Depravity: A Poem on Human Trafficking

Venomous stings have left me in a pang
Brutal facts hitting like a hammer – Bang!
Is it true that they come real cheap
The beasts with the sixth sense, sold in a heap

For sweat and toil, flesh and blood
Heartless labour, caged and flogged
Limbs trapped in freedom’s pursuit
Flesh freed for greedy vultures to shoot

Promises consumed by hungry scavengers
Humans gobbled up by hunting fish mongers
Daylight robbed of its shine and brightness
Nights flush with compounded darkness

Gasping for breath, starved for space
Wear-out of the body, in utter disgrace
What hurts more, the toil or the boot
To the Bleeding Soul, no sight of solace

Have you no heart, my friend, that cries
Are you no human, in fish monger’s disguise
Free the urges, that block your vision
Let go of the reins of the souls in prison

So then turn to thyself, O’ Man in the Mirror
Isn’t your soul touched by this story of horror
Cast away your couches of comfort
Pick up the baton, to restore some lost honor.


Ramesh Narasimhan /-

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The Student

It takes the loss of something ‘small’, that you are habitually unwilling to let go of, to make you realize the worth of something ‘big’ that the divine has in store for you. The irony, though, mostly is that you do not realize that the thing that you have to let go of, is actually small, unless you have in fact, let go of it. The mind clings on to it, like it is the only thing it has known.

When I quit my job and after I overcame the initial apprehension of ‘what next’, I realized that there was ‘life’ outside the four walls of my office. I had given everything I had, to do justice to my job, for a good part of the last 9 years, that I had spent in this organization. But now, I was beginning to realize that my office, which seemed like the only world to me then, now was just a dot in this big, beautiful world, that teasingly beckoned me. I realized there was a ‘whole world’ out there, to be gained.

I soon eased into a convenient routine. On one hand, I pursued a job that I needed to make a living, but on the other I went after all that my heart has desired, over the years. I wanted to try my hand at entrepreneurship, devote time to music that was once my only love, get back into reading that has played its part in shaping my demeanor in my formative years, do justice to the writing juices within waiting for an outlet to gush out, and then also to teach. Teaching, is in my view, the highest form of ‘giving’ that there can be. It can be ever so fulfilling, if done with the right devotion and ethics.

During this “there is so much I want to do” phase, I once decided to take up a part time job of teaching English to Secondary school children. One afternoon, I was sitting in a coffee shop near the National Library, browsing through a Secondary-1 English text book and simultaneously making notes, ahead of my class later that afternoon, sipping my third cup of latte. After registering with a few tuition agents and two weeks of waiting, I had finally received an SMS from an agent that morning, informing me about a class that same evening for three students ‘to begin with’, as he put it.

“The language of Cause and Effect …” read the title of the page I was on. My personal note book, where I wrote down my notes and ‘to do’ for the day as always, accompanied me. I wrote down my goals there too that I would need to work towards as a teacher. It was part-time for me, but not for them.

Passersby, who looked at me, with the English text in my hand and my note book, had a somewhat puzzled look. They probably thought that I was an English student, although my age as evident from my appearance (sporadic burst of grey hair, thick glasses with a dark brownish wooden frame and a moustache), would have defied it. Not being perturbed much by this perceptional incongruity, I remained buried in my text book.

I paused as I sipped more of the hot, sugarless latte. I had, of late, resorted to sugarless coffee except for once in the morning. Only my first cup of coffee would be with sugar. This was one way of ensuring that I did not put on excess calories, especially since I had become somewhat irregular at the gym. Not that I was anywhere close to becoming overweight. But just in case at any time, I resorted to indulging in palate fulfilling pleasures more and in exercising less, the sugar that I avoided would mitigate the guilt that was bound to result. I must admit, now I had an added reason for not making it to the gym. My English classes. Ha! How the mind comes up with guilt-free excuses for not doing something that requires an effort and the benefits of which are only visible ‘in the long run’. The mind needs all the benefits ‘now’! Period.

