Saturday, April 29, 2006

A quick tale 129

At around 11 am one Tuesday morning

You remembered it as you were pouring tea into the cups. Or was it when you were hanging out the washing? You recalled the face you passed-by that morning. It seemed so familiar. Isn't she the one you went to school with? The same straight black hair. The oddly slanted eyes. Slightly bowed legs. And a congentinal inability to say the word 'yellow'. You bet if you had stopped her on the streets, pointed to your umbrella and asked her what colour it was, she would have said 'lay-o'. It had to be her, you were convinced. Until you realised that it had been 32 years since you left school. And your classmate would have aged in that time. Her hair would've turned grey and her eyes would've grown lines around them. Just like yours have. Ah, it's memory, you said to yourself. Never letting people from the past grow old.

Friday, April 28, 2006

A quick tale 128

Reality Bites

'He's the one I am to marry', she said. Passing around photo of the man her parents had chosen for her, among her friends. 'That's him in the striped blue shirt' she said needlessly. The photo had only him leaning awkwardly against a wall. His striped shirt was not the first thing her friends noticed about his appearance. They saw his thinning hair, his average build, his forced smile, his strikingly painful ordinariness. The group slipped into a deeply introspective mode. It seemed like all their fantasy knights had been felled in a single swoop by this mild, middle-aged man who looked like the kind you would buy insurance policies from. Or ask directions to the library from. The group remained silent for an embarrassingly long time before someone observed, 'he reminds me of a man who once helped carry my suitcase up the stairs in a railway station.' Everyone nodded vigorously. As if helping young women carry heavy luggage was what good husbands were made of.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A quick tale 127


Last Tuesday, as she was getting ready for work, a thought occured to her. She wondered if anyone would notice if she did not wear mascara that day. She stood there in front of her mirror wondering. Would the world stop spinning if she didn't lengthen her eyelashes? Would birds stop cooing if they were not 25% Extra Volumised? Would the Middle East peace process grind to a halt because she did not apply Waterproof Superlash? And closer home, would she be skinnier, richer, sexier and acne-free if the tiny strands of hair sticking out from her eyelids weren't curled up flirtatiously? She knew the answer. But paused to consider the gravity of her discovery. And then slowly, she unscrewed the little cylinder in front of her, eased out the brush and started running its tiny bristles along her eyelashes.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A quick tale 126


He came at me from behind, taking me by surprise. And before I knew it, he had grabbed my bag and run away with it.

Some days later...

I was scared out of my wits. He brandished a knife and threatened to attack me if I didn't hand over my bag.
Poor you.
It was either my life or the bag.
No choice.
Obviously. I tamely handed over my bag.

In a few weeks...

He had a menacing look about him. I should've been more watchful.
Was he a big man?
Built like a weight-lifter. With bulging arms and all. I was no match.
And he threatened to knife you.
I'm sure he'd have ripped me to pieces if I hadn't handed over my bag.

The following month...

He was giant. An armed giant. He had a revolver and a knife.
Oh my god!
Look at this scar on my neck.
He held the knife to my neck and laughed like a maniac. It's still ringing in my ears.
What did you do?
What would anyone do? I gave up my bag to save my life.

In a couple of decades...

I can still remember those weeks when I was held hostage.
Yes, by a group of disgustingly vile terrorists.
No way!
They tortured me. In the most shocking ways.
I'm at a loss for words.
Scarring me beyond recognition.
All because...
All because I didn't hand over my hand bag when threatened.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A quick tale 125


Now that it had happened, they started looking for signs that would have warned them of the impending disaster. My right eye was twitching like mad that morning, said the mother, I knew something was going to happen. Yes me too, joined in the aunt who never liked to be left out, I dreamt of a wedding. You know what they say if you dream of something auspicious. I should've seen it coming, said the grandmother, the milk curdled that morning. And the crows, recalled the neighbour, they never stopped crowing. That's true, added the sister as she rocked her colicky child, my baby was wailing all day. Everyone nodded solemnly. It could have been avoided, they were sure. If only they had paid heed to the portent signals. And for a brief while, they forgot. That it was all his fault.

