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Friday, December 30, 2005

A quick tale 101

Detail

People thought of him as a pain in the ass (if you will excuse my language). He fixed his meetings at 8.23 ams and 11.56 ams, expected his lunch at 1.48 pm every day, slept for exactly 8 hours and 3 minutes each night and had 2 and 2/3rds of a spoon of sugar in his cup of tea. If ever you made the mistake of asking him for his age, he would kill you with detail. How many years, days, hours, seconds, that kind of thing. He needed his change back, nothing rounded off. If you had to share a bill with him, he would divide the bill by the number of people around the table and pay exactly his share. Don’t get him wrong. He just loves to be precise.
I know he makes a great character on paper. But he was hell to live with. And I just couldn’t take it after 4 years, 18 days and 12 minutes. So I left him.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A quick tale 100

Confessions of a cook

Have you ever wondered what goes into your dosai? I wish you did. Because I see you waiting at the counter now, drumming your fingers impatiently for that ghee roast you have ordered. And I suddenly remember the fight I had with my wife this morning. I will not tell you what I am about to do next but tomorrow morning you will wake up complaining of stomach pain. And you will blame it on the water, which your wife has not been boiling enough before filling up the bottles. You will come back again for your afternoon fix and by then I will have patched up with my dearest. Tomorrow I will be extra nice to you. Today, enjoy your dosai, saar.

A quick tale 99

At the 3.15 showing of King Kong

You walk into the movie theatre alone, stand in queue and ask for one ticket for the next show of King Kong. Well actually, you whisper ‘one ticket, please’ because you don’t want others to see that you’re there to watch the movie on your own. ‘Single, adult…that would be…’ rattles the ticket assistant loudly while proceeding to issue you your ticket. You slink quickly into the unlit hall, find your seat and settle down even though it’s a good 25 minutes before the show is due to start.

Some time later, a family of four slips into your row. The father sees you sitting alone and wonders if the seat next to you is taken. No, you shake your head, while still looking at the blank screen. He asks you again, just to confirm. What’s the matter with these people? you wonder. Why must every activity be undertaken in convivial togetherness? Besides what’s the point of taking someone along when all you’re ever going to be doing is staring at a screen in a darkened room? Still, the man has just asked you a question and is waiting for you to answer. No, you say. A little too loudly. He waits for a second and then sits two seats away from you. Suddenly you wish you had brought someone along. If only to hold hands with when King Kong tosses aside New York cabs like you would a tooth pick.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A personal note

Going away on holiday to India. It may be some time before new posts are up. Please excuse delay. Thank you.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A quick tale 98

One busy morning at the railway station

He is charging down the platform, weaving through the crowd that has gathered to see loved ones off. His legs, unaccustomed to such frenzied aerobic activity, are doing their best to carry his bulk towards the train that is gradually pulling out of the station. One final burst and he's nearly there. He grabs hold of the cold metal handle of the train carriage, drops his suitcase inside and heaves his body up the steps. Pausing to catch his breath, he turns around to wave to the fast-receding throng of bye-sayers. It is nice to pretend that some of them were there for him. That some of them were crying into their handkerchieves, unable to look up and see him go. That some of them were wiping their eyes for the tears made it hard to see. That they wanted to keep waving and keep looking at him until he became a tiny speck in the distance. That some of them wanted to come running along with the moving train as far as the platform would allow, for his sake. That they kept repeating their goodbyes and their promises to keep in touch with him until it became a meaningless chant. He likes to think they played out the drama, all for his benefit.

For, wouldn't it be sad that he was going away and not one friend or relative or neighbour or neighbour's dog could come to see him off and tell him how much they were going to miss him? He turns around to look at others in the carriage. And smiles the smile of one who was given a fond farewell.

A quick tale 97

I must tell you something

You and I go back a long time. So I think I can tell you. Do you remember that day when you tripped in front of the news stand and hoped that no one saw you? I was there. I was watching as you picked yourself up and dusted your behind and check your shoes to see if your heels were still in place. It was pretty funny, actually. I hope I can keep a straight face when I meet you next time. But pardon me if a little smirk escapes. If you ask me why, I'll tell you it's that hilarious joke I heard on Jonathan Ross last night. But to be honest, it'll be the sight of you, sprawled out, on your back, in front of the news stand the other day that I will be recalling. How angry you were when someone asked you if you were alright! Of course, you were. And how brave of you to walk without wincing. How is your ankle now, my dear? Do apply an ice pack to reduce the swelling and stay away from 4 inch heels and King's Cross station for a few weeks.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A quick tale 96

Heard the one about Kumar?

I had to do away with him. He was getting unmanageable.

Previously...

'Yes, Kumar likes the movie too'
'Kumar? Who Kumar?', they cried in unison as if it were a chorus in a song.
'My boyfriend...', I mumbled looking down at the ground.
'YOUR boyfriend? Your BOYFRIEND?', screamed my best friend Bubbs stressing different parts of the sentence for effect.
'How long has this been going on? Why didn't you tell us?', quizzed Nimmy, her best friend.
I shrugged in response.

They wanted to know all about him. So I told them as fast as I could make up the details. He was 21, an Engineering graduate. I wanted him to have a sensitive side, so I made him work with an NGO for orphaned kids. He was 6 ft 2, slim-built and wore glasses. He coached poor kids football and organised morchas to protest the demolition of slums in his spare time ('awwww', they cooed).

They wanted to meet him. So I sent him away to Brussels to attend an international conference on child development organised by UNICEF. From time to time, I would slink away in full view of my friends to talk to 'Kumar' on the phone. I'd come back giggling and tell my friends how naughty Kumar was. They'd blush and I'd act all coy.

Couldn't they at least see his photo? No, I said, Kumar was camera-shy and hated having his photo taken. What about talking to him? Couldn't Bubbs and Nimmy say hello to him over the phone? Oh no, Kumar was very busy fundraising. As a matter of fact, he was meeting the Ambani brothers to discuss corporate funding that very day. He wouldn't like to be disturbed.

That shut them up for a while before they started again. So I gave him chicken pox, broke his leg, killed his grandmother, drowned him in work and once, I even drained his mobile phone batteries. They were persistent, those bitches! They wanted to meet him at any cost. Unless I could manufacture a boyfriend at a short notice, I was quickly running out of excuses. Which is when mother nature gave me a hand. A train in Andhra was washed away by flash floods and guess who was on the ill-fated train? Kumar was on his way home after organising donations for victims of a cyclone in Rayalseema when the tragedy happened.

I went into mourning for a few days. But secretly, I was preening. I had officially had a boyfriend and lost him. Score: me - 1, the bitches - 0. Ha!

Monday, November 07, 2005

A quick tale 95

The day you lost faith

She sits across the café from you, in the same spot, day after day. And her order never changes. A chocolate doughnut, large fries, cheeseburger and a caffe latte with cream. How she manages to stay a size 8 on that diet remains a mystery to you. You watch her devour her lunch as you cautiously pick at your salad because you read somewhere that eating slowly makes you eat less. You could chew on one leaf of lettuce for an entire lunch hour.

Looking at her, you console yourself that she’s probably a bimbette. In fact, you’re certain that she is a brainless twat, a 23-year old infant with boobs. The next day, you see her reading something about Ergonomics and solving Kakuro simultaneously while stirring her fourth sugar cube into the coffee cup. So what, you tell yourself, she’s probably got a lousy personal life. You’re convinced she’s been jilted a thousand times. Actually, you’re sure that she gets just one Christmas card each year. From her credit card company. The following day, you see her lunching with the neighbourhood George Clooney. Ha, you say to yourself, bet she’s a non-starter in the career department. She probably works for a pharmaceutical company testing new drugs on herself. Or in a factory making little cocktail umbrellas wearing a thimble all day. You certainly weren’t expecting her to interview you for your new job. And that was the day, 23rd of February 2005 that you lost all faith in god.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A quick tale 94

One or the other

Is that a silk saree you’re wearing? Lovely colour. It reminds me of a story. Yes, I’ll make it quick. Sit down. How’s the back? Good. Then let me begin.

A woman (it was hard to tell her age) was stirring sugar into her cup of tea while looking out at her garden. It’s strange, she thought, there are no butterflies. At this time of the year, the air is usually full of fluttering wings. Where have they gone, she wondered. Perhaps they have all been captured while they were still worms and dropped into hot water to make silk, she panicked. For, the lady mistakenly believed that silkworms left to live then go on to become garden butterflies. This led her to think that it was either butterflies or silk. Everything was a choice, she concluded. Satisfied that she had reduced all of life’s dilemmas to a simple aphorism, she took a noisy sip from her mug.

Monday, October 31, 2005

A quick tale 93

Rough draft of a quick story

She decided to write another story. Her 93rd. This one would be a short one. Just like the rest.

It'd be about a woman. A middle-aged woman. No, it would be about a man. She wouldn't give him a name. She was rubbish at names.

It'd be about a man who would be thinking about red hair. How it wasn't red at all. More like orange. Pale orange. Because red was a Sunday, granny's loose skin on the back of her palm, last day of summer holidays, 17th birthday, first bicycle, Sweta, Deepavali of 1983 kind of a colour. And not a hair sort of a colour. Just like how he was not brown. More like dark pale cream. Brown was a Wednesday, dull ache, afternoon 3 pm, weather report, heavy metal kind of a colour. Not a colour you'd associate with people.

That, would be her story. And the anonymous commenter would say how much he liked her earlier stories.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

A quick tale 92

Why some people should be banned

There are several things in the world he cannot tolerate. Like those who say 'at the end of the world' and use the word 'literally' when it is not end of the world or literal. He will not stand for anyone who grinds their teeth. Or blows their nose loudly. He absolutely abhors anyone that casually mentions their trips abroad, totally out of context.