As I turned back my attention to the National Library building and the Secondary 1 text book that lay in front of me, I started making a mental note of the chapters I should cover that afternoon including the flow I should adopt.

The National Library building stood giant-like, as I sat there like a minion, with knowledge oozing out of every inch of it, through a multitude of inspiring posters, books, digital copies and magazines across ten mammoth floors, feeding into the DNA of future doctors, IT professionals, engineers, accountants and professors.

The open cafe at ground level, where I sat, presented a student friendly ambience. True enough, every desk & table that it laid out, hosted students and aspiring professionals, all armed with a laptop or a book and a pen. A few tables were laid out inside the cafe premises too, but mostly people preferred sitting outdoors. There is a huge open space on one side of the cafe which is many a time used up for exhibitions and public displays. As I looked around, I saw a series of bold posters that were displayed, projecting human trafficking as a prevalent crime on the rise, especially in Asia, and appealing to everyone to take up the fight against it. On the other side was the hustle and bustle of the mid day traffic as vehicles scurried along to their desired destinations. Yet, the huge open space that housed the cafe had its calm, with its tall roof protecting us from the blistering heat of the April sun and with cool breeze finding its way through to us.

A group of old women in one corner, chattered away almost simultaneously, evidently to let out their otherwise unexpressed emotions, as it seemed from their ‘louder than necessary’ laughter, making an exception to an otherwise studious ambience.

I turned my attention back to the young population engrossed in their own laptops and books. I said to myself ‘It is here that the future of Singapore is in the making’.

My stream of thoughts was interrupted by a young voice:

“Excuse me, Sir” said the voice, as I looked up from my book. Well, that expression – the ‘Sir’ part – made one thing evident. My appearance did reveal my stanch ‘seniority’, after all.

“Yes?” I said enquiringly, looking at a young man before me, who looked like a fresh ‘teenager’. I mean, he must have just turned thirteen or at best fourteen. He had spiky hair running through the centre of his scalp and very short hair on the sides, the short hair resembling well mown grass in a cricket ground. He wore glasses with a flashy black & white frame and braces that shone to the sunlight reflecting off the glass window of the restaurant behind me. Apple earphones proudly dangled on either side of his shoulders, connected to the phone that was safely tucked away into his left jeans pocket. He had, what I dare called, the rugged look of a modern Singaporean teenager.

“May I refer to this text book for a few minutes, Sir” he said “ I left mine at home, as I was in a hurry”

“Sure” I said, as I gestured him to sit down across me on the chair opposite. As he sat down, I noticed the tattoo on his left arm, that bore what looked like a hungry dragon, in colors of clay brown and marsh green, sticking out its black forked tongue. Another typical physical feature of the modern Singaporean teenager! Perhaps the only thing that he was missing was the metallic earring. Maybe it was on its way too; he was still young!

“Thank you, Sir” he said as he sat down and took the open book in his hand. ‘The language of cause and effect’ was still the page that I was on.
He referred to the title in an instant and exclaimed “Hey, I can help you with this, if you wish, Sir.

“Sorry?” I responded in an impulse.

“Cause and Effect”, he continued. “I have read this up like it matters most to Jesus and can give you useful tips too. Of course, there are other chapters that I struggle with. But this one I can help with”

I soon realized that he had taken it for granted that I was an English student, an elderly one, of course! There was a touch of sympathy in his tone as he perhaps concluded I deserved it, putting together my age as deducted from my appearance and the somewhat misplaced English text that I was so engrossed in. He had concluded, as it seemed, that I was in dire need to learn English.

I decided to have some fun and play on. I said “Oh! That is nice of you. It would indeed be helpful”

“Let me complete my reference first, if you don’t mind, Sir?” he requested.

“Sure” I said.

Over the next 30 minutes, he religiously took notes, flipping pages back and forth. I ordered for another latte as I pondered over what I might tell him, if he were to ask me about my compulsion to learn English at this age. I had to make up something to play on.

When he was done, he exclaimed “Ah, finally. Sorry, Sir, it took a little longer than I thought”.

