Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Ace up my Sleeve- Part IV

Superman glided down silently and landed near the Batmobile.

"Hello, Clark. I knew you'd come. Lois is very... persuasive that way", Batman said, without even turning back from the computer. Having fixed a miniscule wire onto Lois's watch at Arkham, he had heard the exchange between Lois and Superman and had been expecting the Man of Tomorrow's arrival.

Superman was not surprised, he might as well have landed with Iron Maiden playing in the background, for all the good it did. Few people in the world impressed him. Batman was one of them.

"Let's do away with the civility, shall we? Bruce, I trusted you. But, now, I have reason to believe that you're.. one of them. No better than them. Worse than them, maybe. A criminal, Bruce. You're a criminal."

Batman laughed, a low, guttural laugh which echoed eerily through the vastness of the cave.

"Clark, Clark, Clark... So innocent. So.. naive", he said, turning around, his cloak swishing through the night, an even darker black, "You have no idea, do you?"

"There are no arch-enemies in real life, Clark. There are no super-villains. Everything you've done, everyone you've fought and vanquished..."

"Enough", Superman was at Batman's throat, his powerful hands ready to break it at the slightest provocation, "Enough of your poisonous words. I'm taking you in."

Batman, however, continued to smile. "Can't you feel the effects, Clark? You recognise it, don't you?"

Superman looked at his shaking hand, at the loosening grip. He was beginning to sweat, and Batman and the cave dissolved into shapeless nightmares, the tyrannosaurus was coming to life, lights were flickering on and off, his father Jor-el was shaking his head in disappointment, Lois was kissing Luthor. He closed his eyes, his breath rasping and laboured.

"What.. have.. you done to me?"

"I'm disappointed, Clark", Batman said straightening his cowl, "I thought you would know the symptoms of red kryptonite by now. Oh, and a bit of Scarecrow's fear toxin. Or should I say, my fear toxin? Madness. And fear. A potent combination, I daresay."

Batman was not inclined to laughter, as a matter of practice. However, he had allowed a smile to linger on his lips throughout this encounter. It was unfair that this big, blundering bloke, this idiot who traipsed around in red underwear had been given powers to rival that of a god's. While he, he had had to work for his reputation as a super-hero. The Justice League of America had humiliated, expelled him once, for daring to keep dossiers on all those super-powered morons. What they didn't understand was that he had to do it, they were potentially too dangerous, their powers prone to misuse. There always had to be a Plan B. Always, a Plan B.

"Do you think seriously think Luthor is incapable of beating you? He is one of the smartest men in the world. He could swat you like a fly, if he wanted to.", Batman continued, walking back to his computer, "Luthor is nobler than you could ever be. By allowing himself to be painted as your arch-enemy, who you beat again and again, he is dissuading the common criminal on the streets from committing crimes. After all, if Superman can beat the mighty Luthor, what hope does a common thug have?"

"Wha..?", Superman drooled, the minute part of his mind not affected by the madness struggling to cope with what Batman was revealing.

"Oh, come on, Clark! Don't you see the simplicity of it? The brilliance? We are stopping crime before it starts. By manufacturing larger than life villains, we are tackling the real menace. God knows how many murders and burglaries we have nipped in the bud, before it had even been conceived. Fear, Clark, fear. Fear is the key. America's crime rate is lower than ever before. When we started out, criminals thought they could out-smart us. They kept trying to devise new plans- no matter how many we caught, there was always one more.", Batman swivelled his bat-shaped leather chair around to face the kneeling Superman.

"And then it struck me. We needed arch-enemies. We needed people of whom even criminals would be afraid, and we needed to beat them. That would stop crime.

We didn't tell you or any of the other super-powered freaks, Clark. We knew you wouldn't agree. You were... moral. Only the truly intelligent could appreciate the beauty of it. Only humans. Me, Luthor, Tony, Oliver- we had the brains and the money. So, we went ahead and did it. We manufactured super-villains for all of us."

Here he paused for a moment, then continued, "You might be wondering, if there are super-heroes, why can't there be super-villians? I'll tell you why. You're an aberration, Clark. You, Diana, the Flash- a handful of people with special abilities. Anyone showing evidence of super-powers, the government traced you and rounded up every single one of you while infants and put you in an environment where you could not help but turn out the way you did. Upholders of law, infused with ideals of truth, justice and the American way."

Finishing his daily check of Gotham streets, Batman stood up and said, "So. Yes. Everyone you've fought, Doomsday, Brainiac, Bizarro, Metallo. Every one of them is a lie. A very, very expensive lie. But, a lie which was needed. Every time the crime rate increased, we'd release a super-villain, remind the criminals why they could never succeed."

