Monday, July 30, 2012

The new normal

Nancy served pasta with a zero on her mind. Some of it spilled over.
Of late, Edith’s results had been slipping too. A usually good scorer, she now came home with barely passing marks.

Nancy wondered why. The cipher stared at her in response. A big fat zero. Jeering at her. “Your daughter is so dumb – she can’t even add.” She turned the sheet upside down.
She cleared the table and tossed the dishes in the sink. She would attend to these chores later, when her daughter would be playing.
“Mum, can I go out to play.” “Later. Let’s get done with the homework thing first.”
Edith let out a tired sigh. Nancy thought of letting her go. The red ink and the ominous zero steeled her.
“I will bake a cake for you.” “Promise?” “A good man’s promise.” Edith picked up her books.
“Now, look what you have done in haste. 7 – 5 = 2 and not 5. Again, 9 + 8 = 17.”
 “NO! You teach me all wrong.”
“You never teach like Miss Hazel ...”
Nancy listened to the tirade. She picked up the answer sheet. 7 – 5 = 2 had been generously crossed out. The X might have put the calligrapher to shame.
She checked the other answers too. Her mind calculated the perfect 25.
So Edith did know how to add and subtract. Miss Hazel did not.
Nancy sought her out the next day and placed the answer sheet on her desk.
Nancy looked at the teacher. The teacher looked at the answer sheet. “Please get her eyesight tested” her teacher tone strangely emotional.
“Excuse me?”
“She got all her digits mixed up.” Miss Hazel looked up this time. “She deserves a perfect 25.”
Rounds to the doctor confirmed what Miss Hazel said.
A 3rd standard girl with spectacles, power -4.00.
It was their new normal. Was it not?
Miss Hazel slipped down in Edith’s ranking. Edith’s grades slipped up.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Incipit

She finished reading the letter.
Tears trickled down. Swift as rain.
It was only twilight yet.
A dark, weeping night still lay ahead.
This must be the beginning of an end.
Slow. Slicing.

Monday, July 23, 2012

That would be enough for today

Go ....

Maasshhii … greets my younger nephew as I come home after having put in a long day.
He has never addressed me before, at least not by this relation. 
So, it was a pleasant surprise
His being a late speaker had delayed this joy.
“But wait and you shall have the sweetest fruits”.
His callout to me is still ringing in my ears,
a good 11 hours after I first heard it.
I wonder if he will remember the little exercise of his larynx today.
It is not an easy word, but then I was told that he had crooned the word like a song the whole yesterday.
So what if all he wanted me to do was put on his favorite songs?
He had talked with me and that alone pleases me.
And that is enough for now, enough for today.
We have the whole lifetime to talk our hearts out.
To chit chat, to discuss, to fight.
But for today, “Masi” would definitely suffice.

Linking with Five Minute Friday

Sunday, July 22, 2012


It takes a lot many trees
To make a small little paper
We are, therefore, taught to
“Reuse” the white sheets
And cherish the trees.
It takes a lot,
to keep any relation healthy;
We cannot choose to live,
without making such efforts.
Survival calls for reuse.
It is literally shouting.
Time we heard the call.

Linking up with The One Minute Writer

Friday, July 20, 2012

10 Giant leaps

He sneaks his way out.
One step at a time,
Slowly and steadily,
He trudges up the stairs.
Tiny steps making ten giant leaps.
And ah! The terrace!
Seals his triumph with giggles.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The forbidden waters

