Who killed Balasubramanium?

Padmalakshmi sits there in the interrogation room, facing the famous detective Kondaswamy. she adjusts her saree’s pallu strategically enough to let some cleavage slip out. The table fan to Padmalakshmi’s right gorges on anything remotely cool in the room like a bulimic, only to throw it up in hot, stifling blasts that barely touch the sweat streaming down Padmalakshmi’s ample sideburns.

“Madame”, Detective Kondaswamy says, as his eyes stare not into Padmalakshmi’s big black, kohl smeared one, but right at her heaving chest. “So, you say that you were taking a bath when you heard a commotion and came running down to discover his body?”

“Yes Sir.” she sniffles for effect and he hands her a murky handkerchief from his pocket. “Have you found out who did it? Who mercilessly bashed my dear Balasubramaniam’s head like a pulp?”

“Madame Padmalakshmi” Kondaswamy says, unbuttoning his first two buttons, shaking his collar and gulping down the lukewarm cola in front of him.

“We have sent your husband’s body for autopsy. Until then please answer my questions.”

“Sir… my husband is dead.” As if on cue, Padmalakshmi’s eyes water and rivulets run down her cheeks mingling with salty sweat. “What will I do? How will I eat? How will I survive?”

Kondaswamy shakes his head and continues. “Madame please, who else was in the house except you?”

Through tears Padmalakshmi pulls up her pallu, that was on the verge of threatening to expose more cleavage, and says, “That wretched Mahalakshmi. She was there in the house when it happened.”

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Kondaswamy mutters in disgust, as if disappointed at the game of tease that Padmalakshmi’s pallu has been playing with him. He brings his diary out and writes Mahalakshmi in capital letters. “Do you know of any enemies that Balasubramanium had? Anyone who wanted to hurt him?

“Oh sir” Padmalakshmi sprawls her torso on the table and this time her pallu finally falls off to reveal her sweaty breasts trapped between her and the unvarnished surface of old teakwood.

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A Thanjavur bobblehead doll

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Mrs Kumar was unsure of everything as she entered the market. The hustle and bustle of the market felt removed from her as if she had been left behind from it. She realized that each of the thousand times she had entered the market she had always had a to-do list or a list of ingredients to collect for a recipe. And here she was at this late hour of the evening, without a list of ingredients for her life or a recipe for how to cook it.

Mrs Kumar decided that she had wandered into the market because it was familiar. She hoped that the tired alleyways and the small shops of the market remembered enough of the items of her life that she may be able to pick up a decision about it in the next shop around the corner.

The smell of the fresh flowers wafting from the flower vendor reminded her of her husband. She had never really liked Jasmine, but he liked them so much that she had grown to like them too. The memory of a thousand intimate moments made her blush in the fading sunlight. She could always go back to him, her husband. The fight they had was just a fight, everyone fought. She could just go back to him and it would all be back to normal. She looked at her phone, it had been two days and he hadn’t called even once. Mrs Kumar covered her nose and moved on.

The toy shop down the road reminded her of her son. She would save up money each month for his birthday so she could buy him his favourite toy. And it was always worth it to see his tiny face light up. She could always go to him, he was a dutiful son and would always take her in, but she could never fail to notice how her presence dimmed his eyes just a little nowadays. There was no toy she could buy to fix that.

The bangles on the bangles vendors cart twinkled like her daughter’s laughter. Could she go to her daughter? No, it was too early to even consider that.

And then she saw it, in the window of a fancy shop, a Thanjavur bobblehead doll. Mrs Kumar froze in place, as she watched the doll nod her head and sway her hips. She had had the exact same doll when she was a little girl. It had been her most prized possession. When her father would play songs on the radio, Mrs Kumar would run to the table where the doll stood and nudge her gently, and she would join the doll in her dance always in tune with the songs. Continue reading

Nina

Nina was found buried in the crook of a Wych elm deep into the forest. or perhaps what would have been deep into the forest before Sobha builders decided to make a home away from the city, in the lap of nature, eco apartments that were only five minutes from fairy falls, only fifteen kilometers away from the nearest school, hospital or office space; and only twenty minutes away from NICE road.

