Saturday, August 26, 2006

Believe It or Not!

I woke up groggily one morning to find myself in a dark, damp hole! “This is definitely not the place where I had slept last night. I didn’t drink too much. I’m not dreaming,” I thought as I pinched myself several times. The place had an awful stench of soggy, rotten vegetables. After a while, I could also discern a fertilizer-like smell. “Was I kidnapped last night and dumped in this weird factory?”

I shook my head in disbelief as I looked behind. There was no bed – I had slept on the ground! I felt nauseated seeing the place around. The ground also looked soggy like the walls. Now, when I looked more carefully, I saw that the room was spherical in shape. Not exactly spherical but it had no sharp edges anywhere – just curves all around with several flap like structures on the sides. Dull light was streaming in from one corner of the room. It was intermittent and there had been several short periods of startling darkness. I could hear faint gurgling sounds like the working of some distant, gigantic machine. I was bewildered and petrified. I was rudely disturbed by a large ball that was slowly rumbling down the window.
“Was I Alice in Wonderland? Was I dead and in hell?”

Confused, scared and hopelessly out of my wits, I saw the ball coming dangerously close. Without knowing where to, I decided to run. I got my second and bigger shock when I ‘saw’ that I had no body!! Mad with confusion, I wanted to kick the wall – but, obviously, I couldn’t! I calmed myself and decided to think about this bizarre situation. In the meanwhile, the giant ball had broken into bits and surrounded me. It was a gooey whitish substance and was sticking and rolling about the wall. I had no body and yet I could ‘see’, ‘hear’, and ‘feel’ that place. I was happy that whatever ghoulish contraption I was in, at least, it wouldn’t hurt my body! I realized that although I could see all around, I couldn’t move.

Then, I heard voices. It was my wife calling out my name.
“Was she also in the same predicament? In another torture chamber like this?”
And then, I heard my voice! I couldn’t be mistaken. I was talking to my wife. I heard myself crunching some chips. Just then, I saw another soggy shape descend through the window. I thought I saw the ridges of potato chips in it. I thought I was hallucinating. An outlandish idea struck me then – “Am I in my stomach? How is that possible? Well, nothing sane had happened since waking up! But, if I am in my stomach, then who is outside? What about my normal consciousness?” My wife had not sounded perturbed while talking to me. I had even heard her kissing me goodbye to office!

I had developed a parallel consciousness of my stomach. Very interesting! But, I didn’t want to continue experiencing the noisome acid filled environment with a window that emitted semi-digested balls. I spent what felt like an interminable stretch of time in my stomach. And, suddenly, I ceased to exist. I switched back to normal consciousness. I was simultaneously relieved, amused, astounded and scared. However, life went on as usual after that, and nobody felt anything amiss.

I remember the life in my stomach just as I knew who I was while I was in there. After that day, there have been a number of days when I have woken up in my stomach. Its familiar territory now – those flapped peristaltic walls! Now, I am convinced that I have two parallel lines of consciousness and I can experience only one of them at a time. I switch involuntarily from one to another. Of course, there are many puzzling, unanswered questions – what happens to the other one while I am experiencing one? How could I experience all that without a body? Are there other levels or types of consciousness? And most confounding of them all, who am I?

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

From the ancient manuscript of grotesque tales

1. A devout couple lived a simple and pious life by the river bank. With the first ray of sunlight, they would begin the day with prayers. A day’s hard work at the fields would end with an evening of sacred chants.
2. Content they were with their lives but for their desire for a child to brighten their daily chores. The man wanted a daughter and the woman yearned for a son.
3. The Gods who listened to their prayers were in a playful mood one day. They granted their wishes and a child was born to them. They were both overjoyed and danced with delight.
4. The pregnant wife’s face was more beautiful than the moon. The happiness of the husband never ceased to show on his face. And nine months later, a boy was born to them.
5. As was the custom, to christen the child and know his future, on the 101st day he was taken to the astrologer who was old, wise and well versed in the arts of astrology, palmistry, face reading and other psychic disciplines.
6. “This child is not normal. It’s a boy below the navel and a girl above. This child will suffer when it grows on account of this. You both are devout and God fearing. I don’t know why this misfortune befell on this innocent one,” said the learned man with a dark seriousness.
7. Stunned to silence, the mother saw her smiling child holding her hand. Her eyes moist with tears, she held him to her bosom and covering him from the astrologer’s wrathful words, ran away to her home.
8. The child was named Krishna. Enchanted by the child’s tantrums, the astrologer’s words faded and flowed away like the waters of the mighty river of Saurashtra and many years passed.

