At certain point in my life I was struggling with finding purpose in the things that I did. I set about writing a story about a garden gnome on quest to discover the purpose of his life. Then I found myself illustrating the story by hand in a labor intensive manner. I believe that the story writing and drawing helped me resolve the concerns that I had at the time. So here it is. The Adventure of Frakash in the Land of the Geekmeisters.
Frakash was a garden gnome who thought that magic was boring. Other garden gnomes entertained themselves by turning hideous people into frogs or sending goblins at night under the beds of children who exceeded their weekly tantrum quotas. To Frakash such pursuits seemed entirely mind-numbing. Memorizing reams of magic spells to be recited at absurd moments was not Frakash’s idea of fun at all. Like all his kin, Frakash owned a copy of Mastering the Art of Mischief of Every Kind, but his copy sat unnoticed on the shelf, the way a sundial sits in the backyard of a wristwatch owner. The entire clan of garden gnomes would consult with this mystical bible of pranks every night before diving into dream land. The following day they would explode into giggles after placing a fish behind a car’s sun visor and watch the driver’s expression when the stinky mess flopped into his lap. Another favorite act of impishness of the gnomes was to sneak up behind two people enjoying a lengthy conversation and tying their shoe laces to each other’s shoes. “How trivially silly”, Frakash would murmur and shake his head with disapproval whenever he watched his friends dashing around from one escapade to the next. Frakash was a wholly different kind of gnome, even the thought of crossing marshy bogs to charge defenseless dragons seemed futile to him. Whenever his gnome friends came to him suggesting a fair maiden rescue mission, his response was the same: “Why bother? Let the dragon keep his fair maiden …. Ayeeeeee! These princesses are so hard to please; the dragon deserves what is coming to him.” Finding purpose in such pursuits simply alluded him. Although his friends thought him slothful, Frakash ignored them and occupied himself with gardening instead. He enjoyed planting tomatoes and tulips in unexpected places, like street intersections and roof tops of houses. The gardening occupied him, but did not fulfill him. Most of the time, Frakash sat around sighing long and languished exhales. His soul ached for an exit of his fairy-tale existence. A mysterious longing grew into an insatiable volcano in his heart.
One beautiful sunny day, Frakash was weeding and planting pink tulips in a garden that always needed oodles of work. It was the garden that Laila liked to call Laila’s garden, and Frakash called it the Heaps of Labor garden. Laila was the woman that lived in the house right next to the Heaps of Labor garden and Frakash would observe her when she sat on the sundeck, drinking a cup of coffee or working on her laptop. Laila was an interesting person to Frakash. She was a quiet sort that rarely said anything but when she did, it was sharp as an axe. Laila was nothing like Frakash’s gnome friends, she always used few well chosen words to express big ideas. She worked as a computer programmer in a software development company and would say words that Frakash didn’t understand; like server, upload and database, but the unknown words only made her seem more intriguing. Laila would sit on the sundeck for hours focused on her laptop, tapping on the keyboard with piercing attention. Every once in a while, her breathing would slow down, her body would stop moving completely and a fierce look would appear in her eyes. In those moments, Frakash wished he had a magical crystal to show him the thoughts forming inside Laila’s head. He was certain that intricately majestic worlds was forming and dissolving inside her head, right in front him, yet he was deprived of chance to see them. Laila’s children would poke Frakash in the eyes sometimes and her husband would try to foolishly compete with his gardening work, but Frakash enjoyed working in the Heaps of Labor garden because every once in a while he would hear something that tickled his imagination.
