Leaves smell grey. It's the dust. There's so much dust. Apocalyptic dust. Only the world is never going to end. I know now. Late realization. Like into an obese overgrown child, truth takes its own sweet bitter time to seep into me. It's never going to end. Pain is omnipresent. Grief is eternal. Nothing is going to die, once and for all.

Children are going to sink. Boats are going to catch fire. Flying demons will swoop down on us. There will be blood everywhere. We will have nightmares all day and roll sleepless all night.

Joy will constantly feel like a fast disappearing memory in the mind of an amnesiac. Love will feel like too costly a trade-off. Our race will perish of heart-break.

The Butcher's Daughter

If nothing else, there is the butcher's daughter. She changes into her work clothes in the bushes. In the bushes by the hyacinth ridden drain canal with floating purple flowers. Work clothes are a must in her profession. Or else where else would the blood spill. Blood of the goat that's throttled. By her father. I suppose he is the father, but he doesn't look the other way when she is changing. Behind the bushes. In the early morning sun. Just before they set up shop. Beneath the tarpaulin strung between mildly inclined poles of bamboo. The butcher girl has sharp piercing eyes. As if she can see everything you are trying to hide. Her hair is dirty. About those eyes, I can't be right. It's a deception. Nobody can see what is going on inside us. We camouflage too easy. Our lives come too cheap.

The butcher girl makes a diligent assistant. She packs meat in plump black polythene bags, wards off  stray dogs and returns the exact change, without an expression on her face. Behind their shop an unseen bird hides beneath the bulbous leaves of the exuberant hyacinth. It walks on water. Impossible, but yes it does. As if it was weightless. No agony of past, no fear of future. One weightess bird. At first sight, the bird looks like a myna. But then, the prints on it are not the same. God must have painted that one, when mildly high. Oh sure. There must have been a love poem at the back of his mind. And he must have been living through the shit of heartbreak when he imagined those eyes on the butcher girl. 
I believe that basically you write for two people; yourself to try to make it absolutely perfect; or if not that then wonderful; Then you write for who you love whether she can read or write or not and whether she is alive or dead. I think Scott in his strange mixed-up Irish catholic monogamy wrote for Zelda and when he lost all hope in her and she destroyed his confidence in himself he was through. 

Ernest Hemigway


Of late, I have been afraid. And afraid is not good. Fear is all consuming. Crippling, sometimes. It takes away a lot from us. I've been trying to fight it. But failing. I guess. It's been years. Yes, years since I had begun looking. Looking for my feet. Still haven't found 'em. My feet. It's been so long, I can't remember.

All the soups I have sipped, men I've ignored, women I've discarded, clothes I have grown out of, books I have read and taken credit for and forgotten, the attachment I have faked, the time I've lost. Ages. Months, years. And I am still looking for my feet. Oh, it's boring. Almost illegal to be this banal. I haven't heard myself. Because, I am mostly dumb.  I used to speak when provoked. But lately, I don't speak at all, I don't know if I have any voice at all. 

Mostly because I have come to believe that I am nothing. I don't mean it in a demeaning or pitiful way. I just claim knowledge of the minisculity of my existence. With humility and arrogance. Mostly I am sick of the way life turns out, eventually unfolds. And I am afraid of the gigantic amount of energy it takes to change its course. Yeah, I am afraid I don't have that kind of energy.  Not right now. And afraid is not good. Fear is all consuming. Crippling, at times. It's taking away my everything. 

Then again, I like to imagine myself in a tesseract. And in a five dimensional space-time. There is a parallel universe may be, in which life unfolds exactly the way it's supposed to. From in there, I am staring at myself through this tesseract, and passing me some sort of answer. About how to find my fucking feet. You know. Yeah, there's that. 


It was a quiet October day. Afternoon. Jhili gathered her clothes from the top racks of the almirah into an air bag that she had bought on her way back from college. The spare pair of good sandals was wrapped up in newspaper and put in a polythene bag. There still remained another pair in the shoe stand which she wore no more. But she would rather leave it behind. Jhili wondered what would happen to anything she left behind. Nobody would have any fond memory of her anyway. She took some photo albums, some trinkets, a few books and pushed everything into that airbag. She didn't want to arouse the suspicion of the neighbors by carrying anymore luggage than one bag. She held her breath, but sweat oozed from her temples anyway. Her fingers and toes, shivered probably. In that hurry, she couldn't be sure. She had to walk down to the defunct marketplace where he would pick her up. Jhili always felt that her name had lost a second word. She could have have been Jhilmil, something that always shines. But she wasn't.

This was one tough call. Choosing to quit college in the prefinal year. Choosing to get married to a man who her father would never approve of. Choosing to leave all the gold jewelry her mother had had gotten made for her. They had wrecked her mind. Her soul had wailed for nights. She had suffered claustrophobic dreams and woken up screaming.

Somehow, among all this, longing for love felt like a solution. Like a closure to a rusty phase of life. Like the beginning of something she had long awaited, without knowing what it was that she was waiting for. It felt like a gamble, at times. But when all your hopes are bottled in one pot, you would rather uncork it. So she did.

Jhili stepped down the stairs. Suddenly her heels felt louder than ever in the time of sleepy siesta. She left the keys with the security guard downstairs, and left. Forever. Left no letter and walked to the defunct marketplace, where he would be waiting.

Nostomania: an irresistible temptation to return home

Iti (Part-1)

Iti had a squint from the beginning. In her left eye. When she was a baby, you could barely make out. But after her brothers were born, and after she began wearing frocks and passed on her toddler clothes to either of them, the squint showed up. Wide and proper.  They never went to a doctor to get it corrected. Nobody even knew if there was anything that was correctable. And some even considered it a good sign of prosperity and would rather let it be. 

So she grew into it. The other children at school referred to her as the girl with the squint. That was for the few days she had gone to this one. But before her name had completely gone around, she was pulled out. 

There was that black magician sorcerer. Who stifled the souls of little children it was said. Many fell into Iti’s example and evaded school with that same excuse. Mothers found a decent alibi to keep the daughters around, gather some more help in carrying the load of pots and pans to the steps of the  village pond where they were washed clean with ash each morning, each afternoon. Some boys were taken fishing in the river, some tended to vegetable gardens. 

Iti and her brothers were pleaded to stay behind their land lord’s compound walls. The only one in many villages around to be made of granite and mortar, well guarded with shards of glass fixed into the cement on top when it was raw. Nobody slid out of the iron gates, only held the rust on the rails and stared out. 

The black magician was learning, they said. Picking up sundry traits. Practicing during the nights, chanting hymns. Walking about alone, to check if the hymns read out during the night had bore fruit during the day. He was the sweet vendor’s son. Instead of inheriting his family business of milking cows and rolling balls of cheese in earthy hands, he broke off from them in an ugly fight over splitting of wealth among brothers. And swore that he would reduce all of them to dust. Somehow, anyhow. 

At cross roads, where four streets met, a few days ago they had found an earthen pot filled with vermillion, shreds of grass and what not. Scraped upon it was a skeletal face of man. As an aftermath of that, all the Bael trees, absolute dozens of those dried to death within a week. There was absolutely no moisture left in their trunks as if someone had sucked each drop of life from their veins and vein-lets, those who saw whispered. This was only a precursor before he started jinxing men and women and killing them. But prior to the grown man and woman, the sweet vendor’s errant son would definitely try his deft hands on children. 

Children with their gullible souls, fragile resistance to desires and new born consciousness, were expected to walk into his hands. So the children were forbidden from school, lest they were wanted to die like the bael trees. To shock Iti and her little brothers the bael tree from which their landlady plucked from amongst thorns the hard crust fruit and for her offering of one hundred and eight leaves had died like its blood brothers around. Its leaves turned black and the fruits yellowed in no time. The tree had died like a person would fall sick from a sudden attack of hemorrhage and perish overnight. On the night of the no moon.


You remember that inward facing pizza place? That bulky middle aged lady who baked in a closed room, that circular cafe of hers. Cirle like. Vague smoky, at cross roads, near the bus stop. Most of the times I got down, I sat down there, looking at the walls.

Do you remember the onset of winter? How only a faint sun showed up and how the boughs of trees seemed to sink lower, shrouding me in a canopy when I walked. Turning wherever the road turned, walking back wherever the road ended.

Also that faint whistling noise that the night made, when I wouldn't find sleep. For hours, waiting until dawn. Forging poems and prose with the clay of unrequited love.

When I walked about, one shop to another. Walking in strange towns. Picking vases, tasting pickle, looking at the faces of men and women, totally lost in myself. I might as well be dead to the world.

