0

Lego Yellow Submarine

So I got this Lego Yellow Submarine for my birthday [thanks guise!]

Assembled it. Here is the result:

The full set:

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Fab Four:

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The Sub:

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The Rudder thingy moves:

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So do these two:

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Lots of detail around the periscope area:

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Lets open it up and peek inside!

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A little space in the back for luggage

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Four seats

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detail shot

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detail shot

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All Aboard!

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Tight Fit

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All the luggage is in

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closing up

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Everyone is in!

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Bonus Bobby

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Watch out for his gun

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IMGUR style cat tax

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0

Volleyball

Just came back from the second GT home game of the season. Heart still thumping, ears ringing. Emotions running high. Must write this before I sleep today.

 

Any sport is exciting if you get into it I guess. I have learnt that doing that is very easy for me. I have been going with friends and since we win a lot it is great to follow.

Today’s game was an emotional roller coaster. Our first clue was the HUGE players on the other side, boston college. Then we saw our star player’s thigh was bandaged. Oh, by the way, get used to these names:

 

Teegan Van Gunst

Annika Van Gunst

London Ackermann

Ashley Askin

Rebecca Martin

Lauren Pitz

Anna Kavalchuk

Gabriela Stavnetchei

Wimberley Wilson

Gabbi Benda

Some indication of the fanaticism here that I wrote out that list without referring to notes and this is just my second game.

 

So anyway. All you have to know is that Teegan VanGunst is a most impressive player, the rock of the team. Usually has 3 times the points of the next person in the team.

Turns out Boston college did not rely on their height. They were astute judges of gap balls and did not let a single one away in their own half. Meanwhile Teegan with her bandaged leg seemed a shadow of herself and soon enough, GT was 2-0 down.

Something must have happened in the half time break that followed. While the first two sets had gone to 20+ points for both teams [they play up to 25] we lost them easily. This set we kept in the hunt. 25-25. then the teams traded points. At one point we thought we had it but the ball had landed in not out. Our celebrations cut short, a roar of Boos rose up. Somehow we clung to the lead and won 29-27

 

The third set you could see Teegan’s form return. We found another unlikely saviour in Anna Kavalchuk who kept bagging crucial points. Ashley with her usual rocket serves and smashes, London with some superb digs [she reached 1000 career digs this season] alongside Teegan and Lauren / Sydney combo up front delivered smashes perfectly set up by Rebecca and Gabbi. It was inevitable, this set was ours. No questions. As always, Annika Van Gunst, overshadowed by Teegan, played a solid hand.\

 

Fourth set is played to 15. We had regained our mojo. The two lost sets seemed like a distant memory. We rolled over the Eagles with characteristic dominance.

 

You might have noticed this to be particularly unexcitedly written piece for something I am saying was so cool. Well, you just had to be there. It was an intense experience beyond words. My words atleast.

Also, I got in line and met the players, then got this poster signed by the players! 🙂

 

Capture

 

2

Office rejig

Did a small office reassembly, now that im the only one here… To begin with, here is a view out my window

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Here is my new work corner (laptop sits on the empty stand on the left)

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Here is the old work corner, looking empty and lonely

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Making way for a long and uninterrupted occasional sleep space!

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Make it look as if I’m creative and plan a lot…

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Here is the main reason i come to work

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🙂

0

Looking Back

I get this question a lot, from friends and colleagues and students alike. What made you choose to do what you do? What makes you tick? Why am I training to be an evolutionary biologist? The answer, as you might imagine, is complicated, but let me attempt to look at the source.

As far as I go back through college years or junior college or school, one common thread remains. I have always been encouraged to do things other than those that are required of me. In college we took part in and organized ourselves inter-college plays, sports, quizzes and international research competitions alike. If I look at my day now, in post-graduate school, typically my duties range from reading scientific journals, preparing teaching materials, conducting experiments, maintaining our live fish facilities [a glorified way of saying ‘plumbing and electrical work’], showing people around the fish facilities, helping build new aquaria, using computer programming to manage large amounts of data, attending various seminars and talks all around campus.  Very few of these things are in our biology syllabus. These things are definitely related to work, but I can see that not everyone regularly indulges in a wide array of activities. I have gone from being told to do outside things to making myself do them regularly.

The question is, where did this become a habit? I think the first instances of me doing something outside of the norm, outside a textbook was at Ujjwal. I remember being encouraged to take part in countless competitions all over the city. To be frank, at some point, I felt this is fun, but not that useful to me later in life. After all, what impact could a speech on ‘My Flag’ given in 8th standard have on me, almost a decade later? Turns out, a lot! I have to give presentations on my work and that of others almost weekly. None of the classes in school or college taught me how to be a good public speaker, but the memories of trying to give speeches to a packed crowd of parents were a good primer. Nobody explicitly taught me to read a range of books but being given the chance to talk to the teachers in school like peers about things like reading made me feel I was doing something cool and now I can boast of being able to hold me own in almost any conversation.

I guess what I am trying to say is that the peripheral life skills that weren’t evident in any textbook we had all seem to have germinated in my time at Ujjwal. That’s where my curiosity and drive to lot as many new things as possible stems from, a drive to keep finding out answers to unknown questions while at the same time enriching life with as many different new activities as possible. I wonder if that would have been possible had it not been encouraged and almost made into a habit in my seemingly short, but life changing three years at Ujjwal. For this gift that has made me what I am today and will be tomorrow, I am very grateful indeed. Also, that is my answer to myself to the question I began with, why do I do what I do today. Simply because I was introduced to a way of life that balances work and fun, learning and enjoyment in equal measure at the right age in school.

