Friday, January 24, 2003

Gulf war - Act 2, Scene 1

So what's up with all the UN inspectors checking hundreds of sites every week? They visit remote areas and Saddam's palaces and still they come up with nothing? Are USA / UK cooking up bunch of lies or is it that their secret services have not done their homework? Does Saddam have weapons of mass destruction (WMD's) or not? Something fishy is going on here.

From the way things are going, I have a strong nagging doubt that the inspectors know where exactly to look and what exactly to look for. For one, the inspectors would not have gone there to search unless they had the backing of American secret database. And America would, of course, love it if the inspectors did indeed find the WMD. But why is it that even after two months of search there has been no substantial findings?

The plot is this: The inspectors won't find anything till such time American troop build up is complete. Right now, I feel, the inspectors know exactly where everything is - but will look the other way. Once they get the green signal from USA / UK, they will swoop in on the hidden WMD's and announce the discovery to the world. The UN would have no choice but to pass another resolution to allow US to disarm Iraq. America swoops in, takes out Saddam and installs a pro-American puppet regime just like it did in Afghanistan.

There is also another aspect. What about all the scientists who work for Saddam? The way I see it, the cream of them will be taken to Cyprus for 'interview outside Iraq'. That is the time most likely the 'discoveries' will be made. And I would not be surprised if America states that these 'significant discoveries' were possible because of what the scientists disclosed during their 'interviews'. That is killing two birds with one stone. One - the scientists will never return to Iraq for the fear of execution (should Saddam's regime survive the war), and two, they would rather seek asylum in US / UK and work of those governments. Of course US / UK will not take all of them because they are 'dispensable'.

Well why am I saying all this? Because if any of you have lots of money in the stock markets then make sure you turn all of it into cash when the troop build up is almost complete. In these rough times cash is always the king ;-)

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Appearance never equals reality - final part

“A pirate? On a ship?” gasped the boy.
“Yes. I know it sounds ghastly but I have refined now.”
“Oh! I’ll say.” The boy kept looking at him.
The old man lowered his face, raised his eyebrows, “you are free to leave me Dolan.”
There was a long silence. “Why did you tell me now?” asked the boy.
“I don’t know. I really don’t. I guess I will find out the answers along with you when we go to the hills tomorrow.”

That night the boy stayed awake. The cold wind did not help heal the wounds on his back. And in the mind every moment raised a hundred questions about the old man who had become a fatherly figure for him. Mind pondered whether to leave him or stay with him.

Late in the night the boy got up. He walked a few steps and turned to look at the old man. And after a while he turned around to leave.

“Goodbye Dolan. I will miss you,” said the old man in a soft voice.
“Err..umm.. I am not leaving. I just can’t seem to get any sleep”.

The old man didn’t say anything. After a while Dolan came and lied down next to him.

The sun was already up by the time Dolan woke up. He noticed that the old man had left. He got up and walked into the main roads of the town. The city was already abuzz with noise. Hunger pangs were competing with the wounds on his back. And suddenly he heard the familiar voice.

“Here have some bread. It’s been a while since we ate.” It was the old man.
“I thought you had left me.”
“Oh no. I won’t leave you; ever. I had gone to get something to eat.”
They both sat at the corner of the road and quietly ate their slice. There was an uneasy but forced calm between them.
“Are you ready to come with me to the hills?” asked the old man.
“I guess so. I have always trusted you and I always will.”
“Good. For our destiny’s about to change.”
“I don’t know why you say that, but I am willing to give it a try” a large smile splashed across the boy’s face.

Soon they were heading out of town. The old man walked in his customary steady pace while the boy would trot once a while to keep up with him. Much of the journey was covered in silence till they came to the bottom of the hills.

