The Only One

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More often than not, we humans have a tendency to compare our position and circumstances to those around us. Also, taking into consideration the fact that the grass always seems to be greener on the other side, whenever we face a tough situation or a setback, thoughts like- “This is not what I deserve!” or “The world is just too harsh upon me”-instantaneously flash in our mind. The era of self pity thus begins; the mind starts to ponder upon how unfair the world is. Consequently, as a step to allay that grievance, we become soft on ourselves. Efforts die down, and the ship to destination dream is pushed back by a self-created wind.

This is one of the greatest ironies that exist in human life. We dream to reach the stars and aim to be just the tallest among the grove. Our efforts, our determination are all focused on achieving our “aim”, though, in our heads, we think that we are working on the greater goal. We even expect to actually touch the star. Disappointment, then, seems quite inevitable. This in turn prompts self-pity, and we end up being caught in its vicious cycle. We forget that there are many others stuck in the same scenario.

Whenever we self-pity, our focus unconsciously shifts from working to wailing.  All the time that could actually have been utilized to better the situation is wasted on fussing upon it. Self-pity is like an analgesic-it soothes the pain, but numbs the nerves from taking action. The moment the self-pity triggers, a “perceived limit” is set. And that kills our true potential.

As grave as the obstacle may appear, it can actually be molded to function as our greatest strength.

Looking beyond the grove we live in, we will soon realize that there are millions out there waging tougher wars every day- the disabled trying to live a normal life; the cancer patients fighting off the disease with all their might; the single mom working to her last limits just to ensure a good life for her child. There are numerous examples.  Some readily accept their defeat; others are not a bit daunted by it. They accept what comes their way, remove it or make the best use of it. Without a single utter of complain. They toil every moment, every day, not even stopping to give a thought to the injustice of fate. They eventually manage to reach their desired destination.

Even in the grove, there might be people who are silently handling much more difficult situations. We need to stop gauging our hard-work in relative terms, and clear out the notion that we alone are subjected to hard times.  Let our ideals set the standards. A setback implies that the bar must be raised. The extra mile must be done. If we are dreaming about stars, we need to aim for the stars as well.

So, the next time, when the devil self-pity creeps us our back, all we have to remember are those inspiring examples.

As Evanescence puts it right, “You know you’re not the only one.

This blog post is inspired by http://ajaytao2010.wordpress.com/

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Withered Love

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Evan sat in his air conditioned office, behind a big oak desk stacked with files and endless documents. It was another new day in Opulence Ltd, another day looking forward to the piles of incoming work. He went through the reports, one by one. A disappointing start, he said to himself.  The sun glowed gently into his office and behind his chair, the New York City skyscrapers grandly stood tall. In a city like this, his boss had said, the only way to survive is to strive. He dutifully put the reports aside and returned to his work, when a row outside startled him.

“Adrian! Why don’t you try to understand the situation? I did it for you. For us,” said a voice. A voice that could not go unrecognized by Evan.

He looked outside his cabin. There she stood, dressed elegantly in a rose shirt and navy blue pencil skirt, anxious expressions adorning her face. She was the sole reason why he was slogging here, when he could have easily enjoyed life at Brown University. Once upon a time they meant world to each other. Now, only she meant the world to him. Her world was Adrian. And when Adrian was there, no one else existed.

“Enough Stella! Enough! I do not want anymore explanations,” barked Adrian. Evans cursed him for being so harsh on her.

“But please…I…I,” she broke down and ran to her cabin. Adrian went his way.

Evan was delighted. Very delighted. This was really selfish of him, but these were one of the few days when Stella talked to him. He wasn’t going to lose that chance for anything on earth.

During Lunch Evan saw her sitting alone at the corner. He took his food tray and walked up to her table.

“Hey Evan! Really long time, isn’t it?” said Stella, looking up from her plate, her lips yielding a faint smile.

Yeah, really long time, he thought, all because I’m invisible when Adrian is present.

“Yes, quite a while. The workload never stops increasing. We hardly get time for ourselves. They are just so atrocious on us. Even the Easter Sunday was working,” he spoke plainly, all in one breath.

“That’s really bad. Why did they do that?” she questioned, uninterested.

