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Voicing Silence 7

Saturday, December 02, 2006

This one's got a happy ending

If I had to ask you to write a story about what happened this morning, my question would be 'Why did my mother stare in disbelief when autokkaran K. Ramesh came knocking on our door today?' Let me tell you what happened. It all started last night when I took an auto home from Besant Nagar. I paid the autorickshaw driver the bargained Rs.60 and entered my parents' house. No sooner had I set the bags down than I realised that I had left my camera behind in the auto. I raced to the door but the auto had already left. We went back to Besant Nagar auto stand scanning every passing auto frantically for one that bore a 'Jesus' sticker at the top of the windscreen and a picture of MGR at the bottom. Predictably enough, we drew a blank. With little else to do, we left word at the auto stand and lodged a detailed complaint at the Mylapore police station.

At this point, I'd like to tell you a little bit about my camera. It was claimed to be the world's smallest camcorder at the time of its launch in March 2005. Its high street price, when I checked at the start of this year, was £500. It was perfect for the sort of fly-on-the-wall documentaries I was starting to make. I had bought it after much deliberation and so was understandably upset on losing it.

Which is why when Ramesh came knocking on our door this morning, my mother could scarcely believe her eyes. She followed me down to Saravana Bhavan where I had gone for breakfast. As if our reaction on receiving the news was not confirmation enough, I gave a detailed description of my camera which left Ramesh in no doubt as to who it belonged to.

He told me that a couple that had got into the auto after me had claimed the camera theirs. And that he (Ramesh) had refused to part with it as he wasn't convinced that it was. He did not budge despite repeated threats from them. He told me that he had left it at home as he didn't want to be carrying it around and risk losing it. We drove all the way to Sholinganallur where I was further confronted by his wife. If the owner has lodged a police complaint, she told me, then the police will be after us. Fortunately, there was some footage of me in the tape in the camera and I played it back to her. And she too was convinced about the ownership.

Ramesh would not accept my small token of gratitude and I had to pry open his fingers and thrust the rupee notes into his hand. Later we went to Mylapore police station to withdraw my complaint and the Inspector was full of praise for Ramesh. You should have seen him beaming, his eyes glistening with pride.

Madras autos, like the city itself, have had a lot of bad press. But incidents such as this prove that there's still plenty that is good about them.

Friday, December 01, 2006

I ask, you write 13

Lucky for some. Here's the 13th question in search of a story.

When you walked in through their door, you found them both on their hands and knees searching the floor for something. I guess you know what had happened.

As always, please keep your stories short and post them in the comment box. Thank you.

Monday, November 27, 2006

I ask, you write 12

Thank you for all your wonderful stories. On to the next question.

She turned on the tv and screamed. What did Charu see that prompted such a reaction?

Please keep your stories short and post them in the comment box. I'm off to India and updates on this blog may be sporadic. But I look forward to reading all your stories. Thank you.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I ask, you write 11

Thank you for a great variety of stories. It's truly wonderful. Time for another question and hopefully, a whole lot of answers from you.

First it was red. Then yellow. Now it's red again. Why can't Shailu make up her mind?

Good luck with the stories. Please keep them short and post them in the comment section. Thank you.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I ask, you write 10

A wonderful variety of stories in the last one. Thank you for taking part. Here's the 10th question.

Somewhere in the dark recess of that wooden cupboard, there is a photo album. And somewhere the middle of the album is a photograph of Vaijayanti. She's leaning against a tree, looking up at something and smiling. What is she looking at? When was this photo taken?

As you well know by now, please keep your stories short and post them in the comment box. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I ask, you write 9

Thank you for all the fantastic stories and please keep them coming. Here's the next question.

It's been 14 years. But will Ananthasayanam ever get it right?

As ever, please keep your stories (Tantex or not) short and post them in the comment box. Thank you.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I ask, you write 8

Thank you for all the stories. Some truly wonderful ones in the last lot. Now for the next question.

Can you see Sarasa over there? Notice how she winces as she climbs the stairs. She's torn a ligament in her ankle. Ask her how she injured herself and she'll say something vague about tripping down the stairs and so on. But I think you know the real story.

Please keep your stories short and post them in the comment box. Thank you.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I ask, you write 7

Thanks for all your wonderful stories. Some really amazing responses (Chockalingam's from the previous lot was a gem). Onto the next question.

I don't have to tell you what you already know about Chakkrapani. So do you think he should have done what he did at the restaurant the other day?

As ever, please keep your stories short and post them in the comment section.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I ask, you write 6

Thank you all for voting. Since there haven't been that many votes polled, it should be easier to see which stories were popular. I'll leave it to you to do the counting.

Now the next question to which you write a story in explanation.

What happened last Tuesday when Rajamanickam had gone to the bank to deposit a cheque?

Again, please post your stories in the comment box and please keep them short. Thank you.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I ask you write - vote

Why not turn up the heat while the going's good? Vote for your favourite among the I ask, you write stories. Vote for the one you like among each lot by mentioning the author's name. I'll leave it till Monday or Tuesday before announcing the top four as chosen by you. Those that took part can vote too. Get voting. Thanks.

Sticky post. Scroll down for the usual.

Friday, November 03, 2006

I ask, you write 5

Great going. Thank you for participating and please don't forget to vote. Here's the next question for which you write a story in explanation.

It was the same thing every morning. Jo would slam down the alarm, turn over to the other side and go back to sleep. And invariably, she would curse herself for turning up late for work. Today however, she had a fool-proof plan. What was it?

Please post your stories in the comment section and try and keep them short. Thank you.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I ask, you write 4

Thank you all for your wonderful response so far. Here's the next question to which you write a story in explanation.

You haven't spoken to your best friend Jalajasri for nearly two years. Do you remember what caused the rift between the two of you?

Like always, please keep your stories short and post them in the comment box. Thank you.

Please scroll down for earlier questions

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I ask, you write 3

This is turning out to be such fun. Here's the next question to which you write a story in explanation.

She knew he wouldn't approve. So why did Visalakshi go ahead and do it anyway?

As ever, please keep your stories short and post them in the comment box. Thank you.

Please scroll down for the earlier questions.

Monday, October 30, 2006

I ask, you write 2

Thank you for your fantastic responses to my earlier question. Here's the next one.

So what was Krishnaswami thinking when he said yes to her?

Again, please keep your stories short and post them in the comment box. Thank you.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I ask, you write

Okay, here's the idea. I ask you a question and you write a short story explaining it. Let me give you an example.

What happened when young Padmavathi was drawing water from the well to wash her clothes, early one Margazhi morning?

Annon's story

One morning when Padmavathi was drawing water from the well, she found Pettai Rowdy # 1 Govindarajulu inside the bucket! She dropped it at once and Govindarajulu went down and down and hit the bottom of the well with a Nung sound. His upper and lower teeth fused together and since then he has been fed intravenously. Pettai Rowdy # 2, Ragothaman Iyengar, who suggested this to Govindarajulu, now rules the roost.

After marrying Padmavathi, he is inviting all of you to a water drawing ceremony at the new well they dug in their house.

Jai Ragothaman Iyengar! Jai Padmavathi! Come one, Come all!


Here's a question for you.

What happened that made young Meenakshi change her mind about the parrot green saree she had originally chosen and go for a coppersulphate blue saree instead?

No deadlines but please keep your stories short. You can leave your story in the comment box. Get scribbling.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Thank you

Dear all

Thank you ever so much for your fantastic response to the Ready, Steady, Charity fundraising appeal in aid of Projectwhy. A conservative estimate reveals that you have helped raise almost Rs 20,000!

I am most touched by your generosity. Thanks in particular to Neha and Shoefiend for their prolific output of stories and poems of extraordinary quality.

Hope you had a wonderful Deepavali.

Thank you.

Update: Anouradha Bakshi writes...

.. and this time her fund raising diwali effort was a huge surprise.. as it came before my now jaded appeals for help..It meant a lot to me personally and to all the 600 planet why inhabitants as it brought hope, cheer and above all showed that someonea cared.The whopping 25 000 Rs that have been collected may seem small to many but it can sustain a class for more than 2 months or pay one teacher for a whole year.The short story book project is still on and now we can add these delightful tales and make it a souvenir for all...We hope to see you all at pwhy one day and hope that you will keep supporting us by sending your wishes and love.Thank you all and do keep in touch, at least virtually through or blog and site


Sunday, October 15, 2006

Ready, Steady, Charity!

This is a sticky post. Please scroll down for the usual.

Do you remember this?

This Deepavali we're doing it again.

Only this time, I've got two wonderfully talented women to help with the task. Neha and Shoefiend have kindly volunteered to write around the words you suggest.

So email me 3 random words at ammania@ gmail.com. And we will come up with tales, prose, poetry, advertising copy, recipes...something delightfully silly (or at least plain silly) using those three words. And then you could make a small donation (no amount is too small!) to Projectwhy.

Go on, challenge us!

Please note: You send the donation directly to Projectwhy via paypal/money order or any other preferred method. Not through us. Not through anyone else.

Four already!

They grow up so quickly!

Reading My Son

His last school days; he strolls through the door,
his shirt signed in fat felt-tips by his mates.
Sophie loves him loads and Todd reminds him
to keep in touch by nightly MSN.
Jodie's going to miss his wicked laugh.
Mel rates his hair and someone wants his babies.

I try to read him. He drinks orange juice
straight from the carton, towering over me.
He's going out tonight. He turns the bass up.
The shirt's sloughed off. I'll hold it once he's gone.

-Catherine Smith

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Nine of mine

A good friend from my pre-blogging days, Deepa has tagged me. The tag is about revealing nine things about oneself. So here goes.

1. I'm alright. But I'd like my tea white with no sugar please.
2. I don't always enjoy cooking.
3. Politics tires me.
4. I'm not entirely sure what my shoe size is. I'm a size 5 1/2 at Clark's and a size 6 elsewhere.
5. I watched Swan Lake at the Royal Opera House performed by the Bolshoi Theatre recently. I loved it but the seats were very uncomfortable.
6. I feel guilty when I put my little on in front of the tv.
7. I don't think I can ever jump out of a plane.
8. There's a photograph of me standing with my feet on either side of the equator.
9. I feel very touched when people remember my birthday.

