Sunday, January 31, 2010


Can I claim a thought to be mine ? I must have read it or heard it somewhere - surely, it can't be mine. If not now, sometime soon, I hope there will be a few original lines.

I wish I could say for myself Seamus Heaney's lines from "Digging":

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

(First posted on the first day ... May 24, 2009 ...)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sunday In Berlin

the young couple tease –
a scream, laughter, tender murmur,
Thud, bang, cleaning, rapping, loving;
my apologies to them when I vacuum
away the resting load.

they were kind, truly,
they listened with me to an aria;
labourer, waitress, gigolo, stripper,
Mine never.

This morning,
I left early,
breaking Sabbath,
dry nose bleeding.

looked at the mannequins in a café,
tempted, resisted, feeling princely;
queued with the rich and the free
to see photos, in vogue, trash porn art,
checked a great whosoever’s nonsense.

There I was,
alright, uneasy,
to look but I did,
vague, old video.

seemed better.

but there was no tale –
the Lover, the parents,
in cashmere, being chic.
Love, it could’ve been us –


returning to less regal address –
on the escalator
with a lady
from church,
weary, hurrying home;
a lady of the night at the light,
pretty, jeans frayed, leaning against
no, the pillar;

my day’s over.

Friday, January 29, 2010

His Epitaph (1992)

By my grave they all stood,
As per post, they did brood;

My parents alone in pain –
I didn’t wish so, but in vain;

She who I loved yet declared not,
Ah, a tear! I know not her thought;

Ahoy lads! How well you do look,
Surely, you count the time I took;

Pity I couldn’t extend my charade
Of crazy tease, mirth and hopeful cheer;

But move on, wash not the broken clay,
You who stood by my grave. Or did they?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Just For The Weekend (From The Scrap Shop: V)

An act of kindness and decency can happen outside fairytales. One day, close to last Onam, I had to pay the bill twice at the hotel-cum-tea shop. The owner insisted that I had not paid and since I could not remember either, I paid (again) and left hoping never to return to that favourite place. Today, the hotel owner accosted me at the vegetable-shop and told me that he has been looking for me for five months – he had realized that he had charged me extra after counting the money in the till at the end of that day itself. He did not apologize but insisted that I should have tea with him.

We sat near the counter. The bus-stop is just a few meters to the right. We listened to Karnan, a college student, tell today’s joke to Jaya, an assistant bank manager. The hotel owner whispered to me that it was the one about the drink at Betty’s Legs that had been told two days back; yesterday, it was that about sex and Martians; and today, it is about the kiss and 100 ants (99M,1F) in a box. Karnan usually manages to finish the joke a minute or two before the arrival of the bus. We know that Jaya will listen with rapt attention and smile at the end. Then for the minute or two, till the bus comes to the stop, they enjoy the silence seriously. Even we tried not to slurp loudly during those surreal moments.

After the two left together on the bus, the owner went to his position behind the counter. While I was nursing the last quarter glass of tea, Raman walked in for his morning tea and seeing me there, gestured to me to wait and he went back to his scrap shop. He returned after a few minutes with a sheaf of paper stapled twice or thrice. Raman gave me the bundle and went to another table.

On top, there were torn pages from a book and I recognized it to be Chekhov’s “The Lady With The Dog” and below, some handwritten notes. I caught the waiter’s eye and asked for one more glass of tea. On the first page of the notes, I saw a date marked near the left margin “17/3/1997”. I turned back to the first page of Chekhov’s story. There, in the same handwriting, a date was noted on the right, like in a letter, “3/1/2001” and like mentioning the subject or reference, in the middle, the question “When did I read this before?”

