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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A tale of tales


Let me tell you a story, for two reasons. The first is that time is running out and clearly, time is always of the essence. The second is, it’s the only thing I can do, with any sort of passable merit. So let me get on with it.
There once lived a small boy in a city. The boy still lives but he is no longer a boy. He is a man now, and he attends to manly duties as they might come to one, with time. But once, he was a boy and he had dreams. These dreams were passed on to him through books; rows and rows upon them, all arranged neatly like the prayer lines during his morning assembly. And all he learnt from them, as time passed, was to have a wish; a wish to write the words and worlds that were written in them. Like the words that flowed out of those books, down through his mind like so many quiet gurgling rivers, he wanted his name attached to them. He wanted his own stories to flow out of his nib and make hundreds of mouths around the world turn into little ‘o’s in wonder. Was he able to do it? You bet he was. But the 'o's on peoples faces continued to elude him. 

So he struggled in school to tell his tales. He scribbled them on answer sheets. He penned them down in numerous exercise books. On a few occasions, he even tried to pass them on in the maths paper. But like butter on butterpaper on a hot summer day, it didn’t stick. But the boy did not want to give up so easily. His parents mounted pressure on him. ‘Be a doctor’, ‘be an engineer’, they said. They brought down young lads, their late adolescent pimples still showing, engineers who had just started out and fledgling doctors who would be practicing in a few years’ time. But that little boy stood his ground, an oak that refused to be bowed down by winds.

Time passed on. And it let its rot set in the boy’s dreams. It decayed and turned, bits of it quietly slipping away. But one thing remained; a little gift that the books had given him. It was his sense of wonder, one that led him down the road towards an unending thirst for knowledge. It carved out the job of a copywriter for him…one that let him earn his daily bread and not let his spark of creativity die. That boy (nay, a man now!) still often seeks a quiet moment off his work. He uncaps his pen carefully and crafts his tales for anyone who cares to hear. He still dreams that withered dream of pursuing the Creative Writing Programme at UEA in the UK and set out to complete the dream that the little boy had dreamed so long ago. And someday, by jove, he will.

This story, as you might have guessed, is mine. When I read about this contest, I almost wished that the top prize would be a scholarship to a Master’s Programme in Creative Writing in the UK. Not getting rewards have never stopped the writer in me. I saw this as a chance of telling a story that I have never had the courage to put down in words. I do not know if what I have written here will ever come true. However, I do know, that this contest has made me pick up the proverbial pen yet again and put down my thoughts into words. I has made me start spinning my yarns and interweave them into a tapestry of lore. And for that, I am thankful.
Stories, in their purest meaning, stand for something which is not based in facts. By that argument, this is a story and not one at the same time. That little boy is still waiting out there, to create his own shelves filled with books carrying his words. And as I write this, he is smiling. 

(Written for the #knowledgeisgreat contest. Learn more about it at knowledgeisgreat.in)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Thinkshop - the future of buying

Technology is changing as we speak, and so are all our experiences associated with it. Fiction is turning to design, to technology, to reality everyday. With better gadgets, better cars, better technology, the number of steps that lead us to buy something is getting smaller and smaller.
Shopping started from shops, graduated to malls and finally, post-graduated to online shopping. Current online shopping experiences like E-Bay give you everything that you could possibly need out of a store and often, more. You can browse through the entire catalog of products without leaving the comfort of your chair and even order it from there! One would like to believe that this is the pinnacle of shopping experiences that one can achieve. However, when I think about how shopping would be in the future, I see a very 'human' trend that would eventually be driving technology by the time we reach 2030; instinct.

Here's a glimpse of a 'possible' future.

Its the 11th of September, 2030. Your intelliclock, synced to your bio-cycle informs the body that it is 7 o'clock in the morning and time to wake up. The next three hours are spent doing the daily chores that SMARTHUMAN(SH) has programmed for you. You do not have office today. What will you do? Do you think? Not really. SH tells you that its time to THINKSHOP. You agree, realizing that there was something that you needed to buy but can't recall what. Oh well, Thinkshop would surely be able to help you out with that!

You slowly go and sink into the comfortable couch and pull on the helmet. As soon as the grooves on it fit to the side of your ears, a familiar voice greets you: "Welcome back to Thinkshop- shop it before you think it!" Your face breaks into a smile and you sink into the extremely soothing music that you find yourself enjoying. A quick status bar saying 'stand by...identifying preferences' flashes for a while and then disappears. Your room starts breaking up into little particles, disappearing, melting, as a bright white light floods your vision. "People in the past used to think this was how life after death looked like" you laugh to yourself, while everything around you disappears, completely immersing you in a white wash of brilliant light...