Left a chance, I would cut out from the canvas of those moments from the past in the shape of a man, and put you in there. And I would never be alone again, ever in my life.


Do you remember? That Saturday morning. I was busy making noodles in the kitchen. You were watching the match. You were nostalgic, it was your favorite guy's farewell match. So much so that I was checking on you every five minutes. Sitting on the arm of your chair, as the vegetables waited back on the kitchen slab. I do, remember I do. Even though, I am not a woman of memories.

Sometimes, I feel that as an act of defiance, my brain doesn't save up on memories. But then again, that's a childish excuse. May be I am just plain lazy. Lazy to remember anything. Or, I have begun to truly let go. Life is beautiful, take it as it comes. And stuff like that. But mostly, I am afraid, I believe. That these memories would come back to torment me someday. And then, I wouldn't know what to do.

So I am losing track of the things that are happening. Sundays that pass, weeks that vanish. Months, unaccounted for. Not an inch of forward movement, lifewise. Layers after layers of facial scrub applied and removed, nail paint and hair packs. Shoes, unbuckled. Dresses held together with safety pins, earrings bought and abandoned. Books read in half sleep, as good as unread, untouched. Things unsaid, memories unkept.

Sometimes, I feel that I am aging decades in months. That's impossible, I know. But I do feel that way. And I cannot judge if it's a good or a bad thing.

Is it okay to feel nothing? Murakami says it is. The protagonists that are a reflection of his, say so. I feel nothing. No ambition, no affection, no will to be anywhere, do anything, fulfill anything. I feel blank. Deeply ambivalent about everything. I feel inert, to be exact. Distant. Lazy, yes. Unhinged, but grounded in a way. But more than that, I feel nothing. Murakami says, thats okay.

So, it's okay.

Pumpkin Flowers

The pumpkin flowers in the backyard, always dragged her mind there. Kitchen garden, she called that. The creeper had crawled out slow and lazy from one amongst the plateful of pumpkin seeds they had thrown away, after one of their first grocery trips here. It was an an over-ripe one. Their fridge had smelt for days afterward. And one orange morning, in the drizzling rain, he had spotted, a nice two leaved thingy, peeping out of the moist, dark soil. They hadn't had to water it, or anything. It grew wild, sprouting leaves after leaves on its own, covering all the empty space in their tiny backyard, every square inch of space left apart from where the green chillies and coriander had stood, enviously rooted. Then, one afternoon, he noticed a couple of buds, tightened bunches of petals, held together in the gay love of floral glue. After a couple days, about a dozen of them flowers, bloomed together, simultaneously, on the very same morning. From the window in their bedroom, they appeared to be sunflowers. But those were pumpkin flowers, they laughed, quietly inside their cheeks. Lips parted only mildly. With their great freedom of choice. 

Of living here, alone together. Away/ where life is not bought. Just lived. Only lived. Experienced, valued. Treasured. Not just bought. They had moved into this, months ago, abandoning their stories. Marathons they believed they were running. They had retired. Let go. And come down to live here, secluded by hills, on all sides. A river flowed by, beside the hills. Truly, it did. Does. The summer breeze made the pumpkin flowers dance. 

Their raw smell came wafting into their kitchen, like asking her to come pluck. Fetch them in the cane basket and put them in a jar of water on his table. But that smell, wasn't very flowery. They were like their mother pumpkin, that way. She washed the pestle, wondering if she would, like generations of wives had, grind some rice grains and spices and dip and fry, shallow fry them flowers, till just about they were fried right. 

On & Beyond

There was a cry baby once. Anyone who has his heart broken that bad becomes that. He used to ask me what he should do. Like I was some kind of love guru. He thought that I was a seasoned woman, who had been there, done that. I hadn't. But in his case, I had my say. Hold it together, I maintained. It's hard, true that love hurts and hurts the most. My friend. But if it's not meant to be, it's not meant to be. And he had to make his peace with that. And more shit like that. But he wouldn't buy that, the sorrow engulfed his being. He sank. Disappeared.

A couple months ago, I met him again. He has outgrown his shadows. He feels like a happy man. He has a new woman now. There are several pictures of them, with backgrounds of famous tourist towns. They look ecstatic.

He has moved on afterall. Conquered the invincible. Moved on and beyond.



Toward the end of winter, the house itself began to breathe. Its ancient corners gave away the faint smells they had saved up since monsoon. The book shelf in the study had swollen with moisture, and titled so much that the books would topple down, it seemed so. Tagore’s Shipwreck oozed out from the top rung, threatening to take the leap any moment now. Shattering the multiple layers of cobwebs, it will any day now, fall flat on the floor, in its shallow suicidal attempt, throwing yellowed pages all across the floor. 

The shrubs of croton that had long outgrown the shape they had been sized into now began to extend their wild boughs into insides of the windows. Like foreign intruders. The yellow red and white hibiscus had reached for the roof, and stood over it like half an umbrella. Amongst all this exuberant growth, though, ironically the potted brio phylum had withered. This pot sat on the window ledge, outside. Mani sat on the inside.
Combing her shriveling mound of hair, for the past half hour. Strands of it, both black and white, in equal proportion, broke off and filled the room. Mani combed relentless. When she began doing something, there was nothing that could make it stop, other than a new beginning, a new task at hand. Each day was a series of distractions, joined back to back. Once she took to eating bananas, she wouldn’t stop until you shoved the bunch away from her, if she hadn’t finished them all. Similarly, so on and forth. Sura, her housekeeper, once had to break the latch of her bathroom door so that you could make her stop. From pouring bucket after bucket of cold tap water over her head. So that she would not die from a cold, or from insanity.

Sura lived with his wife and three children, all three of them girls. It took him a lot of persuasion to leave his messenger’s job in the department of fisheries and settle down for housekeeping. Mani had to tempt him with numerous perks. One of them being, an outhouse for his new wife of those days. Gradually, the daughters came along, one disappointing offspring after the other. Sura was heartbroken until Mani one day confessed to him that being childless herself, she would treat his daughters, as she would have treated her own grand-daughters. Had she had any. And promised to marry them off, when their youth ran out, to eligible working men. But till then, she had three recurring deposits running on each of their names, she put in some hundred rupees, each month, each year, year after year after year. 

Sura was her one man many jobs. He played part time driver when he had to kick start the old Premier rusting in the garage, any afternoon Mani felt like sweets. There was a Calcutta Sweets Stall, just where the road forked, a ten minutes from the house. But Mani would rather be driven. She would sit beside Sura, in the front, like a jolly little big girl, in her messy sari tied about her waist and slipping from her shoulders. In her new days, Sura’s wife assumed Mani was a shameless woman. Like a high society woman who would bed anything that came her way. It took her months, probably even more than a year to completely appreciate this kind of an insanity. In which one could act sane and insane, depending on what they felt like. Back in her village days, mad people were of a completely different kind. 

Mani would sing along with the car radio that played on, missing out words in the lyrics. As a child, she had been blamed to have an eidetic memory. She remembered everything, sometimes things she wasn’t ought to. Until then, when she began to forget. Systematically, like in a schemed manner. Taking a couple of baby steps to insanity, then one reverse to sanity, and repeat. So everybody knew, Mani would never make it back, her progress to the other side had been very consistent, her doctor would declare. Her devout religious mother who died at forty-six knew, so did her older brother, who was the Secretary of Fisheries. Her ageing father found it hard to accept though, he trusted genetics too much. How could the daughter of a man as erudite as him, fail to outgrow something as silly as infancy.   

In the later, dumber decades of his life, Retd. Prof Das would sit in the arm chair and stare out the grille. One day, years ago, he remembered looking at his thirty-three year old woman-child. Thwarting away street dogs, like there was nothing else in the world to await. Their garden used to be in full bloom then, fuchsia colored table roses grew in hanging pots from the ceiling in the portico. In the lawn that used to be flawlessly manicured, Mani drenched herself with the garden hose. The dogs chased her with their very own canine belligerence. Prof Das was heartbroken, he had fallen off the edge that day, usually he would walk into the garden and with a very loud scream put the menagerie back in the cage, but not that day. 

The people who had come to see Mani, the widower - a meager I.A. Pass in comparison to Mani’s M.Sc. in Physics and half a Ph.D., had her mental shortcoming not hindered the way, her thesis lay useless in one of the rungs of the bookshelf, discarded, had rejected her outright. On Prof Das’s porch, he mentioned that the seeing and observing ritual done with, he couldn’t marry his daughter. No matter what the give and take. Prof Das upped his stakes, even on his face offered some more dowry, a better car. He also frankly asked the candidate, if he had heard anything about Mani’s first marriage. No, he hadn’t. 