I remember Chekhov’s story. Can I forget? I smiled to myself and turned to the first page of the notes:


I watch her pack. I cannot assist. It seems that world is strange to me. An old green and white churidaar laid at the bottom; a colourful Rajasthani one on top; then, her underclothes and nightwear; a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, a dull grey and brown shirt and, a white transparent cotton one. I have never seen her wear any of these. On top, she places a diary with old notes and letters, not too many I think but all that really matters. She holds her stuffed monkey (“Chikoo,” she whispers), curls up the long tail around her fingers and a mischievous smile plays around her mouth. She keeps that on top along with a toilet kit; closes, locks and rests awhile.

“It’s not for long. Just for the weekend. Do you mind?” she had asked a few days back.

I was holding her tight. The smell’s still lingering. She disengaged, got out of bed and put on her nightdress.

“You will come back…” a question or a rhetorical one, I was not too sure.

She got under the covers, turned to her side, facing me and said, “Yes.”

We have been married for ten years. This was the first time she had asked me for something. How could I refuse? What is a weekend, after all?

I left her at the airport, kissed and parted. Just like one of those business trips of mine. Maybe, it’s reflection on the mirror – with no sighs of relief. Let everything be well and such quiet understanding. Ten years have gone by without a thought.

“O Sanjaya! Tell me everything.” I pleaded.

“Why do you want to know?” Sanjaya asked.

“Call it cowardly voyeurism, you idiot. I want to know about life.”

“Why can’t you let her go?”

“It does not matter if she goes or comes. It’s the reason that matters.”

Sanjaya then described:

The plane-trip is over and she is waiting for her luggage. She is wearing a churidaar – wine red and looking very fine. Once in a while, she looks at the exit – at taxi drivers, banners to pick up, exhausted relatives, dust and disarray. She wears a bindi.

“Strange. She usually avoids wearing one. Sorry, please continue.” I remark, only partly to Sanjaya.

A tiny nose-ring and an old pair of ear-rings. Two rings on her fingers – her wedding ring and one with aquamarine (her birthstone, right, her lucky one?). A simple maroon leather sandals. She is hardly noticeable in the midst of affluence and over-exertive foreign accents on local tongue. She doesn’t seem to mind her insignificance there. She collects her suitcase and heads for the exit, confident, as if among all those masses, she has an identity and a world of her own.

She walks to the end of the exit path, past taxi-drivers who try to grab her and the relatives who glance briefly, discard and quickly revert to looking at the exit post.

A voice tells her from behind, “I’ll take you home if you will buy for me a cup of coffee.”

“Hi…,” she says softly turning towards him.

“You still walk too slowly. Come on, move… let’s go to the car.”

“You walk ahead. I’ll catch up with you.”

“No way, I want you right in front of me.”

For a while, they stood there. Barely a smile on their lips. Eyes searching each other’s. He raises his eyebrows and she does the same. Echoes of silent memories.

“What’ll you do if I grab you and kiss you?”


“Is that a challenge?”

Laughter, whispers in a loud world. They walk slowly to the car, a run-down blue Fiat with clean, thread-bare upholstery. He edges the car out, nervous of touching a world that’s crowding around them. Nervous, of touching, they sit apart. She turns to look at him.

“Look front,” he says.

“Isn’t that the driver’s job?”

“Nope, never trust the driver.”

“I trust you.”

“I don’t trust the other drivers. Now, be a good kid…”


Not a touch. Not a glance at each other. Not even smiling. Watching for anything that threatens. Watching a world of intimacy, of fulfilled dreams, of others. Scooters whiz past with families of three or four. Rickshaws with couples huddled against a corner.

They sit apart. Like two pebbles on a beach. Not wishing that they were waves - to lash and command. Nor crabs scurrying towards each other. Two pebbles eroding. But remaining there even when their imprints on the sand would be gone.

“Why can’t we be like others?”

“We wouldn’t be together if we were.”

“But, look at them…”

“Lucky ones – lucky not to know that they are alone. Or maybe, asking for no more.”

“But they survive and they are happy.”

“Yes, strange, isn’t it?”

“Maybe, it doesn’t matter.”


