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 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