Monday, February 25, 2013

The Passage

The Passage was always dimly lit. At day time the shadows falling on it would create all sorts of paintings on its damp floor. Litter from the buildings on both sides would be scattered everywhere.
The only time it got cleaned was during Sundays, when the kids from the building would gather to play cricket. It was the safest place for Sandy to hide from other healthy street dogs. His frail body would easily slip into the sewage pipe when the dogs chased him, to snatch his morsel of stale meat. For him it was his den.

I had discovered this passage when on a rainy day I was playing indoor cricket with my neighbor. The ball somehow managed to pass through the balcony railing and it bounced three times before rolling into a dark corner, downstairs. I immediately went down with a candle to search for it. The corner had a brick wall up till knee level and when I raised the candle, I could make out a small passage, hidden behind it. I got out with the ball and left the area to be explored the following morning in full day light.

Since then I have managed to claim the Passage as my proud discovery. And have often put it to some serious use, through my vivid imagination. I have used it as a hiding spot when my maths teacher would come over for his classes. It was a perfect spot to hide the occasional stolen packet of cigarette. And then when I reached high school, I had imagined bringing my girl friend into this Passage, just to show off the place to her. But this weird idea of mine never seemed to fructify until yesterday. Sonia dropped into my home to exchange some notebooks at dusk. And it just occurred to me that I had managed to drop her notebook into the passage area the other day. So obviously I invited her to come along with me and help me in the search.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


‘Don’t go up there. come down.’ Granny shouted, seeing Maria climb up to the terrace. ‘You never let me go up there.’ Maria complained as she descended from the stairs. ‘Listen to me child. If you want to remain young and beautiful then you will never go up there. You see what has happened to me. How old and weak I have become. I had once made the mistake of seeing the terrace, not listening to my mother. And God took away my shine from me. You don’t want that to happen to you, do you? Now go and play with Aria.’

The town of Mislanabad is heavenly. Olives, oranges and lemons grow in every backyard. Bougainvillea climbing up the white washed walls is a signature to every dwelling. Maria has grown up to be a young girl amongst all this. Her parents are no longer alive. But her grandmother's overwhelming love has quietly buried the fact. Maria kept on growing beautiful until one day her grandmother fell seriously ill and was bedridden for days.

Maria climbed the stairs in perfect stillness. Granny was dosing away in the hot afternoon. The entrance to the terrace was locked. But she had laid her hands on the keys the other night. She unlocked the gate silently. The wood creaked and a gush of warm air filled the floor. Her nimble body shivered on seeing the terrace for the first time. It was a lovely view of the outside. The entire locality was visible. There was Aria playing in her backyard with her dog, Maria noticed as she looked around. She had never experienced so many colors at once. She wondered why Grandma had kept her away from the terrace. Looking around she found a staircase leading to a water tank higher up. Carefully she climbed a few steps and looked around again. This time the view was a little different. The houses at the far end seemed to be dissolving into barren land. There was nothing beyond twenty homes. Maria counted again. She tried to raise her view, climbed a few more steps – hurriedly. Her heart sank. The wind grew chilly. A lonely feeling overtook her thoughts. She was in the midst of a desert. She recalled her parents for the first time in ten years. Why had they not told her anything? Why had grandma not told her anything? Or had she tried telling her all this in her own way. Maria lost her innocent smile and her cheeks became grave. She was living in a place where girls are not told little secrets about their own country. She sighed and kept looking into the horizon.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Vipul’s mother was ferocious since morning. The house had run out of supplies and there was nothing she could cook for breakfast. The local shops had stopped supplying bread since three days because of a price increase from the companies. Vipul got up hearing his mother scream at him and went straight into the bathroom to avoid an altercation. ‘You go out and get me some cash, will you. Where are you hording all the money? Or are you spending it elsewhere.’ He could hear her voice echo inside the bathroom. Vipul was running out of money. He was unable to save enough to help his mother manage the kitchen smoothly. But they cannot live without food. So he got to go out and take out some money. He was still not bankrupt; he was just getting used to behaving like a miser.

Vipul gulped the tea and changed his clothes to go out to the ATM nearby. He was hoping to earn some extra money from some side business. But nothing seemed to be clicking in these few months. His thought of making fast money was surely not monetizing at the moment. He got to do something; his thoughts were rushing fast as he proceeded towards the ATM.

