I write so I can breathe. I am constantly evolving, mindless at times, frustrating even perhaps but heck, I wouldn't change the smell of freedom that comes with writing.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

An Interview

Six years of working in Human Resources has been a time of extreme emotions and feelings. You cannot not go through some really funny but frustrating moments. Here is one about an evening when I was interviewing (with three other colleagues who did not ask a single question) pilots for an airline. I am sharing this little piece I had written later that evening. The year is 2007.

This prospective candidate has already cleared his first interview. Comments of the First Panel of interviewers grade him as Very Good, Excellent and Good (whatever happened to Fair, Average???) Alright I'm a stinker when it comes to interviews but then if one is interviewing someone who is going to take people up in the air every single day one can’t be too careful and ten times over.

He is overweight. All my illusions and previous visions of smart good looking fit pilots...sigh! He walks in, unsure and stands uncomfortably for about ten seconds before he decides he has to sit down. I have two other panel members who stare at me. I roll my eyes (cover it up real quick) and then proceed to ask him to tell us about himself. His psychology sheet is in front of me. The reflection ain't too great and he blabs to reconfirm all our fears.

How many years of flying experience do you have?
22. (I raise my eyebrows) 22 years.

When was the last time you flew an aircraft?
November 2006

What Airline do you work for?
Ah...umm...Sosoliso...you know, the airline got grounded. (We stare at him)

Isn't that when they grounded... I mean when you last flew?
Yes, but I wasn't flying the plane that crashed (Lord...would he be sitting here alive if he was?)

Can I see your log book?
He hands over a thick log, green, worn, faded along the edges
I flip open the pages. The over-writing is frequent. I look up. His flying licence has expired.

You don't fill this log everyday do you?
Umm...(he shuffles and has the how-do-you-know look)

Well? (more shuffling...I can hear his shoes squeak)
Once a week. I write it down in a piece of paper and fill it in once a week.

What if you lost it?
Ah!(he relaxes with half a smile playing on his lips) I always can go to the office, they have records. I update mine by checking theirs.

How many accidents have you been in?
(It was a general question really, like even a bike, car or fire accident .I did not say air accidents)
About two...it was not my fault...he goes on to explain why it wasn't his fault...never mind the fact that those two aircrafts never took off again.

And so it goes...for another twenty minutes

Tell us about your family?
I have eight kids...only two wives ( we are all trying very hard here to keep a straight face)...is not much...my father had eight wives and 27 children.

The three of us make noise. I clear my throat. The one on my right coughs. The one on my left finds it appropriate to sneeze.

Tell me three strong points you have that make you fit for the position applied for.
Oh yes...I have 22 years of experience and I like meeting people and I have connections with the government (which incidentally has changed because of the elections though I don't see the connection here with flying)

Tell me three of your weak points.
I don't have any. I like women (he stares at me, I burn him with one of my poker stares...more fumbling...) Its not a bad thing.

I sigh. He sees it on my face that he's lost it.
Madam, please...try me out (huh!)...I am fit for the job...I can do anything.

I raise my eyebrow. Anything?
I beg Madam...I am good.

Both my other panel members look to me for closure and indicate they won’t be able to hold the laughter anymore. By now, it’s a volcano...waiting and almost erupting.

I look up, take a deep breath...not quite knowing whether to be amused or annoyed.

Mr (so and so)...This was your second round of interview. Should you get short-listed beyond this point, you will hear from the recruiting agency that sent you. Thank you. It was good to see you.

Madam, I beg...
I stare. I smile genially (oh please please please get out now before we all crack up).

Have a good weekend I say.

He gets up, bends half a knee in curtsy (o mi gawd), stands straight, turns and walks out of the room.

Pilot! I'm picking my phone to blast the first panel of interviewers. I have five more candidates to go through...it’s six in the evening! 
- Sandy

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Of Dreams and Destiny

Sometimes, there is an attempt to twist the tale around. This was an attempt to twist the end of Romeo and Juliet into A Midsummer Night's Dream. With no offence or attempt to be a step ahead of Shakespeare or Charles Lamb, here is a take on what could have happened...

Bad news, which always travels faster than good, now brought the story of his Juliet's death to Romeo, at Mantua, before the messenger could arrive, who was sent from Friar Laurence to apprise him that these were mock funerals only, nothing but the shadow and representation of death, and that his dear lady lay in the tomb but for a short while, expecting when Romeo would come to release her from that dreary mansion. Just before, Romeo had been unusually joyful and light-hearted. He had dreamed in the night that he was dead (a strange dream that gave a dead man leave to think), and that his lady came and found him dead, and breathed such life with kisses in his lips, that he revived, and was an emperor! - Charles Lamb

The funeral was over, and all of Verona had paid homage to the departed souls of the two star-crossed lovers who had died, and left behind the two reconciled families, the Capulets and the Montagues.

