Friday, June 29, 2007

A quick tale 191

This morning at breakfast

You will not believe it, but she has been thinking about it since Tuesday evening. In fact, shortly before you came home from work that day and just after the kids had finished their homework, she went into the kitchen to soak the lentils. And just after the dinner table was cleared, she had second thoughts about the amount of rice in the mixture and added quarter-of-a-cup more. The next morning, she went in to see if the pulses had soaked though and as soon as you were out of the house, she drained the water and ground the lentils and rice to a soft paste. This was not easy as the blade in the grinder had gone blunt. So she poured the batter back into a pot and unscrewed the blade from the grinder and replaced it with the spare one. This time the batter turned out smooth with no lumps or bumps. Satisfied with the result, she left the pot in the far corner of the kitchen to ferment.

This morning, she woke up 20 minutes before her usual time to get the accompanying chutneys ready for breakfast. The results are there in front of you. Steaming hot and straight off the pan. You wolf it down as you skim through the newspaper. I know you're pre-occupied with that client meeting this morning. But before you go, tell her that it was really nice. She will probably dismiss it with a wave of a hand. But after you're gone, she'll break into a smile. Brighter than the morning sun.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A quick tale 190

When you started eyeing her bags

Can you keep an eye on my bags while I nip to the loo?, she asks you as she squiggles her way across the crowded compartment. You have barely known each other for ten minutes. You helped her haul her luggage into the train compartment. She thanked you and then settled into her seat across from you. She asked you where you were headed and then confirmed that that was her destination as well. That's how far your acquaintance has been with this woman. And now she wants you to look after her bag. You've got that kind of a face. One that readily evokes trust in people. In the past you have been given house keys by your neighbours and been asked to water the plants or to feed the budgies while they were away on holiday. The plants always died and the budgies invariably 'eaten' by cats. And some odd trinket from here and there went missing. Which of course, no one really noticed.

The woman has been gone for less than a minute when you start surveying her bags. From where you are sitting, you can only see them partially. There are three bags in varying sizes. The large one is tucked way back under the seat and the two smaller ones sit flanked on either side. Your eye falls on the small red bag on the right. It looks promising. The bulge in the middle seems to suggest that it contains something of worth. Perhaps a gift. May be something electronic. You only have to pretend to drop something on the floor and grab the bag as you gather your stuff. It will be over in a blink and no one will suspect anything. The question then is, what will you do with it? You cannot jump out of a running train. But if you wait till the next station, you risk running into the owner. The down side to the plan is that there's every chance that the contents will turn out to be a dud. What if the bag contains besan ladoo or something? You'd have risked life and limb for flour balls.

While such conflicting thoughts criss-cross your mind, the lady returns from the loo. She thanks you for safe-guarding her possessions and proceeds to settle down in her seat. And that's when it hits you. It has nothing to do with trust. Your abject inability to carry out a simple theft could well have been tattooed on your face. Presently, she bends down, reaches for the red bag and asks you if you'd like something to eat. You politely refuse her offer and watch her as she opens the bag and bring out a box full of ladoos.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Absurbia 2

A story in 3 acts

At first,
Dirty shoes
Clean carpet.

And then,
Dirty carpet
Clean shoes.

But finally,
Dirty carpet
Dirty shoes.

Write your own absurbious entry based on the photo above. Caption, poem, story, recipe...anything goes. Post it in the comment box. Thank you!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


dead bird in the garden
bed gird on the bar den
ban turd in durban
bad turn in turban

Perhaps another new series. Send me your take on the photo above. Anything goes. Just post it in the comment box. Thanks!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Is this a tale?

Perhaps a new series
- a

In my bag. Two ball-point pens. A greeting card with no message written on it. Instructions for an mp3 player. Four CDs. Bills from lunch time. Parking permit to the gym. A notepad with phone numbers but no names. A slew of business cards. Hairbrush. A jingle of keys. Anti-histamine tablets. Lipstick past its expiry date. Two chewing gums. Train ticket from last Saturday. Sanitary napkin. And a mobile phone. With a missed call. From you.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Not another quick tale

I don't know why I was thinking about you today. Your birthday is only in November. And that day is not until August. It must be because of the song I was listening to. Not the one with your name. But the one that we used to sing together. The one that you would sing hopelessly off-key. The one I teased you so badly about. And that was not the only thing I used to tease you about. The way you used to stutter mildly before each sentence. The way you scratched your head often. The way your hair curled into tight rings. Just about everything was a reason to taunt.