It was barricaded to the public; only Sobha resident joggers eroded it every morning and practically turned it into a freeway to the waterfall.

It was a dog that found her hand dangling like a T-Rex’s arm from the rotted core of the elm; one of those furry golden ones. I saw them often with the joggers, trotting along, burying their nose where it didn’t belong.

Devoid of skin, tissue or even rot, Nina’s arm had been licked clean to the bones. I was surprised that the foxes hadn’t ground the bones into a powdery puff, yet.

Nina - Wych elm

I stood among the few joggers, as the police pulled Nina out from the dark hole, one limb after another. Her torso came last and a small man was sent inside to fetch her head.

It was almost thirty minutes later that a head popped out, not Nina’s, but the man who was sent after it. He climbed out, panting and repeating, “Kuch nahee hai, Saab. There is no head.”

The Chief Inspector who looked like mosquitoes had made half a meal out of him, stomped his foot and shouted, “Where the hell is the head, then?”

“Kamraj sir…” said his deputy, smiling like a patient grandmother, “Where will the head go? It will be around somewhere. Mil jayega.”

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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

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 a 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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Gratitude Hoes!

They say people who live with gratitude, live longer, happier lives.

Unfortunately, the people on my social media seem to take this mantra a little too seriously. Not that my circle of acquaintances is any different from your circle of friends. You know the kind, don’t you? Or you maybe the kind; the kind that makes me barf my lunch, breakfast and last night’s dinner all in one go.

I can almost categorize these Gratitude Hoes in four different buckets; The starry eyed lover, The disgruntled housewife, The pseudo intellectual and finally, The self-appointed Spiritual guru.

Are you the starry eyed lover?

Woman Embracing Man

Well, most of them are women, but, mind you, there are many men in there too. I am sure you know them, you have seen them, or you are one of them.

You can almost immediately spot them with their profile pic. They clamber on each other like Siamese twins, and they never, ever, never walk, without holding hands.

Every single birthday, anniversary, valentine, non-valentine, the gift of a fucking KFC bucket has to go online on FaceBook, Instagram and Snapchat with a tagline that says, “Blessed to have this wonderful man in my life.”

Darling, you are not fooling anyone. Give it a few years and ask that college mate of yours who saw your husband canoodling a woman ten years younger, wearing a dress with a plunging neckline, while you now turn into the next in my category, the disgruntled housewife.

Are you the disgruntled housewife?

Those images every morning you post, where you plop your three-year-old twins on the breakfast table with orange juice and fruity oatmeal. A bow strategically placed on the girls’ cute pony tales and a forced smile lining their lips.

The title of the image says, “My rays of sunshine” and then a 300 word write up about how lucky you are to have these two angels in your life. How God has blessed you with divinity in the form these girls. Yet, when the glass of juice crashes the floor in the midst of you writing this beautiful eulogy to parenting, you slap the wrong twin senseless for breaking the glass.

I mean seriously, ask that mother in kindergarten who saw you drag the wrong twin, again; by her hair across the road. Your perfect life on social media doesn’t fool a fool, love.

Two Toddlers Sitting on Grass Field

Perhaps one of the most annoying gratitude hoes ever, the pseudo intellectual:

They post on a good day, especially when it rains outside, the kind of rain that sends tingles down your spine; the kind of rain that brings a sigh of relief after an unforgiving bout of heat.

The kind of rain that makes them want to open all doors and windows, take boomerangs of their plants dancing in the rain and post them as their Instagram story.

The kind of rain that is perfect to sit by their porch, drink a hot cup of coffee and read one of those ridiculously talked about books, with names like ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck.’

Of course now, they wouldn’t just read the book, would they? They would shoot one of those artistically framed photographs, perhaps of the book lying next to their colorful pot of succulents and their spectacles casually placed.

Golden cup and basket with books

But then they wouldn’t just post the photograph on Facebook now, would they? They would write five hundred words about how that book makes them feel, how ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck’ has freed them from those iron shackles in their lives, has elevated them to the next one in my list, The self appointed Spiritual Guru.

