Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Story of Krishna - Part I

People intrigue and fascinate me. My conviction is that everybody is essentially trying hard to live a life as best as they can, and therefore along the way, they acquire traits and habits, some that are viewed as positive/good and some that are viewed as negative/bad. But there are always reasons for those “good” and “bad” traits. And I’m drawn to those reasons and the ways in which people mutate or evolve because of them. For a while now, my mind has been jostling with caricatures of interesting personality types, because I can now begin to see overarching commonalities and patterns across categories of people who go through similar experiences. As a creative writing exercise, I'm attempting to write descriptions and stories of these characters. These characters are a mixture of fact and fiction, not representing any one particular individual, but a persona of characters. Any direct allusion to any living individual is purely coincidental, but since the stories are born from reality, they will probably remind us of someone in our lives. This exercise is to mainly to let out some of my thoughts and to truly understand what it takes to write a story and develop a fictional character rooting from reality.

More than a year ago, I started this exercise/experiment and have been slowly writing once every few months, whenever inspiration strikes. And then I forgot about it until I was clearing out a folder today, and saw this untitled document. One of my kind and generous friends keeps insisting that I write a book someday. I tell him that I have a long, long way to go and I’m nowhere close. But he is consistently encouraging and reminds me that I have to start somewhere, and be ready to make mistakes. So, I am sharing this little tidbit, bravely. Thanks to you, Karthik!

My exercise is to focus and write on just one character’s journey through life. It’s not a story, just a character sketch, that is seemingly long and endless, now that I have begun writing. Yes, there is redundancy and need for editing, so please feel free to give me feedback for improvement!
The Story of Krishna 
(Inspired from Flowers for Algernon, a deeply touching book that makes me cry just thinking about it. And inspired from parent-child relationships I have seen over the years)

Krishna was born on a sweltering summer’s day.  At his moment of arrival, his grandmother had received him with more relief than any other emotion akin to joy, because she had been panicking if her daughter could make it through much more of her labor. When the old woman's thoughts were wrung with anxiety on whether to call the neighbors for help, and if her daughter could endure a ride on a bullock cart to the only hospital situated at the outskirts of their village, Krishna had miraculously made an entrance. The old woman first checked on her gasping, but alive daughter, and then fixed her gaze on the small infant in her hands. It was a boy, and for this the old woman fervently thanked Lord Krishna. Her daughter had delivered her first born child, that too a son! Oh how much more relief could she bear. It was only when the old woman hobbled to her feet to show the child to her daughter did she realize how quiet the child was. Her panic came rushing back, coursing through her body and pounding on her feeble heart. She swayed in a black haze of dizzying shock. She careened unsteadily with the child and cried, “Why is he not crying?!” Although she had given birth to 7 children in this very room, and had been the midwife to countless women in her village, her emotions as a grandmother holding her divinely still grandson took over and erased every last thought of hers on how to revive the child or do anything. As Krishna’s mom began to wail in alarm, his terrified grandmother shouted her anguish to the maid, hoping she remembered how to help the beautiful child lying in her hands. Just as the maid rushed in to take the child, Krishna let out his first cry. It wasn’t a piercing scream of a child announcing that he was alive and well, but a mellow coo, a gentle whine like that of a little bird. All the women blinked and listened closely, bringing the child close to their ears, and cried with relief and happiness when Krishna continued to breathe and cry softly. And so, the child was named Krishna, for his miraculous survival.

Krishna was a beautiful child. He always wore a beatific smile on his face that made him look even more beautiful and endearing. Although he was a really small child, his features were sharp and alert. While nobody called the child active, his eyes were bright and glowing. They closely followed people and objects, betraying an infectious vivacity and pure goodness of spirit. Krishna’s birth was often talked about in his family. He was good-naturedly called a slow-crawler, because his birth was slow and arduous, his first cry was slow and feeble, and even all his milestones were slow in arriving. He sat up late, crawled late, walked late, and uttered his first word only when he was 3. “Slow” became an adjective that was constantly attached to Krishna.