One day, Frakash finished his work and decided that it was a good time for a sighing break. He sat underneath a shrub that seemed suitable for the pursuit and just when he was about to exhale, he overheard Laila talking with her husband. She was bragging about her latest victory at work: “Yesterday, I presented my new design ideas to the team; the boss loved it and said that my design was the most brilliant design he had heard in months. Everybody else agreed. Even Mr. Grumpy Bumpy had to agree that my idea was the best. I am the queen of the geeks.” Laila said to her husband with careful excitement. Frakash’s ears perked up as he heard a trace of sadness come next in Laila’s voice. “I love my work, but I feel a dark menace lurking underneath the surface.” Laila paused hesitating and then looked straight into her husband’s eyes and said, “Somebody among my co-workers …. Darling! Are you listening?…. is trying to sabotage me with doughnuts. It is as if an evil spell has been cast upon me. You know how hard I have been trying to lose weight in the last four months. Everybody knows that it is my number one goal of this year. Every few days, somebody brings free doughnuts to the office. I try to ignore them, but it is as if I am possessed by the sugar seduction fiend, I can’t resist.” Frakash overheard Laila complaining.“I can hear the greasy calorie bombs saying with an alluring voice: Come grab a doughnut and stuff it in your mouth. ” she continued. Unable to sleep, Frakash spent the whole night thinking about what he overheard in the garden. “Wow! Laila uses logic to solve problems at her work”, Frakash thought to himself. “Instead of memorizing the same tired old list of magic spells that has been passed down the generations for thousands of years, Laila gets to come up with something new, something that she created all by herself, something creative”, Frakash nearly stopped breathing in awe of Laila’s work. “Finding purpose?” He pondered the question. He was tantalized by thoughts of presenting genius ideas to a group of geekmeisters and impressing even the smartest among them. He fantasized about a meeting where he presented impressive ideas and then as a reward the geekmeisters would bring him mouth watering doughnuts to feast on. He could imagine others looking at him with adoration admiring every word he uttered. O even Laila is looking at him in admiration for breaking the evil spell cast upon her using his magical skills. An irresistible urge to visit Laila’s place of work overcame Frakash. He tried to convince himself that an adventure would not suit his temperament and that routine and sameness was the foundation rock of his being. Yet all night he dreamt about eating doughnuts and roaming around between all those geekmeisters that call themselves computer programmers. The next day he tried to push those ideas out of his head, but a flood of yearning has been unleashed and Frakash was possessed by a single passion and that is to join the office of the geekmeisters. It became his goal, his calling, and his reason for existence.
That night Frakash sneaked himself into Laila’s backpack, the same backpack he saw her carry to work every day. His plan was simple, to slip himself into the office of the geekmeisters and later jump out of the backpack and try to mingle with the people pretending he was one of them. After all, he had spent one whole year observing the way Laila talked and behaved. With a bit of ingenuity and cunning he was sure to blend in. “Nobody will suspect that I am just a garden gnome”, he told himself.
In the morning, everything went according to plan. As Laila walked past the large glass front door of her workplace, Frakash was riveted with a mixture of emotions that rumbled inside his body the way hamsters partied in their burrows. He was amazed by the large glass door. He had seen little shards of glass in the garden, glass windows of a house, but never something so big. The door was smooth, pristine and so perfectly flat. The adventure had already started for Frakash and his heart was spinning like a twirling dervish. His plan worked like clockwork. Laila, busy thinking about the next brilliant design, never opened her backpack in the morning and never suspected the stowaway garden refugee on her way to work. Frakash managed to get through the security without a problem. As soon as Laila walked through the large glass door, Frakash jumped out of the backpack and into the front hallway of the office of the geekmeisters. “Wow! I made it, I am here!”, Frakash jumped up and down with excitement. As he looked around his new surroundings, he was awestruck by what he saw. The walls were perfectly white, not a single smudge or speck to be seen. The earth was covered with a plush and fuzzy light blue material that was so pleasant to touch; Frakash wished he could roll face down in it. It was so delightful; Frakash reasoned he didn’t even need to wear boots. Everything was clean; there was no dirt, no worms and no crawlies. The geekmeisters sat in perfectly shaped boxes, focused on their work. There was no noise, except for a faint sound of the efficient clicking on the keyboard in the background, which blended together into a harmonized buzz. There was no smell either, not of manure, not of dirt, not of anything. Frakash could feel the relief in his sinuses as they smelled nothing for the very first time in their tired existence. “Oh this place is heaven”, Frakash thought to himself as he closed his eyes to soak up the moment. “Yes! Yes! I am close to finding purpose.” But, alas, his rapture came to a hasty end.