“Now” he continued, “Let’s go back to ’cause and effect’. I noticed, Sir, that you were stuck on that single page for quite a while. Sorry, but I couldn’t help noticing as I was just sitting diagonally opposite your table”

“Well, yeah…” I began, before he interrupted me.

“I understand, I understand. No need to explain, Sir. English is indeed a funny language and not always easy to comprehend”.

“Right, I am actually…”

“I will help you with it, Sir. No worries” he said in his typical Singlish accent “and hopefully in a simple way”

“By the way, Sir, I can recommend a few other books to you, which can help you learn the language quick ” he went on.
The sudden flurry of words was quite telling, especially immediately after 30 minutes of total silence.

“Yeah, actually my work place…” I only began to make up something, but the guy wouldn’t stop. He was making my job easier.

“Sure Sir. I perfectly understand now. You are in desperate search of a job, aren’t you? And one of the job requirements is for you to possess a minimum skill level of English language, without which you do not become eligible, right?. In today’s competitive environment, it is a good way of filtering out a large mass of applicants at the very beginning. All multinational organizations are on a roll to cost cuts. Everybody is doing this”

I almost let out a Huh, as I nodded half heartedly, out of sheer disbelief at his exaggerated presumptions.

“Life isn’t fair, Sir” he continued relentless. “My dad worked in a multinational company and he was asked to leave last month abruptly, despite being a good performer for the last five years, along with 20 other colleagues. They gave him no specific reason except that they could no longer afford such a large team. The department size was cut by half within no time. All the talk about employee welfare went down the drain in an instant. There was this new management and they seemed heartless. My dad is 46, not getting any younger, but he is out there in the market, along with hundreds of others, looking for a job to sustain his family of 6. Life certainly isn’t fair, Sir”

This boy at his young age, seemed to have seen it all for himself to form an opinion about life and there was anguish deep down in his heart, as I could sense. This was quite in contrast to what his exterior demeanor seemed to convey. My quest for some fun all of a sudden gave way to sympathy for his dad’s state and his family. I did not bother to ask him as to what combination of brother(s) and / or sister(s) made up his siblings. It did not seem relevant to the conclusiveness about life that he seemed to have anyway drawn. Indeed, sometimes life did not seem fair at all.

“Sometimes, I wonder, Sir, as to why I should spend hours and hours studying Biblical texts (obviously referring to their bulkiness. I mentally noted that this was the second time he was referring to Jesus or Bible, which perhaps meant that he was a regular at the Church on Sundays). He continued, interrupting my thoughts. “I wonder where all this recession would lead to. Will I even stand a chance of getting a job when I graduate a few years from now? A job of my choice, that is? Where is the guarantee? ”

“Three of my dad’s colleagues ‘ sons are first class graduates today working as trainees in completely unrelated fields. One of them, who is a graduate in communications, is in fact a supervisor in a hotel! Huh! And he wanted to apparently head the marketing unit of a multinational. I do feel de-motivated Sir”
“Yeah Right, young boy, but…!!” I began in an attempt to utter a couple of encouraging words to dispel his fears somewhat. I wanted to assure him that he had time on his hands and there was a good chance that things would be better then. But guess what, I was interrupted again and I do not think he even realized that he was cutting me.

“But then Sir, there are faculties that I love dearly. I am passionate about them. So that kind of keeps me going”. There was a sudden change in his tone.

“Also, Sir, as my dad keeps telling me, there is always a reason things happen in life. And it is always for the better. He strongly believes in the concept of ‘Karma’ or ‘Cause and Effect’, as they call it. As he uttered these words, he was at once stirred back to reality.

“Oops” he exclaimed “I was to take you through the language of ‘Cause and Effect’ and I got totally distracted. I am so sorry, Sir”.

“It is alright, young man. Do not worry.” said I, my first complete sentence in the last 45 minutes or so.

“Hey Pete, you are here. I have been looking for you” called out a male voice. He was a friend, as I soon gathered. “We are getting late for our drama rehearsal, buddy. We do not have much time today. Remember, we have got our tuitions too today after the rehearsal?”