The tag's up for anyone to take. Let's hear from you.


Annon's 9

1. I dream sometimes about my past life in Italy
2. Today I am wearing an underwear which I bought in 1998 on a short trip to Dubai
3. When I cut my fingernails, I leave the ones for the thumb and middle finger to be able to use them to open stuff. Only one hand
4. Sometimes, I suddenly say stuff from old memorized slokams like "Mandrapushpam vahamahe" in a meeting and astonish people
5. When I was a child, I wanted to have a falcon that I would call Jimutavahana. I still want one.
6. Friends call me T, after the character in Soprano
7. My favourite hindi film is an obscure film called Anant Yatra based on Woody Allen´s Kugelmass episode. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0251584/. I cant find it anywhere.
8. I wanted to join the Indian Forest service, but they rejected me.
9. I sometimes do a breakdance to an old ad that goes as "Ok, ok, oh, Tata ka Ok. Dhulai ka Sabun, Tata ka Ok. Ok Ok, oh, Tata ka Ok".

Monday, October 09, 2006

Ready, Steady, Charity - 27

Jordi's words - Paella, bicycle, karma

Ammani's take

What are you cooking?, he asked as he parked his bicycle outside their house.

Chicken karma, she replied stirring the pot a little more vigorously than usual.

I thought you said you were going to make paella for dinner, he wondered aloud.

Not pa-el-la, she corrected him, it's pa-eh-ya. I changed my mind. It's going to be chicken karma tonight.

Not karma, he offered, it's korma. K-O-R-M-A.

Really? she demanded turning around to look at him. Ask the chicken what he's doing on our dinner table and chances are, he'll say that it's his karma and not korma.

It must be a certain time of the month, he reckoned as he walked away.

Ready, Steady, Charity - 26

Kamla's words - Goldilocks, teen taal, mamanaar

Neha's take

He’s dying in his sleep,
or maybe the afternoon
has become so hot that
each limb breathes, exists

On its own. He wonders if
Goldilocks talked to her hair,
Like he murmurs to and
scolds his arthritic knee

The ceiling fan, its cap
loose, goes Dha Dhin Dhin
Dha, Dha Dhin Dhin Dha, Na
Tin Tin Na, Tete Dhin Dhin

Dha. His dead wife,
draped in indigo appears. Teen
Taal she says, he nods and
she vanishes. Fat air of

The afternoon gobbled her. He
looks at the stern photograph
of his mamanaar, asking “Why
did you not teach her to

Live for longer, as well you
taught her to annoy me with
the names of taals and leaves?”.
Frustrated, the afternoon dies.

Neha's take two

He’s obsessed with the growing baldness. Everyday he holds the smaller mirror over his head, standing in front of the bathroom mirror to monitor the perceived hair loss. On the street, he constantly compares his own crop of hair to the ones of people walking by. His mother fears that if he balds anymore, he cannot be married to anyone. Any self-respecting mamanaar would refuse to accept a more bald man than himself as the husband for his daughter.

Kuppuswamy gave him a bottle of mystic green oil that promises a puzzling hair growth rate. Teen Taal: For your Baal. Three strands of hair a day. If they can send a man to the moon, why couldn’t they make an instrument to count the hair on his head. Maybe if he went to Google Earth, it could zoom in on his pate and he could compare the image from a week before.

That night, the grown man crawled onto his mother’s lap and cried. His mother says, “Don’t cry da. Don’t you know, all the hair that’s fallen off bald men runs to join Goldilocks’s hair. How else will they keep fairy tales alive, but for brave men like you.”. Satisfied, he sleeps. Unmarried and slightly bald.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ready, Steady, Charity - 25

Nanyaar's words - Pendergast, Tamil, Beyonce

Ammani's take

Last week it was Tantia Tope. And this morning it is Pendergast. She wakes up with these strange words spinning around in her head. Like trapped pebbles in a shoe. She has no clue how they got in there. Were they part of a longer sentence and like stray lambs, lose their way? And often, she has no clue what the words mean. Take Pendergast for instance. What on earth is that? Sounds like a syrup to ease indigestion. ‘I think I ate too much of that sweet you made’. ‘Have a teaspoon of Pendergast. You’ll be okay in no time’.

What’s worse, Pendergast will remain inside her head getting in the way of all her sentences that day. I’ll call you later, she will tell her husband, I’m busy drafting a little pender…I mean, a letter. And later, on spotting an old friend across the road, Pendergast! she will yell out and immediately wish that the friend had not heard her.

How does she get rid of the word? She tips her head to one side and taps her ear hoping that it will spill out. But the moment her head is up, Pendergast is back in circulation. There is only one thing to do. She resolves to speak in Tamil for the rest of the day. And that plan works until she goes out that evening and orders ‘one plate of Beyonce!’. Biriyani, she later explains.

Ready, Steady, Charity - 24

Inquisitive Akka's words - Chikungunya, rasa podi, cracker

Shoefiend's take

Her joints were swollen. Her fever raged like her irate mother-in-law. She was confined to bed, the television had been unplugged (God knows what had happened on Yen Pondatti Thangam) and she was on a diet of stale crackers (sprinkled with rasapodi.) It was just a particularly vile fever, she consoled herself as she swallowed another crocin on the sly. What had the Doctor called it? Chikungunya! Madasambrani! Didn’t he know she was a Brahmin?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ready, Steady, Charity - 23

Aish's words - Exercise, rejoice, temperature

Ammani's take

Vatsala wondered, not for the first time since morning, what the point of the whole exercise was. They had been standing in the queue outside the temple for close to 6 hours in the soaring temperatures. And from the looks of it, they were condemned to be there for at least another couple of hours.

The temple was the second busiest religious centre in the world after the Vatican and attracted over 12 million people annually. And looking around her, Vatsala was sure all 12 million of them had decided to converge on a single day. Govinda! Govinda!, chanted someone from behind her and the throngs joined in obligingly. Govinda! Govinda!

A few months earlier, Vatsala had been down with a serious bout of jaundice and her mother-in-law had prayed for her recovery. So no sooner was she able to sit, than the family had started planning a pilgrimage. She had mounted a weak opposition. I'm sure the gods will understand if I did not come, she had suggested one night to her husband. Why don't the three of you go and mark attendance for me by proxy? But he was adamant. You don't want to incur the wrath of the gods, he had insisted. So she was left with no choice but to come along.

They had arrived at 2 in the morning only to be confronted with thousands already ahead of them in the queue. And with every passing hour, the crowds had swollen and the lines barely inched ahead. Just as Vatsala was about to give up and collapse with exhaustion, there was a commotion ahead of her. Step aside, step aside, someone was shouting and there was a sudden scramble of people to get out of the way. The orderly arrangement of people a moment ago soon began to disintegrate. A posse of sniffer dogs materialised out of nowhere. Policemen, bristling with authority, promptly appeared behind them. And the crowds, as if jolted out of a stupor, decided to scurry for cover. Bombs, muslims, terrorists. Words came tumbling out at random as no one seemed to have any clear idea.

Soon thereafter they learnt that the temple was to be closed for the rest of the day. And devotees were advised to stay away until further notice. Looks like the Lord will not grant us a darshan this time, sighed her father-in-law as they slowly made their way back to the hotel room. The Lord is punishing us for something we must have done wrong, muttered the mother-in-law who thought of Him in much the same way as her high school maths teacher. Thank you, Lord, thought Vatsala as she lowered her head and grinned with relief. She would have to rejoice in private.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Ready, Steady, Charity - 22

Shoefiend's sister's three words : Puli, Arnie, Lois

Shoefiend's take

The washing machine shuddered to a halt. Ramanujam's ageing hands flipped the lid open and his cataracting eyes peered at the twisted, serpentine heap of petticoats, brassieres and trousers. With a sigh, he heaved the bundle of clothes out and threw them in to a plastic bucket.

How had it come to this? How was it possible that he (who had been nicknamed Iyengar Puli by his college mates for his prowess in a boxing ring) was hanging out his wife's underwear to dry? 'Lois Panties' the label said. 'Idhukku onnum korachal illai' he thought savagely. The woman had been his downfall. His Mother had warned him about her.

"Don't marry this one kanna. Vendaam. Amma will find you a nice girl."

He had pushed aside his mother's remonstrance's and gone ahead and married Kamali. Thank God Amma wasn't around to say I told you so.

The steaks had been replaced by vendakkai ('But I belong to the Blue Cross! How will it look if my husband eats meat?'). The training to become the next featherweight champion was replaced with a job at the local bank ('If anything ever happened to you...' - never mind that 10 years service at the Mandaveli Branch had slowly killed him anyway). The pictures of Arnold were replaced by images of pot bellied Ganeshas. The children that they were saving all their money for never came. And so they got themselves a dog. Or rather she had. Arnie (nakkal!) the Pomeranian was her baby.

'Yenanga. After you've hung the clothes out to dry don't forget to feed baby.'

He silently went to the kitchen. The blasted dog was whining and pawing at the cupboard already. Ramanujam opened the can of dog food and carefully spooned the chunks of meat in to a tiny sterling silver bowl. He placed it on the floor and watched as Arnie attacked it with relish.

'Lucky Bastard' he sighed.

Ready, Steady, Charity - 21

Words: Baby, Cigarette, Kamal Haasan, Burp, Goddess, Disposable.

Neha says, "Decided to combine three words from 2 requests. Six words now. Just like that!"

She wondered if the Goddess had written Mylapore Maami on her forehead the minute she was born. At the age of sixty-four, she was too old to change her habits. Orthodox by default . In the years following the birth of their first child, she had become involved in housekeeping. The baby took much of the time. Her MA in Mathematics had landed her a good husband. The nice rational man wrote regular letters to The Hindu apropos of this and that, while she was pushed to the corner to become more traditional to balance the entire household.