0

Murder in Penny Lane

Years ago, when I was a wee little thing, obsessed with The Beatles, I wrote this play along a bunch of other friends who shared this obsession. Here I reproduce it in full. We first did it in Marathi, then made this English translation to perform in front of the science liason from the British Embassy who was visiting our school… This, of course, is the english version.

 

 

G l a s s   O n i o n   p r o d u c t i o n s   p r e s e n t s :
Murder on Penny Lane
Cast and crew
Music: The Beatles
Vocals and Sound: Mandar Phatak
Lights: Yatin Diwakar
Director: Mandar Phatak
Choreography: Shefali Ramteke
Story: Chinar Patil
Mr. Walrus: Mandar Phatak
Max: Chinar Patil
Dr Robert: Ajinkya Yele
Joan: Sharvari Sathe
Chief: Mihir Metkar
Lucy and Mrs. Rigby: Shefali Ramteke
Jude: Swapnil Ghanawat

 

Scene 1:

Song: penny lane. (Mr. Walrus singing)
In Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs
Of every head he’s had the pleasure to know
And all the people that come and go
Stop and say hello
On the corner is a banker with a motorcar
The little children laugh at him behind his back
And the banker never wears a Mack
In the pouring rain, very strange
Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies
I sit, and meanwhile back
In Penny Lane there is a fireman with an hourglass
And in his pocket is a portrait of the queen
He likes to keep his fire engine clean
It’s a clean machine
Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
A four of fish and finger pies
In summer, meanwhile back
Behind the shelter in the middle of a roundabout
The pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray
And though she feels as if she’s in a play
She is anyway
In Penny Lane the barber shaves another customer
We see the banker sitting waiting for a trim
And then the fireman rushes in
From the pouring rain, very strangePenny lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies
I sit, and meanwhile back
Penny lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies
Penny Lane

Scene 2:
Swapnil: Why does the barber show photos?
Mihir: Why doesn’t the banker wear a mack, even in the rain!
Chinar: Why does the fireman carry a portrait of the Queen in his pocket?
Shefali: Was that nurse a little crazy?
(Everyone speaks at the same time)
Walrus: Shhh Shhh….
Sh.
Why is the water wet?
Why does the Sun set?
Huh?
Tell me,
Why is 1+1, 2?
Why is the sky blue?
Some questions have no answers.
They are just, umm, very strange.
[Every one shrug shoulders.]
Walrus: Like Max.
All: MAX?
Walrus: You don’t know Max?All: no
Walrus: You don’t know the story about Max from penny lane?
All: NO!
Walrus: meh. It’s not that famous anyway…
[ everyone WTF! And TCHACH!!]
Walrus: it’s not famous, but you know what, it is very strange…
All: strange?
Walrus: would you like to hear the strange story of Maxwell from penny lane?
All: well, ok.
Walrus: well, once upon a time in a land far faar away…
No. not far away, right here on penny lane…
[blackout]

Scene 3:

Song: Maxwell’s silver hammer

Joan was quizzical; studied metaphysical
Science in the home.
Late nights all alone with a test tube.
Oh, oh, oh, oh.
Maxwell Edison, majoring in medicine,
Calls her on the phone.
“Can I take you out to the pictures,
Joa, oa, oa, oan?”But as she’s getting ready to go,
A knock comes on the door.
Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
Came down upon her head.
Clang! Clang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
Made sure that she was dead.
Back in school again Maxwell plays the fool again.
Teacher gets annoyed.
Wishing to avoid an unpleasant
Sce, e, e, ene,
She tells Max to stay when the class has gone away,
So he waits behind
Writing fifty times “I must not be
So, o, o, o..”
But when she turns her back on the boy,
He creeps up from behind.
Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
Came down upon her head.
Clang! Clang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
Made sure that She was dead.
P. C. Thirty-one said, “We’ve caught a dirty one.”
Maxwell stands alone
Painting testimonial pictures.
Oh, oh, oh, oh.
Rose and Valerie, screaming from the gallery
Say he must go free
(Maxwell must go free)
The judge does not agree and he tells them
So, o, o, o.But as the words are leaving his lips,
A noise comes from behind.
Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
Came down upon his head.
Clang! Clang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
Made sure that he was dead.
Silver Hammer Max.

Scene 4:
Max: I am innocent! Dr. Robert, please help me, I haven’t killed any of those
people. They are going to hang me for something I haven’t done. You have solved
many complex cases. Please, please only you can help me now.
Dr Robert: Hmm. Let us have a look at your case. 3 people dead.
ONE. A student, Joan Smith.
TWO. A teacher, Mrs. Eleanor Rigby, A teacher in the mental institution you
were admitted to.
THREE. A judge, the same one who was trying you in the court.
All killed with a blow to the head with silver hammers, found beside their
bodies. A photo of you and your friends next to the body of the teacher. Your
fingerprints on all the hammers.
The entire sequence of events similar to the Beatles song “Maxwell’s silver
hammer”. You, Maxwell, a singer in a band that performs Beatles songs. Hmm…
The common link here seems to be THE BEATLES.
Max: Yes. The Beatles. Ever since I first heard them, I was their biggest fan.
Later, the four of us, Jude, Lucy, Chief and me, we formed our own band,
The Aficionados. We used to perform only Beatles songs. We got quite famous
too…Dr Robert: and then drugs, madness1. You have a long history of mental illness
Max. You killed the very teacher who cured you.
Who will believe you?
Max: Dr Robert, please, you have to believe me. I did not kill Mrs. Rigby, or the
Judge. And Joan? How could I have killed Joan? Joan… I love her.
Dr Robert: what? Joan? Wait. Let’s start from the very beginning. Tell me
everything.
[blackout]

