Asha and the thought police (Akhil Bharatiya Vichar Arakshak)

drone

Asha climbed down from the mountain after a long arduous trek to catch the first glimpse of her city, her eyes widened and her nose twitched when she saw the entire city covered in what appeared to be a glistening orange mist. The rest of the way down she peered into the mist and watched it as it swirled around in unique patterns. How long has she been gone for? She counted the days on her fingers, she wasn’t gone for more than a week. What had changed in a week? She hurried down faster towards her home.

As she neared the first street of the city, she saw that the mist was made up of a formation of small flying quadcopter drones. All of them were painted orange with images of tigers, Shiva or Shivaji Maharaj drawn on them. Each one of them had a small orange flag flying on top of it that read ‘ABVA’ on it. Asha walked on in silence and mouthed a “what the…” as she stared from one drone to another as they moved about lazily. She knew the state would have elections while she was gone and she had expected some changes, but this was beyond anything she had imagined.

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of Salt and Assaults

“Can you pass the salt?” he said.

“Which one?” she asked.

“The white one. What do you mean which one?” he said.

“Sorry” she said, “I was distracted.”

“By?” he asked, stuffing handful of rice in his mouth, chewing it loudly, rolling his eyes.

“By that!” she said. Pointing at his face.

He slowly turned his head around, expecting a ghost or an intruder or at least an animal waiting to pounce at him.

“By … whatttt?” he said, his mouth half open in terror and half stuffed with yellow rice.

“Ughh … by thatttt” she yelled, “look at your fucking hand.”

So he looked at his hand. Turned his palm around and looked at the other side of his hand. He couldn’t see much. Then he lifted his left arm resting on his knees, hiding under the dinning table and looked at that. Still nothing. He stared harder.

“Aaa … what are you doing?” she said

“Looking at my hand” he said.

“And?”

“And what?”

“There is dal all over it” she said.

“Ah! Okay. I get it, you are mad that our marriage ring is soaked in dal? Aren’t you?”

“Nope! Not at all” she said.

“Then? What are you mad at?”

“Oh god! How do I begin?” She sighed.

“No, no … tell me. Go on … What is it?”

“Sweetie, it’s not just our ring,” she said, “all your fingers are soaked in dal. You have folded your sleeves , which is a smart thing to do, given how you eat, but you should have folded it till your elbows, there is daal on your sleeves too! You know what? You should wear half sleeves at the dinner table. Yup, from now on, you are going to wear half sleeves while eating. In fact, no wait … you should wear sleeveless t-shirts. In fact wear a fucking vest. Eat naked. I don’t care. ”

manfrom04

“Aan huh”he nodded, swallowing her hateful words and the left over yellow rice in his mouth, “I am listening. Go on …”

“Good! Because you usually don’t.” she said. “But now that you are, can you tell me what is that chunk of rice doing on your left hand?” Continue reading

How Maa beat cancer’s butt…

Every time I think of my Maa chasing her cancer away, I always imagine her running behind a pesky rodent with a “cheemta” (tongs) in her hand. And what is a rodent compared to the indomitable spirit of a woman. And like any woman who finds her home invaded by a tiny rodent, Maa went about the task of cleaning up her body off cancer with the single-minded grit and persistence of a really hungry feline.

It all started when I was in Mumbai, and she in Bangalore. I think I have always somehow been in Mumma’s girl. I love her almost as much as I love bitching about her. And one day on our daily calls, she confessed that something was wrong, that the doctors had insisted on a biopsy of her left breast.

mother-daughter

Of course, the doctors were wrong; my mom couldn’t have cancer, she does Pranayama every day! At least that is what I thought until my confidence came shattering down, when I realized that unstoppable forces of nature also pause, and Pranayama moms also fall.

We were on a call, when she said, “Bas ek mastectomy ho jayegi. Theek ho jayungi.” I smiled at the courage it would have taken her to brush it off like your everyday dental filling.

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Goodbye and all that “stuff”

I am shoving her suitcase in the car trunk and then shoving it further down between her other bags, is when she says, “what are you doing? Be gentle! This one’s fragile.”

“Yeah?” I say, “Unfortunately I am not your cabin crew … and put a fucking sticker on this thing. Make it bold.”

“I have put a sticker on it. And it is bold. Look,” she points.

“Well then make it more bolder. I can barely see it,” I say.

“There is no such thing as, “more bolder””, she corrects me.

“Well, there is now,” I say, “And sorry, I am not born or brought up or moving to America, unlike some other people. For me, more bolder means, more bolder, you get it? Something I can see or read from 20 mtrs away … And oh! Boulder also means something I want people to get smeared by, when they annoy me.”

“I am sure, you can read this from far. If only you want to,” she says.

“Nope! I can’t. I can’t read or write things. I am stupid. Okay?”