Frakash encountered the ever vigilant and always watchful office manager that the geekmeisters called Jenny. Despite her charming appearance, she could be monstrous to an uninvited guest at the office. Here was a woman who had found her purpose. In no time, the stowaway garden refugee found himself being unceremoniously kicked out of the office.
Frakash was stricken with a thunder bolt of emotion. He never felt such anger in any of his past gnome lives. Wishing he could lay flat on his stomach and pound his fists and feet on the ground like he saw Laila’s children do sometimes, a dark shadow eclipsed his heart. “I belong with the geekmeisters, I want to be one of them”, Frakash found himself thinking. “No giant glass door, no office manager and no security system can keep me out”, he muttered to no one in particular. For the first time in his life, acts of mischief of a dark kind entered his fantasies; the kind that is forbidden even by the gnome essential book- Mastering the Art of Mischief of Every Kind. Frakash surprised himself with an impulsive act.
Frakash followed the one whom the geekmeisters called James into the men’s washroom. Once in there he cornered him, using his gardener muscles and three magical spells, Frakash forced James to take off his t-shirt. Frakash was convinced that if he was dressed like a geekmeisters, he would look like a geekmeister and nobody would suspect that he was a garden gnome. Frakash tied James’ hands and feet and placed a handkerchief around his mouth, so that James wouldn’t be able to get his t-shirt back. Quickly, Frakash ran out of the men’s washroom and tail gated one of the geekmeisters as he entered through the great glass door. The unsuspecting geekmeister opened the door for Frakash using his security card and Frakash followed him into the office. This time, Frakash knew not stand in the hallway looking mesmerized by the flawless sight. Instead he tried to act as if he was not enthralled by his surroundings and ran hastily into the first unoccupied perfectly shaped box.
Frakash looked at the computer sitting on the desk delighted to get a chance to try this thing called programming. “How hard can it be?” thought Frakash to himself. He began to stare intently at the screen the same way he had seen Laila do while sitting on her sundeck. There were many words on the screen that Frakash couldn’t understand, but he maintained his intense gaze and squeezed his face muscles. “I think I am finding purpose.” he thought to himself. After a while he began to notice patterns in the words that appeared on the screen, and then he started to realize that there were a few words that he did understand. He discovered that this thing called programming contained violent language that Frakash disapproved of. “If I rewrite this program using happier and more life affirming words I might be able to change the life of the geekmeister who labors in this box”, Frakash reckoned. He changed things around, “Trigger” became “Happy Event”, “Alert” became “Joyful tid-bit” and “Kill Process” became “Whistle cheerfully while you wait”. Frakash was quite amused, but after only a few minutes, the machine became angry and began making strange noises. The picture on the screen turned blue, like the sky. Frakash did not understand the meaning of the words: “System Error”. Frightened, he fled.
Frakash came upon a large grey beast standing all alone in one corner. He figured this was the geekmeister’s dragon. The grey dragon was making a menacing humming sound. “Poor geekmeisters, they probably don’t know how to deal with him” thought Frakash to himself. “After all, geekmeisters don’t have time to take dragon charging training like garden gnomes do; I will thrash this beast into obedience in no time and impress all my yet to be friends” was Frakash’s reckoning. Frakash began reciting the dragon submission chant: “Fooooooooooo, fooooooooooo,fooooo,fooo,foo, kafo!” and then charged forward with absolute certainty, showing no fear, to grab the dragon’s scales around his eyes. The unexpected happened, the dragon began to shake and flash with blinding lights that didn’t burn. Instead of spitting fire the dragon began to spit sheets of paper. Frakash froze with shock. He had heard of flying carpets, but never heard of flying papers. The paper piled on top of him and gave him the tiniest little cuts all over his body. Once Frakash unfroze from his shock he tried to think quickly of a way to get out of his predicament. He remembered the bush whacking spell, which he used to free himself of the constricting paper surrounding his body and ran away as fast as possible.
