He smiled reading the old messages as his old bones creaked with every movement. He stoked the fireplace to ignite the embers into a greater frenzy, for the warmth that went through him reading these old messages wasn’t enough anymore for keeping the chill from affecting him. Plus losing her had made him a morose man. He lived on but the days were tides of nostalgia about the life they had shared. That first meeting, those letters and poems written in the throes of passion, the day he held her hand for the first time. Tremulous beginnings and amorous adventures. Twinkling eyes lost in reveling in each other. The stars and the universe but a backdrop and other people bit actors in the play of their life.

He could still remember her smiles as they aged together. How it evolved yet retained its honesty and warmth. The way she was bold even in the first meetings and shy even after eons of being together. The inherent contradictions, the little fights and differences of opinion all pushed him inexorably closer to her despite logic urging the stream of emotions to move in an opposite direction.

Their affection cemented by the troughs they faced together. Their joys multiplied by the blissful moments they shared. Their fights ending in tears of joy. They disrupted the stream of logic and defied the boundaries their situation tried to impose and in each other discovered the true strength of the human soul.

The day she died he had died inside but she had still insisted that he carry on the best he could and to that cruel promise too he had acquiesced. He had lived on as a shell of a man for decades now. Driven to despair by the parting and holding on to his rationality with videos, letters and memories of her.


What use was existence when the joy was gone he wondered. He had been a cynic and grappled with existential dilemmas once to the point of becoming seriously depressed. And then she had waltzed into his life. With her own story of travails and triumphs fluttering behind her like prayer flags on the mountains he so loved. She had displaced his priorities. Made him work on what foibles he had through gentle nudges. They had set each other free through the bond that they had forged. One link and one joy at a time, a bond that set their spirits on fire burning away whatever ghosts haunted them.

How accurately he recalled that first meeting. The day they said the three sacred words and really meant them. That first kiss. The words which over time seemed not enough to express how strongly they felt about each other. Their love bloomed like a timid and fragile rose on a desert landscape and yet hardy enough to survive the harsh winds and obstacles that life put in their path.

They built each other up when the world seemed intent on tearing them down. They could just spend hours in comfortable silence, 2 hearts beating as one and at peace for just having the other near. Dreams fulfilled gave them joy and dreams unfulfilled drove them on. Relentless yet calm amidst the storm of their ambitions because they kept each other grounded while urging each other on.


Ah well, the past was getting hazier and he just stared into the fire. What a cruel fate it was to have given him more than a glimpse of heaven and then keeping him chained in a declining physical shell while she had moved on to nothingness or whatever afterlife actually holds.

He gathered up all his strength and wiped away that cheeky tear which often rustled out unnoticed and unsolicited. The living had to get on with their routines however unwilling they may be. For a promise to her he would do anything. Even if it meant living when all he wanted to do was curl up into a ball and die.

He was terribly lonely. The mind can be a terribly lonely place at times. He smiled, he talked and he seemed normal and happy on the outside as he met his kids and friends, but there was a terrible sadness inside him. Gnawing him up and spitting him out each day to forcibly pretend that he was alive again.

He read the quote she had stuck on the refrigerator on the last days they had been together.

“The world is not respectable; it is mortal, tormented, confused, deluded forever; but it is shot through with beauty, with love, with glints of courage and laughter; and in these, the spirit blooms timidly, and struggles to the light amid the thorns.”
― George Santayana

He lived on, or at least pretended to be alive for Her sake.


By – Aseem Mahajan


His War

Posted: 17th September 2014 by aseem.ace in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

He smiled as the first shot hit him in the shoulder, the pain radiating out from his shoulder like ripples from a pebble in the stream.  Spreading out much like the blood splotches spreading over his shirt, just faster. The second took his ear off and he was sad as he wouldn’t be appreciating good music fully anytime soon. The third took him off his feet, his legs crumpling as the left knee was shattered by the large bore bullet. He fell now, laughing hysterically. He wasn’t hit any more after that.

