Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Dark Rose



Today I sat stunned before a dark rose. It had turned a deep violet, the colour of a poisoned wound. The petals parched at the touch of a fingertip. It stood old and wise, and yet proud with its petals unfurled and crisp. Now, it wouldn't be stroked or caressed. It had been the fragile chalice; it was now the grave gauntlet.

More than the tenderness of a bloom is the pride of a wilt.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Sky

If you stretched the imagination long enough, this would be a poem.

I wish I could show you the sky right now
It's specked with clouds like a jersey cow
I saw it through the slats in the busy loo
And I thought of calling someone, but who
Could I show a moo sky from here
It would be different if you were near..
And while I thought and looked and wondered and blinked
The cow had gone home - it had been milked.

Until she reads

Yesterday, I was in a very vile mood. I kept snapping at people for no grounded reason. I snapped at J’s watchman when he asked me if I had used the pool (it irked me because I had meant to but had forgotten to bring my swimsuit); I snapped at a rickshaw-guy because he was dozing in the passenger’s seat (this really was unnecessary because I was walking home and had no intention of taking an auto.) I snapped at my boyfriend for being what most humans are at 11:00 p.m. on a Sunday night – sleepy. I snapped and I snapped.

Then I made myself some tea and thought about why I behaved so cantankerously – that is, not counting the distinct element of fun in being dour.

I traced back the stream of rancid thinking to a small episode with C, J’s daughter.

C is three years old and is usually happy to be around me. That could be because of my natural gift of being around children, or it could be because I take genuine interest in her toys. I do not know how half of them operate and have spent many rewarding moments in C’s tutelage learning. In fact, I have exhibited such joy in C’s playroom that I think she got suspicious the last time I suggested we go and play house-house.

She frisked me before I left the toy area.

“Don’t switch off the light yet,” she announced while patting down my jeans. And I swear I don’t know how that red, plastic spoon got inside my back pocket. I was lucky enough to be given the benefit of doubt though. Would have been a sticky situation otherwise.

Back to episode with C.

Z and I had stayed back with J on Saturday night and woken up fairly late on Sunday morning. A week’s fatigue had caught up with the three of us and we lolled about indefinitely. Then the beds got too cold, so J spread a rug in her balcony where we huddled in the clear, winter sunlight watching the hills and a noisy train snaking through the trees. There was such languor in the air that Z and J nodded off to sleep. I, who was fantastically energized after dreaming of Tiramisu cappuccino, settled down with Suketu Mehta’s ‘Maximum City’.

I had reached a part that was very disturbing. Mehta had written about an incident that had occurred during the Mumbai riots. A handicapped girl was raped by a gang of rioters while her family was set ablaze.

I think my face had registered some look of horror and disgust because C came up to me and asked, “What happened?”

I shook my head. I mean, a handicapped girl – gang raped – before a burning family. And here was a child asking me what happened.

“Show me the book”, she said, reaching for the book.

“No!”, I said sharply, and put it away.

I have never ever been curt with a child before. I usually give in if the kid doesn’t listen, but I had this irrational reaction of not wanting C to see that page.

She can barely read full sentences now but at that moment, I thought that she’d be able to read that piece and understand. She’d see that incident illustrated with the monstrous picture I had in my mind’s eye – of a helpless girl screaming, filthy men standing around to take their turn, and her family being burned to death. She’d think what I thought – what her mother must have felt at seeing her daughter thrown on the floor while she herself felt the flames sear her flesh.

Irrationally, I thought that C would feel all this if I gave her the book. So I pulled it away from her hands.

She sulked a bit and went back to watching some ugly penguin on Pogo.

Perhaps this is what drove me yesterday to behave so meanly; that my adult mind could be so foolishly impressionable that I denied a book to a child and drove her to T.V.

I think I’ll gift ‘Maximum City’ to C when she grows up – and hope that she understands where I came from; that is, if she remembers. And in all likelihood she won’t. In that case, I hope she simply turns that page.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Roses are red, violets are blue, we all know that, tell us something new

Yesterday, I was sent flowers to office. Much like the dream I used to nurture when I watched ‘Return to Eden’ and ‘Dallas’ and ‘Falcon Crest’ and all these dramas where women wore formidable power suits with shoulder pads and Joan Collins disrupted weddings.