Monday, April 17, 2006

A quick tale 124

A message

Dear S~~,
Happy Birthday.

Six words. Which she read again and again. Searching for hidden meanings. Look, she noted, it’s not Happy Birthday with an exclamation mark but a full stop. As if he wanted her to know the predictability of its recurrence. Don’t be surprised if your birthday falls on the same day next year, he may have wanted to imply. He was always so world-weary, she sighed to herself. And when her eyes drifted to the line above his name, she paused to wonder why it wasn’t ‘With love from’. May be because he didn’t feel it right to use such an intimate term of endearment. At least he had chosen a ‘Dear’ before her name. And the way he had abbreviated her name was a clear indication that she was in his close circle.

Still, it would’ve been nicer if he had sent her a card instead of scribbling a note. But was it really a scribble? It’s just the way he wrote, she told herself. He had, after all, remembered her birthday and sent her a greeting. Which must mean, beyond doubt, that she mattered to him. That settled it for her. She folded the A4 sheet in four and then in four again. As if guarding the words from escape. She slipped it under her pillow and laid her head on it. And played the words over in her mind one more time. Just in case she had missed something.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A quick tale 123

Letter to a former tenant

You must be surprised to hear from me, Irene Spencer. It's not like we were friends or anything. I'm writing this note to thank you for subscribing to the Littlewoods (free) catalogue. They do have the most gorgeous collection of summer dresses. In the latest issue which came addressed to you, there's one in particular - in a lovely shade of pastel green with tiny blue flower prints - that I'm thinking of ordering. Oh, I do hope that you don't mind that I opened some of your correspondence.

In the first few months after moving here, I set your letters aside. But as time went by, it became clear that you were not coming back to collect your mail. Initially I thought of destroying them but there might have been something important that required attention. And indeed there was. There was a note (written in a menacing tone) from a debt collector. Apparently, you had ordered some books and never paid for them. It was followed by a court summons some time later. I don't think you will be interested in the details. Suffice to say that they gave up after a few more unsavoury threats.

But not all of your mail was bad. Your cousin 'Wally' (Wallace?) had sent you a postcard from Spain. It had a vulgar drawing on it. I didn't want to leave it lying around the house (I have small children, you see), so I tore it up. You aunt Mabel has been sending you Christmas cards every year and inviting you to join her for lunch on Boxing day. You must write to her and tell her that you have moved. There has also been an assortment of pamphlets and brochures offering everything from a clean garden to a set of sparkling white teeth to fixing you up with a nice date on Valentine's day.

Which reminds me, have you renewed your passport? Because there was an intimation from the Home Office of its impending expiration. By the way, I have told the credit card people that you are no longer interested in another card (I may have just added that you are migrating to Australia to get them off my back). There's still a couple of mailers from a charity for the homeless asking you for a donation. You are welcome to pick them up anytime you wish. You know where I live.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

An appeal

Premalatha Balan won't take no for an answer. Join her. Thank you.

A quick tale 122


This time it was somewhere where she couldn't hide it. Just below the right eye, her cheek had swollen into a ripe blue ball. She was aware of the stares and nudges as she walked into the store. She kept her gaze down and went straight to the counter and asked for a painkiller. I fell down the stairs this morning, she explained a little too loudly, It was so dark, I couldn't see very well and I missed the last few steps. The shop assistant nodded with no interest. As she was leaving, she thought she heard a snigger. It was the old neighbour. She wanted to run up to her and tell her, It's not what you think. I really did take a tumble today. Yes, he has a temper. And loses his cool once in a while. That's because his job is so stressful. But this, she wanted to say pointing to the bruise, This is from the fall.
Instead, she looked up and smiled at the neighbour. In defiance. In a show of normality. And walked out with quick steps.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Guest Blog by Chinna Ammani