As they type their long drawn, beautifully worded, heavily philosophical message; they don’t forget to give out the impression that their life is too intellectual for basic bitch stuff like ‘checkins’ into hotels or airports, group selfies and dog pics.

The rain still pours outside their door, one that is wide open, to let a cool draft in. They smile in contentment. They are only five pages down the book in the past two hours, yet that doesn’t matter. They check on Facebook every five minutes and shower hearts generously to those who have decided to drop equally verbose, brimming with gratuitous comments on their post.

Yeah, well I wonder how they find time to read, with these six, five hundred word posts on Facebook within a span of ten hours.

The last, but perhaps the one that gets most on my nerves is the self appointed spiritual guru? You are one of them, aren’t you? You know I am talking about you, don’t you?

Oh, I know you have managed to somehow add me into this Whatsapp group that is filled to the brim with your followers. You make it a point that you start every new day with a long tirade about ‘Mindful conversations’, ‘Being one with the universe’ and ‘Self reflection’. It is then followed by twenty acolytes agreeing with you and adding their two cents about showing up, about sisterhood of gratitude hoes and about being humble. And by the twentieth message of universal thankfulness, I have managed to regurgitate last month’s biryani.

You have the formula down to a ‘T’, don’t you? You are the worst form of con artist that an unsuspecting fan would ever have the misfortune of encountering. You have the ego the size of Donald Trump’s ass and you hide it under the guise of your acolyte’s trust issues.

When someone dares to question your wisdom, you subtly lay the blame on them by questioning their own values and beliefs. You are the Queen Bee among your acolytes and you ensure that those who challenge your unreasonable tirades are no more tagged in your daily posts, under the tab of ‘Thanks to these wonderful people in my life, who make it all worthwhile.’

Silhouette of Person Raising Its Hand

Now dear readers, you may ask me, why would I even be a part of such groups, or follow these people on my social media, if it bothers me so. Well, I mean, I have nothing against gratitude, really. What I have against is the bullshit being spewed in the name of gratitude. And I do start my day going through these posts and thinking these thoughts, it is like coffee to my sleepy brain.

(P.S: Except for the last category, every other category is generic and not based on someone I personally know.)

You are late

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“Ah, why am I late? Well, in fact, there is a very interesting story behind that. But, do you think we have the time of that now? Oh, we do, is it? We have time for a long story, but we don’t have time for me being late by a few minutes, is it? Ok, I see how it is. Well fine, I will tell you the story.

Long, long ago before there was anything, Father time had just begun seeing Mother space. They had decided to go on a date that day. This was before they had moved in together and Father time still lived at his own place. Father time was very different then, not the busy, bossy, no-fun time we know now. He was young and relaxed. He had flowing black hair that needed a lot of care to style. And so by the time he took a nice long shower, styled his hair, picked out his outfit, and reached the venue of their date Mother space had been waiting for what seemed a very long time to her.

“You are late!” She shouted when she saw Father time. Continue reading

Hide and seek

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“No, no, no…” Kavita screamed as she opened her eyes and planted her legs on the floor with force. He feet were glad to touch the threadbare living room carpet. She could feel her fingernails digging into the varnish of the sofa. She looked at the balcony, not that she wanted to. Her neck just seemed to turn on its own. The balcony was empty. An angry orange sun was setting below the railing of the balcony. She forced herself to look away. To look at her son.

Her five-year-old son was staring at her with wide eyes. His lips were puckered up, his chin ready to quiver. He was leaning against the coffee table to support himself.

Kavita’s hand trembled as it rose towards him, “I am just afraid for him…” she told herself. She pulled Ravi into an embrace. “Did I scare you? I am sorry…” she whispered as she kissed his forehead, “Don’t be afraid.” She was not sure to whom she said that.

“The police inspector is at the door…” Ravi said in a small voice. Continue reading

Mother ate herself…

Are you asking for Mother?

Well, you won’t find her here. You can search all you want.

Go look into her closet that smells of rotten berries and starch.

Raze her bed; raze it off the sickly sweet whiff that permeates from the sheets.