Superman was shuddering now, his mind travelling the twisted, dark corridors of his phobias at mach speed. Approaching him, Batman said, "I know you're in there, Clark. I like you, and I want you to know that if there was any other way, I would not do this."

Bending low, he injected the antidote to the kryptonite-fear toxin mixture into Superman and whispered into his ear, "Kal-el. Lois has cheated on you with the Joker. She is at the Daily Planet now, at her desk. You will go and plant this in her desk, without anyone seeing you".

Batman handed him several cans of what was unmistakably Joker-gas.

"Then you will forget that you planted it, and you will, as Clark Kent, open her desk and find this. You will be shocked, and you will call the Metropolis police. You will give testimony that Lois Lane was planning to release the gas in the Daily Planet office and ensure, at trial, that she is completely discredited, declared insane and sent to Arkham."

"You will not remember any of this. You will go back to your life as Clark Kent and Superman and all you will remember of Lois is that the bitch was in love with the Joker."

With that, Batman snapped his fingers, putting an end to the hypnotic command he had force-fed to Superman.

Superman, in a daze, stood up and rose into the heights of the cave and zoomed out.

"I'll take care of her after that", Batman said to himself, as he watched the red cape become a distant spot, "Crime must die. Whatever the cost."

Epilogue: Arkham Asylum

There were moments of sanity for Lois. They came once in a while, like rays of sunshine peeking into her mind through the dark clouds of the mind numbing drugs fed to her daily. She recalled who she was, she recalled parts of her past life like scenes from a movie long forgotten.

But, for the most part, she was just curled up in a corner in her own drool, muttering incoherently to herself.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Ace up my Sleeve- Part III

For Part II: http://creativejuiceshop.blogspot.in/2010/04/ace-up-my-sleeve-part-ii.html

The drive back to Metropolis, serene as she usually found it, didn't help Lois take her mind off her story. The implications of what the Joker had told her were catastrophic. She would have to tell Clark immediately. He would know what to do.

As she reached the Daily Planet office, she was greeted by a very excited Jimmy Olsen. "Lois! Guess who's here! Bruce Wayne! Bruce Wayne is here! And he's meeting Clark! Our Clark! Wonder what he wants with him. I heard talk about Clark being commissioned to write a biography of Thomas Wayne!"

Lois was gripped by the same dread that had crept into her at Arkham. So, Batman's suspicions had been aroused. She had very little time to act, then. She left the office, without meeting Clark. She would tell him at home, she decided.

She was waiting when Clark walked in, past midnight. He looked tired. Something was weighing down his normally buoyant mind. He had almost slipped into depression once, when he realized that, with all his powers, there was only so much he could do and that the world would always be plagued by problems and that people would be suffering, one way or the other. Poor Clark, she thought. So pure, so naive.

In her customary brusque style, she said, "Smallville! Snap out of it! I've got the story of the fuckin' century here!"

Clark fixed her with the crystal blue eyes and said, with a sigh, "Lois, we have to talk."

Pre-empting another outburst from her, he raised his hand, signalling her to stay silent and said, "Bruce came to see me today. He said you'd been to see the Joker."

Impatiently, Lois said, "Yes! That's what I want to tell you. The Joker..."

Clark cut her off mid-way and said, "I know what the Joker said. He must have told you that Batman manufactures his villains. That there is no Riddler, no Penguin, no Mr. Freeze, no Bane. That Scarecrow is just an actor made to wear a scarecrow costume. That Killer Croc is nothing but a man in a suit made of crocodile leather."

He could see from Lois's eyes and from the pattern of her heartbeat that this was, indeed, what the Joker had told her.

"Well", he continued, "it's not true. They're all lies. The Joker doing what he does best, Bruce was concerned that you had believed it and that you'd try to run a story on it."

"But, Clark! I.."

"Let me finish. If you do that, if you run that story, you undermine everything that we have stood for till now. You destroy everything we've built. People believe in us, Lois. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, the Justice League- this is what people have. This is all they have. When everywhere else is dark, they look to us for light. If you even so much as insinuate that one of us is paying actors to play super-villains, you destroy that faith. People will stop believing. And, what they need, what we need right now is belief."

Lois couldn't believe her ears. "You cannot actually be serious, Clark!", she screamed, "You want to lie to the people?? Do you know what Batman did to the Joker when he threatened to tell the world! He labelled him a lunatic. The Joker was a normal man, Clark. He had a life. His only fault was that he agreed to play the part of Batman's arch enemy. And when he got tired of the senseless killing, all for the sake of a millionaire playboy's ego, he decided to quit. Batman didn't let him, he labelled him a lunatic and pumped him full of drugs until his mind actually bent, until he actually went insane. And you still want to protect Batman?? "

Shaking his head and removing his spectacles, Clark said, "Lois, let's not get carried away. First, you are working on the assumption that the story is true. All you have to back the story are the ramblings of a madman. I'm sorry, but I'm inclined to believe Bruce over the Joker when he says it's not true. I even checked his vitals for signs of whether he was lying. But the damage that could be done if such a story is run, the damage will take years to undo. Faith is a fragile thing, Lois."