Later that afternoon, he sat in the portico and looked at his daughter through the low hanging table rose, without quite seeing her. For the first time in years he decided not to put an end to her joy, as abruptly as he would usually have done. We suspect, probably, that was the time when he had accepted that Mani was not going to make it back. Not in ever, again. 

So before his own death got more imminent, he began looking for a suitable house keeper more than he had earlier looked for a bridegroom. He would make a call to the Secretary of Fisheries’ secretary, his Personal Assistant, a Ms. Velvet, or something, what-was-her-name. On regularly spaced biweekly calls, after Velvet put the call through, father and son would discuss every prospective candidate for a stay-in house keeper.   

The Secretary of Fisheries

After a pensive following of the El Nino, the monsoon of ’94 had ditched every one alike. News readers wore a dismal look in their eyes beneath thick spectacle glasses. Farmers dropped down, one by one, consuming pesticide for afternoon tea. Some jumped into rivers, up above from bridges relentless. Children, with their earthy bodies, were shown in the papers, playing in dust over cracked earth. The air was all consuming, harsh, loud, withholding the eerie noises of death and pallor.
The Secretary of Fisheries, sat at the end of his table, resting his elbow on the glass sheath over it and attended a bevy of calls. Some left him exhausted, with all the listening to that was given at the other end. The Secretary of Fisheries was not quite the listener. He buzzed Velvet for his regular coffee, called back immediately to make that black. When Velvet came in, he was turned towards the curtains that were permanently shut. For a dozen times, Velvet must have conspired to get it changed to Venetian blinds, or anything more contemporary. But stuck in the red tape, that never was let to happen.

She believed she had made enough of a clink to register a presence. But the Secretary was impermeable today. For the better part of that afternoon, he scribbled notes, scratched them out, then unscratched them back. His head felt heavier as the espresso cooled down and got cold, sitting quietly untouched. 

When Prof Das made it up the stairway, crossing one-do-not-spit-here, corner in the alley after another, nobody knew that the boss’s father was even there. But Velvet hadn’t patched in even one of his calls for the last two days, angry and ignored, he had broken protocol and driven to the secretariat. 

Like any pain stricken constituent, he sat upon the wooden bench lined up for the grievance stricken, the landless whose livelihood in the off season lay in their ponds, the persistently penny-less clan whose prawn harvest three years ago had gone diseased, so on and forth. Prof Das looked down at the floor, imagining the sound of the words he had drafted for his son. His bushy white every-brows hid the obvious disappointment in his eyes, downcast.

Velvet’s suspicion lingered around the relatively well dressed septuagenarian long enough for her to saunter over to him and ask. 

“Are you here to see the secretary?”

“He can come around whenever he gets the time, I will be here. Sitting”

And that was when Velvet recognized the ageing baritone and rushed inside the secretary’s chambers. 

Mani’s brother was barely in the middle of a panic attack. That shaky nerve that lived in their lineage had gotten only stronger in Mani, but it was very much there in the secretary as well. As children, Mani would at times be the one stronger amongst the two, more patient, more meticulous, when she was blamed with an eidetic memory. When she stood first and collected certificates galore, the professor’s daughter ruled the roost. Back then, the elder brother was nothing more than a bat waiving maniac who escaped home with different alibis for the cricket ground. 

On some distinct occasions, Mani defended him. Stood guard for his factitious web of stories that kept him away from his tuitions or school. Believed him for once, all of it that he said, in a way compelling the others to fall in line. The secretary never fully paid her back for all that sitting like a rock though. Not when they were children, not even when they separated as adolescents and not the least when they lived two very different lives as adults. 

Prof Das somehow always outshone in the quandary as their only common point. Like a pigeon, like a bearer of unintentional messages his children sent to each other, he continued to be their sole bridge, since the mother had died and moved into another world, until the end. 

The secretary of fisheries rushed out to see his father the very instant he could get off the phone. Velvet sent in tea, didn’t carry it herself like she usually would. It was a Saturday afternoon. The secretary crushed the curtains into the corner of the window and let some light in. They spoke in shallow voices as the sun emerged from behind thick clouds for a while and then contemptuously dipped into an orange horizon. 

Living in an Apartment

Mani had been married for seven days, six nights. Not a lot had happened in the last week though. Except that her suitcases had arrived, three days later than promised. Till then she had had to live out of the sole bridal bag. It was a new city; the air here was drier, cooler. Further into the land, away from the moodiness of the sea. If it rained, it rained for days, if the sun beat down, the mercury knew its way up very well. Mani felt suffocated in a way, she had never lived in an apartment. She found her privacy singularly invaded, in weird ways, she had never shared a wall with another house. It felt unhygienic, crammed. 

Bhagvati, who had traveled with her to help her set her new home and stay as long as need be, made tea as many times as Mani felt like tea. The tea cups ignored one after the other on the ledge in the balcony got cold, untouched. Mani had grown into detachment ironically well. She needed no love, it seemed, if you let her be. Allow her to have it her way. So at her husband’s house, there was anyone she hardly missed. It had always been Bhagvati who spoke on the phone, each time Prof Das called to check if everything was alright. 

But she yearned for the garden, the way that untamed grass felt against her feet. How each of her toenails painted a different color, outrageously contrasted the grey green underneath. Yet Bhagvati would not let her out and coyly tell Madhav had taken away the keys with him and neither of them could get out. Mani would conspire about calling the police or the fire station, because they were authorized to break in and enter. Numerous such strategies visited her mind in bubbles and evaporated. In a child’s mind, one would bet, they would stay long enough to become plans. But not in hers. 

In the evenings, when Madhav came home from work, limping from the elevator to the door, across the corridor, Mani would stick her ears to the door to hear the dragging sound of his right foot on the floor. Just as he unlocked his way into the house, Mani would run into the kitchen and catch hold of whatever Bhagvati was holding and pretend that she was the ideal home maker, the devoted wife, the stay-at-home better half. Bhagvati would give him the exact same look everyday and in one insignificant moment, all records would be set straight. That she has been insane today as well. 

The nights had been spent scratching the wall adjacent to her bed, as Bhagvati lay on the floor, indifferently turning sides, breathing loudly, snoring. That snoring would wake Mani up when she had managed to fall asleep for tranches of the night. Her new husband had insisted on her discontinuing a few doses of medication, merely to check on the feasibility. But each of those days, Mani began to stretch out a bit beyond her boundaries of civility. 

Just like the Secretary wouldn’t want any of his office men and women to find out the secret of a sick sister, her husband wouldn’t want the neighbors to. He was prepared to wait as long as required and keep her in. Contained, like a well guarded secret. There had been no wedding party in the city; none of his friends had even known who he had gotten married to. Though they knew, that he had. They knew, there was a girl who sometimes answered his phone. In her shriveling, child like voice, mistakenly, quickly handing it over to him. On some occasions, she had dropped it on the floor. Incidentally, they thought, probably this was some comfort girl that had begun to live with him longer than planned. After quite a bit of scheming, did they come to know about the whole marriage story, and why he had availed all of his annual privilege leaves earlier that month.

Echoes in the Mind
Mani’s new husband had not known her as a child, when she had been very quintessential, studious and obviously belligerent when it came to filial ties. He hadn’t known her when she began going to high school and developed certain of those really odd symptoms. Of watching TV for hours, not necessarily watching, as much as merely sitting in front of. Or of vanishing for hours together, sitting on the edge of the roof, wanting to be alone, shutting the door, not talking to anyone except for when it was time to come out to eat. Nobody gave it any attention back then, they were clueless and assumed hopefully it had something to do with puberty. Her devout mother for once believed that it was good that her daughter didn’t touch anything at the house when she was bleeding, that way things continued to remain pious. 

But later, when she washed her hands and feet a dozen times before they sat down to eat, or stood before her mother’s gods and murmured hymns again and again, counting with her fingers, with the lines beneath her knuckles, began following her inane rituals throughout the house, touching every piece of wood that came on her  way as she went somewhere, when she even was seen talking to trees, the bush of bamboos in front of their childhood home became one of her favorites, Mani was thoroughly rebuked, even threatened.

There is no fear more than the one being declared insane. The shame itself would scare her, keep her on guard not to be caught in the act. But it didn’t help any longer than that. Soon, the psychiatric doctor in the town was consulted who wrote a prescription of medicines with a lot of paracetamol. She slept for longer hours soon after she was started on mild dosages that were to be gradually strengthened. But people began to talk. 

