wrong with the owner. He reeked of alcohol. Even as he tried to read from a couple of my pages, I found the stench intolerable. His eyes could never focus. I found his attempt to concentrate laborious. And within a while, the inevitable happened. His face fell in between pages 362-363. And in poetic coincidence, the pages described ethanol and its properties. 

And as he dozes off on my pages, drooling, I felt it apt to narrate my story. Well, I could have always moved from Geek to Geek, who would revere me till their course ended and then drop me off at a seconds shop with indifference. But then, destiny had plenty else planned for me. The girl would have treasured me and I'd be family heirloom if her love had blossomed. But I would have been stuck with her forever. My current owner...well...I'd first hope he clears the drool off from my pages before I think of anything else!"

                                                                                           - 28th August 2016, Sunday





Thursday, August 4, 2016

Father, Son and Matters of Money

Father, Son and Matters of Money


"Done" I said, as my father sat mesmerised. He even received a message saying the transaction was complete. Only, he wasn't convinced by the exercise. He didn't feel the satisfaction of transferring money and helping his son who was in dire need. 
"Something is missing" he kept mumbling. Always.
Not that he is technology averse. But he is someone who still believes in walking the couple of miles to pay out an electricity bill at the counter. The sense of purpose he derives in setting up a separate day for paying these bills, the responsibility of  "handling cash" and the subsequent sweat and satisfaction once he successfully pays those bills and returns home - he misses them with the onset of technology.

"If you can transfer money with the click of a button, where is the value?" he wonders. And somewhere, I connect with him. Cash. The clinking of coins in the piggy bank. Or the thrill when father brought his month's salary home in a white envelope and asked us to separate the five hundreds from the hundreds and the hundreds from the tens - home felt like RBI. Mother would invariably decide how much went where - some notes into the steel container with rice, some into the wardrobe, some more into a secret corner under the cot(I assume this was the sacrosanct emergency fund). We brothers would eagerly wait for a tenner or two(depending on her mood and our behaviour) and drop it into the piggy bank.

Now, all we have got is an abstraction. Or at most, a statement. Instead of the white envelope, my father gets his payslip home. There is an excitement in his voice when he announces the figure - but he misses the envelope. However, we are a generation where our salaries are being credited to an account from the word go. We have plastic cards that melt money in a swipe. I sometimes wonder if what my father tells is actually true. The effort is the same - be it a hundred rupees or a thousand for that matter. I swipe, and the money is gone forever from the account! And in a curious way, there is a sense of detachment - I do not know how the thousand looks like or feels like. It is just a number. All too simple. A decade ago, for my father, a thousand was probably a few hundreds, a couple of fifties and twenties and tenners. The twenties and tenners were probably more valuable than the hundreds - they were results of continuous haggling with the vegetable vendor or the kirana store owner. And to part with it was an emotional loss along with the obvious monetary loss as well.

Online banking, mobile banking, wallets and related applications make our lives terribly simple and relegate paper money into the background. While we revel in the ease of transactions, father still remains skeptic. His debit card pin remains carefully hidden in his shirt pocket, on a soiled piece of paper that has existed forever now. We have never been able to convince him to adopt net banking. He religiously makes that bank visit once every two months to get his passbook updated. While I put it to a certain inertia in embracing technology, I can't help but feel there is an attachment with the bank and its people that he cannot forgo.
"My account has been with the bank for thirty years now" he says proudly. He knows quite a few people there - from the manager to the clerk. "And I never find the bank visit tiresome. You have to work hard to manage money." It is quite a sight to watch him analyse the bank statements in the passbook and match them with his own monthly expense chart  - which is usually a piece of paper. Though we are better off than we were a couple of decades ago when this practice actually started, father carries this exercise on with fervor, a passion bordering on obsession. "It is because of this discipline I was able to afford your education without a loan" he declares, the pride evident everytime. I try to coax him to use one of those money management applications or atleast a spreadsheet, but he hears none of it.

The dissonance doesn't end there. While I find myself browsing every available option to invest and grow my money - from stocks to mutual funds to what not, father finds peace in depositing them in the bank. "Why the risk? You should always play safe with money" he suggests. I candidly admit to him that I want to be rich overnight and retire at forty. And then he starts off...with what is to be gained by working for those extra twenty years.

Through all this, I manage to hold my father in awe by showing how efficient I am when I pay bills through one of those mobile wallets, getting a handsome discount along the way. But my show ends there. It is always him that wins the conversation, with stories of long lost relatives who slept on mattresses whose insides were stashed with cash!






 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Corporate Musings: The Job Switch


                          Corporate Musings: The Job Switch


The Messiah was yet to call me. What started as a wish had turned to sheer desperation in the last couple of months. I knew to earn a call would require tremendous dedication. A call from the Messiah required a pot full of luck as well. I waited. And continued waiting.
                                                  ..................................................................

The Preparation

I tailored my Resume with finesse. It contained everything - right from being the "bench leader" in Class 5, developing my capabilities to become a "class monitor" in Class 10 ( a demonstration of leadership qualities you see). I prepared lengthy justifications for why my scores fell by ten percent at each level of education.