“Boy, from now on you have to go alone. I’m too old to climb this hill” said the old man.
“You want me to go alone? But... where? Why??”
“Listen to me boy and listen well. Follow the mud path till the end. When you get there, look around and you should find an old abandoned house, which I hope is still standing. Go inside that house and you will notice that the floor is tiled. Look for the fourth tile from the left and fourth tile from the top. You will notice that it is loose. Lift that tile and you will find something that can change our lives. Bring it to me.”
“Why don’t you come with me? We can travel slowly together.”
“No Dolan. From here on you go alone.”
The boy held the old man’s hand. “I’m afraid.”
“Go on. It will take you till the evening to do this errand. I shall wait here” assured the old man.

Dolan set out on his day adventure. The journey was tedious because the hill was steep though it did not appear so from far. He would stop to take rest once a while and look back to see if the old man was still there but after a while he was too far to make sure. And this made him walk faster towards the house that the old man had beckoned him to go. At some points he would hurry so much that he was literally jogging. Finally he came to the end of the mud road. He looked around to see if there was any old house but there weren’t any. Somehow the boy felt a sense of relief. He wanted to immediately turn back and be with the old man again. But somehow he checked his steps. He looked around again and further north in the dense trees he could see there was an old house which was barely standing.

With half a mind he started to walk towards it. The sun was hovering above him. The house had no doors and there were just gaps in places where windows should have been. The floors were tiled like the old man mentioned but many of them were missing. The boy searched for the exact tile the old man mentioned but that particular tile was also missing. He turned around realising the count might be from the other side. Fourth tile from the top, fourth tile from the left was intact yet wobbly. The boy tried to lift it but it was too heavy for him. So he squeezed a stick underneath it and put a stone to act as a lever.

The tile fell over. The boy looked into the hollow gullet. There lied a rotten wooden casket. Slowly but nervously he opened the casket, which was damp and covered with web. What he found left him flabbergasted. Rubies, gems, diamonds and stones worth several lives-earnings glimmered in the sunshine that sneaked in from the roof.

Dolan didn’t know what to do. He left the casket on the floor and ran out. He ran a few minutes down the road but stopped. He ran back to the house, picked up the casket and ran down the mud road again. And when his legs could no longer take the strain he would sit for a while catch his breath and briskly walk down. The sun was close to setting and he could see the long shadows of the trees stretching across the fields. He was happy. He would be with the old man soon.

When he reached the bottom he couldn’t find the old man. For a moment he checked himself to see he had not lost track. But he was sure that it was here that the old man said he would be waiting. Tears swelled in his eyes. He screamed for the old man but all he heard were distant echoes of his own voice. He ran further down the mud path but no matter which direction he turned all he found were reflections of the doubt within him – that the old man had left him for good.


Ten years went by. Dolan had become a strong, young gentleman. He was a proud owner of a fleet of ships that were bound for trade in distant parts of the world. He lived in a stately mansion and the word was that the King was going to announce him to be the collector.

Dolan stood looking outside his room window. Deep within he felt a sense of void. He had known the old man for only a few months but he knew that if it weren’t for him he would not be what he is. In the distance he saw an old man and a boy working in his garden and it bought him fond memories. And just as he was recalling his past the old man in the garden turned around.

Dolan’s eyes became watery. It was he. It was the same old man that had changed his fortunes. He jumped out of the window much to the surprise of the other workers. The old man stood beaming at Dolan.

Softly Dolan asked “Why? Why did you leave me all alone?”
“I didn’t. I have always been there for you. Its just that you didn’t know.”
Dolan hugged the old man. “Oh. I missed you so much. So very much.” He looked at him. “You haven’t changed. You are still the same charming person.”
“Dolan meet Bernard. He comes from a village nearby. He was lost just like you and he likes my company”. The little boy smiled at Dolan.
“Come with me both of you. You will no longer have to work hard. I shall take care of you.”
They all walked inside the manor.
“I can see that you have bought the manor that had once dishonoured you.”
“Oh yes. After the landlord died it didn’t take long for that young girl to squander her wealth” said Dolan.
They spent time and Dolan told the old man on all the adventures he has been through since he left him with the casket. The old man listened patiently and would often caution him with words of wisdom. And after a while there were a calm silence as cool air blew in from the windows.