So, that much was exciting.

I was in a meeting trying to explain my lost cause (meaning missed deadline and diffused product specifications) to my boss, when another editor walked in and asked my boss if she could borrow me for a minute. Around that time, my boss would have willingly paid someone to have me off his hand, so he obliged. My editor took me winking and smiling to the reception. I just thought that it was a rather unconventional but sweet way of showing someone the door, but there it was – a huge bouquet with fifty roses. All for me.

‘They’re for you,’ editor winked.

‘Really?’, I muttered.

‘Boyfriend?’, the receptionist asked, moisturizing her hands.

‘Yes’, I mumbled, looking at the note.

‘Aww!’, they tilted their heads and smiled.

I don’t particularly like roses, but these were stupendously beautiful, with pink satin tendrils intertwined. I have never seen colours so rich.

The yellow roses looked like they’d been dipped in a mixture of molten sun and a hundred egg yolks. And the red roses..I call them Rebecca roses. In that book, the first thing that strikes Rebecca when she enters her husband’s mansion are blood-red rhododendrons. These flowers intimidate her, and these red roses reminded me of that. They really were a bewitching color – the kinds magic fairytales get written about. The beautiful princess pricks her finger and a drop of her blood spills on a flower in the enchanted garden, and all the roses in that garden are infused with the color of her blood.

There was much speculation about what the number of roses denoted in the bouquet. Z said that it showed the way our love had blossomed into friendship, J said that the florist was good, SS thought that each rose depicted the number of fights boyfriend and I would have before we got together finally, and C remarked that my boyfriend was posh and loaded. Z, J, and SS agreed. Oh well.

But I didn’t need to read between the twines. The roses told me that he loved me. Some things are classic.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Belittled Mermaid

Yesterday was a rather rough day for me. In fact, it was the very first time I was angry and pained to the point of nausea. I had spent an entire evening shouting ‘Fire!’ in a land where people didn’t understand the language. They came by to warm their hands and cursed when the embers singed. They went away angry. And I kept shouting ‘Fire!.’ They came later when there was no danger of being hurt. I wasn’t hurt either. Everything I had was burnt. I calmly collected my cinders and said hello. We were all polite in the dry, slightly pasty drizzle of the ashes.

Yesterday, I confronted my worst fear – of being told, ‘Sorry. Don’t know how to tell you this – but you’re this way.’ It’s not a hard thing to take unless, like me, the ‘this way’ is the only way you’ll ever be. Like the crude compost that will never find itself lining a crystal centerpiece. What I had to offer from a distance were wist-scented lilies; up, close, and personal it was a different story though – brown, mushy, and smelly. But that’s where my flowers bloomed – if anyone cared to notice.

The real fear about a fear is unpreparedness. You don’t expect pain. You don’t expect disbelief. You don’t expect to keep smiling foolishly expecting to be told that it was a joke when it wasn’t. The real fear about a fear is that it is true, and that truth is a secret between you and yourself that someone else has come to know. The real fear about a fear is that it always knocks you out grasping for the hand that struck you.

So, yesterday, I was unprepared – completely and absolutely, for my fear to come tripping me up. Sure, I fell, I bled, but then it was okay. The thing about falling to your fears is that you never get up with your eyes closed.

Yet, I could’ve used some kind of loving. Never knew that emotional pain could blank you out. I was trying to observe it all as an out-of-body experience but the pit of my stomach, the lining of my eyes, and the hollow of my heart burnt. They cried ‘Fire!’ and I couldn’t just come and warm my fingers.

As my roomie and I walked back to our apartment at 10:30 in the night chill, Z looked at me and said, “Don’t worry.”

“About what?”

“Whatever it is that makes you look yellow.”

“That’s the streetlight.”

“Yeah. You’re right. You look funny.”

As we crossed the parking lot, I caught a glimpse of a sheath of muted turquoise.

“I want to swim,” I told my roomie.

“ It’s cold.”

“I want to swim.”

“It’s winter.”

“I want to swim.”

“It’s night.”

I changed into my costume and went out, bribing my roomie with Mountain Dew and chips. She doesn’t swim. I do.