Take a peek inside the kitchen; you won’t witness her breaking that soft loaf of bread,

Her ample behind busying itself around the kitchen, fretting over the crumbs, a sweet song lilting off her luscious lips while her legs tiptoe in a light tread.

You won’t find her here, just like the cops didn’t.

What happened to Mother, you ask?

Oh that’s easy, she ate herself into a tizzy and then dissolved in a whirlpool of pity.

Do you think I am joking, about my own Mother?

Oh, you didn’t see what I saw?

And you didn’t do what Father did?

At first, it was the song that perished on her lips. It died, died in her tongue because she bit it enough to bleed and burn.

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Ria auntie’s arrival

arrival.jpgI yawned at the arrival terminal of the international airport, trying to open my mouth as wide as the gates. It was a Sunday morning and I was at the airport to receive Ria aunty. There should be a law about not allowing relatives to travel on Sundays. I made a mental note to start an online petition for a such a law. I half-heartedly held up the homemade sign that read “Ria aunty” in glaring pink letters, that my sister had made. You see, I hadn’t met Ria aunty. Of course my mother said I had, at a wedding when I was five. But, I don’t remember it, the most I can recall is a silk saree clad wall of fat lumbering over to pull my cheeks until they turned red and tousle my hair. There might have been a bear hug that engulfed me in a cloud of cheap perfume and almost made me faint. I decided I had repressed the memory on purpose and didn’t dwell on it further.

The flight was announced and there was the usual flurry of people exiting the airport, but there was no sign of Ria aunty. As the last people from the plane left I felt my heart lighten. Maybe Ria aunty had suffered a heart attack, ok that was harsh, maybe she had just fractured her hip, whatever the reason was she was not here and that meant one less thing to take care of for the occasion. I turned around to leave when I heard the slow creaking of a wheelchair. Two of the airport staff emerged, one pushing a mound of luggage and the other pushing a figure in a wheelchair. I bit my tongue as I realised the figure in the wheelchair was Ria aunty. She was well dressed but looked pale almost like a wax statue. I felt sad for having thought so ill of her. I promised myself to strive to be a better person. I walked towards Ria aunty. Continue reading

The Bride who was late

I was born late. I mean I stuck around mother’s womb a week or two, just to float listlessly in that rapidly constricting sack of amniotic fluid and critically analyze my life choices.

Which pretty much set my life’s precedent for the next thirty-five years. I don’t remember a single day at school when I wasn’t late. And I can’t forget my graduation day where my shame faced dad had to go up there on the stage and collect my certificate. I mean it wasn’t really my fault; I had to stop the traffic outside my college to let a family to turtles cross the road.

Or the fateful day I almost got married. I turned up after the guests had left and found my fiancé, Dan, busy doggy styling the wedding planner. Well, all I have to say is that when celebrating your Bachelorette the night before your wedding, never start a bar brawl with another woman who had come for her own Bachelorette. It is like a gang war between two families of hyenas; too much screaming, manic laughter and too little punches.

My only consolation was that I had messed up her nose as bad as she’d messed up my marriage.

But that’s not what this story is about. Definitely not about my life choices when I was alive. This is a story about what happened when I died, and died late at that.

You see I had just turned thirty-five when I walked in late to the altar of our summer wedding, and found out that all the prospects of a happy marriage had upped and left, but not before sampling the hors d’oeuvres.

The last ten years flashed before my eyes as I stood staring at the empty church. Every single bad date I had ever had, belched at me, and all those credit card receipts for premium membership of dating services, danced naked before my eyes.

The thought of having to go back to the Tinders and Ashley Madisons of the world; and having to sign up again, made me groan so hard that my heart stopped several beats. The next thing I remember was standing in room #13 of Chicago general hospital, and watching a hot doctor with an ass straight out of heaven, resuscitating me.

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When I became a therapy dog…

“I thought Labradors are the best therapy animals “, I said as I stirred a cup of tea that I had made for my visitor; one that I did not quite enjoy a visit from. Not because he wasn’t easy on the eye, it was because every single time he walked through the threshold of my door, he carried bad, terrible, unsavoury and in this case, positively damning news.

