"I discovered that in most cases the intellectual fervor was directed at analyzing the conditions and the structure of society and the state, at the sciences, the arts and at teaching methods. Yet only a small minority seemed aware of the need to develop their own selves and to clarify their personal relationship to time and eternity." - From Hermann Hesse's 'Peter Camenzind', Translated by Michael Roloff'
"Nobler and more rewarding than fame, wine, love and wisdom was friendship." - From "Peter Camenzind" by Hermann Hesse, translated by Michael Roloff

Stumbling over my loneliness
When all of you lit,
Countless candles for me
The wax has melted,
The light has faded,
Yet, the dying gleam
And the smoky fragrance lingers on,

clo1/Shelly Paul
Image by Shelly Paul

When Mr. Fix-It-All opened his store sharp at eight in the AM, a long queue of creatures was waiting in front of the store window. The first one held an old electric oven. The next one brought a broken heart. There was a man who waited in a ramshackle car, followed by a dog with a broken leg. As always, Mr. Fix-It-All tended to their needs with a pleasant smile and gentle touch.

He fixed the electric oven in fifteen minutes. He took the broken heart from the woman, examined it, and told her that she would have to return the following day, because the heart needed some serious nursing and he would have to mix a healing potion. The man in the car had his transmission fixed in half an hour, while the dog with the broken leg needed a little more time to be mended.

At one point he looked at the clock and saw the time was half past eleven. He stood up from behind the counter and walked to the waiting queue. He stopped by a young tree that held a broken branch and dropped a red ribbon behind it. The crowd waiting behind the ribbon sighed and dispersed quietly.

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." -The Serenity Prayer
marionette
Image by Shelly Paul

When the economy began to self-destruct, the government of the nation of Dystopia took drastic actions to mitigate the catastrophe. It resorted to well touted austerity measures.

A majority of government funds were diverted from various departments to stem the financial hemorrhage, which resulted in a budget crunch. Since a balanced budget is paramount, after much deliberation marked by tormented debates and emotionally charged discussions, the elected members to the parliament decided with a heavy heart to stop funding essential services to the public.

Since the public needed these services at any cost, the government made the inevitable decision to privatize core government services. Everything, from schools to prisons, was contracted out to private entities. To pay the private contractors, taxes were raised on the majority of the population. The billionaires and the zillionaires were shielded from any tax increase, since

While absorbing the news about the fanatical murders of the Charlie Hebdo staff, I was reminded of something Mr. Lewis Black said on a talk show. In the stand-up routine, ‘The End of the Universe’, he wraps up the show talking about faith. He talks about the importance of balancing faith with a sense of humor. In course of the segment, he says, “…and that’s what happens when you don’t laugh. You get all wound up in what you’re believing in and nobody goes ‘eh,heh’ and you’re ..you’re screwed.”

That is the role of a satirist in our society; to go ‘eh heh’, when group-think takes over people’s minds. Especially in today’s era of ubiquitous information, it is easy to isolate ourselves by cherry picking whatever suits us without

Said shallow to deep,
      ‘How can you be generous when you have so little?’
Said deep to shallow,
      ‘I have enough. I am quite content.’

      ‘How can you be carefree when life is terrifying in its uncertainties?’
      ‘I go with the ebb and flow. I learn from experience.’

‘How can you be a smiling fool, when crushed by adversity?’
Replied deep to shallow,
      ‘You can live to be a thousand
       Yet never experience anything the way I feel.

      ‘When I breathe, I feel the air
      You don’t even realize that you breathe

      ‘You can never feel the wind’s caress or the sun’s warmth

hh/Shelly Paul
Image by Shelly Paul

That morning, Kannamma felt the weight of seventy years of life on her thin, frail body. She made a final check on the contents in the large bamboo basket. The green bananas to one side, small, tall and fat yellow bananas spread round the rest of the basket. Between the green and yellow, there was one dozen red-bananas. Those were special delivery for the bungalow-lady. Even the thought of the bungalow-lady brought no smile to her face that morning.

After inspection, she pulled the long, free end of the old, frayed cotton saree, rolled it into a bun and placed it on her head. Habitually she reached for the basket, when her hands caught her attention. She stood back staring at them. She examined the open palms closely then turned over her hands as she ran her eyes ruminatively over the sinewy veins through the infinite creases on the withered brown skin.

Memories flickered through her mind and reflected on her face. She clasped her hands together, tightly, unable to let go. Finally she released her hands, sighed heavily as she bent down carefully to pick up the heavy basket. She lifted it with all the might of an ant,