Her husband however had become more religious since his retirement. It was this that annoyed her the most. Would their karmic equations be the same? What use of observing rituals from the age of twenty three onward, if a retired man was going to gather as many brownie points to enter heaven. He had decided to go on a sudden trip to Rameshwaram. Religion was so much fun for retired men she thought. She wanted to retire too. She took care of their grandchild instead. Everyone kept yapping about how much easier it was with disposable nappies and what not. You still have to wipe the shit off their bums she thought. She wanted to shave off her husband's moustache without his knowledge she thought, the only man who looks good with facial hair is Kamal Haasan.

She goes to the Pooja Room. She strikes a match and lights an incense stick. Nobody else was at home. She then took a cigarette out from behind the picture of Ganesha. The Lord of Good Beginnings. She lit the cigarette with the same match. The smell of incense would overpower nicotine. Besides, the heat in Madras burnt all odours. This strange habit had brought out all the skills of connivance wired into a Mylapore Maami. Going all the way to Pondy Bazaar, and demanding a pack of Wills Navy Cut every week from an always-puzzled shopkeeper.

That night, while serving her son and his wife Pepper Rasam, a burp found its way through her mouth. Her son looked at her with some sternness. She would have cried, but with every burp, she tasted a bit more of her afternoon cigarette. And grinned.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Ready, Steady, Charity - 20

Mumbaigirl's words - Burp, goddess, disposable

Ammani's take

Ei Pattu!, called out the young girl, I want this washed for school tomorrow. Pattu deftly caught the balled up shirt that came flying her way. She unrolled it and put it to soak along with other shirts and sarees that were waiting to be washed. But first Pattu had to mop and clean the house and wash the cooking pots from last night.

How quickly these children grow up, she thought to herself as she brought out the broom and started dusting the floor. It seems like yesterday that I helped Suguna Amma bring her new born from hospital. She had been devastated that this too was a girl. A third daughter, Suguna had wailed, why Pattu? Why are the gods testing us? Did we not pray enough? Why, even you fasted so I may bear a son! Why, Pattu? Where did we go wrong?

Pattu had tried to console her distraught mistress. Don't say that Suguna Amma, she had offered, you are now blessed with a trinity of Godesses. Durga, Lakshmi and now, Saraswathi. But Suguna had refused to even handle the new-born. So it was upto Pattu to feed, bathe, burp and care for the infant. Just like she had cared for the child's father.

The years rolled swiftly by and the infant was now a strapping young girl at the cusp of becoming a woman. Pattu always had a soft corner for young Saras and considered her her own grandchild.

Ei!, a sharp cry brought her back to the present. It was Saras. What have you done to my shirt, Pattu?, she was screaming. She was holding up the white shirt in her hand and Pattu could see that it was badly stained from being soaked along with other coloured clothing.

Illai, Saras amma, Pattu started to explain. Enough Pattu!, spat out the young girl, you've wrecked my new shirt. And I don't want any of your pathetic excuses. She hurled whatever was in her hand at Pattu and stormed off.

Pattu bent down and picked it up. It was a small disposable pen that had been twisted in rage. It could have been me, Pattu told herself wryly.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Ready, Steady, Charity - 19

Mumbaigirl's words - Burp, goddess, disposable

Neha's take

Appa, she asks, Why did she
write about the God of Small
Things? His paternal self, rising
like a burp through his belly
fills the air with food and
tradition. Sour and somewhat

Does she mean small things
like snails, or like little baby

Because, chinna kutti, he
says, some small things are for
keeps, the others disposable. The
Goddess, I think, takes care
of the latter.

Like your shaving blade? Yes, he
nods. Like that only.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ready, Steady, Charity - 18

Chinna Ammani's words - Osama, Kandivali, Navarathri Golu

Annon's take

It was difficult picking up vigrahams for Navarathri Golu, everyone had the same Gods, and Vedavalli wanted something different. She had gone around the shops, but she was a face freak, and she didn't find anything different and never found any vigrahams with kalai.

The nose was chaptai, or the eyes were skewed, or the ears fell off. Finally, near charkop market in Kandivali, she suddenly found someone with a whole bunch of Pandava and Kaurava dolls that were beautiful. Why not have a Mahabharata theme? She was very excited. The old lady selling them was offering them cheap as well, maybe she didn't want to carry everything all the way back home.

So, she got the lot and began arranging them. It was reasonably clear who was who, Duhshasana even had a Sari trailing behind him, and finally she came to a bearded figure she didn't know?

Who has a beard? Yudhishtra, Sahadeva? I already have them, they had the Pandava colors. For some strange reason, the Pandavas were all blue like the Indian cricket team and the Kauravas were, well, whatever. Maybe because Gandhari was from Gandhara. Who was this bearded guy?

She asked Vikraman. He said, dhadikkarana? Bhishma, Drona, no, they were there, then he said, It must be Aswaththama, the only other person with a beard. Bhoorisravas? No, he was fat and had one eye. It has to be Aswaththama.

So, she arranged all of them, but somehow she couldn't put Aswaththama. Everyone fought fairly in the Mahabharata, except Kritavarma, Aswatthama and Kripacharya. She thought, what is the difference between Aswaththama and Osama? Maybe in every generation, there was an Aswaththama, in this, he is called Osama.

The 9 days went off very well, even Vikraman didn't seem to notice that Aswaththama wasn't part of the Golu.

Ready, Steady, Charity - 17

Siva's words - Innocent (as in smoothie), ceiling, googly

Ammani's take

You cannot make up such stories. This happened for real. At a party a while ago, my friend Jem was trying to explain to his friend Francois what a googly is. It's the opposite of a leg break, said Jem to his uncomprehending listener, it spins from offside to leg. Francois, the cricket novice, failed to grasp any of it and ended up sighing a lot, shrugging his shoulders and rolling his eyes towards the ceiling.

A googly, persisted Jem, can also be achieved by bowling the ball as a conventional leg break, but spinning the ball further with the fingers just before it is released. And to illustrate his point, Jem grabbed a bottle of Innocent smoothie which had been left on the table and spun it around deftly. The slippery bottle escaped Jem's grasp and landed smack on someone's face. The poor girl had to be rushed to the hospital where she had to endure five stitches on her forehead. We still tease Jem about it. He proclaims he was innocent. We know it was wicked googly. Especially since he ended up marrying the girl some months later.

Ammani's take 2

Why isn't it called fruit juice anymore, wondered Andy as he sipped from a carton of Innocent smoothie. Andy had just been made redundant from his company the previous week and had broken up with his girlfriend only a few weeks earlier. Feeling freshly wounded, he demanded an explanation for all that was unacceptable with the world. What was wrong with fruit juice that they changed it to smoothie? he asked out aloud. First it was ballpark figure, then came 24x7 and now smoothie! Andy felt a large yankee conspiracy was being played out to unsettle him. He got up from his sofa and stretched towards the ceiling. Then having nothing much to do, he slumped back into the sofa and turned on the telly. Warne was bowling the ball of the century. A googly that neatly displaced Flintoff's bails. They maim our language and beat us at our own game!, Andy screamed. These bloody foreigners, he swore aiming the remote at the screen.

Ready, Steady, Charity - 16

Niren's words - Triceratops, velvet, tabla

Neha's take

The Master comes everyday from 11 AM to 1 PM. Two hours of the day when she learns music, reluctantly. She didn’t need any intellectual pursuits she told Venkat. But, Hindustani allowed for a certain languid mood that found resonance. After witnessing his fifteen minute teen taal orgy with the tabla, she wondered if she could begin to like this after all.

Maybe if she got pregnant, Venkat would let her stop the bloody music lessons. In the middle of the alaap, she finds herself sinking in the unmistakable velvet wetness of her period. Her eyes fill with water. Master looks at her - tabla, eyes and gesture posed in gentle question mark. She shakes her head side to side. Whispers, “Triceratops. Eyedrops for those who remember too much.”.

Ready, Steady, Charity - 15

Anon's words - schadenfreude, pontificate and synesthesia

Shoefiend's take

Schadenfreude, Pontificate and Synesthesia were best friends. They were born within hours of eachother. Their parents played bridge together ever Friday night. They had crawled together, walked together and even looked at their first Playword together (The centerfold that month had been a rather well endowed B) In short, they were inseparable. On their 13th birthday they met as was custom after breakfast and exchanged gifts. That year Pontificate decided his gift was to talk at length about what their purpose in life was. Synesthesia gave his two friends harmless looking white powder so they could experience words and number in all their coloured glory. It made Pontificate pass out. Schadenfreude couldn't help but gloat.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Ready, Steady, Charity - 14

WitchyAngel's words - Manolos, asparagus, halwa

Shoefiend's take

Her 8th birthday had been marked with a visit to the temple, her mother's carrot halwa and a strand of kanakambaram. Two decades later she found herself being ushered by an imperious maitre d' to their table. She reveled in the sidelong glances of jealousy and desire. The deceptively simple cut of her dress. The discrete solitaires. The dazzling beaded clutch. But she knew it was the shoes that lifted her to another level altogether.

That morning, as she lay in bed she had quivered in anticipation as he handed her the box. The wrapping paper was torn apart fiendishly until she reached the simple white box and the two words printed on the lid. She had almost passed out with excitement when she'd touched the black Manolos. She now had everything.

Her cream of asparagus soup arrived. As she sat staring at the bowl of steaming mush she couldn't help but wish for some halwa.

Ready, Steady, Charity - 13

Apu's words - Graffiti, blimp, seersucker

Annon's take

Kalyanasundaram sastrigal set off on his moped, wearing his seersucker angavastram. Business was not good. There were a few families that still liked him, but they were calling only for dharbai, amavasai, replacement poonals. He was lucky to get 3-4 divasams a month.