Days were spent on SWOT analyses that I did and re-did. The tricky part was looking up phrases to fit the scenario. I just couldn't exclude "Ability to think on my feet" and "Not get bogged down by failure". The weaknesses were more interesting. I said "I've not honed my planning skills to the extent I'd like as I'm so good at thinking on my feet". I could remember one of my more experienced friends telling me "The interviewer must feel your weakness is a strength in disguise". (Whatever that meant!)Till then, I was happy stating "I'm a little lazy" and "I lack planning skills" in the face of the interviewer.

The biggest dilemma was whether to include an objective statement or not. Google had hordes which invariably started with "To be a part of an organization which provides me an opportunity to...." and later the statements lost me on management jargon. Given a chance I'd have stated "To quit my manager here and move to a different one...and over a period of time quit that guy as well" Somehow, it was always employee versus manager. May be my manager felt the same way too. I decided to discard the objective statement anyway. It would take a lot of explaining.

The Application

 Naukri.com was the first destination ofcourse. I entered  keywords even remotely connected with my
 aspirations and uploaded my Resume. And started hoping. I was under this presumption that the moment I upload my Resume, job offers would flood my inbox. It didn't happen that way. I started hitting the "Apply" button on every job that showed up. Initially it was excitement, later a habit and a month down the line, sheer desperation and frenzy.

I diversified my search. Appealed to the entire job portal community to get me a response.  A phone call. Then came the reference part. I texted long lost friends, who never figured in my day to day thoughts or communication. The recipient of the call generally recognized the purpose of my call within a minute. It took a lot of effort to show them I was genuinely concerned about what they were up to in life. (which was never my intention in the first place). As the search reached fever pitch, I wouldn't bother with the diplomacy. After a greeting, I'd jump straight to asking a reference...and the call would end in a minute. I lost my respect, but somewhere I was sure they'd remember the desperate job seeker even if there was a remote chance.

In the meanwhile, I started getting active on something called LinkedIn..it was not social networks anymore. I'd prefer the "professional network". I pinged a few faithful friends for a testimonial, made a list of skills I'd acquired (starting from Excel and Powerpoint) and updated my profile - a skill a day-so I'd trend all the time on my network. Then came the "Please review my profile" exercise. I'd like posts from HRs and say "Please review my profile" somehow hopeful the HR would notice my profile amongst a couple of thousand likes and comments. And then I'd follow CEOs and COOs to say "This trend you're talking about is a manifestation of the disruptive advances in the industry which preclude development in the long run but can lead to short term capital gain without impacting the market share and consumer preferences" Trust me, I was just there to attract the attention of those big guys.

I did receive a couple of calls. But the telephonic interviewer always would stump me. "Why do you want to leave the brand so soon?". And when faced with someone who actually asked the question, I was speechless. My heart would yell out the true reasons, which were entirely personal. Yet I would blabber some management crap, which never convinced me, let alone the interviewer. I'd sincerely go back home and refine the reasons. I'd convince myself that I wanted to move out for genuine professional reasons...and personal reasons were always secondary. Though I always knew the truth.

The Deliverance

Messiah finally called me. It was four months into the search and only I knew the rising anticipation in the morning and the sinking disappointment in the night.

The job opening had almost everything I was looking for. I noticed that a grade point lesser and I'd never have been considered. "Providence" I told myself. This was probably the most realistic chance in the 4 months. It was back to the drawing board. Back to the fine tuning key skills on the Resume and brushing up aptitude for an online test.

I cleared the test and waited for the dreaded telephonic interview. "So why do you want to leave the brand so soon?" And for once, I was honest...or nearly honest. At the end of five minutes, Messiah only said "We'll let you know".

The "We'll let you know" hung there a couple of days. It then was a week. Was he not the Messiah after all? I wondered many times. And then the mail arrived. Inviting me for a day long process at the company office. It triggered a new set of problems. Right from sneaking in that "sick leave" to attend the process to shelling out a bomb to book flight tickets at a short notice. "Is the offer worth the effort?" I asked myself. I'd have to compete with people I'd never beaten - from places whose names were intimidating on paper. And then the Messiah's voice echoed through the darkness "You have nothing to lose my Son". I made my decision.

The D-day dawned. There I was, in front of a mirror in the restroom of the company office. I had recently read about self talk and affirmations. "You can do it" I told that me in the mirror. "You have to" punching the air with my fist . I noticed an other candidate entering the restroom, smirking. He probably overheard me. The self talk ended there.

From then on, the day was a blur. There were times when I had to summon the last ounce of energy to make myself heard at the group discussion. I also had to be at my creative best to conjure up instances to demonstrate the behavioural traits I claimed I had. All this while continuously sizing up the fellow candidates who, I'm sure, had got this opportunity after their journey between anticipation and desperation.

It was nearly evening when the peon finally said "The Messiah will see you now". This was the moment I was waiting for. It meant I was at the final step after crossing all those obstacles, hopes and disappointments in the last few months. I had to just ensure that this was not an other case of so near yet so far.....