Scene 5:

Song ensemble: Love Me!
What would you think if I sang out of tune
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song
And I’ll try not to sing out of key
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm going to try with a little help from my friends
Do you need anybody?
I need somebody to love
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to love
Would you believe in a love at first sight?
Yes I’m certain that it happens all the time
What do you see when you turn out the light?
I can’t tell you, but I know it’s mine
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm I get high with a little help from my friends
Oh I’m going to try with a little help from my friendsDo you need anybody?
I just need somebody to love
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to love
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm going to try with a little help from my friends
Oh I get high with a little help from my friends
Yes I get by with a little help from my friends
With a little help from my friends
I’ve just seen a face
I can’t forget the time or place
Where we just meet
She’s just the girl for me
And I want all the world to see
We’ve met, mmm-mmm-mmm-m’mmm-mmm
Had it been another day
I might have looked the other way
And I’d have never been aware
But as it is I’ll dream of her
Tonight, di-di-di-di’n’di
Falling, yes I am falling
And she keeps calling
Me back again
Falling, yes I am falling
And she keeps calling
Me back again
I’ve just seen a face
I can’t forget the time or place
Where we just meet
She’s just the girl for me
And want all the world to seeWe’ve met, mmm-mmm-mmm-da-da-da
Falling, yes I am falling
And she keeps calling
Me back again
Falling, yes I am falling
And she keeps calling
Me back again
Oh, falling, yes I am falling
And she keeps calling
Me back again
oh yeah i’ll , tell you something i think you will understand
when i’ll say that something, i wanna hold your hand
i wanna hold your hand, i wanna hold your hand.
oh please, say to me, you’ll let me be your man
and please, say to me, you’ll let me hold your hand
now let me hold your hand, i wanna hold your hand
she loves you yeah yeah yeah!
she loves you yeah yeah yeah!
she loves you yeah yeah yeah! yeah
i wanna hold your hand
and when i touch you, i feel happy inside!
its such a feeling that my love,
i cant hide!
i cant hide!
i cant hide!
If you let me take your heart I will prove to you
We will never be apart if I’m part of you
Open up your eyes now, tell me what you see
It is no surprise now, what you see is metell me what you see….
Listen to me one more time, how can I get through?
Can’t you try to see that I’m trying to get to you?
Open up your eyes now, tell me what you see
It is no surprise now, what you see is me
tell me what you see…
To lead a better life I need my love to be here…
Here, making each day of the year
Changing my life with the wave of her hand
Nobody can deny that there’s something there
There, running my hands through her hair
Both of us thinking how good it can be
Someone is speaking but she doesn’t know he’s there
I want her everywhere and if she’s beside me
I know I need never care
But to love her is to need her everywhere
Knowing that love is to share
Each one believing that love never dies
Watching her eyes and hoping I’m always there
I will be there and everywhere
Here, there and everywhere

Voice over (Max): me and Joan, Joan and me. We were living in a dream land.
Our own dream world where we spent every second of our lives together. But,
real life intervened. I had to go on a tour with the band. It was the first time
we were to be apart. It was a three week cross country tour.

Song: Something

Something in the way she moves,

Attracts me like no other lover.
Something in the way she woos me.
I don’t want to leave her now,
You know I believe and how.

Voice over (max): Finally! I was on my way back home! Back to her, back to
Joan! Soon, I would be back with her in my own dream world. But, when I
returned,

Song: yer blues
Yes I’m lonely wanna die
Yes I’m lonely wanna die
If I ain’t dead already
Ooh girl you know the reason why
Here I stand head in hand
Turn my face to the wall
If she’s gone I can’t go on
Feeling two-foot small
Everywhere people stare
Each and every day
I can see them laugh at me
And I hear them say
Hey you’ve got to hide your love away
I need a fix cos I’m going down
Down to the bits that I left uptown
I need a fix cos I’m going down
Happiness is a warm gun (Happiness bang, bang, shoot, shoot)
Happiness is a warm gun, mama (Happiness bang, bang, shoot, shoot)
When I hold you in my arms (Oo-oo oh yeah)
And I feel my finger on your trigger (Oo-oo oh yeah)
I know nobody can do me no harm (Oo-oo oh yeah)
Because happiness is a warm gun, mama (Happiness bang, bang, shoot, shoot)
Sitting in an English garden waiting for the sun If the sun don’t come
You get a tan from standing in the English rain
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen
I am the walrus, goo goo goo joob goo goo goo goo joob
Expert textpert choking smokers
Don’t you think the joker laughs at you? (Ha ha ha! He he he! Ha ha ha!)
See how they smile like pigs in a sty, see how they snied
I’m crying
Semolina pilchard climbing up the Eiffel Tower
Elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna
Man you should have seen them kicking Edgar Alan Poe
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen
I am the walrus, goo goo goo joob goo goo goo joob
Jooba jooba
Jooba jooba [fadeout…]

Voice over (max): After Joan, my life went from bad to worse. I started taking
drugs, and then the drugs took over. My life would have vanished in a
psychedelic haze of hash and cocaine, but for her. The guiding light that was
Dr. Eleanor Rigby.