He: Would you like a drink?
Abhorable he/she: I was in Australia recently

There are other minor irritants like those who look over his shoulder while he's reading a newspaper. Those who sing along with a song in a movie hall. Anyone who cracks knuckles or writes poetry or describes themselves 'unique, complicated, bundle of contradiction' in their blog profile. But the worst, the undoubted worst, has got to be one who reads the Reader's Digest.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

A quick tale 91

A man and what he thought of women

A man who was feted as the most creative person in the world was attending a conference. Like many people who work in advertising, Mr. French (for that was his name, not his nationality) believed his words made the world go around, stopped global warming and helped Middle East peace process. When in fact, it did little more than help sell cigarettes and vodka. Anyway, this man had had a particularly large bit of steak for lunch and was feeling rather sluggish. So to amuse himself, he mumbled something aloud about women being crap at their jobs. Immediately, there was a collective gasp in the room. And everyone pretended to be shocked at his opinion. But of course, they always knew what he thought of women.

Soon his quote was all over the media. And suddenly Mr. French became the most-hated man in the world. Second only to George Bush. For a middle-aged man like Mr. French this was as good as it could get. And he just loved the attention. He had to resign afterwards but, so what? At least he didn't have to sit through another boring session on 'Creativity in the Global market'.

Now, Mr. French felt more powerful than ever. If he could decide that women were crap, he could make dogs romantic and chairs athletic. He felt like God. He is currently working on more important pronouncements. These will change the course of humanity, he is sure. And after that, it will be Mars. Unlimited powers to him.

A quick tale 90

About Nilakantan

He was named for the blue-throated Lord Shiva. He's 34, married with 2 kids, fantasises about top-heavy movie actresses and sometimes gets confused between his left and right. He once threw up on his father's shoes and dumped them in the bin. Some years ago, he lied about having read a famous book just to impress a girl. Likely to sing when drunk. Thinks he can write much better poetry than some of what he reads. AB positive. Gemini. Gets startled easily like when people sneeze loudly. Is acutely embarrassed of his English and often begins emails with 'my english isnt very good so pls xcuse...'. Was thrilled when Amit Varma referred to one of his comments on Indiauncut last week. Mole on wrist. Scar on eyebrow from playing cricket. IQ 108.

But of course she wouldn't know any of that. To her, he'd be the one who gave her her first glimpse of human insides as he lay sprawled in his own murky puddle of blood in the middle of the road. And the one she quickly averted her eyes from when she realised what she was looking at.

for varna.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A quick tale 89

Treat for the TV people

This happened about 22 years ago. So please don't leave comments in the comment box that such a thing cannot happen today and so on. Of course, it cannot happen today. Because we're talking about a time when there was only one channel on TV, which was a black & white set and there was only 4 hours of transmission everyday between 6 and 10 pm.

In those days, you were a little boy who had been told that tiny, palm-sized people lived inside the winding cables and that they appeared every evening at the appointed hour to entertain you.

Concerned for their welfare, you secretly laid out a glass of milk and some biscuits by the set at nights. These, to your delight, always managed to disappear in the morning. Until one day when your father commented about how one of the presenters was growing fat as if she had been feasting on milk and butter. So you did not leave anything out that night and you thought you heard the presenter stumble while making an announcement the next day. When you did not leave anything out again the following day, you thought she had grown dark circle under her eyes. A third day without milk and biscuits and she looked positively gaunt to you. Even your father remarked upon it.

It was sometime then that you were given your first bicycle and you quickly forgot all about the nightly treats for the TV people. These days you pretend to know all about transmitters and antenna and cable and how we get moving images inside the television set. But you still want to believe that for those 3 weeks in 1983, small people lived inside a little electronic box in your living room. And that you kept them well-fed.

Silly, I know. But try telling that to you .

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A quick tale 88

A question of choice

You're the guy holding up the queue unable to decide what you want for lunch. You've tried numbers 13, 18 and 19 on the menu. You're a vegetarian and so that rules out number 1 to 8 and 28 to 45. You hate cauliflower and you're allergic to brinjal and mushroom. Number 23 is alright except that it gives you a bad case of flatulence and with a client meeting scheduled later that afternoon, you cannot risk it. That only leaves you with the three you've already had several times this week.

Someone behind you grumbles about how long it's taking you to decide. You panic. What'll it be? Should I go with number 18 again?, you wonder. It's not bad but it does make you feel a bit funny afterwards. Number 13? Nah, bad breathe. Number 19 then. Darn! But you had it just yesterday.

You hold up three fingers to the cashier. One for each dish. You ask him to choose. He picks your ring finger. Number 13.
'Can I have a plate of number 19, please?'

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A quick tale 87

Reason for being late

A young man is getting ready for work. It’s a quarter to nine in the morning and he should have left for office a good 20 minutes ago. He has yet to finish tying his tie, slip into his shoes and take a last minute leak. He may not wash his hands afterwards if he is in a rush. But right now, he’s busy planning his excuses for coming late to work. Traffic, he reckons. That would be the most obvious. Lousy traffic, he would say, one side of the road closed for road works and it was jammed for almost 2 miles in either direction. But what if someone asked which road. No, it had to be something else, he reasons. Headache. Yes, that sounded reasonable. Or was it too common a lie? Besides, he would have to keep up the act for the rest of the morning. No, it had to be something more genuine-sounding.

His elderly neighbour slipped and broke her ankle this morning. He had to phone the ambulance and wait till she was in safe hands. How about that? Winner. That’s got to sound sincere. A 68-year old neighbour who lived all alone. She would have been climbing down the stairs that morning when she missed the last step. She would have had a hip operation only recently. Such a lovely lady who never forgot his birthday. So kind, almost a mother to him. Who would help her if he didn’t?

He couldn’t wait to get to office and give his reason for being late. They would click their tongues in sympathy for the neighbour he did not have, he was sure. Now, if only the traffic would start moving and stop delaying him further.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A quick tale 86

Moral of the story

Your shirt is creased badly. Again. Whoever ironed it hasn’t bothered to do it properly and you now have three crease lines running parallel to each other from shoulder to wrist. Today is also the day when your socks decide to lose their elasticity and slump listlessly around your ankles. And I hate to add this, just this morning you discovered a small bald patch on your crown.

In short, it has been a miserable start to the day and while sitting in your car, waiting for the traffic lights to turn green, you remember that you’ve left some important papers behind at home and you’re already running late. So you curse some more. Precisely at that moment, a little boy comes up to your car window and points to his mouth and stomach and begs for your kindness. A few coins please, saab. I haven’t had food in three days, saab, he pleads. He’s not lying, you can tell. The caved-in stomach and sunken eyes and scrawny legs and the strong smell of poverty he reeks support his claim.

You know this the point in the story when you’re supposed to feel grateful for the shirt on your back and the coins that jangle in your pocket and quit moaning and make peace with your life and be misty-eyed and remorseful and all that. But no. You don’t feel anything. And to be honest, you’re still pissed off about your shirt.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Must read

It is not often that I come across writing that is this powerful. This simple. And this moving. Ramya Nageswaran writes about her grandmother in 'Paatikku oru anjali' (tamizh).

Friday, October 07, 2005

A quick tale 85

Hero

She was the head girl in your school. Some years your senior, she was the one that every other girl in school admired, emulated and secretly loved. Your classmates would even have a bet about how she would wear her hair that day. You usually won because you knew her style. You were confident that she would become really famous some day. Like an astronaut or a scientist or a novelist. She was destined for greatness, you believed.

You would never have thought that one day she would walk into the supermarket where you now worked. And ask you where you stocked coconut oil. You want to tell her how much she meant to you in your school days. How much you adored and worshipped her. That she hasn’t changed one bit in nearly two decades. That she should have stuck to the fringe she sported back then. Instead, you lead her to the shelf where coconut oil bottles are stacked. And then you lean over and whisper conspiratorially ‘but they are cheaper in the rival supermarket’.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A quick tale 84

Regime

The box was locked and the keys jangled from a string that hung around the old one’s neck. The box was marked ‘culture’ and the only one authorised to open it was the Honorable Mr. Vulture. Its contents were ancient, sacred and could not be tampered with. For they contained the rules that the citizens of the land to live by.

No climbing doors. Must jump 32 times every second Tuesday of the month. Every dog must be accompanied by a piano on 2 legs. Never, repeat, never ask a crow where he is headed. Yogurt to be consumed standing up always. Like I said, the culture box had diktats that decided how one must live.

Of course there were groups of people, mostly young, who rebelled, asked questions, got together in secret and broke the rules. Like not wearing a balloon on their heads on Fridays. And talking with their eyes open. But when the authorities came down on them, their clandestine activities were exposed and the guilty shamed. The public were warned to uphold the culture rules otherwise they would suffer a similar fate.

Every now and then, a new rule would be added to the already confounding mass of regulations. No one knew who came up with it. There would be a ban on the word ‘it’ on the 1st of each month. And people had to remember to point but not say the word. But everyone agreed this was their great culture and you must never mess about your legacy.

note: I wink and nod at George Orwell

A quick tale 83

Some day, some time

‘You never know when we’ll need it. Don’t throw it away’, said the mother.
‘When would you ever need an old umbrella held together by a string and safety pins?’, asked her young daughter who had launched herself into cleaning their home on a Sunday morning.
‘What if we had a sudden downpour?’
‘Amma, we’ve not had seasonal rains in three years. Forget sudden downpours.’
‘But what if it rained suddenly and I had to go out to buy some food?’
‘We’d just order food by telephone’
‘But what if the rains brought down a big tree and it fell on our telephone lines and our telephones went dead?’
‘Then we’d just borrow some from our neighbours’
‘But what if they had run out of food and cannot spare us any?’
‘Then we’d just get wet going out to buy some food. Now throw away the umbrella, will you?’