I stood by the pool – like a leper. I was so dirty with failure – the wrench of rotting meat clung to my hair and refused to let go.

Dictionary:

Word: disgust; Synonym: Mukta

“I’m scared of water”, Z said, looking longingly at it.


“You talk to me then, while I swim.”

I walked down the pool steps. And with the last step, I closed my eyes and submerged under water.

I was six or seven years old standing by the pool not wanting to go in. My brother was in the changing room acting cute and podgy with a foreigner. Some kids were calling me ‘fatty’ in Arabic. I stood transfixed. I couldn’t go in.

Papa came out after his pre-pool shower and took me away from there. As a child, I always cried silently. My brother bounded up from behind.

“She’s crying because she can’t fit into the pool?,” my brother asked. (I propose to introduce a legislation against younger siblings.)

“My daughter is meant for bigger things”, Papa said.

And there we were. I stood, looking transfixed at the sea.

“You’ll learn to swim here.”

Getting into the sea everyday was an ordeal. Sometimes parents would point me out to their kids and ask them to finish their vegetables or not reach for the second donut. They’d threaten that if they disobeyed, they’d end up looking like me. The walk from the beach mat to the first lap of the waves scorched with shame. But I learnt to swim and more importantly, I learnt to enjoy the sea.

Last night, as I entered the pool, I was six again – but strangely with none of that six year old’s grit who could square her shoulders, glint at the sun, and splash in.

I was entering water after a really long time. And after a really long time, I entered it with incisive heartache.

But with the first stroke, I was soothed. Papa had once taken me to the ocean floor where I’d seen luminous forests of reefs, corals, and fish. Some were pretty and dazzled, some others looked distorted and gave out funny smells. But the sea embraced them all.

The waves undulated for both, the glistening pearl and the slothful oyster; the azure diffused for the smelly catfish as well as the silky moss. The sea caressed the tenderness in the worn-out, the innocence in the guile.

I was never ugly for the sea.

Last night, my pool surrounded by trees and shining under the stars, beckoned with a surrogate comfort. I swam with a vengeance, splashing about with fury. My roomie watched and looked away. She was embarrassed that I was probably going to cry. So I swum with my head deep in the water’s womb. Tears stung my eyes but were wiped away gently. The water understood my anguish. It knew I never wanted to hurt. It knew that I’d tried hard and earnestly. It knew that I needed help but couldn’t ask for it in a language that wasn’t understood. It stroked my scaly, dry arms and ran its strong fingers down my back.

It would hold me for as long as it took.

After a while, I floated on my back looking at constellations and silhouettes of leaves. I saw the span of a bat circling the moon and milky white flowers falling softly like half-dreamt dreams.

Water lives. It bequeaths without dying. It takes your soul from a ravaged body, soothes it between its sheets and cloaks you with it when you’re done.

My roomie had begun talking about the ‘Harry Potter’ flick, which meant we needed to be inside and warm.

As I walked back home, I turned to see the water still rising and falling to the angry movements I’d pierced its surface with. Soon, the projected disquiet would settle.

The centre of the pool seemed to glow as if a trap-door had opened under the waters and a large jewel thrust its splendor upwards.

“Ssh”, it whispered.

“Likewise,” I replied.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

It began with bored and ended with confused

There is getting fed up and then there is what I’m feeling now. It is being fed up to the point of nausea.

I have to interact with human beings every day and multiple times during the day. Painfully, they all behave like me – all have stupid opinions that they think will change the world, and converse only with the hidden agenda of getting other people to agree with them. I am marginally better because I don’t pinch people I disagree with. Actually, in real life, neither do they; but I imagine them to be juvenile enough to pinch one another so that I could be marginally better. Which I am not.

However, things are easier to bear because I have just discovered a most excellent coffee at Barista. It’s the new Tiramisu cappuccino – rather flavorful, and not quite as bitter or acidic. In fact, it has the ambrosial whiff of vanilla and a lovely macchiato color. It’s a friendly coffee. You can take a sip and expect the palate to strike up a pleasant conversation with the taste; instead of those bitter Italian concoctions that begin a Marxist debate as soon as you gulp a mouthful.
I usually bring a cup to office and enjoy it while reading the online version of Bridget Jones Diary. The ‘Ah’ moments last for some time before I’m called for a meeting.