Song: Here Comes The Sun.
Little darling, the smile returning to their faces.
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here.
Here comes the sun,
Here comes the sun,
And I say “It’s all right”
Sun, sun, sun here it comes.
Sun, sun, sun here it comes.
Sun, sun, sun here it comes.
Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting.
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear.Here comes the sun,
Here comes the sun,
And I say “It’s all right,
It’s all right,
It’s all right”
[Song fades into…]

Scene 6:

Dr Robert: oh. So that was your story. [Picks out the photo]. Hmm. so these are
Jude Lucy and chief. Wait a minute. What is this? There is something doodled on
the back. I can about make out a number, 3 8 9 5 6.
Anyway. Max, do you have any idea where can I find your friends?
Max: Sorry dr., i have no idea. After Joan, the band broke up. But yes, Jude
lives on penny lane. He might be able to help you out.
Dr Robert: Yes. I will find it out. You should meet your friends before they hang
you. I am convinced now, you are the culprit.
Max: Dr. Robert, please, Dr.! DOCTOR!

Scene 7:
Max: Thank you guys, for coming, I just want to say sorry, for everything,
before they hang me.
Lucy: I knew that girl was trouble. Why did you go after her max? And how
could you kill someone? They are going to hang you next week.
Max: Lucy, Lucy. Please. I have not killed anyone! Somebody is trying to frame
me…
Jude: But max, weren’t you going to ask Dr Robert for help?
Max: I did. But even he is convinced that I am the murderer
Lucy: Can’t anyone do anything? Can we do something?Max: Yes you can. Yes you can. Get me out of here. Get me out of here. Just
get me out of here, I am innocent. I haven’t killed anyone. I am innocent.
Jude: How can we max? Even our hands are tied. All the evidence points at
you. The fingerprints…
Max: Yes. The evidence! How did my bloody fingerprints get on those blasted
hammers? And our photo! Why was our photo lying next to Mrs. Rigby’s body?
Chief: Calm down max. It’s simple. Without the photo, how would the police have
caught you and only when tried would you get a chance to kill the judge…?
Max: w…what do you mean…?
Chief: see, it is a simple story… [Goes to pieces narrating the story]
Dr Robert: (Clap Clap Clap) Thank you Chief. You have implicated yourself and
saved me the trouble. Chief you are under arrest. Max, you can go free.
Max: Dr?
Dr Robert: Yes max. Chief is the real culprit.
Chief: But Dr! It is obvious that max is the killer. Lennon himself says so!
Dr Robert: He has Beatlemania.
All: What?
Dr Robert: yes. Beatlemania. He lives in an alternate world, where, for him,
every Beatles song is reality.
When I read the details of the case, I saw that they found max’s fingerprints
only on the hammers and nowhere else. A bit suspicious, I decided that there
might be some merit in max’s claims and they were worth investigating.
You see, that is why I came to visit all of you. If I assume max is innocent, the
three of you are the only remaining suspects.When I visited all of you, in search of additional clues, on the pretense of
inviting you to see max, chief’s house struck a wrong note from the very
beginning. His house was full of Beatles relics; every single thing there was
related in some way or other to the Beatles.
But the biggest clue of all was a framed wax imprint bearing the hand
impressions of all the members of the aficionados, all of you. A number scrawled
at the bottom in place of a signature reminded me of the number at the back
of the photo. 38956. The significance of which dawned on me later.
Every serial killer has a subconscious urge to place his signature on the scene of
the crime. 38956, using a simple substitution code, where a=1, b=2 and so on,
actually stands for C-H-I-E-F
All: Chief?
Dr Robert: yes. A story in which a Maxwell doesn’t commit his share of murders
did not sit well with Chief. So, he hired Joan to do what she did to Max. But
this, instead of leading to the cascade of murders he planned, lead to max
going mad.
So, chief took the matter in his own hands. Good planning and planted
evidence meant that he was almost successful. Max’s bloodied silver hammer
would have made a fitting addition to chief’s collection.
So there you have it, chief is the murderer.
[blackout]

Scene 8:
[Walrus and the guys]
Chinar: Yes indeed, some questions are…
All: VERY STRANGE!
Shefali: Mr. Walrus, where is max now?
Walrus: Right in front of you…[Everyone looks at walrus]
No no, there… [Points to the audience…]
[blackout]

Credits and song:
Let’s all get up and dance to a song
That was a hit before your mother was born
Though she was born a long, long time ago
Your mother should know (Your mother should…)
Your mother should know (…know)
Though she was born a long, long time ago
Your mother should know (Your mother should…)
Your mother should know (…know)

0

Flight

The sun went down, long rivulets of shadow running along the tired, worn out cobbles foretelling the coming of the thing. The thing was amorphous, an inky nothingness, that roiling, stygian vapour which leaves an unpleasant metallic aftertaste of despair in the back of your throat. He could feel it behind him, the tendrils of the fetid mist reaching for his ankles. He had never run so fast, fear pumping through his veins, panic rushing through his ears. He had stopped thinking long ago, just legs working to push him away from it, trying to. Senses sharpened to a point he was looking for somewhere to make a stand, fight back. He dare not look behind again, into the vast empty blackness that was inexorably closing in on him. The cold void, he could still feel the icy chill that wrapped around his heart when he first saw it. In that one moment, forever frozen in his head, he knew there was no escape, only an uneasy delay, if he was lucky. Desperate, he scanned the featureless doors along the dimly lit alley for succor. Deep down he knew that anything he did now would only delay the impending. Was it even worth it? Something brushed his arms, something bleak, wet, . All thoughts of hopelessness fled from his mind as the fear took over, hijacking his mind. Somehow, somewhere he found some extra pace. That one door on his right looked ajar, maybe there is a weapon in there…

This was not the first time. It came often, breaking through his walls. He was a drifter, of sorts. He would run from it every time, find that one defensible location and fight back. Each time he would make more elaborate defenses in his new hiding place. Make it home. He tried to eliminate the unsavory by throwing it out beyond his fence. Out the window. Choosing to ignore the fact that these things have a way of accumulating made it easier to live in his new home. He would tune out the inexorable pounding on the door, focusing on smaller issues, decorating his house with things. Inevitable, it would break through and then he would run, again.

