December 31, 2011

A loving adieu

A long time ago, I was a romantic fool. I had notions about the world that made it so rose-tinted, lacy-edged and splendid sounding, that I used to weep when it didn't live up to these expectations.

Everything changed in 2011. I grew up. I learnt.

...that your dealing with life is your own. That you cease to expect and start to live. A simple theory of self-settlement. And my peace was bought.

Last year, I dramatically wrote a letter to year 2010 asking...no...make that pleading...for 2011 to be at least marginally kind. It was more than that.

Meaningful, propelling and simply happy, 2011 was the year I found myself beginning to discover who I might be.

To the year that was- so special so splendid, here's a loving adieu! You'll be remembered fondly, and hopefully the one ahead has some nice stories to write as well.

Here's wishing everyone a promising new year!

December 13, 2011

One of those days...

It is one of those days when everything looks bleak, uncertain and painful. When nothing seems to work. The cards don't stay still and form my little paper castle. They fall. Over and over again.

I know this too shall pass, and I shall be okay, or I shall somehow make myself okay, because I have recently discovered that I can be anything I want to be, if I want it truly enough. That I am a malleable chameleon who can change shades if she wills to.

But today I demand that things get okay by themselves. That some miracle knocks on my door and sweeps away the dirty floors and dusts off those cobwebs for me. That I don't have to do my dirty work, make sense of my life with difficulty and overcome hardships all by myself!

I demand that my movie gets made. And not by hook or crook. But in that way I saw it in that first vision, the way I have nurtured it, polished it, chopped it to show off its finer bits. I want to make it in that just-right manner.

But why does it get tougher and tougher everyday? To fix the tiniest of things? To bridge the smallest of gaps? Where are my minions who will want to set things right?

Why do things that can make it happen be at an unattainable perch?

There is a limit to complexities. But well, mine was crossed long back. In every aspect of my life! I shall still grin and bear it and somehow, I know this film will happen. I just hope it happens soon. Before strength, money, time and my sagging spirit fail me!


The Best of Quest- a book review


Time and history are recorded not just in history text books, but also in its art. Literature and art have over and again frozen that slice of time for us to revisit it with every piece of fiction, a dance form from an era or music that haunted the days of yore. Somewhere in all these, one can read chapters of what-was and relive it for its course.

In this, magazines also play a very important role. Opinions, words and verses of contemporary writers and thinkers get recorded between the pages. Nissim Ezekiel’s Quest magazine, started out of Bombay in 1954. Meant to be “a quarterly of inquiry, criticism and ideas”, it went on for about two decades, publishing the thoughts and expressions of many of yesteryear’s greatest in the form of essays, fiction and poetry. Unfortunately, it had to be shut during the Emergency period and was never revived, until recently, when Arshia Sattar discovered the whole stock of the magazine, lying by her bedside.

When she discovered what a wealth of perspectives lie in the trunk, she knew she had to share it with the world. Thus was born, The best of Quest, published by Tranquebar and edited by Lafeq Futehally(who worked as the Literary Editor with the Quest for over twenty years), Achal Prabhala(a writer and researcher) and Arshia Sattar(who writes and teaches classical Indian literatures and narrative at various institutions across the country).

The book begins with a memoriam to Nissim Ezekiel- the man behind the magazine. This is followed by the essays and opinion sections. From politics to Indian writing, caste system to cinema, a plethora of topics have been examined in detail in this section. Interesting, thought-provoking and widening one’s perspective, the essays are authored by many major names such as Dilip Chitre and Mujibur Rehman.

The poetry section has Kamala Das, Nissim Ezekiel among others playing with words in verse. Once again, the topics are varied, quirky and eloquently dealt with in rhyme and blank verse. Anita Desai, Keki.N.Daruwala and many other fantastic writers are featured in this collection- their writings as refreshing as ever!

What is splendid about such collections is the fact that it holds a mirror to the society as it existed then. Through the essays, one gets a glimpse at the kind of opinions and systems that prevailed. Anthologies such as these, puts the reader on a retrospective mode. One after the other, they present the changing face of a nation and its outlook on various aspects of life and society.

Apart from the historical relevance of such anthologies, the literary relevance is of no less importance. The kind of writers that have been scooped under the umbrella of Quest is simply amazing. It shows how there was once a voice in India which in different timbres, expressed freely, in prose and poetry and went on to generate opinions, criticisms, statements, perspectives and shape the course of a literary awakening of sorts.

The best of Quest is a must-have for all literary buffs who want to trace the path of Indian literature, immediately after her Independence. It is also a thing of joy for all those who obsess over anthologies; this is a gathering that merits attendance! Most of all, this is for all those who simply would devour the written word- such a variety of food that hides between its covers that you just cannot possibly resist! 


This review is a part of the http://blog.blogadda.com/2011/05/04/indian-bloggers-book-reviews" target="_blank">Book Reviews Program at  http://www.blogadda.com">BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!
 

November 30, 2011

happy random

secrets you don't have to spell
stories you don't have to tell
a mild music to sail your hopes on
a wild song to tune your tapes on

randomness is the word of the hour. and happy randomness. where i don't feel like using capital letters. where rules can go hide in closets and wait for a peek-a-boo. where simple everyday targets are what i think of getting to.

like the sweet juice pouring forth from a luscious pear as you bite into its perfectly textured interior, my days have, by some miracle, become simple and meaningful.

somewhere as you grow up, humour becomes your wayfarer, and a joke in every big issue sure makes it into a no-big-deal. maybe i am growing up well. or maybe this is totally the wrong way to react to things. but if i am happy, i guess anything goes. 

November 25, 2011

CRIBFEST-1!!!

The blanks. The spaces. The effort to bridge it is probably what is testing my patience right now. To realize a film and make it happen, never was easy. Thankfully, I knew this fact, before I signed up to make films in my life. Much as work keeps happening, there are these times in between where you feel paralyzed. Where you just want to kill time. Do something absolutely useless.

Guilt is a wise leader. It reins me back from slipping back to chai gate for another chai, or opening unsecure to watch a film/sex and the city! I feel obliged to work and get things moving quickly, so that I can shoot as per the mental schedule I charted for myself.

The effort that life is demanding out of me seems insane, especially in terms of my film. And nothing happens easily as well. Permissions, people, fixing, sprucing- it all takes a toll on your spirits! A little sprinkling of easiness would be well appreciated, anti-force.

My crib fest does not stop with my efforts alone. It transcends to money matters as well. A self-sponsored diploma project is no mean feat. Money sublimates and I am left empty handed most of the time.

The vision will make me pick up my work again. Somehow. But for now, I feel blah and like cribbing and giving it all up and going back home and laugh at Melissa and Joey on Star World with my sister, or explain that Phoebe is pregnant with her brother's kid through artificial insemination, to my mother, or teach my dad to make grin smileys on chat.