The mother nodded but put it away behind her sarees in the cupboard. So when it did rain one unusual March morning and there was nothing left in the fridge and the neighbours were away on holiday, she went out to the market. The tattered old umbrella tucked under her arm.

Friday, September 30, 2005

A quick tale 82

Earlier this evening

Right now only one person is alive. In flashback however, both of us started crossing the busy road.


Written for the Caferati Weekly Flash Fiction Competition. Theme for week 4 - flashback

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A quick tale 81

Footwear blues

Do you remember that day when you walked out of the temple and found your slippers missing from where you had left them? At first, it was a feeling of utter incomprehension. Then came denial. No, it couldn't have happened. Not to me. But who would want to take my worn-at-soles slippers, you wondered. And gradually, you realised that they were gone for good. Your favourite pair was now bearing the weight of a different owner. You felt angry. Not just at the person who stole it. But at your slippers. How could they just leave me? I should never have spent good money getting them repaired. Wretched ungratefuls! Finally, you accepted it. And started looking for a pair that fit you from among the dozens left outside the temple.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A quick tale 80

Death of a friend

You've just found out that your classmate from school was one of those killed in the attack on World trade Centre some years ago. You rack your brains to remember every detail about her. She was dark, thin, of average height. Did she wear glasses? Probably. You do recall her voice. Nasal. Nothing singularly remarkable to deserve such a high-profile death, you think. But the next time September 11th events are mentioned, you say 'I used to know someone who died in the attacks. We were such good friends'.

Monday, September 26, 2005

A quick tale 79

A certain woman makes up her mind

She is sitting at her table, this middle-aged woman who has decided to set right her life on a Thursday evening. She is making a list of people she has had to please in the past year. 293 people on the list. Including the man from that call centre who called so many times that she simply had to buy broadband connection from him. And that disabled man who sat at the entrance to the supermarket with sad eyes and a collection box. And her colleague who had offered carrot cake last week. One which she said she loved although she finds the idea of carrot in a cake revolting. And that librarian who recommended a truly awful book to read on her holiday.

Starting this very minute, she resolves, she would no longer do anything to please anyone. No matter what they thought of her. No more Thai food for friends’ sake. Or staying back late to help colleagues with their projects. And no way could she be persuaded to renew her gym membership again. This is a new me, she thinks. The phone rings. It’s her landlady calling to say that she is forced to raise the rent because she’s strapped for cash. She finds herself agreeing and understanding and saying an awful lot of ‘ofcourses’.

But from tomorrow...

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A quick tale 78

Serves her right

They raised their eyebrows in shock and clicked their tongues in sympathy when a terrible mishap befell her. Secretly though, they rubbed their hands in glee. She really had no right to be so beautiful, successful, rich. Or young.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

A quick tale 77

Bird

They spotted it one morning. Lying on its back with feet up in the air. As if riding a bicycle upside down.

'Is it sleeping, ma?'
'I don't think so'

She did not know if her son understood what death meant. She did not wish to lie to him. Nor did she want to tell him about god, heaven, hell and after life because she was not sure where she stood on such issues.

'I think the bird is dead'

The little boy nodded as if he knew.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A quick tale 76

On dumping her

'You're too good for me', he said.
One look at his pathetic face and she agreed.

A quick tale 75

A man who mispronounced

He was 44, a director in a big company and someone who played golf on Saturday mornings. He also mispronounced the word 'embarrass'. He would say 'embrace' instead. When he was younger, whenever he said 'God, that is so embracing', people laughed it off. They thought he was being funny. Like when people deliberately mispronounce words such as 'foreign' or 'America' because they get the laughs.

As he grew older, he continued saying 'embrace' and was never corrected. By now he was in a senior position and heading million-dollar projects. Now, unless you want to lose your job, you don't go around telling your director how to pronounce. So if you ever heard a middle-aged man saying that he was so embraced, please laugh it off. But do tell him if his fly zip is open.

A quick tale 74

The reason she was crying

A young woman was crying all the way from Churchgate to Borivili. Which, if you don’t know Mumbai, is quite some distance. Now most people who saw her, saw a pretty, young, affluent woman and assumed that the reason she was crying was ‘man’ problem. She must have had a fight with her boyfriend. Or she must’ve been dumped, they guessed. When really, if you had asked her why she was crying, she would’ve told you that her dog been run over in quick tale 71. And that she was feeling incredibly guilty. Because while her dog lay dead all she could think about was how gorgeous the guy who had run her over was.

A quick tale 73

Fan

A girl whose name is the same as your sister’s used to be a fan of the Hindi film actress Kajol. She used to watch every movie that featured Kajol at least three times. She knew the usual fine details about her idol. Like when she was born and what her favourite colour is and whom she would like to be born again as. And when Kajol married an actor, that lanky Hindi actor whose name escapes me, the young fan was quite upset. Because she believed they were ill-matched. And the day she read that Kajol had decided to cut down on her movie assignments to concentrate on raising a family, she was devastated. She went for a long walk to let the information sink in and skipped dinner that evening. Later that night she pulled down posters of Kajol from her bedroom wall and put up Sachin Tendulkar’s instead.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Not a story at all

Two sisters - Lovely and Jubbly came by this way. But when they found that people in these stories had no names, they went back.

Monday, September 19, 2005

A quick tale 72

Habit

It was a bit like writing the old year in the date column in the first few days of the new year. Or still calling him your boyfriend months after you married him. Or brushing the non-existent hair off your shoulder the day after you chopped it. Or blowing into your mug of coffee to cool it long after it has turned lukewarm. She still referred to him in the present tense. And included him when she made dinner for four.

A quick tale 71

Death of a dog and other issues

You have just run over a dog. You could have sped on. But you are a decent person and so you stop and get out of the car. As you walk towards the bloody mess you wish you hadn’t. She’s a young woman of about 25 and there’s a look of utter incomprehension on her face. She’s staring at the recently squashed remains of her pet as if to make sure that what she is seeing is real. This will soon turn to anger and it will be directed towards you. ‘I’m sorry’, you say. She nods silently. You stand around the dead dog awkwardly not knowing what to do next.
‘I was taking her to the vet. She had an infection and has not eaten in two days’
‘I’m sorry’, you repeat, ‘Is there anything I can do?’
The woman, now crying freely in front of a stranger, shakes her head as if to say no.
You feel terrible. Even though it was not your fault. You feel wretched because you had two glasses of wine at lunch. You were confident nothing would happen. And now a dog lies with its innards exposed.
You want to hug her and tell her how truly sorry you are. And that you would never ever drink and drive again. But you find yourself asking if her dog was insured.

A quick tale 70

Sometime soon

A man who has your name is walking down the parking lot towards his car. He even looks like you and shares your taste in music and women. But he drives a burgundy Ford fiesta which I know is different from what’s sitting in your garage. As he gets into his car your namesake is thinking about his unborn child, tax returns which are due to be filed and England winning the Ashes. What he does not know is that he has just won a hundred dollars in a raffle drawn in a country several seas away. He will find out later that day and let out a whoop which will bring his 7-months pregnant wife from the kitchen to enquire. But for now he is waiting in the queue for the cars in front of him to move and drumming his fingers on the wheel.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Two to tango

The wonderful Ideamani has come up with a fantastic fundraising idea. Over to him for the details.
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Ladies and Gentlemen, give it up for "Two to Tango"- A ProjectWhy Fundraiser! You will be given a ticket for every $2 (Rs.90) you pay and you enter into a raffle.The winner will win a prize of a 100 (or Rs.4,500) dollar gift certificate.SO come join us in this wonderful event! Win for a good cause!
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Register and with as little as $2 from your pocket, you make a difference in someone's life! Your registration in this raffle will buy a complete meal for a child for a week in India! I urge you all to help me in this conquest of ours and donate generously to this cause, this IS the time when you can make a difference! All the registration fees can be sent here:
http://projectwhy.org/justonerupee.htm. Kindly mention your full names and email ids in the additional notes section when you complete transaction in paypal. You will then receive your random lucky draw number via email. Additional donations can also be directed to the same paypal account.Please help us help those less fortunate.
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Please encourage your friends to participate and I would really appreciate if you could mention it in your blog. Thank you.

Friday, September 16, 2005

A quick tale 69

When you had guests over for dinner

It is a familiar dance. You will offer some more. They will say they have had enough. No, no, you will insist, do have some more. Oh, but I’m stuffed already, they will plead. Why? Was it not to your liking? you will query faking anxiety. It was delicious really, they will answer to appease. But you ate so little, you will say in mock anger. I had three helpings, they will cry. Then another spoonful at least, you will add. And they will oblige.

Except last night. When they said no the first time. You didn’t ply them with more food. And they went home a little hungry.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A personal request

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My friend Anouradha Bakshi writes...

Project Why is in the s**** house as we really have no funds beyond this month.http://herewego.wikispaces.org/whyOnerupee

The above explains why.. and more whys.The thing is that till date we have been working on oxygen that yours truly keep bringing, now we need lungs, and the major one is the one rupee.

My friend Sophie, a volunteer and lovely lady, said it would need 4 people to get 3 and 3 only 6 times. Now I hate chain letters and pyramid marketing but can you think of a way to put this across.

Let me confess something, I am not a great believer and yet I believe and the last few days I have been seeking help from the invisible forces.. now maybe you are just one of them!