He tries to fight it with mixed success. Determinedly hacking away at the darkness. It falls away, slowed by the attack. Like always, it retreats a bit, to recuperate, just far enough that it disappears from view. This time he would build better defenses, a better home. Each time, he uses his masterful ability of self delusion to convince himself that it is never coming back again. Despite all the screaming evidence to the contrary. The stain on the rug only covered by the furniture, its presence denied, not wholly forgotten. Only in his darkest hours will he admit to its presence, his impotence in the face of that horrible incarnation. He knows it, but prefers to deny that his feeble attempts here would only delay it. The memories of that sick smell would fade, forgotten in some tiny box in the depths of his memories, among other bits of repressed detritus. It was however, just that, a delay. Nothing could ever stop it, it would come back, resurface with a vengeance. Stronger than ever feeding on the scraps he was throwing out over his fence.

Somehow, whenever he ran away from it, he would always come up to this one bridge. It was an ugly affair with no apparent purpose, no one used it. He always slowed down when he ran over this bridge, drawn by a mystical voice. It lured him in with a promise of an end to this. If he did what the Voice said, it could all be over, no more running. Sorely tempted, he could never really get the voice out of his head. Even in happier times, he could feel its presence, deep down. Whenever he woke up from a refreshing sleep, it would chime in: see how wonderful it was to sleep and forget everything? Just come to me and you could have that forever. Alluring!

It was always other memories that would pull him back over, onto the other side of the bridge. He resented that, he wanted it all to end. What life was this? To feed your worst fears, nurture it and then run from it? Better to sleep. Oh how sweet it would be to just sleep. Each time, it was harder for the memories of laughter to pull him back from the brink. Every night, after a few blissful hours of slumber, he would wake up and he would groan as reality would shatter his peace. He desired the embrace of this voice, this promise of no more running. The lust for the somnolent oblivion permeated his whole being, the pull of the bridge was just too much. too easy, too near. His resistance grew weaker each subsequent time. In all his new homes, he would stock-pile this laughter during the day. It came in handy every morning and on the bridge. This constant war raged deep down in his mind, in places he spoke of only flippantly, lest someone take him seriously.

He never gave in to the siren of the bridge. Striving to make a life out of the happier memories, he struggled on. In his weaker moments, though, he would always throw scraps out the window, and watch with a horrid fascination as the beast of the darkness fed on it, became bigger and stronger. He could not take his eyes off the thing, the dense billowing stench pulsating with a dark energy. It was beyond death, full of the wretched misery of unfinished business. Of failure and disappointment. One day, he would grow strong enough to fight it, dispel it forever. That day is always tomorrow, never today. Now, the weak moments have accumulated. His throat burns with a sharp aftertaste. Time to run again.

0

How did it go?

It is that time of the day, time for mimosas. Not a big fan of the bubbly [“Studies show it is fattening, Mary…”] both girls settle for wide range of non alcoholic, but equally effective fried assortment associated with a southern breakfast. Start with lightly browned hash browns. The key is a hot griddle. Over easy eggs. Coffee, Toast, grits. Mary chooses sizzling strips of bacon while Jip [ Her real name is Josephine. I know! ] opts for some smoked ham. They round it off with tall sweating glasses of Diet Coke and some intensely green looking rocket salad in huge bowls that dominate the table.

Outwardly calm, they are waiting for the server [Hi! I am Matt! I’ll be your server this morning. what would you like? Have a nice breakfast y’all!] to leave before they burst into words almost at the same time. “I had such a hard time waking up today” and “What nice sleeping-in weather”. It is overcast conditions, will likely rain in the afternoon. Who can predict nowadays. The food will wake them up.  And of course, the gossip about last night.

Jip draws first blood, “Did he pay for the dinner, or did y’all split?”. Mary says they split as she butters her toast. Jip opts for a vague “Tell me everything” next, in hopes of not having to talk for sometime, so she can eat. Mary does not want herself to be too eager, even in front of her bff, so she takes a deep, thoughtful breath before she begins: “I did not even go home last night!”. Some salad is eaten as this piece of information is assimilated, slowly.

“Nothing like that Jippy. You’re wicked. ha ha ha… We just ended up spending the night around downtown, trawling bars and walking around. So I dropped him at his place, and just came here. Did you not notice the bags under my eyes??” says Mary, pointing to her uniformly made up face. The “Tell me more” comes out garbled because of the toast.

“We ate at this asian fusion place. What amazing food! Super light, melt-in-the-mouth meats. I barely ate though. Gotta maintain this lissome figure!” she tittered as she rubbed her washboard belly. “Not that I had to work hard at not eating. We were constantly talking.”

“Did you think he was funny? John thinks Max is hilarious. I want your opinion. ” Jip checks he phone quickly for messages from John as she says this.

“Funny? Not really” Mary laughs politely behind her napkin. “I mean he made jokes, I guess I laughed.”

The food is almost gone. Matt the server comes around with the check [“Split it please! thanks”].
Jip wants to skip classes and go sit near in the coffee shop in their college building to discuss the more intimate details of Mary and Max’s adventures last night. This is the second match she has made and she feels good about this one. She can read Mary better than anyone else. “Do you think you guys will go out again? Did you feel it ?”