*sigh

Such a demanding world! :(

November 19, 2011

Off the top of my head-5

Times change swiftly. Before you can blink, an era has ended and another one begins. I have always had my struggle with such transitions. Much as I like them for the growth they bring...or wait...let me rephrase that...much as I have grown in those phases, and hence, grudgingly learnt to accept them by sheer lack of choice, I have not been comfortable in them.

Vulnerability and questions hold hands together and trap me in between their arms. I walk with them flanking my sides every place I go. Most of the times, I try to ignore them and learn to live with these two shadows instead of one. But sometimes, just sometimes, the space gets too cramped. Like when I lie on my small cot that can't fit three, I feel suffocated for breath, for reason and for truth.

Little did I know that this day shall come again and make me start again. For the thousandth time. Or maybe it is the zillionth... I have nearly lost count and too tired to try to begin from the start.

There is an attic I am building within the house in my head. The house is a cosy small one to fit just me. The attic, however, is beginning to look like a palace! So much to store. So much to keep away from my daily routes and encounters. They cannot be thrown away. I don't even wish to discard them, ever. They still have the sweet fragrance of a preserved rose between the pages of a favourite book.

There is clearly just one path to take. A path of go-where-it-takes-you! Not like there is a choice. Sometimes I wonder, where exactly do I fit in, in my own life?

Am I the protagonist who courses the tale? Or just a mere extra who fills the screen.

Sadness and depression are not buckling feelings. They are like a bunch of thieves- hiding and waiting to pounce on you with stealth. And they do. Everyday. To steal from your treasure, one more of something you treasure- a smile, romance, a happy thought, a thrill... Sometimes, they steal the truth, and you don't know anymore what is right and what is wrong. What is real and what you imagined!


November 17, 2011

Off the top of my head-4

I spend half my days sipping chai in the chai gate, looking at passing traffic. Bikes, cars, cycles and all sorts of vehicles pass by and sometimes in such fast speeds that I cannot comprehend what they are. Sometimes while sipping sweet cups of "bina-adrak waali" chai- over and over again, songs begin to play in my head. And keeps afloat the hope to finish a film I've wanted to make for the last six months.

Progress is such a cheat-word. It traps us into becoming lazy. It mutates our being by making us run around in circles.

Long walks in the mornings. Chai again. The lovely calming lawn in the night. Me and the monument. A book to write. Somewhere in these, I forget myself, my film, everything. Somewhere there is a calm.

Why do we grow up and become sane?

November 15, 2011

Waiting for the Winter

Everyday, as I wake up in an east-facing room full of light, I crave for the cold touch of winter. Winter, with its layered clothing and gloomy sunless mornings, are what I have anticipated ever since I landed here. But the seasons haven't changed yet, and sunny skies brightly attempt to dismiss the cobwebs away.

I have always enjoyed sadistically the exaggerated loneliness of winter. The walks alone. The icy breath of the wind increasing your vulnerability. Thoughts that come in verse. Something about winter is painful and so, beautiful. I want my frosty mornings, howling winds, pairs of old-fashioned socks, cup of steaming black tea and a book to cuddle with. Winter reminds me of my strength to fight. Will power. A blend of everything that the other seasons are, but in just the right amount.

October 24, 2011

Off the top of my head-3

There was a moleskin notebook I eyed in the Hyderabad airport the other day! Rs.1360. For film critics. Not that I am one, although I wish to be one someday! I am working towards it. Hopefully. You can never be sure of these things, can you?!

Anyway, about the moleskin notebook. It looked delicious. I wanted it. To cradle it in my arms. To scribble in it meaningful words and, like a kid who's tasting ice cream for the first time and it tingles her mouth- to give that rapture-look!

Soon. I will earn it! 

***

This time I wanted to learn to fly. Somehow, from when I was in sixth standard, flights fascinated me. They still do. There's something about them; those cottony clouds that I can almost taste!

It would be nice to forget everything earthly and float amongst the clouds. To be in the sky, at dusk, seeing the stars wake up one after the other, expecting a 'pop' sound when they appear! 

To be able to see the world like a scaled model below you and wonder at how small everything looked from above!

***

They looked like pink swabs of cotton that a girl used to dab off the extra blusher from her cheeks, and threw haphazardly, just before she hurried to meet her love waiting by the stairs. Those clouds...they smelt of the dreams of that girl!

I saw them yesterday when I went for a walk. Clouds, me and my music. A bunch of random songs I often hear. It was twilight. Slowly the pink turned indigo, as deep as the hands of a playful kid who spilt ink all over them!

A lazy wind tossed about. And firecrackers burst without a warning, like a shower of golden sparkles from the sky. Sometimes there were purple stones raining. Maybe, an angel broke her string of pearls.

There was something around that could not be seen. Something like the laughter hidden in the crinkle around the eye. You know it was there. Like an elf it sneaked upon me and made me smile. That moment I didn't care. Mid-song, I lost myself to it!

***

I borrowed words from him. His name was Michael Ondaatje. He was a writer. I was jealous of him. I hated him. He knew the song of my heart. He split it into a million different pieces. With every piece, he wrote paragraphs. He made books out of it. Every time I read anything he wrote, I feel the pain of a heartbreak. I hate him for knowing me so well. Who told him my secrets?

***

Sometimes, to be idle is to surrender. To let time bathe you. Allow the world to play its video, as you lounge in the easy chair without a remote. Once in a while you get up as your legs ache with inactivity. But mostly, you sit in the chair and watch. Restless-Lazy. Happy-Sad. Brooding-Calm. In opposites, you slowly let time get the better of you and speed up without giving you a chance.

Whatever you feel, you just don't complain. That was in the old times. Now, you know you can do nothing but wait. And hope someday, that video has you playing the protagonist.

***

Words are syrupy today. 'Pandemonium' is a cake that has gone crusty on top. 'Myriad' is a cocktail that is green and glistening. 'Chateau' is a cheesy lasagne.

Such like.

***

October 12, 2011

Off the top of my head-2

There are patterns. Predictable patterns. They bore me. Surprise startles me. 

Isn't there a delectable in between that one can live in? 

September 30, 2011

Off the top of my head-1

In a life that is increasingly becoming dependent on people, instead of the contrary; where time, money, efforts all ebb away in directions I don't seem to decide, and where I seem to have less control over anything that happens around me, little things that actually occur right, begin to add value.

It is not like I am having a meaningless life. I guess there is a lot of meaning in what I have and what I do. But there just seems to be a lot of effort and patience that is being demanded of me on an everyday basis. And more and more things fail me, repeatedly, everyday!

In times such as these, a walk in the terrace under the scorching sun with an ipodfull of favourite songs, waking up to watch Castle and messaging your best friend throughout the day, do count as things to cherish. I have never been caught in this "undefinable" state ever in life. A chronic categorizer, this phase in my life would remain to be called 'uncategorized', like the tag of this blog post. 

Interesting, yet difficult times are ahead. But as long as my wee sma' happiness are mine, I shall manage to smile.

