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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Halloween gone wrong…

“Tonight, some one is going to kill us. Pick us off one by one, when we least expect it, when we think we are safe in our cozy dorms, snuggled up to our furry feline friends; the killer is going to come unnoticed, sneak up on us and before our cats can even raise an alarm, bury a hatchet in our brain and watch in rapt fascination when tissues of grey matter squiggle out of the only deep opening in heads.” I said in a silent whisper, hoping that I sound menacing enough to scare the girls.

“Ahhhh” I hear two, satisfyingly, loud intake of breaths just as Fuschia, my Persian cat, snuggles up to me demanding a belly rub.

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“Jasmine, you can do better than that. Come on, this remotely sounding prophetic statement wouldn’t scare an 9 year old, forget 19 year olds.” Laura, my nemesis, spoke clearly exasperated by our incompetence to scare each other.

But then again, I knew she had it in for me. From her ordinary mousy brown hair to her spectacled black eyes; from her evident poo belly to her H&M’s clearance sale clothes; Laura was not the type who would be asked out on a date even if she were the last girl in the dorm. Continue reading

A funeral at night

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“I told you this was going to happen!” Vijay wiped the sweat off his brow, “But did you listen to me? No! Now look what has happened.” He stuck the spade into the soft soil in their backyard.

“Yes…yes I know you told me. And I never listen to you” Shilpa agreed eagerly, as the torchlight she held in her hand shook, its beam making wild circles on the ground at Vijay’s feet.

She kept staring at the soft bundle that was lying a few feet away , swaddled in cloth. In the darkness, she could convince herself that it was still breathing. She shook her head, such wishful thinking was of no use. They had a job to finish. Continue reading

The day Pikku disappeared

I make myself believe that I clearly remember the day Pikku disappeared. I remember the bright rays of sunshine that shone through our windows. I remember the smell of pancakes wafting up through the steps into our room. I remember mummy and daddy talking loudly, about something, something inconsequential to the memories of that day. I remember Pikku lifting my blanket and peeping inside, grinning. Her front two teeth were missing. All I saw were pink gums, bright blue eyes and flushed cheeks. Her brown hair fell in ringlets around her chubby face as she tickled me and ran down the steps giggling. I ran behind her, laughing loudly, “You chump, you absolute chump, I am going to get you.” I shouted. This was our weekend routine.

It always took me a while to settle into the skin of an elder brother, a whole two and half years older. Now that I am an adult, I realize how easy it is for a child to forget, forget that he is growing up. Continue reading

Those Dead Things

One more person had died that day. And a lot of people were dying that month. It was a depressing time in general; the economy was going down, government’s policies were fucked up and the working class was overworked. When I inquired further, the gatekeeper said, “He was young”.

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“How young?”
“Late twenties. Maybe twenty-eight or twenty-nine. Doesn’t matter now. Does it? He is dead. He will always be dead.”
“But wait … ” I said, “that’s just … and … so … we don’t know how he died?”
“We do, we do. And listen to this, it was a suicide. How often do you hear about such a thing?”
“Not that often and that’s horrific.”
“Indeed! He was a business consultant, quite like yourself. And they found a ligature and a stool in his apartment next to his hanging corpse. I think he was a failure. Classic suicide story. Right?” Continue reading

“The Pig”

You walk stomping in an urgent pace through the corridors of the old school. Your footsteps echo throughout the abandoned building intruding a comfortable silence that reigns.

What was it like? You wonder. What was it like when I studied here? Garish laughter, childish screams, pitter patter of tiny feet assault your memories and a loss of the days long gone envelops your being.

Your foot steps slow down and you can almost hear the clanging of bells just like it did for lunch break. Another ten minutes, that is all it will take. You tell yourself. The huge sack you carry on your back weighs you down.

You hear a light giggle from some where behind you. You turn around, your heart rate shoots up and sweat trickles down your forehead.

“Who is it?” You ask. Loudly. Louder than you actually meant to. “Who is it? Who is it? Who is it?” Your voice echoes through the empty corridors mocking you. Your own voice reverberating, ricocheting off the walls, reminding you that it is truly YOU who is the intruder here. The fine hair in the back of your neck stand hard, hard enough to cause a subtle, buzzing pain down your spine.

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You wait for the echoes to die down and shine your torchlight all around you. All you see are tiny rodents skittering about in search of another rodent to eat.