“Labradors are on the brink of extinction, Thanks to another breed of cannibalistic canines, who deemed Labradors, a delicacy.” He spat out, and if looks could kill, they would’ve; but thanks to my completely oblivious attention span, I was busy trying to throw a badminton racquet at my seven year old, who had suddenly decided it would be fun to slide down the railing and not take the steps.

“Mom, where’s my Loreal ultra soft moisturising tick and flea shampoo?” Screamed my fourteen years old daughter, from her room.

“It is in your bathroom, right next to your fur conditioner, that cost me my monthly salary and the perfume, that made me want to give up my first born.” I shouted back as I sipped my tea.

“Can you come and give it to me, please?” She said.

I swear to God, if I hadn’t turned almost vegan a year ago, I would’ve eaten my own progeny. Forget Labradors, nothing tastes better than chewing your own flesh and blood.

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A Mother’s Love

ali-morshedlou-598386-unsplashNorman stood outside his mother’s room. He sighed and balanced the tray in his hand, he had made all her favorites, pancakes, sunny-side up eggs, and freshly squeezed orange juice. He knocked on the door.

“Come in” his mother’s hoarse voice shouted.

Norman entered the room and placed the tray on his mother’s bed, across her lap.

“About damn time. What is this breakfast or brunch?” Mother hissed at him, “ I thought you had forgotten about me.”

“Sorry mother, I had to go out to get the oranges, we ran out of them.”

“This is why I tried all my life to teach you discipline. God knows I tried. You used to be better when I could get out of bed and whoop your sorry ass.” Mother took a sip of the orange juice, “ and you still cannot choose ripe oranges. What am I going to do with you?”

Norman stared at his feet. He had to hold both his hands to keep them from shivering. His mouth was dry. He tried to lick his lips but there was no moisture in his mouth. Breakfast was the best time to tell mother. She would only grow grumpier through the day. And he had been wanting to say this for a while now.

“Mother…” he whispered. She did not hear him and continued eating the pancakes.

“Mother, I have decided to leave,” he said as if testing her hearing. Continue reading

The Duel of Derika

Derika dragged her feet and groaned as she glimpsed the looming shadow of the arena. It’s massive iron gates slowly, reluctantly, grated open, perhaps as reluctant to let Derika in, as she was to get into the arena.

Her father walked, proud next to Derika, a whole five inches shorter that her.

The duel was set and Derika was expected to defeat the mighty Amazonian Princess, Ina, if she every hoped to marry Prince Sebastian. And to be honest, Derika was more than happy to lose that match. It wasn’t that Derika had anything against the idea of marriage, but then it was against the idea of marrying Prince Sebastian.

She walked into the arena, just as thunderous applause rose all around her. Chants of ‘Derika’ ‘Derika’ roared in all directions and a shiver passed through her bones.

Would she…would she really lose a duel on purpose and let her people down? She thought. But then her train of thoughts was interrupted.

“Oh my liege”, said the Inn Keeper who also moonlighted as her family’s professional ass licker, “My liege, with legs as strong as a thousand donkeys, hair as long as the longest serpents and lips as thick as a baboon’s ass. What wondrous thoughts run through that tiny, delicate mind of yours?”

Derika

Source: https://andantonius.deviantart.com/art/Amazon-124185435

Derika often wondered how competent was their professional ass licker was in actual ass licking, because she had her own doubts about his competencies.

“I’m not sure about this fight, Inn Keeper. Do I really have to? Can’t the benevolent Princess Derika let Ina, the Amazonian Princess, have Prince Sebastian?” she said.

“But petite brained, Princess Derika, do you see the crowd? Every single one of them has paid for the tickets with either their lives savings, or their organs. Now, how can the benevolent Princess deny them, their one arm’s worth?” He whispered, his tongue, almost lapping up Derika’s ear lobe. A pungent smell of pork, chocolate Ice cream and garlic wafted near her nose and she almost gagged.

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Blind Date

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Nisha could hear them talking about the wedding already. She plucked silk threads from the pallu of her saree. She could not remember the last time she felt her parents had been inconsiderate of her. She had always brushed aside the issue of marriage, but arriving back from work and finding a family sitting in their living room had shocked her. She had not realized her parents were so keen on her getting married. Not that she didn’t look forward to it herself. But a heads up would have been good.