Juliet rose from her grave and walked to where they had laid Romeo to rest. She showered the sweetest of kisses on his lips and he awoke to find himself alive and with his beloved.

"Arise Romeo, my sweet love, there is no time to spare. We must rush forth from the gloom of this grave to better climes before we are discovered."

Juliet held her husband's hands and led him to a corner to meet the two kindly souls who had helped them find their happiness. Titania and Oberon stood with their attendants and the spry Puck.

Romeo and Juliet were led from an opening in the wall into a forest where chirping birds made sweet music. Tiny wings fluttered and the fairies were spirited in merry chase of each other in reception to the couple.

"Come my children," said Oberon, leading Romeo to the centre of the forest, "there is a gift for thee and thy charming bride."

He waved his hand over the clearing in the forest and there appeared a castle bedecked in finery.

"O fond Romeo," declared Oberon, "thou are to be the emperor, ruling the forest that I ruled for aeons. O sweet lady, adoring as thou art in the eyes of Titania, and of whose eyes doth Romeo say hath the peril of twenty swords, will be empress, as befitting thy praiseworthy carriage in life."

Romeo fell to his knees and bowed to Oberon, "Thou art too kind sire!" He turned to Titania, where she stood with Juliet, and gallantly kissed her elfin hands, too overcome by gratitude to gaze up to the kind fairies. Juliet stood silent, much too prevailed upon by emotion to speak, tears sparkling unshed in her dark eyes.

Then, Puck leapt and made merry music, received his new king, not revealing that he preferred the old, laid a banquet, surpassing all bountiful spread, while in a twinkle, Titania and Oberon disappeared.

Romeo and Juliet ate the sumptuous meal and decided to explore their domain. Halfway through the leisurely walk, gentle draughts played lullabies and bit by bit drifted the two to the land of slumber. Puck, awaiting his moment to bring his much-loved Oberon and gentle Titania to the forest, was unable to control his urge to play a trick...

In a trice, a fairy was transformed into Rosaline... Puck directed her to wake the two lovers while he poured onto Romeo's sleeping lids Love in Idleness, the juice invoking passion, he had kept with him.

"Romeo, my treasured love, speak to me, I beg thee. Do not lie there in the arms of Juliet and scorn my love so..."

Romeo and Juliet were roused by Rosaline's utterances thus. Romeo opened his eyes to find Rosaline in front of him. Her loveliness inebriated him and filled him with longing for her affections. Juliet watched in dismay, and Puck remained aside watching Juliet's face, as she saw her husband's love snatched by a damsel she had seen at the banquet in her father's house and now recognized as Rosaline.

Blinded by the magic potion, Romeo bent down and took Rosaline's hands to his lips, pledging his fidelity to none but her. He swore his love and allegiance and stood to ask her if he could drink from her lips the sweet wine they promised. Rosaline did not refuse him. Romeo showered kisses on Rosaline's fair face while Juliet fought hard to keep from falling, thinking in desperation of the betrayal of her affections. She found her love for Romeo being obscured by her rising ire.

"Why dost thou hurt me thus?" cried Juliet desperately, " thou doth pierce my soul with thy cruel actions."

Romeo turned to Juliet as if he had seen her for the first time.

"'Twas a mistake to love thee," he said. "Rosaline stole my heart and I love her more than my life." He then turned to face Rosaline.

"I do profess my desire to thee. No prettier flower hast bloomed in this bower than thee, O fair Rosaline." He took her arms. "O Rosaline! Sweeter than honey, purer than the lilies that grow in this forest, I love thee so!"

Juliet sat down and buried her face in her hands...the tears began to flow like a torrent unleashed. She could not accept as truth that her love would wound her thus. She lamented over her lost love, seeming all the more endearing for it. She cried out, "O Oberon and dear Titania, why didst thou leave me thus! My love forsakes me for another and I know naught what I should do!"

In an instant appeared Oberon and Titania, heeding her lament.

"Fair maiden, why dost thou appear heart-broken?" asked Titania. Juliet was relieved to see them and her gaze went across from them to where Romeo made a fool of himself with Rosaline.

"My lord!" Titania addressed her beloved. "Should thee not chase this maiden's sorrows away? I do summon up the potion that had made me love an ass so."

Oberon realized that Puck had been up to mischief. Sure enough, the sprite appeared by his side. He bowed low and addressed his king, "My lord! Joyful am I to find myself in thy presence once again. Bid me to serve thee, for I am your most humble slave and thou my master."

