A very short horror story – Blank Stare

Once,  when she was a young child, Katherine stared too long in the mirror. Looking deep into her own eyes, she climbed into her soul and could never really make it out. After that day, whenever Katherine stands in front of mirror, she sees a blank space. She sees no reflection, neither of herself nor of her soul.

When she is tired

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Sometimes when she is tired, really tired, tired of the world and its pretenses, tired of the humanity and the rat-race, tired of having a good time and living a good life, tired of doing the right thing over and over and over again, every single day, every single hour, tired of  all the struggle, tired of all the pain she has said good bye too, tired of being strong, those times, Miriam Chako wishes he was around, she wishes that he would keep his shoulder around her and hold her, her hair would be on his chest and they would not speak, he would just hold her, and everything, every single thing would be alright.


Supplement this with the reading Miriam Chako and the mistake

 

Looking for something more long-term

Today Ann is in the mall, walking down the corridor of beauty parlors and salons. Her hair has been acting up lately, it has become dry – from the tips to the roots, as well as her scalp, her scalp has become dry too.

Ann does not like the things she cannot manage, every night before she sleeps she applies five different kinds of lotions, and shampoos and conditioners, and sprays and serums so that she can have the perfect hair the next morning. She must do it the previous night, every single time, because her hair is so unmanageable, she can never ever just wash it and let it dry out in the outside world. Because only she knows what she looks like in that time between when her is wet just after the shower and when it is completely dry. That in-between time is a secret that has been kept away from everyone, even her friends and boyfriends. That is why sometimes they think she is a little eccentric, but then, she is kind, so it really doesn’t matter.

What Ann hates about making her hair perfect is that she has to go through a tedious process every time she has to wash them. Every single time. She hates that. It is such a grand waste of time, she thinks. Every other day one cannot spend three to four hours just on their hair. No. There has to be a better solution, there has to be something that lasts long, really long.

So, she walks into the first salon she sees. For perfect hair, for the perfect you, reads the display of this salon. The salon people, the saloners, smile at her, greet her as she walks in. They ask her if she would you like to have a coffee ma’am, should they get her some juice. Yes, they know Ann at this salon. She is a regular.

Ann sits down with the head hair expert lady saloner.

What would you want to get done today Ann?

I want my hair done perfectly.

We can go in for your regular routine. Or you could try the new treatment which Lo’real has just released. Keratine Intense, it is called.

How long with this new treatment last?

2 to 3 months, followed by the usual touch-ups.

Do you have something that will last longer?

There is the botanical oils treatment. It will last around 6 months, but you will have to be in the parlour every month to back it up.

Still longer?

How long you do want it to last Ann?

Well, forever sounds about right.

The head hair lady saloner expert smiled.

No, we don’t have anything for that. But the Keratine Intense treatment should do you wonders for about 3 months. Shall we start it then?

No, said Ann and she got up and walked out.

The next salon display read – care for hair that lasts long. Ann smiled. Maybe this is it, she thought. She sat down with the head hair expert man saloner and went through the same exact conversation.

Don’t you have something more long term?

Your base genetic structure cannot be altered Ann. Your hair will remain how they are naturally. Nothing can be done about them.

So what are all these treatments that you so religiously recommend?

You want to know the truth?

Yes.

Quick fixes. That is what they are. Instant solutions.

Ah, I see.

Should we start with the protein treatment then?

No, said Ann, I am looking for something permanent, I am looking for something long-term. And she walked out.

She met Adam the same night. They had drinks. She told him of the saloners and of their quick fixes. Adam smiled.

Do you want to know the truth Ann?

Yes, Adam.

Adam lit a cigarette.

Look around you Ann, look at the society we live in. You want to lose weight, you go on a diet. You want perfect skin, you take a facial. You want good hair, you go to the parlour. You have a deadline to meet, you spend the entire previous night working. You like a guy, you sleep with him on the first date. It is not working out, you end it and you move on and you try again. It still doesn’t work out? You end it. You tell yourself that next time it will last. But how will it if you don’t stay?

