Satyananda crouched beside the dumpster. The street was deadly silent but it was better lit than he had expected. The large signboard of the restaurant read “The Dragon’s breath” in red and green neon brilliance. All the other signboards of the street were lit too. Satyananda crouched and waited to make sure there was no movement in any of the stores. The street lights cast their orange sleepless light all around. He was close to a street light and it lit up his shaved head making it glow like an incandescent bulb. His orange robes were glowing brightly too. He wished he had more inconspicuous clothes, but it was too late for that. What he had to do could no wait.
He looked at the neon dragon coiled around the sign “The Dragon’s breath” and balled his fists. The restaurant’s specialty was Lobster in five spice sauce. Each day dozens of lobsters were boiled alive in an attempt to satiate the palates of self-proclaimed gourmands in search of the next subtle flavor. “Can you not hear them scream as you boil them alive?” Satyananda would ask them. “Lobsters cannot scream!” they would tell him in their haughty voices, “It’s just air escaping their shells!”
“That is all life is to some people! Air escaping from shells!” Satyananda had raged to his teacher Shantiduta.
“Isn’t that all life is, dear student, a soul trying to escape its mortal shell?” Shantiduta had said and smiled at Satyananda’s frustration.
That was why Satyananda had not informed his teacher of the daring rescue mission he was about to perform tonight. Continue reading
It was a clear day and a bright sun shone in the sky as Krishna wheeled his chariot across the vast motionless fields of Kurukshetra. It was the first day of the war, and Krishna was prepared to guide the Pandavas to victory. He had been excited before but now as he gazed upon the battlefield he was presented with an unanticipated problem. Excellent strategist that he was he believed he had prepared for every possible development in the war, but he had to concede that even he had not seen this coming. He sighed as he looked at the empty battlefield devoid of both the armies, where was everyone? He couldn’t fight the largest war ever, all by himself.
Krishna sat in his chariot for a few hours staring at the horizon, hoping for the armies to show up. Then feeling like a petulant child who had been stood up by all his friends for his birthday pa Continue reading
Sushil woke up to find that Shreya was not in bed beside him. He smiled at the memory of last night. He would have slept much longer and maybe even had some coffee in bed, he was on vacation after all. But he did not want to keep his in-laws waiting for breakfast so he got ready and went down to the dining table.
As he had expected the whole family was gathered at the table for breakfast. “Good morning everyone!” Sushil said as he took a seat at the table. No one replied. This was strange, his in-laws were always very polite and welcoming, that was the only thing he looked forward to in these trips. Perhaps he had not been loud enough, “Good morning!” he said again and felt an awkward silence descend on the room. His father-in-law was hidden behind the morning newspaper that was stretched tight to the point of tearing apart. His brother-in-law was dipping the same idly in the sambar again and again so that it kept melting and less and less of it came out each time.
His mother-in-law was holding her copy of the Ramayana like it were a life jacket and was reading it as if she desperately needed to resuscitate someone and it gave instructions on how to give mouth to mouth.
Shreya and his sister-in-law kept going in and out of the kitchen like a pair of windup dolls. They kept piling everyone’s plates with idlis as if they had a competition to see who would make the tallest tower of idlis. Continue reading
They gathered outside the house on the hill. It was not technically a hill, just a huge mound of cheap consumer goods mostly imported from China and Vietnam. They marveled at how much the mound had grown since the last time they had been to visit their brother. There were new and interesting items in the mound, several tanning beds, full body tan sprayers, all of the latest electronic products. Even as they watched another truck delivered more goods to the house, two new treadmills and one of those ridiculously shaped ab-exercise machines.
Lust shook her head and her blond tresses flowed like a golden waterfall, she was wearing a flowing dress that covered everything but what it should have, “This has gone way too far! We should have put a stop to this a long time ago.”
Wrath grunted, he towered over his siblings, like a wall built of pure muscle, a ripple seemed to pass through the wall as he flexed the mallet in his hand, “We told him as much last time did we not? We told him he had won the damned bet we had among us. That he had nothing more to prove.”
“Of course, I remember! How can one forget such humiliation?” Pride scoffed, he checked to make sure his perfectly styled hair was in place and straightened his tie, his immaculately tailored suit fit him like a second skin, “I am still not convinced that our brother won, but I conceded our little bet because we agreed it was not good for the world, the way he was carrying on. It was hard enough we conceded defeat once, why are we here again?” Continue reading
Pooja checked to see that the road was empty and pulled her hood closer over her head. She took a deep breath and went into the basement of the building. Her footsteps echoed through the giant parking space as if a whole army was marching behind her. She paused once just to make sure she was the only one around. Silence covered the basement like a shroud. She continued walking deeper into the darkness of the basement parking lot. It was an office building that was empty at this hour. She walked past cars and bikes scanning the semi darkness for any signs of life. There were none.