Prof Das, who was then a mere junior lecturer pooled in all the money he had and moved into the psychiatrist’s town. The secretary of fisheries who was seventeen then, who had been tilting towards Dickens and Dostoevsky, was admitted into Bachelor of Arts, with Honors in English.  

But the troubles only deepened, Mani kept getting away and away from them all. In the house they rented in the town, each of them had their own room, a luxury Prof Das had been coerced to avail at the cost of half of his salary given his half-grown man of a son who refused to be in the same room as his sister. Mani, however had to share hers with a widowed maternal aunt who visited from time to time. Her mother called her Golap, which meant rose. 

Golap had been instructed to keep an eye on Mani, to keep her from straying. Because it would drive even her own mother’s temper to the roof, things that Mani did, despite having been persuaded, bribed, warned and threatened to stop. They kept her from school. Instead, a tuition teacher would come home and teach her. Between hours of severe metaphysical distractions, whatever she could gather she did. She was waived the compulsion of attendance, with Prof Das’ insistence with her school principal and only wrote the half yearly tests, pre tests and tests, even missing a few when she felt under the weather. 

Meanwhile, Golap with her strong resolve to extend her stay in the town, initiated few of her hardhearted missions to cure Mani. Every Friday, a certain holy man from her village changed three buses after walking two miles to be there in Mani’s room and sprinkle it with holy ash, and cow dung water, leaves of basil and chant hymns that had no meaning for Mani as she sat there mute ad complied. With the same temerity with she went by each one of her mother’s pleads. 

Mani had shrewdly learned to feign obedience. As in she touched her tuition master’s feet every morning before she sat down in front of him and went on to blabber about differentiation and integration, thetas and epsilons, powerful formulae that Mani could never grasp, decompose. She merely sat there, but she sat quietly, without protest, in a demure surrender, until he left. After which she went back to her praying to trees and counting beads, spitting unnecessarily. 

In the first year of living in the town, things spilled out of control. Mani’s fingers and face began to swell due to the excessive washing and bathing. Her features began to grown disproportionately, her chin pointed out from her face like a sentinel. Her lower lip mildly twisted vis-à-vis the upper. Her pupils began to point in different directions, she almost voluntarily developed a squint. Her breasts ceased to grow, she gained the stunted look of a woman-child. Her fists were always clutched tight, in order to stop anything viral or bacterial from penetrating her body. She touched hardly anything, ate with a spoon after repeatedly rinsing it. 

So Golap, called a sorcerer, who was a half brotherly acquaintance earned through the holy man who previously did the chants. His fees were as good as double. He, who with his red beard and creepy knotted unwashed hair of years, scared the good gods away from Golap and Mani’s devout mother, came home with a sacred broom. With that broom, he beat the crap out of every wall, every piece of furniture, all the pots and pans and bowls in the kitchen before finally turning to the cynosure of it all, Mani.

Mani was having a good day that day, God bless the sorcerer. Her prayers had been counted right that day, unlike the others when she would have to start praying from the beginning again, messing with her mind. Her clothes had been wringed and hung to dry away from the rest of the family’s, though on the same string. She had cleaned her bowl and spoon for breakfast till her umpteenth time, and to her very satisfaction. So the echoes in her mind, that spewed her orders to do this and that, had been temporarily silenced. But then, entered the broom, center stage. 

He slapped on Mani’s cheeks and asked Golap to strip her. Mani screamed into tears and shrank to a entangled ball of muscle. The sorcerer therefore, beat Mani too, calling her by her good name. He started calling out to the ghost inside and commanded it to leave Manasa Das’s flesh. And never return. Because if he pretended to leave and then came back the same night or later, the sorcerer would know and come back and beat him again. Mani lay on the floor like a coiled snake, clutching her knees with her hands, facing the wall opposite. The room filled with smoke, the fire kept burning. Mani coughed, the sorcerer coughed, Golap coughed so much that she left. 

Later when it was time for Prof Das to come back home, the sorcerer drank a cup of tea and left saying that the ghost was a Muslim one and wouldn’t respond to a Hindu sorcerer because, he didn’t understand his chants of Sanskrit. Had Mani ever strayed close to a burial ground as a child? 

Homeward Bound

Mani stared into the Bay of Bengal. The foam of the waves gathered at her feet before receding. The water looked grey nearby and got darker as she looked further. She had left her slippers on the dry sand and her bag too. She bent down to gather the bubbles in her hands, but they vanished almost instantaneously. 

There were families around, children, old ladies in drenched saris, kneeling inside the water, laughing rather loudly, calling out to each other. There were men standing where the big waves broke into small ones. They were calling out too, to their wives and sisters. All such voices coagulated in Mani’s ears as she tried to close her eyes and reminiscence. Back until the days when she built temple of wet sand and her brother dashed against the waves. But memory, like sanity never held her in good stead.  
Two days ago, Mani had freed herself from Bhagvati’s watchful gaze for a minute and slipped out of La Ville’s gates, empty handed. Except for two marital bangles, rings on fingers of both hands and Suvadra’s locket hung around her neck. She knew for sure, trading each of those tiny pieces of jewelry would buy her a way back home.  

Wiping her forehead with the end of her sari, Mani walked onward. When she looked back at men who stood beside the road, by tea stalls, or selling samosas and gaped at her, they strengthened their stare. It was a chain reaction, the more men that looked at her, a multiple of that she looked back at. Ultimately, she fastened her pace, because all eyesight ended with her, she was the center of the universe, everyone, the taxi drivers, the grannies up in the buildings looking down from their balconies, children being taken back from school, housewives buying vegetables, men spitting pan and smoking, limbless beggars, beggars who sang perfectly well until you dropped a coin in their beaten aluminum bowls and the thud of that disappointed them enough to stop singing and start cursing, teenage girls by the road who waved to take the bus to their boyfriends, the setting sun, the callous breeze, each and everything ended upon Mani.  

She asked, only where the train station was. The railway station. Which way. Where hawkers sold books and groundnuts in chili powder. Where the lemonade man always, almost always followed her with his suspicious eyes. Where was that place? Did she have to get on the bus or hail a taxi. Which way did Madhav go? The short, bristly bearded man she had married. Mani felt like going back one moment, lunging forward the next. In both minds, she sat on the bus stop with scores of other girls her age waiting for the next bus homeward. She was headed home too. Only that it was a couple hundred kilometers away, a night away or two. Mani couldn’t remember. 

The entire wedding had been so hazy. Like she had been sedated, and she probably had been. Because many of the secretary’s friends were there, from the department of fisheries and other departments, in their red beacon cars, and so was his socialite of a wife. But she remembered taking the train, being driven to the station in a jasmine laden ambassador, strings of jasmine inter-stitched with red roses fell upon her card window as it was rolled up. She remembered feeling drowsy and nauseous. In that chaos she held on to Madhav’s hand. That must have been love, in afterthought. She saw what felt like her mother standing on the porch, crying. May be she was real, and there was Golap laughing loudly as she did when she caught Mani doing one of her early morning rituals, moving in circles, quietening the noises in her head. No that was not Golap, suddenly she couldn’t remember Golap, but the one near her was her mother. Why were they standing so far and not with every one near her? The socialite sister-in-law with her matte lipstick, stood with a static smile stuck on her face, hand bag intact, which once Mani had deliberately raided and burgled.

So yes, there was a train. She got up on the next bus and stood holding the bar like a daily commuter. The conductor asked her where to, she gave him that blank expression, he kept on asking until a few other passengers got involved and she blurted out.

“Railway station?”

“Eighteen rupees, that would be.”

After a few minutes, he left her alone moving on to other passengers,

“I am going to come back, keep the money ready by then”

One good woman nudged Mani asked her what her name was.

“Manasa. Manasa Das”, she retained her father’s surname despite having been married to Madhav for thirteen days. 

“And which train are you taking Manasa?” 

“The one to Puri. Tonight”

“Oh, which one? There are so many trains to Puri. Howrah Puri? Jagannath? Which one have you bought the ticket to?”

“I don’t remember, it reaches tomorrow morning”

“But only all the trains reach tomorrow morning, sugar”
Mani exchanged all her rings and bangles for a three hundred rupees and took the woman’s address so that her brother would money order her whatever more that three hundred was worth. But a ticket to Puri would cost her about two hundreds and she needed the third hundred, to buy food, give coins to beggars and little children that swept her railway compartment, just like Madhav had on their journey onward. 

Mani bent down and sat on the sand, the water came up to her chest and sometimes brimmed above her head. She felt the salt in her eyes, on her tongue. When it got into her ears, she felt she would drown, but didn’t. She repeated that a few more times, even waded into the water on all fours, like a child would. Stretched her arms back and rested her body on them. The water entered her, she cringed. 