“To survive and be happy.”

“Then, what matters?”

“Who knows!?”

God? Maybe. Why can’t they be like others? Two people sitting apart in a car. Innocent and aloof, you might think.

“Don’t put words in their mouth, OK? Be satisfied with mere appearances.” And I remind Sanjaya to continue.

“How is your work?” she asks.

“Who cares! It does not matter.”

“Every morning, I resist contact you. But then, I think that I will merely bore you.”

“Do you really think so?”

“No. But…”

“A life of resistance, resisting to let go. Good for life, I guess. Or, good to live.”

“Why did you send that letter?”

“Which one?”

“The only one. I sat there looking at it, in front of the whole class.” Laughs. “I was so surprised when I saw your handwriting on the envelope. I thought I was dreaming. Swapnam.”

“That’s the female. I prefer to be a nightmare – don’t we remember that longer? Dusswapnam? Sounds more like me, the male. I scribbled something of no consequence, right?”

“Nothing about you. Nothing about me. Only about people that don’t matter. Everything seemed to be between the lines. I went to the Canteen and cried a little. It was one of my happiest days.”

“Tears on the happiest day, that’s the story of my life.”

The car is now in a muddy lane with potholes and craters. Booze joints, with a standing bar past a dark curtain, line either side of the road. These are filled with losers seeking anonymity behind a hazy look. There is an open gate at the end of this lane to nowhere and of noones, it seems.

The car turns in and parks in a shed with asbestos roofing. A few cents of land, with two coconut trees and a mango tree protecting a small house. Mud, grass, green and brown upon the ground. Jasmine, roses red and white, tiny blossoms waking, old ones fading gently, wild. It’s her passion, he knows, and his endeavour, for her.

He opens the door. She enters. Silent. Too tired. To pretend. It is a small house, clean and sparse. One waiting to be filled but will never be.

He places her luggage by the wall. Next to a creeper. Hidden baggage. Hiding arrivals and departures. She places her handbag on the table at the centre. He takes it and places that away on a side-table, along with his watch, his glasses, hers too. He looks around as if he is seeing the room which she has created for him. She is looking at him.

He asks her “You must be tired. Shall I get you something to drink or eat? Do you want to take a shower? Or lie down? I will try not to disturb. Or do you want to see our humble abode?”



He goes towards her.

“Why did you stop, Sanjaya?” I plead.

“Let them be alone, you selfish brute,” he replies.

“No. They have been alone. For too long. She – with me. He – with himself. Anyway, they do not care. Nothing can touch them. Just for the weekend…”

He goes towards her. Their eyes search each other’s, with smile-filled tears. Let it flow. He takes her right hand in his. Raises it to his lips. Places a light kiss on the back. She tenses. Tries to take her hand away.

But they let their fingers search, grasping, teasing, caressing each hollow and vein, following the creases, the mounts and the valleys, racing, slowing, their breaths cooling and blowing winds that ruffle all those layers which years have deposited; close but a little away but closer than ever; no weeping willows, just tresses uncared but natural above, laying shadows; tears as dew or rivulets dampen, soften, the smell of earth ploughed fresh, each muscle straining to produce; landscape urging the farmers, as they pluck, cut, dig deeper, harsh at times, kneading the flesh between fingers, feeling the texture, sensing what it is, what it should be; weeds ripped, searching up, below, side and over and over till the roots of disuse are gripped, mangled, strangled, shed aside; little blossoms, tiny hair standing, trying, asking forgiveness, granted, growing life, life, life; each finger feeling, each nerve awakened, kisses, little bites, pinches, sucking tenderly; the morning over marshes of yesterday, the pasture of today, life, life, life…

“Just for the weekend…”

Friday, January 22, 2010

Found & Lost (From The Scrap Shop: IV)


tears on the Gita,
old words -
Anon’s notes -
Ophelia’s madness.

a blank page
that speaks a lot –


Notes from the photo (click the links given below):