When she had entered the house her mother had hurried her into their bedroom and handed her her mother’s favorite silk saree, the one with the swans swimming along the pallu. That was when Nisha knew they were serious about this. She had expected to be called into the living room for a while now. And having waited for a while she was getting restless. She paced up and down the bedroom and put an ear to the door to try and hear what was being said. When she heard words like ‘dowry’ and ‘cooking’, she shook her head, opened the door and walked into the living room.

Nisha walked directly to the empty sofa opposite the prospective groom and sat down in it. An awkward silence followed in which the prospective groom and his parents stared at Nisha and her parents as if to ask how she had walked into their conversation unassisted.

Nisha folded her hands and raised them to the groom’s parents, “Namaste!” “ Hello…” she said to the groom. They seemed too dumbstruck because no one said anything.

The overhead fan could be heard creaking in the awkward silence. Her mother’s bangles clinked as she folded her hands nervously. Continue reading

The Environment Engine

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Keerthi took a staggered breath as she rang the bell to Tarun’s flat. She watched a few holographic butterflies flutter in his garden as she could feel the ones fluttering in her stomach. “After all this time…” she sighed to herself. She didn’t have to look around to notice the old rusty wind chime that chimed squeakily in the artificial wind. She didn’t have to look up to remember the teal blue of the sky above his house. She had stood at this threshold a hundred times in her dreams and had never really crossed it. She opened her eyes just as Tarun opened the door.

He looked the same as he had in college. She scanned his tousled brown hair for any whites, his wide forehead for any lines, or his taut t-shirt for signs of a beer belly, nothing. He was exactly the same as he was in her dream where at this point he would gather her into him for a kiss.

“ Hey Keru, come on in…” he barely looked at her and walked back into the house.

She stepped into the house and back into all the summers of her college days. There was the same dimly lit room, the same half deflated bean bag furniture and the smell of Tarun’s musk that an ocean-scented room freshener was trying hard to mask. Nothing had changed except for the second bedroom of the house that had obviously been converted into an experience engine.

Tarun walked back with a bowl of chips and two beers and handed her a beer along with his lopsided grin. Keerthi suppressed the butterflies in her stomach. This was why it was so difficult with Tarun, he hadn’t changed at all and she knew he never would.

“So what is this about Tarun?” She took a sip of her beer.

Tarun drank his beer and stared at the wall behind her. In her head, it was a look of realization, when Tarun finally saw that his soulmate stood right beside him, always had and always would. She shook herself, hard.

“I needed her your help with something,” Tarun said, he walked to the experience engine and opened its door.

“If this is about defeating another boss in that stupid game of yours, forget it. I have better things to do.” Keerthi said.

“Please Keru, don’t pretend you have a life, it’s just me. We will get to the next level in my stupid game. But, this is about something else.” Tarun walked into the room.

Keerthi tried to resent his mock condescension and his confidence that he knew her life down to the dot, and for the thousandth time, she failed. She chugged the last of her beer and entered the room.

A warm sea breeze lifted her hair and her bare feet sank into the white sand. The door closed behind her, she turned to find a pristine row of coconut trees swaying in the breeze. A dreamy sun was setting into a lulled ocean, like a tired bather entering a hot tub. The waves crashed into the white beach a little too rhythmically. Tarun stood at the edge of the water wearing only swim shorts and a smile. Continue reading

Trail by combat

I unsheathed my sword and rubbed it against my chest, ensuring not to break eye contact with my nemesis. My husband, stood next to her, massaging her shoulders, rubbing her arms, whispering words of motivation into her ears.

She kept nodding while staring back into my eyes, a miasma of fear and determination swirled like deep pools of unrest.

I stepped forward indicating that I was ready, and the crowd comprising of every single individual who lived in Fulton Street, burst out in a cheer, that especially rang from the right. A smirk lined my lips, and a jolt of pride rocked my insides. Of course everyone championed for me, I had grown up with these folks, and that bitch standing opposite me, with her ass being massaged by my husband (John, the prick who needed tantric sex to get it up), had only entered the scene a year ago.

