A Rechargeable Torch

He was sitting on the side of the road munching on a pack of biscuits.

It was a packet of Thin Arrowroot, the one that Nebico still puts out on the market for sick folks. Sick folks because it’s what you can eat when sick. It tastes like dried flour, with a faint hint of vanilla here and there. It has no character, no signature to speak of. But the guy was eating with the same satisfied look on his face that Buddha is depicted with in every statue.

The guy looked content. Satisfied. In bliss.

He radiated calmness, more so than a long time meditator. It’s the face you see on someone who has achieved everything they’ve wanted to in their lives. He probably was resting after a long day of peddling electrical trinkets on the Kathmandu streets. Spread around his were his wares.

He had strewn a garland of rechargeable torches around his neck. The yellow colored torches, in its plastic see through wraps, suited his satisfied aura. It added depth.

I bought one.

I got one just because I wanted to be experience what that calmness felt like. Just wanted a taste of that silence, of being so grounded in yourself that the world around you dissolved.

That is the answer I gave to my friend who asked me If I had bought anything that I didn’t need, from someone I didn’t know.

That rechargeable torch teaches me peace. To look inwards. To breathe deeply. To let go.

I had a dream

The bullets rained down from the sky and the bombs went off like firecrackers. A helicopter spewed fire, throwing out more bombs like a confetti paper in a celebration.  The elite commando team were ticking off the remaining resistance members like flies.

The resistance folded like house of cards. Expect for a small neighborhood located five minutes in from Asan, where a team of five whippersnappers still wet around the ears made their guerrilla tactics teacher proud, nearly all areas previously controlled by them had fallen into the enemy hands. It was over 36 hours and they were still in control of the area.

It came with a heavy price, however. They were low on everything – the ammo stash was getting cold, and the team leader had to restraint the trigger fingers among them; on the last check the grenade piles had reduced significantly and a stray bullet had sullied their water container. Basically they were down to their last luck. And they knew it. For all it was worth, the team wanted to go out with a bang. Even my mother who was heavily pregnant with me at that time wanted to do so…


Ah, the wonderfully surreal world of dream. The landscape that inspired Dali and melted his clocks (I nearly wrote a word that is the masculine noun of a hen. But I didn’t. Don’t let that stop you imagining what I originally meant. Don’t giggle while at it though). Weird shit like this can only happen in dreams, thankfully.

The resistance leader, my father, was dead against it. Few months earlier, he would’ve been the first in the line to do so. Caught between his hate towards the state, and what could only be called concern towards his wife and his unborn, he sacrificed few precious seconds juggling between these two conflicting stream of thoughts. This indecision cost the team big time.

The elite commando who were monitoring the hideout very closely stormed in like an avalanche. In close quarters, their years of training triumphed over the ragtag team of rebels who excelled at hit-and-run-and-hide but fared poor when the landscape couldn’t come to their bidding. It was the main reason they were losing ground in Tarai, all the while winning more grounds in the mountain.

I couldn’t sense all the reasons for only a team to be present for the glorious last stand (my kid like imagination here is automatically linking the adjective ‘glorious’ to the bloodbath that is the last stand – the crass movie messaging over the years probably is sipping inside my cranium, it seems). The omnipotence of the narrator was denied for me there.

What I know for sure is out of the five remaining rebels, they were able to corner three, while the remaining two fell. No songs were ever recorded for them, no obituaries mentioned their name. Their rights to glory ended there, swiftly; it was expertly written with a bullet in their head. The rest of the team were tried in the court of law (well, and I am speculating here. My omnipotence as a narrator was again denied in this important conjecture).

Something interesting occurs after their arrest – time skip: the mother of all plot device, best friend of all storytellers caught in a lurch and don’t know how to advance the narrative anymore. It’s been used (mostly abused) by writers caught in the crevasse and the deep blue sea everywhere- the best examples are the writers of tv soaps who rely it more than the paratroopers relying on their parachute. My time skip conveniently threw me few years after this commotion when all the heat had died down.

The leader of the resistance, whom now you know as my father, got the blunt of the sentence. Don’t ask me what; my snooping pass was denied again. I’m beginning to suspect if I’m reporting my own dreams. Or am I just narrating the dreams of a butterfly? Of that I am not sure.


Back to the story – my father was pulverized with the yoke of sweet justice. Newspaper the next day were awashed with his photos; editors wrote angry editorials arguing about capital punishment. Basically his arrest put food on table of all the armchair criminologists/writers for a some time. His side of the story ends there, I’m afraid. I see a blurred images of a courtroom, and it cuts directly to my mother. She was, for some reason, considered heavily pregnant to be incarcerated at that time. She was left to her devices.

Throughout, the dream mechanics are dictating my move. I’m aware of that the set of people I’m dreaming are indeed my parents. I sense my disembodied presence in the narrative and I am telling this tale. I’m seeing things from my POV as it were. Does it make sense? I’m not sure. I’m glad that it’s all a dream.

My mother was sent down to live with her sister in Naghal, the same neighborhood where they put up a great resistance. The house had been restored to its old glory – it creaked when someone sprinted or applied pressure to the wrong beam, the entire shebang. Every second in that infernal house reminds my mother of what ifs, and what could’ve been.

She restlessly paces around the house, yet the every corner catches her unaware. On every turn is a faint whisper of nostalgia crucified to an unadorned wall. The daalin leaks memories, it trickles down even when it’s not raining. The staircases groan and the mirror reflects bygone days. The radio constantly harps about the bravery of the state troops against the rebels. The batteries have run dry a long time ago, yet its honeycombed speakers refuse to listen to reason. It harps late into the night. Sometimes late in the night it picks up ghost trickle of police radios and wails like a banshee.