Yaga Narasimha Sastrigal and his disciples had taken over the market. He was scornful when YN Sastrigal´s ads appeared in block multi-colored Graffiti. He said this was no better than seeing prostitutes phone numbers in telephone booths. Then the advertisements happened on large balloons. Old ladies in Triplicane squinted up at the sky and began calling the number on the balloon. Now, YN had taken to going around Madras in a blimp, administering quick divasams. He was even conducting mass yagnopaveethams from the blimp as it circulated around Marina beach.

Ammani cried today morning when she went to pick up fresh koththamalli. YN Sastrigal had dropped his ads from his blimp right on Kalyanasundaram sastrigal´s garden.

What can Kalyanasundaram sastrigal do? I leave this as an exercise to the diligent reader.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Ready, Steady, Charity - 12

Swami's words - Ghatotkacha, Rumsfeld and Banian

Neha's take

He didn’t miss her all the time. He had no time for such languid emotions. But in the morning while in the shower, he suddenly realized that her black bra was no longer hanging where it usually would, dripping water on the tiles. Slipping into his banian, he quickly says a prayer. This Gatotkacha of emotions, sleeping otherwise, woken only by sudden visions of her in this familiar house. He calls softly to the dog, “Abishtu”. Abishtu flops his ear open. “Do you miss Akila?”.

The softness of a banian is more valuable than the newness of it. It grows soft as it ages, much like Grandmother’s cheeks. A small hole underarm is held like a close secret. Akila, he thought, how much I love you. He walks into the living room. He looks at Raghavan deftly scooping out idlis while nodding towards the newspaper, “Rumseld and Michael Jackson wedding pictures. All over the papers. They both look so good in Pink.” Akila, you hate pink. Artists he thought have almost ugly-hands. But Akila’s are nice. Raghavan keeps mumbling, “He gave Jackson half of Iraq as a Wedding Present.”

“Raghavan,” he wanted to say “Fuck Rumsfeld. I miss your wife.”.

Ammani's take

The US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld was once asked whom he would like to play the lead in a movie about his life. And he is believed to have said, the great Indian actor Ranga Rao. I loved his potrayal of Ghatotkacha in the movie Maya Bazaar, he added adjusting his banian which was a size too small, and would love to see his interpretation of my persona on screen, The American press, which had until then never heard of Ranga Rao went wild and a hunt was launched to find out more about the mysterious Indian actor. Rumsfeld, of course, excused himself soon after the meeting as he had to go home and change his underwear and decide which country to invade next.

Ready, Steady, Charity - 11

Swami's three words - Bashi-bazouk, curd rice, Kremlin

Annon's take

For a long time, it never struck me as strange that all the General Secretaries of USSR landed up at our house.

Brezhnev used to land up every now and then. Kanjoos. Bought us sputnik magazines we got for free at Popular Book depot. He loved the vadais patti made. Once in a while patti would scream. Bashi-Bazouk! Naivedhyam kooda pannale, inda Brezhnev vadayellam thinnuttu poyittan!

I was upset that they were made to sit at the Vishnu elai in all our functions. I never understood why I couldn't sit there. Appa and Amma were afraid of them. Patti didn't care. She would hand Andropov a bucket and say, Poi Thulasikku Thanni Oothhu, and Andropov would dutifully do it and come back.

Khruschev was a bit in love with Patti. Suddenly we found that Thatha, who died long ago, who had never done anything as Health inspector but run behind cholera patients with a large needle, had been awarded the order of Lenin. Since we lived in Gopalapuram, Karunanidhi´s son would land up at our house. Khruschev would cuff him on the ears for no reason at all, so that spoilt our good relationship with kalaignar´s house.

Patti would pack Puliypotharai and Curd-rice in banana leaves and send it to Moscow. Somehow they would last the journey, probably because it was cold in the Himalayas.

But somehow the rice became gas-inducing. Khruschev would dismiss everyone in the kremlin and enjoy the curd-rice with patti´s thokku. We would read about army exercises inside the Kremlin in Span magazine and laugh.

If you look carefully at the earlier photographs of Sputnik, you would notice that it was originally named Mangalambal after Patti. A large photograph of Patti, dressed as Catherine the great, still hangs in the hermitage museum in St Petersberg.

Somehow, we were sad after 1991. Things became more commercial. There was no day-to-day contact between soviet and Indian citizens anymore.

Ready, Steady, Charity - 10

Prabhu's words - Ferrari, Vijayakanth, Salma Hayek

Neha's take

It was back to college. His month long feast of good food and afternoon sleep was over. He would sprawl over the dull coloured sofa and watch television. Hot bajjis making their way onto his plate while he would watch F1 re-runs, rooting for Ferrari. During particularly boring laps, he would follow his mother into the kitchen and she would indulgingly ask him for the umpteenth time, "What is this? Why do you want to see madmen race in those little cars?". He would grin and ask for more bajjis. Such pleasant tiffin routines. His father would grab the remote control and insist on watching some Vijayakanth movie. His mother would want to watch the serials on Sun TV. They would have these well-oiled dialogues ridiculing each other's tastes. His eyes fill with tears. Maybe he should have studied harder and gotten into the college near home.

Back home his mother weeps and sobs. Unconsolable. She has her son's little notebook in hand. She walks into the Pujai room and looks into the painted eyes of Murugan. Between sobs, she opens the last page of the notebook and show it to the Gods. "I've had him for ten months in my womb, and this is what that ungrateful child does to me? He's going to marry a Muslim. See, it says he loves Salma Hayek. Did I not teach him to love only Brahmin girls?".

Ready, Steady, Charity - 9

Apu's three words - Graffiti, blimp, seersucker

Shoefiend's take

It was almost funny, his dying like that. A mid-air collision between a blimp in the shape of a Weenie Weiner and his hot air balloon. The tabloids had had a field day; 'Actor killed by giant Weiner'. 'Mid-air cock up' and the like had dominated the headlines until they discovered a sixty year old Oscar winner in bed with an underage rent boy. And just like that, he had been forgotten. She missed him. For all his philandering and drinking he'd been a good husband by the industry standards. He'd given her a 20 room mansion in Bel Air, furs and a private jet. But most of all he'd given her his name. A name that got her a table at Maison, store credit at Bergdorf's and free drinks at Chi. She was nothing now. Nobody. They'd said they were full up at the Whiltshire Spa the other day. Full up! They'd cancelled that Welsh girl once to put her in. And now they were full up.

She stepped in to her walk in and let her finger tips trail over the silken creations that hung there. Oscars 98. Golden Globes 2005. She'd made it to the best dressed list that year. But she already knew what she was going to wear. She'd decided last night.

She glided in to the ensuite and sat down on the Louis XVIII chair. How would she do it? A simple straight line or something more elaborate? His name perhaps? Scrawled across her arm like graffiti.

LA Post, January 25th, 2006

"_____ found dead in bathroom"

The widow of Hollywood legend _____ was found dead in her bathroom last night by staff. Police are calling it suicide. A former dancer, Mrs. _____ was a patron of the arts and was on the committee of a number of charities. A regular front rower at fashion week, she had a dramatic sense of style but chose a simple, cotton seersucker dress for her final performance. She is survived by her dog Alohonse.

Ready, Steady, Charity - 8

Chandru's words - Knit, x-rays, Brylcreem

Ammani's take

Last Thursday, Ambujam mami was told by her doctor that she needed an x-ray. You see, recently she had been knitting a lot and had developed a common ailment called knitters' wrist (similar to the tennis elbow). Now, Ambujam mami had a fear of x-rays and secretly believed that photographs reduced longevity. And for years had guarded herself against the devilish influence of the flash bulb. But this morning, there was no escaping the electromagnetic radiation. She removed the three gold bangles from her right hand and lay her bare wrist against the cool metal plate.

The radiographer did his best to allay her fears. This is not a photograph, he told the eighty year old, X-rays are a type of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths of around 10 -10 meter. So well educated, thought Ambujam mami, he must be the same age as my Ambi, but what a difference! With his hair parted and combed in place, the young man reminded mami of her own late husband in his younger years. He even smells like him, she thought, taking a deep breathe of the hair gel the young man favoured. Brylcreem probably, she guessed. As she closed her eyes, visions of her old man dipping his fingers into the jar and digging out a smooth mountain of the cool pomade swam before her eyes. He would run the gel through his hair before combing it in place. I've never seen anyone with such finely combed hair until today...Mami's eyes flew open in a blind panic. She looked at the radiologist at work across the glass panel. She saw his mild stoop, knitted brows, flared nostrils and a faint smile that she knew so well. He looked up at her and the smile grew wider. The bastard!

Ready, Steady, Charity - 7

S's words - Maida, Surya, bucket

Shoefiend's take

The overturned bucket was pushed up as close to the wall as possible. She stood on it, picking up and shaking each identical dabba that sat in a row like shiny, stainless steel sentinels until she found what she was looking for.

Squatting down on the living room floor she measured out three cups of maida. The news competed with her mother-in-law’s gaseous emissions and her own day’s headlines for attention. She sprinkled salt over the flour. Twenty men dead from drinking illicit country liquor. She slowly added water and began kneading. Her daughter had failed in maths again. Centre refuses to interfere in State’s water shortage. Her kneading fell in to beat with the news readers staccato delivery. Her mother-in-law wanted to know what Deepavali bakshanam they were making. Teachers go on strike in Machilipattinam. A month in advance. Her hands were pummelling the dough now. Her husband had said they couldn’t afford a new colour television this year either. She whacked the ball of dough viciously. Actor Surya marries Jyotika in a star studded ceremony. She froze holding the basin in her hands. As images of the beatific couple flashed across the screen a lone tear travelled down her cheek.
“Paithyam paithyam. If you wanted a new television that badly you should have said something - not throw things at it. Che! What’s come over you?”

Ready, Steady, Charity - 6

Dinesh Kalyanasundaram's words - Telepathic, Grand slam, New york nagaram

Neha's take

Dear Selvi,

Apparently you've had the baby. It's hard to tell if it's a boy or girl sitting in this city, halfway across the world. I may be a genius but telepathic I am not. Have you named the child yet? I suppose my suggestion of naming a child after my parents may not sit well with you. My mother thinks that the birth of this child is akin to a Grand Slam victory. That for a year or so, we'll bask in the glory of a chlid and fall in love again. She thinks you will come back to this city with her and the baby in tow, so she can look at her daughter-in-law struggle with a tiny creature wearing an arana kayaru. She refuses to come without you. A grandchild is the only way to transform New York City to New York Nagaram.