Frakash’s heart was banging against his chest the way the Beanstalk Giant knocked on doors. A swift freight overtook him and he couldn’t remember the tranquility spell from his book – Mastering the Art of Mischief of Every Kind. Down the hallway in a corner next to a window, he saw a few potted plants. Frakash decided that if he would stand among the plants and imagine that he was in the Heaps of Labor garden sighing underneath his favorite shrub it would help him lower the volume of the ruckus in his chest. Frakash stood between two majestic tall plants and closed his eyes, letting out three lively sighs. Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, Ehhhhhhhhhh, Ehhhhh. Just as the rumpus in his body began to cool off, three monkeys jumped on Frakash and began pulling, poking and scratching him from all directions. “It is a grievous mistake to try to imagine a garden when I am in the splendor of the kingdom of brain power” thought Frakash to himself. “I can’t believe that monkey’s are a part of me finding purpose.” Frakash thought to himself. He forcefully pushed the monkeys dangling from his body away and walked confidently far from the plants.
Frakash came upon a meeting room and peeked in. In there, he saw a group of tired, yet well fed geekmeisters working vigorously on perfecting a dizzying array of designs. They had stacks of documents in front of them and were drawing shapes and lines on the board with enthusiasm. Frakash joined them and began to listen in. Sitting on one of the beautiful and soft chairs made him feel important. Frakash fantasized about an opportune moment when a radiant idea would pop into his head and he would stand up while saying to everybody “Listen up people, I know the perfect way to solve this problem”. Then he would proceed to the board, drawing the mother of all designs on the white board and by the time he was finished he would turn around to loud applause. He would bow down in modesty and blush slightly, telling everybody that although his idea was the best the others were pretty good as well, not forgetting to thank the other people in the room for inspiring his. Frakash woke up from his fantasy to focus on what was being said so that he could capture his opportunity when it came. Frakash didn’t understand what the geekmeisters were talking about. There were so many words that he didn’t understand that he felt they were speaking a foreign language. He tried to listen attentively and over time he gathered that the geekmeisters were talking about designing something called a Knowledge Base, which is a way to classify information so that computer programs can find just right fragment of information in a huge ocean of it, quickly. The one that the geekmeisters called Mike got up to show his design ideas. To Frakash’s amazement, Mike began to draw a design that mimicked trees. Although Frakash didn’t understand everything in the diagram he understood trees, and understood the idea that a tree has branches and leafs. Frakash was certain he was on track to find purpose. “Finally! Something that I know oodles about”, thought Frakash to himself. “This is my chance to shine in the spot light. Finding purpose is within grasp.” Frakash jumped up from his chair and onto the table and said that which he was waiting to say all along “Listen up people, I know the perfect way to solve this problem”. Everybody stopped talking and they all were staring at Frakash.
Now super confident, Frakash peeked into the meeting room next door. There he found a group of geekmeisters playing a video game. Frakash was willing to take on another adventure. He grabbed one of the game consoles and moved the little knobs around. He realized that each time he moved a knob or pressed a button, something happened on the screen to a fictional character that he controlled.
The three geekmeisters sitting in the room were surprised to see an 11 inch being standing on the chair with a pointy hat.
“He must be a disgruntled programmer fixing the same bug for the tenth time”, thought Ralf to himself. “O no! not another visit your parent at work day. Those kids are so annoying. Why is this kid wearing a fake beard?” thought Sam to herself. “Great! They finally hired somebody who is even shorter and has more facial hair than me”, thought Frank. All three had taken the cultural diversity sensitivity training as well and said nothing.
“O this is even more fun than drawing designs”, thought Frakash. The objective of the game was to defeat as many enemies as possible while collecting as much loot as possible. To Frakash, this was familiar territory. He was a professional loot hoarder by training as a garden gnome. Although he didn’t know much about guns, he had good working knowledge of the bayonet. Frakash felt grateful for the first time in his life for the dragon charging training he received in gnome school. He remembered all the times he had told the other gnomes that it was a waste of time. Here he was putting it into good and constructive use for the first time in his life. Although the game was fast paced and Frakash was not able to use any of his gnome battle spells because of his vow, in about an hour he defeated the most number of enemies and collected massive loot. All the other geekmeisters looked impressed with him. The one that the geekmeisters called Sam gave Frakash a high five and said “Wow! Dude! You totally creamed them”. Frakash felt happier than he had ever been in his whole life. Surely finding purpose was close at hand. He finally felt that he was among those that understood him and were at his level. He could feel that at last he arrived to the right place in his life. He was home.