She finally reached the place where they had agreed to meet. It was not cold but a shiver ran down her spine. She checked her phone and waited, he should have been here already. She checked for her purse in her pocket. She could feel the weight of the cash she was carrying. She adjusted her glasses and took a deep breath. This had to be done. Where was the guy?
She caught a shadow in the corner of her glasses and turned. A large man in a black hoodie stepped out from behind the car. Pooja gave a small scream and muffled it with her hand. He was here already. He simply stared down at her, “You are late.” Continue reading
I dropped the fork I was holding and it clanged on my plate with the clarity of a doomsday prophecy. Everyone in the small restaurant looked around in alarm. Asha had gripped our table and was about to get out of her chair. Her large eyes looked around in alarm for the source of the sound, like a deer looking for a predator. When she realised the sound was just me hiccuping, she sat down with downcast eyes. Her face began to color, it first looked like a freshly dug out turnip and then like a beetroot. I was amused by this and wanted to mention this to her but,
Someone at a nearby table jumped. It was my turn to blush. I wanted to apologise but was afraid it might turn into a volley of hiccups. I drank some water knowing full well that it would do nothing to cure my hiccups. My hiccups were like a popular meaningless pop song, the kind that once it got stuck in your head would take ages to get rid of. I still had to figure out a cure for my hiccups, so I could do nothing more than sit there hiccuping loudly and hoping it would stop soon.
HIC Continue reading
Varun returned to his laptop to find he had another message from Asha and that his headphone wires were tangled, again. He sighed and began to untangle them as he read Asha’s message, “What did you mean when you said that people should not date outside their own leagues?”
Varun was taken aback. When had he said that? Had he even said that? He knew better by now than to ask Asha what this was in reference too. That would only make her mad and earn him a lecture on how he never paid any attention to what she said. It did not matter that her current train of thought was delayed by a few weeks. He thought back to all of their conversations over the past few weeks trying to remember where this thought was coming from. He looked at the tangle of headphones in his hand. How did it get so entangled in the blink of an eye! Continue reading
Ajit hit the TV remote hard on his head, as the commentator on the TV declare what a great delivery the last ball was. “Once a year, you take me out to a fancy restaurant for dinner and then expect me to work like a slave for the rest of the year!” Swati was saying from the kitchen, she was far enough that Ajit should not be able to hear her over the TV and she was not shouting either, but somehow her voice carried itself safely to his ears droning in them like an incessant malarial mosquito.
Ajit knew she was going to start though, she was consistent whatever else she was. Every game that he watched Swati would start complaining at the end of the first over like a clockwork wife. “You never feel like you have to help out around the house, oh, no! I am a man I have to sit and watch the game!” She said doing a good mockery of the way Ajit spoke. He cringed and hit his head again with the remote. “I go to work so I will come back home and plonk my ass on the sofa and eat and fart until I fall asleep. It doesn’t matter that my wife works too, she earns less than I do so she will do the housework…”and on and on she mocked. Ajit increased the volume of the TV to the maximum and yet he could hear every single word she said in Dolby digital surround sound. Continue reading
Detective Dumpty crinkled his nose at the smell of scrambled yolk that was emanating from the sidewalk. Another day another rotten egg cracked open on the pavement. He had reached the crime scene where his deputies were still drawing the outline of the dead body in chalk and others were holding back an eager crowd. Dumpty could make out the egg white and the yolk of the dead egg that were already beginning to cook in the heat of the sun. He could see a young newspaper egg carrying the morning edition, “Extra Extra, Jack the Cracker strikes again! Another rotten egg cracked open! Prime Minister to declare resignation today! Extra Extra.”
Dumpty glared at the newspaper egg and then noticed Benedict Singleyolk, the reporter for ‘The Transparent Shell’ the liberal propaganda mouthpiece that had squeezed this whole case for all that it was worth and more. Dumpty had always hated Singleyolk and his crazed conspiracy theories. His minute coverage of this case was churning Dumptie’s yolk inside his shell. He secretly hoped that Jack the cracker, as the serial killer had been dubbed, opened Singleyolk’s shell next. Continue reading
Swati sighed as she ran her hand down Varun’s muscular chest, “You have no idea how long I have waited for this!” “Not nearly as long as I have been waiting…”Varun whispered in her ear. He looked deep into her eyes, “Are you sure Ritesh is out of town…” Swati ribbed him for reminding her about her husband, “Yes, I am sure, he has a business meeting in Delhi, he will be back only on Monday morning! What about Ramya? Are you sure she will not disturb us?” Swati winced asking about her best friend and Varun’s wife. “She is on a spiritual retreat at some ashram outside the city…she can’t even be reached on her phone.”Varun smiled at her, “ So that means we have the whole weekend to ourselves…” Swati smiled back at him, “And I have a detailed itinerary of how we can spend it.” She leaned in and kissed him. Continue reading
I recently went on a temple trip with my parents. The right word for the trip would be a pilgrimage, but that makes me sound like a pagan from prehistoric times so I am not going to use it.So, we started the trip by getting on a bus. Why a bus you ask, why not the more comfortable option of a train or flight journey? Because we were going to a state in India that is still stuck in a time loop in the nineteenth century.