“Nothing great comes without responsibilities. Sometimes, I think life was much better when I was an assistant manager,” Evan replied. At least I had you then.

“Oh no! I completely forgot to congratulate you on your double promotion. I just have been so tangled in my messed up life,” said Stella, burying her hands in her face.

Of course, he thought, how could you not?

“I get it. Everyone has their own priorities. By the way, why are you sitting alone today?” He asked her, just to continue the conversation. He was well acquainted with the reason.

“I just needed some time for myself,” she said, lost in thoughts, “I need to be alone.”

Evan observed her for a while. The miserable tranquility on her face almost made him cry. He couldn’t bear to see her any longer. With a sudden impulse, he stood up and lifted his food tray.

“Then I must be disturbing you. I will take my leave-”

“No, don’t go. I only get to talk to you once in a blue moon,” Stella intervened. She really needed him to be there. He surrendered to her will and occupied his seat.

Silence prevailed for a while. Stella prodded the tuna pieces in her salad. Evan stole glances at her between his food intakes. A little later, he spoke again.

“You don’t seem fine,” he said

“Does it seem like that? I’m absolutely okay,” she declared, trying to sound. She continued to play with her salad.

“Who are you lying to? It’s written all over your face”, said Evan, brows furrowed in concern.

“It’s the same issue again. Adrian never understands me. He just …”, Stella began to say, but left her sentence midway.

“It’s just a phase. It will pass away,” he said considerately.

“I hope so,” Stella put up a brave smile, “Thanks for listening Evan.”

Evan smiled back. “That’s what friends are for.”

“I really miss the old times,” she said

“Me too,” he agreed. More than you do.

Evan stared at her for a while. Then, with a sudden impulse, he asked, “Are you free tonight?”

“Kind of,” she replied, uncertain about what was going to come next.

“Why don’t we go for a dinner to the West End? It will be my treat,” he asked, seizing the opportunity.

Stella seemed delighted at the prospect. Why not? And after dinner we will go for a stroll to Kensington Avenue.”

“Wonderful. See you then at-”

“Seven p.m. sharp. I have so much to tell you. Dare you be late Mr. Evan Miller,” she said, pointing her finger teasingly. For the first time in the afternoon, her face had lit up with glee.

Evan shrugged and walked away.

When he returned to his cabin, he saw Adrian and Stella talking very intimately. Stella was crying. This quarrel was going to take long. He began to look forward his plans for the evening.

At sharp six forty five, he reached the West End. He took the table by the window overlooking the street. There was no sign of Stella. He sat down and waited patiently for her. Seven pm. Stella was never late. Will she even come? He thought. She will, said his heart, there was a sort of promise in her words. He passed time by thinking of the conversations they would have, of how pretty she would look.

“Sir, what will you like to have?”, asked the waiter, with all his poise.

“I will let you know, when my guest arrives,” replied Evan, with a smile.

Seven thirty p.m. She was still not there. Have patience; he convinced himself, maybe she has been caught up in the traffic. He continued to wait. Eight pm. It was almost an hour and her presence was doubtful. Maybe it skipped out of her mind. A phone call was necessary.

He dialed her number. The phone continued to ring until it disconnected itself. Five minutes later, he tried again. This time Stella disconnected the call. He stared at the phone, waiting for her to call back.

A text propped up on his cellphone.
I’m xtrmly sry Evan, I cnt tk ur cal…bsy running sm imp errand. I ws abt to cal u…its impsble 4 me to cm…I’m sry Evan…Gd nt 🙂

He re-read the text again, almost pitying himself. What were you even thinking?

His thoughts didn’t reflect in his reply.

It’s absolutely okay, Stella. I understand. Good night… 🙂

“Are you sure that I can’t get anything for you, sir?”, the waiter asked, as Evan was about to leave

“No. Looks like my guest is too busy to come,” Evan replied bitterly.

The next morning he went to Opulence ltd, with the events of the previous day still afresh in his mind. There was a lot of commotion. People huddled around Stella, mostly ladies. Everyone was talking animatedly, of which he could make out only a few words.

“….engaged…”

“…I’m so happy for you.”

Not paying much attention, he headed towards his cabin. Stella followed him. Before he entered, she called out-“Evan?”