We are living in a society of quick fixes. We are living in a society that seeks instant gratification. Managers are worried about their quarterly numbers. They don’t give a shit about the long-term growth prospects or the environment implications of their decisions. Everybody wants quick results. Now, I want this now! How can we ever achieve permanence like this? How can we ever built something long term like this?

Take your problem. You want good hair. Eat right, every day, every single meal of every day. Work-out. Meditate. Read. Research. Learn. Introspect. Reflect. Keep it natural. Do this for a month, then a month more, then a few years. You will have absolutely gorgeous hair. It is rather obvious is it not? Permanence is a continuance not an end result. It requires effort, it needs patience.

A pinch of Nostalgia

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The sea
Out here in the middle of the sea everything smells different. The air smells different, different smell your clothes, and if you pause them, then so do your thoughts.

Out here in the middle of the sea everything tastes different. Everything here tastes of salt. Leo, the sailor, can taste the salt in the air, he can taste it in his food, and sometimes when is lying alone in his cabin,in those times, he can taste the salt on the edge of his hopes.

The cabin
In Leo’s cabin under his bed lies a brown box with engravings on its sides. The box is tightly shut and it has not been opened for a long time now. Some evenings when they gather in his room to play poker and to drink rum, the other sailors ask him – what secret do you hide in that engraved box Leo?

Leo never answers them. He just smiles and says – Some boxes are best left unopened.

The Box
Leo is standing on the deck looking at the sun set in the landless horizon. He can feel salt in his hair, he can taste the salt in the air. Today, was like every other day on the ship – he got up, went below into the basement to tend to the animals, then to the captain’s room to wake him. He wanted to tell the captain to let the animals out of their chains. It was not fair.

Then the day rushed past in a blur and the animals had to be fed again in the evening. When he was giving them food he could smell the salt in their sweat. The salt taste of the sea was everywhere.

Leo rushed to his cabin. He pulled the engraved box out from under his bed. He opened it and buried his face his wife’s clothes. Nostalgia swept away the smell of sea. The clothes, her clothes, they smelt like home.


Note – When I was revising this post, I realized how fractured it seems after a first reading. I think Leo’s story needs a little more filling. Don’t you think so too?

Miriam Chako and the mistake

When Miriam Chako walked back to the banquet hall with the delegation of the old ladies, those old ladies who also happened to be the wives of the owners of the hotel where she was staying, she had the strangest dread discharge from the center of her being. When that dread reached the edge of her body, time froze, the world went silent, and in that singular moment with a clear foreboding, Miriam Chako saw the sealed fate of the wives of the hotel owners. She knew they were all going to be dead within the next hour.

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The hotel where Miriam Chako was staying at was located in that tiny pocket of space between civilization and isolation. Miss Chako could not, no matter how hard she tried, remember how she had woken up in room no. 418 of this particular hotel. All she knew was that she had been busy in an absurd amount of activity ever since she opened her eyes here.

They came to her room and bathed her, picked out her clothes for her and dressed her. Then they briefed her about the brunch with the troop of performers who were visiting the hotel. She was to step in as the host today, as the wives of the owners did not wake later till 1 pm.

“Why do I have to be the host?”, she asked.

The lady staff whose name tag said – Fiona, smiled. She tightened the corset around Miriam’s waist.

“Today the theme is the 1800s Madame”.

“Why do I have to be the host Fiona?”, she asked again, “Surely there has been a mistake”.

Miriam looked at Fiona. Fiona did not offer any kind of explanation. She just smiled and braided her hair, powdered her cheeks, sprayed some perfume and then left the room. Another one, whose name tag said – Philip, did the laces of her shoes and he too, then left the room. Yet another one, whose name tag read – Stephen, handed her the memo of the brunch, and then, he begged her leave.

Most peculiar, Miriam thought. a little like Alice in Wonderland, all of this is.


In response to today’s Daily Post prompt. Image link.


to be continued… i cannot wait for things to happen to Miriam…

Fork

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She lay her fork on the plate and cleared her throat. The hall fell silent and all the 12 children imitated her – they laid their forks on their plates.