She missed her slippers and reluctantly walked out. Suvadra’s locket was no longer there around her neck. The sea, she had been told was forever gracious, it never owed anyone anything. Even people who got washed away by it waves, their bodies were returned the next morning, bloated and eaten in places by fish, but returned nevertheless. So somebody would definitely get her Suvadra, Mani thought she should wait by the sea until morning, to see.


The room smelled of incense. And of slow death. Prof Das’s middle aged wife hadn’t got out of bed for months. The secretary had stationed a nurse from the hospital, twenty four seven so that his new wife could be spared the pain of service. Suvadra believed in karma. Asleep for several hours a day, she had begun to sink into deep hallucinations. Gradually, the line in between got thinner. For days, she thought that the her nurse was a part of a dream. She lived her awake hours in a distinct blur and called for Mani whenever the blur cleared for a moment.

Mani had been kept apart from Suvadra, she hadn’t even been told that her mother was that way, waiting for her to come by, and for death. Mani was on her own in the big bungalow after her sick mother had been shifted from the nursing home directly to her brother’s spacious quarters. So very spacious, that the warmth of humans that walked and sat about in it, was absolved into the cold, decades old walls. Mani would come by on some Saturdays to be with her mother’s side for a few hours before being sent back in the secretary’s one of many red beacon cars. 

Nobody liked the house very much though, even Prof Das made several excuses to spend the night in his bungalow. One of the most reasonably used excuses was to keep an eye on his insane daughter. The Secretary’s quarters, for one had numerous corridors that separated parallel chain of rooms on both sides. Mani got very confused which room was whose and barged many a times into her rather impersonal sister-in-law, painting her nails in a bathrobe, or drying her hair, getting ready to host one party or other. The kitchen too was rather dusty, despite the numerous aides that the secretary had engaged, the milk powder was out of Mani’s reach, so was the jar of sugar cookies. Mani mildly disliked to despised the place.

Suvadra, whenever awake would recognize Mani and ask her to light an incense stick. Due to the bottles and bottles of stacked up syrups, strips of emptied capsules, those of multiple colors, those she lost track of what she was being fed, her room began to smell like alcohol, like the inside of a hospital. She would coax the nurse to walk her to the attached bathroom, but after a couple of times of fainting en route, they stuck to the bed pan despite many protests. 

Suvadra’s stench, which from the very beginning had kept at bay her son and daughter-in-law, had later even began to repulse Prof Das. Probably he just hated the odor in the room and kept away, or he saw his own senility approaching in a fast diminishing Suvadra. In the end, it was only Mani on Saturday afternoons, who sat beside her watching her reduce. 

Mani would get tired of getting lost in the many rooms of the house, before she finally found the one in which her mother had been kept. Many a times, she would read out poems from her English books, or short stories that she had borrowed from her father’s library. Or from her sister-in-law’s Femina magazines. She loved how to glossy pages felt against her fingertips. But irrespective of the incense, the stench never ceased. 

It was like, it emanated from her mother’s various decaying organs. Her liver, and pancreas, and gall bladder, intestines, everything that betrayed her mother’s soul in half life and failed one by one. In a neat order, spaced out, measuring the number of days they could trick her into living. 

One afternoon in August, there were unexpected showers. Mani had been watching TV in the other room, some movie with a band of dacoits and a heroine in a shiny red dress. She refused to budge as neighbors and friends gathered in Suvadra’s room beside her dead body. Mani saw people walk in with flowers and walk out empty handed, but she wouldn’t let anyone reduce the volume on the TV. That very afternoon, she came back to her old home, their neglected bungalow, clutching her mother’s locket to her chest, refusing to believe that she had been half orphaned and pretending that nobody had died.

Quick Sand

The Secretary was touring for the first time with the misses. That was what had made the entire village gloat in indecent pride. Talks had erupted in pan shops about how pink her lips were, or how deep the neck of her blouse was. The women folk bathing in the river gossiped about her money squandering, and the young boys waited for her to come visit their school which ran in full strength as long as the secretary inhabited the guest house. 

The Secretary was on a weekend getaway to change his wife’s mood and also check on the progress in a few projects he had ensured the funding for years ago. 

It was a quiet Saturday morning until the ambassador with its red siren turned off arrived, and the secretary decided to take a tour of the twin ponds that he had ordered be dug and be invested in indigenous fish farming. But alas, the ponds lay deserted, only knee deep in slush and were green with hyacinth. A few hours was what the bloated babus of the department of fisheries had in their hands, to make things right, their hearts trembling in their mouths. Noiseless pump sets had been brought on thrice their rental fee, water from Luna, the river that wandered by, was pumped afternoon through till the ponds were flooded. 

The grass around and about the twin ponds was shaved to built paths for the secretary and the misses and tiny flower plants potted suitably to beautify their impending visit. Almost simultaneously as she complained that the ceiling fan in the master bedroom in the guest house made a creaking noise and that it would definitely fall and smash her pretty face. Immediately the diploma drop out village electrician was asked for and the fan fixed. It was him, who stole glances at her and spawned the talk about her lips and her blush and her belly button that showed neatly from amongst the folds of her sari.

Towards the afternoon as the secretary asked to be driven for the inspection, the tanks carrying live fish that had been wholly emptied into the water were quickly removed leaving no traces of hyacinth. The Rohu and the Mirkali that hadn’t seen each others’ faces ever, now jumped  about in the same pond like it was home and like they were brothers. The two ponds shone green in the orange sun, like the two eyeballs of a beauty queen. The pug marks of men and the tire trails of the mini-trucks carrying the fish tanks were evened out by laborers who had suddenly found employment out of nowhere.  

When the secretary arrived, he walked toward the Luna first wanting to catch it in all its November glory. The misses could not keep pace with her husband’s long legs. She walked five feet behind collecting the end of her sari in the bent of her elbow, tying her hair into a knot as it the breeze from the river blew it astray. The women who had heard the word and the school boys had gathered already and wouldn’t disperse despite having been threatened by the babus and their henchmen. They swallowed every movement like it was a some movie, with a fine-looking couple of a man and a woman, resplendent in wealth, power and glory. They must be incredibly content with their lives, the women thought. The boys wondered what it would be like to have that damsel sleeping beside them on the same bed. And if she was as warm as she was pretty. 

The Luna meandered in its rightful place, the sand created mirages of water where there was none. His staff, they kept their distance and stayed back as the misses finally caught up with the secretary on the banks. Then onward they walked side by side to the water. The palm trees that had grown up where the sand ended and the black soil began, on that very border, bent towards the river with the fury of an abandoned lover. The dozens of them growing bent that way, the sun dissolving into the water behind the bridge, the crows flying in patterns in the benign sky made everything very picturesque. Like the couple stood upon the cover of some vernacular novel. 

‘Mani and I grew up, making sand temples, somewhere right here. I always walked ahead of her, checking for quick sand.’

The wife squeezed her kohl eyes and nodded. In a way, asking him to continue, but probably in her heart, wanting him to stop. The secretary continued.

‘I would pluck wild flowers for her to stick atop the temples she built. We also dug out rabbit holes till river water seeped out and everything around them collapsed, sank. Imploded’ 

‘Our mother would ask me never to let her out of my view. She was always afraid of losing her, probably because she was the younger one. Because we had always known that everything was not right with her.’

‘One day she began washing her feet off the sand under her toenails in the river. She was perched in the knee deep water for what seemed like hours and wouldn’t budge even after I tried dragging her out. I was afraid to leave her there and go home to call our mother. I thought that the river would carry her away.’

During the same time, Mani slept like a cat since siesta in their decrepit bungalow in the town. Sleep had been playing truant for the weeks since Suvadra had died. All night, she would walk around in the study like a ghost. Sometimes, Prof Das would sneak into the study hearing those footsteps to check if his wife had returned from the dead and stand for a moment confused in half sleep. Mani had the same side face as her mother. It was from in front that she had begun looking insane. 


Matter is only a highly condensed form of energy. Each bundle of muscle in Visenya's being, only proved that. Her skin was, though dichotomous. Her limbs shone tawny, muscular. Yet her hair was white. Wavy, gorgeous and wild. In-containable. Visenya's eyes were round and sharp. Piercing. Not beautiful, not ugly either. Bordering on fiery, fearful. Her gaze, vigilant, ever powerful. She had quite the smoker's lips, chocolate brown. She had a blunt nose. Unlike on her sister. Who was quite the cynosure, a bummer for her loser lovers. Lover losers. Visenya was a warrior. Her legs were agile, her focus precise. Her heart was bursting with courage, and soul overpowering. Visenya could tear across wind and water. Glide on land. Unlike her sister, who was an inspiration for art, Visenya was a poet herself. After untiring days in the sun and wind, she would scribble, potions of intelligence on paper. About new worlds, extinct birds. Brave women of adventure. Some nights, Visenya would also write about love. The ones that she had lost, and the ones that her sister had stolen. On those stormy, moonless nights, Visenya strode into the rooms of some of those unforgiven men. And then, became quite the seductress.  