1) Bhagwad Gita, II.45

2) Rumi, The Lover And The Beloved

3) Shakespeare, Hamlet Act IV, Scene 7, lines 166-183

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Diary Of A Stalker (From The Scrap Shop: III)

It’s nearly been eight months since the last murder. Then, Kuttan had killed his wife and two grown-up daughters with a machete before hanging himself from a ceiling fan. We had expected the latter knowing about his rapid decline into depression. But, we never expected him to kill his family members. He was a decent chap, hard-working and a teetotaller, too. Some sniggered and said that a drop of arrack would have cleared his head of such thoughts. Speculations about the motive varied with each group - relatives, friends, acquaintances and so on.

This time, the murder happened in a house (named Saraswathy Villa) near the junction. Kunju Swami is the alleged murderer. In the early hours of yesterday, a neighbour saw him walking on the terrace of his house with bloodstains on his mundu (dhoti). That neighbour woke up her family members and after an hour or so for discussion and morning coffee, one of them informed the president of the residents’ association about their suspicion. The president, after some deliberation on the telephone with his coterie of committee members, called the police. When the police arrived, knocked down the door and finally entered Saraswathy Villa, they found Kunju Swami’s wife lying in a pool of blood in the kitchen and without any doubt, dead. Some alleged eyewitnesses claimed that her head was bludgeoned to pulp and that her torso bore multiple stab wounds.

This time too, we had expected this to happen. Kunju Swami is a rascal and should have been treated like a mad dog long back. His name used to be Hari and he is supposed to have made a fortune by smuggling – illicit liquor, gold, drugs, young girls – even when he was in his twenties. He was twenty four when he met his wife, then a pretty girl of eighteen who lived just a few houses away. They fell in love and married with the blessings of both parents. Then, for a few years, he was associated with a nearby ashram and assumed the current name. They have two daughters, the eldest who is around twenty is married and the younger one is four years old. The young kid is supposed to be the only witness to the murder.

One night a few months back, Kunju Swami had hit Raman (the guy running the scrap shop at the junction) without provocation – with an iron bar and from behind. Someone had told Kunju Swami that Raman had smiled at his wife. Three weeks back, around eleven in the morning, he picked up a fight with one of his relatives and smashed the latter’s legs and hands using a granite block. That took place right here at the junction. People there at that time remained as spectators till the brutal thrashing was over – some were his friends – and did not come forward to help the injured even after the fight. It’s known that Kunju Swami is quite generous with booze.

We knew that he used to fight with his wife quite often – sometimes, every alternate night. And now, we have gathered at the junction trying to get every bit of news.

I am in Raman’s scrap shop, on my usual seat, assimilating the gossip but paying more attention to the discarded books. There is no discernible pattern in the arrangement. I had asked Raman once but he offered a smile (probably the same kind of smile that had got him into trouble before) and no explanation. For example, on my right, I have a precariously placed pile with about ten books: the 3 volumes of Feynman’s lectures at the top, hardbound edition of Lisa Alther’s Bedrock at the bottom, then two books of Sophocles’ plays (Penguin edition), a thin brown diary of the year 2003, K.G. Paulose’s Kutiyattam (minus the DVD), one of those museum books on Rodin and handbook for Canon EOS 300.

I took the brown diary without disturbing the rest of the pile. No name nor address. Just a few pages filled at random. I found a printout close to the end of those notes – a low resolution printout of a black and white photo of a young woman taken from a distance. She is wearing loose (cotton?) pants and one of those loose tops (maybe, a pyjama top). Slightly built, seems graceful. The face is not clear but looks attractive. She is standing on a balcony and not looking at the camera.

My curiosity was piqued and I flipped the pages:


Tuesday, February 18.

Two months back, I came across an article on the Net titled “Remembering John Galt” written by a person named Chandrika.