The waters of Rewalsar Lake were not roaring, foaming and fuming like Beas. They were silent, deep in reverie in contrast. And yet these were called the forbidden waters.
The forbidden waters. Unchartered, unknown and unfathomed. Dangerous.
Stretched out lazily, in eternal wait – of their next prey.
Nobody had made it out alive out of the lake. Not yet.
The legend had it that science had come to stake its claim and left empty handed. Not totally though, if we count the remnants of the scientists’ gear.
The Rewalsar Lake had not bowed. And it had no intentions of giving in that day too.
So what if Eddie and Stella were visiting. The rules did not change for anyone.
The evening had matured by the time they both had reached the lake. They saw many people offering prayers, lighting lamps made of dough and floating them. The lake was strewn with rose petals. It looked mesmerizing in the twilight. Stella captured it all in her Canon Power shot. This was a glimpse in to the real India. The traditional India.
Now for the look at the floating mounds of grass reeds right in the middle of the lake. Eddie hoped to see them moving and push up his luck a tiny bit.
They roamed around the lake hand in hand. They saw fishes jumping in and out. They were amazed by the size of the fishes. They looked monstrous and Stella somehow felt frightened more than relaxed. Like they were hatching some conspiracy. The thought made her uncomfortable. She shivered involuntarily.
Eddie had a sudden urge to swim up to the floating mounds. He stepped down the little steps. The water stirred a little and settled again. He stepped further. Further and further. He felt he was getting pulled in. He had reached the safe fence and knew he should turn back but he could not tear himself away from the force. The mound was beckoning him and the water was sucking him. Like obeying the orders of the mound master.
He heard Stella crying out to him, crying out for help. But her cries went unanswered. From both ends. Eddie looked back again and saw a panic stricken face of Stella. He had a sudden realization that he might never see her again. Ever. His little curiosity would be end of him. His life flashed before his eyes. The harder he tried, the more he got sucked in. And it was over before he could feel the pain.
The locals say that shocked and stunned by her loss, Stella kept standing at that point for three days. Waiting for Eddie to return. All that came back was his watch.

Linking up with Write on Edge

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Venus Strikes

The story would need acquaintance with these words:Bhaiya – brother
Bhabhi – sister-in-law
Chachu – uncle (father’s younger brother)
Devarji – younger brother-in-law

The Venus Strikes

As she descended the stairs, Tushar’s heart skipped a beat.
                        Tushar was accompanying his brother Sahil and his sister-in-law Vani, to the airport to receive a couple. It was a big day for his family and Tushki, as Tushar was fondly called, also wanted to be a part of this moment. Standing in that aisle with other recipients, Tushki seemed no less than some Greek God. And he was quite proud of his handsomeness. So much so that he had rejected all the proposals that his beloved Bhaiya and Bhabhi ever brought up. Vani had once said, “Tushki, you enjoy turning down proposals, don’t you? It’s just a game for you. But what if you fall for some Venus and she rejects you?” Tushki had laughed it off “Venus! Yes, Venus she will be and it will not be long before I find her”.

As Tushki looked from that aisle, it seemed his search had ended. He had forgotten all about his brother, his Bhabhi and the couple. All the thoughts had turned vapory as soon as he cast his eyes upon her. “The flight has come, Tushki. Hold the board straight or they will not be able to locate us in this crowd”. Tushki’s reverie broke only when Sahil spoke and he was about to ask “What board?” when Sahil himself took the board that read “VARYUSHA AND ALEXEI FLANDERS”, the name of the couple in bold and distinct black letters, from his hands and stepped forward. “Go, call your Bhabhi”. Tushki was upset with his brother but his anger lasted only for a minute. “If she is in the town, we will definitely meet. After all it is not a big town, is it?” he thought and he left to bring Vani from the car park.
                        The eight years of Vani’s married life had been blissful and beautiful and Sahil was a perfect partner. All together they were a happy family: Tushar, Sahil and Vani … or so it seemed.

                        Their happiness enveloped the wound they all silently nursed. Two years ago, Vani and Sahil had lost their only son to cancer. Sahil and Vani had accepted their fate in silence. They appeared normal on the outside but inside they were both broken and they were both pining. Time had not acted as a healer. With each passing day, the pain had only increased.

                        26th Dec, 2004: On that beautiful, sunny day Vani had gone shopping with some of her friends. Sahil had been idling away his time on net when he chanced upon a card that had Mother Miriam gazing adorably at baby Christ in her lap on it.

                        Old wounds started bleeding again. Sahil stood at the window looking out in emptiness with tears rolling down his cheeks when Tushki came to his room. Tushki saw the card on the screen and then walked across the room to the window and gently placed his hand on Sahil’s shoulders. “Bhaiya “.Sahil turned around, held his brother’s hand in his own and said “You know what, Vani is not as happy as she looks. I know her. That’s the way she is. She seems tough from outside but every night she cries herself to sleep and she thinks I know nothing about it. I …. I do not have words to comfort her. In fact, no words can comfort her. I know there is a void in her heart that I cannot fill up. I can liven up her spirits by gifts, by spending time with her but how do I pacify a mother who longs to rock cradles, longs to sing lullabies”.

