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


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


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.