“Good. That’s quite enough now. We have spent the entire day being civilized and proper, haven’t we children?”, she asked and looked at the 12 children one by one.

“Yes, we have, today I did my tables and copied them on to the board”, said Stuart

“Yes, we have, today I learnt to colour inside the lines”, said Martha.

“Yes, we have, today I raised my hand before asking a question”, said Lucy.

“Yes, we have, today I cut my nails and polished my shoes, my tie was neatly made, and my shirt properly tucked,” said Sam.

Thus they spoke, one by one, and told Madam Mary how they had followed all the rules and played by the book, how they had been civilized and proper during the entire day.
“Are you tired dear children?”, Madam Mary asked.

“Just a little,” replied Clara, for she spoke for them all most of the times, “It gets a little tiring being well-behaved”.

“Oh, yes I agree darling!,” concurred Madam Mary, “ What shall we do about your tired minds then? How shall we inspire them? Do you want to paint, or draw, or act, or skate, oh I know, we could bake cookies and make ice-cream, and then perhaps go out in the woods and camp, or maybe take the boat out in the lake, wouldn’t that be super?”

Clara, and Martha, and Lucy and Stuart and the others laughed.

“Oh stop it! Madam Mary! You are so funny! You know those things are adult’s ideas of fun for children. Children cannot even grasp the concepts of boredom or inspiration, everything is new for us, or do you forget how bright the sun shined when you were a child?”, Clara spoke, She adjusted her spectacles, got down from her chair, walked up to the Governess and kissed her on the cheek.

“Do not fret so much over us,” she said. “ We will grow up just fine”.

She walked up the stairs with the other 11 children behind her and they locked their dorm room to do the things children do, the things adults only psychoanalyze.


In response to today’s Daily Prompt

Diverse – Chapter 2

Begin this post by reading Diverse first.

woman having coffee in bed

How do you write a modern story?

The meeting/ mating grounds have had a change from the 20th century rules of strata and limited connections. Serendipity has become digitised. Infidelity has experienced an opportunity burst. These are hard time for lovers. 

It was 2 am.
Sally lay with her eyes open.
In her ex-boyfriend’s bed.

He was sleeping with his back towards her. She had come over unannounced two hours ago. She went straight to the mini-bar and helped herself to a state of intoxicated inebriation. Then she took a bath and they did what estranged couples who haven’t seen each other in years do these days. After they were exhausted, they slept.

It was 10am.
Sally slowly opened her eyes.
And reached for her phone.

It had been silent for over 12 hours now. He hadn’t called or messaged. She sat up and saw that the ex was in the loo. She shouted, “can you call my cell? I can’t seem to find it!”

“Yes, sure”, he shouted back from the inside. Then she heard him flush.

“Your phone is switched off”, he said coming out.

Oh damn.
She jumped out of bed and turned over the many small necessities of city life – pillows, trays, plates, small decorative things, pen stands, bowls, bottles, ashtray, books, magazines, soft toys – to finally find her phone behind her shoes under the bed.

No battery.
While she plugged in her phone for charging, the ex-boyfriend handed her a cup of coffee.

So what else is new?”, he asked.

“I saw this movie yesterday”.

“Which one?”

“Survival of the fittest”.

Before she could go into her head and relive last night, her phone came to life. She had 170 messages from her boyfriend and 25 missed calls. She clicked to open the messages
Boyfriend
I am so sorry love, I thought you would like the movie.
Where are you?
Your phone is unreachable.
Where are you? You are not at your home.
I am so sorry.
I love you.

“How was the movie?”, the ex asked.

It was fine,”, she said picking up her clothes from the floor, “I gotta rush. I will see you around”.

 

Diverse

For today's Daily Post Prompt, 
I am going to write a short diverse piece rather than the usual verse. 
I hope you enjoy reading it.

american-horror-story-hotel-508-wes-bentley-evan-peters

How do you start a horror story?

How people perceive space, for growth and development, both personal and otherwise is related to the how they are spaced between people and nature.

