An Old Carton

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“Sweets, get going!!  We’re all waiting for you.”

“All?”

“Just come, will you? The heat is killing me, I’m going to kill you if you don’t come over in five.”

Would she be with them? The Chitra Basu. In her faded floral palazzo pants billowing in the warm summer wind, cat-eye sunglasses catching the glare of the sun and her lush locks shrouding half her beautiful face, brushing her supple pink unpainted lips. I picked my handbag, stashed some notes from the drawer, snatched the keys, locked the door and walked out before I could allow myself to hold back and hesitate. Continue reading

Dopey Hopes

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Morning shower used to be fun. Research says that lonely people spend longer hours in warm showers. Now my only sliver of solace and warmth is disrupted by calls from the cab-drivers. They assign a different cab-driver every day and every driver is a new nightmare. Despite satellites tracking and streaming my precise location right into his goddamn phone, the driver inevitably prefers to call me up and – against a backdrop of dire honking – I must explain in excruciating detail the herculean journey he must undertake to reach me at Number 12, 17th Main.

The commute is too long for the distance but too short for me to listen to music. I don’t like music because music is a lie. When you don a headphone, you’re immersing yourself in a lie but when you must immerse yourself in a lie, it’s a shame when you can’t immerse yourself long enough. Continue reading

Here and There

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“Sometimes, I have these questions,” her father says, looking away from the TV. He has always had questions, more so now that he’s been retired for a decade and spends most of his waking hours in front of the TV.

“What keeps everything spinning? I mean the planets, around the sun, they’ve all been spinning for millennia, haven’t they? What keeps them going? Why don’t they just fall into the sun?”

“They would, eventually, I suppose.” She’s not too sure herself.

“Isn’t it fascinating?” He turns around to look at her with an earnestness of a precocious child. He looks older than the seventy or so years he has lived. His eyes have sunk and become dark and stoic. She remembers an afternoon, over lunch, when he’d kneeled down to feed the cat when she’d noticed the first signs of a bald patch. That was years ago when she wasn’t married and had barely just got into college. It was the year when there was a hailstorm in April; the year her mother coughed blood in their tiny blue sink; the year they moved out to the city in an apartment twenty minutes away from the hospital. Continue reading

Earthquake in California

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You sleep late and wake up early. You see the sunrise after months. The sky is vast; thistle in the west and a piercing vermillion in the east. You wonder whether it’s always this beautiful out here when you’re asleep in your bed with the curtains snugly drawn.

You arrive early to work but not early enough to have breakfast. You head over to the secure zone. You key in your PIN and step inside. It’s cold because it’s a refrigerator for sensitive customer data. Terminals that hum solemnly in front of you are processing a million online transactions. You’re unpacking your bag while a million people are leisurely scrolling through items, drawn in a vortex of increasingly irresistible AI powered recommendations. You dial in to the conference and try to connect to your desktop operating sixteen floors above you. You can’t. After a moment of hesitation, it occurs to you that you don’t need your desktop right away. You’ve made assumptions you’re not aware of; that you wouldn’t be aware of until it’s time.

After a couple of hours, it is time. You realize you need your desktop. You have a had a rough couple of hours where the scripts that were supposed to work didn’t and it took someone from Dublin to fix those for you Continue reading

L8 CMMR

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‘Why don’t you work from home?’ Sandhya said, her voice drowning in the pitter-patter of the sudden rain and the relentless honking of the stranded vehicles. She said, louder this time, ‘Why don’t you work from home? From my home?’

His fingers tapped on his wrist-watch. He raked a hand through his wet hair and she caught the faintest whiff of sweat. ‘You stay nearby?’ he asked. Why would he ask that? Of course he knew. Although he hadn’t been home, they’d spoken about it occasionally. She’d mentioned how she walked to work and he’d joked how well that had been working for her. When he’d say something like that, she’d kick at his feet, or if no one was around, blow smoke on his face until he backed off, something she couldn’t imagine doing back in college when they were friends, good friends. She regarded him only briefly as he looked away outside the café at the rain and the people scurrying around to take shelter under heavy trees, holding his hesitance. A surge of chill, unaccounted by the cold howling wind, roused her body and she gripped his hand and stepped into the rain. Continue reading

After Sunset

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The questions were as stale as their faces. Is it an art or a craft? How much does your fiction draw on your own life? Questions everyone knows answers to, if only vaguely, and all one hopes for, really, is a lucid confirmation from someone older and wiser. When he was younger, there was the charm but in its place had slipped in something far more sinister—a throbbing, almost proud, reverberation of age in his old eroded self.