The thing is that if I do not get the act together, many will lose their hope in life. Now, we normally pour scorn on chain letters too, and have physically removed a pyramid marketer from the premises once upon a when. But we do believe in invisible forces.

-

Please visit Projectwhy to find out how you can donate. Surely we can spare one rupee a day. Thank you.

A quick tale 68

Last Tuesday around the same time as a quick tale 67

You look at your watch and it's midday already. You don't want to be late for the meeting with your consultant. You park the car and walk briskly towards the office when you see her. She tries to hide but not quickly enough.

How can you forget the face from your school years? She was your closest rival. The one who lost to you every time. The one who was always at your heels, breathing down your neck. Egging you to do better.

You walk over to say hello. She enquires about your life. You say something innocuous about marriage and kids and putting a hold on career. You leave out the flourishing real estate business and the gorgeous children and the incredible husband and the disastrous first marriage.

And what about her, you ask. She talks excitedly about her job, busy life and her lack of time for relationships. She sounds happy. You exchange telephone numbers and promise to stay in touch.

You turn around and wave to her as she enters a posh restaurant. You remember a cheque you have to drop off at a charity shop. You can still make it in time for the meeting, you hope.

Monday, September 12, 2005

A quick tale 67

One lunch time last week

It’s Tuesday and you step out for a bite during lunch hour. You see her first. You recognise the face as one from your school years. Your rival. The one you lost to each time. In maths exams. In spelling competitions. In lemon-and-spoon races. Yes, the ONE.

You think of hiding but it's too late. She spots you and comes over to greet. So how have you been, you enquire. Oh the usual, she answers, marriage, babies, career-on-hold, things like that. Huge mortgage, crippling debt and a philandering husband, you add mentally.

And what have you been up to, she asks. Great job, fantastic prospects, frequent trips abroad, hectic partying, no time to settle down, you reply. Making it all sound unnecessarily glamorous.

Then you pull out your fancy mobile and note down her number. You promise to stay in touch and head for the restaurant. She turns around, waves and steps into a charity shop. I'll treat myself to a glass of wine today, you tell yourself.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

A quick tale 66

Blame

She was sorry his coffee was not hot enough. She regretted that their food was so cold. She apologised for the weather not being good. Wasn’t she sad that their car had broken down. Surely it was her fault that their son had not passed the exam. How terrible she felt that the bank had not approved their loan. She took responsibility for the trains being late. And the baby being born early. And the government bans and the traffic jams. It was all down to her. It’s my mistake, it’s my mistake, it’s all my mistake, she admitted. When really, she couldn’t give a damn. A rat’s ass. Or a row of pins.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A quick tale 65

Sometime during the 4th round

‘What is the capital of Burundi?’ boomed the quizmaster.

Who cares? he thought. No, strike that. Who the bleeding fuck cares? What purpose does the capital of Burundi serve apart from making occasional appearances in corporate quizzes like this one? Have you ever met anyone that has been to Burundi? Or visited its questionable capital city? Who comes up with these questions? What is the point of this quiz? Why are we here? What is the reason for life?

He had a sudden, overwhelming urge to pull his pants down, haul his shirt over his head and run around the stage deranged shouting ‘Burundi! Burundi!’

‘Bujumbura’, answered team C.

Friday, September 02, 2005

A quick tale 64

One hot afternoon

You are sitting in a café alone. All by yourself. Feeling terribly sorry. That you have to pour your own tea, stir milk into it. With no one to offer sugar and for you to say ‘no sugar. Thank you’. You are sipping the hot brew when the waiter catches your eye. So you make a bet with yourself. If he walks over to your table and asks ‘anything else, sir?’ you will get a girl in the next six months. But if he does not, you are condemned to a life of solitude. He ambles along, stopping to smoothen a tablecloth. Then he clears a recently vacated table. Come over and ask me, you mentally beckon him. Mustering all the psychic powers inside you. He does not seem to get the message and starts to walk back to the kitchen. You start to panic. May be you are going to be condemned to a life of bachelorhood. No girlfriend, no wife and certainly no counselling to save your 8-year marriage. You are going to be drinking tea on your own with no one to offer sugar. ‘Garçon!’ you call out.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Projectwhy Short Story Competition

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It's really quite simple. You mail me a short story of maximum 200 words, send your entry fee of just Rs.100 (or its equivalent) to Projectwhy and you could win £10 gift voucher from Amazon! If you're in the UK, you could win a £10 voucher from M&S.

The theme for the competition is 'childhood' and the last date for submission is 30th of September 2005. I'll put up the 3 short-listed stories on this blog and you get to decide the winner. You can send however many entries you want. If you cannot pay the entry fee, then any small sum will do.

This is your chance to become world famous. Okay, okay, famous among a handful of people. So get cracking and send your stories to ammania@gmail.com

Thank you.

A quick tale 63

Did anyone see?

A brush, a comb, half-eaten pack of Mintos, a loyalty card from that Bagel store, a picture of Luz Pillayar, a packet of kungumam from Anjaneyar temple, a folded pamphlet for Medieval Jousting with the telephone number of someone named Andrea scribbled at the back, a telephone card, two paper clips, two 2p coins, green crayon, red crayon, black pen cap, that particularly nice shade of lipstick from Bodyshop, a knitting needle, a sanitary pad, a bill for £3.83 from Marks and Spencer all housed inside a brown bag which I forgot to take with me as I got down from the train.

A quick tale 62

No suspense here

I'm going to tell you straight away what's going to happen to them. No twist at the end of the tale. Sixty three years from now, she'll succumb to pneumonia. Three months later, he will pass away in his sleep. Presumably from grief. But for now, they are looking at each other. He is wondering what a girl like her is doing in a place like this. And she is thinking what a guy like him is doing looking at a girl like her in a place like this.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

A quick tale 61

One interesting lunch time

He was a 43-year old working at the cash till at McDonald’s. She had come to buy her lunch. What does a middle-aged man working in a place like this tell himself when he wakes up to go to work in the morning, she thought to herself. May be he was made redundant and he is working here to pay off his mortgage. And to pay for child support. And telephone bills, obviously. May be he is doing this job because he lost a bet. May be he is really an architect and is working at McDonald’s because he believes in their philosophy of making the world fat. May be he is just working there because he was. She was determined to find out what.
‘Next please!’
‘One Big Mac with fries, please’
‘Anything to drink?’
‘A diet coke. And can I ask you something?’

A quick tale 60

When hell freezes over or something like that

A pig was flying. And everyone who said that they would do something when pigs flew had to do it. Confirmed bachelors got married. High school drop-outs re-enrolled. Gym memberships soared. People were busy sorting out old promises that no one paid much attention to the airborne pig. Who was only carrying out a vow he had made to his father as he was being dragged away by the butcher. He had sworn that he would fly before papa pig became Sunday roast. And it was Saturday already.

A quick tale 59

Passing thoughts

What can you think about on a very long journey? Many things. Like she was doing at the moment. The weather. How godawfullystifling hot it was. The leaking nose. Of the child sitting in front. Why can’t his mother wipe it before it slides southbound to his mouth like it has just now? Passing villages. What do people in such far away villages do for a living? Where do they go if they want to fix a cycle tyre puncture? 40-year old male co-passenger. Can someone really have hair coming out of their ears and not do anything about it? And so on.
It would be another 7 hours before the train reached its destination. But she had plenty of thoughts to keep her company. And if she ran out of things to think about, there was the best seller that lay open on her lap.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Quick tales for charity - next

Continuing from here, here and here

A. Noname Moose's words 'love, eternity, contentment'. Inspired by ANM's comment here

"A story with love, contentment, eternity. $30 for 30 words. I won't count articles or pronouns. For every word less than 30, I'll add a dollar"

She was a word prostitute.

“That’s $31, sir”

Quick tales for charity - more

Continuing from here and here

Lokesh's words 'filthy, funny, flawed'

'Filthy, funny, flawed…' he whispered before trailing off to death.
The disciple who sat by his bed repeated them verbatim to others who
had gathered to find out what the great man's last words were. The
words were quoted and quoted again and before long, it had become a mantra. Filthy, funny, flawed, filthyfunnyflawed, filyfnnyfawd. They were said to
contain the meaning of life, universe and everything else. The answer
to eternal questions. The essence of cosmic mysteries. Those that
chanted it confessed to a new inner peace. Soon, the 3 fs became a
global phenomenon. T-shirts carried their message, sms jokes were made
about them and songwriters struggled to find words that rhymed (healthy, cunning, fraud?).

But if the master had lived a little longer, he would have added
'gorgeous' to the three words. His life was flashing before his
dying eyes. And he was describing the girl he was in love with many
moons ago.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Quick tales for charity - continued

Continuing from here...

Give me three random words and I'll write you a quick tale using those words. If you're happy with it, you send a nice little amount to projectwhy based on what you think the story is worth. You can send them a cheque anyway. But this way, it's more fun.

For details on how to contribute, please visit projectwhy.org
To read about their work, please visit their blog.

Please send your three words to ammania@gmail.com

Kaajukatli's words 'supercilious, more, train'

He loved words. Long, multi-syllabled, tongue-twisters he just couldn’t get enough of. Ignominious, fractious, bilious, opprobrious…he could use them all in one sentence. He also found that girls just fell for big words. Much like how guys adored big…well, never mind.
So one day, our hero boards a train and is adventitious enough to get a seat opposite a pulchritudinous young woman.
‘It’s a resplendent day, isn’t it?’
‘Can’t you see I’m sedulously working?’, she replied superciliously returning to the paper on hand.
‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to exacerbate you’
‘Thank God for my forbearance’, she muttered.
I wish I could tell you more. But it was my station to alight and I left the tautologous couple to get on with the journey.

