Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A panic write for a film school submission

Rajat sits alone in a room.

Rajat is happy.

He is remembering his walk in the woods with the girl. He just calls her the girl. She has a name but he doesn’t like to use it, as that is what everyone calls her. And for him, she is special.

She laughs at him when he avoids taking her name. He says he would give her a nickname just for his personal use except this is 2013 and that would be considered seriously corny.

The girl smiles. Says a nickname would be nice. They walk on in silence. It’s a beautiful day. Blue skies, green grass, birds singing. And the monthly bills haven’t come yet.

Rajat is holding the bills now. It was a good walk while it lasted.

Now Rajat is thinking of the second thing that happened earlier today. That was good too.

His best buddy Amar met him in the cafeteria. They talked. They discussed walking out doors for a smoke. It was so difficult just having a quick smoke these days. Walk the corridor, take the elevator, walk out of the building, find a corner, light up and then the blackberry pings and you need to crush it underfoot and rush back up. Sigh.

Then Aman looked at his watch. Said oh no, it was already 9:45 and he was late for an appointment.

Rajat is now puzzled.

The girl had looked at her watch during the walk too. And exclaimed that it was 9:45 and she needed to go back inside and finish her work.

But Rajat was walking with her before he went home, changed, carried his duffel to the car, drove to the office building, hit the gym, finished his work out and was having a juice at the cafeteria before showering and going to his desk.

So how could it be 9:45 then, and then again?

Wait. Now Rajat remembers another thing that had happened today.

He was running on the treadmill, the sweat running down his back. He was tiring. The lactic acid forming in his calves. He lowered the pace of the machine and started to slow down. But the gym hand – couldn’t call him trainer, he was just a helper but he behaved like a trainer – walked up to him, raised the machine speed and said, pointing to the clock: 15 minutes more? Ok? Right up to 10a.m. And he pointed at the big clock in the gym. Which said 9:45a.m.

Now Rajat is confused. He is no longer happy.

He looks at the bills in his hand. The first is the water bill. He unfolds it and stares at it. The amount is Rs. 945.

Rajat looks around wild eyed. He checks the walls to see if they are padded. He checks his wrists for a tape, his ankles for restraints.

He gets up and opens the door. Peeps out, wary, hesitant.

There is a big wall clock on the corridor wall. Rajat collapses just outside his door.  The clock says 9:45.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Itni Shakti Hamein dena "Data"

The past few days I have thought intensely about two, apparently disparate, things.

One is friendship.

And the other, emerging trends.

The first has occupied my mindspace because these are fragile times. And when I am fragile, my friendships are the rock block that I lean on. Even inside my head when I do that, I feel stronger.

I took a flight some days back to a friend. I took flight, literally. Ran away from that which was too difficult, too complex, too overwhelming, to a simpler, more solid place. The place that doesn't move. Leaning into a friend's chest and crying one's heart out: that may be a simple right that we relenquish over a period of time. We learn to let it go as we grow up, and as we grow apart, but it is still nice to know that one could do it if one wished. It makes the surfaces we stand on less wobbly.

Speaking of wobbly - the othe thing I spent a lot of mindspace on lately, was research, data, popularity charts, trends. What works? What appeals? What cuts across? What hits the sweet spot of number one status? This was obviously borne out of my work and its attendant ceaseless pressures to retain some statistical superiority over other similar but competing products. And that ground is pretty wobbly too. Not just for me, but for all people I know.

We all talk in numbers, not sentences. Letters, not wholesome words. Fractions not completions. Our world, a supposedly creative world, is filled with slivers and shards like TRP, GRP, RAM, TAM, AMT, ILT, FGD... we throw these at each other like drunks throwing punches and rattle of numbers and fractions and letters and look knowledgably at each other, not for a moment stopping to think that this isn't even langauage. Its a fragmentation.

When we ride the crest of these letters and numbers our punches carry a swagger and we feel complete as human beings. We don't question it. In fact we derive our entire sense of self from it.

But then invariably, everyone, at some point, experiences the trough. The questions arise then. Is this genuine? Is this valid? Is it compromised? Is it reliable? We turn even our consumers - the audience, the listener, the viewer - into pure statistical data. They are no longer the heart broken teenager who cried as a song played on the radio, the misty eyed housewife who sighed at the hunk on TV, the jolly old man who laughed out loud and spat popcorn when the comedian did his antics on the screen.

No we don't just reduce ourselves, we reduce them too. We reduce their entires lives, minds, hearts to fit into the square centimeter space of an exel sheet cell. And then, depending on how that cell behaves, we either gloat, or we gloom.

Introspection such as this tends to come with the gloom. Naturally. Who questions success? Who stops to ponder when the numbers inch towards the high mark, when by point space decimal point, our existence is justified, our passions ratified, our entire being validated?

But just like I found myself revisiting friendships when the ground beneath my feet shook, just like I found myself reaffirming the gold standard in my heart, I do think now its time to commit to the gold standard even at work. To shed the yoke of letters and fractions: the gilded cage of statitistical highs that hide all the creative lows.

Even when I ride the crest, which is after all - statistically speaking - but a matter of time , its good to avoid the seduction of those letters and numbers. They can be soul destroying after a point. And I do hope I will come back here, and recommit to that, even when like the Sirens, the numbers are singing to me, and drawing my ship in....

No, let us speak in words now. Simple, and heartfelt, like a song on the radio.