In her makeshift garden (my mother loves gardening, it’s how she connects with herself; it also reminds her of home. It reminds her of the Tarai where she grew up scanning the horizon for sunset. Once she landed in Kathmandu, the clusterfuck that is our capital invaded her horizon. All she can see now is the miserable lives of the people who migrated in the valley answering to the lullaby of bright future. She wants to change the view, switch the channel, but the same story is played out in the windows of all the old rented homes. The rich sahujis have moved out to the suburbs where there are more parking spaces for their SUVs. They leave behind their crumbling ancestral houses to the dazed and confused souls, and charge hefty rentals).

My mother lost her interest in botany ages ago. Had she been cultivating it, she’d probably compare Kathmandu to a pitcher plant. Kathmandu’s a parasite, she feels. It radiates with strange, hopeful lullaby and leeches the gullible dry. Once the vessels are not a party to the life sustaining fluid congress to RBC and WBC and which we commonly refer to as blood, it crunches their bones. She knew many of such poor fellows, her relatives and her uncles who answered the primal call of Kathmandu and was consumed in the end. Now she can add herself to her list.

I leave my mother as she’s standing outside the mouth of the crooked gulli. She’s got vacant expression in her face, and is looking way past the big building right in front of her. She’s searching for her horizon.

If you felt this was a weird read, spare a moment to feel what I went through as I woke up.

I sat on the edge of the bed, with a riddled expression on my face. I’ve dreamt some weird dreams, we all have. This came close to the top spot in my dream inventory, but no cigar. I once dreamt about the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster. I was in the cockpit when the fire gnawed at it, exploding like a thousand radiant stars. It takes the cake, the icing sugar and the self rising flour, the whole nine yards.

Maybe some day I’ll reel in that story. Maybe.

Pegasus – About a song

I don’t care much for horses, but the name Pegasus stuck an odd chord. It started with an all familiar strum, the kind of strum that gets you all nostalgic. It took me years ago when I too was learning to play the instrument. If memory serves, I started with trying to make the A chord sound good. I couldn’t. All I managed was a muffled blip that sounded more like someone stumbling into a room full of percussion instruments than someone trying to twang the guitar.

I can strum alright now, I guess. The muffled jab is not there, at least. The finer nuances are still lacking, however. It was what Pegasus reminded me of. The intro, here I reiterate, stuck an odd chord with me. When I say, odd I don’t mean odd odd. Odd because the sound of a major chord rings unfamiliar to me. I am now home with major seventh, minor-seventh-flatted-fifth that sort of thing. A major chord rings out a different tune nowadays. A rightly drawn major chord haunts, which was what I felt when the song opened.

A disclaimer here – I am not ear trained. I can’t, for the life of me, tell the type of chord that’s being strummed. I’m saying it’s major chord, because to my ill-trained listening facilities it sounded like one. So there. If it leans towards augmented for you – Hurrah! more power to you.

Little later, maybe four to eight bars in, the drummer snares into life. And, what sweet melody it creates. It keeps pace with the guitar, supports the song and lo and behold – we have all the makings of a great song. It goes on for a while before the vocalist whispers the secret of life, and everything in between. That, or it could be anything. For you, she might just be singing about a horse in her ranch; for me, she’s recounting her life and how it all adds up to 42 (that was a Hitchhiker’s reference, by the way). And it’s because I don’t recognise the beautiful language she’s singing in. All I can get is the title, Pegasus, sprinkled all over the verses. That’s all. Really.

That hasn’t stopped me from putting it on repeat, though. I cannot get enough of it. I’m not sure if the melody or the words, or the way she sings it is causing the memory avalanche, but the song is taking me to some faraway place that none of the Japanese song has taken me to. Yes, I listen to that too. I used to watch way too much anime back in the day – the songs, especially the soundtracks have stayed with me. That was how I came to know of Nujabes, the prolific Japanese composer whose work in Samurai Champloo is probably one of the best anime soundtrack ever (It also has one of best ending to an anime series I have ever seen). Cowboy Bebop comes close, but no cigar.

Pegasus rings deep, stirring up something from somewhere; something that I cannot put my fingers into – something that I find deeply irritating. It’s like having an itch that you cannot scratch. And nothing has itched me like Pegasus has. It irks, but like a sadist, I keep returning to it. Again. And again. I’ll keep returning to the song until I find what is it that it’s stirring up inside me. I am close, or so I feel.

Listen to the song here.

A word before you launch into it. Remember I said I was tone deaf? I played the song as I wrote this. The intro to me (which I earlier described as a major tune) now sounds like a minor tune. That should tell you the extent of my ill-trained ear, if not my musical abilities. Music theory often associate major tunes with happy feeling, minor with the exact opposite. If the tune sounds like a major tune in my mind, then the memory it is stringing is happy.

I’m relieved.

(PS: I feel incredibly poor. Musicians are breathing life in so many songs in so many languages, and I can only sing in three, hum badly in four and launch into gibberish in not more than five. Sigh.)

Mero dari! Mero junga!

My dari, junga has already passed that stage when they invited only comments, frowns and deeply passionate tirade about how gross I look; it has now started to invite merchandising opportunities.

Only last week, my mother-in-law pulled me aside after a family dinner and wordlessly handed me a pack of shaving cream.

“But I was running out of toothpaste!” I said.

She was not amused.