9. Krishna reached adolescence and it was then that the parents remembered the dismal predictions of the seer. Krishna’s voice, face and breasts were that of a beautiful maiden. But, below the navel Krishna was a strong, virile man.
10. The villagers called Krishna a witch for she could sing better than a nightingale and run faster than the cheetah. Villagers avoided her and she became devoid of all friends.
11. Years passed as Krishna and her parents led sad and lonely lives. Krishna helped her father in tilling the land and sang with the birds. And then, her parents died, worried and fearful of Krishna’s future until their last breath.
12. Once a troupe of hermaphrodites came to the village and Krishna left her house to travel with them. Although Krishna was with them she was still lonely and couldn’t find a friend among them. They were boisterous and insensitive while Krishna yearned for nobler company.
13. Krishna earned her living by selling her voice and not her flesh like the others in the troupe. Many men were attracted to her divine face and sweet voice but were horrified to know her secret.
14. Krishna’s first friend was Shyam, a drunkard poet who was ostracized because he was an atheist. Although Krishna was a believer, she liked him because he was a thoughtful and sensitive man.
15. Shyam wrote songs that Krishna sang beautifully. But the people around disliked their happiness like the rain clouds dislike hot lands. They were pushed out of the village and were forced to live with lepers.
16. Shyam fell ill and was bed-ridden. Krishna was again lonely and miserable. Poverty-stricken and desperate, she thought of ending her harrowed life many times. She bore her tribulations only for the sake of Shyam.

17. And then, so was the playful will of the Gods, sorrow and happiness came together. Krishna met a group of women who were kind and loving. Enchanted by her magical voice, they decided to keep her with them as a servant. On the same day, Shyam died.
18. They were women who made love among themselves and avoided the company of men. Each had been shunned by the society because of their deviant desires. Except for Meera who had once loved men but all the men she had known had been deceitful, selfish and violent with her.
19. Meera, strong willed and independent, had decided to leave the world of men like the solitary tigress leaves her mother to find a different family. She was loved and revered in this group and soon assumed the role of the leader.
20. When the group learnt of Krishna’s secret, they were apprehensive of keeping her with them. But, Meera, who had developed a special liking for Krishna, was strongly in favor of her staying with them and her voice prevailed.
21. Krishna was also fond of Meera and soon they were consorts for life. Krishna was the perfect partner for Meera as she was virile in bed and had a woman’s sweet kindness.
22. Krishna led a happy life thereafter and the souls of her parents smiled with satisfaction in the abode of the Gods. Such was the inscrutable playfulness of the Gods.

Disclaimer: This is purely a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person (living or dead) or to any texts (ancient or modern) is co-incidental and unintentional.


Friday, August 18, 2006

Old Man - Part II

In the past few months, I have read many articles about the professor in the newspapers. Naturally, the death of a curious character like the professor cannot skip today's vigilant media attention.
Here are a few excerpts, in chronological order:

“…opinions regarding the relevance of the professor’s works are divided among the mathematical community. Some claim that his works are the result of a truly original thinker and the world has much to gain from the study of his unusual but outstanding contributions. While others think that his seclusion led to his (possibly psychotic) imagination that works of other mathematicians are actually his own creation …”

“…roughly half of the professor’s works have been perused by his colleagues. It has been found that the professor was diligent and neat in recording his findings and all his works are chronologically arranged. His works have touched many fields of mathematics such as…and researchers have found mathematically elegant proofs of many known as well as unknown theorems.”

“…`We have unearthed a potential goldmine`, says Professor K.”

“…Professor S. has now disclosed that he had collaborated with the professor for a number of years and is familiar with some of his works. He also claims that he is a co-author of some of the papers found. When asked why he didn’t announce this earlier, he said that the professor had forbid him to do so, when alive…”

“…in a startling new statement, Professor S. has accused the professor of fabricating the dates of some of his works. He said that the mentally ill professor was in the habit of reading current literature in mathematics and re-writing them as pre-dated entries in his journal. This has now led to doubts about the originality of the professor’s works. However, numerous other original results of the professor make the possibility of such fraud unlikely, say other colleagues of the professor. Is this a case of professional jealousy or an idiosyncrasy of a mentally ill man? Only time can tell…”

“…Professor S. has filed a case of willful plagiarism against the professor supporting his previous claim…the mathematical community has decided not to consider the professor’s works until the case is settled…”

And, many months later –

“…the latest international rankings have placed the department of mathematics at Z. among the top 20 in the world. The meteoric rise in the rankings is due to the fact that in the past few months, the research efforts of a number of mathematicians in the department have borne fruit yielding a surge of groundbreaking new results…”