“Yup” replied my companion for the last 50 minutes, as he turned to me. “Sir, I need to go now. We have drama rehearsals first and then our English tuitions. I will be here same time tomorrow. I can help you with your lesson then Sir, is that ok?

“Sure, no problem” I said, wondering if I had a choice.

“I love drama and storytelling, Sir” he answered, almost as if reading what was on my mind. ” I do not want to miss it”

“Oh, is that right?” my tone was one of ‘made up’ surprise.

“Story-telling comes naturally to me, Sir. In fact, my friends tell me I am gifted with super imaginary skills”

‘I can see that young man’, I said to myself, as he prepared to leave! Certain enough, he had a way of imagination, for all that he imagined about my situation stood testimony to it. He sure has the potential to become a good ‘fiction’ story-teller, I said to myself

“I have got to go now, Sir” He said as he picked up his stuff in a hurry. “I will see you tomorrow” he said as he turned his back on me, without even waiting for a response.

“Sure” I said. “Good Luck to you”

As he turned, I noticed the name on the back of his soccer Jersey, printed in bold Black in italics. Peter Gooi, No.9, it proudly said.

That name surely rang a bell. I quickly retrieved the message on my mobile that my agent had sent me earlier in the day and read it.

“Dear Sir, pleased to advise you of your first English class this evening at 5 pm. Three students have enrolled to begin with and their names are a) Alex Tan b) Abe Huang and c) Peter Gooi !

I could not help laughing, as I read out the third name. I picked up my bag and waved good bye to the waitress at the door, who by now recognized me well.

The expression on his face when he would see me in the class later today would indeed be priceless, I thought.

And maybe, there was a tale worth penning down.

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Morning Expressions

Ivory Pearls on the graceful lotus, dance
With the sashaying leaves of the glowing summer trees
The rhythmic winds coax the leaves to glisten,
And rob the lotus of the pearls for a mission

Whistling sounds of the generous morning birds
Pour the virgin space with soul filling notes
With rejuvenated tones scoring over recurring sorrows
Nestlings rehearsing the future tunes in their burrows

Flowers light up and manifest in full bloom
Their naive, velvety eyes look around to consume
Radiance just oozing out from their hearts within
Fragrances emanating from their souls within

The dispersed light from the bright morning sun
Casts its path through the dark clouds hidden
Revealing with aplomb to us common souls
The color of colors from the dark of the coals

The once dull ebony is beaming again
Cleansed of sin, only ivory is to gain
The effervescent self, beneath all the senses
Makes peace with its world, to heaven, attain!


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A pen (not a keyboard) is mightier than a sword!

bigstock-Fountain-pen-16977527 XLDuring one of my holidays a couple of years back, I was visiting a cousin in Kuala Lumpur, who happened to be a graphologist, i.e. someone who could study a person’s handwriting, analyse it and gauge his or her key characteristics.

Since I showed some interest, she asked me to write two pages of random text, in order for her to analyse my writing and reveal ‘unique’ characteristics about my personality.

As I prepared to do so, a pen & some blank sheets of paper were thrust upon me. I suddenly realized that it had been long, since I had written more than a few lines at a stretch, using a pen. Possibly many months? Indeed, that was quite a startling revelation.

I had never been as conscious about my writing, as I was then. I struggled with the very first paragraph and two pages seemed like a mammoth task.

In this modern world, one seldom gets an opportunity to sit down and write with a pen – be it a letter or a note or anything for that matter. With the dawn of the e-era, the art of handwriting seems to have died a slow and natural death.

Nostalgia set in as I began to write, since it brought back memories of the good old days. The days when I used to write long letters to my friends, cousins or relatives. Days, when I quietly wrote down my thoughts in my diary. Days, when I would pen down poetically some profound thoughts and feelings, as they occurred to me in my solitude.