There was a long cue outside. The man inside seemed to be taking hours to come out. Why do people get inside when they cannot operate the machine? Vipul wondered as usual. Five minutes later it was his turn. He took out his wallet and fumbled to find his card. Just then a man came from the side and knocked at the glass door. ‘Are you done old man?’ He enquired in a hurried voice. ‘Hey it’s my turn, please stand in the queue.’ Vipul said to raise an argument. ‘Don’t worry I will take just a minute. My cars parked in the no parking zone. Hope you don’t mind.’ Vipul agreed hearing the soft plea. What does he lose to let the man in before him? An old man emerged from inside looking confused and scratching his head. The man got inside quickly. Vipul stood there looking at the man from behind the frosted glass. The man’s head popped out instantaneously from behind the door. ‘Hey, you saw where the old man went? He has left his card inside the ATM machine without completing the transaction. What a fool. I could have taken out all his money if I wanted.’ Vipul looked at the man with surprise. His eyes grew big. And he swallowed his expression of having missed a chance of being lucky. Had he not skipped his turn, he would have surely come out with a ransom amount. Standing there he gave it another thought. Getting lucky with an old man’s money?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Eraser

What do I tell you of this trifling tool, an eraser? I was fooled by the might of it very early in my career. My love career that is! It so happened that the girl to whom I wrote my first love letter was still studying in school. So I too was naturally studying with her. Same class. One day i got this idea of writing her my thoughts on a small piece of paper. I tore a sheet from my school diary and tucked it under the desk. Then I began to wait for the free period so that I can write the first few lines with all my skills, thus putting my poetic sincerity to test.

She occupied a bench in front of me. Her back was always wonderful to look at. Little twirls of unkempt hair resting lazily on her shoulders. I used to pinch a hair secretly and wait for her to react. No reactions followed usually. The hair can’t tell who touched it. But this time I got to touch her shoulder from behind. I mean I can’t just call out her name and utter some nonsense. That would piss her off. And yes touching her for handing over a letter. What an excuse have I just cooked up! So what if she turns me down. I would have at least felt her back.What a memory that would make. Who cares then of a rejection? Next class, next time, life moves on.

So yes I touched her and she did look back at me. Eyebrows a bit high and jaws dropped. I concealed my smile and looked brave. I do this all the time with all the girls in my class. What’s the big issue girl? Ok, I gather enough courage not to utter a single word and hand her the letter. Her friend looks at me with suspicion. She takes it from my hand and continues talking to her friend. Only that her voice goes a bit dimmer, now. I start scribbling all over my notepad. Just to look busy. The paper is lying on her desk, I see through the space between her hand and her chest. Next I have planned to ask her for returning my eraser. To start a conversation, that’s all. Should not be mistaken for a weak effort to remind her to read my letter. I hesitate and look around. The teacher comes in and the class begins. I start writing notes. She does the same. By now I have lost sight of the piece of paper. Fair enough, she will read it at home. Class gets over. The teacher leaves. Now she is painting something with the eraser. I can hear the scratching sound. Oh, no wait. She is erasing my love letter. I touch her back again. She hands me back my paper, neat and tidy. May be writing with a pen should have done the trick. "What class do we start using a pen?" I ask my friend.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Merry go round

As a child I was always fascinated by the merry go round. The lunch time in school was special. The girls used to run and claim their seats on this colourful rotating machine. The boys, to demonstrate their strength would push the steel rods to bring the object to life. The girls would giggle and shout looking up at the spinning sky as the rotation gained momentum.

There was a particular girl I used to observe on the merry go round. A junior school crush you will guess I am sure, who would fade away once I leave school. But this one was special. The one I would keep looking at while eating from my tiffin box under the coconut tree. I was not interested in being like other boys who would chance to be by her side all the time, and empty the seat on the merry go round once she dropped in at lunch time. I was used to looking at her from below the coconut tree. Subtly but surely analyzing her tender looks and curls on her short hair. Counting the number of smiles she passed off in the air and the number of girls she made jealous. Eyeing her was fun and life transforming. It made me a better cricketer in the school team after all.

I had already started connecting every event in my life with her, as time passed by in school. But I was still looking at her from the rear bench. She perhaps didn't notice any of my habits. Or she was plainly ignoring all of it. But how would I know. I was not interested in the merry go round. I never liked the idea of going round and round in the same place. Maybe when she is interested in some other game, one which does not require you to be stationed at one place, then we will talk. Till then I kept watching her grow with me in school.