September 28, 2011

To Anoodha Kunnath

Squirrels that produced sudden chills. You christened them. Then there were alien babies who resembled lighthouses. And other flusterations who aspired for them. We spun threads of connects with chai, cold caramel drinks, foamies with a bit of coffee, a rich cake-that-must-not-be-named so that they always remain just ours, and loads of Kellogs Smacks and Parle-G biscuits.

In camphor and incense we spoke at length of yesterdays and today(sometimes 'todays'; for it really couldn't have all happened in one day!) and of the maybe-tomorrows. Mostly the maybe-tomorrows haunted us. And like sister souls ought to, we clung to one another's spirits and whispered that everything will pass and we will get stronger. Sometimes we paused mid-sentence and questioned why we needed to get stronger?! Sometimes, we cried. Mostly, we laughed.

In my background was an audible, yet faint, music that put me in a trance, sometimes. I clung to it. You helped me stick my hands on to its slippery surface.

In your background, was thunder and fierce storms. I shut your eyes and ears from them. Atleast, tried to.

When we had spoken it all, we sipped chai and watched the world slip by in a pace we couldn't comprehend. And as we bit into our chai-dipped soggy biscuits, like two old-fashioned English ladies, we accepted that this is what we always will be, and smiled.


September 11, 2011

Right off my head...

Like a familiar friend, worthlessness embraces me.

***
There was music. High notes. Low notes. Jazz and heavy metal. Silences and sounds.

And suddenly I stopped liking the music. So, I broke all the instruments.

***

What if the clouds don't reach? What if they are having a lazy day and don't deliver my messages? What if...?

***

Hopes are fickle friends.

***


What if questions keep piling up? On and on? Will it someday reach the sky? Can I climb on it like it is a beanstalk? Go up and whisper into God's ears? Demand answers? Someday?

***

I try to gather myself. There are a million pieces of me. Because no one really wanted the whole. They wanted only bits. They said the whole was way too overwhelming and an assault to the senses. They may have whispered snide abuses. But I chose not to hear.

Now I am going about, collecting and reclaiming the million bits to stick into one whole. But, there does not seem to be enough glue!

***

Why can't we choose to be where we want to be without waiting for money, people, situation and time? Why can't places be a thought away? I would be in Greece. Drowning in the blue. Soaking in the sun. Forgetting everyone. Forgetting everything. Most of all, forgetting myself and all that I want!

***

There are days when nothing makes sense. Ambition seems too hard. The friend you want to talk to about nothing in particular, over chai, too far. Even chocolate, incompetent. Only words hold you together. Your words. Words that rush out of your fingertips and want to be written. So a little bit of your discomfort with yourself is siphoned off. Stored away in some megabyte of memory to rot. So it doesn't poison you and make you feel disillusioned and lonely.

***

What I mostly need is to tie up loose ends. Pick the threads of my life I've left  mid-way, string them together in a vaguely sensible manner, leave them dangling and find new threads to cling to.

God/whoever that be- will you help?

***

Speed up things! I am sick of this long arduous wait to finish, to find, to seek, to explore, to forget!

September 07, 2011

Illundavoor Tale-5: THE NIGHTINGALE POLICE

(Dedicated to Aparna Rajagopalan)
 
Of all of Illundavoor’s tales, the tale of Srirama Iyer was the most famous. Mothers fed little ones with the story. It was what families recounted with a laugh, sitting-as if in a round table conference-just after the satisfaction of a Kalyana saapadu*, in that little time just before the nalungu** began. It was what one can sum up, as an Illundavoor legend.

Srirama Iyer, was a Palakkad Iyer whose great-grandfather had resettled in the town of Illundavoor. In his heydays, Srirama Iyer, was the postmaster of Illundavoor. He lived in his spacious Injiperumaal Street bungalow with his ageing mother, plump wife Jaya, and his hyperactive son. His lawyer father had left him the house, and his father-in-law made sure that he got a motor cycle as a dowry*** back then. So Srirama Iyer had, what one might call, a very comfortable existence.

He was a man with a B.A. degree in English, which came in handy as the town’s postmaster. He would read for the unlettered and correspond on their behalf as well, for a nominal sum.

Srirama Iyer was a man respected by all and feared by many, as it was well-aware that he was a man with an easily ignited temper. His six-foot appearance only added to it. People generally held him in reverence and distance, unless absolutely needed.

Time went by. And with old age came senility. The once terrorizing Srirama Iyer became delusional. The son, Devan, married and a lawyer of repute like his grandfather, ruled over the household.

There were days when Srirama Iyer would start remembering things that had happened thirty years ago. At that time, they had just begun constructing a house in Tellinoor, the neighbouring town. Srirama Iyer would suddenly come and tell people in the house that the carpenter has come to repair the cupboards or that the contractor has come and needs cement.

He was so physically strong, despite his delusions that he used to haul around furniture at will. It was almost impossible to restrain the six footer!

There were other delusions as well. Of nightingale insects and daffodil insects feeding on crumbs of food that he would spill while eating. He would trace their trail with his blinking 5-year old chamaththu**** grandson Natarajan, whom they fondly called Nattu at home.

“Inga paaru da Nattu… theriyaratha… andha daffodil poochchi apdiye ennodu kaalu-la oora-pakkarathu!*****” he would startle the poor boy! Sometimes, he would recite whole chunks of letters he read or wrote in the bygone days, as a postmaster.

And then he had a quirky habit. At the ripe old age of 72, with his mind playing games, Srirama Iyer would suddenly wake up in the middle of the night and watch television. Old black and white films on Tamil channels, TNT movies and the occasional lingerie model on FTV (Much to Jaya Mami’s embarrassment).

Our legendary story begins one night in the month of Aippaci******, when rains persisted to drum on the roofs all night, and frogs croaked in the backyard. The entire household was asleep, when a thief snuck into the house of Srirama Iyer.

He entered through a window that had snapped ajar in the kitchen. Slowly, he made his way inside the house. Now, the house was very old-fashioned, unlike the one that Srirama Iyer had built in Tellinoor. Meandering passageways lead to innumerable store rooms. The inhabited part of the house was somewhere near the front.

After opening many a store room door and only discovering moth eaten sofa cushions and immobile cupboards, the thief realized that he had to slowly make his way to the front sections of the house.

Now, just as he crossed the long passageway, into the mittam******* and across to the living room, who did he see but our very own Srirama Iyer, sitting and watching “Guns of Navaronne” on an English Movie Channel!

The thief was taken aback to see that there was someone awake, right in the middle of the night, and most surprisingly, watching TV!

Srirama Iyer, noticing him, miraculously gathered his senses, jumped on to his feet and imposingly screamed, “KALLAN”******** and woke the entire house. The scared thief, grabbed the box from the table near him- the only object he could make out in the darkness as he whizzed past. He traced back his path and jumped out of the window before anyone could reach him.

When Devan asked his dad rhetorically, as to how he managed to raise an alarm sensibly, the old man seriously answered that “the nightingale police” had warned him.