Titania and Oberon soothed a distraught Juliet to no avail. She felt that nothing could ever console or comfort her of his love again. Oberon rebuked Puck, telling him to explain to Juliet what he had done. While admitting his role in the enfolding drama, Puck showed no repentance for his action. After a great deal of dithering, he confessed to Juliet the reason for his deed.

Oberon assured Juliet that he would bring Romeo to his senses, and chased away Rosaline, who flitted away and disappeared. A lost Romeo wonders whither Rosaline has gone. Oberon asked him to close his eyes and poured the antidote on his heavy lids...

Romeo rose, as if from a dream. Seeing Juliet crying in Titania's arms shattered him. Ashamed, he berated himself for his lack of sensibilities. Kneeling before his distressed wife, looking beseechingly into her dark pools, he lamented, "It would be better for me to die than be the cause of thy distress. Never can I forgive this treacherous spirit that didst sorrow thy heart so!"

Juliet looked at Romeo with regret. "Romeo! Thou didst pierce my heart with a thousand arrows. There lies a stone that wearies my mind and sinks my heart into the deepest of oceans. Why didst thou, even in your dream, think of Rosaline when thou hast sworn thy life to me! Such is my sorrow, such is the pain thou bestow on me that it shall torment my heart for all my life. Whereof was born such thoughts I am to know. Such a fool it makes of me to be pained so!"

She then proclaimed: "My life had been lived finer when I died piercing my heart with thy knife, knowing that thou were mine everlastingly in death."

A rush of wind swirled them together, speeding them to their graves in Verona.

Oberon and Titania looked at each other, speechless for a moment.

Titania wiped away a stray tear and broke the silence. "They were bestowed life so they could live and love each other eternally. O king! Why did they bring this upon themselves so?"

Oberon mused.

"Perhaps life bestows opportunities on lovers
To make or mar their lives.
Bountiful did we make their world but
Thus was planned their end
Destiny decreed it
Whence methinks they would have made a fine husband and wife!"



Pampered by Life

You know Life has decided to pamper you when...

...warm winds gently caress, softly whisper sweet endearments in your ears

...time ticks like the grandfather clock in your mind in a music of its own

...the mind sees, analyses and reminiscence a life replete with miracles

...every minute moulds you to what you are

...lying back in the sunshine you enjoy the breeze

...affection nuzzles at you, blooming in the flowers springtime brings

...you endorse upon your life your presence

...unlooked for, unforeseen, unintended...perchance you find love in an unlikely place

...fate hurls two people together, to snatch, to give moments in time that lasts

You know. Then.

- Copyright@Sandy2012

What are you saving yourself for?

"If you are not HERE, what are you saving yourself for?"

I have to thank Kunal Mithril for this sentence he shared last evening while he read out a page or so from the book Radical Acceptance by Tara Brack. And I know I will read this one. Soon.

And why...Why is it so hard to be in the now? This too shall pass is what we say...and if it will, why not make it worth the love and affection and goodwill we have to share? When Kunal said this, I dwelt upon the words, it lingered and made me realise just how close this was to how I am trying to live my life. I also recollected a couple of quotes that define me as the person I am and how I look at life. I pick on one today.

The first one is by Marianne Williamson that goes like this - “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I did not read this quote. I actually heard it as a dialogue in a film for the first time. I recall the film. However, the film, at all future points in my life was irrelevant. These lines, however, remained with me. I lingered upon it and my soul savoured it, tasting the beauty and life that emanated out of it. We are indeed so afraid of what someone else will think of us, whether we will be able to handle being gorgeous as human beings that we stunt our own growth and repress ourselves all our lives. Why does it become so difficult to be kind, love, kiss, hug, smile, say ‘I love you’ when you really mean it, do little things that so cross our minds but we never get around to doing it because some part of our head tells us, hey, stop, are you being funny, do you know how weird it looks? Bottom line is who are we really not to be?

What stops us? Agreed, it feels out of place. However, it is just the beginning that will feel out of place. Did you not feel out of place, learning to speak a new language? It is akin to that. Assume you are learning a new language. It may feel strange for a while, people may look at you a little weirdly…the question is, do you want to be? If you do, you will learn this beautiful new way of life no matter how much others around you think you are suddenly behaving differently. There is a perspective to this. You are, in fact, discovering a beautiful side to you that you did not discover. Please do not confuse this with the material aspect of your life. I am talking soul and you in your body, mind, heart and soul here. What others think of this is really irrelevant. Those who love you deeply will encourage you in your journey. It is still your journey. Those who thrive in fear will look at it differently. That, my friend, is their problem, not yours. 
Either ways, think about it! Who are you not to be? What are you saving yourself for? Especially when your NOW is the one that really is HERE with you. 

