The recipe

todd-quackenbush-x5SRhkFajrA-unsplashRadha paced in front of the closed kitchen doors. She passed them and sniffed, she could make out the faint aroma of the dish wafting from the kitchen. Her mouth began to water and a smile played on her lips as she reminisced about the dish. She had set up the lunch table already. Everyone in the house was waiting eagerly for the meal. Radha was jumping up and down with anticipation. The kitchen doors were closed since the morning coffee. Any moment now her mother in law would open the kitchen doors and she would walk out holding her world-famous Bisi Bele Bhath. Radha swallowed as her mouth watered more. This year, somehow she would convince her mother in law to give her the recipe.

At long last, the doors opened, and her mother in law walked out, sweat gently dropping from her brow, her fingers stained with spices, a gentle smile playing on her radiant face. She looked like the goddess Annapurna herself come to serve her devotees. She was closely followed by Amba her faithful maid, who carried the large vessel filled with the aromatic Bisi Bele Bhath. Radha eagerly took in the aroma of the dish and almost joined get hands in prayer.

The table was laid and everyone was served. There was silence while everyone ate the dish. “Shanti, you have outdone yourself again. I am convinced when I die I will be sent to your kitchen, cause the door to heaven must be through there…” her father in law said licking his lips.

“Amma. Best. Dish. Ever.” her husband said licking every one of his fingers.

Her mother in law blushed and brushed their compliments aside. Radha was always surprised by her humility. Everyone knew she made the best Bisi Bele Bhath and yet she was always so humble about it. The rest of the meal was spent in silence as everyone licked their plates clean.

When they were cleaning away the dishes Radha finally mustered the courage to ask, “Amma, will you please teach me the recipe for the Bisi Bele Bhath?”

Her mother in law’s face changed, her smile dropped and her eyes hardened. She dropped the plate she had picked from the table, “No!” She said and walked back into the kitchen. Continue reading

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The Polls

The polls.jpg

A warm morning sun shone into the courtyard of the school. The tree that stood in the centre of the courtyard came to life with the cries of birds. Shiva sat in the shade of the tree, hard at work on a thick rope that he was tying into an elaborate knot. He had been up and working for a long while already. He had set up a stage that now stood beside the tree. He had brought out chairs from the classrooms in the school and placed them in neat rows in front of the stage. As the school peon, it was his duty to set up the booth on election day and the stage on the counting day. It was also his duty to prepare for the results. He inspected the knot that he had tied, he pulled on the rope to make sure it held in the correct manner. He tied the loose end of the rope to the tree and hid the other end in a nook behind the trunk of the tree. No one liked to think of the rope before the results were announced. He inspected the stage one last time and went outside the courtyard to smoke a bidi before the counting began.

As the sun climbed in the sky, the courtyard was slowly filled with the buzz of the villagers gathered there. They greeted each other and sat in small groups among the school chairs exchanging news and gossip. The women sat to the right though there was no rule that they had to. Their whispers were loud but quickly suppressed like a bee caught in a bell jar. The men gathered to the left of the stage, they greeted each other loudly at first. But their conversations grew quieter, like a bullfrog that had grown tired of its own mating call. The children ran around the playground that they were so familiar with. They found it funny that they had to visit the school on a holiday and the empty classrooms rang with their shouts and laughter. By the time the appointed hour arrived the whole village had gathered in the school courtyard. Continue reading

The Cyclone

Mr. Rao saw the first dark clouds gather on the horizon and the waves rise as if to lick them. He pulled the plastic chair close to the balcony. His knees groaned as he made to sit in the chair and he plonked into it. “The cyclone ‘ekla’ will make landfall around midnight. Evacuation efforts are underway and most people along the east coast are being evacuated to shelters…” the news presenter told Mr.Rao from the television. Mr. Rao looked at the watch still ticking away on the wall, it told him the time was around six in the evening. He looked back at the black clouds rolling on the horizon, “take your time…” he told the cyclone.

Mr. Rao chuckled when he saw the first lightning streak through the clouds. The doorbell rang again. Neighbours perhaps or some official trying to ensure everyone had been vacated. Mr. Rao ignored it. “The cyclone is the strongest one to be recorded in more than half a century…” the news presenter was saying. Good Mr.Rao thought. The electricity was cut and the TV feel silent. “Now it’s just you and me…” Mr. Roa said to the storm.

It thundered in response.

Mr. Rao sat starting at the approaching clouds, he just wished he had something to chew on like a gumdrop, but they were all the way in the kitchen and he couldn’t bring himself to go there. But then his bladder groaned in protest. He sat there debating the urgency of it, until he had to push himself out of the chair and waddled to the restroom, his knees groaning in protest. The worst thing about old age, and there are so many, Mr. Roa thought is the number of times you have to use the restroom.