He lay there smiling and thinking what a fitting way to leave the world. A senseless war with human beings as pawns, much like the senseless universe with humanity as important as a single ant in a whimsical child’s ant farm. Somewhere somebody must have argued about some triviality, posturing and diplomacy would have been attempted or staged for the world to see.

Then children or men driven by either zeal or poverty  into the line of fire;  fed into the war machine and coming out broken and twisted. Sometimes just physically, often mentally. Dying like flies and leaving behind memories and weeping families. All for a barren piece of land and some nationalistic or jingoistic ego. Armchair warriors and political opportunists safe behind their thick walls pouting theories and strategies. Expressing unfelt anguish or rejoicing in an unearned triumph.

Before his last breathe he relapsed into sadness, a futile life lost as it was lived, for nothing. Not so much living was involved in his life, rather he had inhabited an undeserved niche in space time, just a smudge of matter occupying space. Perhaps soon to be converted to other forms of more useful matter.

In the linear flow of time a static point blinking out as time passed by and left it by the wayside. At last he laughed, nee wheezed at the cosmic joke his life was. Which perhaps all life was he thought, for he discovered the meaning of it all as so many do right at the end….  It meant Nothing .

By- Aseem Mahajan


Happy Tourist


The road calls to me like a siren from a lonely moor,

Come on home it says and abandon your artificial constructs and exit through that ever revolving door,

I answer back, soon my love, An epic journey awaits around the corner, I am coming soon,

To bask in thy glory and revel in whatever memories you let me forge through your ever so gracious boon,

Life is happening around me and although I crave but the time we spend together,

To enjoy those special moments I have to also face the rough weather,

Little bursts of joy and Sorrow around me draw me into the morrow from the abyss of today,

As to break my shackles and be with you I keep trying to find a way,

I am coming back to you my paramour for in your arms lies true bliss,

Seeking to rekindle that touch of madness sparked by your first kiss,

Ah but to give in to my wanderlust with abandon and forget about what the world says,

Between moments of practical sanity and whimsical insanity my head sways,

I smile a wistful smile counting days to the journey to begin once again,

The interim in between seems like a forced interval causing naught but pain,

What a beautiful day is soon to dawn as I abandon my cubicle for a few days of sunshine and rain,

I whisper sweet nothings to the unexplored vistas and hang up my boots for the day thinking about the morrow’s gain,

I sit smiling about milestones to come and the Roads sigh awaiting my eager footsteps upon their tarmac pristine yet dotted with blemishes,

I am coming it knows and the union would be a happy one for our hearts are hungry  as time apart from one’s true longing lovers famishes,

I am coming my grand adventure, Just hold on for a while longer and I will be there,

Treading miles and sharing smiles as I take another happy step while taking in the immaculate air


By- Aseem Mahajan


“Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It’s the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all. How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?”- Guy de Maupassant

confused homer

In a wonderfully diverse country like India there are so many opportunities to have conversations where both parties barely understand and still feel some semblance of good will towards the other for the words exchanged. Where you feel enriched by sentences you do not understand.

To have a genuine befuddling yet elevating exchange you have to be willing to laugh at yourself and make an effort to talk when you have nothing to say that the other person can possibly understand.

One of my routines after office is to go to a Café coffee day outlet where the cleaning lady started talking to me one day and I started answering back to barely understood sentences with my broken Tamil and forced smiles. But soon the smiles weren’t forced.

I go there routinely and we exchange some pleasantries with me making some effort in my broken Tamil and pretending to understand what she says. When I turn up after a long day and she makes some reference to time I smile and tell yeah that’s the deal with the job. I don’t know whether she understands but she smiles understandingly.

Then there are those conversations with auto drivers in  Chennai where I nod along to barely understood sentences and many times feel like an idiot when  I don’t know that with what passionately expressed opinion  I am agreeing to exactly. Sometimes it’s just small talk but not understanding the language makes me feel  idiotic but I nod along trying to make the appropriate sounds for agreement or sympathy based on whatever little context I can understand.