Sally had always been afraid of heights. Whenever she was at a high place – looking at the city from the 43rd floor terrace of her affluent friends, or watching the sun set from the glass walls of her boyfriend’s 70th floor flat, her eyes would lose focus, the world would suddenly become quiet, and in her mind she would start playing alternate sequences of how things would unfold if she were to suddenly slip, or fall, or if someone pushed her over the edge.

It happens sometimes, doesn’t it, when you get up and you have no idea where you are, except that with Sally, she often had different ideas of where she was when she arose in her bed. For instance, today morning, when she got up, she was convinced she was sleeping on the roof of the tallest building in the city and the roof was her bed. She woke up feeling heady and nauseated and spend the rest of the day thinking what it would be like to stand on the roof of the tallest building in the city, and what if the entire roof was a bed, how would one get off it, what would happen if you rolled off in your sleep?

As she got ready for the evening movie with her boyfriend, she thought how reality was always getting in the way of her mind. Today they were going to see the screening of a psychopathic thriller, not her boyfriend’s brightest idea, after all he must know that she was slightly off in her head, or was he living in his own universe, seeing what he wanted to see, seeing her as the fun, bubbly, charming girl that she was?

She walked into the hall holding on to her man’s arm and felt giddy. This giddy was good giddy, because it was love giddy. Love making language lose structure and etiquette can be easily pardoned. Good giddy, love giddy, made her head fill with pinks and greens and as they took their rear seats she saw the credits rolling and she saw the popcorn guy take out a knife and slit the throat of a man in the third row.

What.

Yes.

She shook her head. Blinked her eyes. Get out of your mind, she scolded herself and looked ahead. No. The man in the third row was still headless.

Darling did you see that?

Yes darling, I did.

Isn’t that a bit odd? Why is no one screaming?

Babe, look towards the middle section.

She did. And she saw a woman shoot a man in the front row. In the head. Point blank. She even saw bits and pieces of his head fly around.

What the fuck! We should get out of here.

Not yet, the movie is about to begin.

Fuck the movie, let’s go.

No.

Let’s go babe, let’s go.

Survival of the fittest.

What?

That’s what this —-

Let’s g —

—-movie is called

—ooo oh.

Yes.


 

Continue reading to Diverse – Chapter 2

 

10 Chapters, Ch 1 – Curve

That morning, our heroine lay in the bed beside a sleeping him, with her eyes open, her hands crossed under her head and her feet under the sheet, she thought – that wasn’t as good as I always imagined it would be.

Screen freeze. Change shot. Flashback – 7 years ago…No, wait, this would be the perfect time for a flashback, if this were a movie. But it is not, our heroine thinks, so there is not much point in telling the viewer about what transpired between the three of them seven years ago. On the other hand, if this were a story about the three of them, the story would have curved to the next fresh page after the much disappointing performance of its introductory hero.

It looks like I will have to tell you another story, our heroine decides. Last night I was beyond myself when I saw him in the rain, it was just like how it is in the movies, but here I lie now, and he is snoring and I certainly deserve more excitement in the following pages.

She gets out of bed, walks towards the window and looks down into the city-streets. Who knows, she thinks, I might become a star in the coming chapters.

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In response to today’s Daily Post Prompt
Image link – here

 

 

The boy who was born in a book

On a grey Monday morning, with a hat on his head and an umbrella in his hand, a step ahead, another step in front of it, he was walking on the cobbled streets of his town. He pulled his sleeve back, his iWatch 2 showed him that in approximately 7 and 3/4 minutes he would reach the only pub for his kind of people, it also told him that his usual sun-lit seat was ready with his usual order – warm brown coffee and honey-laced waffles. He raised his eyes and smiled a little, he had never thought he would marvel at the wonders of technology.

Magic is lagging behind our times, a tall red-haired man joined him. We need to improvise, just like they did in Episode VII. 

Indeed, our boy-hero nodded.

They walked into the pub. Fewer heads noticed them these days than they did a few years ago, both in pages and in person. Mobiles had worked their ju ju well on humans, even the special ones.