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A Murder

So, the first stone hit, not me though, but the zircon ruby I had nicked off Nisha’s bathroom window. Quite an achievement, I tell you, since I had to brave my way through thick steamed smog, with zero visibility and an over powering scent of jasmine. But the red, blood red twinkle that reflected against my eyes was completely covetable. It made that arduous journey quite an adventure.

Being in possession of that ruby, which I decided to call Rubina, brought my ex girl Peri gliding like a swan towards me. Days of snogging, snuggling and basically Peri rubbing herself all over me, still did not convince me to give away Rubina.

And that is why, before the second stone hit me, I realized that I had been a celibate for six months now. Although I still say, Rubina was completely worth the celibacy.

The second stone, scraped deep through my right thigh, before lodging into Mr. Knuckles. No…no…no not Mr. Knuckles!

I had to fight Dodo continuously for three hours before I could deeply injure him and acquire Mr. Knuckles. The fight eventually resulted in Dodo’s death, being squished by a tire.

Hell, I didn’t care. Mr. Knuckles was the most beautiful stone I had ever set my eyes on. Amber and smooth in texture, I could look into Mr. Knuckles for hours at a stretch and forget about anything else, except for the mystical adventures Mr. Knuckles promised.

I screeched as Mr. Knuckles fell off the branch, and shattered onto the pebbled road below. My screech was cut short just as a pebble lodged into my mouth, and I had to sputter for at least a minute to spit it out.

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Of ghost towns and empty hearts

Laura drove her four by four, along a path that could best be described as flattened ground on a bulbous terrain, created by the constant patter of horse hoofs, ages ago. With a buoyant spurt of flora along the path, Laura realized that it was she who had revived it for her journey to Animas Fork, a ghost town in Colorado, after what must have been months or years perhaps. Her freshly aligned jeep tires effortlessly trampled every clueless growth along its path, as it made its way through the winding mountain to reach the top.

Just like its name, the approach route forked into sudden directions in an animated ballet of a mischievous elf. Driving up the path was like chasing Johnny across their massive yard that was almost always strewn with toys. You never know, where the boy might turn, when he might turn or how he might turn.

And finally when Laura would huff and puff and shout in a labored breath that she gave up. Johnny would laugh and say, “See how I tricked you, this is how a Zebra’s stripes create a zigzag illusion, Mummy!”

Laura laughed at the memory just as soon as tears trickled down her smiling face. She did not bother to wipe them away, instead she slowed down and she willed time to slow down as well, willed that lifelike memory of Johnny to stay, wished she could live in that memory a thousand years. Johnny was gone, just one instant, one moment when she had looked away, and he had run down the road chasing a kitten; one flash of a truck with the driver distracted by his buzzing phone. One life lost.

Since then Laura’s life had been all about “what if’s”. What if she hadn’t looked away? What if the kitten had decided to cross Johnny’s path a second later? What if Johnny had been distracted just enough to miss seeing the kitten? What if the driver had kept his phone on silent? What if the call had come a second later?

The “what ifs” had haunted Laura for months and they still did. What if Johnny was still alive; she would not be dead inside.

It had been eleven months and twenty-three days now, and she was finally in a condition to take up a solo assignment. It was to create a photo diary of America’s ghost towns. She had already covered Centralia in Pennsylvania; Bodie in California and now it was Animas Fork, Colorado.

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The sun had hidden itself behind the horizon of an infinite sky. Millions of stars lit up clear Colorado skies, stars that peeked through tall pine trees lining the woods in a zigzag medley, dangerously claiming the path Laura rode on.

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Funerals are the new raves

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Tanya is browsing through the swimwear collection on nile.com her favorite shopping website. It’s true that father has said she cannot go to Goa and there is no way he will let her buy a swimsuit, but Tanya is sure she will figure it out, she always does. Her phone rings, it’s Manju, her best friend for the season. Tanya takes the call, “So I was wondering, what would be a better shade for my swimsuit? Should I go with the turquoise one or the peacock blue one? The peacock blue on makes my skin look…”

“Tanya, babe…” the urgency in her voice gives Tanya pause, “it’s Ananya…she’s…just check the college website…”

Tanya opens the website to the image of a glowing lamp and ‘shraddhanjali’ written in a somber font besides an old photo of Ananya. There is a second where Tanya feels a sensation of transition, as if a dying sputtering candle in a large dark room was finally snuffed out. Then she gathers herself with remarkable ease, “what has the nerd gone and done now?” she asks with mock contempt. Continue reading

The Painter

You are assaulted by the acrid smell of piss, puke and the stench of waste. Not the best way to wake up from deep slumber, you think. You wake up on hard ground, with your legs entangled in those of a complete stranger. Not even of the opposite gender.