I entered his room and the Messiah asked me to sit. He glanced through my Resume for a formality and then  looked at me. Something said he was reading more from my eyes and face.
"So...tell me about yourself" he asked. I started off with the well rehearsed answer which I'd memorized months ago. But he was never bothered in rhetoric. He cut me three sentences into the answer.
From then on, the interview was in a different trajectory altogether.
He needled me personally, probed areas of my life which I never thought were topics of discussion in an interview. I was visibly agitated. "Why are you so flustered?" he asked, with a piercing look, clearly enjoying the stress he was building on me.
Was the Messiah supposed to be that inconsiderate? At this rate, I knew I was headed only one way-out of the door. And then came those bouncers "How can I be sure you'll stick to this company, you seem to have a tendency to switch?" "What are your weaknesses?" "What are you doing to overcome them?" No amount of preparation helps under those circumstances. My mind was like an open book to him. He deliberately put me under pressure to see how I react. And I was reacting terribly ofcourse. All my answers were top of mind - there was no thought behind those answers - and hence there were absolutely genuine. Towards the end, he merely said "You are too impulsive." My mind blanked out at the statement. It was a quality someone else had pointed out a couple of years earlier. I had lost something big at the time too.
                                   ..................................................................................
                             
The Epilogue....Or Prologue?

It turned out that the Messiah liked me. Somehow, my efforts had paid off. I didn't know what he liked. Was it my earnestness...or my forced integrity...or my impulsive answers that bordered on aggression? Or was it just his instinct that I might do well? (In which case I still have a long way to go) Or did I happen to be at the right place at the right time? I still keep pondering about all this, even as I receive calls from friends now who want to switch and ask me how to go about it. (Life comes a full circle see).

The honeymoon has now ended and I've discovered the organisation isn't perfect as well. I've kind of started to appreciate the beauty of imperfection. (In case the Messiah comes across this piece). And I always wonder where my next Messiah is going to come from!

                                                                                               
                                                                                                    - 30th March 2016

A job switch is commonplace. Retold here with drama and creative liberty.







Friday, March 18, 2016

Corporate Musings: The Friday Syndrome


                  Corporate Musings: The Friday Syndrome

 
Whenever I find myself reflecting deeply on life or searching for that "bigger purpose" or my "true calling" or such jargon straight from a Paulo Coelho work, I discover inevitably it's Friday. Sometimes, the week has trundled along. Sometimes it has whizzed past. And there have been occasions where the week has remained stationary for several weeks. Yet when the week halts on a Friday, aspects of routine life which remain conveniently hidden (or blended) in the background, suddenly take foreground and force introspection.

It invariably starts with blaming the Bangalore traffic. I'm sure it has been the same on a Monday or a Wednesday. But somehow it draws special attention on a Friday. It is probably because it serves the first reminder of how mundane and monotonous yet hurried and complex our lives are. (read corporate lives).
 
Thoughts start intruding at the work desk too. Probably because Fridays are a lot more relaxed at work than the rest of the week. It usually starts with "Why do I have to do this?" and ends up at "Why am I doing this?" I look back at a fledgling career of two and a little years, as though I've spent two odd decades. And because I have the luxury to reminisce on a Friday, I look back at those unfulfilled little dreams: starting with a novel I have a vague outline about to a membership at the gym that has been lying idle for the last couple of weeks to an unplanned trip to the Himalayas that has been long due. Everything seems so possible if and only if I was not spending most of my life working and shaping a career.
 
The "Shaping a Career" takes a different connotation as well on Fridays. Having been forced to think along the lines of well set processes in an organization, I start to crave to do something creative(Forgetting that the most creative I've been in the recent times is writing crap about Puppets that talk all of a sudden) I want to solve a "Real World Problem." It sounds too cool. Thanks to the morning, Bangalore traffic takes first place again. Then I read a report on Modi and my mind drifts to agriculture. A farm hundred kilometres from Bangalore, a chance to be my own Boss and employ a few people. A serene life with green all around - what more could I ask for?
 
After meandering on the web for a while, the browser lands on the inevitable these days:"Start -Ups". Nah..not about starting a "Start-Up." There are people who can afford the risk. I suddenly want to be employed in a startup. I convince myself I want a more dynamic environment where I face "challenges" each day. (The last time I faced such a challenge, I had a verbal battle with my boss and quit the job a week later). I open LinkedIn and hit numerous likes. Also say "Please review my profile" to a stranger's post which already has two thousand seven hundred and thirty nine people doing the same. I lookup key people from a few organizations and endorse their posts - sometimes adding  a cryptic two lines that seem extremely knowledgeable yet completely unfathomable. The Friday drowsiness helps all this.
 
The week ends. Finally. After shutting down the laptop for the last time in the week, I trudge along the dusty roads - still engrossed in a weekly battle, trying to figure out where my life is headed. I pass by a few street-side vendors, with little kids who often smile and wave at me. That is when the "Friday Syndrome" hits its peak notes. My heart goes out to those kids. I want to quit my job, go to a remote village in some corner of India and start teaching. I would start teaching first, then gain the trust of the village and revolutionise the village. That village would be a model village for the entire country. Centuries later, it would still have my statue - with a laptop in one hand and a sapling in the other.
 
