Saturday, December 16, 2006


"Heaven lies about us in our infancy"
William Wordsworth

I am in my library. A small room, a throw - away from the living quarters.

When I am here I'm left alone. The two hands that scramble my serenity are banished from here. The clock that turns my head and neck every now and then and the telephone that jerks me out of my happy reverie.

This is the inner sanctum wherein I accost my other self, the small voice within that carries a big stick. This is where I conduct a frank dialogue with him. This is where my hopes abandoned, dreams deferred, my fears, my follies, my foibles, griefs, humiliations, the teeming recollections of past days, weeks, even years are laid bare. My thoughts often flash back to Howard Roark's brilliant defence in Ayn Rand's " Fountainhead "

Hold it. Hold it .You sound very erudite. Tell me all about it.

" The primary act - the process of reason - must be performed by each man alone. We can divide a meal among many men. We cannot digest it in a collective stomach. No man can use his lungs to breathe for another man. No man can use his brain to think for another. All the functions of body and spirit are private. They cannot be shared or transferred."

In fact my good friend, in here, I reflect on every one, any one, anything and everything that the mind can get its arms around.

"Fortunately you don't have a big mind. Anyway you like this place ah?"

Of course I do. You know that. It's like a dream.

"A dream? A dream is the mind playing tricks. What happens here is real."

The trouble with you is you are not responsive to the subtleties of distinction.

"Some times you talk above my head. Please explain."

All that I witness in a dream is personal to me. No one else can ever be privy to it unless I choose to do so. In a dream, time is on freeze. Here I keep time hand-cuffed. Isn't this what takes place here?

"Now I get you."


I am married and we have a daughter two years old. We call her Tiny. Triveni is her given name. From where I am seated I can see lined up against the wall my favorite books. The complete works of you know who, a couple of Dickens, "Rag Time", "The bridges of Madison county", "For whom the bell tolls", "Penn Warren's "All the king's men". Webster within reach and so on. Not many because I lean heavily on the munificence of the public library.

"You stingy bastard."

I pay my taxes and I'm entitled to its rewards.

It's a Saturday afternoon. I would say around two O'clock. The computer has been booted up. There is a file balanced on my lap.

"Why this long face?"

You speaking to me?

"Who else?. You are the only one here."

You don't have to rub it in. I heard you.

"O.K. tell me. I'm all ears like Ross Perot."

I am thirty one years old. I am head of my department. I have twelve people reporting to me and I, directly to the C.E.O. Some of those in my department are older than my dad. So what? If you don't like it beat it man. I must get on the board before I hit thirty five and I am going to do whatever it takes to get there.

"I've heard all this before." "A few more questions"

"Does your staff like you?"

Kind of neutral. They won't fall on the sword for me. Neither will they rat on me. I think.

"How about your C.E.O.? Does he like you?"

You're asking a lot of questions today aren't you?

"I'm on a listening tour like Hillary and Bush"

I think the C.E.O. recognizes my loyalty, my meeting dead lines, dependability, punctuality bordering on punctilious. The usual tribal marks of an eager corporate executive. One who aspires to the top of the totem pole.

"You mean food chain?"

What ever.

"So why this long face?'

You dumb ass. You oaf. This is what happened. Murphy's Law took me by the collar and shook me all day.

"You look it. You look like Murphy's identical twin. Go on"

Yesterday I woke up in shock. It was seven A.M. My usual time is by the alarm, five. I had an important meeting with the heads of departments chaired by the C.E.O. at nine. On a good day it takes me a forty five minute drive to the office. I had an hour and a quarter to get the wheels rolling along Merritt Parkway.

Yeah. After a flash shave and shower grabbing tie and jacket I was at the car at ten past eight. Not bad eh? Christ.

"Don't swear."

Shut up and listen. The left front tire was flat. Installed the donut soiling the cuffs of my starched white shirt. I enter Merritt twenty five past eight. Christ.

"Here you go again swearing..taking the Lord's name in vain"

For Christ's sake shut up.

"What now? Go on".

The cars were nose - to - butt, nose- to - butt like dogs on heat in the summer.

"Man.. could you not have used a more kosher analogy ah?"