How long have I been haunted by (a) the question “Who is John Galt?” and (b) all that John Galt stood for – ever since I read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand for the first time eons back, I suppose.

Is that why I wanted to know more about Chandrika? I searched on the Net with search phrase “Chandrika” but there were too many hits and nearly impossible to get further information regarding her identity. Then, I used “Chandrika Remembering John Galt” and I found that the article had appeared in a weekend edition of a national newspaper. There, I found her true name and e-mail address. Let me call her X.

I sent an e-mail to her, praising her article and explaining my views about John Galt. She replied with a brief e-mail expressing her thanks. Around New Year’s Day, I sent another e-mail wishing her all the best in the New Year. I never received a reply.

Meanwhile, with a few more searches using her real name, I found that she would be attending a conference, in this city, in the second week of January. For some reason, the organizers had posted details of participants, details such as mobile number and home address, in a PDF downloadable file on the website of the conference.

I saw her for the first time on the day she presented a paper at the conference. Since then, it has been hectic. I had to shift to a new apartment – somewhere close to hers. I was lucky and found one overlooking her apartment.

As I write this, I can also look at her.

Saturday, March 8.

Now, I know her schedule quite well. I also know that she has left a key with her neighbour – probably because they share the same maid or maybe, just a precaution. I like to look at her when she rests on a rattan armchair on the balcony late at night. She rarely entertains guests at her place.

A few days back, I saw her opening the door to a guy – a young attractive chap though he looks a bit wet behind the ears. She told him to sit in the drawing room and went to her room to change, I think. Soon, they left together, walking close but not holding each other.

Today around noon, I saw them together at the chic restaurant near our apartment blocks. They sat outside under an umbrella. I chose to sit inside in the air-conditioned area. It is tough to say whether they are intimate but the easy manner in which they talked and their body language seemed to indicate a relationship based on mutual interest. I quickly finished my lunch and waited at a bookshop facing the restaurant, close to where my car was parked.

They left the restaurant around three. She stood on her toes and gave a brief peck on his cheek, maybe just an air kiss. The lad watched her cross the road and go towards her apartment; and then, proceeded to his motorbike. I left the bookshop and went to my car. At that time of day, it was not too difficult to follow him. Even on the express highway, I managed to stay behind him. We were now close to the dangerous crossing on the expressway with the entrance to the arterial road leading to the subway from the West to the East. Recently, a colleague had met with an accident right there – a car had nudged his scooter by mistake onto the wrong lane and he was mowed down by the oncoming speeding vehicles. The lad was in that position and all I had to do was countdown and nudge at the right moment when the lights are about to change. I watched the stop-watch on top of the traffic-lights.

Seven, six, five, four, three, two,…

one, zero. I am not a killer. I am not a killer. I was breathing heavily and I kept saying that. I trust her to make the right choice.

On my way home, I stopped at a crowded public phone booth and called her mobile for the first time. I nearly cried when she took the phone and said hello. I listened for a while, hearing her repeat it, maybe even hearing echoes, and then disconnected. I can’t say anything, can I?

I got home and saw that she was sitting outside. She seemed to have a puzzled look on her face. She turned her face in my direction. If she could see my face now, will she care about the tears?

I could taste bile in my mouth and swallowed. Even I was surprised with the force of dejection and anger. I am not a killer, I am not a killer, I repeated.

Monday, March 31.

She gets up early to go to the gym. Irrespective of that, she is usually in a hurry from seven till eight. I usually watch this routine of hers with kind amusement – at least, when I can forget my anger. Before she leaves at eight, she usually boils a large vessel of water on the gas stove.

This morning, her normal routine was disturbed by a series of phone-calls. Around eight, I saw her rushing out. I stepped out onto the balcony and waited till I could see her, thirteen floors below, getting into an auto-rickshaw and leaving. Then, I turned to go inside. It was while closing the French windows of the balcony that I felt that I had missed doing something. I adjusted the lenses and looked at her apartment. I scanned from left to right, and it was on the second time around that I looked more closely at the kitchen. I could not be sure but I was nearly certain that she had left the gas stove on.