Now, meetings are interesting events. I think more than Dilbert’s observations, its Garfield’s aphorisms that hold true. For example, ‘When in doubt, act stupid.’

‘We missed a delivery.’

‘Really? I thought we missed a deadline.’ (Internal guffawing)

‘Must life get so desultory?’ I ask myself. I get no response. Turns out even I’m fed up of myself. When did that happen? I thought we had a good thing going. Isn’t that always the case? The ‘Id’ is always the last to know.

That brings me to the absurdity of relationships. Or my relationship. The way I see it, if you love someone, then you think of your future with them. That means you ask difficult but important questions. So I, who am tulled with cauldron-full of insight, asked boyfriend about our future. Conversation went thus:

I: What will you do if I get possessed?

He: Possessed?

I: Yes.

He: I don’t understand.

I: What will you do if we get married and all, and then one day I’m possessed by a ghost.

Silence.

I: Well?

He: How would I know the difference? (Internal guffawing at his end.)

Well, it’s easy to sweep important issues under frayed, moth-eaten carpets now, but we’ll see what happens when my head spins like a top in halogen lighting and the exorcists are on strike. Let’s see what happens to the ‘until death do us part’ vow. It’ll get amended to ‘part until unrest in afterlife.’ (titters from that part of me that hadn’t responded earlier.)


Ah! Finally. I find myself interesting.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Paene Celebris (Almost famous)

Here’s what the Bard thought, wrote, and became famous for: Some people are born great, some achieve greatness, while some others have greatness thrust upon them.

I have been thrust with greatness. For no fault of mine. I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t allude to any ambition of harboring it, I got it. It’s just the way it is. While others scrambled for it, passed notes, talked to seniors for pushing applications, elbowed discreetly, murmured, winked, nudged, scraped, I did nothing.

I went about whistling ‘Happy Birthday to you’ in Spanish (rather easy because you don’t need to know the language), I tipped and tapped my keyboard like a pixie in Olysbarry farm, showed off my ‘Space Impact’ score to three people, and I got it. I got thrusted…with greatness.

And many people in office didn’t like that. No, they didn’t.

This is how it all began…

I come lumbering to my desk and start the computer. A couple of people are standing near it, gossiping. I smile a hello and enter my password. Rejected thrice. Ah! My password used to be the vice I hated most: ‘Smoking’. But I have changed it now. It’s my third favorite dessert after caramel custard and burnt sugarcane with jaggery. So, I put in my clever little word key, ‘********’, and my computer lights up like the Gold Coast.

Voila (and other such fancy interjections)! It now has Windows XP.

Now, I really do not know why my computer has Windows XP. I hadn’t given it much thought. As long as my computer has MS Word and a keyboard that doesn’t behave like Ozzy Osbourne (meaning nastily), I am happy.

And if I do not know why my computer has Windows XP, then I most certainly have no clue why the others do not have Windows XP installed.

The ferreting gossipers close in around my chair. Until yesterday, I was one of them. I worked on Windows 2000. But today, suddenly, my humble computer that really had very simple needs, got lucky. Some benign godministrator came and buffed up my computer. I was XPed.

“Why you?”, “How come?”, “What about me?”, “Really? Windows XP?”, “Show!” These and other envy-twinged questions wafted in the choking suffusion of Davidoff’s Coolwater.

“Well, I don’t know…”, I mumble, my convent-instilled humility taking over. “I guess everyone will get it.”

“No, they won’t,” snapped Shipra. “Everyone won’t. Everyone doesn’t.”

“Then I don’t know. I mean, I’m new so…”

“Oh, you’re new? When did you join?”, quizzed Tej. I am very wary of this guy. He is twenty-eight and wears yellow T-shirts. He also wears those hideous Enrique caps that make him look like a bald eagle. Not to mention, he walks with a swagger that is usually the result of war injuries. Of course, he’s foolish enough to mistake all of this for animal magnetism. And he wears yellow T-shirts. Yellow. T-shirts.

“Couple of months back.”

“And you got XP. Wow!”