And then, how can one forget the inevitable university examinations, where one had to write on reams and reams of paper. Mind you, not just write, but write fast enough, legibly and sensibly enough too (which combination, on a different note, often seemed quite a challenge). Students with a neat handwriting were often objects of envy. Teachers lavished praise on them and even awarded premium scores sometimes, for sheer calligraphic skills. Different brands of fountain pens were flaunted proudly, as they wrote. Peer Pen Pressure, if you like!

Life seems to have come a long way since then.

Today, one barely needs to write with a pen. In fact, one only needs to know how to type on the keyboard or smart phones / i-Pads, to communicate with the world around.

Children today learn to use the smart key pads much faster than they learn to hold a pen or a pencil and write.

College students take down notes on i-Pads and tablets!

Somewhere in all this, the art of writing seems to have waned down considerably.

Language and the ethics of writing have also come to suffer somewhat. There is a crying need to become conscious and draw a firm line; one that separates the truest form of language with all its nuances and manifestations, from the modern day much hurried & curtailed form, focused just on conveying a message, even if at the risk of defying well regarded lexicons. All in the name of brevity, paucity of time and even trend.

To me, ‘YOU’ shall always be ‘YOU’ and never ‘U’, as much as OK shall remain OK and never ‘K’!

‘WHERE TO’ shall indeed remain ‘WHERE TO’ and never ‘WER TO’

HOPE shall be HOPE and never HP, just as TOMORROW shall be TOMORROW and never tomo.

Call it my literary conscience or my sheer love for language, it shall always be ensured that there is justice done to the language, according it, it’s unadulterated form and deserved originality.

On another note, thoughts flourish most uninterruptedly and creative writing flows best, with a pen & paper as instruments. Perhaps I belong to that generation of people, that believes in thinking with their pens on their temples, pausing to provoke their thoughts as they write. As a friend once joked, it is indeed true that without my spectacles, I also find it hard to hear, arguably because of the trigger yielded by the tail-end of the spectacle-frame behind the ear. Likewise, as odd as it may sound, it is also true that creativity flows better, with a pen probing my right temple.

The fountain pen has deservedly found its way back to my writing desk, and proudly writes, with its tail-end triggering my right temple for substance.

The adage in my book shall ever remain ” The pen – not the keyboard – is mightier than the sword”

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Joshua : A Short Story

16th Nov, 2001

It was 7 pm in the evening on a Friday. Joshua’s jogging routine was interrupted by the surreptitious behavior of a young boy he encountered on his way back. He noticed something very strange about the boy, as they crossed each other, right in the middle of Central road. He must have been all of 13, as Joshua guessed from his physical appearance, but the innocence on his face was conspicuously missing. There was instead, an element of anxiety, an element of nervousness, that one would not normally associate with youth of that age. Or was it perhaps guilt, Joshua wondered. The sort that results, when circumstances force one to don a role in life, that defies morality?

Joshua hated to be interrupted while he was running, but he was also the sort, who would easily give in to suspicious instincts. His sensitive antennae stood erect, whenever triggered by an external stimulus, that suggested something even remotely unusual or abnormal. Today seemed to be one such occasion. Sometimes, he had a tendency to overanalyze and end up exaggerating the possible outcome, but that was just the way he was.

Back to the boy now. Joshua could not take his eyes off him. He had by now, stopped a few yards away from the boy as he continued watching him. The boy’s eyes suggested he was starved for attention, perhaps of his parents  or anyone he could call his own. It seemed they were longing for care, for shelter. His lips looked chapped, as he was perhaps thirsty. He look malnourished and could have done with some food. Somewhere deep within, Joshua sensed,  there was anguish, there was desperation. Joshua thought about his own childhood and how lucky he had been. He went to the best school in town, drove in his father’s elegant BMW all his childhood and had the best of toys & video games to play with. Joshua had not known what poverty was or what desperation was. Joshua felt sorry for the boy. He wanted to offer him water. But the boy was now mindfully avoiding the attention he received. He looked like a young man on a certain mission. He wore a red T-Shirt and a worn-out pair of blue jeans. He had a backpack that looked way too heavy for his tender shoulders. But what surprised Joshua the most, was the sling around his left arm. Joshua could not rationalize this. A young boy with his left arm in a sling, carrying such a heavy backpack, and aimlessly walking on Central road!