I get into the Metro, still thinking about in which region of India this village would be. Somewhere in the Himalayas would be my preference. I try to find out if I have enough savings to last me for a while - till I get to the village, start teaching and the village pays me. I make a decision to quit worldly life and pursue my goal of educating India. "Educating India" would be my TED Talk which millions of people would Google after a couple of decades. My mind starts painting a picture that convinces me this is the route to take. I plan to tell my parents tonight, convince them over the weekend and hand in my papers on Monday.
 
I play and replay the dialogues of that conversation, starting from "I hate corporate life" to  "I need to discover myself" to "I want people to remember me", as I sink my teeth to the delicious Golgappa on  MG Road. The Golgappa vendor's marketing plan that I started working on a couple of Fridays ago seems so mundane now. He asks me about ideas for improvement I had promised that Friday- after a bout of that week's Friday syndrome. I say "I'm working on something more important."
 
I climb onto my two wheeler and ride back home. All the way playing the conversation with my parents that would happen once I reach. I would want to travel second class to Delhi and then on top of trucks and buses. I remember Bollywood movies along the way.
 
While excited about finally pursuing my dream, I feel a little heavy about leaving home. It wouldn't be the same again. I press the doorbell and Mother opens it. Once I freshen up, I start checking my messages on the smartphone. One particular message catches the eye. "An amount of....has been credited.....as part of reimbursement..." it goes on. A different part of my mind lights up now. And the conversation is eternally postponed.
 
For this is no ordinary Friday, it is Friday the 25th!
 
 
                                                                                    - 18th March, Friday
 
 
Disclaimer: The thoughts and ideas in this page.....are not just mine alone :P
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Talking Puppets: Part 4

                              The Talking Puppets :Part 4

"There would be three demands on our agenda:
  • Total discontinuation of the discarding ritual. Puppets won't be discarded anymore
  • The painting ritual to happen once in a year. And after painting, Puppets would be bathed in sunlight for a whole week before they are part of shows again
  • Puppet consciousness to be recognised and respected. Puppet opinions to be given fair consideration in storytelling "                                                                                                         
It was evident that The Rebel had given the entire Movement a fair deal of thought. The meaning and ramifications were still sinking in when the Aide's booming voice resonated in the background.
"To PuppetLand" he egged the gathering on. And further thoughts drowned in rousing cheers....
         
                                          ..................................................................................

The Doctor was summoned for the first time. He had been a passive spectator in the Movement thus far. However, his services seemed critical now. The Philosopher was the first to notice that all of them had started becoming pale. The Rebel initially had brushed this aside. However, even he was forced to acknowledge the growing paleness, after his black attire reduced to almost pale grey overnight.
The Doctor sat down with the Rebel, Aide, Thinker, Philosopher and Historian.
"Could you confirm this paleness never occurred earlier?" The Rebel asked the Historian.
"Not in my memory or my records. And they go back quarter a century, when the Puppeteer first performed. I did not exist then. But I have talked to comrades who existed at the time." "Comrades" was a new word the Movement now used.
"There was one instance though, when the Puppeteer was unhappy with a Puppet called the Merchant. He was not able to use him well in any of the performances. So the Merchant turned pale. He got a couple of coats of paint. I still remember him wheezing for two weeks. And one day, he never returned to the bag. Infact, he was the only one who was never discarded, but just faded into oblivion." The Historian said.
A silence followed. "Could it be that, our paleness is linked to the Puppeteer's emotions. His feelings about us?" The Thinker thought aloud. "If I'm not wrong, it is you and the Aide who have lost most of your colour" He said, pointing to the Rebel. "The Magician doesn't look good either. However, in general, all of us are fine. We have all lost a little bit of color. I assume that's because he is apprehensive about what is going on  right now." 
"Yes...and I don't feel good at all." complained the Rebel.
"We are living on borrowed consciousness...Comrades". The Philosopher said. "Nothing belongs to us. I still feel we need to suspend this Movement, for our own good."
"There is no turning back now." Opposed the Rebel vehemently. "Not after we promised our comrades that we'll bring about a revolution."

The Rebel turned to the Doctor. "I heard you performed a curious procedure some years back, when the Puppeteer wasn't well?"The Doctor shuddered. He knew it was the Historian who must've told the Rebel about the procedure. It was not something he intended to do again - not after what had happened last time.

He remembered those days well. There were a few Puppets who claimed supremacy over the others, because they were the ones frequently chosen by the Puppeteer to lead his stories. The other Puppets were sidelined. It was the first time anybody had witnessed the negative emotions that ruled the human world threatening the Puppet world too. The Puppeteer had fallen ill suddenly. His physical strength and emotional stability were sapped. And as though responding to that, the Puppets started turning pale. The lead Puppets were the first ones to experience this, probably because the Puppeteer attached a lot of value to them. The others experienced paleness, but it was not strong enough to affect their consciousness and depress them.