Mary’s phone starts buzzing. She lets it buzz for a few more times, an almost superhuman effort showing no signs on her face.

“Oh hey. Awake so soon? yeah, I was on my way to class. Physics 2”

“Ummhmmm… Yeah. ha ha ha ha ha! stop it”

“wait, let me check”

She takes out some 5$ bills, pays for both. ‘my turn’ she mouths. Jip puts her wallet away.

“Yeah, sure. I can do lunch. I am already starving, gotta go to class now though”

She winks at Jip, nodding her head in the direction of the roof-top cafe in the chemistry building. Jip smiles at her, her green eyes twinkling with anticipation.

“I’ll see you soon Max. Bye”

The girls walk out the breakfast place into the bright sunshine as the sun breaks through. There is no one around to hear her when Jip shouts aloud “He said what!?? “

0

Journeys

    He is walking down the road. Vaguely remembers how he got here but that does not really seem important right now. Doesn’t really know where he is. He tries asking people around him, where am I? what am I doing here? All he knows is that he wants to go to the beach! His odd accent does not sit well with the local dialect. They all stare at him, what a freak. Look at his clothes even! Who wears a sweater vest in this weather? He has tried to talk to whoever he meets, mostly to ask directions. The roads here are like a maze and he has no idea how to get anywhere. He finds it difficult to remember all the roads merging or splitting, all the turns and is relying heavily on hope and optimism to stay on track. Not that he knows what that is either. He has been told [by whom? He does not remember anymore again, seems unimportant to remember] to follow the shadows in the morning and the sun in the evening. Simple instructions. What time is it? he asks an old guy with longish hair in a hammock between the trees. Siesta baby, do not shout please the guy shouts back.

    He keeps walking. Sometimes the local response to his mumbling questions are helpful… Like Vidalo [was that her name? Virula? aah, whatever. Vi] last week. Call me Vi, its easier, she told him. You don’t know what you doing here? Do you think anybody does? That shut him up for a while. Then he thought, wait… that didn’t really answer my question. I may not know where I am, but I sure know where I am going he says. Oh, and where is that? counters Vi, with a knowing smile. That smile, he remembers that smug smile. Not condescending, but how to describe it.. umm… the slightly upturned lips, eyes a-twinkle…no no… never mind. He prefers to stick to smug for the lack of a better description. He told her he was going to the beach. That was his goal in life. Why the beach? They say it is pretty, he trotted out his usual argument. It will be the best experience of my life! She looked at him again, that smile. Which way are you going said Vi, pointing to the three way fork in front. Umm… Would you be able to tell me which way is the beach? Vi … who do you think I am, a geographer? He was unsure of what to say then, already a little off balance by the whole experience. Why would you need to be a geographer to know that? Maybe a cartographer, but that is absurd too.. Do you not know, you know, just like that? Vi, hands on hips, turned to him: Do you know where it is, just like that? As she left him at the next intersection she shouted in her funny basso voice, by the way, I am a photographer…

    He can feel a change in the wind. Despite the byzantine roadways he has managed to keep a somewhat westerly path. Is this the beach? Hey there kiddo, can you tell me where… umm.. wait. If you had to go to the beach which way will you go? Kid looks at him, why you wanna go to the beach for? Never mind, I don’t care. I am going there myself. Gotta make a few stops first, come along. You gotta tell me why you want to go there though. He smiles. Finally, someone to lead him up to the beach itself. It must be close. That is the change in the smell. Word of warning, do not breathe in too deeply here, this chemical factory spews bad things in the air says the kid. False start then, but no matter. Surely the holy grail is within reach. I am going to the beach, because that is my goal in life. to have a nice evening out, watch the sun go down says he. I have never experienced that, and by all accounts, it will be my life’s fulfillment. The kid skips along, probably has no idea about life or stuff like that. Kid looks up, says so you don’t got a girlfriend? No family? Isnt that supposed to be life’s fulfillment, happiness and all? What about these relationships in life? Are you going to marry the beach? Damn kids these days. He is stumped again. By now he has gotten used to this feeling, of feeling confident about his motives and actions one minute, and completely questioning his motives the next.

    He nervously runs his hands through his thinning hair, the beach will enrich my life. That will broaden my horizons, make me prepared to take on life and as they say from where I come from, milk the tits of life to the fullest. He sniggers at the puerile joke while the kid solemnly walks on, how childish. Grow up dude. The kid has these old sandals on. they make a curious slapping sound, every other step. Flap….Flap…Flap… Hey! I asked a question… Huh? sorry, I was thinking about something my old man once said. never you mind, what was the question again? The kid asked, with exaggerated tones, What do you plan to do after the beach? He looks at the kid. Can we not talk about the beach, please? Let me enjoy this scenery, I have never seen a chemical factory before… A few minutes of silence later, he feels compelled to make conversation again. What do you do, kid? The kid with his standard I’ve-had-it-up-to-here face says, what do you think? I go to school. Then fuck around a bit, like now. What do you care anyway? Silence again. I quite like the beach, I go there sometimes with my school mates. It is pretty like they say, sometimes, the kid seems to have let his guard down for a minute. Do you live around here? He asks. Yeah man, just around the corner there. I dont want to go home right now though. Buy me a popsicle will you? That probably lifts the spirits of the kid, but the expression of studied exasperation with the world stays glued on. The popsicle girl has very odd flavors [and many of them] on offer. He cannot pass on trying the Tibetan Areca-nut and the kid settles for guava-coffee. The nondescript popsicle girl looks on as they taste their lollys and asudden she reminds him of Flora.