Now, this was getting scary. I mean, it’s one thing to feel bad with being stuck with a step-sister operating system while I got the Cinderella story on my machine. But to be menacing and bare your teeth and circle around me like vultures…that was too much to handle. And to top it all, I was a vegetarian that day. The day my survival instincts nestle in the deepest pit of blood corpuscles and go to sleep.

“Okay, I gotta get back to work.”, I mumble.

“On XP. Of course. I’m sure you can’t wait”, he sneered.

Now, I observe, there’s nothing ‘just’ about getting Windows XP installed. Interestingly, there’s a public perception about operating systems. It’s not quite like the rose that would be the same irrespective of nomenclature. (To savagely misquote the aforementioned famous Bard.) This is what some of my colleagues think. Installing Windows XP somehow translates into the organization’s commitment to having you around. Forget what they told you at your probation period or during your monthly appraisals. Installing Windows XP is literally walking the talk.

And so I found myself basking in astonishingly found glory. After all, so many people couldn’t be wrong. If they thought only the chosen few get this, then it must be the case. Who am I to judge the discerning faculties of those who know how to read Excel sheets? After all, I have been told that I constantly undermine my prowess. (Okay, not constantly. Here, I go again.) Perhaps I’m just more important than I thought.

Seeking corporate validation, I approach my boss.

‘Hi, I’ve got Windows XP.’

Startled, he looks up. Maybe he didn’t hear right. Maybe he thought I was telling him that I got malaria and wanted leave.

‘You?’

‘Yes.’

‘Oh?’

‘Well, any particular reason I have Windows XP,’ I asked, stopping myself from smugly adding ‘..and the others don’t.’

‘Umm, may have been a mistake or something. You weren’t supposed to have it.’

‘Oh’ I have been rudely unthrusted of greatness.

I turn back on my weary heels to return to the serfdom I had briefly floated over. Now, there’ll be no difference between me and some other guy who wears yellow T-shirts. What really is the blooming use of being hard working and sincere, I wonder? What, I wonder, is the bunkus blooming use?

Tej is sitting on my table watching my chin graze the office floor.

‘Hi’, the canary chirps.

‘What?’

‘I’m getting XP installed.’

‘Really?’

‘No.’

Sigh. One grown-up in this infernal place. Just one. One adult who is not a child trapped in a tight sun-flower colored body. I’d like to see one of those.

‘Anyway, mine was installed by mistake’, I sulk.

‘What?’

‘Yep. It was not meant to be for me.’

‘They mistook you for someone important?’ He didn’t have to sound that incredulous, but wait a minute, there’s a thought.

‘Hmm, you could be right.’

‘Lucky’, he says, as he punches my arm hard and walks away.

So, greatness was not exactly thrust on me. It was flung in the distance, missed its mark, and wopped my forehead.

Anyway, I shall be happy with my lot now and get down to scripting an addendum to the quote from Twelfth Night.

The Bard would’ve been proud...almost.













Friday, November 11, 2005

People I work with

A person is known by the company that keeps her. So, that gets me chewing my lip in office. Presenting the assortments that umber my office space:

1. There is one guy who is the human equivalent of the Microsoft spell-check. His eyebrows get all squiggly when I say something he wants to dismiss. Like the other day, I was telling Z and J about Lokhandwala and 4 and a 1/2 bungalows. His eyebrows became ‘Ernie the earthworm’ and he said, ‘I’ve lived in Versova all my life and I’ve only heard about Chaar bangla and Saat bangla.

Everyone laughed at me while he smirked and sharpened a pencil.

2. There is another guy, SM, who hangs around my desk cracking PJs before he leaves work. The other day, I told him, Let’s go someplace for dinner.’ ‘You mean, like, for food?’, he asks.

3. Z, my colleague and roomie looks me over in the canteen.

‘You are not wheatish.’

‘No?’

‘You’re more like corn.’

‘Oh?’

‘Yes, you’re corny.’

4. Then there’s S who’s like a cowboy poet. He walks in with vengeful artistry in his eyes. He’s the one most likely to sing, ‘Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest; Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.’ He got locked inside his house yesterday. He lives alone.

5. J, who pointed at my computer, and laughed derisively. ‘Windows XP..How bourgeois!’ Quite uncalled for.

6. SC who constantly asks me, ‘You have a boyfriend?’

‘Yes’, I reply, sometimes a little uncertainly if I’ve had a really big fight.