It was then that the Doctor under supervision of the Wizard (An ancestor of the Magician, in Puppet History) devised a method that restored the health of the lead Puppets. It was a forty eight hour procedure in which the energy and the emotional strength from the healthier puppets was transferred to the lead puppets till the energies of both of them were in equilibrium. And the emotions had to be transferred through a pin sized tube that was connected between their bodies, near where the human heart is located. It was painful and laborious. Most of the puppets who transferred their energies remained depressed for more than a couple of months. It took the Puppeteer experiencing a lot of positive emotions for them to draw energy and nurse themselves back to health. Even the Historian had recorded that event as "The Great Depression" and had added a note that this procedure must never be invoked again, in the interest of the Puppet community.

"Didn't we decide that we were not going to invoke this procedure again?" the Doctor asked the Historian.
"I'm afraid the circumstances have changed, Doctor. We want to rewrite our History. I want to script it when I'm still a part of this Movement." There was a gleam of selfishness in his eyes.
"At any rate, we have volunteers this time round. Comrades who have decided to sacrifice their health for a few days to serve the cause of PuppetLand"
The Old Man and the Son stepped in front. The Philosopher, Thinker and Doctor stood there, aghast. They were sure that the two of them were carried away by the moment and the spotlight it was showering on them.

"But a small change this time. The energy transfer would happen till the donors have just enough energy to survive for a week. I'm sure the Movement would have succeeded by then" The Rebel said.

"That would mean almost killing them!" The Doctor exclaimed. "A minor fluctuation in the time period or the emotional intensity of the Puppeteer could kill them."
"Sacrifices are necessary. If my death can free PuppetLand from oppression, so be it!" said the Son with passion.
 "This is insane. Why don't you tell them that this is not right?" The Doctor shouted, looking at the Philosopher, Thinker duo.

"There are no right or wrong actions. There are only consequences. And those  consequences would already have been set in motion by destiny" The duo walked out of the gathering.

                                               ..............................................................................

 The Rebel, Aide and Magician felt invigorated. They felt the forty eight hours of pain worth the energy and feeling of positivity now. The Old Man and the Son lay in a corner, almost unconscious. But they had served their purpose.

"We need to get the message across...strike fear in the Puppeteer's heart. Only then will he recognize our existence" The Rebel said, still looking at himself in amusement. The black of his attire had returned and he felt cheerfully angry....which was his natural state.

                                              ................................................................................

The Puppeteer's nights were getting increasingly uneasy. He could not forget that night when he saw or dreamed about those eyes without a face. And his own voice speaking to him saying he cannot discard Puppets anymore.

The discarding procedure of the Son was proving to be tough as well. He never remembered having spent so much energy on chiseling out the hand of a puppet, like he had to with the Son. And every now and then in the night, he could now hear squeaks from the Green bag. Once or twice, he opened the bag immediately after he heard the squeaks. But there seemed to be nothing in the bag apart from the Puppets. He noticed the Rebel was turning pale. He could still not fathom if it was a smile or frown on the Rebel's face originally. But the smile now put him off completely. He was not willing to accept that puppets could have a consciousness of their own. He would be the laughing stock if he even hinted this to people around him. He himself felt it was an impossible idea. But then, recent events made him question his own beliefs.

 It was a little past midnight when the he heard those war cries again. The Puppeteer broke into a sweat. He tried to get up from his bed and check the Green bag. But he discovered he couldn't. He couldn't move his arms or legs or get up from his bed. There was nothing binding him. Yet he could not. He then focused on the war cries and realization dawned.

 "Yes. The Cry of Immobility" The Magician drawled, as he walked on the Puppeteer's chest. The Puppeteer realized that it was his voice. Only it was the Magician who was speaking. The Cry of Immobility was a cry used by the Puppeteer as part of his narration. In his stories of war, the cry immobilized the opponent's army, giving the troops enough time to invade and destroy the enemy. Only a select few Puppets were capable of this Cry and the Magician was one of them.

 "The last time we spoke, you ignored our existence. Do you still have doubts?" The Magician asked, maliciously, his red eyes now not just menace, but pure evil. The Puppeteer was forced to accept and acknowledge Puppet consciousness now. For the first time, fear triumphed over his defiance and he was forced into submission. He wanted to get out of this episode. He wanted his movement back.

 "What is it that you want?" asked the Magician.

"That is more like it." The Magician said sarcastically, as he whipped a parchment out of thin air. The parchment already contained all the clauses the Rebel had laid out in the agenda.

 "Sign it. With your blood. We'll come back midnight tomorrow". In a single jump, the Magician disappeared into the depths of the Green bag.

                                                                                                   - 17th March 2016,
                                                                                             (To be continued)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Talking Puppets: Part 3


The Talking Puppets: Part 3


The Magician's eyes were now one nose distance from those of the Puppeteer.
"You won't be discarding any of us anymore. I don't know if you want to create more of us. But none of us....are going to die for your whims and fancies". Those red eyes lingered on the Puppeteer for a moment more. And before the Puppeteer could react, they disappeared. And so did all the other pairs of eyes surrounding the Puppeteer. The room was plunged in darkness. The silence was deafening.