Can't we just pretend you love me?


Monday, September 25, 2006

Ready, Steady, Charity - 5

Apu's words - Arboreal, mosquitoes, miracle

Ammani's take

Manas, the mosquito harbours a secret. He is arboreal. That means he lives predominantly in bushes and trees. Now, for you and me who know that a mosquito's natural habitat is humid, wet conditions, this might seem a miracle. But for Manas it was natural to live among greenery. And he was quite happy buzzing there for the first 23 hours of his life till he realised that he was rather alone. So he sought company. Unfortunately, his rare ability meant that none of his species could live up there with him. Which left Manas, unable to breed and pass on his mutant gene. Hours have gone by and Manas, it appears, is doomed to spend his old age alone. In one final stab at the mating game, Manas is going to attend a speed-dating event scheduled for this evening in your living room. Please do not swat him.

Ready, Steady, Charity - 4

Swami's words - Cicisbeo, tourbillon, chateau

Shoefiend's take

As she walked towards the microphone a hushed silence fell over the room. The bald man in the third row stopped shaking his leg; bringing to an end the 'shk shk shk' sound his polyester trousers made as one synthetic leg rubbed against the other. She could see her mother sitting right up front, lips moving as silent prayers invoking His thousand names and meant only for His ears escaped in to the universe. The Chinese (or was he Korean) boy Kim walked past her grinning. Chateau? Please. A five year old could take that. Standards had dropped since last year. Last year. That had been something. Tourbillon. Now there was a word. Her word. The applause had been deafening. The interviews never ending. Champion. C-H-A-M-P-I-O-N. Champion.

She stood at the microphone now. Arms behind her back, tightly clasped, fingers digging in to the skin. Painfully. To remind her what losing would feel like her mother had said. What would that feel like she wondered?


The word furrowed deep in to her brain where its meaning resided. She realised she did not know. What failure felt like. Was it like the thudding, dirt hitting low that accompanies the inevitable descent on a see-saw. If success was in her hands so was failure.


"Could you use it in a sentence please?"

As the thin faced woman prattled out some inanity, she looked out at the audience. Her mother's eyes were screwed shut, her lips moving faster

'amaanee maanado maanyo lokasvaamee trilokadhrik sumedhaa medhajo dhanyah satyamedhah dharaadharah'


'C-I-C-I-S-B-E-O.' she thought to herself.

Getting this right meant another day of necromorphous, acephalous and drapetomania. She wondered what was on television at 12:45 on Tuesday afternoons.

She cleared her throat.



Maybe they'd have Tom & Jerry on.


The wail from the front row drowned out her final, triumphant Cicisbeo.

Ready, Steady, Charity - 3

Swami's words - Bashi-Bazouk, curd-rice and Kremlin

Neha's take

He read all the time. Even while walking, he splits his vision between minimum safety on the street and on reading. His index finger has become smooth on the edges, like a stone softened by the flow of water. Every word leads to another. He looks at the onion soaked to pink in the vinegar. Gleaming like a dome in the Kremlin. At twenty five, even his hormones had submitted to the negligence. The words become Bashi-Bazouk and tickle his insides when he is asleep. His mother, tears in her eyes and diamonds in nosepin begs him to marry soon. He threatens to go to Istanbul. I will survive on curd-rice he tells her.

Ready, Steady, Charity - 2

Arthi's words - cigarette, baby, Kamalhassan

Neha's take

Being married to a man in the Army wouldn't be easy. This much she knew. But it was in the moment that her son was born that the first vein burst. Smelling of cigarette and red sand, the Brigadier walked in and congratulated the Officer and the Wife. He looked down and said, "What a handsome Baba!". Baba? In Army parlance, Baby had become female and hence, the male offspring was referred to as Baba. Postpartum, the word reminded her of the Rajnikanth in that awful movie. Maybe she should have married Gangadhar. He had preferred Kamal Haasan anyway.

Chandru's take

So, there I was, smoking the last of the day's cigarettes, listening to my whiny radio tear asunder Ilaya Nila. Thoughts fly on tangents, as they are prone to. I wonder what happened to that cousin of mine, whom we called Baby, and his obsession with clean bathroom floors. Which reminds me, I wanted to see Raja Parvai. Where Kamal Hassan is a blind man. I might have something to teach him - after all, I have been blind for 20 of my 20 years.

Ready, Steady, Charity-1

K S Selvakumar's w0rds: Cocker-Spaniel, Ilayaraja, sleep

Neha's take

From the corner of his eye, he spied on the the delicate pinkness of the dog’s tongue, one-tenth of which had slipped out of the jaws in the drowse of afternoon sleep. Postprandial, a life full of the hairiness of a cocker-spaniel named Coovum and the hum of violins. Inertia broken by the absolute need to scratch his back. He wondered then, why Ilayaraja had chosen to name the collection ‘Nothing But Wind’. It sounded curiously close to the phrase his grandmother used after eating a few Ulundu Vadais. As if on cue, Coovum wagged his tail.


Yesterday, as I was walking down a supermarket aisle, looking for a dozen large, organic, free-range eggs, I knew that the change was complete.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A quick tale 160

Stranger on the road

I spot you at a distance. Some hundred metres or so away. It's hard to miss you in your bright red t-shirt and your bobbing hair that keeps in rhythmn with your jog. I recognise you as a face from the past. But I cannot place you. Perhaps an aunt's neighbour. Or a cousin's classmate. Or did you go to school with me? Were you my driving instructor? I'm still furiously going through my mental snapshots while I notice that you're now 50 metres from me. Your name. Something beginning with an S. Or a K. It definitely has a J in it. Meanwhile, you are steadily narrowing the distance between us. Quick, I need to remember who you are. How should I greet you? A polite smile? Or should I add a 'how are you' and risk further conversation? You're now 10 metres from me. Something-Raj, yes, that's it. Your name is Something-Raj. Nice. You're just a handshake away. Our eyes meet. You quickly avert your gaze. And as you jogged past me, I thought I saw a frown crease your forehead . Why? Who did you mistake me for?

Friday, September 22, 2006

A quick tale 159

An e.g. day

It had been at an exceptionally good day thus far. The wife was smiling when he came down in the morning. She even offered to make him coffee. Later, as he drove to work, his car stalled at the traffic lights. And as it stood there, rooted in the middle of busy, morning traffic and as the lights turned from red to green to red again, not one car honked, not one driver snarled at him. And at 11 o'clock, when he usually took a coffee break, a colleague remarked how dapper he was looking that day. And at 5.33, when he tuned into the drive time show on classic fm, the host played his favourite composition by Puccini. This must be a sign, he thought. A day cannot be so right without a reason. So on his way home, he stopped by at the corner store. And bought a lottery ticket for a draw later that evening. He won nothing. Not even close. It had been an exceptionally good day up until then.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Deepavali Charity Contest

Hello all!

Deepavali is just round the corner. And I have come up with a new fundraising drive for my favourite charity that will require your participation. Watch out for an announcement in the next few days.

Thank you.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A quick tale 158


Two brothers are trying to solve a puzzle. The answer to which is 'flamenco'. But they don't know it yet and they have been staring at the page for a few minutes now. Please God, pleads the younger of the two silently, give me the answer. My brother has everything in life. Heck, he even found a free voucher in the cereal box last week. Me, I never win anything. My relationship is a mess and my career a non-starter. My car brokedown on the way here and I can never find trousers my size. It's all going wrong for me. Just let me solve this puzzle before he does. By now, it has been close to 4 minutes that the brothers have been focussed on the clue with no sign of cracking it. The answer is on page 56, suggests the older brother, should we take a look? If you insist, says the younger brother. Shrugging his shoulder as if he didn't care.

p.s. Inviting readers to write the other side of this story. From the point of view of the older brother. Call it 'Around the same time as a quick tale 158' and post it in the comment section or email me at ammania@gmail. com

Friday, September 08, 2006

A quick tale 157

At around the same time as a quick tale 156

I wonder, she thought as she lay on her back, whatever happened to that guy who lived across the street from us. The one I briefly had a crush on before I found him in a pink polyester shirt one morning. And what about that girl, the one who would walk with me to school every morning. Where could she be? And the old headmistress, she thought letting out a sigh, I wonder what became of her. I can still remember her words the day I left school. Would she be disappointed if she saw me today? Or would she be proud? Would she even remember me? Is she still alive? I must search for her on the internet tomorrow, she resolved when she felt him stir beside her. He turned to his side and put his arm across her in a hug. Damn these coffees, she thought, keeping me awake all night. I won't drink a single drop tomorrow, she swore as she closed her eyes and hoped to fall sleep.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A quick tale 156

At around 2, one morning

Someday, he thought, as he lay on his back, all of this will be gone. The relationships so carefully cultivated. The memories collected. The experiences gathered. The children, the birthdays, the betrayals, the mortgages, the holidays, the risks, the triumphs. None of this will be remembered. All his life will be gathered and reduced to one faded photo of him smiling into the distance. Which someone will garland once a year. With this lingering thought, he turned to his side and hugged her. Then closed his eyes and hoped to fall asleep.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A quick tale 155

A reason for saying no

You are pretending that the thought has not entered your head. You keep stirring the sugar in your coffee and ignoring the thought that is gradually hammering its way into the main stream. You focus on what the man in front of you is saying and hope that if you concentrate hard enough the loud noise in your head will somehow disappear. The man in front of you, the one your parents have arranged for you to meet, is talking about tax saving funds. And all the time your mind is thinking ‘this is the man I will be sleeping with’. You look down at your coffee cup for fear that your eyes may give away your thoughts. You notice the curly hair on his knuckles as you lower your eyes. You know in that instant that you cannot marry him. He continues to talk about high-risk equity schemes. Later when your mum asks you why you turned him down, you’ll say ‘we were not compatible’. Surely, hairy knuckles would not be an acceptable reason.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A quick tale 154


It all started when Prakash Rao was at the doctor's clinic. He was standing with his back to the wall and a young nurse, perched on a chair next to him was marking his height on the wall. Prakash was there to get a doctor's certificate, necessary for a life insurance policy. His blood pressure was a normal 120 over 80, his weight a satisfactory 63 kilos and barring a mild case of halitosis, Prakash was his very good health for his 34 years of age. He was pleasantly distracted by the nurse's bosoms which were brushing against his face when he heard her call out, "five feet eight inches."