“Dolan, I have to go” said the old man.
“But where? You are not going to leave me again?”
“I’m not leaving you Dolan. But my life is on the streets. Don’t stop me. And I am taking the boy with me as well.”
“But ...”
“No Dolan. This boy’s destiny, like how yours was, lies elsewhere. And I am going to help him find it.”

Dolan realised what the old man meant. With a heavy heart he gave a long hug to the old man. He took out the keys to the house and gave it to him. “Just to let you know, this house and along with all that is in it, is always yours. You are pleased to come and go whenever you choose.”

The old man pocketed the key and winked at him. He looked at the little boy and said, “Lets go Bernard. We have a lot of work to do.”

The little boy held on to the old man’s robe and walked. Half way down the hall he turned to look at Dolan.

“Don’t worry little one. You are in safe hands,” said Dolan reassuringly.

As they walked out Dolan realised that angels, elves and fairies are not storybook characters. Infact they were the people who live with and around us. They are the ones who stand by us through thick and thin and despite passage of time they will not forget us. They are the ones whose mere thought will always bring a wide smile.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Apperance never equals reality - part 3

The old man and the boy were startled.
“But..but..we were not doing that. We were just resting” the old man mumbled.
“Resting? Is that what we pay you for?” she screamed.

Just then the matron entered her room and asked if everything was ok.
“No! Nothing is ok in this house. Looks like these two were planning to steal something. Else why would they dare to peep through my window?”
“Oh but madam, I can vouch for their honesty. They have been with us for months and I can assure you there are not that sort” said the matron in a soft voice.
“You have known them for months; but I have known servants for years. Let me be the judge of their character. Ask them to come to the main hall.”

The matron nodded to the old man outside and shut the window.

“We don’t know what we have got ourselves into now but I fear it,” said the old man. They both walked towards the front door. This would be the first time they would get to see the inside of the manor and see with their own eyes the beautiful objects the matron had described. How ironical that they should get to go inside after being accused of a crime that they had never even dreamt of committing.

They walked through the large wooden doors through which even an elephant could easily pass through. As they entered the beauty of the manor bedazzled them and for a while this shock numbed their fears. It was a full ten minutes later that the lady of the manor walked in. She was dressed in immaculately pressed starched clothes and it was not hard to tell that she was heading for her horse ride. She was holding the horsewhip and would slap it against her palms to display its firmness as she walked around them.

“So what were you intending to steal?” she asked looking at the ceiling.
“Silence you old fool. How convenient for an old man and a small boy to work together.”
“Madam we...” was all the little boy could mumble before the whip whizzed down on his back.
“Don’t you dare talk to me boy. I know your kind” and with that another crack.

Dolan, though small, was strong. He stood without flinching. And this angered her. She whipped again and again. The boy did not move though tears had begun to swell in his eyes.

“Stop” screamed the old man. “Please don’t hit him he is innocent.”
“Are you?” and with that came the whip on his back. The old man staggered. He slowly turned around. He put his arms on the boy’s shoulders.
“C’mon boy. Lets go. We need not live like this.”
“Never turn your back to a wealthy woman you silly fool,” she yelled.

They both reached the large door. The old man turned around. “The wealth that you display can be earned by anyone. The real wealth lies inside you. I’m afraid you hardly have any.”

“And what would a beggar turned servant know about any sort of wealth? And when your hunger subsides your arrogance you will return to me. Then I shall have the last word.”

The old man and the boy were well outside by the time she had finished what she had to say. They walked towards the front gate. They saw the matron looking down from the window and the old man nodded his head in appreciation of all the kindness he had shown.

That night, after several months, they both spent their second night on the streets. The boy lied on his side since the pain from the whips hindered him from lying on his back.

“Does it hurt?” the old man asked.
“It stings. But I can bear it.”
“I have underestimated your strength Dolan. From tomorrow we shall design our new destiny.”
“What destiny lies for two beggars?”
“That we shall see. But for now take ample rest. From tomorrow we have much work to do.”