"Hey! Haven't seen you in a while!" Angeline croons, dressed in short black skirt and a spotless white shirt. She is your 'VHelp' or virtual sales help who takes you through your shopping experience. She is designed according to your chosen avatar, right down to the color of her hair, but more on that later. Right now she is jumpy with excitement, her eyes twinkling with what she has in store for you.

"What is it? Did you..." you begin, but she cuts you off, her patience having worn thin.

"You won't believe what I found for you...it's the FITSHIRT you have been wanting for so long! It's in the exact shade you have been looking for too; a midnight blue, with a hint of turquoise and a whiff of mauve so subtle that you won't know it if I didn't tell you!" You think about it while the shirt appears in front of you. You realize that you never told her about it but its the exact shirt that you would buy if you were buying one. No wonder they call it thinkshop!

You smile and the shirt disappears. It has been billed already, detecting your 'smile value' as a confirmation. Before you know, a complimenting pair of trousers, a pair of custom sneakers, a holiday in Greece and tickets to the finals of IPL 2030 have also been booked, where the double teams of MadhyaGuj Pegasus are playing HyderaKol Gryphons.

You would have to learn to smile less.

As you think about ending the session, Angeline throws her trump card. "Leaving already?" she sings, her voice making imaginary butterflies fly right out of your stomach and through your ears. "I will make you an offer you can't refuse, pumpkin..." Everything blanks out; your newly bought clothes, shoes and everything else fades into the background. Then a little puddle of black starts forming, bubbling, expanding, little wisps of smoke rising from it.

"Oh no!" you cry out.

"Oh yes, my sugarlove" Angeline whispers, her honey voice landing softly in your ears.

The pool has become several feet wide. A red bump appears in the middle and then grows bigger. It continues to grow. A shiny roof followed by crystal clear glass windows follow.

"Oh sweet virtual Jesus" you mumble.

 Standing in front of you is the Grand Elysium 3000, the car you have been eyeing for a while now. Its spectacular interiors and smooth body lines seem to be calling out to you. As your mind goes into a tizzy, the autostart activates and the car roars to life. It rolls slowly, a hunter stalking its prey, and slides to a stop in front of you, it's door opening invitingly.

"I can't buy this now. It's too expensive. I don't have this sort of money!" you speak, almost pleading to Angeline. She continues to smile.

"Yes you can. Your annual bonus just got credited. You haven't done too bad it seems" she says, her smile lighting up the highway of your heart. You smile back and the car disappears. You realize a moment later, but she is already swishing back into the whiteness with a "see you later honey". The familiar 'we loved having you here! You think...you shop!" dies down as your room comes back into focus. You take off the helmet, uttering a happy sigh of consumer satisfaction. Yet, you feel like you needed something that you didn't buy. What was it? What didn't Thinkshop tell you this time?

"Toothpaste!" you scream to yourself, as the birds outside your window continue to chirp and your aerofone lights up with 'Shopper journey terminated. Thank you for shopping at Thinkshop! Visit us soon!'

(written for 'the future of shopping' contest at Indiblogger. Learn more about it here: bit.ly/eBayCheck_Extention )



   

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Launch

It gives me the greatest pleasure to announce the grand opening of my new headquarters www.mithunmukherjee.in!! Time to flock over there folks! :)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Quick Update!

Hiya folks!!

Will be at IIT Delhi on 24th September (TODAY!!) at 3.30 pm for the book launch of Seven Deadly Sins by Serene Woods publication, a compilation of winning short stories judged by me. My books Revenge and Cold Feet would also be up for sale as well. Be there for your signed copies! :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Halfthought


Am I a writer?

Is a writer like one of the thousand scattered, among the sea dream that we pass off as the sky?

As the cosmos, or the milky way?
What defines you?

What combines you,

As a human being or a multi celled organism

Trying to be what you probably wouldn’t even be

In your waking lives?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The City


I am the ruins of a forgotten city.
A city which is now a half baked jigsaw of broken down monuments.
You may call these monuments buildings,
for they once were built on the foundations of character and a vague semblance of humanity.
There are building of tears,
Arches of guilt,
Unending pathways of remorse
Blind-turns of faith, hope and agony.
I am still alive.

The city is still alive.
Alive and dead in the same moment of space time.
There are crumbling bricks of men and decaying concrete women.
They were complete once, now , only pictures.
Installations in a gallery which no one visits.
Flickering images and broken dialogue on television sets
Soaps with anonymous actors, playing out unknown stories,
Broadcasted on channels which don’t exist.
I hear music.