*

Vinu's words 'love, pity, ego'

The guard was waving his green flag. The train was ready to depart. Goodbyes and ‘I love you’s were said. Promises to stay in touch were made. Tears were shed, hands were shook, kisses exchanged, egos bruised, pitiful looks cast. The usual drama was enacted. Everyone expected the train to move but it remained rooted. A routine had been played out and a cue had been missed. They hummed and hawed in uncomfortable silence. Seconds turned into prolonged minutes. Their earlier regret at the train leaving now turning into a desire to see it budge. And it did, finally. Phew!

*

Musten Jiruwala's words 'life after death'

The world was going to end on the 23rd of August 2003. It was a Saturday and was convenient for everyone. Those who believed in life after death, packed carefully. Toothpastes, brushes (you don’t want yellowing teeth in the nether world), American Express (don’t leave home without) and some light reading (like Harry Potter). When it didn’t happen, they consulted their diaries, checked the calendar and blamed the government for the world not ending. The next End Of The World is scheduled for the 15th of November this year. Which is a Tuesday. Bother!

*

AF's words 'cauliflower, ant, stapler'

"What calls itself a flower but isn't one?"
"I don't know"
"Cauliflower. What calls itself an ant but isn't one?"
"I've no idea"
"Elephant. Where would you find a stapler?"
"I'm terrible at these riddles. Go on, give me the answer"
"That wasn't a riddle. Where have you kept the stapler? I have a bunch
of papers that need stapling."

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Quick tales for charity

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If I were a singer, I'd have raised money using my voice. If I were a painter...okay, you get the idea.

The point is, my rather negligible talent lies in telling stories and they seem to've found an audience in you. And I want you to pay for it.

Wait! Don't run! It's to raise money for projectwhy.

Here's what I thought I'd do. Give me three random words and I'll write you a quick tale using those words. If you're happy with it, you send a nice little amount to projectwhy based on what you think the story is worth. You can send them a cheque anyway. But this way, it's more fun.

Come on, let's write a story with a happy ending.

Please send your 3 words to ammania@gmail.com

*
Vel Dhingaravel's words 'a happy ending'

She was determined to write a story with a happy ending. She opened her pen, smoothed out a paper and stained it with her words. In her story, a little boy runs away from home only to be kidnapped, maimed and sold to a rich Arab sheikh who used him to race camels. Where's the happy ending, you ask. Well, the Sheikh was a very happy man when the little boy won the race.

*
Balakrishnan's words 'spirituality, agnosticism, happiness'
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"And what do your suitcases look like?" asked the airline officer.
"One's white and the other a little grey. They're marked...er...'spirituality'and 'agnosticism' ", she replied.
He looked up to see if she was joking.
"Sorry about the mix up", said the officer with no hint of apology,"give us your address and we'll trace your suitcases as soon as we can."
As she left the airport, minus her baggage, she felt strangely light. An odd kind of happiness. It must be the coffee, she told herself.
.
*
The ramblings of a shoe fiend's words 'Serendipity, banana, rather'

‘Give me 3 random words and I’ll tell you a story using them.’
‘Okay, how about serendipity, rather and…’ she looked around and added curiously ‘banana’.
‘Alright. There was this guy called Serendipity. His parents named him so to remind themselves of the happy accident that led to his conception. One day he was walking down the road when he slipped on a banana skin and was rushed to the hospital with a broken ankle. That’s where he met and fell in love with a nurse and later married her. When they had a baby, Serendipity remembered not to call his child banana.’
‘That’s such a bad story’
‘I agree’, said the storyteller, ‘but what would you rather be doing? Going out for a walk?’
It would be 3 hours and 18 really bad stories before the friends would be rescued from their lift.

*
Sridharandv's words 'dahl in kerala'
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"And finally, stir the karela into your dal," said the chef as he added fried pieces of bitter gourd to the simmering pot of lentils.
'Add kerala in dahl' she wrote in her notebook. Spelling was never her strong point.
.
*
Daniella Robertson-Glenn's words 'snagged, lithe, cloudy'
.
What is...
snagged - caught while snogging
lithe - as in 'pleath sith while the lamp is lithe'
cloudy - a rowdy clown
.
*
Shyam's words 'printer, itch, chocolate'
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He was a printer
She was a chocolatiere
He proof read
She scooped and stirred
His words were nutty brown
Her chocolates were inky black
It was a perfect match
One itched, the other scratched.
.
*
The last blogger's words 'a little faith'
.
Small boat sails
In a sea of despair
A little faith
.
(Gosh! How I love sounding pseudo-deep, intellectual and abstract ;))

A real story

This is a personal appeal on behalf of my friend Anuradha Bakshi. I'd really appreciate your help with regards to a young mother-of-four who is to undergo a life-saving operation. You can read her story here

If you live in London or in the South east of England and if you have any fundraising ideas, please write to me. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A quick tale 58

Blogworld

Edit-me! Edit-me! screamed the links from the side bar. Like horny women.

A quick tale 57

Untitled

When she was down, every poem was written for her. Every line told her story. When she was happy, she only needed a cup of tea.

Monday, August 01, 2005

A quick tale 56

Weight-loss program

48, 47, 46...She struggled to shed the last one kilo. Starvation, colonic irrigation, laxatives, smoking, vomiting. Nothing worked. She stood solid at 46 kilos. So tantalisingly close to her target and yet, so bloody hard. Her bulk just refused to come off any further. That's when she came up with the idea. A kitchen knife in hand, she stood on the scales. Drip, drip, drip...and the weight started sliding. 50 gms, 200 gms, half-a-kilo and finally! There! The needle settled on the magic number - 45. Plop! Her fingers fell to the floor and she swooned.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

A quick tale 55

A contest

They competed with each other to show off who had read more books. I have 500 books, said one. I have 5000, said another. An entire library, said the third. Have you read Sartre? Marquez? Kafka? Hemingway? What about Baudelaire? Poetry, fiction, science, theology. They quoted from rare books, unheard-of works. It was an intellectual beauty parade. Much like how a lesser man (or woman) would have boasted lovers. The bookworms jostled for the best-read crown. To them it was more important to be seen reading. It didn’t matter what they had learned. Only what they had read.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

A quick tale 54

Wishlist

‘I won’t be a burden on any of you. One morning you will wake up and find me gone’ he used to say to his family. But that was when he was younger and healthier and was only in the early stages of dementia. He slid down the slope rapidly in the following years and lost control of his life along with that of his bowels. They took him to expensive hospitals, put him on imported medication and employed someone to clean up after him. They even celebrated his 80th birthday with great fanfare. By then he could no longer remember his resolve to die painlessly.

Friday, July 29, 2005

A quick tale 52

Maintenance

8 glasses of water a day. 7 hours of sleep. Vitamins for a healthy body. Calcium for strong nails, bones and teeth. Atkin's, South Beach, Grapefruit, Macrobiotic. Facials for smooth skin. Creams and scrubs to polish and buff. Surgery for laughter lines. Pluck, tweeze, thread, wax, shave. Sit ups for abs. Push ups for arms. Aerobics for the heart. Weight training for firming and toning. Stretches for love handles. Protein serum for bouncy hair. Detox every month. Botox every six weeks. Spinach and broccoli juice for breakfast. Miso soup for lunch. Sunflower seeds and pine nuts to snack. Fruits for dessert. Then one day she dropped everything. And let it all hang out. No one noticed the difference.

A quick tale 51

After all this time

He was the one she was in love with many years ago. She could recognise that voice anywhere in the world. She turned around to see him. His once-lean frame now sagged under prosperity. The firm jaw had gone a little soft. Now peppered with a day-old stubble. Hunger had left his eyes. The tight curls on his head had lost their spring and were mild-mannered waves now. She quickly looked away before he could recognise her. There were still traces of love lining her eyes. Which she didn’t want him to see.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

A quick tale 50

Claim to fame

Her marital status was mentioned unfailingly each time her name came up in discussion. Much like how it’d be said of a certain monument. That it was one of the seven wonders of the world. Or how a certain entertainer was always the King of pop. Or how such-and-such actress was the most beautiful woman in the world. Similarly, she was not the one who wrote free verse or climbed the steps on an escalator or had infinite patience or cried at the plight of children or gave away money unflinchingly or ran a business ruthlessly or had a weak knee or suffered frequent insomnia. She was always the one who had not married.

How to tell...

Honeymooners

They stick to each other like there is no space. In an empty carriage.

Monday, July 18, 2005

A quick tale 49

Loo story

She hated going on buses. Where there were no toilets and she would have to sit tight until her destination. She envied the way men relieved themselves in any corner. Not caring for what people thought. Not bothering to hide as they went about their business. How could women act like we never visited a toilet before, she wondered. For, not once did she see a woman get out of the bus to take a leak. On one particular journey however, the pressure on her bladder grew so bad that she went blue in the face. She asked the driver to stop and hurried behind the bushes. And everyone complained that she was delaying the journey.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A quick tale 48

Specifics

‘Modern with traditional values’ – he would write in the matrimonial column, about the wife he wants. Ask him what he means by that and he’d say ‘She should wear jeans but not shorts. Should pour me a drink but not have a sip herself. Should know cooking. Using a microwave. Can have short hair but not too short. Should go to work but not in a demanding career.’ Roughly, this would be his answer. And he will get a wife who meets his criteria.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A quick tale 47

Pseudonym

He wrote under his wife’s name. So they called him Mr. Wifesname. Funny, considering his wife was referred to as Mrs. Husbandsname.