After much search it was found that only Jaya Mami’s denture dabba********* had been stolen. “Toothless thief,” Srirama Iyer was often heard screaming in the afternoons at passers-by.

***

GLOSSARY

Kalyana saapadu*- Wedding feast

Nalungu**- A light-hearted post-wedding ritual involving the bride and groom and their families where games like ‘rolling the coconut’, ‘breaking the crispies’, ‘finding the ring’ etc are played amidst singing and other fanfare.

Dowry***- the payment in cash or/and kind by the bride's family to the bridegroom' s family along with the giving away of the bride

Chamaththu****- obedient

“Inga paaru da Nattu… theriyaratha… andha daffodil poochchi apdiye ennodu kaalu-la oora-pakkarathu!*****” -“Look here, Nattu…can you see? Those daffodil insects are trying to climb over my leg!”

Aippaci******- The Tamil month that falls between mid-October to mid-November, known to rain in Tamil Nadu.

Mittam*******- Courtyard

“KALLAN” ********-  rogue

dabba*********- box

September 04, 2011

Lonely

Loneliness, sometimes, is your only friend.

Always around. Always understanding. Never deserting.

September 02, 2011

click, close, click...

For a while, I'll repeat these mechanical movements.

...click, close, click. 
click, close, click.
click, close, click...

They give me peace. Nothing to think about. Nothing to fight for. No questions. No answers. Just existing. Flowing. Breathing. Realizing.

To just be.

Without any doubt and with the sureity of its occurrence.

August 30, 2011

Raja's Tales- 1


Long long ago, very long ago, when Raja was a little boy, he used to live in Ernakulam. He also lived in Trivandrum. Now he is so old, he does not remember where exactly this incident took place.
 
Raja and his brother, along with their cousins, used to frequent, what we shall assume from now on as, the Ernakulam Palace, every Friday. This is a story that happened on one fateful Friday, as he remembers it.
 
The King of Ernakulam lived in the Ernakulam palace. The palace was shaped like a square, open on one end with a huge mittam*  in the middle. The King used to organize huge feasts every Friday in honour of the lord. Every Friday, he would walk out of his inner chambers, stand for a minute and survey the crowd that gathered in the courtyard. He would then climb on to his special pedestal to eat lunch alongside his subjects.

The Friday Feast used to be a grand affair. Many many cooks from all over the land used to prepare the rich meal with the finest of ingredients. Work started in the wee hours of the morning and would only just about get done on time. 

That Friday was like every other Friday, except that, somehow for some strange reason, the cook had forgot the Pachchadi on the menu. 
 
The crowds had gathered, and the King was just about to come, when the head cook realized his folly. But nothing could be done and so he instructed everyone to keep mum about it. He hoped people would not miss the Pachchadi, relishing all the other extraordinary items on the menu. 
 
The King walked out of his inner chambers, looked left, looked right and twirled his mustache, satisfied at what he saw. 
As the cooks brought out urlis of food, the clouds suddenly huddled together. The world grew dark and an unearthly voice resonated, "Pachchadi vechchilaingyil, Vechchadi edukkilya!"**
 
The head cook trembled. All his assistants looked perplexed.

The King was shocked and stood still to his ground. He pleaded to the voice, "O Divine Lord! Pardon us! The Pachchadi shall be made at once". He looked at the head cook and ordered him with a look to proceed.

The cooks at once scampered to make the pachchadi. The world stood still. The clouds stayed huddled. There was something unearthly that everyone felt in the air. No one spoke a word. Ten minutes seemed like ten years. and a pachchadi fit for the gods was made.

The cooks wheeled in the urli and waited. A gust of wind blew over the mittam, sending shivers down everyone's spine. And just as suddenly as it had huddled, the clouds parted and a beam of sunlight streamed. The King gingerly took a step forward. Nothing happened. 

The crowd broke into a thunderous applause!

mittam* courtyard
"Pachchadi vechchilaingyil, Vechchadi edukkilya!"** If you do not offer the Pachchadi, you cannot take a step forward

Motto

In work we trust, and in cinema.

And in dreams of travel we pin our hopes. 

August 27, 2011

Book Review: Bombay Duck is a Fish

I had always been fascinated by the medium of films. And when in my final year of under-graduation, I realized it is not brick and concrete I want to chase, but capture stories through moving images, it was truly a moment of realization. A calling.

I signed up for this book mainly because it was about the Bollywood film industry. It's blurb read interesting, real and also entertaining. Almost like a dhamaakedaar film that scorches the screen on its opening day!

'Bombay Duck is a fish' is as refreshing a book as its title. The allusion to the misnomer in the title, very precisely suggests what the book mockingly narrates- how Bollywood is not as glitzy as it seems.

It places itself much higher than any chick flick, but falls a tad short of being a layered master-piece of fiction. But what it ends up as is an enjoyable must-read.

Kanika Dhillon most interestingly delves into the life of Neki Brar, an aspiring filmmaker from Amritsar who leaves home to Mumbai, and joins as the last AD on the sets of Fiza Khan's multi-starrer film. Being a student of film, I have my wee bit of experience in being on film sets and dealing with the exciting madhouse that sets could be. The accounts in the book were absolutely authentic and had a lovely progression of action in it. It played like a film in my head, although Farah Khan kept playing the role of Fiza in it! The supporting cast of the film...book remained true to what Bollywood and the author claim to work most of the time- stereotypes. And quite justifiably so, stereotypes exist for a reason of convention and association that the majority of the audience have been  trained to understand over the years.

And so in Kanika Dhillon's book, we come across the typical 'Mumbai-mein-struggle-karke-naam-banaana-hain' dream of small-town girl Neki, the success-hungry-doing-favours hero Ranvir Khanna whom Neki falls for, the petty jealousies between lead actresses, the powerful Prateeksha Devi and well..., in short, there is the entire Bollywood package in place, albeit in a tongue in cheek fashion. Other interesting characters like Zoya, Sam, PJ, Aslam, Punjabi and Goku make the ride through the book interesting and liven up things immensely.

What makes the book un-put-downable and highly entertaining, is the fact that it does not let itself be just a racy story, but goes beyond it and throws in philosophy, some really good wisecracks and situational authenticity.

The letters that Neki mails her mom after every incident would remain the best part of the book for me. The contrasting nature of the letters from Neki's reality is sheer wry humour.

In the season of cameos and item songs, can a book on Bollywood be far behind? Our author brings in the inimitable Shahrukh Khan for a little role in the book. (It might be noted, that in reality , he released the book). The cameo, however, seemed a little forced in the book, as far as situational flow goes. One feels that the author could have as seamlessly strung it in, as she did the rest of the incidents in the book. The author's real life adulation comes across unabashedly here. I DO know that it is difficult to not be awe-struck by the amazingly self-made man that SRK is, especially in an industry dominated by starlets. But somehow, one wishes that the wide-eyed wonder could have been kept a tad under control.