His father, a stern and domineering man with his own wounds and insecurities, couldn’t stand his son being called “slow”. He treated it as a personal affront. He fumed and raged from within and resolved that he would mold and raise Krishna to be a successful and smart man who was anything but “slow”. He assuaged himself by imagining the pride he would feel when Krishna proves everyone wrong. With this fierce resolution in place, he built a strict and ambitious regimen for Krishna. Everything was planned for the child - from the time he wakes up in the morning to the time he goes to bed - every hour was meticulously and carefully planned so that Krishna didn’t have to waste any minute doing something that would detract him from his goals. And his goal, which was decided for him, was to become an engineer, no less. So, at 5:00 AM every morning, 4 year old Krishna was dragged out of bed despite his mother’s protests, to start his day. His face was splashed with cold water to jolt him from his sleep, a toothbrush was thrust into his mouth, and the child’s morning rituals thus began. He would then sit next to his father and practice his writing and reading. Every time he slumped on his little desk because his weary eyes closed, he would feel the cool slap of the metal ruler on his leg, and he would snap up awake, fearing his father’s anger. Though the fierce discipline in his father’s heart thawed every so often, he reigned in his emotions and tied them up tight. Rationality before emotion, he told himself. Krishna needs to do all this to be successful and happy! He will thank me one day, I am sure. And so, the father, a man of steel, consoled himself every time he faltered, and relied on rationalized justifications whenever Krishna’s mom pleaded with him to relent.

Krishna didn’t mind waking up early, didn’t mind staying indoors and peeping through the the metal grills of his window to watch other children play in the yard, as long as he could get his father to crack a smile at him. The boy longed for his father’s love and tried really hard to win his affection and approval. Every day that passed, his father had nothing more to offer than rattle off a list of attributes that Krishna lacked. It seemed to Krishna that he was just a boy with an endless list of things that were wrong with him. As an innocent 6 year old, Krishna repeated the list over and over in his mind, and thought of going to one of those factories that his father keeps talking about, and asking one of the smart engineers there to replace his brain so that he could be as smart as the engineer himself. That’s what engineers do - his father had told him. They build things and make them move! They fix things that are not working, and they replace parts of a machine to make it work better! Don’t you want to do all those things?! Krishna couldn’t find it within him to nod, because he was completely awestruck with what engineers could do! It’s like being God! And how could he ever become a God?! Maybe the engineers knew, he thought to himself. So, the first step was to meet one and place a request to replace his brain or fix it, because he knew it wasn’t working properly, and it was upsetting his father.

But he needed money to fix his brain. Krishna knew that much. His father reminded him of the value of money every day, especially on those days when he playfully squirted a little too much toothpaste or accidentally spilled some of his milk.

But where could he get the money?

To be Continued… 
I don't know when I will finish part 2, but hopefully sometime within the end of this year!

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Standing Together

There are not many successful people in Hollywood that have intelligence accompanying their talent. Lupita Nyong'o is one of those rare people that is breathtakingly sophisticated, intelligent, and articulate with an old-world elegance and grace. Her every speech emphasizes how refined and truly beautiful she is.

Her speech on beauty has become quite popular on social media. And I wanted to record some of the beauty of her words here, especially since today is Women's Day. 

Her speech rings true to many women around the globe. Women in India still obsess over whitening their skin; attributing beauty, reducing and crushing it to just one ideal - white, pale skin.

It disappoints me that no matter what one's education, their professional ascent, the size of their house, their modernity in external appearances, their mind is still closed on this matter. Education surely helps one unlock the many doors and windows within one's mind, but not everyone chooses to do so. Such people, women being the majority of that group, still pass cruel judgments even on new-born babies and the color of their skin. 

In a country where there are still shameful commercials for skin-whitening creams that imply that a woman's skin color can crucially determine her future career, and her prospects for a decent husband and a happy life, there are millions of young girls and women that focus their thoughts and energy on a ridiculously silly endeavor towards external "beauty". And what is the ugly truth? It is us women, more often that not, that continue to perpetuate this nasty stereotype. 
The mother that rejects a woman for her son because she is not fair-skinned.
The grandmother that is disappointed in her grandchild for not being fair-skinned.
The woman on TV telling you to buy skin-lightening creams to look like her.
The fashionista that tells you not to wear certain colors of clothing because it will not suit your complexion.
The clique of mean girls in school that bully and taunt you because of your complexion.

The list goes on. Women sometimes bring down other women. Down to a deep, deep, dark place of no return. One of the first things we need to do as women is to always stand together and support one another. From matters of education, dowry, abuse, to the several other social prejudices unfairly bedeviling our women, we, as women, really need to stop perpetuating the destructive cycle.

In this particular case, change truly comes from within, and starts with every individual accepting themselves for who they are, and investing their efforts and energy into worthwhile things of substance.