    He saw many people on the road in the last few days, but no one stands out like Flora. Why do you have a girl’s name was the first question he asked when told the name. Flora was not bothered by that all, he kept driving. A lift until next town on this odd looking almost DIY jalopy was a god send. Walking through the fields was a bit boring, not to mention tiring. I made it all by myself you know, from scratch! You dont get to do that by going to the beach you know. Whoa whoa, who told you that? how did you know where I am going? It felt like an utter invasion of privacy, this was his most treasured piece of memory, that was most of what knew, where to go. How did this young man with no hair on his head and odd socks know about his life? Flora continued, Bah. Everyone here goes to the beach. They all say it is the best thing in the world. Not really boss… Smell my perfume. Its made from Himalayan palm trees. Still better than your precious beach, said Flora.

    He did not know what Himalayan or palm was, not in the local patois at least. The smell did fit the word perfectly though, he remembers even today. He tries to match the words he learned over the last few days to the smell of the shrubs lining the road. Nothing fits “Palm” nor “Himalayan”. Something exotic then, that is what Flora meant. Yeah. Flora would not stop talking though. This beach you say, is the best thing yada yada, how do you know other things are not just as good. you have not tried them. He is stumped for a minute there. Well, you cannot do everything. You gotta make your choices as they are presented to you, go ahead with best option. Flora ploughs on, nothing like a glass of cold water at the end of the day. Beach is ok for some (wink wink) fun times, but ultimately you gotta come home man. Eat up, be merry, why spoil that time by smelling smelly sea-water? He remembers a fire engine blaring the annoying siren behind them, but Flora drives on, oblivious. All the other cars lined up the side of the road, waiting for the fire truck to pass. Look at all these idiots, their cars breaking down. You should build your own cars stupid beach goers. I hope you are not one of them man, just do something else, not the beach. This Flora was one piece of work. He wasnt sure he felt happy or sad leaving Flora. Ok bye, mumbles the kid. Go on from here, straight down. Stop before you drown. He is so happy to get straight advice for once that he forgets the girl [pouting at the lack of a tip] and stumbles along the path, absently licking at his dessert. The kid winks at the girl and runs away. He could care less, he can hear the surf by now.

     He is here. It is almost sunset time. The waves lap at the sandy shore, there is no one there, he is alone with the sea. His hands sticky from the popsicle, face prickly from the salty breeze, he sits on a dune. Little eucalyptus needles create a cushion of spiny yet oddly comfortable combination with the sand.  Nothing registers though, he is focused on trying to drink in this beach scene with his eyes only, remember it for later. The last few days of his life are the only other memories he has, surreal memories that make little sense if he thinks about it. He does not. Why? What happened before, whats going to happen now? He is afraid to ask, to dwell on it. Is this as good as I expected, was this what I really wanted? Maybe it is, but what if it is not? No, stop thinking. Just observe, enjoy the scenery. Surely it is pretty, yes? Look at those blue crabs there, burrowing under the wet sand just near where the waves break, he tries to distract himself. Each time they manage to get out, catch something, and run back in when the next wave comes and obliterates their little cave. He feels like there is a lesson to be learnt here, but he is afraid to analyse the situation. The shadows grow longer, he feels a little drowsy. The crab cycle is riveting though and he manages to keep sleep at bay, watching the fascinating circle repeating itself. Cave out. Run. Run. Flat. Again. Rinse, lather, repeat… a phrase from that unknown past of his floats around his head. The words float around his head, like satellites.

    He glances over the sandy expanse of the beach, his eyes drawn towards this one giant crab. Somehow, this one guy builds very intricate structures. He is the master of time itself, it seems. Within the short amount of time, between waves, he builds fantastical sand-castles. Some of them are strong enough to withstand a couple of weak waves even. Each time, as the last one fades away in the water, he builds even more intense houses. No, these aren’t houses, these are homes. They belong to the crab. he adorns each house with custom fixtures, to woo girl crabs. He has a distinctive style, and he improves it with each iteration. Has to start from scratch every time though. Now he brings in some color into the home. To match the blue pincers, there is some blue ribbon. Where did he get that!? The sea brings him stuff now. It is relentless though, No matter what the crab builds it has to go down. Now some red plastic scraps, to offset the blue. Some sea weed too. This can go on forever… Rinse-Lather-Repeat. Lather rigorously, repeat.

    He jerks awake, tired bloodshot grey eyes reflecting the pretty pinks and oranges of the sunset suddenly alert. What was that throaty shout he heard from behind those palm fronds? A startled flock of small birds flaps their way awkwardly out of the trees. A figure emerges, that fragrance! This person looks at him for a minute. comes forward, and sits beside him. He is mildly upset. What am I supposed to do now? Do I talk? What do I talk about? Whats the social protocol for someone randomly sitting beside you on a beach? The initial moment is gone and now he is even more awkward to say anything. They just sit there, in silence. He sneaks a peek at the face next to him. The only thing he can read from it is the unreadably faint smile. Nothing on that face, blank. Calm. Except for a faint smile. He looks back at the sun. This time, he ignores what he sees and tries to drink in the person next to him by listening, smelling, feeling. Slowly, he begins to collect scraps of signals. Light breathing, a faint fragrance [Himalayan? maybe not] and other indescribable things. He feels it, cannot enunciate it. Nobody speaks.