Old men that they were now, they wished the ones they liked and no more. After the customary morning greetings they took their seats in the only sun-lit spot in the pub, saving the world had its benefits.

Nothing like a warm cup of brown coffee on a grey rainy Monday morning, said the red-haired man.

There is something like it, said our boy-hero, in fact something a little better. 

His friend cocked an eye-brow and then broke into his goofy smile, right, right, of course. 

One of the good things in their lives, apart from the warm brown coffee on a grey rainy morning, was the books placed in front of them. They went in print in ’97 and now in ’16, 19 years on, after getting their careers sorted and their children in school, they could finally sit down to read the story of their lives. 

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Brothers on Moon

I have found staying on Moon quite exhausting, it is very different from spending time on Earth. Earth’s atmosphere is quite like home’s, the gravity is about the same too, he said, stepping on a jagged white stone, his face slightly skewed, his eyebrows tense.

His brother lent him a hand and his face broke into a smile as he stepped on flat land.

It is quite colourless too unlike home and your favourite planet. 

He rolled his eyes and hit his brother, as had become his habit, right after they had left his favourite planet and his brother had thought it appropriate to let this become a personal joke between them. (Yes, they were joking now. Things were a little different on Moon.)

The Bifrost takes care of the travel, it has quite no effect on the body, but standing here on the moon, I can feel my body fighting just to stay together, vacuum has never really been my thing.

I thought I would bring her here and that we would have some wine and then dance in the sunlight, with the earth behind us. But the glass will shatter and the wine will float not to forget that she will be in a big white suit. 

Fiction is always more convenient than reality brother.

Yes brother. 

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And God said to the woman – bring me back to life…

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This story opens with her, our heroine, standing at the edge of a flyover and looking at the slums below. The slums are spread far and wide, as far as her eyes can see – tiny make shift houses patched with whatever their dwellers could find, they are dirty and unclean and she can smell the slums. She narrows her eyes, presses her fingers together thinking how she will change all this, how she can change all of this, when suddenly a dark man jumps on a thatched roof and starts hollering at her – if you keep on making them young, if you take away their disease, if you continue to make them happy …

She, our heroine, looks curiously at this impoverished dark man – if I do then what?, she shouts back.

Why would you do that to me? I am so lonely up here…

Down there you mean, she corrects him.

I am so lonely up here, he repeats, why would you do that to me? People are supposed to die, you are making them live longer and longer and I am getting lonelier and lonelier. 

Her fingers loosen, her eyes widen. Death, she was speaking to death.

No, I am not death, death is not a being like me. Death is just terrible but it is necessary. Life must die for life to begin, the dark man laughed. You know who I am, you think of me when you narrow your eyes and you can feel me when your fingers move to create, I am him and I am her….I am god….yes it’s me and you are taking away from me much pleasant conversations with the just dead, I no longer know what to do, they no longer come to me, it is almost as if they do not need me since you have taken away the fear from them, why am I even here? Hey! here is an idea – why don’t you bring me back to life? Why don’t you bring me back here on earth? 

While she, our heroine was busy talking to god and dissecting his existential crisis, the tall lady in blue, our heroine’s love, was busy discussing her death plan with an even taller lady draped in red.

In a dirty alley a few months ago on a freezing winter night

Four souls are huddled close around a fire. The oldest soul shivers, wraps his threadbare brown blanket tighter around his chest and speaks –

there is a woman they say and I have seen her. She is tall and she has long brown hair and browner eyes, her fingers are thin and long, they are shaped like they can shape anything…she…she can make everything alright with her hands. You should see her, she sways her hands and she goes around growing trees and flowers, her hands dance to an inaudible lullaby and up sprouts a green and there grows a blue flower! She narrows her eyes and tightens her fingers and she creates food, no, no, really she does, she can make your hair grow and with a twist of her hand she can fill glasses with wine, she goes around making food appear and feeding the poor and also …

the oldest soul lowered his voice so that the others had to lean in to listen to him –

… and also she can bring the dead back to life…haha…no she can’t, no one can bring the dead back to life but she goes around making people younger and so people have stopped dying…


Next post in this story – Dungeons, Museums and Silent Promises

What Redburn Saw in Launcelott’s-Hey by Herman Melville

victorian england

In going to our boardinghouse, the sign of the Baltimore Clipper, I generally passed through a narrow street called ‘Launcelott’s-Hey,’ lined with dingy, prisonlike cotton warehouses. In this street, or rather alley, you seldom see any one but a truck man, or some solitary old warehouse keeper, haunting his smoky den like a ghost.