Taking my cue, as always, Wansi, the unoriginal bitch, stepped forward. And suddenly I could hear a cheer louder, much louder than the one that came when I stepped forward. It rang from all around me, and I stared at my neighbors from Fulton Street in disbelief.

The realization that there was massive crowd support for my nemesis was a small bump, and it wasn’t going to stop me. I had known for more than six months now that it would come to this, to this barbaric fight until death. Plus it was almost as if she had literally begged for it.

Trail by combat

I mean, it would have been all-okay, had she just been content wrapping my husband of eleven years into her tentacles and having tantric sex with him night after night.

In fact, I remained a modicum of classy dignity even when she grew her hair and colored them to a mahogany red, just like mine. Or when she suddenly decided to start wearing light green contact lenses, just like the color of my eyes.

I remained a stoic figure of wisdom and tolerance when she started posting images of her Cheesecakes all over social media, knowing that I was the reigning queen, and had an existing brand of cheesecakes named after me.

Even though it chipped my saintly demeanor in various places, but I attempted to tolerate her less than basic attempts at poetry, knowing that she was only attempting it because I was a well-known poet.

It wasn’t until last week that my fraying thread of patience with my husband’s mistress broke.

After a long week of baking my famous cheesecakes and writing my famous poetry; my feet felt like they had run a marathon and what I really needed to end my Friday was a foot spa.

So, I walked into my favorite Spa and Massage parlor, Happy Endings, and asked for Fabio, my fabulous masseuse. But then to my utter horror, the staff at Happy Endings told me that Fabio was pre-booked.

No one pre-booked Fabio, especially not on a Friday evening, especially when they knew I was a regular.

“What do you mean pre-booked?” I shouted. “The entire Fulton street knows not to pre-book Fabio on Friday. WHO. BOOKED. FABIO?” I screamed and flicked a hair off my forehead. I took in a deep breath and realized I needed to maintain my calm.

The girl at the reception had gone pale.

“Mam…I…I’m sorry. I can’t tell you that.” She said.

I walked across the reception, almost a hair’s breath away from her. Lowered myself to her barely five foot stature, looked into her uninspired, dirty brown eyes, and whispered, “Your pathetic existence makes me want to throw up. You will redeem your existence by telling me who pre-booked Fabio. Now.”

“WANSI!” She almost jumped and whispered, loud. “Miss…miss Wansi, pre-booked Fabio.”

“That tantric whore!” I muttered under my breath and stomped in. I knew that she just hadn’t booked Fabio, she would have also requested for my favorite room. The one with a view of Fulton Lake.

And I was right. Standing outside the Platinum Spa room, I heard Wansi flirt with Fabio and both of them giggling over something, that I am almost positive were jokes about me.

That moment, I walked up to Fulton Street Municipality office and put in a request for trial by combat. I wanted that bitch to die, and die at my hands. I wanted her blood to run though my skin and drip, drip, drip down to the ground.

She had broken every single barrier of my patience by stealing Fabio and the Platinum Spa Room from me.

The cheering from the crowd finally subsided, and I took my stance. Wanda ran towards me, screaming like a warrior, her mahogany hair flying in the air, and her ample boobs bouncing as she ran; and her eyes, with light green lenses watering, because lenses hurt.

Just as she came close to me, close enough to pierce the tip of the sword, I stepped aside and let her trip on my foot. She fell down on her face and the arena fell into pin drop silence. The temptation to then bury my sword into that ass which my husband just finished massaging was too much. But I resisted.

I needed to give these people some drama; I needed Wansi to lose miserably. So pathetically, that there wouldn’t be a single person who would blame my victory to luck…

“Life begins at forty”, they said…

Now don’t get me wrong, I have read enough inspirational bollock about people claiming that “life begins at forty”, and how forties are the new twenties. And I do suppose they are; with all that botox, steroids, liposuction and tummy tucks. Which is probably pretty similar to a 22 years old Kylie Jenner today. But that is not for us; middleclass folks.