                                         ...................................................................................

The Puppeteer woke up in the morning. He could remember every minute detail of the previous night. Was it a dream? Or was it true? He remembered a line from his own narration. "In the depths of sleep, when it was too real to be a dream...and too dream-like to be considered real...." he would go on, to narrate one of his stories that was filled with mystery, laced with horror. His experience the previous night mirrored that statement to the hilt.

He quickly got out of his bed and rummaged the green bag. All his puppets were intact. But strangely, their colors were a little pale. The Rebel was still smiling. The Magician somehow looked more menacing than he ever looked in his life. He took the Son out of the bag. He had discarded many puppets in the previous years. Why were things turning so ugly when he wanted to discard the Son? Wasn't he just an other Puppet after all?

 Nevertheless, he never for a second believed that the Puppets had a consciousness of their own. He thought he lacked sleep. The Rebel's expression was now a constant smile. The change bothered him somewhat. But he chose to ignore it.

He proceeded to start with the discarding ritual for the Son. It would happen across 3 shows. Before the first show, he would severe a hand of the Son. That way, he was injured in the show. In the second show, the Son would be bedridden. In the final show, the Son would die, unable to recover from the illness that struck him since losing his hand.

The Puppeteer took out a hammer and chisel from his trunk. He placed the Son on his orange mat. The Puppets were all huddled in the green bag. A heated discussion ensued to decide what could be the course of action. Even the Rebel was out of ideas. He believed that the previous night's events would make the Puppeteer think before proceeding with the discarding ritual. The only instruction given to the Son was to show as much resistance as possible when his arm was being chiselled out of his body.

As each strike from the Puppeteer's hammer tried to dislodge the Son's arm, he shored up all resistance he could muster. He bore so much pain, that he cursed the consciousness that made him feel it. He wished he had always been a Puppet. The Puppeteer drove the chisel deeper, unleashing more and more force. The Son wondered if shedding some tears would ease his pain. But he could not do so. He shouted out in pain and he could hear his companions from within the green bag egging him on to hold on and show more resistance. The pain reached a fever pitch. And then...it was gone. The Son fainted. The arm lay severed, next to him.

                                           ........................................................................................

The Son received a war-hero reception when he returned. The male puppets spoke of him in high words, saying his staunch resistance and sacrifice were an inspiration to the Rebellion. The discussion then turned to what could be done to thwart the Puppeteer. The opinion was divided. A wing of the puppets, led by the Philosopher, argued that existence could never be perpetual. "The cycle of birth and death cannot be avoided, even by those so called human beings. We must never try to overpower these forces of Nature". This was met with an equally strong opposition from an other section - led by the Rebel. "If we have to die, let it be natural. We do not want the Puppeteer killing us. Look at the pain the Son went through. Do each one of you plan to go through the same? We must Rebel." The rebel was definitely more persuasive than the Philosopher. And what with the incident of the Son's arm being chiseled out still fresh in everyone's mind, the majority was with the Rebel and the idea of a full fledged rebellion.

"What do we do next?" asked the Old man, his eyes still on his Son's missing hand.

                                 .......................................................................................


"Races, communities and nations have fought for their independence in the past...though I do not recollect anyone apart from humans who constituted such rebellion and uprisings. This would have to be a first"the Historian said. He had spent the whole afternoon trying to jog through every nook and corner of his memory to find out if there was a Puppet Rebellion in some part of history.

Both the opposing groups led by the Rebel and the Philosopher had decided to chart a course of action based on data and facts, without sacrificing instinct and the desire to build a new society, where puppets would be treated with respect. The seed was sown by the Rebel when the Son was being discarded. But now it was taking a full fledged form. The Thinker also joined the Movement, as he preferred it being called. "The Movement", this name gave the Puppets more conviction and added that tinge of legitimacy that wasn't present when it was referred to as a "Rebellion". Even the Philosopher had moderated his views and felt the Puppets' cause could be represented now.

"Every once in a while, there is a cause. And that cause justifies charting a new course in History. Only, the cause must justify itself. When history is read again after a couple of centuries, this Movement should be a beacon" The Thinker said. "The Puppeteer once talked about Orwell's Animal Farm. And that was again a landmark Movement, by Animals though. It was the first of its kind. And it did succeed...."

"Before the Animals succumbed to their own vices" interjected the Philosopher. "There was a justifiable cause, but the cause was defeated. And that was a story. Humans are unable to contain their vices even in their creations. We are living on emotions borrowed from those humans. Can we sustain this cause without being conquered by those vices?"

"There can be no evil in PuppetLand" shouted the Rebel. That was the first time the word was used in History and it filled the gathering with a sense of patriotism. It struck a chord with almost everyone who was present. Even the Philosopher felt something stirring from within. So far he was relegated to feel that the World had its own laws and nothing could ever be controlled. That day, he felt that belief shaking a little as the Rebel's words echoed through the green bag.