A quick tale 46

Silver lining

She was pulled into a last-minute meeting at work. And was further delayed by an important phone call. Then she missed her bus. When she boarded one, it did not stop where she wanted to get off. So she had to walk back. When her shoe strap broke. Which slowed her even more. And there was a sudden downpour. So she had to wait till it stopped. Finally, drenched and limping, she arrived late for the movie. And while getting to her seat, she accidentally stamped on her ex-boyfriend’s toes. Which was rather nice.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

A quick tale 45

All about me

She was the kind of person one did not want to be stuck next to on a long train journey. She would go on about her thyroid, the increasing cholesterol level, painful arthritis, the mystery fever that struck last month. She could give detailed description of each to anyone who’d listen. Or not.

How she has garlic pills to control cholesterol, how they make her feel bloated and make her fart and burp at all times, how she has lost appetite, and can no longer smell or feel the tip of her fingers. Has she told them about the diabetes scare she had in February? And the time she fell down the stairs and twisted her ankles? Surely they don’t know about how they nearly removed her uterus? Yes, she’d like some coffee. With two sugars, please. But do they know that she can no longer tell between green and yellow? May be she’s going colour blind. She’s due for an eye-check up anyway. And what was that scar on the elbow? Oh, she has a similar one from when she spilt boiling milk on her arm.

Then one day she was run over by a truck and was killed instantly. It was exactly the kind of accident she would have loved to talk about.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

A quick tale 44

A forgotten lesson

It was a call from her best friend that woke her up. ‘Quick, turn on the telly! There’ve been explosions all over London'. She watched in horror as her beloved city was plunged into chaos. Bodies were retrieved, places cordoned off and a deep sense of shock had taken over. The events made her realise how flimsy life was. ‘I will start living for the day’, she resolved. She would live her dreams, chuck the job she hated so much, get a tattoo, go on a round-the-world trip, have all the sex she could and eat all the ice cream there was. For she may be dead tomorrow. Six months later, she was still in the same job. With a home loan that would take 20 years to pay off.

Monday, July 04, 2005

A quick tale 43

A letter in love


My dearest,

I told a bank clerk about us today. Her eyes widened when I told her that we were married for 33 years. But what can a mere number reveal? How can it ever capture the sight of you standing in our doorway, cutting the sunlight in your shape as you dried your hair? Or how you used to refuse to cook on Sundays because you were ‘cooked-out’? Or how you’d rest your legs on my lap and ask me to massage your feet? Do you remember how you cried when Kanna was born? Because you really wanted a daughter. You cried again when Kunjamma was born. Because she didn’t look anything like you. If only you could see her now!

And when you were diagnosed, how brave you were. Though I knew you were crumbling inside. You became a scared little girl afraid of the dark. And for the first time in all those years, I saw the light die from your eyes. Slowly, you started putting the toys away and began preparing for the next game. You arranged everything, even picking out a name for Kunjamma’s unborn child. Our grandchild was born yesterday. She’s got your beguiling, almond eyes. And when I call out to her, I will be calling your name. For I know you’ve come back to me.

Yours always,

Me

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Not a quick tale

Hello Reader,

I am the man from Quick tales. My name is...well, it doesn’t matter what my name is. I’m always ‘her husband’ or ‘her boyfriend’ or the ‘one who became her password’. The author portrays me as a chauvinistic, abusive slime ball. Well, guess what? I’m not. That’s that.

Regards,

Me

Friday, July 01, 2005

Rules for her

She had to be like a piece of wood. Who must not feel sensual or sexy. Or erotic. Or have dreams. Or fantasies. Nothing allowed. She was to remain dormant. Her legs shut tight. Her mind padlocked.
Until her husband touched her awake.
And rolled on top of her. Never asking what she wanted. Only doing. For she must not feel sensual or sexy or erotic. No, not allowed.

A quick tale 42

Ambition 2

As a child if she had been asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, would she have answered ‘founder of an NGO for street children’? She was pretty sure she would have.

For my friend, Anu

Thursday, June 30, 2005

A quick tale 41

Ring

“I was just about to call you”, he’d say whenever she rang. Even if he hadn’t called in days. And she’d have been sleeping next to the phone. Just in case.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A quick tale 40

A conversation

There are two friends. Let’s call them A and B.
A tells B, “You won’t guess what he bought me for my birthday”
“Go on, tell, tell”, coaxed B.
“A diamond ring”
“Cannot be bigger than the one my man got me for our anniversary.”
“Was it this big?” asked A, keeping her fingers apart some two inches.
“Bigger. And this year I know it’ll be better.”
“Aren’t we lucky?” A exclaimed.
They both nodded dreamily. It was their turn to get off the bus. And back to a dusty old home and children with runny noses.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A quick tale 39

Nick name

She had a secret name for the men in her office. Based on how they sneezed. The head clerk was horse. Senior accountant was chihuahua (that’s the sound he made). Manager was wolf. Deputy manager sloth. Honestly, she had no clue how sloths sneezed. He was such a slob, that’s why.

A quick tale 38

Where the heart is

They built houses, had children and became citizens of this new country. But home was still an old place where mosquitoes bred in abundance and children slept next to their mothers

A quick tale 37

Ambition

"What do you want to be when you grow up?", they asked her.
She looked around. Amma carrying a pan of sand on her head. Appa hammering away at rocks. Her younger sister playing in filthy mud dangerously close to the building that her parents were helping build.
What did she want to be when she grew up? Not this. Definitely.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

A quick tale 36

A weekly chat

“Hello, it’s me. What time is it over there now? Must be lunchtime. What did you cook? Did the little one eat? Don’t give him chunky vegetables. He’s too young to chew. Mash it well. Your grandmother used to mash food with her fingers before feeding you both. Amma is fine. Yes, she takes her medicines regularly. Her arthritis is less painful. Don't worry, her blood pressure is under control also. I’ve started going for morning walks now. Doctor says it is good for health. You know how I like to keep myself busy. I stop by at the temple on my way back. I only pray to God that He keep all my children happy. And now I’ve started praying for my grandson also. Is that him crying? Why is he crying? You better attend to him first. We’ll talk next Sunday. Take care, my child.”

For Appa.

Friday, June 24, 2005

A quick tale 35

Age concern

She was one of the girls that looked older than her age. At 13, she was mistaken for a 20-year old. At 25, they asked her if she was 30. At 38, they thought she was her son’s grandmother.
One day while filling up a form, she lied about her age. Said she was 58 instead of the actual 43. The clerk looked up and exclaimed how young she looked.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A quick tale 34

Recollection

She looks at photos taken ten years ago and exclaims how young she looked back then. How soft and uncreased, her skin. No sign of worry and how carefree!
And she will look again, many years from now, at a photo taken today and say the same thing.

A quick tale 33

Real

This is a story about a girl who wrote stories. Her tales were full of quirky people who lead dramatic lives. Those who read them had wonderful things to say about her words. Then one day she wrote about herself. And no one had much to say. Her life was not that interesting anyway.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Facts of my Chennai life

Water scarcity in summer
Flooding during monsoon
Being molested in public places, all year round

A follow up to this

Please also visit Blank Noise Project. This one's for you, Tilo

Saturday, June 18, 2005

A quick tale 32

A question of love

All her friends fell in love and married their lovers. Her parents found her a match. For a while she wondered why no one had ever loved her enough to ask her to marry him. But soon got over it. The man she married made a good husband. They had children and grew old together. This must be love then, she told herself.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

A quick tale 31

Process

It was her father’s favourite time of the week - Sunday mornings. He would open the paper, skim through the news and skip straight to the matrimonial columns. He’d sit in the front verandah, sifting through every single advertisement, circling suitable ones for future reference. Once he’d read all the ads, he would retreat to his room to write letters to the earmarked advertisers. He would place a carbon sheet under a paper, draw a tiny ‘2’ on top – a salutation to Lord Ganesha and begin writing. All his letters began the same way - ‘Dear Sir, With reference to your advertisement in the Hindu dated…’

Once finished, he would remove his copy and place it in a file marked ‘Marriage correspondence’. He would then dab turmeric stains on all four corners of the original, fold it in two, attach his daughter’s horoscope and place both sheets of paper on the altar where his mother’s photo would be hanging. Later, he would take the envelopes to the city main post office – the only one open on a Sunday, weigh them, check all the details once more, say a prayer invoking Lord Rama before pushing it down the postal chute. And the interminable wait would begin.

son



The trousers are outgrown, the bed’s too small, old photos talk of a time when he was just a baby. I just don’t remember when he grew up.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A quick tale 30

Nice but...

He admired their confidence, freedom, their lack of inhibition and self-consciousness. But wouldn’t want one of them for a wife.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A quick tale 29

Pimple

She spotted it on a regular morning inspection of her face. It was perched quietly on her nose like a mischievous child. The longer she stared at it the bigger it grew. Soon it had become so big that it was taking over the face. So when she looked in the mirror, she didn’t notice the beguiling eyes, dimpled cheek, lips that curled up, smooth fall of a chin. Only the bump stood out.

And when she stepped out into the world, everyone seemed to be looking at it. Every whisper was a taunt, every look a stare. She didn’t realise they each had their pimples to think about.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

A quick tale 28

The other side

All his life he’d been told that he should work hard and become famous, rich, successful. He did and became all that in a far away land. Now they complain bitterly about growing old alone.