Feeling happy as happy can be, Frakash decided to explore the office some more and walked into the stationary room. While looking at all the beautiful boxes and plainly designed objects he encountered two beings with sharp teeth that terrified him. Frakash had heard about vampires and werewolves, but wasn’t sure if that is what he encountered in the stationary room. He started shaking with fear and prayed that he wouldn’t get bitten by either creature because he had no desire to transform into anything other than a geekmeisters. He wanted to use a magical spell so badly but didn’t want to break his vow. He felt paralyzed without magic and didn’t know what to do. Then he remembered something he read, about garlic keeping vampires away. So he ran out as fast as he could into the kitchen, hoping to find some garlic to protect him.
In the kitchen, Frakash found a box full of doughnuts sitting on the counter. The dazzling sight made him forget all about garlic and vampires and presented him with a new dilemma….. which doughnut to eat? Each one was unique and special. Finding purpose would have to wait. Each one looked absolutely perfect and delectable and Frakash faced yet another state of paralysis. The paralysis of indecision was even harder to deal with than the paralysis of fear. After 20 minutes of trying to come up with a strategy to tackle the problem, Frakash closed his eyes and chose a random doughnut. Frakash raised the doughnut close to his lips, he could smell the sweetness in his nostrils. When the doughnut touched his lips, he could feel sugar grains rubbing gently against his lip. Frakash licked his lips, and then took a bite. The taste was hypnotic. The minute the doughnut left his taste buds into his stomach; Frakash wanted another one and then another one and then another one. In a few minutes, Frakash surprised himself by eating the whole box of doughnuts until there was nothing else to eat. Frakash felt sleepy and fell on the counter into a food coma.
Frakash felt drowsy when he woke up from sleep. Finding purpose was the furthest thing on his mind. He was half in this world and half floating in a dream landscape. He felt a heavy pebble in his stomach and his head felt like it was swimming through grey jelly. Frakash staggered out of the kitchen realizing that eating a whole box of doughnuts was a foolish idea. While walking in the hallway, he passed one of the perfect boxes where a geekmeisters was laboring. Frakash decided to observe from a distance and watch what a geekmeisters does at his computer, hoping that he might learn something. The geekmeisters typed the words “ihath makes baba ganoush” into a box on the computer screen and in a clickity click a video played. In the video there was a woman hugging an eggplant. She looked serene but disturbed, uncomfortable but ready. Suddenly, a peacock showed up and began to stab the eggplant with a knife. Everything seemed strange yet normal, same but different. The woman in the video looked troubled but resigned, unfazed but anxious. There was a pained smirk on her face. Frakash felt a rush of mysterious anxiety scuttle through his veins. He started to think that perhaps he was still dreaming. That is when he heard Laila screaming down the hallway. Frakash had never heard Laila scream before, yet he recognized her voice.
A couple of weeks ago I watched a movie by Chris Marker called La Jetée. I was totally mesmerized. Photographs overlaid with narration. So simple. Yet the movie was engaging all the way through. Some strange impulse went through me.”I want to give this a try” I kept thinking to myself. I dug up this old story I wrote years ago, looked for the illustrations I drew up and decided to put them together into a video. The Vancouver Public library had recently opened a facility called the inspiration lab for sound recording that is available for free. Off I went to record the story narration at this new place. Voilà! Here it is. I would love to hear your feedback.
The distinct style in the illustrations I call “Rocks in a Mayonnaise Jar” style. It is something I developed for my novel Graffiti Hack. I wanted to give the main character a distinct artistic style that suited her personality. To help me develop this style so that I could write about it, I illustrated the story of Frakash using that style.
What do you think of this finding purpose story? Would love to hear your feedback.