She breathes deeply. Looks away and looks back at me.

“Really? Right Now? God! You are such a jerk” she says, not loud enough for me to hear it but loud enough to grab my attention.

“I heard that!”

“Good. Coz I wanted you to!” She yells, walking towards the house and slams the door behind her.

all-that-stuff

I stand there, staring at the open car door and appreciating a pigeon fidgeting with a dark spot on the windshield. His feathers are messed up. He is probably hungry too, but look at him; he is so calm and beautiful, he is not shouting at me, plus he is not even flying to a different country by himself. Even though he could – free of cost. This pigeon is a star!

Why can’t she be like this? Why does she have to either be an ugly monk or a raging bitchface?  Why there is no in between?

And a voice from within, that I am way too familiar with, shoots up to my head and whispers, “stop it! You know it’s you. It’s always you. She’s more of a gentleman than you are. She has the calmness of a bomb squad, you on the other hand, look like you are always in a moshpit of a metal concert, elbowing the person behind you. Screaming, “Hell yeahhh!!!”, or whatever the fuck they yell in moshpits.”

And while I am having a moment with myself, she comes back with some more stuff. She has more luggage labeled as “stuff” than what should be called as “stuff”. And all her “stuff” come with her other “stuff”. Because she buys “stuff” and doesn’t throw them away. Then she buys more stuff to match the “stuff” that she has bought before. So there are twice as many and as much “stuff” with her than there should have been in the first place.

She stands and looks at me for help.

“What?” I shrug.

“What what?” Help me with these, she says, pointing at her “stuff”.

So then, I stuff all her “stuff” with all her other “stuff” in the car. Fuck it! It’s all stuffed now.

“Happy?” I bang shut the door. She frowns.

And we drive away to the airport. She is checking her phone and I am honking at every next person; scooters, bikers, fucking autorickshaws, vegetable vendors. All of them. The Madmax in me is looking to ram this car somewhere. Take it to a desert and destroy it, put it on fire. Cut through a bridge railing and drown it in the sea. Call it a day and die somewhere. I am done.

But since I can’t do all that, I play the FM at a deafening level. She doesn’t say much, gives me the look and turns the volume knob down. So I give her the look now and I turn it back up. She turns it back down. I turn it back up. She turns it back down.

I take a pause. My hands are reaching to turn it back up, but I am also a little scared …

“Staaaaaaaphhhhh it!” She yells.

The rebel in me still wants to turn it up, but what’s the point, really? I don’t like that kind of noise either. It would annoy me more than it would annoy her. So I let it be. But in my head, I haven’t lost this to her. I have lost this to myself. Which is fine, I don’t mind losing to myself.

And then I drive ZIG-ZAG, don’t slow down at speed breakers, break signals, honk occasionally at no one, and also sudden unexpected breaks are my new favorites at this moment.

Next, I switch off the AC at a signal.

“What’s that for?” She says.

“Saving petrol.”

“Fine!” She says. Wipes sweat off of her forehead. I check my face in the mirror. My cheeks and ears are burning with the heat and the frustration that I have brought upon myself.

I peek outside the window like a dog. Bark at the traffic. Honk harder. Abuse pedestrians in local language, that I can barely speak.

You see, I don’t usually do these things. I am not “that” guy. But today I have turned into one and at this point, I am also afraid, that if someone abuses me back in the same language, I wouldn’t have a comeback. I would lose the fight and probably get beaten up. Yelling at random no-ones is never a smart thing to do anyway. You don’t know which sidewalk the next Jeffrey Dahmer is walking on.

She sits through all this. Unbuzzed. Fiddles with her phone. Breathes heavily. Stares at me occasionally- with love, anger and pity.  I don’t look back. She knows me and knows how I behave in the moments when I don’t know how to behave.

Now we are at the parking lot of the airport, I put her luggage in the cart, roll it up the escalator and turn left at the end of it. She turns right.

“Hello? Where are you going? It’s this way.” I say, pointing at the signboard.

“How do you know how to read a bold signboard, when you don’t know how to read or write bold things? It’s such a paradox.” She giggles.

“Well. Ha Ha” I mock her.

At the entrance, where we stand, her passport is in her left hand with ticket printouts sticking out of it.

“18 months,” she says, sliding her phone in the back-pocket of her jeans.

“18 fucking months, that’s fucking long. Okay? ”I say.

“I know. I know. I know. But don’t put it like that and it will be over before you know. Also we will Skype. Daily. I promise. Okay?”

“Yeah, well that never goes well.” I say, “People die. Haven’t you seen that movie … what’s it called? Befriended or Unfriended … or something like that?”

“Shush … it’s not important and listen it will be fine … trust me. This is not a movie. Although at this point it almost seems like one. But it isn’t.  And please don’t make it a sad goodbye.” She stands on her toes and kisses me on my cheek.

