Devil

Dancer

Mischief overcomes me at night

It must feel good, whether wrong or right

No one knows – no one cares

Come with me if you dare

To live free

Of pain and regret

Or daily bread

For a moment’s flight

Spread.

Regret comes at the sight of light

It hurts and aches like a lost fight

Inside and out – a loser’s route

Follow me for your way out

To be cleaned

From dirt and grime

Or a hazy crime

On another’s dime

Tread.

Writing

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The art of writing begins with simplicity. When I started law school, I had a habit of being verbose in my writing. I also believed that I was quite a good writer; so when in my first year I received a C in Research and Writing, I could not understand why – I blamed the teacher’s incompetency and ignored my own.

Two years and sixty credit-hours later I entered my Advanced Writing classroom; my professor, Ron Richards – a lawyer and partner at one of Michigan’s most prestigious law firms. He had a very simple demeanor; he exhumed ‘I am your guide’ more than ‘I am your teacher and I know best.’

Over the next thirteen weeks I learned writing. He taught me to be simple, precise, and consistent. His lessons had a poetic rhythm; he was never harsh in his critique, nor dominating in his guidance. Though, he was the toughest and most diligent grader.

For our first assignment we had to condense a twenty-page contract down to eight pages. Obviously, I panicked. Not only did I have to eliminate verbosity, I also had to preserve the document’s legal and intended integrity. I never had and never have since spent more time editing a piece of writing.

Professor Richards was always available for guidance and critique. For the next four weeks, I emailed him, hounded him in and out of class, relentlessly trying to outperform myself. I think he enjoyed my zeal almost as much as my cynicism – I challenged his word-choices and sentence structures.

He encouraged this scholarly dialogue. He always said, “yes, you can write it your way – just be simple and precise” or “you can use any citation method – just be consistent.” I received a B-, the highest grade in class for that assignment. Somewhat disappointed with myself, I continued learning.

In the remaining nine weeks, I fell in love with writing. Class became fun; a healthy competitiveness grew within each student – instead of competing with each other, we began competing with ourselves.

I strove to sharpen my own craftsmanship. Classmates challenged one another, to help each other be better. Be simple, precise and consistent. This became our chant. This has become my chant. I got an A- for my final grade – more importantly, I learned the art of writing.

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My circumstances have led me to my graveyard of failures. My choices have been my rebellion – I have never been, and never will I ever be, a slave to a world created for me. Why should I live in someone else’s dream? Why should my nightmares come from choices made for me?

So I have shunned and insulted, demeaned and assaulted my circumstances by choosing to be free.

My biggest mistake has been expectation. I expected unconditional love, truth, faith and loyalty – honesty and humility – kindness and happiness. I expected all these romantic notions from all the romanticized people – I expected duty and justice, and received a reality that is my life.

My expectations have crippled me – though, freedom is relative. Rebellion has given me wings.

Fine-Print Tax – An Open Letter to President Barack Obama

Dear Mr. President,

Thank you for your service. I am proud to have voted for you and am writing this open letter in the hopes that you will address the issues of income inequality, predatory corporate ideology, and an ever-cumbersome quality of life for majority of America – and coincidentally, or consequently, the world.

I noticed something recently; the cost of living has tripled since 1986. I was four at that time; the cost of my favorite orange Popsicle has tripled in the last 28 years. Today fewer kids can afford it, it has shrunk in size, and corporate profit margins have never been higher.

Interestingly, this Popsicle inflation I speak of has happened in India. But eerily similar compounding inflations have happened in America. Gasoline in middle-America – Danville, Illinois – cost 98 cents in 2000; it has more than tripled. And again, corporate profit margins have never been higher.

I see nothing wrong with capitalist progress and the ‘free market’ economy, nor with the ultra-rich who set trends, hike up prices, and predatorily lure the masses and their wallets. But I do have a problem with the manner in which it happens – the lay person gets tricked by the corporate machine.