The boy fell silent for a while. “You seem to be excited about something. What is it?”
“What is it? Well it’s just this. Tomorrow we start a journey. Journey deep into the hills.”
“But why?”

The old man sighed and kept quite. For several moments he looked at the boys eyes. Then he said:

“Everyday you asked so many questions about me. I avoided answering them. But what happened today has taught me one thing. People measure honesty and character by the amount of wealth you possess. You have become a son to me and I won’t let you lead a life that I have lead.” He paused for a moment before he whispered, “long ago I was a pirate.”

The next episode will be the last one. I could go on and on, but I want to end this. Please don't mind if it turns out too quick.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

This story is going to turn out longer than I expected. Hope you don't mind.

Appearance never equals reality - part 2

That night the old man and the boy slept soundly – in the comfort of finding a new friendship. As the morning dawned the boy woke up to find the old man sitting and drawing lines on the sand.

“What’s your name boy?” the old man asked without looking at him.
“Dolan. Hmm.. so I can’t expect you to learn much, can I?”
“What do you mean?”
“Just this my boy. Dolan means a dull boy.”
“Oh! But I am not dull.”
“Well we shall see. Now get up. They say early bird catches the worm – and it’s no different for beggars.”
“We are going to catch worms?” the boy queried.
“Aha ha ha. No no, we are going to work.”
“But where? I have been asking everyone for a job but to no avail.”
“Don’t worry. I have been asked to join work in this manor across the fields. Maybe I could put in a word for you too.”
“Oh that would be swell sir. If you could please.”
“Alright alright, now hurry up. I don’t want to be late for my first day of work.”

The boy jumped up and quickly readied himself. They headed south, crossed the bridge and across the river was a stately home with neatly trimmed bushes marking its boundaries. Never had the boy seen such a large house and he held on to the old man’s robe as they walked closer and closer.

“Who resides here?” the boy asked.
“The landlord and his daughter. The landlord used to be the Kings collector for the area but now he is relieved of his duty. The daughter, I have heard, is a spoilt arrogant kid, but hopefully that shouldn’t bother us.”
“What does it take to become a collector?”
“You need to be well educated. And you need to know how to combat with swords and shields. And above all you need to earn the Kings trust.”
“Are you educated?” the boy quipped.
“Yes I can read and write. Maybe I could teach you too.”
“Me? But how, when...?”
“After work my boy. It’s not like we do anything in the nights. Why? Are you not interested?”
“Oh yes.... oh yes I am indeed.”
“Then it’s settled. I shall start teaching you from today.”

Presently they were near the gates of the manor. The old man spoke to the guard in charge on the purpose of his visit and he was guided to the side door. There they met a large bodied man in his middle years who was the supervisor of all the servants.

“Aye, so you are the person who put in the word for work eh?” squeaked the matron.
“Uh, yes sir, if you would be kind enough” mumbled the old man.
“ are very old. You won’t be of much use inside the manor. I shall assign you to the gardens. Now who is this boy you bring along?”
“Err err.. he is mine. And I was wondering if you could...”
“No no, we can’t keep taking extra hands. And this boy won’t be of much use.”
“Oh but you could allow him to work along with me. He won’t ask for extra wages. And he doesn’t have anywhere else to go.”
“Alrite alrite... but no wages for him. I will try and put a word to see if he can get a bite or two along with the servants. It won’t be a big stomach to feed.”

Soon they were assigned to their tasks. The boy would aid the old man in every possible way and they would share everything they earned. Over the course of time the matron began to appreciate their work and would in the free time chat with them about what goes on ‘inside’ the manor. Many stories were woven on how gentle the landlord was but at the same time how haughty his daughter had turned out to be. The boy would sit wide-eyed and imagine all the splendour and curious objects that the matron described.