“Alright! If you insist.”

“Yes. I do.” She says. “Now smile.” She hugs me. I hug her back, but not like how I usually hug her. “This hug is as cold as her intentions right now.” I tell myself.

“Yeah whatever.” I say, and push her to the entrance, “you are late.”

And she waves back at me and disappears in the mob.

“She is never coming back,” I tell myself. “And if she ever does. She will never be the same. I know this. I have seen enough movies to claim that I exactly know how this will end.”,  I keep talking to myself holding a teardrop or two as I walk my way back to the car.

When I open the car-door, a kitty cat from nowhere appears and hugs my leg. So I pick it up and drive him home. Feed him milk or something.

“The animal has found me in these dark times to keep me company” I tell myself, “because, I guess, animals know these things?”

The family outing

Take your hands off him!

 “I am sorry. Did you say something?” ‘The woman’ turned around and looked at me. Her green eyes wide, almost seeing through my soul.

“Nothing…just that you look really pretty today.” I said, plastering a fake smile. She went back to holding Sammy’s hand and walking ahead. Tall, taller than me, she made me feel smaller than I should have.

We were on a family outing, an experiment suggested by ‘The woman’, a step in promoting harmony, for Sammy’s sake. And I had to keep reminding myself to behave, to keep my emotions in check, to maintain dignity and class. But all I could feel was my entire existence falling apart. The simple act of putting one foot in front of another became increasingly painful. Breathing became a chore and my breaths came in raspy successions.

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“Are you alright?” A male voice beside me asked. Perhaps genuinely concerned, I couldn’t say for sure with the loud ringing in my head that seemed to be eating me alive from inside.

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When women drive big cars…

“Beta, don’t you think you should travel by cab?” my dad ventured, hesitant at first, firm later and positively, relentless thereafter. I had been listening to him and my mother moan and crib about their precious daughter driving a massive Tata Safari around the city on a daily basis, for more than two years now.

It also doesn’t help that after successfully maneuvering my car all the way from ITPL to Kormangala three times a week during peak hours, for two years has still not instilled enough trust in my parents to take a 3km ride with me.

Every single time I venture to take them shopping or other chores, relentlessly at first, firm later and then hesitantly thereafter, they respond as if I have suggested taking them to a brothel.

The vehemence in their voice when they say, “Nahee! We are not taking your car. We would rather go by cab.” makes me believe that they probably think I run over three men and two kids every time I take my car out. And the only reason I am not rotting in prison or hell; is because of the Thursday fasts and pujas that my mom religiously keeps.

Having witnessed such lack of faith, for so long, I began contemplating; Why?! Why such distrust for women drivers, especially for the ones who drive an SUV?

woman-in-suv

Lets get this straight, people still need a lot of conditioning to get used to a woman driving. The ones, who actually are used to women driving, expect her to be in a hatchback, not a sedan, definitely not an SUV, and God help her if she dares to drive a jeep.

Because she is a woman, and of course she would look good in, you know, those cute little Japanese toy cars that are electric blue, green, or white, or yellow. If it is a pink Reva, it is even better. All those post retirement uncles and aunties would give you looks of approval, even smile at you and call you “Beta.”

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Murder is easy – A Sherlock Holmes mystery

“Murder is easy, as long as you don’t make it look like a murder.” He said. Using hand to scratch his crotch fervently, in a dog like frenzy when it’s trying to bury a bone.

“So, you mean that it’s easy to commit a murder as long as you make it look like an accident, suicide or illness.” I spoke, seriously concerned about his hygiene while he ardently moved on to scratch his butt cheeks now.

“Took you long enough to catch up, detective.” He looked at me from head to toe, disdainful. As if his East London lodging was any better than my Irish accent.

“In that case, Mr. Holmes, the death of Dr. Watson is not an accident. I’d be loathe to tell you this, but now you would be considered the primary suspect. Because you were the last person to see him.” I said.

“Also, I am loathe to tell you, Detective, while I might be your primary suspect, I am also your greatest ally, because I am after all ‘the Sherlock Holmes’.” He said that while tipping his hat with his left hand and awkwardly itching his long beard with his right. He coughed up something awful, and removed his tell tale hat that looked like it had tiny holes burrowed by very hungry mice.

“You see detective….” he continued, looking at me questioningly and murmuring about my Irish origins.

“Boyle..” I offered.

sherlock-doodle

“Yes detective Boyle….. A common Irish ancestry, I presume. You see Dr. Watson here had invited me over for tea this evening, while his wife Mary and their son has been visiting their aunt in Watford. We had an hour-long tete-a-tete about this and that, in which he mentioned that just last week he had cleaned his shotgun. Therefore, I honestly don’t think he would feel the need to clean it again.”

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