I was glad that the end did not turn out to be a mushy tear-jerking end to a masaledaar hindi flick, but instead became a bit surreal, and therefore, a better end. I would have still preferred a different end to the book, and I must say, it left me a little disturbed. Anything more I reveal here, and I'd be killing the book for you, and hence I relapse to omerta. 

For once, one can judge the book by its cover. A special mention must be made of its wonderfully designed cover by Rupin Suchak: yet another reason for me to pick this book.

On the whole, however, I would recommend this book to every one who loves their Hindi films. Here is a book- vibrant, interesting and honest, although dealing with the world of the larger-than-life. So go, pick it up, and get lost in a world that oscillates between the reel and real worlds of Neki Brar and Co.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

August 12, 2011

On a dark cloudy eventide

It is one of those days you are glad you were alive! A gray storm of clouds gather darkness around the world. Wind beats agains a sheet of tarpaulin as if to warn mere humans against the wrath of Varuna. Rains, they shall pour and how! A lightening breaks out like the menacing fangs of a wild untameable beast.

They threaten to tell us that we cannot hide. Each drop shall unleash havoc. A murmur goes between the clouds as thunder. Like a dark curse, they gather closer and with one last cry, like a lament, they burst forth as rain.

***
inspired by the words of Rohit Keluskar.

August 11, 2011

CHANAKYA’S CHANT- A review




Political dramas never interested me. In fact, I always felt they were a tad too serious and too boringly prosaic to kindle any amount of fellowship in me. In such a scenario, when Chanakya’s Chant fell into my arms, I had my own set of apprehensions. Something about the historical promise the book made in its blurb, is what made me pick it up and begin to read through.

I must agree, it completely vanquished my suspicions!

The book was engaging, riveting and extraordinarily rich in style, language and research. I wonder why people like Ashwin Sanghi, the author of Chankya’s Chant, don’t write history books. As Prahlad Kakkar laments, “I wish our politicians were literate enough to read it”.

The book traces two different and yet extraordinarily parallel characters. As suggested by the title, it acquaints us to the life of Vishnugupta, also known as Chanakya(son of Chanak)- the erudite Brahmin whose skill, wiliness, absolute disregard for morals and masterful knowledge of governance and people helps him install his pupil, Chandragupta, on the throne of the Mauryan Empire and also send back the powerful armies of Alexander the Great from India. In this process, he most importantly succeeds in reaping revenge against the evil Dhanananda who had brutally murdered his father, the scholar Chanak.

Around two thousand three hundred years later, a similar avatar of Chanakya is born in the country, in the form of an equally crafty, scheming, ruthless and extraordinarily intelligent Gangasagar Mishra. He catapults Chandini, an ordinary slum girl to the seat of power in the country through his tactics, manipulations and cunning.

The most impressive part about this book is the fact that Ashwin Sanghi so deftly uses words to make politics so engrossing! What my school economics books made me shun, Sanghi makes un-put-down-able!

His words are sculpted so wonderfully that the dialogues that Chanakya and Gangasagar mouth make you want to whistle in parts. The raw and menacing struggle for power is captured to its barest detail in such a realistic fashion that it makes you shudder. And then you realize that Sanghi’s fictional universe is not far from the existent power plays in the political world around you today, it does make you sad and fearful.

The murder, deceit and plotting that run through the pages of the life of Chanakya(or Gangasagar in the present day) make you feel like you are a witness to a charming game of chess played between a grandmaster on one side and imbeciles on the other. Such is the brilliance of move, detailing of action and sleight of hand!

The book leaves you in a shocked and stunned silence at the sheer brilliance and intelligence with which it engaged you.

I cannot wait to try Ashwin Sanghi’s “The Rozabal Line” now. The reviews of that book also seem to suggest an extraordinary piece of work.

If his two books are any proof, India has got herself a wonderful and captivating author in Ashwin Sanghi.

And in his own style, we send him the Chanakya’s Chant to help and guide,

“Adi Shakti Namo Namah! Sarva Shakti Namo Namah!
Prathama Bhagavati Namo Namah!
Kundalini Mata Shakti! Mata Shakti Namo Namah!

“Primal Shakti, I bow to thee
All-encompassing Shakti, I bow to thee
That through which God creates, I bow to thee
Creative power of the Kundalini
Mother of all, to thee I bow.”

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

July 26, 2011

Short Story- 27

Did you say you pinned up hopes on a card on your window pane? With those fancy little stick on magnets that kept the paper firmly on the glass, holding it from both sides? You put it up for the world to see? Oh dear!

Nothing... Erm... darn it! Well...I saw the Nasty Little Killjoy eyeing it! I saw his big ugly eyes water with green slime. And then... hmmm... and then he stuck out his long forked tongue and 'phatttt' lashed at your hope card!

And...well... you know what happens when he does that! Hmmm... Something bad begins to uncoil from that little drop of spit he leaves on your card, quietly, just like a bad smell spreads across the room.

And whether you like it or not, I tell you, your hope will die.

I feel sad for you, you dear thing. But you should know better, really! I mean, you are old enough. Why would you pin it up? Who did you think would celebrate with you? The whole world? Really?

Sometimes, I think you are delusional fool, dear. I mean, you live in some alternative universe... no... I'm just saying... well... think about it...

July 03, 2011

Book Review: All and Nothing



'All and Nothing' by Raksha Bharadia begins with an interesting premise- almost as interesting a setting as Anita Nair's Ladies Coupe.

Tina, caught in a turmoil in her life sends letters to a bunch of her friends- all caught in crucial and complex situations in their respective lives as well. She invites them, in her letter, to a weekend's meet at her Mahabaleshwar holiday home. Not revealing details in the letter, she promises all will be clear when they arrive.The story unfolds in parallel narratives tracing the lives of all the people who are to meet that fateful day.

Here is where the book fails to catapult itself on to a higher level! The descriptions are overtly simple, the prose is predictable and the emotions- both of the character and what it stirs in the reader are at best momentary. The plot by itself could have been so much more layered and delectable, dialogues could have been more realistic and one wishes the style were more original and unique!

Where Raksha actually wins, is the fact that her writing evokes an anticipation in the reader. One only wishes that she capitalized on it and made her book more evocative. But she makes the story too hurried, too racy. There is nothing remarkable about it, despite its dramatic blurb.

There are few parts that stand out as visual and engrossing like Antara's seduction and the Manas-Gayathri love story. These are the more fleshed out parts that actually engage the reader.

Somewhere the blurb is what is to blamed. It promises an interesting tale of a lot of lives entwined as one, in its grief and bitterness. A good book keeps the promissory note it writes on its blurb to the reader and infact takes them on various experiential planes.

A good book, in its words, reveals and conceals, plays with the mind and leaves the reader with an experience over its pages. It goes as much as to making them dive into what it holds between the covers and forget the real space around them. Ladies Coupe was one such book. Maybe in my hasty correlation I expected too much out of All and Nothing! Maybe... But even otherwise, the story follows a very narrow structure of 'beginning-middle-happy end' too closely to let us meander on other emotions.