The young teen now stood at the intersection of Central Road and Link Road waiting for the traffic light to turn green. Joshua watched as the light turned green and the young boy trotted hurriedly on, to the other side of the road.

Joshua had noticed him from 200 meters afar, only a few minutes ago, when he had done exactly the opposite, i.e. crossed to his side of the road from the other side. And now he was crossing back. It seemed very unusual indeed. That was food enough for Joshua’s investigative inclinations. Dinner would have to wait, Joshua thought, as he sat down on the bench on the pavement, to explore the young boy’s intentions. Traffic was at its peak in the Business District, as people made their way home after the days labor. Joshua switched off Dire Straits playing ‘Walk of life’ in his ears, as the pandemonium of the world outside switched on.

He watched as the boy slipped midway, while crossing the road and dropped his backpack. But he was quick to recover, as he picked up his belongings in an instant and ran to the other side. He however, missed noticing, what looked like a photograph, that fell away from the backpack, behind him. The pedestrian light turned red again and the traffic gushed ahead like wild waters released after being held back by force. Joshua lost sight of the boy as the noisy traffic and the photograph, that had fallen down, took attention. Joshua stood up and looked for the boy across the road restlessly. He seemed to have disappeared in a micro-instant. By now the photograph had drifted with the winds towards Joshua. He picked up the soiled Black & White picture and saw a couple, with a much younger version of the boy. They looked happy and the boy’s face had the innocence then, that was missing now. Joshua was convinced that the youth was a circumstantial victim. Of a world that was heartless, selfish and exploitative.

Joshua spotted him across the road, squatted in a corner adjoining a staircase leading up to a shopping mall, buried into his backpack. He saw him pull out from his backpack, what Joshua concluded was a mobile phone, as the boy held it close to his ears and spoke into it.  Joshua started walking towards him. He noticed that the boy’s left arm was not immobile totally, after all.  He watched how the boy held his left arm up without a hitch and adjusted the sling with his right hand. That is when, he saw the panel beneath the left forearm. His heart almost skipped a beat as he noticed a multi-colored panel with wires that ran through the sling into his T-Shirt, to perhaps connect to something in the backpack. And he knew in an instant, that something was terribly wrong. What had earlier seemed “very unusual”,  now seemed extremely suspicious. Indeed, the boy was up to something serious. Something, that may well be destructive.

 Joshua’s pulse rate sky-rocketed as he leapt into the air! He looked for his hand phone to call the police. The boy had stood up by then and was looking into whatever little of the heavens may have been visible, beyond the tall sky scrapers that only Central road could boast of. The pedestrian light turned green again and the boy started walking towards him. His body language seemed a lot more pronounced, yet relaxed. There was a wry smile on his face. As Joshua pulled out his hand phone, he noticed a small remote like panel that the young kid now held in his right hand.

” Jesus. Run!!!” Joshua wanted to scream as he started running away from the boy, but he was a couple of seconds late. There was a deafening noise as the explosion happened. Buses, cars and taxis were blown into smithereens and into the skies. People – young and old, kids and infants were thrown apart, with their body parts flying in all directions. There was fire and thick, black smoke all around. It was all happening in front of his eyes in slow motion, as it seemed. Police, as usual, arrived late. Ambulances were lining up to attend to the injured. There was blood all around. But somehow, miraculously, he seemed to be totally untouched. He was safe. There was not a bruise in his body, as he lay down on the pavement. He had fallen down by the sheer impact of the explosion. But that was it. The Cross that he wore around his neck had perhaps worked, he thought. The Divine had been kind indeed. He got up slowly, still holding the soiled photograph in his hand. As he looked to the heavens thanking his stars with a prayer on his lips, through the thick black smoke he saw the face of the young boy, laughing deliriously at him. He was waving at him too, bidding him good-bye. “Get him, it is that boy! Get him, Get him..” Joshua tried to scream. But the face of the young boy, slowly but surely, faded away beneath the smoke, into the far skies. The mission seemed completed. It was all over.