    The sun sets, night falls. Nobody speaks. He is parched, but afraid to say anything or even clear his throat. Hesitant to break the moment, like he is standing in a room filled with glass figurines. The slightest movement will cause everything to shatter. He has built a picture of the person next to him, with just that one glance and the silent absorption. He has forgotten the beach, the crabs everything. He steals another glance and a pair of eyes meet his. Coal black, pupils dilated in the faint twilight. A hand extends a canteen of water. He takes a swill savoring the sweet water. Thanks! he says, but there is no one to hear it. He is alone. Undisturbed sand all around him, no traces of anyone being there, except for maybe a faint fragrance… Too faint. A bird calls in the gloom, hurrying to its nest. He looks out to the waves, even the crabs are gone. He lays on his back and closes his eyes. Lips turn up, that smile again. Smug? Knowing. Rinse, lather, repeat.

It is morning, the sun rises behind him.

beach

0

Urban Wasteland

I live in an area of town called ‘Atlantic Station’ [“Forward Living!”] which is a neighborhood reclaimed from a fallow industrial locality around the original Amtrak station. There is still a rudimentary station behind there somewhere, you can see glimpses of the track and on a cold night you might hear the train whistling loudly to keep the train bogeyman away.

Yesterday, I decided to see if there was a way to get onto the tracks and see what it is like around there. i never have spent any time in the last couple of years [almost] here in the US trying to explore places around town, especially ones that have fences and clearly discourage exploring. After going around all of Atlantic Station trying to find a way in and finding that all the areas were either properly fenced in or choked with inaccessible shrubbery, I had almost given up when I saw a part of the fence under a bridge had given way. Up I went, and there I was, on the tracks. Nothing much different from the train tracks I had seen before [I did not know what difference I expected to see…] except for one striking thing. The fence had rendered this whole area completely devoid, uninhabited. Totes sketch.

The title of this post is a little misleading. It was not a complete wasteland. After all it is used by the trains to commute at least twice a day. The wasteland refers to a complete absence of humans, or even traces of living in. No trash, just a uniform base of the typical rock you find only near tracks. These rocks were interspersed with small bits of leftover iron pieces, oddly shaped. Maybe broken off pieces from the things used to hold the tracks in place.

While one side of the tracks is Atlantic Station, the other side has not been gentrified and still bears the half rotten carcasses of old old warehouses. Some of them still trying to function, I saw cars in the parking lots so I must say half dead, not all carcass. There was a fence on that side too, there wasn’t much exploring I could do there either. After walking for a couple of hundred yards towards the station I saw that one warehouse had neglected to erect a fence, relying instead on fickle shrubbery that left copious gaps. I turned around to see if I could see any traces of humanity, and all I saw was one guy walking down the tracks, in the opposite direction from me, far off in the distance behind me. Nothing in front, nothing near the warehouse. I walked towards it.

The doors were nailed shut, and all I had access to was the loading dock on this end. There was an oddly domestic scene here. A circle of cinder blocks around a fairly new and expensive looking electric air heater, the cord to which was lying on the ground with no outlet in sight. On one corner of the dock was a nice little portable barbecue grill. There was what looked like a clothes-line; without any clothes there though. The whole place was dusty, didn’t look like it had been used in a while, still fairly cleaner than the surroundings. I didn’t touch anything to see if it was working, it felt like a violation of privacy.

Moving on, I kept walking towards the station. I still couldn’t see it around the bend but I was sure it was in that direction, just under a mile away. When I reached the end of Atlantic station on one side I saw another abandoned looking mill on that side, this one again with access, no fence. It was a lumber yard: sprawling, old, rusted. Didn’t see many signs of people around, except a few clothes drying on some lines, but there were some new-ish looking keep out signs, and I didn’t push my luck. Moved onwards on the tracks.

After about 40 minutes of seeing the man behind me going off in the other direction, I saw my first human, as the station came into view. There was guy on a golf cart, lugging a few old timey carts full of luggage. This was the first time I felt that somehow they would ask me leave. but the guy just cautioned me, Be careful! the train is coming soon… He was least bothered by my presence. Emboldened, I walked down the station. Very unlike the raised platforms of India, these platforms are flush on the ground, just a tiny sliver of paved tar between the tracks. A lonely sign timidly proclaimed ATLANTA, with two arrows in opposite directions showing WASHINGTON DC on one side and NEW ORLEANS on another. I could see a portly guy in a suit hurrying towards me, gesticulating mildly. Very reminiscent of the navy blazer clad station masters in India. He asked me if I was supposed to be there… You gonna get me fired man! this is federal property, Its a federal crime to be here without authorization! I told him I was lost, What was the closest way to get off the tracks? He looked incredulous, and his sharp mind went to the obvious flaw in my story in a flash, How did you get lost! you didn’t realize you were walking between tracks? A veritable Sherlock.  So he asks the luggage guy, how did I get past him? The luggage guy gave him a very practiced not-my-job look. I had already scoped out an alternate quick exit on my way over, and I said I can just go down to that street over there, its just down a hill. I guess he was just relieved I would get off the property. Down the hill I went, onto the road, circled back up to the railway line near my house, crossed over instantly went from being a near felon to a respectable citizen of a gentrified locality.

The isolation and sort of preserved desolation of the tracks and the surrounding areas was not that fascinating but was indeed very interesting in a way. There must so many areas like this through out the country where people aren’t allowed to enter, and it is in the middle of the city, abandoned. Nobody knows of it nobody wants to and nobody probably can. Nothing much grows there, nothing much lives. Just emptiness, punctuated by the occasional train whistle.