Throughout the book, the characters hastily jump from one emotion to another. Things happen too fast. The transition state is barely present. And transitions are what make a reader to fall in love with a book. It is in these intermediates that reality gets reflected. How often do we decide one day that we will be single all our life and suddenly, in the very next second, decide we want to get married? And even if we actually do, when conveyed in a written form, the shift requires an authenticity for a reader to believe its abruptness. This is where the book disappoints.

Although the author does manage to engross the reader enough to want to read till the end, the book does not offer a deeper conversation while engaging with it, or a conscious musing after having done with it! It is a book you read once to just know what happens in the end.

All and nothing turns out to be just that- promising all and delivering nearly nothing!

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

June 23, 2011

BLOODY WORLD

There are certain times in life when the most important things never seem to go right! JUST NEVER. And it sets off a domino effect and tumbles down every other thing that is going right. So you end up with a parcel of bad moods.

That is kind of my state now. Everything that is of tertiary, quarternary and quinary priority(I just learnt these now!) in life is happening smoothly and effortlessly. And the top priorities are... sigh... screwed up!

Not funny!

I know it is important to have ups and downs to enjoy life and all that jazz. But what happens when you fall into these phases of blah-ness? Where there are repeatedly only questions after questions? And if I decide to ignore these like my friends always advice me to and "Chill and don't think so much", these questions pile up more, take up gargantuan forms and numerous complications.

No wonder people go into depression, run away and wander as mad people and do all sorts of crazy things! There is absolutely no peace in this world. I am frustrated with the Indian Railways, with timings of every damn thing in my life, with bloody goddamn distances between places that keeps playing cruel tricks with me in a million ways and just plain everything.

And unless and until I get a damn ticket, get a few questions answered, I swear to be in this bitchy crabby mood and spoil the mood of all around me!

So friendly warning: stay away so I can grunt!

June 22, 2011

She wants a ticket to ride!

It is so infuriating that one cannot get a ticket when one wants from the Indian Railway. Before you can reach the reservation office, a queue that could stretch from one end of the country to another, is already inside in various levels of sleep and wakefulness. I suspect some spent the previous nights on the station steps just to get a ticket!

And if you sit and decide to book online, well, the available tickets keep reducing like a bad gambler's money!

I wonder if I should go sleep on the steps tonight...

June 21, 2011

Fistful of dreams

Every passing day is like a lyric in a song. One line at a time. The song, on the whole makes sense. To this lyric, I add a footnote, everyday.

Just that, this footnote happens to be a song.

Long ago, a stroke of luck dropped a lovely silver ipod shuffle on my lap. In my usual silly romantic fashion I named it 'Maud'- after my favourite author, as well as a secret acronym which for obvious reasons, I'm keeping a secret!

Travelling and music are as cliched as food and wine. And yet, resorting to that cliche every morning when I travel to work, is one of the most delightful experiences of the day.

A fellow music lover told me recently, that listening to music apparently dulls your mind and makes your productivity less. But the next instant both of us decided, "What the heck! Who cares?"

My ipod shuffle is like my own bottle of felix felicitis. A fistful of it is all I need to delight in!
I wish I could engrave on it the quote "Not all those who wander are lost: J.R.R.Tolkien". Not that I am an LOTR fan; I have never been able to push beyond pg 120 in the book. But music pins light wings to your back and takes you far far away. I barely realize where I am, unless the familiar visual of the office lane drags me back to reality.

It used to be similar during undergrad college bus rides. One and a half hours of a floaty sensation. Every other day, a new set of songs or an old favourite rehashed, according to my mood.

Anbe Sugama for wistfulness
Sunscreen for philosophy
A select songs of The Beatles for normal everydays.
Paolo Conte's Sparring Partner for vague moods.
Agni Nakshatram songs for dreams.
Julie Delpy on loop for a strange romance.
Anil Srinivasan and Sikkil Gurucharan's Saadho for rains...


Ah... rains... Music on my ipod. Balcony. Feet on the sill. And somewhere in between, for just a while in that stupor, I feel like I've figured out the meaning of life.

Every once in a while, when human company is too tame or too lame, I snuggle with the wires and my ipod and cozy up in a world of my own. And little dreamlands are born in the head.

Red blue green marbles in the sun. glinting and gleaming to the beat.
Startlingly blue sea spreading like cheese on toast
anklets... with their water-soft tinkle
sheep jumping over meadows in careless abandon
and people serenading on sleepless nights

An ipod shuffle-a midget sized gadget that stores in my moods; talks to me in tones I want it to and sings me my soothing melody!

A world fitted in my palm. And I can put in thoughts into it- thoughts in songs. And what a world it becomes!
Link
Dell Inspiron page

June 15, 2011

Short Story 26

In the flattened top, she saw the bald bony forehead.

That little suzhi (loop) was the socket for the eye. The empty complimentary space invisibly completing itself to form the other eye place.

The curved bottom looked like the toothless lower jaw of a grinning face. She finished the upper jawline with her mind's ink.

The Tamil letter ஒ ("oh") always had reminded her of a skeleton head.

June 12, 2011

Short Story 25

The auto slowly crawls by the bus stop.
Enticing.
Slowly a metronome of its engines adds a beat.

My legs twitch.

The taillights wink at me. A ravishing red lights up the stagnant streak of water, still fresh from the evening's downpour. The beats turn into a hum. The tyres screech an operatic melody. The front tyre does a little jig inviting me for a dance.

My legs unconsciously begin to tap to its advances. The antennae of its radio nods and clicks its fingers, luring me.

I pause.
Resist one last time.
And then... succumb!

I jump into its plush arms. It takes me on a dizzying ride!

June 10, 2011

Soon

dedicated to my blue-eyed baby!

*****

Little crumpled post-its hidden under sleeves
make-shift melodies paused and played
drifting like flute tones in the wind
a rare earth bound twiglet rooting itself
eyes, nay, searchlights reading chapters in the clouds
wrapping texts of thought beneath the skin-folds.

Bide your time, soon the storm shall come
no, maybe this time a gentle summer rain

*****

June 09, 2011

Short Story 24


“…Time goes by, people lie everything goes too fast.
Time went by, and then we died, and everything went too fast.”

Julie Delpy buzzed on in the background. She closed her music player and walked out to the balcony.
The clouds were painted gray. The kind of gray that hid rains in them for a long while, stalling so much, enough to make you decide not to take the umbrella, decide not to carry a Ziploc for your mobile or wear those all weather sandals.
The clouds seemed wistful. Like her.
She rewound those memories and played them again in her head. She wondered over how beautiful it was that dried flowers could be preserved. Just like her memories- fragile, but intact; almost crumbling but never quite; pale and mildly fragrant; and most of all intoxicating.
Intoxicating. When that word opened eyes in her head, the rain poured. At once in torrents. And in the patter she once again heard the song,

“You said our love was stronger than an ocean apart
Time goes by and people lie, and everything goes too fast.”