அப்பர்சாமி கோயில் தெரு

லஸ் கார்னரில் எடு ஒரு லெஃப்டு
நேரா போய்கீனே ராயப்பேட்டவுல லெஃப்டுல ஒரு கட்டு

அங்கதான் இருக்கு எங்க அப்பர்சாமி கோயில் தெரு
எங்க ஸ்ட்ரீட்டு விஐபி லிஸ்ட கொஞ்சம் பாரு

பக்கத்து வீட்டு பரூர் ஃபாமிலி
அவங்க வயலின் வாசிப்புல செம கில்லி

கோடி வீட்டு கொத்தமங்கலம் சுப்பு
தில்லானா மோகனாம்பாள் அவர் பெருமை சொல்லும் அப்பு

எதிர் வீட்டுல இருந்தார் ஒரு மகராஜன் - அவருதான்
வெண்கலக் குரலோன் சீர்காழி கோவிந்தராஜன்

'உருவா மீசை'பாடுன பாடகர் மாணிக்க விநாயகம்
அவரு எங்க தெருவுல தான் பண்ணாரு சாதகம்

தமிழ் சுப்ரபாதத்துக்கு பேர்போன பாம்பே சிஸ்டர்ஸ்
அவங்கதான் எங்க தெரு சூப்பர் ஸ்டார்ஸ்

சப்னே-வில் ஆக்ட் செய்த அம்மணி
சாத்தியா-வில் ஆக்ட் செய்த சின்ன அம்மணி
இவங்கதான் அப்பர்சாமி கோயில் தெரு பாலிவுட் பெண்மணிஸ்

'வேலன்' சீரியல் புகழ் பிள்ளையார் கோயில் குருக்கள்
ஆட்டோகிராஃபுக்காக அவரை ஈமொய்க்கும் தெரு மக்கள்

இவங்களுக்கு கோலிவுட் தந்தது புன்னகை அரசி-ன்னு ஒரு நேம்
கே ஆர் விஜயா இஸ் பார்ட் ஆஃப் அப்பர்சாமி கோயில் தெரு ஹால் ஆஃப் ஃபேம்

அப்பர்சாமி கோயில் தெரு அட்வகேட்ஸ் ஃப்ரம் அரும்பாக்கம்
ப்ளாக் ஃபேம்ஸ் அம்மணி இஸ் ஆல்ஸோ ஃப்ரம் திஸ் குடும்பம்

சின்னத்திரை சீரியல் [பெயர் தெரியாத] பாட்டி, பால்கார மன்னாரு, பூபதி, வெள்ளிக்கிழமை தவறாது சாமியாடும் 'குண்டு' தாயீ கற்பகம், இஸ்கூல் ஆயா
- எங்களுக்கு இவங்களும்தான் விஐபிஸ், அய்யா!

ஹைதராபாத்திற்கு ஒரு ப்ஞ்சாரா ஹில்
மும்பைக்கு ஒரு பாலி ஹில்
ஹாலிவுட்டுக்கு ஒரு பெவர்லி ஹில்
இந்த மாதிரி ஹை-ஃபை ஹில் லிஸ்டுல இருக்கு
சென்னையோட எங்க அப்பர்சாமி கோயில்

- சின்ன அம்மணி

Thank you

I am overwhelmed. Thank you very much.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A quick tale 121

Look at me

You cover your mouth and cough gently. This should catch his attention. But it doesn't. He leans back and turns the page of his magazine. A louder cough. He brings the magazine closer and peers into it as if it was in small print. You shift in your seat hoping that the mild commotion will cause him to look up and take notice of you. Ah you, you hope he'll say, how've you been? And from there on, you wish you'll slip into a casual conversation as if it's just been days and not 20 years since you last met and parted ways bitterly. But he continues to be absorbed in his read. You contemplate dropping your bag on the floor to get him to look your way. For a brief moment, you even consider going over and saying hello. Presently, his name is called out and he gets up to go see the doctor. He walks past you without so much as a glance in your direction. And that's when you notice what he's been reading. Instructions for an air conditioning unit. He knew.