Now, indeed it does feel unreal. The day. Whole of it. I perish into moments after midnight, compulsively forcing the assumption, that it was probably a well concocted stretch of illusion. But then, there's you. 

The hours, the sundry minutes in each, did tick by. We kept an intermittent track of time. Sometimes, it felt like a whale, sometimes like a firefly. All I can truly recall is asking our hearts to slow down. Keep in more blood, hold on. Expand every moment and live through it, at a molecular level.

Also, I remember paper cups in the shades of orange. The yellow hue of the sidewall. The crumple in the bed sheet. A mild odor of smoke in the air. Rustle of autumn leaves outside the window. The sweat underneath arms. And crevices of knees and ankles. All curves of flesh, observed, loved. Black spots, counted. Birthmarks kissed. Secrets exchanged. Tales of the months of separation, told. Every bodily shame, uncovered. 

You, seated on scanty pieces of furniture. The look held in your eyes. The wait, in our breaths. Fast expiring patience. Like we had waited for years and decades. To be there, together, at that spot. 

Come what may, it is always good to know. That there always will be such very specific spots. Wherein, we will find ourselves. Locked, faithfully in dimensions of time and space. In the shade of a certain tree, or by a certain window. And inside those, we are in absolute seclusion. Only the scope of the immediate periphery would affect us. Everything exterior to that boundary would lose the capacity to touch us. Hinder us, from being our soulful true selves.


Parvati sat atop a riverstone. Rubbing her skin with turmeric. Scraping off fistfulls of turmeric paste from a leaf of taro. She massaged it into her face, her neck and hands. Her silver toes. Which sat dipped, beneath the stream only glistening from the surface, like silver. Parvati rolled off balls of turmeric from her body and carved them into shapes. She dried them in the mild Himalayan sun. Later, those shapes gained life. The virtue of life, the sole cause of all our anguish, all our ecstacy. Everything is because, we have taken life, after being rolled off from Parvati's limbs as balls of turmeric, and the dirt of her skin pores. 

One day, Parvati had built a Ganesa this way. But very unlike him, we grow not to be Gods. We float down that turmeric burst yellow river by which Parvati bathes, to the plains. We build homes, fall into and fall apart in love, wreath in our own decisions, scream from our own traps. We, Parvati's ungodly children. Wait for her every October. During the north east monsoon. When the kasatandi blooms. On our plains, in our backyards, and beside roads. Parvati metamorphoses into Durga. Descends with her children by her sides, taking Ganesa alongwith.  

And we, balls of dirt and turmeric, jinxed with the virtue of life, wish and pray that she redeem us. Reabsorb us into her skin. Reclaim us.


It was past three. She was getting late. But the school out front closed for the day and little children filled the road. Her wreck of a car wouldn't move, she honked. And honked. The children behaved like a deaf herd of goat. Her hands shivered behind the wheel, in the mild afternoon heat. With trepidation, sweat formed between fingers. It's ironical, how she did shiver and sweat at the same time. 

The constant hurry, endless demands, wore her out. Time eroded her. The impossibility of life bugged her. Yes, certainly the impossibility of it all, did the most harm. Existential anguish was undying. How most things never came home to her. She could never. Kiss ass. Never. Speak up. Be heard. Be talked about. Sometimes, she realized that she wasn't the personality type to be human. Enough. To win. To even decently lose. And not fumble. 

How it was deeply troubling to keep her two feet on two boats. Or sometimes many boats. Sometimes, she would fall right into the water. And drown. Given the chance, she would rather.

Masquerade. Those fun masks. Sometimes that cover your eyes and parts of your face. She wished, she could wear one of those. And walk away. Like a gift to herself. Sort of a birthday gift.

My one regret in life is that I am not someone else. Woody Allen 

One by two

Do you remember that chicken soup corner at the end of the street. Where there was a huge banyan tree, and the road forked. You found it the year before I was to graduate. And boy, did we make the most of that. The first time you bought soup for me, I had been down with the flu. Influenza, as you would call it, it was a thorough windy afternoon of winter. And the warden's assistant called. I had a visitor. You were waiting downstairs with a tall plastic cup in hand, your face seemed smaller, your glasses covered most of it. You looked a different boy from afar, very apart from the backbencher-latecomer in class. The soup was only lukewarm. My shawl din't stand the breeze. Your t-shirt had swollen up, the wind got in and bloated it up. Like a balloon.

Three days later, when you had gotten my cold, we had walked down to that soup corner. Together, for the first of many times. It was only a shack, back then. Boys and girls, sat in pairs, stood in pairs, about the cemented base of the banyan tree, cycles parked in tandem. You shook one and the entire pack would collapse, one upon its adjacent. I actually wanted to do that once, shake on cycle and run for my life. Or pretend that nothing happened. Like a poker face, you know. You always asked me to confine that idea to my mind, for the better part of the year. And just drink the soup. Chicken noodle soup. Fiery and hot. One by two. 

Everytime, later in life, I split soup with anyone, I would think about you. Everytime, I see anyone read Chicken soup for the Soul, I would miss you. Hoping you were around, then and there. Sometimes, when I see a banyan tree, centuries old, and pause to see it some more, it is as if you are there. Like literally. And then I see the fork in the road, I realize again. Hands are held, till the road forks. 

Raison d’etre

On certain random afternoons, upon feeling like a late lunch, they cooked.

She marveled over how she remembered the names of few new exotic vegetables that she had picked up. From some TV show. He unearthed his mother's recipes. She complained that the knife was getting rather blunt. He said that she always chopped more than they needed, and that she was the holy goddess of plentitude. He looked at her top, dusted in flour and smiled. She appeared cuter than her usual stern self, he told her that. Hence, she took it off, that top. He pinched her to make her giggle softer. But she couldn't help, looking at the little shriveled lady finger in his fridge. Or the slimy bunch of spinach. How can you not have food, she animatedly slammed the pack of frozen peas to his bum. 

They fought over doing the dishes. They had very few anyway. Saucepans and bowls, knives, spoons and graters. All went back to their rightful places. They ate, sitting on the floor. Guarding their food against the other. Sometimes, they lay on the kitchen floor, turning off the stove midway, staying still for hours. The music from the bedroom, could still be heard, faint. But loud enough. 

Tea. Every evening there was tea. Around seven, His was green, or lemon. Hers was thick boiled and milky. On special days, there was coffee. He made that of course. They sipped it from the glasses they drank vodka from. Later that night. Deeper that night. Continuing the same conversation, or sometimes, inquistively switching,  

Lunch, by herself

Norah Jones was playing, in the back of her head. Compulsively. As she was eating lunch by herself. By the glass wall. Staring at the pigeons outside, scores of them sitting on the asbestos roof opposite. She had told herself to look at the way the leaves quivered though. Like they were cold. It brought her peace, how the wind that couldn't be seen effected motion. How the cause was invisible and the effect, she could see, feel. Those leaves and the trees they belonged to, she loved. The way their boughs touched the glass wall. Flowerless and lush green in rain. They aroused her, like hardly anything did.

From when she was a little girl, she was prone to illness. Of the mild kind, of the virile kind. Hypermetropia. Otosclerosis. Rheumatism. Complex words, lent by other languages to English, scribbled in illegible handwriting by bespectacled doctors. It took her months to get the spelling right. And today, she was aging. Sooner than she would, had she been elsewhere. Anywhere else. 

She felt the blood rushing to her head. Felt her temples warmed up. Sounds in her ears, both of them got loud until she could hear no more. As if, she was inside a factory. And then, like she was inside a machine. Her eyes, began burning. To begin with, they felt sore. But in the minute that followed, they burnt. She wanted to run to the mirror to check if they were red too. But her legs wouldn't move. A convulsion passed right through her body.

How that felt, to have her body invaded by so many external forces. All invisible. And yet, she felt every limb shaking, dysfunctional. She tried so much to focus on the leaves and their quivering, the breeze, the glass. Or the pigeons. There was, what looked like a crow circling the asbestos roof. It seemed to fly higher and higher, into the afternoon sun. Or was she merely sinking from her chair, and then into collapsing into the ground. 