A quick tale 14

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A quick tale 27

Resemblance

She had her mother’s eyes, father’s forehead, an aunt’s liking for pickles, grandfather’s temper, youngest uncle’s charm and a third cousin’s talent for turning eyelids inside out. Her bad luck, however, was her own.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A quick tale 26

Advice

“Place a brinjal under each armpit and pull out three strands of hair from your head. After some months, you’ll have a baby.”
Many years later she would remember her cousin's sagely answer to her question on procreation. How she wished things were as simple now.

Monday, May 30, 2005

A quick tale 25

Inevitable

They were all ready to say goodbye. They had even started mourning while she was still hanging around. Even if it was only by the flimsiest of threads. They were used to surprise deaths – an accident here, a stroke there. This waiting for death was something new. And it was beginning to take its toll on their patience.

The family wished she would hurry up. But the old matriarch was no pushover. After all those years when she had put her life on hold until they were all done eating, studying, marrying, having children, falling ill and dying, it was her turn now. And she was not going to be rushed.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

A quick tale 24

Photo

They were surprised by her decision not to have father's photograph in the house. They didn't know that she wanted to remember him as a complex human with capacity for infinite love and a foul temper that made him a monster to live with. And not just as an old man with a benign, toothless smile beaming down from their living room wall.

Friday, May 27, 2005

A quick tale 23

Look away

They would quickly change channels whenever there was an ad for a contraceptive or a sanitary pad or a performance enhancer. The kids shouldn't hear of these things, they believed, it will corrupt their minds and give them wrong ideas. For their part, the kids would pretend not to know.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A quick tale 22

Amma

They will forget everything she ever did for them. How she would stay up late until they were all home. How she would wait until they were all served before sitting down to eat. Or how she would fast so that they may pass an exam or get a good wife or not get chicken pox. They will remember what a good cook she was and how they miss her food.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Quick tales

Water, terribly, sleep

Waters of the world had had enough of abuse and decided to go to sleep. And never wake up. There were no waves, no ripples. No whirlpools, waterfalls or vortex. Only still water everywhere. And the world was a terribly poor place for it. But the people did not notice a change.

~
Young man in a strange country. Boards a train. Drinks coffee offered by stranger. Drugged and robbed of his luggage, thrown off the train. Remembers nothing except three words 'water, terribly, sleep' which he keeps repeating to himself. But what good is 3 English words in a land where they spoke a different tongue with their noses? And why was everyone walking on their hands? Were the tree waving their roots at him? How was he ever going to get out?
~
'Never swim after a heavy meal' were the last words that flashed through her mind. Her mom her given this sagely advice many years ago. The words were of no use. Now that the water was turning terribly cold and she was drifting into a deep sleep. Sinking all the time.
~
He had a lisp and could not pronounce 'r' properly. At six, that was a terrible or a 'tellible' thing to happen. So he invented a new vocabulary for words that involved pronouncing an 'r'. He'd say 'jingo' for 'water' and 'bingo' for 'bread'. Thankfully, he did not have to come up with a word for 'sleep' as there were no 'r's in it and in his dreams he was not teased.
~
She could remember it like it was yesterday. Walking into his house for a drink of water, falling asleep on the couch and waking up feeling terribly ill. She told her mom about it. But the mother asked her not to breathe a word. For father would be real mad if he found out.
~
She longed for a pet. But mother wouldn't allow any in the house. 'They make a terrible racket and won't let me sleep at night', she said while adding helpfully, 'Instead, you could have a plant, water it and watch it grow'.
'But I cannot take it for a walk', countered the daughter with irrefutable logic.
~
Note: These were written as part of an exercise to weave stories around a set of 3 words picked randomly. All stories have been reproduced without the benefit of revision or editing.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

A quick tale 21

An expense

No holidays. Rarely new clothes. New shoes can wait, old soles re-stitched. Why bother going to movies when there’s tv? Dinner always at home. Nothing wasted, everything saved. Squirreled. So that it may all be spent in one afternoon. The day the daughter gets married.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Thursday, May 12, 2005

A quick tale 19

Search
Once they were lovers. Now one does not know where the other lives. She put her photo on her web page. With her husband and child. Hoping that he would google her name and find out. Just like she had found him. Still single, she had noted with glee.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Had to share this...


Marriages Are Made

My cousin Elena
is to be married
The formalities
have been completed:
her family history examined
for T.B. and madness
her father declared solvent
her eyes examined for squints
her teeth for cavities
her stools for the possible
non-Brahmin worm.
She's not quite tall enough
and not quite full enough
(children will take care of that)
Her complexion it was decided
would compensate, being just about
the right shade
of rightness
to do justice to
Francisco X. Noronha Prabhu
good son of Mother Church.

-- Eunice deSouza

Saturday, May 07, 2005

A quick tale 18

Two people
She could not believe that these two people could ever have been intimate. Two old people who had very little to say to each other. Who had grown into strangers they barely recognised. With nothing but anger and discontentment left between them. She could not see how the couple could have made love. One sultry summer night many years ago. And yet there was undeniable proof in front of her. Staring from the mirror.

Project why

Anu is a special friend of mine. Someone I've only known virtually. She is an extraordinary woman and one I greatly admire and support. Please visit her blog and tell her that she is not alone. Please. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

A quick tale 17

Farce
He will clear out his wine bottles and throw away the porn magazines. She will stop swearing and start cooking two meals a day. He’ll ensure that she wears her wedding necklace and will hide her designer jeans. The Gods will be dusted, contraceptives hidden and they will not kiss each other good morning. His parents will fly thousand of miles from their homeland and remark how true to tradition they live. And the younger woman will ask them how many sugars they would like in their coffee.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

A quick quick tale 16

Secret
She married one, loved another.
He became her husband, the other her password.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

A quick tale 15

Bargain
He seemed a pleasant enough chap. No hair sticking out of his ears or warts on nose. He had clipped his nails short and seemed to be interested in what she was saying. They spoke for some half-an-hour. Mostly about their lives, careers and hobbies. Then they agreed to get married.

Later, his father called up and said in a soft voice that her father would bear the wedding costs. And furnish the house the newly-weds were going to be living in. Her family agreed it was a fair demand. After all, she was 27, a mere graduate and wore glasses.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

A quick tale 14

Irony
They sent their son to an engineering college. Paid a hefty donation to get him a seat. It was an investment for their future, they believed. 'He would get a good job and take care of us when we are old', they told themselves. The daughter got married right after school.

The son studied well, went to a far away land to study some more, got a job there, gained recognition, built a house, became rich and called his parents every Sunday at 10 o' clock.
The daughter lived in the next street and bought them medicines to control their blood pressure.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A quick tale 13

Re-birth
Her knees were wide open, legs splayed and she had lain like this for nearly 4 hours. This morning she woke up with a slight discomfort that had gradually grown into a steady pain. She told her mother about it who then called an autorickshaw* (‘free for delivery trips to the hospital’ it said at the back) and took her to the hospital. There, a nurse shaved her pubic hair, stripped her bare and gave her something that covered only her front. She was then led into a room where there were several other women dressed like her. All of them were screaming. The nurse pointed out a hard bed for her to lie on and scream.

The pain was now coming fast and frequent, starting from the back and spreading all the way down her legs. It seized her body leaving her paralysed for several seconds.
‘Mmmmaaa…’, she moaned.
‘Shhh…don’t scream. Put your energy into pushing’, said the nurse in an unsympathetic voice.

She grunted and tried to push like the nurse had said.
‘Look at her shitting herself. I said push, not shit’, admonished the nurse cleaning up the bed.
Another spasm was coming, she could feel it. It felt like being poked in her most private parts with a red hot iron.

‘Aaaaahh, Muruga**…can’t bear it, sister….it's so painful’, she cried.
‘Well, you should’ve thought about it when you slept with him’, came the reply. Everyone giggled.

After an hour that lasted a decade, she was engulfed in a wave of pain that crushed her very bones. It was the worst yet and she felt something sliding out of her. Like a fleshy mango being squeezed out of its skin. And in an instant, it was all over.
‘Look, it’s a girl’, said the nurse cleaning the bloody, wet bundle.
This time she wept out loud.

*three-wheeled motorised rickshaw
**Hindu God

Sunday, April 17, 2005

My Day of glory, one year on


It is one year since I ran the London Marathon. It was the most moving, exhilarating, exhausting and above all, humbling experience of my life. An emphatic triumph of human spirit. My prayers and good wishes are with the 34,000 runners today who are about to undertake a life-affirming journey. Good luck, y'all. Rise again.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
you may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

-from 'Still I rise' by Maya Angelou

For my experience, please go to http://jikku.blogspot.com/2005/02/longest-run.html

Friday, April 15, 2005

A quick tale 12

Untitled
She grew up speaking a language that had special words for pickled lime peels and clotted rice morsels. It was rich, lusty, pungent and full-bodied. Her teachers taught her to love it. It was the language of Gods, they told her. She secretly believed it was the language they made love in.


So when there came a time for her pack her bags and follow her husband to a new land, she wrapped her mother tongue in a tiny velvet pouch and took it with her. But there, where they spoke in a floating, mild tongue, her sumptuous syllables suffered. Over the years, her edges started to wear thin and her little velvet pouch waned. Some days, she even forgot words in her native tongue. But at nights, when her head slumped on the pillow, she wept tears of sorrow. And they were always in the language of Gods.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The sweet taste of memory

When we were growing up, we used to have something called ‘chocolate’. Except that it was not. It was hard-boiled toffee, I later learnt. The real stuff, the one made of cocoa, those were referred to as ‘Cadburys’. And this we saw rarely of. Anyway, into our world of limited choice came a rare treat courtesy of a peripatetic sailor uncle. One day, he came home with a packet of crisp, golden, feather-light ‘sweets’. We didn’t have a name for it and so came to refer to it as ‘foreign chocolate’ (what else!). Foreign was a country outside India and chocolate was anything sweet. These tiny balls of heaven were strictly rationed and we’d carry our share to school in the top rack of our two-tier tiffin box.