"Are you a retard, Clark?? Of course he can alter his vitals. He's Batman, for Christ's sake!! And the Joker can back his story with proof. He asked me to contact Harley Quinn, he said that she would give me all the answers. Which I did, incidentally. She gave me this.", Lois said, holding out a sheaf of grainy photos.

Clark's eyes steeled as he scanned through the photos. The next moment, he was gone through the open window, and his discarded suit slowly crumpled in on itself as the photos slowly floated down on to the Persian carpet adorning the room.

There would be no mercy for Batman tonight, Lois thought, her mouth set in a grim frown.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Rum, Forrest, Rum.

Old Monk.

What do you say about the drink you lost your virginity to? The drink that you first got utterly, senselessly drunk on. And let me add here that beer doesn't count- beer is, at most, comparable to a make out session; one can never lose one's alcoholic virginity to beer.

There's nothing much you can say about it, is there? I've tried several times, but there's absolutely no way to distill into words the bliss you felt as that bitter-sweet ambrosia slithered its way down your throat and then made its fiery way up to your brain. How do you trap moonshine in a bottle?

This post is about falling in love, being waylaid by the lusty charm of an expensive amber coloured seductress and about finding my way back.

Having started off with Old Monk, by about third year of college, we had decided to move up the alcoholic ladder. Whisky, which seemed to be, for want of a better word, classier, was the obvious choice. After all, movies told us that in every high-flier's office, there was a decanter of whisky, waiting to make love with cubes of ice in a crystal glass before being sipped, looked at and usually also commented upon appreciatively by the said high-flier and his equally high-flying friends. Whisky was offered by the hero to a worthy villain. The sight of a decanter of whisky on a silver tray inspired beautiful women to raise an impressed eye-brow before proceeding to give in to the charm of the hero. Whisky was the drink to aspire to, just as the iPhone is a phone to aspire to.

Incidentally, have you noticed that every character in every movie and series these days seems to be sporting an iPhone? Co-incidence? I think not. The whole thing reeks of marketing strategy.

Impressionable young fucks that we were, we gave into this marketing strategy as employed by the Mallyas of this world. We guzzled the drink by the gallons, we even formed a Whisky Drinkers' Club. We got drunk, we got caught by cops, we philosophised on roofs, we threw it all up, we collapsed on our shitty beds in our shitty rooms, we woke up with a hang-over cursing the sun, the guy who had made the drinking plan, ourselves for listening to him and the world at large, in that order. Apart from the getting caught by cops bit, we did the rest of it pretty regularly.

During that brief period, I might, might even have called Old Monk- wait for it- "cheap liquor for the masses". Cheap. Liquor. For. The Masses. I should just kill myself right now for that heresy.

And the sad thing is, I don't think I've ever enjoyed, truly enjoyed the taste of whisky. With whisky, I worked more or less on the principle of the ends justifying the means.

I am sorry, you can call me a plebeian but, to this day, I have not understood the world's fascination with whisky. I really cannot see what the fuss is all about. Whiskys are pompously proclaimed to be deep or dark, with notes or a hint of this or that, to be full-bodied with a voluptuous texture and a fragrant, smoky finish. Apart from maybe the smoky bit, I have to condemn any such description thrown at me as a consumer by the makers of the whisky to the corners of what I call The Bullshit Realm. A realm that Old Monk has firmly refused to enter.

However, the fact remains that my brief, fleeting affair with whisky- it's there on my alcoholic timeline and there's nothing I can do about it. It shall forever remain there, a blot on the landscape of my romance with Old Monk. And all I can do about it is to do what I'm doing and explain why a cheap, bitter drink with no marketing strategy whatsoever and which is rumored to be given to even horses is my drink of choice. I shall, therefore, channel all that I feel about it into a short two paragraph rant.

With Old Monk, I have savoured every moment- from buying the bottle, to talking about how cheap but awesome it was, to pouring it out into plastic glasses, to adding coke and a lime slice to taking the first gulp (a gulp, not a girly sip like whisky) to the sadness that accompanied the sight of the empty bottle. Oh, and also waking up with NO hangover.

And, most of all, drinking Old Monk now takes me back to those days when the only concern one had was to figure out how to spend all the free time one had.

Old Monk makes me feel young again.

And that's why, even though I have no doubt I shall have many more affairs with other drinks (after all, it is more probable that there might be something wrong with my taste buds than it is that the whole world is lying about how awesome whisky is), Old Monk shall remain my drink of choice, the home ground I return to after I've played enough away matches, after I've had enough dalliances with other liquors.