"Believing life begins at 40, Dave decided to take it easy for the first 39."

I am sure you may think that your midlife crises would constitute “spur of the moment” vacations to Spain for the Tomatina festival, but then your bank will slap you on your face with it’s barely five figure balance and EMIs. So, then you decide to pick up a relatively inexpensive hobby, like an obsessive, aggressive, omnipotent, all consuming drive to convert your porch into a garden. And your Pinterest is all about DIY planters, perennials, annuals, terrariums and succulents.

You decide to garner words of undying appreciation from your social media followers/friends by calling your garden, your own tiny attempt to save bees from extinction. Because isn’t midlife crises all about finding meaning? At some point you really start believing that you care, in fact care a lot, you cry over the death of Harambe. And yet you don’t give a fuck about America’s elect president, teaching men “how to grab them by the pussy” but calling Climate Change a scam.

You realize your last year’s jeans feels tighter, you scour your Instagram, Facebook and Twitter every single day, multiple times to find anything, anyone out there to inspire you to lose weight. And the 81 years old nun who goes for Ironman every single year becomes your greatest inspiration. You search online; you find Gold’s gym right in the next lane. They charge 15,000/- a year for using the gym, and 36,000/- for six months of personal trainer. Your bank slaps you again with a reminder of your child’s overdue school fees. So, the next day you find out that Beyonce is Vegan, and then you wonder Vegan way would help you lose weight and keep your pockets heavy.

You invest a couple of thousand bucks in Rujuta Divekar’s diet for Vegan Gujratis. You blow another few thousands at Hypercity, you arm yourself with groceries enough to feed an orphanage, and very little olive oil. Because you realize that you are not as rich as that bitch, Rujuta, and you’ll have to sell your kidney if you want to continue using Olive oil for the entire family.

That evening you find yourself eating a salad comprised of spinach, cucumber, tomatoes and a bowl full misery. You brave yourself to stuff one forkful after another, and feel more of a cow than you have ever in your lifetime. Which then reminds you of that yummy beef curry from Ilango’s and that makes you cry, through your tear filled eyes, you open the Swiggy app on your phone and order a large, double cheese bacon pizza from Papa Johns with beef toppings.

But, no your mother hasn’t raised a quitter, so the next day you wake up and transfer 50,000/- to Gold’s gym, you’ll pay your son’s fees next quarter, along with the late fee, you decide.

When you walk out of your home, you barely glance through the dying plants in your tiny garden, begging for water. You tell yourself you’ll water them tomorrow, but today, today you sweat in your seven thousand rupees Adidas active wear and Puma shoes.

That night, when you take a whole of five minutes to slowly lower yourself on the seat of your English commode, because your body aches in places you never knew existed, you take your phone and check the prices for tummy tucks and liposuction.

 

 

After all these years

grandparents

The ball landed near the bedroom window and Kumara Swamy went to pick it up.

“ I need a change,” Tatta said sinking deeper into his inclined reading chair.

“ Oh, you always say that…you said that on our first anniversary fifty years ago…” Patti smiled running a comb through her long white hair.

“ Yes, you are right. I have wanted to do it many times before…never could muster the courage really…until now..”

“Oh, it is just a fancy with you. You think like this for a while and then things go back to normal. I think it will last for maybe a week this time…wanna bet?” Patti gave Tatta a naughty smile.

“No, this time I know for sure it is different.” Tatta stared at the ceiling from his reclining chair. Something in his voice made Patti stop, she stared at him, comb stuck halfway through her hair.

“What are you saying…” her voice snagged on a tangle in her hair.

“I am saying I need a change. And this time I am going to do it.” Tatta’s voice was tired but determined.

“Ok, but why do you want a change after all these years…?”

“Because I am bored of it!” Tatta hissed.

Patti half stood up out of the bed, comb still hanging from her hair. She could hear years of resentment seep like vitriol into the silence of the afternoon.

“I see, and how long have you been ‘bored’ of it.?”

“You said it yourself. Around the time of our first anniversary…” Tatta’s voice was low again but like a coiled snake ready to strike. Continue reading