He turned back and replied monotonously, “Good morning, Stella. You look tired.”

Stella fiddled with her fingers. A moment later, she spoke, “Actually, Evan, I lied to you last night. I was with Adrian. He just proposed me yesterday. I could not leave him, it would have spoiled everything. You know how much I love him.”

“Congratulations, Stella. I am really glad for both of you,” he said and entered his cabin. Stella was rejoined by her gang of girls.

In a city like this, his boss had said, the only way to survive is to strive. Evan dutifully returned to his job, the place where he really belonged.

Failure is a Friend

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Fingers set on the alphabets of the keyboard; the screen glaring back with a blank page. A definite invitation to write. Some thoughts dispersed in the corners of the mind were deftly collected, then framed into sentences, very creatively.  And word by word, enthusiastically, the page was adorned with lines of a lovely legend. The writer paused for a moment, browsed the article and frowned. Next moment, the backspace key came into action. The cursor blinked wildly, as wildly as the emotion that had overpowered everything else going on in his mind.

The Fear of failure. Afraid that the piece will not make the mark.

He leaned back on his chair and gulped down water. Sitting dejected, he wondered if he will ever accomplish what he had set out to do. He looked at the blank screen again, swivelled his chair, crossed his fingers and closed his eyes. He started to search his mind for various things he could write upon. Possible topics that would make his book an instant hit. Stardom? Not good. Vampires? The market is overflowing with vampire tales. Self-Help? It’s you who need it right now. Frustrated, he gave up on thinking as well, and sat staring at the ceiling.

Are you so scared that you will give up trying? Said a voice in his mind.
No, I am not giving up on trying, the writer justified, I am just looking for something….

…That would please everyone? And then, you would write things that others like. After a while, even your life will be defined by others. The voice completed, brusquely.
It’s not like that, he argued back. I just want to write something good.

And what is good? Asked the voice.
Anything well written, and has a decent story, and is liked by many, he replied, unsure.

Did you notice the “liked” in your sentence? The voice taunted. Why do you want to write something good?
I want my book to be a success, the writer shrugged.

Without even trying? The voice asked back.
No, I am trying, he said, I write every day for at least an hour.

And delete the contents. The voice added. You don’t go forth with it because you are scared that you might fail.
No one wants to fail, said the writer.

But failure isn’t as bad as you think, stated the voice.
I know how bad it is, he admitted. Every time I fail, a part of me loses faith in myself. I want to live up to my expectations.

There was silence for a while. You take it too harsh on yourself, my dear, consoled the voice. The feeling associated with failure is almost psychological. People celebrate success and mourn failures all because of the outcomes. The positive consequences of failure are often neglected. Failure is seen as a devil come to ruin your lives, but in reality it is a harsh and wise teacher. Harsh, because of its ways and wise because it is going to teach you things that you’ll remember for life.
The writer nodded, pensively.

Failure is a guide to your success, continued the voice.  By making you confront your own follies; failure crafts a surer path, and slowly eliminates the diversions. It equips you well with the knowledge that you would need to reach where you want to be. And thus, every failure is a cause to be grateful, for you’ve learned things that you might never know otherwise. And those things are important.
Therefore, you must keep trying. Even if you fail, that tiny “try” would take you a milestone nearer to your goal.
True, he said, very true.

Great people you revere today weren’t always successful. The difference was that they embraced their failures heartily, learned from it, and continued on to their paths to success. They are great, because they made use of their learnings, and learnt a lot.
“Why didn’t I think about this?”, he said out loud, smiling at his own folly.

But you are thinking, my dear, replied the voice. Yes I am, he thought. He swivelled back the chair, set his fingers on the keyboard again. As his fingers typed out all that was in his mind again, he promised himself that he would learn from his mistakes. There was beauty even in failing.

Of Books and Cooks

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I was reading A Clash of Kings (a commendable book I must say!), when this strange analogy struck my mind. How much this would suit your opinion, I cannot say, but I found it really apt. In a way, well, everything shares a common streak with everything else, if you look at it from the right angle. This one, though, was a little extraordinary. It bluntly pointed out the mistakes that we budding writers commit!