On train journeys, buses or any mode of transportation for that matter engaging in conversation with strangers you won’t see again is a high in itself, but when language barrier makes essential a greater effort along with lending the exchange a touch of humour and awkwardness, it’s just an ounce more memorable.

smiling stranger

Each time such a conversation ends in a genuine exchange of smiles and a fleeting gratefulness at the parting moment, it’s more than worth it. Humanity shines through in such conversations because the words don’t matter. Its empathy and the shared human condition that just enables you to have an ephemeral connection and a genuine conversation.

Here’s to having many more such barely understood conversations, mostly unintelligible yet clearer for the lack of words.


By- Aseem Mahajan



The silence was deafening. The oppressive freedom and the desired bondage were equally attainable. The clock ticked to signify passage of time or perhaps at its whim, it was easy to determine which and everyone tried to not figure out what it was about but couldn’t remember what they were trying for in the last place.

The weather was sunny and rainy making the day a bright overcast one. The cloud cover was thin and the smell of dry earth preceding the rain was making him remember what it was to experience Petrichor, the despoiler of the sweet smell of the last moment before the rains. He decided to remain dry and went out in the rain. The deluge left him dry and giddy with sorrow.

Something was broken or something had been fixed. But he was not alright or perhaps he was alright again. The world was not so confusing and the meaning of life was clear as the sky on a rainy night. He could define what was wrong and do something about it. And he did do something or nothing about it. The world was chaos and order. The fires were cold and the ice was scathingly hot. Everything was alright and nothing was fine with the world.


This was heaven and hell, this was life and death, and this was nothing and everything. What was this again? He knew and did not know. He could fly and swim and he could fall and drown.

He tasted the air through his skin and touched the world with his eyes. Then the lights faded and turned bright. There was nothing left and everything was still remaining.

This was Life and this was death. Nobody dead or alive could figure out which.


By – Aseem Mahajan



He thought he was the hero of the story but it was a story without a hero, a villain or an anti-hero. It was a play with multiple bit roles and no main cast. It was as abject or as grandiose a tale as there are perspectives in the universe.

There were trials and tribulations, romance, heartbreak, tears and laughs, death and birth, loss and gain, betrayal and loyalty; an experience of every type of emotion whether words were ascribed to describe it or not. It was a random assortment of events, ruled some by happenstance and some by efforts and decisions.

He had touched highs he could scarcely remember, which seemed like dreams he had somehow invaded and which he could only re-enter through the miasma of scrambled time and half-forgotten memories. There were lows when he had to scrape his broken self from the ground to get through the day. There had been those butterflies in the pit of his stomach- first love, second love and some random instances inspired by some face in the crowd. He thought he was born for an epic romance, some great success and perhaps even fame and his fair share of glory, but things had a way of bringing him back to reality. And not gently at most times, his imaginary castles had crashed and burned more often than not; and even when they had lasted they had crumbled with the passage of time and ultimately turned into ashes he had swallowed and kept down for the sake of maintaining the farce of propriety and adhering to some imagined honour code. Every time that happened, he kept to these codes for a while and then wisps of doubts pervaded his consciousness; and some reminder of his mortality and fragility made him believe that perhaps it was time for the next try at doing something else.



He commiserated with himself saying fame was but a worthless pursuit for today’s fame fades by the morrow and if not by then ; perhaps it may last for weeks, months or years but entropy affects glory and ignominy as much as an anonymous existence. Nothing remains in the end except naught.

Only one thing was constant and that was impermanence and confusion. He felt decisive at times but eventually realized that those were fleeting moments of self-delusion and he was back at the crossroads again and again. The crossroads felt like home finally. So he travelled to many places; always seeking he knew not what. Sometimes he wondered whether not belonging to a place was the only thing he subconsciously desired. For putting down roots always tended to hurt him or bore him sooner or later.