May 16, 2011

Short Story 23


I lost my clarity the last time round. It ran between the pages of my life while I ran behind it, panting, in a wild goose chase. While I whizzed past little shops selling memories, its shopkeepers called out to me to re-buy them and claim them. And somewhere in between, fascinated by a blue bottle of the clear sea I once saw in my dream, I paused. And clarity ran away forever…

May 15, 2011

Short Story- 22

Two tracks raced to my left, fiercely competing with one another, sunlight picking little metal points to glimmer their speeds up, vying for my attention.

And suddenly unannounced, they crossed paths, merged into one in a stunt, and continued sprinting, throwing a flirty metallic grin at me, who was safe behind AC II tier glass window, unaware of their inaudible cheap words!

They then split once again into two and raced on whistling.

Suddenly out of nowhere two bright red trains, loudly sounding their horns, raced ahead and crushed both of them to death. The trains looked ancient with wizened compartments aged with remembrances- brooding and serious. They lifted their hats as if in an apology for the misbehaviour of their kind and came to a halt noiselessly.

I went ahead, as my train serpentined on, wanting to retch!

May 14, 2011

Illundavoor Tale- 4

(Glossary below the story for those of you who are not familar with Tamil)

(Dedicated to that temple pond)



“One

Two

Three”


She jumped down step after step, her two ponytails bouncing along with her. She then proceeded to jump up on to them.


“One

Two

Three”


And in this repeated activity, she somehow seemed to be content.


It was a breezy morning. She had been woken up at 5. Her mother had planted a big kiss on her chubby cheeks, and whispered, “Ezhundukko ezhundukko da kutta! Inikku Seetha chithi-kku Kalyaanam. Koil-kku poganam”.


She had yawned, rubbed her eyes together and somehow managed to go through the motions of getting ready. She had fully awoken when her mom had puffed powder onto her face and tightly wound her curly mop of hair into two fat ponytails on either side of a central partition on her head.


With trays of clothes, sweets and nuts, loads of bags of various paraphernalia, they had boarded the cars to the town temple. She had sat on her mother’s lap near the window seat and looked out.


The sky had just been slowly stirring up from its sleepy gray robes. She had fallen asleep on the way. By the time she had got up, two minutes later, they were already at the temple and the first rays of dawn had lit the town of Illundavoor.

Lines of marigold flowers had been entwined around the stone columns. The temple elephant, Kuttan, had been bathed and was surprisingly not smelling of dung. Sanjayan, the mahout was applying fresh sandalwood paste on to its forehead while Kuttan was shooing flies away, with his trunk.


The function had begun and her mother soon left her with one of the older kids to take care of the million works that crop up during weddings. The older kid had lost interest after a bit, and found another kid to play hopscotch near the temple kolam.


She had also tagged along but made to sit in the side and watch. She soon lost interest and began her own game in the temple steps.


“One

Two

Three”


She jumped down step after step and then jumped up again.


That is when he came. With his red shorts and black checked shirt. Hair neatly oiled and parted in the side, socks with a Mickey Mouse print in the middle, and a handkerchief tucked into his shirt front pocket.


He laughed at her.


“Enna thaniya velayaadindrukka?” he questioned

“Unakku enna vandhudhu?” she asked screwing up her face in offense.

“Susu!” he replied and laughed again at his own joke, cupping his hands in front of his mouth to control it.


She turned away angrily. Idiot-boy, she thought.

She walked down some more steps, putting distance between them and continued playing, lifting her red paavadai with its gold border slightly above her ankles so she wouldn’t trip.


“One

Two…”


“Un paer enna?” he questioned.

“Unakku…” she began, “Nee po! Naan unkitta pesamatten”.

“Yaen? Un paer enna? Sollu” he asked.

“Nee bad boy! Solla matten”.

“Seri sollathey! Enakku pudhu game theriyum.”


She did not reply immediately. He did not go away either. He sat on the steps. Propped his chin on his hand and looked at her jumping.


“Enna game....?” she asked slowly


A grin spread over his face.


“Vaa kaamikkaren,” he said and walked up to her. He took her hand in his and they jumped down the steps till they were near the water.


“Kaala ulla vei” he instructed.

“Ayyo vendaam! Jill-unnu irukkum” she said, her eyes looking like saucerpans, apprehensive.

“Onnum irukkaathu. Vei” he encouraged.


She slowly edged her toes to the water surface. Her little finger touched the water and impulsively she retreated.


“Sonnen la! Jill-unnu irukku!” she complained.

“Ayyo! Bayanthaanguli! Ippo paaru!” he said and proceeded to put his left foot inside the water.


Instantly fifty small fishes came and nibbled at his toes. He wriggled and laughed at their ticklish pecking.


“Dei! Kaal edu daaaa...! Meen kadikkaporathu” she squealed frightened.

“Idhu saami oda meen. Onnum pannathu. Try pannen” he said


She held on to his hand tightly and looked at him cautiously. He grinned encouragingly. She smiled and put her left foot slowly into the water.


*****

GLOSSARY


“Ezhundukko ezhundukko da kutta! Inikku Seetha chithi-kku Kalyaanam. Koil-kku poganam”- Wake up wake up, dear one! We need to go to the temple for Seetha aunty’s wedding.

Kolam- Temple pond

“Enna thaniya velayaadindrukka?” – Why are you playing by yourself?

“Unakku enna vandhudhu?” – Translation:What is your problem? Transliteration: What comes for you?

“Susu!” - Pee

Paavadai- traditional skirt

“Un paer enna?”- What is your name?

“Unakku…” –You

“Nee po! Naan unkitta pesamatten”- Go away! I won’t talk to you.

“Yaen? Un paer enna? Sollu” – Why? What is your name? Tell me!

“Nee bad boy! Solla matten”- You are a bad boy! I won’t tell you.

“Seri sollathey! Enakku pudhu game theriyum.”- Fine, don’t tell me. I know a new game.

“Enna game” – What game?

“Vaa kaamikkaren” – Come, I’ll show you.

“Kaala ulla vei” – Put your foot into the water.

“Ayyo vendaam! Jill-unnu irukkum” – Oh no! It will be cold!

“Onnum irukkaathu. Vei” – No. It won’t be. Just put your foot in.

“Sonnen la! Jill-unnu irukku!” – I told you , it will be cold…!

“Ayyo! Bayanthaanguli! Ippo paaru!” – Oh god! Scared cat! Look at me now.

“Dei! Kaal eduda! Meen kadikkaporathu” – Hey! Take out your feet. The fish will bite you

“Idhu saami oda meen. Onnum pannathu. Try pannen” – There are God’s fishes. They won’t bite. Why don’t you try?

May 13, 2011

Joyride

there was a family of children
girls.
one boy.

they all grew up.
frocks turned to sarees.

and one lone shorts was slowly lengthening into pants.

one saree turned bridal
puffed up
gave out a baby

i was born

i went back to that village
to see if i could find those discarded frocks and that faded shorts

i see it somewhat.
i wish it other-what.

my joyride begins.