Land Ahoy - Sequel to Mid-Watch at Sea

Dawn broke into an opaque foggy morning the sun could not penetrate.

The anchor dropped. Twenty minutes later the ship had come to a standstill, hollow sounds came in from the damaged portion. The ship mourned. Two divers splashed into the chilly waters. An unnatural silence, breath held, not a single soul dared lean more than was required, as if one person’s weight would tilt and capsize it. The atmosphere on board had an eerie, surreal quality about it. From the seabed came the ghostly echoes breaking the sounds of silence.

The divers were back, shaking their heads. It did not look good. In another minute they were down. I reckon the Captain wanted them to check again. Nothing explained the continuous tilt. It was pitch dark and murky.

We were moving again, a cautious crawl. The vessel groaned back to life. The propellers slowly rotated, leaving a miserable wake in its thrust. Life hung, inch-by-inch, angle-by-angle, and knot-by-knot.

There was nothing to do but to keep watch. The pain of the damage hurt me deep within. I saw the same pain in the eyes of the others. Fear invaded slowly, creeping stealthily into even those who dared. Courage never quite abandoned though. We had to pull ourselves together if we were to make it. If…

The smelly reprimands would come later. For now I simply decrypted and encrypted situation reports. The tone of the incoming and outgoing signals resonated in my head; a melody that stuck like a gramophone record, playing the same tune over and over again.

The divers were back on board.

“We can’t see a thing below Sir,” said the Ship’s Diving Officer.

The sonar echoed the sounds of the ocean beds, hollow. Ships passed by, almost slowing down to see the ravages of the early hours damage on the ships side; ripped apart like a paper boat, tonnes and tonnes of pungent fuel in the salted expanse of green waters.

Splash! Down into the waters went five brand new DVD’s of “The Titanic”

We would rather let that sink than this”, was offered by way of explanation. The statement stank of superstition. I roamed the decks, strolled up to the foxle from the port and looked back. She was grey, majestic, now injured and the pain of her damage and inadequacy of her slow limp across the strait, etched clearly on each sailor’s face.

The waters lapped the ship’s side, glittering waves gently bathing the sides. What I would watch with interest for hours was now a reminder of fallen glory. The day dragged on leaden feet. There was nothing to do but keep watch and slowly inch towards survival or death; we knew not which.

I saw the Captain; tired, weary, his entire flying career hopes shrunken into one desperate wish of making it to the shore safely. I looked at him searching for some of that sparkle that always told of his amazing sense of humour. I looked away. The day felt empty, hollow in its entirety.

Time marched on keeping its beat as the Ship’s company gazed into the horizon. The clock did its monotonous round of moving and ticking, minutes dragging, circle after circle, bringing an end to the day. So far so good, I thought and sighed. A lot will have to be accounted for when…if.

No one slept that night. Everyone simply thought they might just sink into the dark waters in the darkness of the foggy blanket of the seas. Several times, hushed feet made its way to the upper deck to the bridge. Eventually, I simply woke. I made my way down to the Wardroom. The aroma of roasted fresh-ground coffee stirred up my senses. We all sat the entire night, arguing, assuming, presuming, and wondering over facts and fiction as to just how it happened.

The OOW suddenly was an outlaw. The frozen blockade was up everywhere. A cold sudden hushed silence welcomed him with folded arms everywhere he went. Accusatory eyes roamed all over the ship. The wall was up, without a curtain or a veil. There was simply a difference in the outlook, all destroyed by quirk of fate or…was it sheer carelessness? Nobody knew for sure, yet, everyone talked about it. He became a pariah, deserted, an outcaste from the tribe of seamen.

Each time the ship groaned, whispered curses would meander from all angles and then sink in with the rolling and pitching. One does not need to sink a ship literally to destroy it. One just needs to sink the spirit on camaraderie.

The ship sailed on, undaunted by the blemishes upon her body, eyes searching for land which was far away yet.

The third day finally, forty miles due to reaching port, we saw the patch of green of an island. Resounding cheers echoed. The silence broke. The sky in accompaniment was blue. Waves reached out to touch and embrace the ship’s side.

What followed was something that never quite gave me time to breathe. Two Fighter Crafts flew past and almost immediately a white brilliance blinded me. The white haze sucked the air out into stillness. My senses woke for just a sharp painful instance and the vision froze in the silence that cut through, sucking the air out of my lungs just for a quick second.

