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.