"There would three demands on our agenda:

  • Total discontinuation of the discarding ritual. Puppets won't be discarded anymore
  • The painting ritual to happen once in a year. And after painting, Puppets would be bathed in sunlight for a whole week before they are part of shows again
  • Puppet consciousness to be recognised and respected. Puppet opinions to be given fair consideration in storytelling   "                                                                                                         

It was evident that The Rebel had given the entire Movement a fair deal of thought. The meaning and ramifications were still sinking in when the Aide's booming voice resonated in the background.
"To PuppetLand" he egged the gathering on. And further thoughts drowned in rousing cheers.....

                                                                                                         -7th February 2016
                                                                                                        (To be Continued)



Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Talking Puppets: Part 2


                                           The Talking Puppets: Part 2


But we are losing one of our members all the same" shouted the Rebel. The Puppeteer grunted in his sleep. "It's time we rebel...in Our World too". He got all the Puppets in a huddle. 

A plan was hatched.

                                    .......................................................................................

The Rebel and The Aide climbed out of the green bag and hid themselves in a corner of the Puppeteer's room. Their first tactic was to disrupt his storytelling. Without two critical characters, the Puppeteer would fumble. That would give them leverage to bring him to the table for negotiation.

The Puppeteer didn't look into his bag before starting off with the story that day. It was not something he did regularly. Once in 3 months, he would take the puppets out of the bag and give them a coat of raw paint, so that they didn't lose their lustre in the lights. The puppets sneezed continuously for a couple of nights after the painting ritual and cursed the Puppeteer for not exposing them to fresh air. But ofcourse, they didn't believe they could rebel. Not until the Rebel had given them direction - which was now.

The Puppeteer started off with the story. The audience waited with bated breath as each character took birth out of the green bag and engaged the audience. Soon enough, the Puppeteer had set stage for the Rebel to appear. The story was reaching a climax and the Rebel would change its course. Only, he was not there that day. The Puppeteer started fumbling. The Old Man winked at the Son. The Puppeteer almost noticed this. But attributed that to a trick of the light. The professional that he was, he quickly changed the course of the story and brought it to a close. In the end. only he knew that he was a little shaken by what had just happened. He looked into the green bag and searched for the Rebel. After the search, he came to know the Aide was also missing from the lot.

He hurried back home and looked for the missing puppets. He found them both hiding in the corner. There was an unmistakable smile on the Rebel's face. The Aide was standing a couple of paces behind. He gave them both a look of fury and thrust them into the bag.

                                          ..............................................................................
"You should've seen the look on his face, when the Rebel wasn't appearing from the bag. It was priceless" The Old Man said, as all the Puppets burst out laughing.
"And when father winked at me, he was utterly confused....for the first time in his life" said the Son with the smugness of having achieved something.
"We can bend him to our wills and wishes, friends....we only need to stand united" the Rebel motivated. "I have decided I'm going to have this smile on my face always...no more looking angry. If he wants to, let him call me the 'The Smiling Rebel'. But now, to the second part of the plan."
"Yes, I'll talk to the Puppeteer tonight. Given the way we have planned, it would seem to him that he's dreaming. Let him see the magic of his Magician today" said the Magician.

Only the Philosopher noticed that all of their colors had started fading, ever so slightly. They had started to become pale.

                                          ......................................................................................

It was a couple of hours after midnight when the Magician climbed out of the green bag. The bag was left slightly open, for him to make the sudden escape into its depths in case anything went wrong in the operation. His black attire blended in a sinister way with the darkness of the night, making his red eyes all the more cruel and venomous.

He sat near the Puppeteer's head, and started the conversation.

The Puppeteer woke up with a start, when he heard the baritone. It was his voice. But strangely, he wasn't the one speaking. He clutched his throat in shock and turned to the direction from where the voice was coming. In the darkness, he could only make out those red eyes.

"Who are you? I know these eyes...but it just can't be" he stammered, disbelievingly.
"When Your world can exist...Ours can exist too" said the Magician. The Puppeteer moved closer to the voice, to see if the Magician's mouth was moving. But it wasn't. It startled him further.
Even in the state of shock  he was in, he managed to muster a forceful reply
"Your world!!?? It exists because I create it. You are the Magician, because I call you so!"
"But the fact remains that you've called me the Magician. And that I do have a few tricks up my sleeve". The Magician retorted. He gave a low whistle.

And the war cries started. And before the Puppeteer knew what was happening, there were pairs of eyes surrounding him from nowhere. There was no head, no torso. Pairs of eyes with menacing looks. Some of them angry, some of them smug. Some of them dancing with victory. Then came music. Music that rang out a warning. Music that breathed fire and commanded submission. The eyes encircled the Puppeteer and started dancing, even as the music blared on relentlessly. The Magician's red eyes smiled the look of satisfaction.

"What do you want? Whose eyes are all these? I remember having seen them, but I don't know who they belong to.." The Puppeteer said. He wasn't composed anymore.
"Those eyes you mean? Didn't you see the look of sorrow in those eyes, when you discarded one of us each year? Each of those pair of eyes wants revenge today. You have the right to give birth....but you can't take life out of us...unless we want to go ourselves..