That can't be right. "Five feet eight inches", repeated the doctor as he wrote it down on his letter pad. Prakash stepped back to look at the faint marking on the wall and the nurse was right. It was a whisper short of five feet eight inch mark on the height chart stuck to the wall. Surely something must be wrong with the chart, he thought. With all these imperial and metric measurements and conversions, Prakash was convinced that they had got it wrong. How else do you explain his height coming down a massive three inches!

For as long as he could remember, Prakash had been five feet eleven inches tall. His passport said so. His tailor would say so too, if he didn't just bother with measuring Prakash's legs. In fact, he remembered once when his newly-wed wife Hema had described him to a friend on the phone. "Nearly six feet tall", he had heard her say and he had walked around on his toes all afternoon.

A man cannot just lose three inches of his height. It was like waking up one morning and finding your arm gone. Or finding that the face in the mirror is not one you recognise. Prakash was getting used to the new reality of his life that he drove home from the clinic distracted. He had barely stepped into the house when Hema demanded, "Did you remember to buy coconut? I knew you would forget it. Lalli athai's daughter Jalaja will be here any moment and I will not have finished cooking. Would you do this if this was one of your relatives?"

Prakash pleaded headache and went straight to his room clutching his head. Could he be shrinking? Had his old age already begun? What next? Would he start losing hair and teeth and memory soon? Would he have to start buying insoles? He would certainly have to stop Hema wearing those high heels. For he can't be shorter than his wife!

The afternoon passed by in a blur. Jalaja and her husband Sarvesh were saying something about buying a flat and the difficulty in getting school admission for their daughter. Prakash discreetly checked out Sarvesh's height as they got up to leave. Sarvesh was a good inch or two shorter than him and Prakash liked him instantly.

He decided that from then on, he would divide the world into those who were taller than him and those he liked. He was still making up his mind when heard Hema call out, "Listen! Can you help me get the plastic box from the top almirah? I want to pack some sweets for Jalaja."

He stopped frowning for a moment. A smile spread across his face as he raised himself on his toes and called out, "Coming dear".

Monday, August 21, 2006

A quick tale 153


Did you or did not drop it?, demanded her father dangling an iron box by its wire as if it was a dead rat. The 11-year old looked at him for a couple of seconds trying to make up her mind.
Yes, she admitted, it fell down and broke as I tried to iron my skirt this morning.
Having heard the answer he was looking for, her father did not know what to do next.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Need Help!


I need help with some recording. I'm not terribly aware of the technology involved. All I know is that it has to be an mp3 file.

The person whose voice needs to be recorded lives in Delhi. So if you know someone in Delhi who has the equipment needed to record an mp3 file, could you please pass on their contacts to me at ammania@gmail.com ?

Much appreciate your help.


Friday, August 04, 2006

Thursday, August 03, 2006

My Dear...

Have you ever wished you could tell your boss what an idiot she is for putting you down at the meeting the other day? Or your ex-boyfriend what you really think of his birthday gift? Or that stupid woman behind the counter for turning down your visa application? Or your school PT teacher for making you practise your drill in the baking sun while she sat in the shade sipping soft drink?

Here's your chance. Write a letter to someone telling them what you've always wanted to. It could be addressed to anyone - living, dead, fictitious. Make it short, say within 300 words. And send them to ammania@gmail.com. Please mark 'My dear' in the subject line. If you wish to remain anonymous, that's fine too.

To read all the letters received so far, please go here

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A quick tale 152

My mother's daughter

Unlike that woman, there aren't many photos of you when you were seventeen. There is one though, which I remember seeing many years ago, taken just before you got married. You are staring straight into the camera, your jaw set, your posture perfect, your will strong.

How familiar I will become with your unbending will in the years to come! Some might even say I inherited your stubborness. Do you remember how many times you and I have disowned each other? During bitter fights over inconsequential things that would escalate into raging feuds. That we would go without speaking to each other for weeks. Now when I call, we speak like old friends. You tell me about your childhood, your brothers and your sisters. Stories I never had patience for when I was young. I listen to them now, may be because I realise that I may not have forever to hear the last of them. Still, sometimes we lapse into our old ways and one of us hangs up in a huff. And then there would be silence for days. Before the phone rings again.

Growing up I never saw much of you in me. I only saw father when I looked in the mirror. But now, when I speak to my child, it's your voice I hear. I borrow your stories, I sing your songs. I improvise on your jokes. I repeat the threats I heard as a child. I am you. And I'm finally beginning to understand what it must be like to be my mother.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A quick tale 151


Have you ever wondered, walking past the grocery store, how the man behind the counter could keep his hands off the sweets in the glass jar? Yes, me too. Nearly every morning on my way to school, I would see Chettiar in his crisp white veshti and white khadi cotton shirt, sacred ash smeared liberally over his forehead, sitting impassively behind the counter in his grocery store. He was clearly the master of all he surveyed. And every morning, I would wonder how he was never tempted by the gorgeous little globules that shone out from the bell jars that stood on his table.

In all those years, I never once saw him unwrap a little toffee and toss it in his mouth. Not even during those idle summer afternoons when most people preferred to stay indoors and Chettiar's store would be quiet for want of customers. He seemed strangely immune to the sweet temptations that were so tantalisingly close at hand. How could that be?, I tried to reason. May be he had them when I wasn't looking. That must be it. After all, I reckoned, I passed by his store two or three times a day. And he must be helping himself to handfuls during rest of the day. Just to be sure, I started going past the shop more often. Sometimes, I would turn the corner and observe him secretly. But not once did I see him reach for the jars. This must be some sort of a miracle, I was convinced. Whoever heard of a man who did not grab the treats when they were at arm's length?

I never got to the bottom of the mystery. Some months later, we moved out of the house and subsequently, Chettiar's store gave way to a high-rise apartment. Last week, I saw Chettiar again. I was at the traffic lights when a scooter pulled up next to my car. Chettiar was sitting behind someone, his son presumably, on the scooter. He was smaller than I remembered him. More condensed and shrunk with age. As the two-wheeler raced ahead of me, something fluttered out of Chettiar's hands. It landed briefly on my windshield before being blown away. It was a small square of transparent green crinkly paper. The kind used to wrap toffees.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

A quick tale 150

At Ease

I can see you looking at me. With sympathy in your eyes. I'm sure you are wondering what I look forward to in each day. After all, how different can the ceiling look from one day to the next? You feel sorry for me and you come and sit next to me. You tell me about your job, your family, your plans, your future as you hold my hand. You believe this is going to make me feel better. I'm alright, I try to tell you, don't pity me. I too was chasing dreams once. But I'm happy with the way things are going now. I lie back and think about things past. People long gone. No, I don't yearn for the old days. They were stormy and wild. I have good memories and I'm content to be where I am today. It's my time to reflect. I just wish my knees wouldn't hurt so much.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A quick tale 149


What's the word for what I'm feeling right now? Epiphany? Yes, I think that's it. Here I am, standing in a queue to pay my telephone bill on a Wednesday afternoon and in a rare, undisturbed moment, I reflect. On how I came to this point of my life. A middle-aged man who's fast losing his hair wondering how long it will be before it is his turn at the till. How did I get here? I don't remember much of the journey. There are only two more people in front of me now. I check my bill, count my cash, adjust my crotch and look at the receding hairline of the man in front of me. When did the brazen idealist of my twenties give way to this softer, mellow version who takes comfort in other people's baldness? Did it happen overnight or was it gradual? So gradual that I did not notice the change? Bald man moves. I stand in front of the till. Yes?, queries the bull dog behind the mesh. The spell is broken. I place the bill on the counter, weigh it down with a wad of cash and slide it across to her.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Dear Mr Director

...even the confirmed non-believer, the harshest cynic will have to agree that no one makes a child suffer so much unless there is a larger plan for him..

Anouradha Bakshi in a touching letter to a school director.

Monday, July 03, 2006

A quick tale 148

Dear Ammani

A quick tale 147


You envy those to whom decisions come easy. Look at her, you think to yourself, two kids, holding both her hands and the third waiting to pop in the next few months. She probably determined the size of her family over the course of three nights. Her hair is a fiery red. It is likely that she sat at the hairdresser's and chose the colour on an impulse. And not browse through celebrity magazines weeks on end to decide whose style to follow. And those heels on her feet. You are sure she did not spend half-a-day considering if they were practical AND fashionable. You reckon she just pulled them out of the closet and slipped them on.

You watch her getting into a red hatchback. A car she must have picked up after it caught her eye one morning. You are pretty sure she did not climb a hundred showrooms, compare prices, surf the net for deals before picking up a rundown, second hand car that she is not happy with. And when she gets home, you are positive she will already know what she's going to cook for dinner. She will not spend hours agonising over what to feed her family that is both nutritious and still popular with the kids. Someone honks. You really must stop dreaming and make up your mind about which way to go. You reach into your pocket for a coin to flip.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Saturday Poem

Found this in yesterday's paper. Again, I wish I'd written it.


Now and Then

"Now that I'm fifty-seven",
My mother used to say,
"Why should I waste a minute?
Why should I waste a day

Doing the things I ought to
Simply because I should?
Now that I'm fifty-seven
I'm done with that for good."