The piercing sound of the alarm clock stirred him out of sleep. Into Reality. Joshua sat up in his bed in a daze. He looked at the clock. It was 8 am on a Friday. He looked around, at all the unpacked suitcases lying on the floor. He got out of bed and walked to the window of his service apartment. He looked down into the main street from 17th floor. Life seemed normal. The unmistakable hustle and bustle of a modern city, the relentless stream of office goers and the unending flow of rushing vehicles, made it all an expectable sight. He switched on the radio and listened to the 8 am breakfast news. The recently concluded parliamentary general elections made the headlines. Life indeed seemed normal. He heaved a sigh of relief. He had a quick shower and made his way to the cafeteria in Level 1 for a quick bite.

New places and new people had always unnerved him. But he had never had such a nightmare. Perhaps, reading the investigation report on the flight, detailing how the recent bomb attacks were perpetrated had left its impressions. A black cat that had jumped upon him, startling him, as he had stepped into his apartment for the first time the previous night, had perhaps done its bit too, he thought. Ha!

He smiled, as he helped himself to a large glass of fresh orange juice.

He then stepped out, onto Central road, for what  was to be his first day at work and in a new land.


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The Moon

Time goes by, the Moonlight yet lingers
Thru’ happy moments some and not so, some others
Draping my heart with a silvery blue glaze
My joy so swells, and my distress so strays

Spraying clear light in the dark of the night
Weaving a path from strands of my plight
A silvery carpet that hides rough terrains
A magical spell, that conceals all the strains

Filling the sore mind with beams of promise
Healing the bleak soul with balms of solace
Will you nurture my spirit in your eternal space
O Moon! Witness my deeds, nudge me walk the right ways

Be my sweet voice, in my hour of stoic silence
Be my sharp vision, in my hour of blind ignorance
Guide me thru’ twisted paths, when I stand unguided
That every passing hurdle, bids me goodbyes unjaded

My heart calls out, to be sheltered by the grace
That your spirit radiates, in the dark the night portrays
Let every night, with your divine presence, be blessed
In the dark of a new moon too, a ray of your light, reflect.


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A walk down the lane

It was one of those days when I had the rare opportunity of leaving office early. Early enough to catch the day-light. On other days, my work life at the so-called prestigious multinational bank ensured that my day ended pretty much when the real ‘day’ ended i.e when night had set in. Seldom did I get to see day-light when I left office.

A job in a multinational bank was perhaps a dream for an aspiring graduate, but little one realises how life changes once you are in. The world shrinks to within the four walls of the office and all you see is numbers, numbers and numbers!

Of late I was beginning to increasingly realize the futility of working 12-15 hour days on a sustained basis. I had kept telling myself that I needed to leave office at a reasonable hour, but never got around to doing it. Ironically, there were people in other functions or even within my team who would leave bang on time! With me, somehow it didn’t work. The more responsibility I took [the management learning I inculcated always advocated taking on more responsibilities if one wanted to grow – maybe it was just in theory], the more the work that landed on my desk. It was increasingly becoming very stressful. And it was not helping my personal life or my psyche. So I decided enough was enough and I would make that brave call!

I walked out of our office building at 6 pm on a Wednesday, albeit, I must admit, with a little feeling of guilt! There were people in my team who were still working when I left!

As I started walking, without a specific destination in mind, the hustle & bustle of Raffles Place struck me. The Raffles Place is a huge quadrangle with tall buildings on all four sides. This is the ‘Manhattan’ of SG or if one has been to Mumbai (India), the Nariman-Point equivalent. High rise buildings hosting headquarters of several companies, mostly banks, towered simple souls like me. It was the financial hub, in short. It was located right above the train station which made it convenient for office goers. This was one of the most treaded stations on week days with over ten exits leading to multiple office buildings.