                        “Bhaiya, why don’t you adopt a child”.
                        “To love a child unconditionally, Tushki? It’s not easy”. Before Tushki could make any comment the door sprang open and Vani came in shouting, “Switch on the television. God! Somebody save mankind from this disaster. Both of you, have you any news about what’s happening?”
                        “Why, nothing. Everything was fine two minutes back. Wasn’t it, Tushki?”
                        “Yes …. Yes, Bhaiya “.
                        “As if it takes years for the calamity to strike.”
                        And Tsunami became the hot new topic of discussion and all other thoughts were laid back.
                        That night Vani lay awake in her bed, Sahil asked her if all was well. “I was just thinking how many children would be rendered orphan, with nobody to care for them”.
                        “Dear, don’t think that hard.”
                        “Sahil, swear by God, that you were not thinking about it.”
                     “Vani, what difference do our thoughts make. All we can do is pray and as far as helping the victims, we can surely send some money in relief funds.”
                        “Sahil, what if we were dead and our son alive! Would you not want somebody to take care of him?
                        “Don’t talk in riddles, Vani!”
                        “It’s simple, Sahil! Only that you don’t want to understand.’
                        “You and Tushki, both beat the same drum. I think I need to give it a thought.”
                        “Odds are two to one, dear, so you lose. I know you will be a good father.”
                        “And you a good mother.”
                        Outside, the dark black clouds of night were parting away as the rays of dawn filtered into the room through curtains.

                        With Vani comfortable with the thought of adoption, Sahil gave in and so next morning they were all surfing the web-sites of various orphanages and that’s how they met Alyosha.

                        Alyosha had been rescued from the ocean where she had been found floating in a cane crib amongst the wreckage of the ship ripped apart by Tsunami ocean waves. Miraculously, she had been the lone survivor of that ship and had been rendered as an orphan and homeless by the calamity that struck on 26th Dec, 2004. The girl had been taken in by the orphanage managed by Varyusha and Alexei Flanders. Alexei had fallen in love with the baby girl the moment he set his eyes on her and had named her Alyosha (Alexei, with love) after himself. But both Varyusha and Alexei knew that Alyosha will have to go one day. They tried hard not to cry as they put her name on the list of children for adoption on their web-site.

                        Varyusha and Alexei were surprised to hear about a prospective family for Alyosha in less than a day. Then started the long process of formalities to ensure that the family would take appropriate care of Alyosha. When the online formalities were complete, it was decided that Varyusha and Alexei would fly over with baby to meet the family in person and discuss the legalities and double check all the information provided to them online.

Vani was literally crying at the thought of holding Alyosha in her hands as she sat in car park of the airport.
Bhabhi, be quick, what on earth are you doing here. The flight has come. Be quick.
How does she look, Tushki?”
Bhabhi, I haven’t seen her as yet. I have come to fetch you. Will they not be disappointed to see Bhaiya alone? So, hurry up now.
Alright, alright, Chachu.
They laughed at the little joke as they hastily walked towards aisle where Sahil was standing.

Standing in that aisle, Tushki saw his Venus again, this time walking towards the recipients. Tushki too wanted to walk towards her and talk to her and was thinking of some possible getaway when all of sudden, he found her standing before him, smiling gently and holding a perambulator and standing beside her was her husband Alexei Flanders.

After Varyusha’s visit, Tushki tied the nuptial knot with the first proposal his Bhabhi brought up.
So at last, the Venus has struck you, Devarji.”
Very hard, Bhabhi, very hard.”

Linking up with Trifecta : Week Thirty Five
Linking up with Write on Edge

Saturday, July 7, 2012

I know, I heard – the world ends in three days.