Kalansh piece for the painter

(Artist: Kalansh Gala)

You curse and you spit at the man, secretly thankful that he is still passed out. You look around, only to find yourself surrounded by a melee of entangled bodies interwoven to blur any lines of gender, age and color. The darkness surrounding you is partially because your eyes are yet to focus and because you are in a giant dome that barely lets in any light through the massive stained glass windows near the ceiling. Continue reading

The Room

 

We sit huddled in three corners of the room. Our bodies emaciated, our skin withered, our bones jutting from odd angles, after days of starvation. Our eyes skitter from one to another in rapid succession. We do not trust each other; we are terrified of the ground that supports our gaunt bodies, the ceiling that shelters our fading existence and the walls that hold up our wilted selves.

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We have given up any thoughts of leaving the room, moons ago, or is it eons? We don’t know, how long have we waned away in this room.

I look at her, sitting across me, holding a rotting child in her arms. Her eyes bulge, what was once smooth, silky skin, now corrodes in flakes and falls all around her cadaverous form. I try hard to recall her name, but all I can remember is the word “Babe”. I used to call her Babe. I think she Continue reading

You

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You, yes you. Sitting there opposite your laptop. Yes, yes I’m talking to you. There you go looking around.

Are you surprised the window blew open?

Did the sudden sound startle you?

Did you wonder who or what opened that window?

Oh, don’t look so scared now. I know your heart is beating faster than horse hoofs. There, there slowly reach out to the bottle of water and take a sip to calm your racing heart. Feels better, doesn’t it? 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

A big heart

I knew the story of Mrs. Murphy, a young widow at 33. About her love saga with Mr. Murphy that spanned across 3 decades.

They met in kindergarten, at the tiny age of three and they knew then that their hearts belonged to other forever and ever. For 30 years, they never spent a day apart. Mr. Murphy would always carry Mrs. Murphy’s big heart on his strong shoulders and Mrs. Murphy would carry Mr. Murphy’s sturdy, noble heart in her delicate hands. Continue reading

From Despair to Desperation

Laura Desperation

I laboured myself off my bed, it took exactly ten minutes for me to lift my legs and place them on the ground beneath. Parts of my body, I never knew existed, had been aching in pain and anger since five years now. I trudged to the mirror to take in my sunken eyes, chapped hollow cheeks and smoke stained teeth.
Last night’s binge drinking and smoking pot was not helping me in any way. For that matter so wasn’t the night before, or the night before that.
I loved my routine, the routine that involved replacing food with alcohol and water with weed. It allowed me to pass out night after night; in a drunken stupor. Just what the doctor advised. Continue reading

I am you

They entered through the door, the woman and her two daughters. With flowing white togas, clinched at their waist, they looked like the ray of sunshine, I did not know, who they were. But I had been waiting for them, for too long.

“Mother, is this where we will live?” The younger one, almost five years of age, with golden locks, and the face of an angel, spoke up.

The woman looked around, her face a mix of sorrow and disdain.

“Yes, agape mou this is our home now.” Continue reading

I can’t believe my eyes or my ears or my hair or my toe nails.

There are voices, but I don’t know what they say. They are either distant whispers or my ears are clogged with water. All I hear is, someone sobbing — often for hours. Sometimes, I think it’s not just one person, they are out there in numbers; because there are different crying patterns.  Some moan with intermittent hiccups, some endlessly curse and howl. The voices that are clearer, also sound familiar, and although it’s someone or the other weeping, I hate to admit, that it’s mildly comforting. But the one’s that come from far-off, are unfamiliar and upsetting.  I wish, they could hear me, and for once, just shut up, the way I hear them, and beg them to shut up — all the time.

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There is also very little or no light here. But that’s okay, I can still see what I want to. Maybe this is how it appears, when you’ve lived in the darkness for a while — your pupils adjust. They adjust to the idea of darkness and then you see a whole new world that you thought, you could only see with your open eyes or in bright light. And although, I can’t see what is out there, I know that I have seen, sometime in the recent past — the vast world, beyond these four walls, where these voices come from. Continue reading