Pigeons sit on the parapets in my building. On the edges, almost falling off, they don't look down, they don't gauge the fall, they are fearless. Some of them sit in rows on the cables that run across walls. Swinging. At peace. Their faces quite numb, their wings pretty limp. And no matter how much you shake that cable, they wouldn't budge. Like they owned it. 

Sometimes, I feel, they are in waiting. They build their nests in my room. On the roof of my closet. Relentlessly bringing in twigs, leaves. There is always only two of them making that nest. But at night, when I shut the window, and they can't come in anymore, they just wait outside until morning, for me to let them in. Meanwhile, they must also call their friends, because there always are six to seven to nine of them. Waiting. 

They sleep that way. On their feet. On the swing. Or on the edge of the parapet. It amazes me. This routine, in a bunch of birds. I go out and stare at them, and get some air also. That strange grey color, you barely find much else. Except in the mind.

They come back every night.  In unbearably hot summer nights, they expand in the heat, and I feel their elliptical shapes might burst and plop open. They sit there on endless monsoon nights. And in the afternoons and mornings when it rains. Sometimes if I miss out on opening the window, they peck on it making that faint noise, like something very close to knocking. Like they were real people.

The Tireless Heartbreaker

Supertramp is a tireless heartbreaker. He leaves everyone behind. In the sense, even his name. Some people wish to be so boundless, that there is nothing that could contain them. You can try. To hold them back. Keep them. Keep him. But he wouldn't. He would break away, and break your heart. And never tire of it. 

His idea of the self, his boundaries are holy. He wouldn't let anyone overstep that. And he is not an escapist.

He left his car. His guitar. He burnt his credit cards. Destroyed any ID. Layer after layer, each skin that garbed him, he peeled away. Like an onion. Anything at all, that could let him grow roots had to be let go of. It's liberating and debilitating in the same breath. Liberating for Supertramp. Liberating for I. And debilitating for the man, woman and child he left behind. For the future he abandoned. For the past he denied. 

However scanty could you be? Define minimalistic. Living out of a knapsack. Hitchhiking your way through life, living on the road. Living like an ape. Under a tree. And being the anti-materialistic, homeless, philosophical genius who understands how your entire fucking life, all you have been striving for breathlessly is laying out one beautiful deceitful trap for your own self. What fools. 

Supertramp was truly on his own. No bondage. I cannot grasp, him. Neither can I help you grasp. Because the former. 

Flop Show

There was a guy once. And trust me on this, there have been many such. Guys with incomplete stories, devastating heartbreaks. Guys with tunnel and more tunnel. Only no light.

But more about this one. 

Guy in context and I went to high school together. I hadn't known he existed back then, I was quite the class valedictorian. After high school, I left town for college. And then moved to some other place for my masters. And one blue day, he messaged me on facebook. Hi, this is so & so. We studied together in such & such. Can you place me right? It would have been quite embarrassing to tell him that I didn't know who the hell he was. Instead we got to mailing. No exchange of numbers, like hearing each others' voice would ruin it. We mailed and mailed. 

I wouldn't go far to call it a fling. But there was definitely something. A tiny little crush at the back of my mind. Not heart. Turned out we were going to be interning in the same city, starting next month. Woah! How was that going to work out without meeting. I began growing expectations. How would the first meet go. How we would roam around on weekends, in the afternoons. Go out, dance, sing, have fun. Do stuff that twenty two year olds were into. I mean, I really did have plans. I was so fucking naive back then. 

Ultimately, heavens came down when he told me that he had a change of plans in the eleventh hour. Like, suddenly I felt alone, with nothing to do. I didn't take it well. Like I said, I was young. Innocent. Trusting. 

I would cut the story at that. But to this date, I quote this incident to remind myself and my friends, how you should never meticulously plan and expect. Turns out your pillars weren't strong and now you are suffocating in the rubble because the fucking roof crumbled on your head. 

But, shit happens. Oops, I did it again! 

Cold Feet

That day, while driving down to see him, you hit all the green lights. Straight, no pauses. It felt like a breeze. So much so that you wanted to stop and check if this was indeed happening. It felt right. And it felt scary. Paradoxical, yeah. But scary right. You wonder if this was the right thing to do afterall. If you haven't left behind something more opportune. More significant. You begin to doubt. All kinds of thoughts trickle into your head and yet you never hit a red light. Like the whole goddamn road was made for you. You remember how you inched through the same road, like a tortoise, on other evenings and afternoons trapped in nerve wrecking traffic. But not today. You are happy. Delighted. Relieved, that the distance between you and him is getting shorter. You are only minutes away from seeing him. Your mind strays to what he must be doing. Wouldn't he be surprised. It's morning after all. But there's something choking your ecstasy. It's making you want to not let it in, keep it outside for a while may be. You're getting jitters. Not knowing, one bit. What the fuck is going on. 

You take that blinding U-turn and go back home. Tail between your legs. 

Or drive right past, and slather yourself in unforgiving love. Debilitate yourself, go pale. Go limp. Let go. Let in. 


Now, the old lady lives in the forgotten mansion by herself. Parts of it they had rented out to teachers who came to teach in the little school they had started. Just for company's sake. Now that the old man is dead and gone, it's just her with her tenants. There's no jungle bounty to take care of. Guard against the wild. Years ago, when the old lady was only middle aged, she would shoo away herds of monkeys from her mango orchard with an air gun the old man no more used for hunting. The horns of the deer killed decades ago still adorns their doorway. But the orchards have vanished. Everything is a shadow of what it was. The clusters of bananas that she used to hide in sacks to keep safe until they ripened, to be sent off to daughters married off in distant cities, no more. The story seeping granddaughters never looked back. The sole singular lone son. Drunkard of a man, womaniser, once discarded by the old man for being a disgrace, must have decayed in some brothel. Or a cheap smokey bar. When the old man sat on the rickety chair, staring at the front door, there was not much conversation. But just one question, who was dying on whom. Which one of the two would last longer, asphyxiate in the dust that the termites ate off the doors. It is usually the diabetes that gets to you, or a cardiac arrest. Sometimes, they imagined passing away in sleep, but mostly it is plain loneliness. Now the old lady, in that ghost of a house cannot move around much. And cooks one meal a day, of rice and vegetables boiled in one black pot and sips as much as she can. Fighting the need to be against the whim to vanish, sitting guard on the decadence. 

A Notional Loss

There's the notion of loss. And there is actual loss. For real, irreversible, permanent. Sometimes I stutter between the two. I threw my glass of chocolate milk in the wash basin. It splattered on the walls, the floor. Lost forever, actual loss. Ain't coming back. And then, sometimes I am frantically looking for my keys in the bag and not getting them. They are still in there, but I am not getting them. Same with looking for my glasses all over the place when they are up on my forehead, or still worse, I am wearing them. When we assume that we have lost something or someone even when we have them right there, is a notional loss. We coax the heart not to get jittery at all. Because, nothing has been lost yet. But then it deteriorates. You wake up dreaming in homes you no longer own, waiting in places you no longer go to, for people who no longer are here now. The immediate moments after you wake up, this appalling sorrow envelopes you, like you can't move. And you cry a pillow. Actual, irrecoverable loss, that.


He has his eyes downcast. Staring at his lunch plate. Those are the most beautiful eyes in the world. One of the most beautiful. A beautiful pair of eyes, those. He is sitting amongst a large bunch of loud women. His blush is lost amongst their chatter. But, he doesn't look lost. Not yet. But out of place. Definitely out of place, Yes. He's eating with his hands, elbows quiet on the edge of the table. The set up looks like an experiment. Except his eyes. They look like dollops of love. And a shiver on his face. That hides his age. He has a son back at home, put away in some school. Standing by the road with a huge bag slung from his little shoulders, waiting for the school bus to pick him up. And the wife, who bought the lady fingers on his lunch plate. Who washes, cooks and waits. And loves, probably possibly, with a decent vigor. Like a woman should a man. And here, he is. Sitting alone among known strangers.

He must feel stifled. Does he? I would, if I were him. But I am merely sitting here, reading his story from the lines on his face, from the glint in his eyes, the shiver on his face. Drawing illegal solace from a perfect stranger. Sitting apart. Sitting opposite. Creating a requiem, for each moment that passes. Like, life had no ennui at all.


Today is a pi day. Pi. Like the number. Twentysecondofjuly. 22/7. Indivisible. Irrational. Infinite. For some reason, I had been waiting for today. To make something special happen. Something worth a memory. Like a handmade card of sun-dried petals and grass, framed beneath a sheet of cellophane. Glassy, dreamy, yet earthy. That's what life should be, right. An exact mixture of illusion and reality. A subtle compromise amongst who you are and who you choose to be. I am taking baby steps. Yes, baby steps. Toward becoming this exact mixture. Being the right blend of strength and frailty. Striking a negotiable trade-off between idiosyncrasy and love. Between brooding and company. A median of richness and penury. 