Now, I don’t want you to assume that buses in all of India are horrible, far from it. In several regions you can get buses that boast services on par with a middle eastern airline. But not in this state, here the buses are still designed to imitate medieval torture chambers. But that is assuming that they are designed at all, there is an all real possibility that they are actually remains of some ancient civilization that are being put into use by the state government. Continue reading
You are heartbroken. Again! Like seriously? Again? How can one person get his heart broken so many times? How is that even statistically possible? And yet here we are! You convinced yourself it was different this time. You were sure you had found your soulmate. You were going to make it work this time, you were sure of it! It just felt perfect, different, like it was meant to be. And you ran with it. Of course you did. Like you have a hundred times before. And it was glorious. It was beautiful. It was passionate, all-consuming. It hurt, but it hurt so good. It had to be true, because it can hurt so much only when it is true, right ? right! Continue reading
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
Imran ordered his coffee. He watched as the barista topped it with hazelnut crème and Irish liquer and chocolate chips and cookie crumbs and whole oreo biscuits, until it was no longer a coffee but a dessert. He sighed and wondered since when coffee had become a part of a seven course meal. “Would you like some marshmallows with that?” the barista asked him with fake enthusiasm. Imran politely declined, paid for it and sat down at his favorite table facing the door of the overpriced café.
Imran opened his laptop and pretended to be working on his term paper. But he knew that was not why he was really here. He kept glancing up at the clock once in a while. At exactly the right time, like clockwork she entered the café. Imran’s heart began to race. She ordered her usual hot coffee with mint liquer and chocolate sauce. Its unique aroma wafted through the café and Imran heard violins playing in the air. She took her coffee and sat at a table that afforded Imran a clear view of her sunlit face. If this were a fairytale she would be his princess. And he had spent a lot of time gathering intel on the operation. Now it was time to act.
I am going to talk to her today! Imran thought to himself, I just need some courage. And so Imran turned to his internet friends. He first spoke to the book of a thousand faces. He asked the book if it knew anything about her. Continue reading
Mahavir suppressed a yawn as he hurried towards the minister’s office. Being called in this early in the morning was never a good sign.It could mean only one of two things, either the minister had said something incredibly stupid at some public conference. Like last time he had said having too many windmills was not a good idea as it would slow down the wind. The media had gone berserk about it like an infant having its first case of protracted diarrhea and mahavir had been left to deal with the mess. Continue reading
(Image source :http://www.flavorsofmumbai.com/wp content/uploads/2014/03/Mumbai-Cutting-chai-2.jpg)
The sun was setting on another sultry hot summer day in Chikkadpally. The main street came alive with the squeals and shouts of the evening rush hour traffic. The Bismillah Irani chai house was beginning to buzz with its evening clientele. Imran the middle aged proprietor, his face framed by a smartly trimmed beard and his round taut belly barely hidden under his slim cut kurta sat behind the counter. He was lost watching the cricket match on the old tv set that sat on the wall opposite him.
“Oye chotu, char chai aur aght osmania biscuit lana..” one of the college kids shouted from the table that was stuffed with six of them. One small looking kid scurried into the kitchen. Continue reading
I began tucking him into his bed and he tells me, “Daddy, check for monsters beneath my bed!” He was a brave kid, never scared of anything but maybe he too was picking up on the atmosphere of the house. His wide watery eyes stared at me as if to confirm my suspicions. My legs began to shiver and I had to take a dry gulp. I almost ran out of his room, but you never let you child know you are too afraid to look beneath his bed! Continue reading
Praveen had the sudden urge to pull his boyfriend towards him and kiss him violently right there in the middle of all the guests having dinner. He wanted to flip them all off and shout “ignore that, fuckers!”. He did none of that though, he just violently tore his rumali roti in half and chomped on it. A cook behind him slipped a puri into hot oil and it simmered, he could completely empathise with that puri. What he was simmering at though he was not very sure. He was angry at his family, but he was also pissed at himself. It had been a desperate idea to begin with, bringing his boyfriend to his cousin’s wedding and hoping to get some kind of a reaction from his family. Continue reading
“Aaaaaaaaa….ayoo…Shiva,Shiva!” a loud scream echoed from the bathroom. Srinivas was there in a second, worried that his mother had slipped and hurt herself. But she looked fine, she was standing there, grimacing in disgust and pointing at the toilet bowl. Srinivas was confused,”are you alright, amma?” She just shook her head and pointed at the toilet bowl again and then Srinivas saw it and froze in fear. There, wildly bobbing in the flushed water, like a dead body crashing among the waves, was a used condom! Continue reading
I do not know what to make of your death,
surely you meant it as some divine comedy,
the punchline to an absurdist joke on life?
a mockery on the measurement of meaning?
a satire on the insanity of survival?