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23:23

People believe I am mad, a crazy lunatic, obsessed with the time 23:23. But let me tell you something; I did not go searching for 23:23, it found me. It was relentless in its pursuit; it hounded me night and day, until I had no other choice but to acknowledge it. I tried everything, switched off my phone, tried to sleep when it was still a safe 22:22, shut my eyes and refused to look at my bedside clock. But somehow, somewhere I always managed to see 23:23.

I had such confidence in my sanity, my logic, my rationality; that I discussed about 23:23 with people, many people; my husband, friends, colleagues and believers in the paranormal. Some looked at me in awe, some even suggested I was a shaman and some strongly believed that I was ready to fall over the threshold of madness.

Before you throw away this paper, attributing it to the rant of a mad woman, let me tell you about me.

My name used to be Anu, short for Anuradha. I say used to be, because now, it is just patient no. 2323.

I was happy, once. I used to live in the bustling city of Bangalore, with its surprise showers and cool weather. I was married too, to the man of my dreams and I bore him two beautiful little girls, twins at that. In our uninhibited joy, we named them Thea and Rhea. Thea, Goddess of the moon and Rhea, the daughter of Gaia (Earth). Both my daughters orbited around each other from the time they were born. Oh how I had loved them until they were toddlers, their constant need to be with me, their constant demands, their unending cries for ‘Mumma’. That was only until they were old enough to realise that all they ever needed was each other. They had a look that was only meant for the other one, like telepathic Siamese twins.

Such strong was the connection between my daughters; that I became the ostracised mother who wasn’t privy to that bond.

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The Chosen One

The Sun shone… again! Banging those jaundiced rays of light upon my closed eyes. I groaned and twisted, my back craned, perhaps a joint popped, but that wasn’t new now, was it?

With my eyes still closed, I made kissy noises for my cats Cleopatra and Nefertiti, to come over and give me some of those hugs and kisses.

Just then I heard Cleo’s low purr sounding like train huffing somewhere in the distance; somewhere far enough to be close to the bedroom window. It was that damned owl again, I realized, come to deliver my tenth Hogwarts invitation.

“Go away!” my voice took on a high-pitched shrill. “I told you already, I’m not joining any of those floozy wizarding classes.”

My words sounded like whiny gurgles. I opened my eyes, my hands fumbling for my dentures. When I did find them, I could feel the fur of my cats stuck on the sides of the dentures. I rubbed it against the bed sheet, which was a mistake because it added a few more strands of the ginger hair. I grunted and popped it in, moving my jaw up and down, side by side adjusting it to fit into my small mouth. I gargled the fur out with water.

The Chosen One

I screamed at the owl again, “Like I said, I am not interested. Don’t you have some twelve year olds to recruit?”

The owl cooed and flew inside my bedroom, driving Cleo and Nefi into a frenzy of screaming and jumping.

My hands then fumbled for my spectacles and when I did find them, I felt Nefi’s regurgitated hairballs. I shrugged and wiped the vomit off the bed sheet.

When I put on my glasses, I saw that there was someone else in the room apart from that wretched owl.

“Mrs. Morpe”, said a tall man whose beard hung like untrimmed hair from a vagina. He bowed in pretend flourish, “Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts, at your service.”

I felt like I should bow for this excessively hairy man, but then my hips weren’t what they used to be, so I settled into a barely perceptible nod.

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The toxic straight male virus

toxic straight male virus

“Sir, there is another individual here to see you about Avalon. Claims his…um apparatus is in working order” Jeffrey, my butler, announced as he placed my nightcap on the coffee table.

I paused the TV for the first time that day. I was watching a rerun of one of the seasons of my TV show “Style fails for the straight males’ from what seemed like a lifetime ago. I liked this particular episode, I had done a brilliant makeover for a mid-west truck driver if I do say so myself. And he had had the audacity to tell me Pocket squares were not a necessity in his line of work. It was memories like these that made me think that perhaps the epidemic was justified. I am sure this truck driver was amongst the first wave of victims claimed by the virus.

“Ehm…ehm..” Jeffery cleared his throat. Being a man good old Jeff had also fallen victim to the TSM virus, but had somehow managed to maintain his will to clean up and look after me, which was all for the best. But it did make one wonder which way the butler swung in such matters, not that that was a question that could be discussed obviously. I had simply placed him in that esoteric basket of asexuality, shuddered at the thought of it and moved on. Continue reading