Each time she met his eyes, she felt a tectonic shift in her being. It lent her movement the grace of a French actress and to her insides, a twisted frustration of a deep sea eel. Every tissue in her body softened, loosened and baked in his warm corporeal presence. The room, dense with perfume and hushed evening breaths, she was sure, was essentially empty but for the two of them. Him and her. Continue reading

Thirteen Months and Thirteen Nights

He paced along the edge of the terrace, his fists stuffed into his leather jacket, fingertips biting into his cold palms. Cars zoomed on the highway below, slick with rain. Trees lining the roads, laden with dark rain, drooped towards each other. Skeletal coconut fronds bristled against the building like fingers of a sea-monster. The sky was a pale aching wound – blood smeared by rain, glowing ominously, pulsating with an ugly premonition, writhing like his guts. He couldn’t remember a night colder. Continue reading

Passive Aggression for Dummies

  1. It’s not a request but a demand – no matter how warmly the oppressor smiles or how often he says ‘Please’ – it’s always a demand. A pressing demand on your precious time, a demand on your peace of mind, a demand to allow yourself to be oppressed and dominated.
  2. A demand, by definition, demands an oblique denial. There’s no such thing as a straight ‘No’. It is always a ‘No’ masquerading as a bold ‘Yes’.
  3. A demand must be dealt with strategic delay. Take all your time, and then some more. Meanwhile, watch cat videos. Continue reading

Fact and Fiction

“Kill someone”, Nandita snapped, and reached for more than a handful of potato chips from the bowl in her lap. Ashok, sitting on the other side of the table, watched her as her tongue scoured her cavities and poked against her cheeks. A sleek silver necklace, possibly bought at a flea market, chafed against her neck that glistened with sweat. She sipped from a glass of water and he could tell that she had to exert an effort; the wicker chair creaked as she leaned forward and shifted sideways.

“Kill the grandmother,” she said, “or her rabid horny pet dog, oh wait, kill the grandmother, she’s a drag – always sitting on the rocking chair masticating spite Continue reading

Hide and Seek

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September 1999

We’re crouched in a hollow by a bush. The air is abuzz with mosquitoes. My grimy ankles touch Ankur’s grimy toes. Ankur is hitting Akash. He’s an idiot.

“Shhhhh”

“What’s your problem, supandi?”

“Can you be quiet for one minute?” I whisper as loudly as I can.

Ankur is a second grader and he’s not serious enough to play with us. He ignores me completely and tightens his fist for another assault on Akash’s hand. The fist lands squarely on his arm. Even in the darkness, I can feel it redden. Ankur cannot control his laughter and I cannot stop myself from slapping him. Akash steps between us. The turbulence gives us away. We’ve lost the game.

Ankur pinches Akash again. “Why do you let me do this?” Continue reading

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“Everyone farts – even the best of us. All farts are unsavoury but each unsavory fart is unsavory in its own sway. Each fart is sui generis – it’s the most telling, most exquisite release of your being at a moment of poignant vulnerability.

At socialfarts.com, we let you share your farts with your family, friends and frenemies. With our state of the fart technology, you can capture the essence of your fart for posterity. A fart is never just an olfactory experience. In its splendid entirety, a fart is visual (a fart-face being just as baffling as a cum-face), tactile (as an imperceptible draft of wind on your face), gustatory (a synesthetic surprise on your tongue) and of course, auditory (a cathartic release is an avant-garde music). It’s also a visceral experience whereupon you sense a universe expanding in your rump. Continue reading

Limits and Continuity

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It was the summer of 2007. I had just faltered my way out of 11th standard and my dad insisted that I attend tuitions, especially for Mathematics, a subject that didn’t particularly interest me. I couldn’t get into tuitions for bright kids, because obviously I was no genius. Instead, I was admitted to Mrunalini’s Math Tuitions. A friend of my dad’s recommended her name. She had recently moved to our town and was considering starting tuitions. My dad wasn’t convinced but he really just didn’t want me to hang around at home. Girish, my elder brother, stayed in a hostel, and visited home twice a month to get the laundry done. He didn’t speak much. He was the quiet kind. He showed promise but had not, apparently, lived up to his potential. I, on the other hand, showed neither promise nor potential. Everyone knew that tuitions wouldn’t do me any good but my dad just wanted more time with himself in our quiet home. Continue reading

Tokyo Drift

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I wonder if you know, how they live in Tokyo

Simran woke up to the sight of Tahir, in his red boxer shorts and a dishevelled blue tie flapping on his bare chest, dancing to a loud ‘Tokyo Drift’ playing on his phone, placed precariously close to the edge of a stool.