For a few moments, I froze with indecision. Maybe, the gas will just burn out. Maybe, the water will boil over and douse the flames, and gas would leak. An image of her entering the apartment and switching on the lights nearly made me cry out loud.

I cannot call her.

Anyway, she is probably too far away by now. I did not want her to enter the apartment. No chances to be taken.

I rushed from my apartment, onto the lift and outside towards her apartment block. I was not too sure what I intended to do. Maybe, knock on the neighbour’s door - the one with a spare key to her apartment - and tell her that I was passing by and smelled gas from the flat next to hers. Will she forget my face?

As I approached the lobby of that block, I noticed that the security guard was not in his place. Probably, doing the rounds or talking to some maidservant elsewhere. Calmly, I walked to the phone on the deserted security desk. After referring to the intercom directory placed below the phone, I dialed the neighbour’s number.

When the neighbour picked up the phone, I spoke with a gruff voice and told the lady to go next door and switch off the gas. I repeated the instruction once again to the confused lady and left.

It is now just around half past nine and X is back in her apartment, followed by the lady next door. Looks like the latter had called her after following my instructions. She inspected the kitchen briefly and then she gave the neighbour a tight hug. I could then see the neighbour trying to explain – maybe, about the call she had received.

X seems to be listening carefully. She keeps nodding her head – maybe, in a puzzled or bewildered way. After a while, the neighbour takes her leave and leaves X alone. From the drawing room where she sits, she looks at the surrounding apartment blocks carefully.

Saturday, April 26.

Two weeks back, I met an old acquaintance and he introduced me to his colleague, a teacher in the English Dept. at the University – let me call her Y. His introduction was embarrassing, “The person famous for intense crushes – the perpetual adolescent.” I nearly blushed.

Meanwhile, in the last three weeks, X has been trying to solve her mystery. At times, I can see her silhouette in the dark apartment, probably watching outside, waiting to see. One Monday, she even left the apartment with the water boiling and the gas stove on. But, she returned soon, and found no messages for her nor her neighbour. She looks haggard these days. I have not seen the young lad in the last few weeks.

This morning, I was busy packing my stuff. Y had promised to come over and help me. When the doorbell rang, I expected it to be Y and opened the door saying, “Ready to carry the crates, love?”

It was X standing outside. “Sorry, thought it was someone else. How can I help you?” I said, quite breathless.

“I am looking for my friend’s apartment.” X said. At that instant, the lift opened and Y walked towards my door, nodding towards X and raising her eyebrows. I gave a small shrug. I think X saw that, turned around and looked at Y. This time, Y asked “Yes?”

“I am looking for my friend’s apartment.” X repeated.

“What’s his name?” Y asked.

“I don’t know.” X said faintly. She looked as if she might collapse.

“Are you OK?” I asked her.

“Yes, yes,…” she mumbled and turned towards the next door on that floor, “maybe, I should check there…if I see him, I will recognize…” and mumbled to both of us, “sorry to have disturbed you, ma’am.”

And left.

(The characters and events are fictitious. Any resemblance to real events and recent news reports is purely coincidental.)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sleep well, my love

Sleep well, my love,
tonight you and I
are safe together.

Let me watch you,
in child-like trance,
caressing lightly.

Do you wonder
why I am awake:
it’s too dear, this sight.

Do I wish for this,
every night:
just one night, I pray.

The parting should be
when we are sure,
we are close forever.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Confessions Of The Lady Next Door (From The Scrap Shop: I)

My house is on an island, half a kilometer in radius, in the middle of the city. To the north and east, development took away the places that I used to haunt. To the west, the graveyard is still there but the old mint is gone. I rarely go in these directions. When I venture out, I go a kilometer to the south.

