Diary Entry Of An Amateur Pessimist

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Another year is about to dawn and I don’t know what I am supposed to feel, hopeful? Optimistic?

I don’t think I can get myself to feel hopeful about the future if everybody  is only going to grow old and die. It is rather childish, me wallowing about the inevitable. Growing up means shouldering responsibilities, seeing the world stripped off its glitter and glamour, and plodding on even when others fade and disappear from your life. The necessity of moving on eludes me, the future looms like a frightening storm, I can spot flashes of lightning revealing the purple blackness of the clouds. I sit shivering as I look at the approaching storm, I want to flee, find shelter from the storm, but I realize that there is no escape. I have to brave the storm, let the rain lash me mercilessly. I am not in control, I never was.

Noontime Story

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It was noon and a steady stream of college girls hurried to the bus stop through the slippery, water-filled potholed road. It was the second spell of summer rains and underneath her faded red umbrella thronged a crowd of girls. She giggled at their muttered excuses glad to have their company.

The next day was an uninterrupted day of summer and light breeze and she looked around hopefully for company, for one of the girls she had offered shelter to exchange niceties, but nobody stopped underneath her red umbrella. She let her eyes wander and they paused on a hole filled with dirty water at the side of the road, a thin green branch floated on it, its scattered tiny yellow and green leaves forming a floating halo around it, the lone branch looked beautiful despite being torn away from its tree, from the crowd of sister-branches.

She realized that she had to learn to understand the delights of involuntary solitude.

 

 

 

Smooth Sailing

 

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So we rode the wave of change, going farther away from each other with every crash. Long,winding messages were replaced by season’s greetings, deceptive emojis, and long pauses. I knew, she knew, where we were headed, but still we didn’t change course. We just let the wind decide, the wind that caressed our cheeks and played with our hair.  It was easy that way. Better.

 

 

Not For Rent

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The splash of dark blue ink on the wall attracted every eye that entered the one-room house, so he covered it with a layer of paint–it was always about appearances, about appearing to be tidy and spotless.

Soon he moved out and the years passed, and with time came decay, and all the numerous coats of paint tenants had slathered on the walls started peeling, and falling in chunks revealing the secrets underneath, the untold stories– the scratch marks, the ink spots, the graffiti, the handprints, and the marks left by unmoved furniture.

Nobody stays in it anymore; the stale, musty reek of  ugly secrets that rises from the house wards off everybody.

 

Newborn

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My 23-year-old daughter looks at me as if I am a stranger. Many a time I can feel her eyes on me when she thinks I am asleep. Her eyes bore into every wrinkle on my face with an expression of despair. My wife is always in tears but I try to console her by saying that this is good, that amnesia might be a blessing in disguise as it gives us a second chance– to rebuild the good memories and to correct the mistakes she doesn’t remember making. She is our newborn girl again, our bundle of joy.

 

The Gift

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He gifted me headphones; I was speechless.

We hadn’t spoken properly in months. No lengthy conversations about movies, music, or books, nothing. I barely looked at him when he was home. A gulf that had emerged between us and which was widening steadily seemed to have closed at a snap of the fingers. I had smiled with a sadness tugging at my eyes, surprised that he had remembered what I had said days back in a dull monotone, something about wishing for a new set of headphones.

Now I lean back on the sofa listening to his favourite tunes on the headphones thinking about the made-up games we had played when we were kids; but no, the gulf has risen once again, and all I hear is music unmingled with childhood laughter.

Morning Tricks

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The steady sound of sport shoes slapping on gravel could be heard loud and clear in the wee hours of the day in State Memorial Park. 5:35 a.m. to Sumi and Beena meant “levitation time”, a time when they would jog and talk about their young-adult problems, and would feel light both physically and mentally. They associated the lightness they experienced after jogging to the levitation trick pulled off by magicians, and hence they named it “levitation time.”

“You know, Rohith never comments on what I wear, I have to pester him with questions and then he comes up with the usual boring compliments. He is straight-forward, but I wish he would make something up, just shower me with praises to make me feel special, he is just too practical!”, Beena ranted as they jogged on their usual gravel path.