Years later, as I was browsing through the aisles of an impersonal supermarket in a ‘developed’ country, I chanced upon a carton that had pictures of honey-coloured globes. The box read ‘Breakfast Boulders’ and I knew I had to get it. I ripped open the pack as soon as we got home and when the first of those boulders melted in my mouth, a mystery was laid to rest. I called my sister the following day and told her that I had found ‘foreign chocolate’. She understood instantly. “How does it taste?”, she asked. “Just like it did when I was 11 and you were 9, all those years ago”, I replied.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A quick tale 11

A very brief affair

As love affairs go, hers was a fleeting experience. He was a boy who lived across the street. She was standing at her doorstep waiting for a friend to arrive. He caught her eye and smiled. She smiled back. He asked her for her name. She replied. And the school she went to. She answered. Her aunt appeared on the scene and the following week, she was sent packing away to her grandmother’s house in a nearby town.

Some months later, she was married to an army man who was on vacation. Many years later, she sat listening to the priest who performed her husband’s funeral rites. He was telling her that she had to lead an austere widow’s life from then on. She found herself wondering what it would have been like if she had married the boy from across the street. A boy whose name she never asked.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

A quick tale 10

Baggage

They weighed the luggage one more time. '39.5 kgs' read the scales. "Perfect", said the husband. It was just under the 40 kilo-luggage-weight limit imposed by the airlines. "Have you taken everything? Is there anything left behind?", asked the mother-in-law.

So many thing, she wanted to say. Mother, father, grandmother, sunshine, curd rice, late mornings, lazy afternoons, pointless giggles, best friends, former lovers...

"In which case", she replied,"I'll take 1/2 a kilo of sambar powder. The ones we get in the US are just not good enough."

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Overheard

“Walk with your head bowed”
“Sleep with your legs together”
“Don’t leave your hair loose. Tie it”
“You really should start wearing long skirts now. You’re a big girl”
“No, no, you cannot cut your hair. I don’t care what your friends do”
“It’s dark now. You can’t go out alone.”
“If the man touched you, just ignore it. You cannot be reacting to everything, you know”
“Shh…don’t tell your father about it. He’ll say you invited it upon yourself”
“What’s wrong with this boy? Why won’t you marry him?”
“What do you mean you don’t like him? If I had spoken like that to my dad…”
“Let the men eat first”
“Women are born to suffer”
“If you can’t bear this pain, how are you going to have babies?”
“So, when are you going to make us grandparents?”
“My God, you look so much like your mother!”

A quick tale 9

Namesake
Everything about her had had to change after marriage. Her routine (she had to be up at 5.30), what she wore (no more jeans), hairstyle (“Oil your hair, plait them and wear flowers. You’re married now”, reminded the mother-in-law) and even what she saw on TV. The other day she innocently remarked how good-looking Aamir Khan was and it was met with a stern rebuke from the in-laws and a snide remark from the husband.

She clung to the one thing familiar – her name. She refused to add her husband’s name to her own. Everyone else seemed happy doing it but for her it meant something final. Which is why she wept when she received a birthday card from her mother. It had her name tagged to her husband’s. It was like looking at a scarred face in the mirror and not recognising it as one’s own.

Guest blog by Chinna Ammani

Here’s an interesting write-up by Chinna Ammani on stereotypical portrayals in Indian adverts. The opinion expressed is strong and the language uncompromising. Read at your own peril!-a

The Aiyaiyo Syndrome

These days I do what is called as a shooting supervision. When ads are filmed (with lip sync) in Tamizh, my job is to teach models their lines and rehearse with them. Most of them are from Mumbai and are non-Tamilians. So when they have to do a line in Tamil, for example "Adanaaladan Dettol ubayogikaren" (And that's why I use Dettol) , they invariably say "Aadanaladaanu naanu Detttaalu ubayogikkareanu" (Something hideous). Their exaggerated delivery of our supposed accent is all thanks to Hindi actor Mehmood. My blood pressure rises and I yell "DO NOT DO A MEHMOOD HERE. WE DO NOT SPEAK LIKE THAT".

Though their voice is dubbed later with a Tamil voice-over, I ensure that they pronounce it the non-Mehmood way. Mehmood has done this major damage to us South Indians by doing films like Padosan! Feel like sueing Lucky Ali, since his father is dead.

Saw a commerical for Alpenliebe toffees recently. The father in the ad is "Souuuueeth" Indian and is therefore dressed in a dhoti and is shown wearing a 'vibuthi pattai'* on his forehead. His son asks him "Appaaaa paaisaaa Alpenleibe kiliyee" in a Mehmoodish way. When will these ad guys ever learn? I wish I could put up a poster out there saying 'WE DO NOT SPEAK LIKE THAT!'

I was at a shoot for a headache balm the other day. It features a domestic help in a South Indian family. He is aged 28, wears a lungi and an Alen Solly full-sleeve shirt tucked in!!! And there's of course, the ubiquitous 'vibhuti pattai'. I protested and told them "No, this is not the way velakkarans (servants) dress" even though it was not my job to 'style' them. The assistant director replied "No No.. please don't change the dress . The costumes have been finalized after research(!) and umpteen pre-production meetings with the agency, client etc!

God please spare us!

* sacred ash usually smeared on forehead

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A treat

It was my birthday yesterday. Some people would have baked a cake. I made thayir vadai. Guardians of Indian Culture would no doubt approve.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

A quick tale 8

Less is more

It was too late now. Her aunt was already staring at the picture.
“And where was this taken?”, asked the aunt.
“That…um, that was taken at our local swimming pool”
“And is that you in that swimming dress?”, the older woman pressed.
Her niece nodded. The aunt continued to stare at the picture for a few more seconds before saying, “I always wanted to wear a swimming dress. It must feel so free when you wear it. Does it?”
She wanted to reply ‘Yes, more than anything else, it felt so free. For once I was not ashamed of my body, my breasts, my thighs, my legs. Yes, it felt so good to show my God-given body without guilt.’ But she simply nodded.
The aunt sighed and smoothed her sari.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Rant

What a sad person she had become. Writing for strangers and delighting in their response. Losing touch with real life. Seeking solace in an imagined world. Hiding behind an alias. Shunning the sun. Warming to a neon hue.
Turn it off, girl. Say goodbye. You have no new messages. Smell your child or something.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

A quick tale 7

Mirror
She would sit in front of the glass window for hours on end. Her breath misting the double-glazed panels. What else was there to do but watch passers-by? The husband would go for work early and would be away all day leaving her alone in this quiet house in a cold country far away from home.
She loved looking at the women on the road. Strutting purposefully in their pointed high-heels. She admired their grace, their confidence and their impossibly beautiful nails. Long and painted to match their clothes.
“How do they peel onions? Or scrub the burnt pans? Or rub oil on their hair?”, she asked him one day. “Oh, they never cook. They just buy something from the supermarket, heat it and eat. And have you seen their hair? Dry and dirty, I’m sure. They’re not cultured like our Indian women, you know”, he replied. She nodded in silence.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Sigh!

A scent, a hint,
a whiff, a sniff,
a smell, a spell…
everything reminds me of you.
I have an India-shaped hole in my stomach

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Goodbye and thanks for all the sambar*


(click on pic for recipe)

There are those whose memories are linked to sight and smell. Not me. My remembrance is curiously connected to my taste buds. A familiar taste often triggers a total recall. Like it happened the other day. I had made 'vengaya sambar' like I usually do and one sip was all it took to send me reeling back to my childhood. Back then, vengaya sambar was a rarity. A dish reserved for occasional Sundays or when we had guests over for dinner. We'd clamour for the tiny onions that swam in a sea of delicious lentil broth. It was strictly rationed and I'd tuck my share of onion away in one corner of my mouth and savour it at leisure.

I still remember the one time when I was 19, I was to come home after a 6-month long exchange program when mother asked me what I'd like for my welcome-home lunch. I replied without hesitation, "vengaya sambar". I only have to close my eyes and I can recall instantly the taste of tangy sambar as it slid down my parched throat reviving every taste bud in its path.

I'm not due back home for another 8 months. But I already know what I'm going to have for lunch that day.

*This is my tribute to one of Tamil cinema's best-loved heroes, Gemini Ganesan, who passed away yesterday. He used to be referred to as 'Sambar', much to his chagrin.

Friday, March 18, 2005

A quick tale 6

Retort
She could not believe this was happening to her. To her! The Champion of women’s rights, Feminist incarnate, Guardian angel of the downtrodden et cetra et cetra was now sitting before an elderly couple answering questions about her life. They were here to do a pre-selection. If they found her suitable, they would let her meet their son in the next round. And if their son gave her his approval, she would then become his bride.

She was doing the very thing she rebelled against all her life. Arranged marriage, breeding babies and getting trapped by duty were things she had scoffed at in her youth. But at 28, there wasn’t much room for idealism and she was beginning to doubt her convictions. Maybe marriage wasn’t such a bad thing. All her friends had done it, she reasoned.

Just then the old woman in front of her cleared her throat and asked in low voice, “er…do you get your periods every month?” Surely the lady wasn’t asking her about that. “Sorry?” said the girl. The might-be-mother-in-law repeated, “you know, your monthlies, do you get them regularly?” Our girl was stung. She thought for a moment and replied for all to hear, “Yes I do. I get my periods every month, without fail. And your son, what’s his sperm count?” Oddly enough, no one got the joke.