May 09, 2011

Short Story-21

They were all of a faded brown colour, with creased ears, one eye at the middle of the forehead, a stick like nose and a perfectly round mouth of pink of point three millimeter diameter.

They had transparent white wings with silver veins running through them like a leaf. And they all were exactly one millimeter tall!

hey were all spawned by the first ray of the full moonlight that hit the lotus that bloomed on the city pond. At once! And they all knew what they had to do.

They quickly organized themselves into groups of ten and took up a street each in the city. They had a red glowing mole under their chin through which they spoke to one another to convey finished work, or to ask for help.

They diligently slept behind the clocks in the houses, all day through, and in the night, they executed their evil purposes.

When people were sleeping, snores echoing off crumbling walls, they stealthily, yet quickly crept into carelessly tossed handbags and pegged up backpacks.

They made their way into little pouches and secret compartments, leaving no trail, rousing no suspicion.

And with a giggle you'd mistake for a cricket's sneeze, they knotted up all the earphone wires tangled beyond comprehension; and satisfied, they went back to sleep.

May 03, 2011

Illundavoor Tale- 3

They had become like to prides of lions! Just that they painted, instead of Urinating to mark their territory!

There were blows exchanged at rare times. Ooruga, thankfully had escaped those. They all knew he was a simpleton. And they knew he was automatically following what he was being asked to do. No party preferences, No territorial lordship!


Ooruga was not always called so. He must have had some other names. In his godknowswhere house that he ran away from when his dad beat him, that fateful night for a petty crime.


But ever since he came to Illundavoor and served mango pickle at Pandian Mess, he had been called Ooruga.

He did not always know he could paint so well. But when he accidentally picked up Sarala’s(Pandian’s daughter) colouring book, his life took a turn.


Carefully he filled the clown’s eyes.

Beautifully he painted the nails of the princess.


When party officers came around with vats of paints, Pandian, a staunch PDCZ supporter, sent Ooruga to paint the wall posters.


It was late evening. Ooruga picked up his bright orange paint can and walked to the wall that had the party;s water bottle symbol drawn across it.


His brush looked like it was having a bad hair day. But in Ooruga’s hand, it plied to obey.Referring to the paper in hand, Ooruga sketched the Tamil letters precisely to read Kannaiyya- the party’s local candidate.


The weirdly bright orange paint was stickier than usual. Slowly Ooruga swirled the paint on to the brush, and finished off the background fill. ‘VOTE FOR’, he added on top as specified.


It was growing dark and the paint started to glow. Ooruga looked at it in wonder. It was glow in the dark paint!


******

Little Ooruga, who was then named somethingelse and not Ooruga, sat with his older sister in the thinnai* of their house.


His mother was braiding his sister’s hair into two fat oily plaits. She was filling colours into her book with her new paintbox.


Ooruga dipped his finger into the tiny paint bottle. His sister hit him on the hand and wiped it off with a waste cloth.


“Vendaam da! Idhu aai!”** she said.


Ooruga grinned listlessly. His mother smiled.


“Kuttykku colour pannanama?***” she asked


“Avana colour pannavei ma…,****” she instructed the girl and retreated within the house.


His sister picked up his hand, made him clasp the paint. She dipped it inbto the glowing black paint.

“Idhulendu, raathiri light adikkum,*****” she explained.


They drew and eye with the black, washed the brush. Then they filled the iris yellow. A bizarre yellow eye that glowed in the dark that night. His sister and he had laughed over it.


“Ooh! Naan poochaandi! Unna kadikka poren…,******” his sister play-acted with the painted eye held on her forehead.


Ooruga had giggled madly.


The next day, he got beaten, he cried, and he ran away forever, with a crumpled paper in his pocket. Of the glowing yellow eye.



Ooruga laughed again. Sitting in the corner of the street, staring at his work of art glowing in the dark.


People walked past, barely noicing him. Ooruga was prone to such outbursts of laughing and crying. But he was harmless. He’d soon get over his bout and walk back to the mess and serve the mango pickle as he had done so for the last 25 years. This was just a ‘meanwhile’ cry or laugh.


He laughed again. Glow-in-the-dark Kannaiyya, he thought! As if he would open his name-eye in the night through the paint!


Ooruga got up and walked past to the mess.





*Thinnai- long narrow platform attached to the front of the house, overlooking the road and shaded by the roof that extends beyond the house

**Vendaam da! Idhu aai!- Don’t touch it! It is shit!

*** Kuttykku colour pannanama?- Does the little one want to paint?

****“Avana colour pannavei ma…,”- Make him colour.

***** “Idhulendu, raathiri light adikkum,”- This will glow in the dark

****** “Ooh! Naan poochaandi! Unna kadikka poren…,”- Oh! I am a demon. I’m going to bite you!

April 30, 2011

Short Story- 20

‘PRANKS FOR SALE’- the board outside the shop in Creek street read.


Old Mrs.Banham dusted the shop windows, trying to poof away the cobwebs that miraculously sprung up every morning. It was probably from the ancient street where a million spiders lived in peaceful unity.


Dust, the thickness of a ‘Complete Works of Shakespeare’, had settled on the road. People rarely came in there. “Unless they knew what they wanted,” as Mrs.Banham would say, her gray eyes gleaming for just an instant!

Old Mrs.Banham, with her frail figure, a set of pearlies she doused in Listerine every night and a mop of fluffy white hair, was not the kind you’d ever suspect would giggle if a Fartalot were to be snuck below your cushion. Neither did she appear like the kind who would clap with glee if you were hit by the Invisible SneezyWheezy. But she was very much the kind who would do both, with a ‘Mischief Managed’ sort of grin on her face.


Little childish pranks she brewed in her tiny workspace behind the shop. Her thin elbows exactly knew how not to move and set off a pile of AngelicallyAbusingChild keychains. Mrs.Banham also knew that in the secrecy of the forgotten street was the safety and success of her pranks.


Mrs.Banham was that lady who secretly dropped an Evaporating Chuckle pellet into your handbag if you looked upset. She would also carefully dust the finest WailingWeeper dust into your eyes if you were rude.


But the biggest prank she ever played was on herself. When she brewed MakeBelieveMojo on that fateful day when she turned thirty-two.


Thirty-two. That was exactly how many cockroaches she had to collect. Tears streaming with the rain and running in muddy streaks on to the gutter.


She sliced them. One after another. The prothorax aside, the abdomen beside it. In two neat rows of sixteen each. Honey warmed to feel like a cat’s paw. A teardrop. Three petals of the marigold raised on a bed of dead maple leaves. And a trickle of the glistening purple powder. Mix and heat till it turns black. Dark as thoughts. Dark as reality. Into that which would change reality. Prank her into believing whatever she wished to.


To become a widowed, successful lady, content with life, and with no memory of the past she wanted to erase.

© Dryad's Peak
Maira Gall