A book is quite like a recipe. The characters function as the major ingredients—veggies, let’s say, the things we can see from the very beginning; and most of it is identified when we open the dish (the book). The lesser-featured characters are also seen, a little later though, as we stir the dish. The plot is the minor ingredient—or the spices, which we realize about through our course of reading. How these two (the veggies and the spices) have been cooked completely depends on the writing style of the author.

Millions out there dream making a recipe that will one day be the most coveted one. Think day and night about a marvelous plot, brilliant characters, and plan to write it. Which remains a plan for a long while. Spotted: Flaw # 1. The recipe that you were talking about, have you ever tried cooking it? Listing down the procedure and cooking it are two very different things. Only after cooking will one see the overlying flaws. You need to write it down, not just plan. Write it down to the end. And once you get it done, you’ve many chances to re-do it, to make the appropriate changes. This time, you will be heading in a specific direction.

If you do not know much about cooking, then how do you plan to do it? Spotted: Flaw # 2. Knowledge of a field is of prime importance when you are going to do something new in that field. If you are not well-versed in the styles, how would you get about the variations? The recipe that you are trying, someone might have done it before. Despite all those hours you put in, you may not be credited for your own genuine work. So therefore, read. Read all the time that you are not writing. You will not only learn about new styles or plots, it is quite likely that you might get an idea. One that has a potential of #1 bestseller.

The book is brewed, the lines well set. But before it can hit the bookstores, a gourmet must give in his approval. The publisher, tired and frustrated, is not very impressed by your work. And there goes your rejection letter, which has you so dejected that you stop believing in the publishing industry. Spotted: Flaw # 3. Taste is a very subjective matter. The gourmet, in this case, is looking for specific things in your dish (just like the one in Ratatouille 🙂 ). So your job is to be optimistic and find the publisher who is looking for you kind of work. Well, you may make some alterations to your work, but this is a minor task. The major task is to keep trying.

Still Thinking? Don’t! Boil down the characters, flavor it with your perfect plot–baste, stew, fry or bake– then garnish it with the right ending. And your book is ready to be served!

The Timekeeper: Prologue

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The clangor of the bell tower echoed throughout the ancient city, stirring a heavy chaos in the afternoon quiet; the racket of the disturbed birds deepening it further. Amidst the ugly clamour, the timekeeper observed the city calmly. His features contorted into seemingly grave expressions, yet as he stood at the edge of the arched corridor, that connected the two stone towers on the fifth floor, he was relishing the commencement of the time. His Time, as was promised. Smiling to himself, he slowly moved his hands to his cloak pockets and brought out a golden stopwatch. The stopwatch that would make him the owner of death.

It was a pretty little thing to see, glinting even as the sky had turned red; the glamour of this antiquity deftly disguising the monster it possessed. The timekeeper admired it for a while, then shut it hastily, pulled up his hood, and stormed off in the direction of the farther tower.

He warily climbed down the stone steps, keeping close to the wall. Whether it was his mysterious appearance or daunting demeanour, he couldn’t tell, but it did ward off prying strangers. He entered a narrow alley through a back door, and then turned right, into a crowded bazaar. The business was at peak; the liveliness was a stark irony to the indolent city he was watching few moments ago.  Looking above the heads of people, the timekeeper located his overly conspicuous destination, and then paced slowly towards it, his eyes set down all the while.

Two well-dressed  men guarded the large wooden green doors. On seeing him approach, they straightened, and asked in their hoarse voice, “And what is your business here, mister?”

He took out a paper and held it out to them. “I go by the name of Jacobs. I was invited here personally by Mr. Caylos,” he said brusquely. The guards handed back the paper immediately and bowed, “It is a pleasure to see you here Mr. Jacobs. Mr. Caylos inquired about you few moments ago. Please come in.” The guards pushed the door open.

The atmosphere inside was heavy with music and smoke. The timekeeper waved his hands in the air, trying to unclog vision; and spotted Caylos sitting at the centre table. A lean figure, Caylos sat there crowded by uninterested people, guffawing at his own jokes while he gulped down the liquor. The ever drunken fool, the timekeeper said to himself, I almost pity him sometimes. He walked towards Caylos, and asked in an innocent manner, “Mr. Caylos?”

Caylos turned to face the caller, bewildered. “I am Jacobs,” the timekeeper replied instantly.