The city has music.
Jarring, itching notes created on a violin
Made out of broken furniture and high tension wires.
It goes on and on, like the unending leak lying unrepaired
At the house which plays the soaps.
The city is empty and full.
Loud and quiet.
I am the city that you cross, looking out of train windows
Visiting places that you think you know.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Tab saves the day...


Jack was a sick kid.
Here, sick does not stand for someone who has a sadistic bent of mind or has thoughts so vile, that the society doesn’t see fit to interact with him. It means that he was one of those frail kids who are mostly on some sort of pills to cure one ailment, while the other ailment is secretly sneaking up on them, dragging them back to sickness, not breaking the ‘vicious cycle of sick kids’. In fact, he was so sick that his pill popping in school got him a nickname; Tablet.
For the longest time, Jack tried to get rid of the name, tried to fight it. He ran past kids in corridors, bumped into them at the canteen. It was not only his classmates anymore. Somehow, the name had leaked out of his classroom and slushing across the school corridors, soaked the entire school into a jeering, teasing frenzy. Tablet Tablet Tablet. In the dark corner behind the school building. Tablet tablet. In the last cubicle of the washroom, scrawled across the back of the door.
TabletTabletTabletTablet.
This was before a single day changed his life.

Jack the introvert spent a lot of time on his computer.  He had been following the date for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 750 launch, just the way an expectant kid waits for Christmas. And then finally, whump! The day was there. It was the tenth of August, 2011, the LIVE Webcast of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 750 launch. Jack watched it like it was the last programme before Doomsday.


As the webcast slowly went on, the circuits inside Jack were going through a change that he wasn’t personally aware of. All the negativity was suddenly fizzling out like it never existed. He had been running a slight temperature, being the ‘sick boy’ that he was, but that was slowly turning into history, with every single second passing on screen. It was as if, the webcast was like a placebo not only for his illness; it was the answer that he was looking for, all his life. He never noticed his father enter the room and stand behind him. He never noticed him smiling and giving an almost invisible nod to himself. He never saw the satisfaction playing on his face, having finally found a way out for his son. All he saw was the dreamy image of the tablet in the webcast. He slept a peaceful sleep. Jack the tablet was soon going to spring a surprise not only to the people around him but also to himself, as he would soon find out.
The next morning was going to be the best morning he had had in a long time. The sun shone in through his window and he half opened an eye to look. Time for school. He raised his hand to the dresser beside his bed to get his glasses. Strangely, his hand touched something sleek and rectangular. Something he hadn’t expected. Something which Couldn’t have been there. When he opened his eyes, he held up the rectangular thing.