“Wake up, Simmi, Wake up! I’m so going to nail this interview.” Continue reading

Dark Chocolate

Smriti is late for a meeting on Monday. The road is blocked with school-kids and on another junction, the traffic signal refuses to go green. She’s dazed and hasn’t had the time to grab breakfast or a coffee. She hasn’t bathed, hasn’t trimmed her nails, or brushed her teeth long enough. Unclean and unprepared.

The lift has space for just one more person when a guy steps in. He catches her sulk as the lift door closes and offers to come out but… DING! Continue reading

The Song of Rain and Thunder

There once lived a boy who sang so beautifully that he was accepted directly into the semi-finals of Voice of Okremia.

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An old painter had found the boy outside his house, standing in a corner near a broken street lamp, crooning a rhyme of rain and thunder, oblivious to the pouring and roaring around him. Standing by the window, listening to the boy, the old painter’s mind was awash with a thunderous rain. He shook himself out of it; he had to go outside and get the boy inside. Feed him and get him into warm clothes. Continue reading

Princy’s Private Journal

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I have not visited my private journal for a long time. Now that I have, I don’t know where to begin. The week has been horrendously taxing. I wouldn’t call it happening although that appears to be the right word for it. I’ve lived a life too long and too rich to be bedazzled by the antics of two immature colleagues. They’re far from colleagues, really. It’s a travesty that I’m required to spend as much time as I do in their unflattering presence. Research, or rather popular wisdom, says that you become the average of the five people that you spend most time with. I shudder at the thought of what I could become in a few years. Excuse my vanity as I say this (although it’s more of a refined and reasonable self-awareness) but, truly, I really just want to become more of myself. Continue reading

Recreational Room

Kamala stood by a window with her hand resting on the rounded ridge of an oddly shaped green chair. Behind a bulbous pillar, she heard sighs, giggles, thumps, and the perennial tic-toc of TT. Ashok walked over to the chair in front of her and examined the curtains like a crow. He pointed at a curtain that wasn’t lowered halfway as instructed and offered her his signature look of disappointment. She had been instructed to lower the curtains halfway down lest the setting sun fill the room with unbearable brightness and warmth. The curtains were an immaculate white, paper-like and opaque. They had to be operated by a slender beaded rope. All it took was a gentle downward nudge and then a few steps over to the next curtain. Continue reading

Cold War

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I’m licking the last bit of cappuccino-almond tiramisu when she says, ‘When was the last time you had a good time?’ and I’m thrown off-kilter. What could she possibly mean by that? But I don’t bite at it immediately because that’d piss her off. I want her to try a little harder.

I say, ‘Umm… this is delicious’

I glance at her briefly, casually, with only a slight emergent doubt. Her eyes are lost in her long slender fingernails dyed a deep shade of red.

She says, ‘How’s that friend of yours?’

‘Who?’

She snorts. ‘The one who sleep-talked’

‘Not been in touch with her…’ Continue reading

Chemistry

I attended one of those schools where much care was taken to separate vaginas from penises. The girls sat in a row of their own. The guys played on a ground of their own. Our roll numbers were neatly segregated too. The last vagina was roll number 22 and it was schlongs all the way up to roll number 45.

At roll number 23, I straddled the precarious divide between the two genders. Having no interest in numerology, I ascribed no particular importance to this odious prime number until I was assigned the table to perform Chemistry experiments with Aditi—roll number 22.

She was by far an unlikely girl to fall in love with but hormones work by way of optimizing the chances of mating and she had won bonus points for proximity. Every Tuesday, at 2pm, we would wait in line outside the lab for the old ladies to open the creaky doors to our dark dungeon of a lab. After a barrage of instructions, which included inappropriately graphic accounts of how acids could potentially eat your skin and flesh, we would walk over to our assigned tables in pairs of two. Continue reading