It is an assurance, I carry with myself. That you are home. That no matter what, when, who. If I would, I could leave everything be and run. With my eyes closed, like a child. Run into our enclosure of love. And you would be there, sitting with your legs stretched out of the window, or merely standing by it, looking at the rain. Doing laundry, or cooking, or quietly sitting, or taking a shower, leaving the door unlocked for me. From my footsteps you would know, it was me. Yes, lovers do that. And later act aloof and ask when did I get in. So many little games. Voices and visions. Fights and patches on scratches, balms on wounds. 

Now, I feel as if I haven't kept any memory. It's an honest confession, I don't remember the specifics, the details, the blur as you would say. I carry that time and that love absorbed in myself. Very involuntarily. Because I don't feel the need to create memories. Because, I know you are home. I can run to you any time of the day, and we could recreate our moments, the exact same way. Or give them a random swivel and yet they would be this maddeningly, intoxicatingly, mind-numbingly, fucking beautiful.  

But you know this juncture, honey. That home, we have to let go of. The walls, the roof, the strings, the mosaic. The smells, the sounds and a whole bunch of uncreated memories. Remembered only very faintly, for the decades to come. I wouldn't have that privilege to be with you in a moment, for a moment. You would no longer be in there. The cradle has vanished. I feel deranged, homeless again. And my heart, is skipping so many beats. Oh! Pandora. 


The sinking of afternoon into the air. Mild mellow yellow sunshine. That reflects from the little bumps on your skin. The giggle in our voices. Juices of watermelon and pineapple. Their seeds seived. In tall translucent glasses. Red, the color of love. Yellow, the color of friendship. Mingling into the smells of siesta. Into the humm of honeybees. Static beads of sweat on your temples. The simmering smile on my face. The afternoon becomes you. Then She becomes me. Therefore the faint intoxication in the air. And a distant calling, to just be.

Do we have to grow into anything else? Can't we stay lovers forever.


Plum like fruit bunches hung from the tree. Orange dots against boughs of green. Big old tree this. With its poison fruit. Passion fruit. Which could kill, hides venom in its pulp. Squirrels know that, wouldn't even smell it. They would stay clear of fruit laden arms. Migrating birds that would perch and catch breath, if ensnared by the poison fruit, would drop dead in a moment. Dead birds. Dead meat. No perspiring traveler would rest in its shade. Only scavengers built their nests on it. Only they found worth in coming back to it after picking from bones. The poison tree, apart from this, was a beauty. It bred orange flowers, of the size of grapes, with tiny petals spread all around. And filaments from the central pod, sprouting, ending with drop full of pollens, the seed that would regenerate. They said, the flower was not poisonous, flowers never are. Petals shrank in the sun and the flowers died, falling down slow dancing in the air, forgetting about gravity. They formed a bed beneath the tree, a bed of flowers, this one. A man and woman, lay there, making love.


She wore her kohl lining the upper flap of the eye, the lower flap nude. Always on top, she was a dominatrix. She had a small face, fluid with vital emotions, her chin being their epicenter. You couldn't say, if she was thirty-seven or forty-five or older. She had stopped aging, because she had never married, never given birth. That way, you don't grow. You stay static in the minds of some strangers as a cynical spinster, and in the minds of the rest as an accessible mistress. 

So, she had stopped aging. As if, she was standing still in time and you were younger than her, then you would get to her age and then after gradually age and go senile. Though she would stay the same, preserved like a specimen, with a mere few creases of skin under the eyes, hair carnally dishevelled, that true smile pasted on her brown lips, and the smooth flow of words from between them. Peace had become her.

But it got lonely though. Sometimes. For her. When she fixed dinner for her old father every afternoon, all by herself in the kitchen. Did the ghosts of her married sisters come by, or the laughter of her nephews. For company? No. So, she looked for it everywhere, for people, to know, hear, listen to, spend time with. All that. She had thousands of people in her phonebook, you could never fall out of touch with her, she would call you. Text you, mail you. Over just about anything. Late in sleepless nights, she went to those dangerous websites where she met psychotic men, who would utter the weirdest of things, things that were disgusting and pleasing in the same breath. 

The tone of her skin got darker with each summer, her mind seasoned like wine, retaining bits of bygone youth. Retaining the hush in her voice, the polish on her nails, the crystal between her legs. Holding on, as the rest of us, abandoned. 


A few weeks ago, I completed eight years of blogging. And I hadn't paused to notice it. I had forgotten. Neat excuse. But I had. Very few occasions in life call for a celebration. We are all sinking into veritable depths of monotony. And discarding the right to be special. Every day.

Once I had thought, my writing would take me places. Now I think what places, and laugh. Is it even possible to take anyone anyplace, ever. Aren't we all static, merely enjoying the illusion of motion. So much oxygen is getting us high. My writing may not move me a millimeter. My mind is fixed, frozen, glued to its labyrinthine biases, against the act of motion itself.

So yeah, amongst the shiny success of others, I may finish up a reluctant loser, a hopeless mediocre, a screaming for sympathy, self published author. Hah, yes. My glorious future, ladies, the one I had been told and coaxed to believe existed has now perished into oblivion. I am clutching thin air, in my fist.

I am not talking apocalypse. Or glass half empty. All I am saying is that life doesn't always pay off. Mostly never. And we continue to survive, as beings of angst.

Switching between phones, booking tickets, losing breath, consoling, cooking, being consoled, murmuring, driving, buying, stealing, loving, unloving, sleeping, waiting, waking up, catching breath, sighing. Writing, counting years, writing, counting years. 


I haven't stalked him for such lonng. I feel weird. When I now do, look at the old pictures. Seems like an era ago. Like a very long period of time, has elapsed, and  I was in a coma. Life doesn't add up. Love doesn't beget love. Never, infact I am personal opposer of that. Fact. Word. So, we aren't where I had propositioned we would be. But mere, old flames. We are the two comical characters in any middle aged woman's memoirs of love. Affairs that failed to work. Calls that weren't answered. Answers that didn't have questions. Dates remind me of him. Not the exact ones, my crammed memory doesn't allow me that liberty. Nada. I remember him in rough approximations of those. The second week of June, the first of November. On the thirtyfirst of December. You know. All that. Like the lost stanzas of a love song. The miffed strums of guitar. Like unrequited love. When I loved him, and then when he loved me back. But not just in the adequate amount. He was inadequate, grossly in that regard. A man's ability to give love, is a wee bit more important than his amorous prowess. We both failed actually. Hah. That is why, sometimes I feel a hole in my soul. And a lot of couldbe's surround me. Like float around my head, revolving in circumferences of ellipses. This and that. It's not regret. Nada. Something much inferior in degrees of human emotion. In severity. There is no heartache. It's a mere wave of mild hopelessness. It will pass.  

*Nada: Spanish for nothing. Nothing for Spanish.

The Flyover

Is it true that everything comes a full circle? That one is indeed adequately punished for each of their misdeeds as is rewarded for the good ones. It did feel so, some years ago. Not anymore. It doesn't feel like. Bad karma bites you in the ass, alrite. But the good one, never begets glory. May be I am greedy. Or, could also be that people paint rather a hunky dory picture of their lives, more than it is. And I am only a shabby mirror of the truth, not its empowered alterer.

I was thinking on such lines, and walking on the flyover. This one was old one, much older than those which have now been built. Its footpath is made of adjoining slabs of concrete. On which an insane beggar sits on all day. He has a mess of hair and is constantly drooling. Though you would never stop by while driving on the flyover and drop a coin in his bowl. There was nothing for him there, not even shade, yet he wouln't budge. And at nights, you would never see him. Probably he went down to the railway platform to sleep on.

I wanted to see the sunset from above there, since forever. An orange ball falling into a crucked skyline of broken buildings. All I wanted was to take a walk on it in the evening and let my mad thoughts consume me, that's the best way to go. But in the many years that I have lived, and the many more years that I have been alive, I have never had the time. Yeah.

About two years ago, I stopped writing that string of stories on lovers walking and talking. If you know what I mean. A few months after that, I found love. Thank Gods for that. And after that charm passed, I forgot to write. Me and the written word. Ladies and gentlemen, forgot each other. If you know what I mean. Now suddenly, instead of thought, it's a sea of incoherence that's consuming me. And I am thinking about that beggar again.