There was nothing else he could ask for...
As he settled into his seat in computer class in the last period, he fished out the Samsung tablet and connected it to the wi fi. The kids around him took their notes in the laptops that they carried, eyeing him with furtive glances, exchanging words which Jack no longer cared about. There was a smile playing on his lips. As he sent in the assignment of the day, executed on his sleek new device, he saw the teacher give him a strange look and saying nothing. As the day closed, he heard a mean voice in the back hissing “tablet”... he turned back slightly and curling the right side of his lip in a knowing grin replied “exactly”...
 As school got over, he was sitting right outside his school gates, browsing through his favourite e-books that he had recently transferred to the device. “Hey, fancy!” he heard a voice croon right near him, and his heart splashed right into his stomach. “Um...sorry, I only know your name as, uh , tablet”, she fumbled sheepishly. Jack was feeling large hearted, so he replied ‘Its Jack. You are Jenn right? Football star Ned’s girlfriend?’
“Was!” she said rolling her eyes “he thinks he owns me or something, so I got rid of that jerk. You mind coming along for a coffee?” she said.
Jack’s heart, which was finally returning to its original position, fell right back with a louder splash this time. “Sure” he said and got up to dust the backside of his pants.  As he tried to stuff back the tab, he heard “Can I see it?” from her. ‘Umhmm’ he replied handing it to her, as they walked to the cafe, not hand-in-hand. Not yet.
Afternoon soon stretched into late evening, as they chattered their hearts out. She was a huge reader, the last thing that he expected. He showed her his e-book collection, going from one title to another. Jenn continued squealing with happiness as she handled the tab, her fingers flowing smoothly over the amazing touch screen. In the meantime, he had somehow managed to quickly text his dad about not worrying, that he Just might be late. Eventually, it was time to leave the place as the sun had already dipped below the horizon, and the first stars were coming out.
“Lets hit Ollie’s!” she sang, her eyes twinkling like the prettiest diamonds Jack had ever seen. Jack wasn’t a pub hopper, so he tried to chicken out, “no not happening! I gotta get home, its too late anyways...my dad...”
“Just this time. I promise it would be fun” her voice like the most beautiful melody Jack’s ears would catch. This was turning more difficult that he imagined. ‘Sure’ he said relenting, now headed to a pub, for the first time in his life.
Ollie’s  turned out better than he had expected. Since they had checked in early evening, the place was just warming up. Few scattered high school kids occupied a few stools while others were occupied with people he would rather not want to have anything to do with.
The minutes of his Blockbuster Life Movie sped past him. He couldn’t believe that he, Jack the tablet, could actually have so much of fun in a single day, let alone a lifetime. He had his tab snug inside his backpack. Two beers down, his body felt light, like a kite. He was at peace. But then, just like every Blockbuster, it was time for the twist.
A heavy hand landed on his shoulder and a voice boomed behind him ‘Someone let Jack out of the box today hmm?’ A few stray voices sniggered. He did not need telling it was Ned, the football star, the one who had received atleast six detentions in the last year itself, out of which atleast four were for beating up guys. That, ofcourse, was the official count.
Jenn looked behind him and said “I wouldn’t do that if I were you Ned”, motioning Jack secretly to move. Ned came and stood leaning on their table, going red in the face only slightly before hitting back at her “Tablet? Seriously? You must be seriously out of your mind!” A few more laughs followed. Jack signalled the guy at the bar for the cheque.
“I am not. I can prove it to you that Jack here is more intelligent than all of you guys combined” she said colouring visibly. In fact, he can take money off you to clear the bill here, right this moment!” she said. A loud roar of laugh went up from his cronies, and Jack suddenly started wishing he could melt into the sofa he was sitting on.  
Ned silenced the laughing hyenas behind him with a raised arm. He then turned towards Jack. His next words were like a death knell. He whispered, his face level with Jack, breathing right into his face,
“Sure. What do you have on your mind Jack?”
Jack’s mind raced like it was one of those hulking supercomputers he had googled so many times on the internet. He slowly slid his hand, out of Ned’s sight into his side, where the tab now lay, and closed his fingers around his new best friend, the Samsung Tab. Right then, a moment of inspiration struck him. He spoke
“Alright Ned, here’s what we do. I ask you a question. If you answer it, I will give you five bucks. But in case you don’t, you would have to give me fifty bucks. Deal?” He fervently hoped his head wouldn’t turn into a mashed potato.
‘Sure tablet, bring it on. But if I or my friends answer it, you are gonna give me much more than five bucks’ Ned retorted, steaming a little. People around the pub were starting to look now. Jack gave a slight nod.
Jack’s mind raced as thought about every question he had ever read. His mind went into a tizzy. Before he knew what he was saying, he blurted,
“What goes up a mountain on four legs and comes down on three?”
Ned’s face looked like someone had knocked the wind out of him. His cronies slowly started backing up, half step at a time, knocking they were soon going to be hauled up for the answer. But Ned did no such thing. Instead he screamed, “That’s bullshit” and swung his right arm at Jack’s face. Jack closed his eyes for impact. The punch never came. When he opened his eyes, Jenn was holding his hand and he looked like he had seen a ghost. Jenn spoke
“Why don’t you stop behaving like an animal for once, and put down the money if you don’t know the answer?” Jenn glowered. Jack made a mental note of taking tips on bravado from her later.
Ned, knowing that he was stuck square, fished into his pocket and came out with the fifty. The cheque was there as well. He boomed ‘I don’t know the answer.’  
Jack fished into his pocket and slung his bag. When his hand came out, he had his palm balled up around something. Holding the Samsung tab in one hand, he said ‘I would take the tab now, gentle men.’ No one said anything. He picked up the fifty and gave it to the waiter.  The waiter quickly gave him the change and disappeared from the scene. A big hand belonging to an equally big Ned, blocked his way.
“I don’t know the answer” he said through gritted teeth, his face a big tomato, on the verge of exploding.
Ned calmly took his hand and closed it around the object that he had been holding.  Ned opened it to discover a fiver.
‘Neither do I!’ Jack screamed behind him, as he heard laughter coming from Ned’s friends, and his efforts at quietening them down.  A few strangers smiled at him. His right hand was inside his pocket, fiddling with the change that had come back from the waiter. He felt fingers close around his left. The most delicate and beautiful fingers that he could ever imagine holding. Life was good. As he walked out, a single thought crossed his mind,
‘I took care of the tab. Or maybe, the Tab took care of me...”
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