The screams tore the ship apart in pandemonium. In the next instance the icy chill of the water gripped my body and I gasped trying to not breathe the water instead. The salt cut knife-like into my eyes. I came up for air and ignored the chaos to inflate my life jacket. My eyes shut out the vision, my senses numb while the sole thing I tried to do was not to get near the propellers. Fire licked the surface of the ship slowly, surely, inching towards the cargo tanks. My limbs were on automation now.

Later, I thought, there will be time to think this over. I have to be alive if I am to be of any use. Corpses floated around me; a reminder of the bodies in the Ganges, afloat, in an attempt at salvation. Focus. Focus. I was getting dreamy and the impact added to my dizziness…focus, stay awake…


Mid-Watch at Sea

I woke in a sweat. The teddy bear fell atop me from the shelf above. It was quiet, too quiet. The water splashed against the ship’s hull, the porthole dark. The luminous dial read three past four. I waited. It was as if I had a premonition. The radio transmission crackled a desperate “Aw shit…no!” There was no mistaking the panic…

Five seconds is all it took. The tearing of metal grated into my ears. That is another five seconds. Two monsters collided, dragging, embracing, tearing away, and rotating on a forced axis. I jumped. Even as the metal tore, I changed into my uniform yelling at Jyotsna to get up to be dressed. I was out in less than thirty seconds, dressed, having slapped the hysterical Jyotsna, ordering her to get to the Radio Room promptly. Noise built up in quick succession, the alarm screamed into the air, foreboding and ominous. Feet hurried through the corridors, up through the hatches. “Hands to action stations! Hands to action station!” the radio broadcasted, the vessel groaning to the starboard. I sprinted up to the Radio Room.

The slowing down was hurried and hurtled most sideways.

Ordered to check the damage, I went down.

“Stop bloody panicking and get to your stations!” I bellowed; dragging out two seamen crouched in corner. The ship was inclining. I ran through the hatch out into the fog and rain.

I swore. The torch skimmed the waters. I leaned holding to the derrick, the freeboard too close for comfort. The air stank of diesel. The torchlight moved ahead mid-ship. My heart hammered against the chest. The entire hull, some ten meters away, was torn. A little below, to the bulkhead was another rip and way too close. Zero visibility, rain pouring, fuel all around, the damage below yet unknown. Seven past four!

The icy November air bit into the soaked uniform. I rushed back, up to the Bridge. I barely saw sailors around. A large number of them had assembled at the helo-deck, life jackets inflated, two groups of them flanked beside the lifeboats. Dammit! The radio crackled yet again. “Hands to action station! Hands to action station!” The nerds at emergency station! The head count revealed a sailor missing; a search dragged him out from a fire closet.

Lightning continued to light up the weather deck, ghost-like. The Commanding Officer stood at the helm, the Navigating Officer barked off orders. The Replenishment Officer monitored fuel levels shifted cargo to the port, the ballast tanks suitably emptied and filled. The ship moaned upright slowly. The OOW shivered in shock. It was his first solo watch on the busy Straits of Malacca.

Four ten.
The cramped Radio Room was at work. The signals flew around, encrypting and decrypting, rapid noise of the typewriter blending with headsets cracking transmission.

Speed was down to five knots. The Boatswain Mate shouted orders. Finally, the sailors clambered to their action stations. Divers would have to wait till daybreak. A difference of two seconds would have sunk the ship…or would it still sink? The tilt began again.

Down at the Galley, chaos reigned. The NBCD Officer called in reports. Hot oil was on the floor, slippery and spreading. Two hands were at work throwing wheat flour on it to contain the spread. Two of them had burns, one a fracture. I sent them to the sickbay. The ship sloped sharply. Shouts broke out in terror.

“Stay put. Carry on with work!” I went off, further below to the stores. The place was strewn with glass.

“Where is the Lieutenant?” I inquired. There was no reply, just a blank stare. The next announcement brought her to the quarterdeck. She was petrified.
"Are we going to die?”

I glowered. What a blooming idiot of an Officer!

“Stop it! Get on with taking charge.” I hissed,” I’ll throw you overboard without a life jacket. The propellers are fifteen metres away.”

“Yes Ma’am!”

Four forty! Orders passed back and forth to the Engine Room. No leakages so far.

“I don’t know what’s wrong. It keeps tilting. I’ve tried everything.” Said the Replenishment Officer.

“Keep trying.”

The ship’s see saw persisted; despair hanging in the air, shroud-like. The nearest port was two hundred miles away.

Five thirty...

Would we make it?


(Did they make it? There is a Sequel.)