A Dark Diwali

Posted: 23rd October 2014 by aseem.ace in Thoughts
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diwaliAh Diwali Morning!! The morning where the night holds so much promise that you want time to move fast till darkness dawns on the planet. For the darkness that night is sure to be punctured by rapturous flailing of firecrackers against the immense sky. He had taken the day off. A rarity for him as he was a daily wage laborer and the luxury of a holiday was best reserved for special occasions like this one. Illness or the time between projects was the only other leaves he knew. And leaves were thus unwelcome and unholy for him generally.

The year had been good and he had been mostly employed. His family had shopped the day before and besides bright new clothes for his son, wife and himself he had splurged and bought firecrackers worth 600 Rupees. This was a first for him and he was proud that he could afford this little luxury for the sake of his son. Their beaming faces and those of his neighbors in the impoverished neighborhood, that looked unusually prosperous on this auspicious day, were a sight to behold on this august day. People walked around in their bright and new Diwali clothes. There was a palpable sense of excitement in the air and the children were more boisterous than usual.

There was a wave of joy discernible among most people apart from those who had lost someone and wouldn’t be partaking in the festivities. The joy of the little ones was contagious and by evening they were all in high spirits and bonhomie amongst the neighborhood was at its usual festive high.

The Poojas commenced and then the celebration began. The road was littered with the carcasses of joy givers aka firecrackers of all sorts. The children squealed –half in joy and half in fright as fire reigned over the night. In a show of sound and beauty the night sky was brighter than most mornings. This was a much appreciated spectacle of a facile war against darkness as adulatory faces turned upwards. This was an annual spectacle that was held in more regard than the most beautiful dawn.

He was laughing at his child’s joy and his wife was also looking over adoringly at the 5 year old when it happened. The tyres squelched on the sandy earth as the man made beast mowed down their joy and light leaving them as horror struck witnesses whose joy de vivre was snuffed out within microseconds. The drunk teenage driver of the BMW 3 series panicked and dragged the kid for 20-30 meters before braking to let him fall off. Then he accelerated away from the scene of devastation as the mother dropped to her knees. The father ran and picked up his boy. But the spark of life had left his delicate shell.


His tears and anguished cries tore the shroud of joy from those around and grief dawned on all those who realized what had transpired. This little tableau of horror had to happen on the happiest of nights. This was supposed to be his happiest Diwali yet. Why him? Why today? He asked an unfeeling or non-present God. Randomness had claimed another victim on this most happy of nights. The festivities raged on in the city but this family and their neighborhood was quietened by the cruel hand of fate.

The quiet that clutches the heart tightly and squeezes the joy out of existence. The celebrations they could still hear seemed like a cruel mockery of their fate. But as it was, is and shall be life goes on and every tragedy is brushed under the carpet of tomorrow. For the search for new joy begins anew each day and sooner or later they would have to search again. All the time struggling to forget this most grievous of pains. Such is life.

By-Aseem Mahajan



As he sat alone drinking coffee and holding his book he got distracted and looked out the glass partitioning him off from the dust and grime of everyday life. He observed the cacophony of life from within his circumscribed presence and it all appeared reassuringly chaotic. Uncaring about the spectator but spectacular nevertheless- the utter randomness of everyday existence.

In the company of solitude his mind wandered seeking the story of all that he beheld. The story of that limping guy across the street.  Scavenging and begging for food at times and lost in some thought or the other as he went from one stranger to another.

The vendors hawking their wares silently or beseechingly depending on how well they were doing.

The bikes, scooters, the luxury cars and normal cars that rolled by bearing human beings to some destination or the other: A place, a person, a point in time.

The story of that preening youngster walking by perhaps proud of something he had achieved or just about being young.  His limited exposure to the vicissitudes of life enabling him to be alive in the moment as well as consider some triviality as the fulcrum of his existence. The delusions of the young and the unaffected.

The story of that guy making a filter coffee. Did he enjoy his craft and take pride in the quality of his product. Or was it just a menial chore to him to feed himself and his family and for his child’s education.

The story of the immigrant thousands of miles away from home serving pani puris so that his family could have a good life. Solitude, fidelity/infidelity or the sense of being a martyr for the sake of his family perhaps would dominate his thoughts.


The solitude melted away as he seeped through the looking glass into the countless loves and lives he was observing. He wandered like a spirit piggybacking on other mortal shells and the countless lives lived in the incalculable bubbles that each individual existence is. Experiencing sounds, sights and smells that one’s limited existence doesn’t let one experience.  Assimilating the random events that brought each person to that particular corner of the universe at that particular instant. He smiled, cried and rejoiced in the small joys that make each day worth living. The fleeting connect was like a drug that for a few seconds opened up his mind ,linking it to the invisible thread that ties each life to the core of existence.

To the strangers outside he must appear to be the one in a cocoon. A fly trapped in amber as it were. Gazing out inexorably without joining the flow of life.

He felt a strange wetness on his face. They were perhaps tears. Something he had known once a long time ago. His reverie was broken as an ambulance blazed by. Life and death and the inevitable pull of entropy. Ah such is life he thought. He wandered out in a daze and started walking to whatever destination he sought that day, becoming a spectacle for perhaps another bored spectator such as himself.

By- Aseem Mahajan



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
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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