Specifically, we get tricked by fine-prints –manipulative advertising and marketing strategies geared to do one thing: grow profit margins for the corporate engine. Fine-prints come in all forms, shapes and sizes. The most infamous among them, sub-prime mortgage fine-prints that nearly sank the global ‘free market’ in 2008-2009. Other fine-prints are less obvious. For example; pricing gasoline at $3.99, and then nearly tripling the font of the dollar amount. This creates an optical and mathematical illusion that a gallon of gas costs three dollars when it actually costs much closer to four.

A more tortuous example is selling food and drink items in flashy packaging that attracts the consumer to the brand, while miniaturizing health hazard warning signs like “Contains Phenylalanine” or “Products contain added Monosodium Glutamate – Not Recommended for Infants below 12 months.” There are some things fundamentally wrong about this. First, it distracts the consumer with advertising gimmicks while practically hiding potentially crucial health information in plain sight. Second, and more importantly, it places a burden on the lay person to find and know about those chemicals and their effects.

You once famously said, “It’s Arithmetic.” You were absolutely right; everything is arithmetic, a set of mathematical calculations. Except, fine-prints create a second, illusory mathematical parallel universe. It makes lay people believe they have bargained for and received a much different product than they wanted, let alone needed. And a father of three earning minimum wage, with a wife taking care of the kids, cannot afford to believe he paid thirty dollars for gas when he actually paid closer to forty.

Nor can a single mother working two minimum-wage jobs afford to take unpaid vacation days to take her daughter to the doctor because she was too overwhelmed to read all sides of the packaging of her daughter’s lunch sandwich. That duty that fine-print imposes on the average lay citizen is villainously inconspicuous and omnipresent in the corporate landscape. And this all happens for one reason: To increase corporate profit margins. Coincidentally – or intentionally – the surplus fine-prints create make the ultra-rich richer while hundreds and thousands of people lose their homes, develop severe illnesses, and cannot make ends meet.

I am not saying the big, bad ‘fine-print’ wolf is the only contributor to a tougher and more stressful way of life for an increasing number of people. But I am saying, it has a major role to play. So in the face of this problem, I would very much like you to discuss the pros and cons of legislating a tax on fine-print.

All businesses that use fine-print in their advertisements, legal documents and product labels must pay a tax. The logic: it unreasonably encumbers the fundamental rights of lay citizens to utilize any and all available faculties for the purposes of pursuing life, liberty, and property.

Fine-prints impose an unreasonable burden on the lay citizen to understand and agree to drastically inequitable and complex business contracts when pursuing such fundamental objectives as getting an education, buying a house, buying a car, saving for the future, etc. It creates an unjustifiable duty for people to find, know and understand that the companies they trust put unnecessary harmful chemicals in their food. It fraudulently tricks cash-strapped people into believing they are paying less.

Our government must strive to make resources that promote general welfare and safety of its human citizens more readily available than corporate tax shelters. It must strive to make the lives of its citizens better. A fine-print tax will not tax an individual citizen; it would, however, impose a rightful duty on businesses to streamline their thinking and execution. And coincidentally – or consequently – bring in revenue from upper echelons of the dollar ladder without directly compromising personal fortunes of the ultra-rich. I hope you will consider. I await your public response.

Sincerely,

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Oeishik

Ratna

Bharat

Spiders and geckos, and sweet mango pickles;

Roses and lilies, and buses with ruffles;

Lights at odd times, and sounds of all things;

This is the wondrous place of my dreams.

Elephants training and bulls guarding temples,

Weavers of all kinds, and all of their thimbles;

Rivers that rumble, and mountainous streams;

This is the wondrous place of my dreams.

When it cyclones, when it monsoons;

I remember these: clouds will soon disappear,

A sunshine is always near, glimmering through the trees.

Lefty

Sacred Heart

My right hand is your left hand

My right hand is my left hand

My left hand is your right hand

My left hand is my right hand

I see this place differently than you

You see this space differently than me

I live in this place, along with you

You live in this space, along with me

Just opposite, directionally

Just parallel, dimensionally

Across from you

You Across from me