Not belonging, that was a fine way to be. No heartbreaks when there are no cues for love, romantic or platonic. Tasting morsels from the platter of existence and not gorging at the buffet of a defined life was the thing for him, he decided. He surrendered himself to being a nomad who reveled in uprooting himself and discovering himself and the world anew. He was not likely to drown in the cesspool of existence if he was a man with no depth and did not aspire to attain it. He was content to be a surface dweller in others’ existence; in the morasses of morality; in events important and insignificant; and as he eventually realized pretty much everything. For every human he met was a mess of contradictions. There was seldom any definitive truth about anybody. It was a journey of discovering truths or what felt like truths at the time within and without; and yet not knowing anything conclusively; he was always on, to his dying breath. It was beautiful, yet pitiably scarred. There was the tantalizing promise of some ultimate destination dangled in front of him, mostly by his vanity, ambition and desires. But the destination was a mirage and harsh or not the journey was the reality.


Perfectly imperfect was the only way this voyage could be almost accurately described. For it was a life like any other. Uniquely common and similarly different to what millions were going through, have gone through or will go through at some time or the other. The conformity to a type was an irritant to him but we have so many types of existence if we seek to qualify them as so. Although subtle variations may exist within these types but there’s a similar human existence somewhere else. Uniqueness is a hoax. We humans and our lives are remarkably unremarkable.

Life and its’ messy undertones clung to him till nothingness brought the blessed cloak of oblivion. So he began; he experienced the exquisite and excruciating events that mark any life, some lives more so than others, or so it seems to our circumscribed perspectives; and eventually he became extinct. As his consciousness dispersed into the corridors of the infinite multiverse his last thought was – Ah! I lived an exceptional life, perhaps just like yours and everybody else’s.

By- Aseem Mahajan



When you think about the etymology of words don’t you wonder how words for emotions and more complex phenomenon evolved?

I often wonder who coined the term ‘Happy’ or its predecessors in various languages. I would have loved to have been present there to experience the indefinable joy of knowing what to call that warm fuzzy feeling in the pit of one’s stomach.

Sadness, perhaps simply definable as the absence of happiness, but oh so much more. Every emotion such a complex phenomenon that to label it with a word somehow lessens it.




Love, or any of its variants, how undefinable is that? There are thousands and thousands of definitions out there but I would like to describe my own knowledge of non-platonic love, based on my experience or lack thereof. I love her, but who is she and why exactly do I love her? She is the object of my desire, the one I truly love. But where is she? There she is!!  A semiconscious dream hidden in the alleys of my mind. She escapes my notice time and again and the hollowness I feel because of that non-attributable pain somehow stays with me. But I know not who she is or will be or whether she would ever exist. Perhaps she would remain a figment of my imagination or somehow manifest to assuage my unnamed quest.

undefined love

Words string together a sentence undefinable yet remotely recognizable to each. The meaning may vary with the individual perspective but what a magical thing language is, a fountain of knowledge and expression contained in perhaps the most important invention of mankind. To the caveman who scratched on the wall for the first time and the maker of the first Hieroglyph I salute you and envy you. May our words multiply and heal the deepest of wounds and assuage the most restless of souls. This is my homage to language and words therein; our succour , our tormentor and our saviour but most of all what enables us to define everything and nothing.old languageTo conclude: More than anything I could write, this excerpt from the movie ‘Waking Life’ sums it up-

“Creation comes out of imperfection. It seems to come out of a striving and a frustration. This is where, I think, language came from. I mean, it came from our desire to transcend our isolation and have some connection with one another. It had to be easy when it was just simple survival. “Water.” We came up with a sound for that. “Sabretooth tiger behind you!” We made a sound for that. But when it gets really interesting, I think is when we use that same system of symbols to communicate all the abstract and intangible things we’re experiencing. What is “frustration”? Or what is “anger” or “love”? When I say “love” the sound comes out of my mouth and hits the other person’s ear travels through the byzantine conduit in their brain through their memories of love or lack of love. They say they understand, but how do I know? Because words are inert. They’re just symbols. They’re dead. You know? And so much of our experience is intangible. So much of what we perceive cannot be expressed. It’s unspeakable. And yet, you know, when we communicate with one another and we feel we have connected and think we’re understood I think we have a feeling of almost spiritual communion. And that feeling may be transient, but I think it’s what we live for.”

By- Aseem Mahajan