For, after all, there's no place like home.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Six Feet Under

There's a sense of urgency to life now. Now, I don't know what the cause is, whether it's because I'm pushing 26 or whether it's because a butterfly flapped its wings in some island in Hawaii, triggering off something that resulted in me feeling deeply unsatisfied with my life as it stands and the way I've done things till now but it's definitely there, this sense.It is a palpable presence, following me everywhere and influencing my every act. Like the ghost that sat on the guy's shoulder in Shutter.

I exaggerate. This is less scary. Though not by much.

However, the fact does remain that I have stopped meandering lazily and languorously through life, no more do I stop and gaze at, smell, pluck, closely scrutinize and wonder about the internal structure of roses. No more do I shuffle, no more do I linger at each letter before typing out a word. Every step is many a tad quicker, every word is typed out swiftly. And every rose goes un-smelled. 

I know what you're thinking. Are you to be dumped unceremoniously into the microcosm of my life, are you to be subject to another grandiose and pompously verbose observation of my utterly mundane problems, magnified to an even more unbearable extent through this microscope of a blog, you wonder.

No. You are not. You are, instead, to be treated to a true story attributable to the above-mentioned stat e of mind. At the time of going to press, this story and its wounds are 8 hours fresh. 

As recompense for the lack of any constructive activity in my past (I spent all my school vacations, yes, all of them, watching TV while my friends acquired various life skills, a fact I regret to this day and will forever more regret), I had, promptly upon setting foot in my homeland for a grand 20 day vacation, gone and joined swimming classes. Unable to bear the humiliating thought of potentially being upstaged at swimming by a bunch 10 year old kids, I paid the coach a little extra to coach me after the irritating and over achieving kids have gone home.

It's now 8 p.m. The coach is to come in at 830. There's no-one else in the pool. Just me and the pool. Ah, the infinite possibilities. The freedom.

I should mention here that I sort of know how to swim. In a jerky corpse-floating-in an-electrified-pool sort of way, if you can imagine that. If you can't, don't try to. Its not a pretty vision.

Overwhelmed by a sudden desire to be adventurous and to live life to the fullest, I decide to attempt a full lap. I, who, till now, haven't ventured past the 5-6 feet line. In retrospect, I put this down to the inexplicable pace with which I'm addressing all life events these days. My past self, no doubt, is looking at me right now and saying, "I told you so. Lazy is the way to be; inertia is the state to embrace." in that self-righteous, cocky manner only past selves can. But, as they say, the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.

It started off quite well. The thrashing was regular and periodic, I even managed a breath or two. You know how they say, "well begun, half done"? They're lying. They're lying through their teeth. I didn't even make it half-way through before I floundered in the most spectacular of fashions.

I tried everything. In a span of five seconds, I moved from free-style to butterfly stroke to breast stroke to various strokes which are yet to be discovered. And, at the end of it all, I gave up. I thought, we're all going to die anyway, why not go stylishly? Dying in a pool with my whole life stretching ahead of one is much more of a statement, a much more conversation friendly event than dying of a heart attack when one is 75 and unable to do anything except soil oneself. People'll be talking about this one, they will.

A splash. And then someone grabbing me by the waist and dragging me to the surface. Air, glorious air. I have never in my life been so pleased to breathe it, to touch it, to feel it.

I reached the side and grabbed on to it like it was the last square foot of land up for sale in Bombay.

Life's radiance danced from her every which way and lent itself generously to the world at large. The water looked bluer, the sky looked darker and the stars looked brighter. I thought of the sound of thunderstorms, of the most glorious sunshine of early mornings in paradise, of the blackness of black, of the dazzling electricity of lightning and I was thankful I was still here to witness it all.  

The life-guard was looking at me like I was mad. "Thank you, thank you so much", I said, my voice dripping with gratitude.

He said, "Boss, it was 6 feet deep. You would not have drowned. Just be thankful there was no one here to witness it."

Embarrassment oozed out from my every pore and leaked into the pool. And by that, I speak metaphorically (or similely or whatever), I don't mean that I peed into the pool, as I know you first thought. You dirty, dirty people. 

Needless to say, after the incident, I've stayed at the shallow end of the pool, leaving adventure to the adventurous. As the cowboy says in The Big Lebowski, "...sometimes there's a man who, well,  he's the man for his time'n place, he fits right in there..". 

Well, I'm not the man for the deep end of the pool. Not now. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

She said, I said

"Time's running out"
"I know. I'm running too."

"Do you know where you're going?"
"Nowhere. I'm going nowhere. And when you're going nowhere, you can never run fast enough."

"But, but... I'm going everywhere."
"I know. There's no way you can be everywhere and nowhere at the same time. So don't you follow me."
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