Really?’

‘Why do you ask?’

‘You know, you’re so creative and all..’

‘So?’

‘No, you may be making him up.’


7. MP, my project manager, who rudely told me that my ‘no-carbs’ at night diet will never work. Because ‘There’s so much processed food around, carbohydrates float around in the air. You’re breathing the stuff, man! No use skipping the rice.’

8. SC again,‘This boyfriend you say you have, he…’

‘What do you mean I say I have? I do have. I’ll have you know that I don’t need to make up a boyf..’

SC, ‘Yeah, yeah, this guy…he has a job?’

‘Yes, of course. Why?’

‘Then how do you get along with him?’


I mean, do I give out some kind of a vibe?

9. FG, who looks like Garfield, quotes Hemingway and Aristotle all the time. Refers to the philosopher as ‘The Totle’. The other day, the phone was ringing. By the time I could reach it, he’d got to it and was murmuring conspiratorially into the receiver. (The usual tactic employed while ordering vegetable biryani from an Iranian place – so as not to be ridiculed as the village idiot.)

‘Whose phone?’, I asked.

‘The office’s phone.’

‘No, I mean whose phone?’, I ask again pointing to the instrument.

‘That wasn’t a phone, it was a phone call.’

Come and get your re-incarnated cat, Jon.

10. Lady P begins all her conversations with ‘Jet Airways…’

‘This review is going to take a lot of time?’

‘Jet Airways didn’t refund my money. Oh yeah, lot of time. So, I was flying Jet to Delhi and…’

Or in the canteen:

‘Maybe we ought to tell these guys that rice is actually boiled in the water, not just washed and served.’

‘Jet Airways serves this kind of rice.’


11. But as a carry forward of my colleagues in my previous office, I exasperate them all with my tales of Mocha. So I’m fondly (and yes, I kid myself here), they call me ‘Mochta’.

So, if these are the people I’m with, what does that make me?


‘Very very different from Sylvia Plath’, as the ‘Totle would have said.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

We've stepped over the thin, red line

My roomie and I have been working very late hours. And plodding through the graveyard shift does affect the mussed cerebrum, as we have found out lately.

We usually write a note to our bai asking her to cook for us. These instructions are written in italicized Hindi with calypso spellings. Oddly enough, our bai understands. Of course, sometimes there is occasion for wry humor. Like when we told her to make four chapattis and had written 4 in Hindi. She read our four as eight in English. My roomie and I had a big lunch that day.

Or like the time both of us decided to eat more leafy vegetables. We often discuss herbivorous victuals when we’re on the terrace gazing at broccoli-like tree-tops. The next day, we wrote to our bai asking her to make palak (spinach). She prepared it and kept a turmeric dusted note, ‘That was methi.’ I don’t think she was familiar with smileys, but if you looked closely, you could see a yellow stained curve.

Today, my roomie and I get home to find some fresh veggies in the kitchen. When my roomie is tired and/or deranged, she talks with an accent. (A cross between Irish and Scottish, but what she believes to be American).

‘She’s got ‘bataata’ (butt-at-aa), ‘tamatur’ (tum-at-err), ‘methi’ (may-tee),etc.’, states Z coquettishly. Then she laughs hysterically while I hunt for my charger. It’s under the onions. (Onions cook faster if left in close proximity to a Nokia charger – and they say I can’t cook.)

“You know, if we pronounce vegetables like that, she won’t know what to make,” chortles Z.

“Stupid, how are you going to write with an accent?”, I ask.

Then we both fall to the floor laughing like the surviving witches of Macbeth, each holding an onion and a potato.

It can now be said with some degree of certainty…we are not normal anymore.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Samples

I went to school at a time when strange people were called 'Samples'. 'Sample' was, in fact, more than a trivial dismissal of snuffers who got singing tiffin boxes. It was a very sturdy social construct that rose above gender and class differences. Of course, I went to a school where the only gender was female and the only class was middle. But then, if one were to use a reductionist perspective, (and who doesn’t), 'Sample' was a nail that usually hit odd heads pretty often. And it was cheerfully accurate. In fact, a testimony to its dogged endurance is how people, despite learning new words, will slip in 'Sample' calling ever so frequently.