At the junction, there are a few shops with no names. Paalukkada (this milk-shop is supposed to be one of the best-sellers in the city), the vegetable shop (the old guy and his wife committed suicide and now it’s the son-in-law who’s there), the hairdresser (“All Hair Cut”), the grocery shop (owned by two Muslim brothers who have always looked fifty-ish), the hotel and tea-shop (“veg no-veg / meals ready / special beefu- / llathu”) and then, the scrap shop run by a silent lad named Raman. His father was a brilliant raconteur and people say that his stories were picked up from the scrap. This Onam, Raman’s father would have been missing for twenty years. Some say that he ran away with a heroine in a story; some say that he is in Poojappura jail for killing someone; some say that they have seen him in Oolampara mental asylum.

A few days back, I had a month’s load of scrap to sell: twelve kilos of paper, few cardboard boxes, bottles and so on. As usual, I could collect in kind or in cash. I rummaged within the shop and found a Popular Penguin (2009) edition of “Farewell My Lovely” by Raymond Chandler with an introduction by Colin Dexter. Though covered with stained newspaper, all the pages were intact, including the first page describing Philip Marlowe “…I’m a lone wolf, unmarried, getting middle-aged, and not rich...when I get knocked off in a dark alley sometime…nobody will feel that the bottom has dropped out of his or her life.” When I got home, I removed the cover and within the folds, found a scrap of paper with this:


I am a woman. Thirty going on forty very fast, happy and successful. I am married, twice rather. I do not want to remember the first. And the second is all that I wanted to remember. I have two kids, a boy and a girl. For a long time, I lived with the superstition or belief that I wouldn’t have kids. A neighbour had read my palm and said so. These days, I trust people much less and I feel less miserable.

I was a nice person then. Friends used to invite me for parties and I used to cook. They used to think that I am a little kid waiting to be led by the hand. I did not know how to say No.

Anyway, my main goal in life was to be successful. I did very well in school and college. And now I manage a team and get a hefty pay. I had to struggle and fight for everything to get there. My parents were poor and the priorities were different. I still cherish the first luxury I got – privacy.

Now, I have the choice – even expensive holidays or costly gifts to please a world too difficult to teach. But, we have a rule in the family: to give each other only what we have made on our own. I get burned chicken, sautéed vegetable without salt, poems and sketches. I prepare mutton chops, give sketches or a bouquet I have arranged with some meaning I forget with time or just secrets.

My little kids are turning out to be like their parents even though we have tried not to impose our thoughts. My girl keeps diaries full of poems, essays and hopeless longing. My boy needs recognition from time to time. I envy them at times: they have no excuse not to love. Their parents do not have any social status to guard; and, they are not poor enough not to take that responsibility. I think they have tried. I can see the bruises once in a while. And the number of friends reduce day by day. We try our best to remind them not to forget to laugh.

Recently, we were driving to the seaside (we had been to the hills in the last trip and it was now his turn to choose). He was narrating a story, partly true probably, about a son who had done some mischief on his mother’s birthday; his mother crying for some reason; the son thrashed by his father for some other reason; and, the son made to touch his mother’s feet and promise that he would never make her cry again. Though he was not the cause for the tears, the son did not know and kept his promise till he died and, of course, he died before his parents. What’s the moral of the story, he asked the kids. My daughter looked at her brother and told us that mothers should cry in private. Asked why, my son explained that otherwise such stories would bore a few generations that come after. Thankfully, our kids have not caused us any real grief – so far.

The situation is tougher at work. The bosses try not to be tyrannical and the juniors try to stick to the schedule. They know that I am good at my work. None have tried making a pass at me. There were a few who used to enjoy passing crude remarks in my presence. Put an end to that when I told them to tell such stuff to their mothers and sisters. Long time back, I used to cry. I have changed. Sometime back, a colleague referred to me as a feminist. I do not know what it means.