Kosher or Hallal you got the picture didn't you. You know something. I'm going to ignore you or order you out. Buzz off.

"Fat hope. I'll always be with you. I reside in your skin. I'll pinch and poke you like you do to fruits in the super market. I'll not slavishly follow you like Ruth - "Your people shall be my people, Your God.. My God blah..blah..." On the contrary I'll challenge you to do better; I'll chastise you when you err as I did when at your staff meeting you were condescending and humiliated Joe. I shall congratulate you and make you feel good when ever you do the right thing. As for instance when you fought tooth and nail like a Gurkha for Emma's promotion and substantial pay rise."

You mean like Mister Jeeves and Bertie Wooster; Doctor Watson and Sherlock Holmes?"

"I think I do a better job. They are ephemeral, I have gravitas. They are fiction, I'm real. I'm your D.N.A. Through me you can be tracked and identified. You digress. Get to the point"

Then stop interrupting me.

As I was saying I was on Merritt and I check on the radio. Some fat (I think) hombre has had cardiac arrest and so rubber necks in and out of every car window like you know the annoying cuckoo in the cuckoo clock.

"It looks like cuckoo for you. Go on."

I enter my office at quarter past nine. My assistant comes running to me. "The meeting has started and the C.E.O had been on the 'phone twice" he says. I grab the file and enter the board room. I spot the only chair unoccupied at the far end. Like the cat that drinks milk with eyes closed in the belief, "If I can't see, others can't see me." With a countenance of chin-up confidence I inch sideways sashaying between chairs and wall and take my seat. Oh Krishna. What have I done? I hope you are happy now. No more Christ.

"Christ or Krishna what now?"

I see now you are really curious. You won't believe what I had done.

"Spit it out man. Spit it out." "You're killing me."

I've brought the wrong file. I shuffle out of the board room. Like a back itch I cannot reach I feel the scorn of every one.

"So? Why the long face? These things happen to a lot of people. A comma in a person's career, not a period. Go on"

Wish it were so simple brother. My proposal was blasted to bits.

"By whom?"

By that road side bum Tony who wakes up every morning scheming how to do me in.

"That's really sad. Up to this point you were the victim of accidental circumstances. Quite understandable. A bad presentation? Aha. No way Jose. You have a lot of mopping up to do my friend. How did you feel when the meeting adjourned?."

You really want to know?

"You heard me."

I felt like that Menorah under a giant Christmas tree. "Hello, Hello I am here." But nobody seems to care.

Fifty weeks of toil and tedium. Fifty weeks of routine taking the same route, seeing the same familiar cars ahead of me with the same bumper stickers, "We do not have a democracy we have an auction", "whisky is risky", " My Ex- wife in the trunk" and so on. Fifty weeks of trying to get ahead while protecting my back. Fifty weeks of dead lines, dead ends and dealing with "dead- enders." And all for what? Two weeks of vacation. And then how do you think we spend the vacation?

"You tell me. You are the one who goes on vacations."

Drive to Kennedy, threading through traffic, arriving four hours before departure. Shuffle, shuffle with bursting bags to the ticket counter and heave them bags on the scale. The damsel at the ticket counter eyes me with bored indifference. And then reminded of her in-house training fiat to be nice to customers flashes a fatuous smile. And with the same enthusiasm as a flight attendant explaining the use of the gas mask "rattatats" me with, "Did you leave your bags unattended any time - did you pack your bags- have a pleasant flight." Reminds me of the Super Stop and Shop girl's, " havagooday"

Walk up to security check. Do you know what goes through my mind?
Oscar Wilde.
Oscar Wilde? You mean uranian love. " The love that dares not speak its name."
Is that all you know of Oscar Wilde? You should be ashamed of yourself.
Then what pray?
When at the customs Oscar Wilde was asked whether he had anything to declare, he replied with that signature smirk of his, " I have nothing to declare except my genius." I think of this every time I approach security check.
That my friend is the closest you'll ever get to being a genius.
Thanks. What a buddy you are.

Bare everything except my soul at security check.

You got a soul? I thought long ago you had sold it to mammon.

Shut up.