I

Two ten year old girls are punished at P.T. The thin one who doesn't like being punished wants water from the flask kept nearby. The tubby one who hates P.T. is taking the opportunity to follow dust motes swimming across a sun beam.

'You want water?', thin one asks, offering the flask.

'Not from that cup', tubby one answers.

'Why?'

'It looks like a plastic piss-bag'.

'Piss-bag?' No, not at all.'

'Yes it does. It looks like the plastic piss-bag of a plastic cow.'

Thin one looks at the plastic cup again and laughs at what she suddenly sees.

'Sample', she guffaws.

II

A group of seventeen year olds are waiting eagerly for their Psychology papers. The teacher saunters in and paces to and fro.

‘How have we fared, Ma’am?’

‘As expected. And I’m not an optimist, so you know what I’ve been expecting.’

She gives out the papers. Tubby girl walks up to get her paper.

‘Hmm, Mukta, your answers were rather good’, she smiles.

Tubby beams.

‘They’d have been better if they were correct.’

‘Sample’, Tubby mutters under her breath as she mentally curses teacher using her new Wicca crafts.


III

Tubby has grown up, moved out, and made friends. Her friends are smart and funny but a little soft on the top. Typical conversation:

Soft top A: ‘You know what? I had set a reminder in my mobile to alert me when it’s time to pay the bill. Hee hee ha ha ha ha!

Tubby waits patiently.

Soft top A: I had forgotten all about it. Hee hee ha ha ha ha!

Tubby waits patiently.

Soft top A: My reminder hee hee ha ha was: ‘You moron! Pay the bill!’ Then I ..hee hee ha ha..forgot about it and when I got it, .... hee hee I thought Orange had sent it to me.

Tubby: Hee hee ha ha ha! Sample!

^^^^

Conversation with Soft top B:

Tubby: You should quit smoking now.

Soft top B: I’ve decided to. But I can’t quit it totally.

Tubby: Try.

Soft top B: I think I’ll reduce the number of days I smoke.

Tubby: Yeah. That’s a good idea. Do it only on weekends or something.

Soft top B: Yes. I’ll smoke only on days starting with ‘T’.

Tubby: Hmm. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Soft top B: And today and tomorrow. Snicker snicker!

Tubby: Sample!


Now, as chance would have it, soft top B (lawyer with baritone voice) somehow got talking to soft top A (colleague with soothing voice like a needlework teacher who only whispers unto her yarns).

Then, Tubby gets a call from soft top B.

‘She sounds nice’, he says at midnight.

‘Who?’

‘Umm…hmm..you know…umm..her.’

Tubby first rolls eyes, then closes them, and goes off to sleep.

Next day, while Tubby tries to reason with a spider to move out of her hair-twist, soft top A taps her from behind, making her leap.

‘WHAT!’

‘He sounds nice. I’d have never guessed you’d have pals like that.’

Tubby would have rolled her eyes but then quickly notices the accommodating spider exiting from hair accessory.

So, she benignly states in what would have been mellow, treacly light on a film set: ‘Samples!’

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Noir flights of fancy

When I was ten, I visited Egypt. Our hotel room in Cairo overlooked the pyramids. While my parents unpacked and my brother scarfed the camel-milk toffees on the pillows, I looked through the picture windows. There, within reach, the sun shone down upon three monuments that symbolized all that was haunting, timeless, and fearful. The Pyramids, to my ten year old mind that wanted to be a writer, seemed to whisper curses. One that I heard with my back to the world was: 'Someday, when you find your story, words will fail you.'

It has been several decades since. I will never forget the Pyramids. It is not possible. To me, pyramids are the accursed paradox. They damn you to forget and then tease you to remember. No-one but me will understand what I'm writing about now. Because I'm writing in the last gasp of the victim who's about to name her murderer.


Today, I was traveling through the Vashi highway. A man lay sprawled in the middle of the road with steel utensils thrown asunder. He was dead. Some distance from there, a dead dog obstructed the traffic. If you stood in the middle somewhere, you could see the man and the dog lying in the same line.

City, death, roads - the great levelers.

And it's dangerous to visit the Pyramids if you can decipher the unheard. I would explain what I mean, but words fail me.