Breaking news: The world will end in three days.
A very good morning!
Why are you making us study laws of motion?
‘Coz it is a part of your curriculum.
What curriculum – didn’t you hear the world ends in three days?
Ponder over it, girl! If the world is really about to end in three days what difference does it make whether they really know the laws of motion, gravitation or for that matter the mighty God particle itself. I am forced to think. How I wish back for the days when my students echoed the innocence of having confused me and my sister and giving me a brood (no not really a brood, it is just two) of kids to take care of in return.
The next batch comes. Alright this one should go down without the drama. It is only plain English – the good old English.
Write a letter to the editor-
Views on the world ending in three days???
These guys are never ever going to write a letter – in their whole life. So, there is no point in this study. But what about my duty?
One of them seems genuinely interested though. So, alright, he will be my ally and hopefully the others will follow suit.
Are we going to do this letter writing now?
Yes, I want to teach it to kids.
What kids?
My kids. Obviously, I am going to have kids one day.
Right on. Kids. I force a smile. I do not know if I am sane. Not any longer. And before I can make sense of it all, the other one chips in brightly -
But the world ends in three days! Are you planning kids before that?
Definitely not an English class discussion. It is time we did some letter writing.
One more to go. And we are doing Life Processes. This boy is sincere so may be – maybe I can hope.
But I know, I heard – the world ends in three days.

Linking with Write on Edge

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Here comes the God Particle

World over scientists are celebrating the discovery of the God Particle. And all this while, I was sitting in the bus, waiting for a road block due to landslide to be remedied. My daily commute took me 4 hours for the evening home bound run.
The route I undertake is treacherous. No doubts about it. And with the onset of the monsoons, landslides are almost regular. As regular as the rains. Why, today was just the 3rd day of the monsoon and it took the authorities more than 5 hours to clear the road block at no less than four points.
Trust me also when I say that the route I undertake is spectacular. Every curve, every bend and every turn reveals a new shade of nature – breathtaking and stunning. Even when the nature unleashed its fury today, I could not help praising the articulate and amazing handiworks of the Mother Nature.
I usually prefer the window seats and I usually travel with the windows open. The moist, fresh air actually refreshed me right to my soul. And then I crossed the tunnel, spiraling roads, the endless caravan of cars, trucks, buses, the hydroelectric power projects, bridges, dams and was saddened by the thought that we are messing up with our nature – the bountiful and the beautiful one. And so if one fine day, it chooses to get back to us with the landslides, we are no ones to complain. We invited her wrath. We opened the Pandora’s Box so we must face the consequences too.
And then I came home to the news channels running the breaking news about the Higgs Boson. They seem to have discovered the secret to all life, all universe. They think it is a step nearer to finding God. With what I saw firsthand today, I seriously doubt the validity of this claim. We might have discovered the smallest particle that created all things living and non living but we are far from understanding God and his ways – nature and its ways. For if it were so, there would be no Colorado fires and no Japan would ever see tsunamis. There would be no landslides to keep us waiting for hours and hours. Thousands of lives would never be brought to a temporary halt by handful of rain or sun or cold.
Curiosity is good but too much curiosity killed the cat.
I have always appreciated the advances science is making but ask me today and I am skeptical of science trying to be God.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The call

Her Nokia buzzed again.
Putting it on silent mode had not helped. The vibrations broke the rhythm of silence and scared the wits out of her. It was late for her family and friends to be calling. She looked up at the display. An unknown number flashed. Deep down, she knew it would be the same person. Again. But the number was different this time. Not from one of her “Don’t pick” list. Yes, she had maintained a do not answer contact list. All thanks to the anonymous admirer and his many numbers.
It seemed like the phone had been ringing for an eternity now. She debated what to do. It could be somebody else too. She finally pressed the answer button. And she immediately regretted it. Fireworks blazed in her eyes She had not even uttered a monosyllable. The hoarse whisper “Your voice is very sweet ….” angered her. She disconnected the call for she knew angry people are seldom wise. She looked anything but sweet at the moment. “Just how many numbers did he have?” She had hoped he would back off following her non-responsiveness. But he had only become more persistent. She was writhing with the thought that he had incapacitated her. One more call and she would show him her sweetness.
She switched off the lights and lay down with open eyes. She knew he would call again. She waited.
It was about midnight when the call came again. She pressed the answer button. She had not even looked up at the display this time. She breathed out fire when she said “hello” “Are you okay, dear?” Tears rolled down her eyes as she cross checked the display. It flashed “Mr. Perfect”. Her Mr. Perfect. And she hugged herself tight. It was not him. Not this time. “Yes, I am. Atleast now. Before you called, there was this guy who had been irritating me since last two days ……..”
The resplendent full moon bathed away her fears.

Linking up with Trifecta - Week Thirty-Four