But now and then I'd catch her
Trapped in some thankless chore
Just as she might have been at
Fifty-three or fifty-four

And I would say to her
(And I have to bite my tongue)
That if you mean to learn a skill
It's well worth starting young

And so, to make sure I'm in time
For fifty, I've begun
To do exactly as I please
Now that I'm thirty-one.

-Sophie Hannah

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A quick tale 146


Each time I look at your washing line, I wonder how you manage to spread your laundry out so tidily. Every item of clothing stretched across the line and pinched at the ends with plastic pegs. Smooth and without a crease. As if you had ironed them before hanging them out to dry. This morning I noticed an extra vest along with the usual. It hung limp from the clips that held it. Curiously resembling a deflated balloon. Whose is it? Your father-in-law's, perhaps? How long will he be staying? I noticed that you had brought your silk saree out for an airing last week. Is there a wedding in the family? Are you going to be wearing your favourite mango-coloured blouse again? Remember to mend it because I saw a small tear near the sleeve last time.

Now that the rains have stopped, I hope you will start washing the blankets and pillow covers. They must've gone musty from the damp season. Do you still have the white sheets with tiny blue flowers on it? I liked them so much that I went to the store the very next day to buy the same ones for me. But they were all sold out. They're probably the only blues in your house. Because I know you favour reds and oranges. Except for that pale green chiffon saree that I saw you pick up from the washing line on the 23rd of last month.

Your little ones are growing up so fast. It wasn't long ago that I saw squares of cotton cloth being hung out to dry. Already, there are school uniforms. Do you ever look at my clothesline and wonder about me? Do you notice that there are no tiny frocks or little pants fluttering alongside the man's shirt and the woman's saree? You are probably too busy to indulge in idle speculation. Which reminds me, it was so windy yesterday that one of your handkerchieves was blown across the terrace and landed on ours. Is it alright if I kept it?

Monday, June 26, 2006

A quick tale 145


I'm about set in motion a series of events which I will come to regret almost immediately. My bottom is racing towards your sofa and I will be unable to stop it in time. Soon I will sink into the inviting warmth of your cushions. I will just have surrendered myself to the enveloping cosiness of your pillows. When I'll hear a soft but perceptible crack. There will be exclamatory signs across the room. And all eyes will turn towards me. I think I just sat on your glasses. Sorry.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

And now for something different

Came across this little gem in yesterday's paper. I wish I'd written it.

Not Yet My Mother

Yesterday I found a photo
of you at seventeen,
holding a horse and smiling,
not yet my mother.

The tight riding hat hid your hair,
and your legs were still the long shins of a boy's.
You held the horse by the halter,
your hand a fist under its huge jaw.

The blown trees were still in the background
and the sky was grained by the old film stock,
but what caught me was your face,
which was mine.

And I thought, just for a second, that you were me.
But then I saw the woman's jacket,
nipped at the waist, the ballooned jodhpurs,
and of course the date, scratched in the corner.

All of which told me again,
that this was you at seventeen, holding a horse
and smiling, not yet my mother,
although I was clearly already your child.

-Owen Sheers

Friday, June 23, 2006

A quick tale 144

The Collection

The next time you visit Nagamma, ask to see her calendars. What calendars?, she will demand indignantly. The old ones, you tell her. She will deny having such a collection. But persist at it. And at some point, she will relent and will lead you to the kitchen. There, she will say, pointing to the huge pile stacked on top of the kitchen shelf as if supporting the ceiling. Bring it down to the floor carefully. But beware, it weighs a ton and layers and layers of dust would've settled on it. So wear a mask if you are allergic to dust. Clear the cobwebs and you will see that the calendars go back all way to the 1950s and 1960s.

In fact, if I remember right, the earliest one is a compliment from Lakshmi Printers, Erode for the year 1949. It has an image of Lord Siva in his abode in Kailasa. Someone told Nagamma that it was inauspicious to have a picture of Siva in the house. So she put it away where eyes couldn't see it. For Nagamma couldn't bring herself to discard the calendar with its religious depiction. It would surely bring ill-luck, she believed. And that's how it all started. Each year, she would pray that the calendars would have photos of babies, nature, mountain, waterfalls, anything but gods. But each new year brought a fresh lot of calendars and a new set of gods and goddesses adorning them. I reckon Nagamma now has the entire Hindu pantheon stashed away in her makeshift loft.

They have changed a lot over the years. In the 50s and 60s, the goddesses used to look like English women. Pale skin, smooth features. By contrast, the ones in the 70s and 80s all looked like movie stars of that era. Look up the one from 1986, yes, the one from Vijaya Traders, Coimbatore. The resemblance to Sridevi is striking, isn't it? But don't ever tell Nagamma that. She will be furious and she'll have you out on the streets.

These days, Nagamma is too old to climb the ladder and bring them down herself. So she looks up at them, at her outdated pyramid of calendars, and remembers the good times. And the days when the gods smiled on her.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

A quick tale 143


Three....two...one...ground floor. My eyes follow the lift's descent as it comes to rest with a gentle thud. I wait impatiently for the doors to slide open when I see you scurrying to join me. Damn! Why can't you wait and take the next one? I quickly shuffle inside and look the other way. Which?, I demand. Eighth, you answer. Three floors before I get off. Good. I press the buttons. An awkward silence follows. I busy myself with my bag. Like I'm searching for something important. I find a ball-point pen. From the corner of my eye I see you looking at me. Please don't start talking. I have no interest in you. I'm still looking inside my bag. Sanitary pads, chewing gums, train tickets, spare change, car keys, band-aids, old bills.

Where are we now? Still only on the 4th floor! Why are these lifts always supremely lethargic? You cough. I can feel a question coming. Something inanely pointless. That strangers stuck in a lift together feel compelled to ask. Usually about the weather. Please don't start. I'll ignore you. I promise I will. Look, we're on the 6th floor already. Not long to go. So don't start now. You cough again. Oh dear, don't. Ah, yes, I've just found my mobile phone in my bag. I'll start fiddling with it. That should deter you from trying to make conversation. The lift is slowing. After an eternity, it finally eases to a stop. I can feel my shoulders sag with relief as I see you walking out of the door. And that's when I notice. You stuff your mobile phone into your shirt pocket. As if you had been fiddling with it all along.

Friday, June 16, 2006

A quick tale 142

Sometime between 7 and half past, this morning

It had to come to this sooner or later. But you've been putting it off because it just seemed so wrong. After all, he's been your milkman for as long as you can remember. In the early days, the milk would be there no matter how early you woke up. You had a little competition going on with him (though he never knew of it), to see if you could catch him delivering the milk. And on days when you saw his little milk float pulling up at your gate, you marked a little star in your diary. But over the years, the stars have become more and more frequent. As his delivery became increasingly erratic. And some days, the little glass bottles would reach your doorstep at noon. You've tolerated it for so long, inventing excuses for him. Oh, the poor missus must be ill. The rains have wrecked the roads, delaying him indefinitely. He really must do something about the cough, it is slowing him down. But today, with the fridge empty and the kids waiting for their breakfast, you've had enough. You sit down to write a note asking him to stop delivering milk. You just wish you knew where to begin.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A quick tale 141

Rumination on a pair of shoes

This morning, while on your jog, you notice a pair of shoes sitting on the side walk. You look around to see if there is a pair of feet that is meant for them. You see nothing. What an unusual place for them to lying in, you murmur before bending down for a closer inspection. The sole is slightly worn and the mouth somewhat askew. From where you are crouching, the trainers looks like two old men sleeping with their mouths wide open. Who could have cast off a perfectly good pair of shoes?, you wonder. Did she, in the middle of a fierce row with him, grab his shoes while aiming for a more crucial piece of clothing? And having grabbed them and yanked them off his feet, did she fling them out of the car? If so, how did they land next to each other? As if someone had placed them tidily, side-by-side. Or did someone out on a morning jog, full of philosophical rumination, see in a moment of blinding clarity, the futility of footwear and discard them by the sidewalk? Did he then go on cast off his other irrelevant possessions? His mobile phones, ipods and fabric softeners? What could have come over a person that he abandoned his shoes, arranged them neatly by the side of the road and carried on with the rest of the journey? You look up at the road ahead, you've still got a mile or so to run. You turn your back on the shoes and decide to walk instead.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A quick tale 140

This morning, at breakfast

A man, his name is irrelevant to this story, has just heard on the news that comedian Jerry Lewis has been taken to hospital with pneumonia and is expected to make a full recovery. He is surprised. Not because he doesn't think an octogenarian can survive pneumonia. No, he is not the kind of man who mocks old age. Nor does he question the abilities of modern medical science to pull any man from the brink of death. He is merely surprised by the fact that Jerry Lewis is alive. You see, all this while, he had been under the impression that Jerry is no more. Not that he had actually thought about it. But he had simply added Jerry to the long list of famous people who were no longer active and hence presumed dead. He feels so bad that he sits down to write a long letter of apology to Jerry. And while he's at it, he also decides to look up the state of Jimmy Carter, Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall.

Friday, June 09, 2006

A quick tale 139


It's probably nothing. Well, that's what you tell yourself. You see, this morning when you came into the kitchen, you found that the tap had been left running. A steady trickle of water had been flowing down the sink all night. About 10 or 15 litres of water gone waste, you reckon. Enough supply for a small family in drought-stricken Africa to survive on for atleast a couple of days. With prudence, it could have even lasted them a week. But now, all that has gone down the drain. You sigh and tell yourself that it's just water. One strong spell of showers and the deficit would even out. You even put out a bucket out in the garden hoping to catch a few drops in the next drizzle.