On hearing the name, Caylos’s expressions relaxed, and he exclaimed, “Come in, come in, Jacobs. You’re well in time. The party has just started. I was beginning to fear–”

The timekeeper interrupted him abruptly, “Mr.Caylos, if we could have a word in private?”

Caylos blinked at him stupidly. “Private?” he repeated, “Why should we talk in private? It is a party, you idiot. Didn’t anyone tell you that?” Saying that, Caylos broke into peels of forced laughter and took another hearty swig from his glass.

The timekeeper did not look amused. He stood there; watching as Caylos retched, choked on his own wine, and waited patiently for the drama to die down. Caylos took control of himself, went to the table, and picked two full glasses. “Now, now, let us rejoice and celebrate before we get into the business of doing it,” Caylos thrust one glass in the timekeeper’s hands, clanking it loudly with his own in an attempt to toast.

The timekeeper was losing his patience. He gripped Caylos’s arm and muttered, “The business deal can only take place in private. You understand that, don’t you?” Caylos continued to sway and drink. I’ve never seen a worse pig, thought the timekeeper. His anger had begun to reach dangerous levels now; and though he tried to keep calm, the glass shattered in his hands.

A perturbing silence spread around at once. Everybody now had their eyes on the timekeeper, as they flinched back from him. Caylos seemed to have noticed that, as he put down his glass and eyed him suspiciously. Trying to pacify him, Caylos put his hand of the timekeeper’s shoulder and said in the most amiable manner, “You take things too seriously, for a young man like you, Jacobs. Come; let us finish our deal first. I will not annoy you any further.” Saying that he refilled his glass, and said to the others, “Please don’t mind our little altercation. That does happen with this,” he tapped his glass.

Caylos turned to go to the room in the right corner, sipping continually from his glass. Leading to your own death, the timekeeper thought as he followed him into the room.

“Be seated comfortably,” said Caylos, as he spread his body lethargically across the two-seater. The timekeeper moved to the opposite seat and began to loosen the clasp of his cloak.

“Carltos briefed me about the offer, which I must say, is alluring. You definitely have a mind for business. He also told me that you–” Caylos stopped speaking midway, as the timekeeper pulled down his hood.

“You?”, Caylos whimpered, paralysed by fear. He started to crawl back into the corner.

The timekeeper smiled. “Yes, it is me. Are you surprised, my dear Caylos?”

“But…but…Carltos should have…He is one of the most loyal men in my service. He didn’t warn me that you were coming. He didn’t even mention you,” Caylos uttered, his words a blurry.

“He wasn’t supposed to Caylos. You see, he was acting under orders,” said the timekeeper, with a satisfied grin.

The line vaguely reminded Caylos of something. Something dreadful in the past, though it had completely transformed his life. “I didn’t have a choice. And you were just a boy back then. What would you know of my situation?” Caylos tried to reason.

The timekeeper studied him for a while. “You know, you’re right Caylos, I wouldn’t,” he replied, lazily toying with his golden stopwatch, “And I don’t intend to.” Saying that he snapped shut his stopwatch, and moved to where Caylos was cowering.

“Please! Please! Have mercy. I employed you, I gave you shelter in times of strife–”

“And threw me out when my true identity was revealed. Then stripped me of all prestige. Have you forgotten that, Caylos?” the timekeeper completed. The watch now dangled in the air from his left hand, oscillating in front of Caylos’s eyes.

“My men, they’ll kill you, when they know you’re here. I just need to call them,” said Caylos, mustering all the courage he had. The thought gave him certain hope.

“Really, Caylos? And who will come to your rescue?” the timekeeper said, grimly. Caylos looked outside, and his eyes grew wide. People stood rooted to their places, their conversation stopped mid air. Dishes stood lop-sided, so did the glasses. It was as if….the time had frozen.

Caylos confronted the truth, terrified of his looming end. “Not my life…please. Please. Anything in return…what do you want?” he pleaded, sobbing hysterically.

“Your time. Your remaining time,” replied the timekeeper, inching closer.

“But I–”.  Caylos’s statement was punctuated by a brief click. His limp body stumbled on to the floor, a trickle of blood flowing from an invisible wound.