The Puppeteer was now sitting scared. His legs were folded to his chin. He forehead showed perspiration. "What do you want me to do?" he whispered.

The Magician's eyes were now one nose distance from those of the Puppeteer.
"You won't be discarding any of us anymore. I don't know if you want to create more of us. But none of us....are going to die for your whims and fancies". Those red eyes lingered on the Puppeteer for a moment more. And before the Puppeteer could react, they disappeared. And so did all the other pairs of eyes surrounding the Puppeteer. The room was plunged in darkness. The silence was deafening.

                                                                                               
                                                                                                                          - January 17th, 2016

                                                                                                                         (To be continued)




Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Talking Puppets: Part 1


                                 The Talking Puppets: Part 1

He never knew the puppets spoke amongst themselves at night. His sleep was rarely disturbed by those hushed voices. Occasionally, one of the female puppets would squeak in excitement and the Puppeteer would groan in his sleep. When he woke up in the morning, he would not remember it at all...
                                                  ..................................................................

Nobody knew what his origins were. The Puppeteer himself had only vague recollections of his childhood. It was almost as if he had woken up one day with a bag of puppets and decided to make puppetry his life.

The bag was a faded green with three kinds of puppets - male puppets, female puppets and animals. Every year, he would discard one puppet from the entire lot. If in the first year it was a male, then it would be female in the second and an animal in the third and the cycle would repeat. He would replace the discarded puppet with a new one that he fashioned on his own. He had one rule though. All his puppets would be of the same size and shape. This simple rule was his biggest strength.

For he was no ordinary Puppeteer. He was gifted. Or he had honed his skills to that degree of perfection,that people called him gifted. He would start off with no story in mind. At the start of the performance, his mind would be a "blank slate" as he called it. As he pulled out each of the puppets from the bag and placed them on his orange mat, the story would unfold from the deepest recesses of his mind. Nobody, including the Puppeteer, knew which would be the character that would appear from the bag. Once he placed the puppet on the orange mat, he would introduce the character to the audience and its relevance to the entire story that day. His creativity was at an other level. But only he knew the years of practice and perseverance behind the spontaneity of his art. 

                                              .........................................................................

The puppets were in general a cheerful lot. The Puppeteer's many stories had breathed consciousness to them. Or to be precise, the many emotions the Puppeteer made them go through in his stories had breathed consciousness to them. Each puppet over a period of time came to understand the meaning of happiness, love, kindness, empathy, anger, sorrow, jealousy and the like. It took a few more years for them to feel it. And to be able to express those emotions was only a natural progression.

In due course of time, they started speaking amongst themselves. They picked up the Puppeteer's dialect quite well and quite soon. The conversations would centre around that day's show; how impressive the Puppeteer was or how could he have manipulated the story to increase it's appeal with the audience; There was general agreement about his talent though. And a certain respect.  

So it was a little alarming to the other puppets when the Old Man puppet started shouting loudly one night. The Saint was trying to calm him down. "He will wake up and find out about us. Control yourself"the Saint was saying. The other puppets were waking up too. The Policeman flashed his torchlight and the Cow started mooing.
"Sit down Old Man..we'll sort this out" the Saint was saying. Being one of the older Puppets, he commanded the respect of the group.
The Policeman placed his torchlight in the centre and all the Puppets sat around it. The Servant climbed to the mouth of the bag and sealed it, so no noise or light escaped the bag.

"I don't want my Son to be discarded. He just can't die" the Old Man was wailing. Every Puppet knew this moment was due for quite some time. The Old Man's Son was the oldest puppet in the lot now. The Puppeteer would soon discard the Son to make way for a new puppet. They knew this part of their existence and each of them would be gone....one day or the other. But nobody had chosen to rebel so far. Nobody knew how they could rebel as well.
"All of us exist because of the Puppeteer. We can't possibly overrule him. We would not even feel these emotions but for him" the Saint said.
"But the fact remains that we feel these emotions. And we need to respect it. He needs to respect it as well" The Old Man retorted. "Look at him...he's a young boy. Look how pale he has turned ever since he got to know he would be discarded"
"The color is fading Old Man" the Philosopher mused, with a practicality that was unlike him "And it could be because the color is fading that he is being discarded..and not the other way round!"

There was silence. The female puppets started squeaking amongst themselves. "This discarding needs to stop. It was our daughter last time" The Curious Neighbor (as she was called by the Puppeteer) was saying. "I wish someone saw my tears at that time"
" We can't shed tears. And the emotions we feel are borrowed ones. Are they real at all...? He makes his audience happy by introducing a new character every year...and we feel sorry about losing one of our kin. One man's joy is an other man's sorrow". The Philosopher said.

"But we are losing one of our members all the same" shouted the Rebel. The Puppeteer grunted in his sleep. "It's time we rebel...in Our World too". He got all the Puppets in a huddle.

A plan was hatched.

                                              .................................................................

                                                                                                              -12th January, 2016
                                                                                                              (To be continued)