As I walked down the pathway like a stranger in a strange land, I was amazed by the number of people who were heading to the station. There was an exodus of people, seemingly wanting to run away from the day’s bonded labor, into their own private lives. It was 6 pm which was day-end for them. And I had thought I was leaving early! There were people of all kinds: people waiting for their partners, couples holding hands, friends cracking jokes and laughing away, grim-faced singles perhaps dying to find their dream partners. They all seemed to have a life. Where was mine, I wondered!

At the far end of the quadrangle, behind the tall UOB building, flowed the Singapore river. It made a pretty sight from my office floor at level 46! Every time I had the chance to go to the corner meeting rooms to attend an important (by the way which meeting was not) meeting,  this was the only pleasing thing I looked forward to, amidst all the ‘intelligent’ conversations that took place among grim-looking men.

As I reached the river I stood there for a while. The sun was not too harsh and there was cool breeze blowing on my face. The breeze created many small waves on the water, even as the golden sun merrily floated along, proudly cradled by the mini waves. It made a pretty sight. People sat on the granite seats along the terrain in front of the river enjoying the time with their loved ones while savoring on their favorite munchies. Pigeons merrily fed on the offerings that some people generously made.

I stood there in admiration as I took in the sight, accompanied by a strange ‘been left out of the party’ feeling. There was such a world outside, oblivious to the four walls of my office where all people talked about, was endless number permutations and combinations. I breathed easy and the sense of guilt that had gripped me when i was leaving office ‘early’, mind you, turned into an ’I should have done this before’ feeling. A smile appeared on my face as I decided to sit down for a couple of minutes. I wish there were spicy peanuts to munch on, I said to myself as I settled down comfortably.

I looked at my watch – no, I should not be worrying about time, my mind said. Not today. I was mentally drained and needed to relax! This was my personal time and I deserved every bit of it. After all, you spend all your life, living for others: your bosses (and there are so many of them these days!), parents, friends and spouse and kids. I loved all of them dearly (sorry exclude the first category please) but I deserved my personal time too!

I heaved a sigh and looked on. On one side of the river was a series of pubs and restaurants which was very popular among the foreigners. This was known as the Boat Quay. It was an ideal place to chill out: flow of alcohol amidst the back drop of the flow of river. Hah! The big TV screens showed their favorite sport, soccer, with loud volume. And what’s more, there were young women serving! Somehow the smiles on the faces just seemed to widen — perhaps even the alcohol tasted better — when women were serving. They all seemed to be having a good time, which is what mattered.

I somehow never was a regular drinker, which perhaps kept me from having a big social circle. I had nothing against drinking but I never enjoyed it to the point of doing it regularly. The regulars at my office met every Friday religiously for ‘booze’. I would have the occasional wine but that was it. I never featured in their list of invitees whenever they decided to go out. It sometimes bothered me since it seemed to deprive me of the opportunity to socialize and bond. Maybe I should start drinking more often just to socialize, I often thought. Or maybe not, since I never enjoyed drinking so much. The eternal debate in my mind continued.

That aside, I was indeed enjoying my evening out.  I decided to take a walk along Boat Quay. There was a renewed sense of energy within me.  It is amazing what little things can do to your emotions in a short span of time.

I watched a young couple enjoying the boat ride. A group of noisy friends in the boat waved at the crowd as they passed by. Amazingly there were some pigeons seated in the deck near the boatman – they seemed to be enjoying the ride too. As I walked closer to the water, I could hear the ripples created by the passing boat. A little girl on the boat bent to touch the water and there was sheer delight on her face when she succeeded. Another smile appeared on my face!

I walked till the far end and started walking back. When was the last time I had had such a relaxing time. I could not recall. Is this not what we all work for? To be happy and do the things that we love doing? To enjoy the little pleasures? To watch the ripples on the water against the back drop of the evening golden sun?

I waved good-bye to the river as I walked back towards the station. My little daughter would be back from the play ground and would be waiting for me. I was charged enough to play with her, feed her and put her to sleep and much more! Unlike other days, when I would reach home exhausted.

I reached the station and picked up M&M candies from the station shop. She just loved them.

I promised I would give myself more time (in fact plenty of it) and get a life.

The smile on my face was intact as I boarded the train back home.

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