“I have seen the young lady. She goes for a horse ride every morning doesn’t she?” asked the boy.
“Oh yes she does. And she is mighty good at it. But take care boy never to cross her path. She wouldn’t think twice to run over you” said the matron.
“But how come the Lord never steps out of the house?”
“That is because he is bed ridden. He can barely talk let alone walk. And that puts the lady in charge de affaire. It’s a shame all right. The manor is not what it used to be.”

Days passed onto weeks, and in turn became months. Every night the boy would learn to write, to read and other skills that were needed to survive in the world. The old man seemed to know everything. Everyday the boy would press the old man to tell him about himself but the old man would avoid it. He would say I will tell you when the time comes and continue with the boy’s education.

One day while working in the garden, the old man collapsed from sheer heat and exhaustion. The boy, teary eyed, picked him up and took him to rest under the shade of a windowsill. Hardly a few moments had passed when they heard a loud shriek. The boy jumped out of his skin, while the old man stood and looked at the window.

“How dare you peek through my window... you insolent fools?” it was the lady of the manor.

Monday, January 20, 2003

Anya has asked me to write up a fairy tale. In turn I have asked her to post something on politics. Here is my attempt at a fairy tale. It's not complete and I shall post the rest as and when I complete it.

Appearance never equals reality - part 1

Long long ago in a place far far away, when the world was much younger than it is today, there lived a small boy in a village called Locke. The boy’s name was Dolan and he lived with his grandmother in a small hut just outside the village. They were poor but content; the old lady would make a few pennies by selling the sweets that she prepared at her home and with that money they would lead their lives.

Years passed and the old lady took ill. Much effort did the boy put to save his only loved one but to no avail. And in the days that passed many villagers would come to his house on one pretext or the other and loot what little he had. Soon the boy was pressed to beg but in a village that was already poor his takings were not much.

Hunger makes many a man adventurous. One fine morning the boy decided to leave the village and go to the town across the hills. There he was sure he would get a job that would allow him to sustain himself. By the time the sun shone brightly he had packed his few belongings and was well on his way. He moved briskly through the tall grass that grew on either side of the fields. Every time a carriage passed by him he would run along its side and ask its owners if there was a job they could offer him. They would say, he was too weak, too small or not fit for any job, and continue to ride. Some would ride on oblivious to his requests without bothering to even steal a glance.

It was nightfall by the time he reached the town and hunger pangs were beginning to make him numb. In the distance he saw a water tap and he drank as much as he could, but water is no answer to an empty stomach. He dragged himself to the sidewall of a house and sat down. He rested his head between his knees and let his sleep subdue the hunger.

“Mmmm mmmm mmm mmm ....”

The boy woke up with a start. Someone was sitting next to him and humming. In the darkness his eyes took some time to focus on the old man stroking his beard and humming.

“I’m hungry. Do you have anything to eat?” the boy asked.
“I’m afraid all I have is this loaf of dry bread.”
“Can I have it please? I have not eaten since last morning.”
“I can tell you are not from this place” the old man said as he handed him the bread. “Which village are you from?”

The boy was least interested in a conversation. He wolf downed the dry bread coughing and patting his own head as he did so. It was only after he had downed over half the bread did he speak.

“How do you know I am from a village?”
The old man smiled. “Your soles are rough. There is dirt under your nails. And your accent is a straight give away.”
The boy looked at his soles and his fingers. “You see” the old man continued, “even the beggars in the towns will wear discarded boots to protect their feet. They feel it is below their dignity to walk around otherwise.”

“Can you always tell about people by the way they look?” the boy asked.
“Oh no my boy. I can scarcely tell about a person by looking at him.”
“Why not?”
“You are young and yet to learn a lot. But let me tell you one thing – appearance never equals reality.”

The boy had finished the bread by now. He wiped his hands on his shorts and looked at the old man. “Do you know any place where I can stay?” he asked.
“You can stay with me if you want.”
“Where do you stay?”
“In this town.”
“Yeah... but.. where in this town?”
“Oh! all over the place. We can’t be choosers can we?” he winked.

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