Why haven’t I written about my husband? Well, it is simply because he hates being talked or written about. He says that he wants to be invisible – unnoticed by anyone. I like his crazy ideas though they are wrong. What is he like? He says he is selfish, cold and just one of the masses. I laugh. And when I do that, he asks me with a glint in his lovely eyes whether I am mocking him. No, I tell him, I trust you. We still write letters to each other and leave it on the other’s table though we share the same study room. He certainly knows how to touch me at the right places. There are times when I like being told what to do and there are times when I tell him that it is his turn. Most of the time, it is like being an anxious virgin who knows that she might be pleased with new ways. When I am in some other world, he has this silly but cute habit of pinching my bottoms. When I complain, he tells me that I should not go away and that I should stay with him forever.

Suspended Animation (From The Scrap Shop: II)

I found this on a scrap of paper between the pages of “Rubaiyat of Omar Kayyam” by Edward Fitzgerald:


It is tough being on the middle of the road not knowing and not wanting to cross to either side because it is a stranger world out there. It is better maintaining status quo, waiting to be crushed between two speeding trucks – preferably the huge ones and I will be splashed on both like a cheap advertisement “End of someone, end too late.”

While I stood there precariously balanced on the barricade against loss of senses, I started losing memory of time, space and possibly everything unknown. Damsels walked past sure of flitting their skirts at the right moment, gays displaying boldness and promiscuous taunts, the old behaving like young, the young borrowing strange attire, lovers, dogs and the like strutted past. I held onto my territory. This was the last guarantee.

Forever in the middle. Never the child and never assuming full-blown maturity. Not the untouchable nor lynched by a sacred thread. Not poor nor rich to think about money. Wish I was an idiot and lived like a veggie in an asylum rather than being not-so-intelligent or not-so-talented. If I was pessimistic, I could have had deep furrows on my forehead or preached boldly about philosophy or communism or freedom if I was an optimist. If I had borrowed Western culture, I could have pretended not to have any and be happy. But I have been branded by a tattoo which I wish I could scratch off my body. If I was complaining, I could have been at least the anti-establishment guy but I am too happy for that. If I was a total virgin, I could have dreamed of being a saint but I know my sins do not even have the power to scare me with nightmares. I wish I did not have friends so that I could be a loner but I hang around on the fringe of parties hating the crowd. Any kind of music or story or poem thrills me but I am deaf, dumb and blind.

Should I cross?

Near-Death Experience

I never thought that the way would be like this: a clean brightly lit tunnel – decent mixture of metal and concrete. There are red lights on the ground. I wonder why they are there. The urgency that had lasted life-long is now a soothing patience till eternity. The air’s flooded with pleasant music – violin and organ. It did not make me sad nor happy, reflective neither; just peaceful. Life-long habits do change with death, I guess. I do not notice the others that walk by. At least that habit stayed. What if she walked by? No, I would sense her presence.

I am nearing the end of the tunnel – the destination? I come across the musicians. They seem to be unaffected by what they produce - mechanical and a little unnatural. There is even a begging bowl in front of them. Here too? I reach for my wallet. I leave the wallet in the bowl – why will I need that again? I want to sit over there and keep listening. Maybe, there are other pleasures further ahead. She - certainly?

I climb the steps to the platform. It is darker here. I search for her but she is not around. I do remember that we had not promised to meet here. All the promises were mine alone and that too, quite unconvincingly made after she had left. But surely, I had told Him to pass on the message. Maybe, He had not. Maybe, she found other company. Maybe, she had to meet someone else on their way down or up.

I ask a woman standing nearby “Where is He?” She looks at me blankly, not comprehending my language, I presume. I stand there waiting; waiting for something or someone to come from the dark tunnels on either side; waiting for an answer.

The U-Bahn arrives on time.

(P.S. I can’t recollect the name of the U-Bahn station in Berlin; strangely, the photo in my album is also missing. But, you do know how that place looks like, don’t you?)