How could I forget that day when we went to the beach and I demanded that you return the dress you were wearing because it belonged to me? Yes, right then and there. I wanted my dress back. And yet, you kept your head about you. You just ignored me like you always did. And that infuriated me even more. I tugged and pulled at the dress. You continued to ignore me. How I tortured you! That I was only 8 or 9 years old then was no excuse. Looking back I'm shocked at how my behaviour was allowed to go on.

Luckily, you didn't have to suffer me for too long. And after a couple of years with us, you went back to living with your parents - my aunt and uncle - in that remote northern town. And we met only during holidays. Until that year, when we were both 16 years old. I still remember being woken up in the middle of the night and being asked to pray. You had contracted meningitis and were in a critical condition in the hospital. And collective prayers alone could save you. Sadly that was not enough and you succumbed to the disease. After that, whenever I saw your mother, I was weighed down with inexplicable guilt. She would see me and burst into tears. You too would have been going to college. You too would have started working. And like my mother, she too would have been looking out for a suitable groom for her daughter. I was a constant reminder of the life that her daughter was so cruelly denied.

But the real reason I'm writing to you is because I'm a mother now and I fear for my child. You know what they say about the sins of the parents coming back to haunt their kids. And I often worry that there's a bully waiting to get my son.

I know I didn't say it when it mattered. But I'm saying it now. I'm sorry for what I did. I really am.

Friday, June 08, 2007

A quick tale 189

When your lower lip was quivering.

No, don't. I didn't know how to say it over the phone. But now you're here, sitting in front of me, looking into your coffee mug, and wiping your tears, pretending as if dust has fallen into your eyes. I get the feeling that I have to say it now or I will never get a chance. You see, you called me up this afternoon and asked me if we could meet. We don't know each other that well and frankly, I was surprised to hear from you. I wanted to excuse myself but your voice sounded distraught and I heard myself agreeing.

I look at you, sitting across from me and I don't like the way things are looking. I get the feeling that you're just about confide in me. No, please don't. Your lower lip is quivering. I know you're just going over the words in your mind. Rehearsing your secret. Soon, you will blurt it out. Something from a dark past. May be something sexual. Perhaps something that happened to you as a kid. I can feel it. You're just about to burden me with your secret. Something I can then never get rid of. I will immediately become a member of your close circle. And you will expect me to tell you all that is troubling my heart. All my embarrassing illnesses.

What I'm about to say may shock you, you begin. Oh dear. Thankfully, my phone goes off. It's my office. They want me back urgently regarding a report that is due on Friday. I get up, my coffee barely sipped. I have to go, I tell you. Disappointment spills out of your eyes. I grab your hands and promise to call later. As I walk away, I look back at you. I'm sorry, I say. Even if you can't hear it.

Friday, June 01, 2007

A quick tale 188

One day on the train to Bangalore

She must be no older than 18. Or 20, at the most. Her eyes are slumped into a hollow, her cheeks tired and shallow. The child on her waist is perhaps too wasted to even cry. You spot her in the far corner as she makes her way across the train carriage holding her hand out for some spare change. You can never decide whether or not to tip beggars. Sometimes you feel guilty and drop a few coins into the outstretched palm and quickly look away. On other days you remember the article in India Today that talked about organised criminal networks behind the begging mafia. You look up at her and note that she is fast approaching you. You don't have long to make up your mind. She could be your daughter. Heck, she could have been you but for a quirk of fate. But then again, she is young, she is able-bodied. Surely, she could find some respectable work. Or perhaps, she is forced into begging by her drunkard husband. Who may beat her tonight if she doesn't bring home enough. So then, why doesn't she leave him and fend for herself? Surely, it cannot be worse than suffering an abusive husband. But if she did, she would become poor and destitute. At least now, she has a man to call her own.

She is standing in front of you now. Her palm upturned. Pleading with you to find a few coins in your pocket. You don't raise your eyes. Your nose is buried in the book in your hand. The man next to you drops some small change. You hear them clink as she moves away. You feel a pair of eyes boring into you. As if to say, how heartless can you be? I'm a kind and generous person, you want to scream. You should see me when elderly beggars approac. But instead, you immerse yourself in the pages. You wish the novel was deeply engrossing.