“ Akash is the exact opposite, he compliments me on everything I wear, I do..it’s crazy”, panted Sumi.

“Wow.. I wish Rohith was like him.”

“No, no, you don’t get it… I don’t like that. It’s as if he says all that because he is supposed to say them, like he is following instructions straight out of a book, I would rather he mean the things he says than lie to make me feel valued” , said Sumi as they neared the end of the path.

The girls stopped by a purple bougainvillea shrub that marked the end of the path. Beena wiped the sweat off her brow with a hanky and exclaimed, “If only we could exchange our boyfriends, then we would have exactly what we want”

Sumi who had bent down on her knee to tie her shoe laces shrugged at her friend in amusement, suddenly the smile on her face was replaced by a perplexed frown as she stood up. The friends exchanged a knowing look, and they knew what they had to do. From levitation they had moved onto another trick, telepathy.

Freak Show

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I was bad luck to me and everybody else around. Nobody looked me in the eyes; they were afraid of the doom I might bring to them.

“Your presence upsets me, I hate you ”, she said. All the girls in the hostel sided with her once again, their faces grim.

I turned nonchalant, her words didn’t affect me. I was always shunned. I was beyond feeling sorry for myself.

An hour later I stared at the glassy eyes of the girls I slaughtered, mesmerized; now I was truly alone. It was just me and my bad luck.

 

Review of ‘The Outsider’ by Albert Camus

 

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‘The Outsider’ written by Albert Camus and translated by Joseph Laredo, is a novel that centers around a Frenchman named Meursault, who expresses no sadness at his mother’s death. Days after his mother’s death he murders a man on a whim for which he is tried in court. Meursault is tried not just for his crime but his lack of emotions, which makes him an outsider.

Meursault, the protagonist is peculiar as he attaches no value to human relationships and commits murder for no apparent reason. Sentiments like love, empathy, and concern are insignificant to him. The only time Meursault is close to being emotional is when he is imprisoned and he realizes the value of his freedom. During the initial days of his sentence he tries to devise plans that will enable him to escape from being guillotined. But right before the day of his execution, he accepts death in all its finality. He lives his life following his mother’s ideal that humanity can get used to anything, be it death or punishment. His indifferent reaction to his mother’s death is startling to the people around him, the same sort of people who would prefer deceit to truth. Meursault is not a likeable character, but then I don’t think the author intended the character to be a likeable one. Mersaults’ s defiant manner of sticking to the truth, his staunch atheism, his unwillingness to sugar-coat realities and his ability to accept his wrongs and not feel guilty about them makes him an outsider. He is an outcast as he doesn’t adhere to social norms. But it is these qualities that make him an unconventional tragic hero. Anybody who lives or behaves in a way contrary to the age-old way is shunned. To the world he is a cold-hearted murderer and according to the author himself he is just a person who doesn’t belong. A strange man who lives his life just to feel alive and nothing more. He lives through his life saying and doing things that feel right to him alone and not to the society.

Marie, the mistress of Mersault, is the only female character that has any importance in the novel, she is reduced to a pretty thing people can point at and admire. She is a woman who doesn’t seem to have any opinions of her own. Like Mersault she too is strange as she desires to marry a man who doesn’t love her but only considers her as an object to gratify his sexual desires.

Almost all the characters in the novel are idiosyncratic starting from Meursault to Salamano. Camus gives us a strange piece of fiction along the lines of absurdism which is a philosophy based on the belief that human existence is purposeless and chaotic. To Camus Meursault was a new-age Christ, a person who sacrifices himself for the truth, the kind of truth people try not to see or acknowledge.

The Outsider is as Camus states “the story of a man who, without any heroic pretensions agrees, to die for the truth.” This book left me confused but it also made me seriously ponder about the rigid, inflexible, and most often prejudiced decisions of the common public, and whether these decisions are really fair. This novel progresses like a dream, hazy but fast-paced and finally leaving you with mixed feelings.