Still, you can't seem to shake the image of water-starved children out of your head. Why me, you wonder. What about all those idiots who are using up water to wash their cars and shampoo their dogs and sprinkle their lawns? And who could forget that moron who left his tap running for days in the name of art? How come none of them ever seem to worry about dying Sudanese children? And yet, that evening, when they mention Darfur in the news, you switch channels and look away.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


I'm sitting on a straightback chair, glass of water in hand and staring vacantly at an empty wall. I'm wondering if I should tell you about the lady who liked to leave tea bags in her mug as she drank from it or about the time when a man woke up with a distant memory and spent the rest of the week trying to remember it all. The glass in my hand is nearly empty and I'm getting up to refill it. I open the tap and watch the glass getting full. I turn it off before it overflows. I'm back on the chair, sitting erect, drinking glass in hand and wondering if I should hang a painting on the empty wall. I'm yet to decide on a story. I will share it with you when I do. I can hear a drip-drip-drip. I'm getting up to check on the tap.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Not a story but reads like one

I was on my usual evening run - sprinting down the last hundred yards or so, visualising the afternoon's excesses melting away, picturing myself in a size 10 skinny jeans, doing my Kelly Holmes imitation - when, at a distance, I spotted an old red VW Golf parked in the middle of the road. The hazard lights were switched off and only the left indicator was blinking. It is a 50 mile zone and I was thinking what an odd place for a car to be parked in. And dangerous too, as other cars seemed to notice the parked car only at a close quarter and were avoiding it narrowly. As I drew nearer, my curiousity was piqued but a recent unpleasant incident alerted me to possible mischief.

I noticed the driver stretching his hand out of the passenger window to draw my attention. I slowed to a jog and carefully peered inside the car. The driver was a 60 plus gentleman with a friendly smile on his face. Hello, he said. Hello, I greeted warily. Don't worry, I'm not a dirty old man, he tried to reassure me. So, you would tell me if you were one?, I wanted to ask but simply nodded. I'm not a dirty old man, he repeated noting my guarded expression. And then, quite unexpectedly he asked me if I had a problem. Did I have a problem with what? I didn't understand what he was getting at. Sorry? Do you have a problem?, he persisted. Problem? No problem. Why do you ask?, I replied still unclear where all this was going. No, he hastened to add before I got the wrong idea, I saw you running very fast. I thought, may be you had an emergency. And I was wondering if I could offer you a lift. His explanation caught me unaware. I grinned stupidly and gently assured him that everything was fine and that I was simply out on a jog. Oh, bless, he smiled before engaging his car in gear. I thanked him profusely and as I saw the red car drive away into the distance, I felt extremely grateful for the crisis I never had. And tears were stinging my eyes.

What a Gesture!

Details here. Thank you, Mrs Smith. Whoever you are.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A quick tale 138

To my niece, 3 hours old

When you are old enough to read this, I hope you will not be embarrassed of me. But chances are, you will roll your eyes and mutter what a sentimental old fool I am. Just like how I would have reacted. And if you're anything like your aunt, you too will have a short fuse and a broad forehead. The second of which you will come to dislike. Immensely. But whatever your attempts at hiding it, don't ever try a fringe. It will not work. You will be annoyed at the way it falls over your eyes and before long, you will have pinned it back. And that, my dear, will only draw attention to what you seek to cover.

There's so much we need to discuss. But by the time we meet you will already be a toddler and your mother will be full of stories. I will hear about your first words and about the time when you climbed up the stairs all on your own! I will have missed most of your antics. Something I can never reconcile to. And in ten days' time it will fall upon me to call out your name. I will ask them to hold the phone close to your tender ears and I'll whisper it long distance.

The One in which Ammani becomes Athai

It's a girl!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

You are invited

Premalatha has put in a lot of hard work into organising a charity fundraiser on the 20th of May 2006 at Hemel Hempstead. It's in aid of an Indian charity (soon to be decided). Tickets are a mere £12 per head. Kids under 10 go free.

There's going to be good food and plenty of fun. So don't miss this opportunity. More details may be found here.

I look forward to seeing you.

Thank you.

(This is a sticky post. Please scroll down for the usual)

Friday, May 19, 2006

A quick tale 137

The gift

"You shouldn't have, really!", protested mother as she eagerly accepted the huge box her brother-in-law had just handed her. Our uncle had come from abroad and we had all gathered to witness the annual gift-giving ritual. Preparations for this day would start weeks ahead. Friendships would be forged and bets traded on the mystery gifts that the relative from abroad would bear. And with the arrival of his bulging baggage, furious speculations would begin. Tiny hands would caress the sides of his luggage hoping for tell-tale clues. Elders would stand around and gape at the baggage wishing they had x-ray eyes. And the hours before the suitcases were due to be opened, excitement would reach fever pitch.

"This", said uncle pointing to mother's gift, "is a curd maker". He paused for effect before elaborating, "It makes curd". He said it with such flourish that some of us broke into spontaneous applause. The curd maker came packed in a shiny, brown box which had an image of a stunningly beautiful woman with even teeth and impossibly golden hair.

Mother opened the box delicately to reveal a smooth round container with several small glass jars inside. "You pour warm milk inside", explained uncle, "stir in a teaspoon of curd and leave it covered overnight. The next morning, you have pots of thick curd like you have never tasted before". The gathering was stunned in disbelief. "The things they invent abroad!", said grandmother. "I tell you, these foreigners are so clever!", said father. "Let's put it to test", suggested a neighbour.

So under our uncle's watchful eyes, we poured lukewarm milk into the little bottles. We fought over who would spoon in the curd until it was decided we would all have a go. With nervous hands, we carried out the task with extra diligence. Then, the all-important task of putting the lid on the container was entrusted to the guest-of-honour. Casting an appreciative eye over the crowd, he clicked it in place. "And now", he said, "there's nothing to do but wait".

The next day, at the crack of dawn, we gathered around the mystery contraption that had been at work while we slept. "Are you ready to taste heaven?", asked our uncle. Tantalising us where there was no need to. Several heads nodded in unison. And so, with the utmost care, he opened the case and brought out the jars. He shook one of them gently and the curd inside trembled. He scooped out a spoonful and held it aloft for all to see. And then with our eyes trailing it, he slid the spoon inside his mouth. He closed his eyes and savoured it. Several seconds passed before he opened his eyes and said "Perfect!".

We never used the curd maker again. Mother said it was too much trouble cleaning. Plus, what was wrong with the old way of making curd? It worked perfectly fine, she reasoned. But every year, whenever our uncle came visiting, she would bring the appliance down from the loft, dust it, clean it and display it prominently in the kitchen. "It makes such wonderful curd", she would lie to him.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Double take on a quick tale - 6

Apu's story

The short life of a fish

Last night I dreamt that I had morphed into a fish. I swam around a rectangular tank, my sleek propeller body cutting through the water. Point A to B and Point C to D and Point A to B. What is life, if not this endless repetition of hours, days and years? I asked myself rhetorical questions to which there was no answer, and spent my time pondering over the nature of God and the wisdom of his or her existence. I deigned to accept my fate, I rebelled against the laws of nature, I tossed about frantically between these two extremes. I worshipped Darwin, I claimed the Hand of God. And while I was doing all of this, a big hand entered the water and pulled me up, gasping, rasping. I woke up on the kitchen tale, just before the knife sliced me in two.


The short life of fish (my version)

Last night I dreamt that I'd morphed into a fish. My piscine alter ego was prone to a lot of idle pondering. Like wondering about the point of life. Musing about the origin of species. And ruminating over rise of real estate prices. Pointless contemplation, as I pointed out earlier. But then, what was a fish to do all day? I tried to rebel for a while. But it's not as if a fish can dye her gills pink or pierce her tail. Plus where would I find a tattooist in my 2x2 fish tank? So I simply thrashed about trying to look cool.

Which was when a hand came in and grabbed me by the tail. It scooped me out and laid my writhing body on the kitchen counter. Wait, I screamed. This is a dream! I resisted but the hands that held me down were strong. I saw a knife being sharpened. Don't chop me up, please! It was futile. I was growing weak. And my pleas were getting feeble. I don't want to become sushi! My system was shutting down. For heaven's sake, don't feed me to the dogs! No chance. I watched in horror as the shining metal came slamming down on me.

I hope you like your curry today

Double take on a quick tale - 5

Prabhu's take on A Quick Tale 20

Cyber Sex

They were having cyber sex, and he never knew she had two windows open.

Double take on a quick tale - 4

Deepa's take on A Quick Tale 128

When she showed her 2 friends the picture of the guy she'dprobably marry, they thought he was ugly, dark and had nopersonality. "He looks good", "Come on, he is a surgeon, whats wrongwith you? Unlike you, he doesn't wear thick glasses" She was disappointed with their reaction. She wasn't impressed with that guy. Apart from all the physical drawbacks, he couldn't even speak2 sentences in decent english to the convent-educated her. And tothink her friends were actually supporting him even after she hadmentioned this "huge" drawback! She thought, "Maybe, I am beingvery superficial. So what if people might nickname us 'Beauty andthe beast'. He is educated and comes from a good family. Maybewe'll be happy together and have a good life. Maybe my friends are right" and she said "yes" toher parents."I feel bad about lying to our best friend. She deserves someone better", said Friend 1. Friend2 said "Are you crazy? The way things are going, she'd probablyget married to that guy with or without our approval. Do youwant our best friend to think we were very judgmental about her hubby?"They both nodded in agreement.

Double take on a quick tale - 3

Prakash Chudalayandi's take on A Quick Tale 121


Waiting for the dentist is already a nerve wracking experience. Add to that it was HER sitting almost next to me! It feels like it was yesterday... but it was may be 20 years now? She hasn't changed much, same confident look about herself.The confidence about her that provoked me then to initiate a mean conversation. So insensitive of me. No wonder she never wanted to see me again. I have changed, not a mean bone in me anymore.

I should probably start a conversation, I should begin with a SORRY- may be. But what if she still hasn't forgiven me, or even worse, what if she has forgotten me totally? Hmmmm, if she doesn't rememberme then I would be making a fool of myself initiating a conversation. She coughs now, wish I could use this chance to look at her, but I peer into the words in the magazine with unseeing eyes. Well, she could initiate the talk as well, right? The girl I knew then would have already started talking. I am pretty sure she doesn't want to have anything to do with me. Well, that feels better.

Presently, I hear my name called out. This wait wasn't all that bad, thanks to her! I will definitely talk to her after my appointemnt with the dentist. Until then let me pretend not to notice.