Sit pretzel like in the air craft for over six hours. Take two steps at a time to baggage claim which has a mind of its own. Elbow fellow travelers to get a vantage point to stare at the capricious carousel which will come up with my bags slower than Shylock a shekel and, before I can say, "Jack Daniel" I'm doing it all over again returning home after living-out of suitcases, fat, flatulent and over stuffed, promising to spend more time at the gym.

"I must say this much for you. You're having a heck of a time."

If you have any suggestions let me have them. If not shove your comments.

Driving home thoughts of office take hold of me. Has any one planted an Improvised Explosive Device ( I.E.D.) in my absence. The extra hours I have to put in to get even with the load of work that must have been, " put it on his desk", piling.

And now I have to do-over this project presentation and have it signed, sealed and scented by Monday. Just not up to it my friend. Just not up to it at all. I feel like what even the cat refused to bring in.

"How would you know what the cat refused to bring would look like if the cat did not bring it in?"

Shut up.

Do you remember Alberto Moravia's, " A Bad Winter"?

"Of course. We read it together."

You remember the protagonist not wishing to marry Clara to whom he was engaged saying, "How on earth can I manage to spend my whole life at close quarters with a woman who is so inert, so frozen, so unfeeling?"

"Alberto Moravia must have had Rosie O' Donald in mind although Rosie is anything but a frozen chick. Any way I do not see the relevance. Go on."

Subtleties. Subtleties. And you say you read the story. Here's the relevance you nit wit. He wails you remember "The violence of my repentance made me want to beat my head against the wall. I'm finished; I've buried myself alive ..I'm dead and under the ground. My life is over" Never again shall I hope to get on the board. This is how I feel right now my friend.

"I'm waiting to see how you come out of this one."

I hear the door open. Face, dress and fingers all covered with chocolate with faltering steps like sudden sun shine on a cloudy day defying all gloomy weather predictions she rushes the three yards and leaps into my lap. In seconds she is gurgling with that innocence to which I supplicate in silence. Totally. Absolutely.

Tiny is now in full control. No laws can apply to her and she knows it. Like the Queen of England she can do no wrong more so when she is with her daddy. And is aware of it. She taps the key board with her chocolate fingers, she dials imaginatively and purrs " hello, hello", scribbles on all blank papers she can get hold of. And, leaving me all "chocoletty" just as she appeared abruptly she wafts away. She is off to her next prank secure in the embrace of parental love.

"You felt good. Didn't you?"

I felt like the boxer who has got a severe walloping, wobbly on his feet, bruised and bloody hearing the end of round time-out bell.

"In boxing parlance they call it, "saved by the bell".

There you go again showing off.

As I watch her I realize although this tiny two year old two footer is in full control of our lives from the time she cries out of bed in the morning to the time she is carried back to bed at night, she is in fact totally dependent on me for what she is to become. I could by assiduous labor turn her into a diva doing good like say Oprah; by selfish neglect a treacherous Delilah or just permit her to drift into becoming just one more mediocrity among the faceless millions everywhere.

Such is the awesome power I have over her life. A power checked only by the painful awareness of the grave consequences of my actions.

The competitive spirit in me like a sacred mantra passed on by my fore fathers, from father to son by word of mouth, spanning generations back and beyond, like mother's milk that run through the veins of every child is awakened and takes hold of me. I'm all fired up.

"Hold it..hold it. What's gotten into you?. You aren't the same person I saw walk in here."

In dire situations like this, my good friend, it has happened before. I'm transformed into a gladiator.

"Why not say bull fighter, a matador..that is more current. Few people have heard of a gladiator"

This is my story. OK ?

My mind becomes a clenched fist like the black power salute. My spine turns to steel. My resolve more Churchillian than Martin Luther K or Mahatma Gandhi.

I pick up the file tossed away by Tiny and dig in. Like the ant which when its nest collapses, immediately with alacrity sets about building another and better I get to work with a passion that takes full possession of me. I vow that my next presentation will wow them all.

And it did.

Vincent Van Goh about his little nephew.

" What amazes me most is that such a little child has so much personality, against which you are utterly powerless. Now and then he looks at me as if he wanted to say, " What are you doing to me ? - I know much more about things than you do." His are the eyes of an adult and then with a lot of expression."

A short story by K.B. Chandra Raj