Once, passing through this place, I heard a feeble wail, which seemed to come out of the earth. It was but a strip of crooked sidewalk where I stood; the dingy wall was on every side, converting the midday into twilight, and not a soul was in sight. I started, and could almost have run, when I heard that dismal sound. It seemed the low, hopeless, endless wail of someone forever lost. At last I advanced to an opening which communicated downward with deep tiers of cellars beneath a crumbling old warehouse; and there, some 15 feet below the walk, crouching in nameless squalor, with her head bowed over, was the figure of what had been a woman. Her blue arms folded to her livid bosom two shrunked things like children, that leaned toward her, one on each side. At first, I knew not whether they were alive or dead. They made no sign; they did not move or stir; but from the vault came that soul-sickening wail.

I made a noise with my foot, which, in the silence, echoed far and near; but there was no response. Louder still; when one of the children lifted its head, and cast upward a faint glance; then closed its eyes, and lay motionless. The woman also, now gazed up, and perceived me; but let fall her eye again. They were dumb and next to dead with want. How they had crawled into that den, I could not tell; but there they had crawled to die. Ant that moment I never thought of relieving them; for death was so stamped into their glazed and unimploring eyes, that I almost regarded them already as no more. I stood looking down on them, while my whole soul swelled within me; and I asked myself, What right had anybody in the wide world to smile and be glad, when sights like this were to be seen? It was enough to turn the heart to gall; and make a man hater of a Howard. For who were these ghosts that I saw? Were they not human beings? a woman with two girls? with eyes, and lips, and ears like any queen? with hearts which, though they did not bound with blood, yet beat with a dull, dead ache that was their life?

At last, I walked on toward an open lot in the alley hoping to meet there some ragged old women, whom I had daily noticed groping amid foul rubbish for little particles of dirty cotton, which they washed out and sold for a trifle.

I found them; and accosting one, I asked if she knew of the persons I had just left. She replied, that she did not; nor did she want to. I then asked another, a miserable, toothless old woman, with a tattered strip of coarse baling stuff round her body. Looking at me for an instant, she resumed her raking in the rubbish, and said that she knew who it was that I spoke of; but that she had no time to attend to beggars and their brats. Accosting still another, who seemed to know my errand, I asked if there was no place to which the woman could be taken. ‘Yes,’ she replied, ‘to the churchyard.’ I said she was alive, and not dead.

‘Then she’ll never die,’ was the rejoinder. ‘She’s been down there these three days, with nothing to eat – that I know of myself.’

‘She desarves it,’ said an old hag, who was just placing on her crooked shoulders her bag of pickings, and who was turning to totter off, ‘that Betsy Jennings desarves it – was she ever married? Tell me that.’

Leaving Launcelott’s-Hey, I turned into a more frequented street; and soon meeting a policeman, told him of the condition of the woman and the girls.

‘It’s none of my business, Jack,’ said he. ‘I don’t belong to that street.’

‘Who does then?’

‘I don’t know. But what business is it of yours? Are you not a Yankee?’

‘Yes,’ said I, ‘ but come, I will help you remove that woman, if you say so.’

‘There, now, Jack, go on board your ship, and stick to it; and leave these matters to the town.’

I accosted two more policemen, but with no better success; they would not even go with me to the place. The truth was, it was out of the way, in a silent, secluded spot; and the misery of the three outcasts, hiding away in the ground, did not obtrude upon anyone.

Returning to them, I again stamped to attract their attention; but this time, none of the three looked up, or even stirred. While I yet stood irresolute, a voice called to me from a high, iron-shuttered window in a loft over the way; and asked what I was about. I beckoned to the man, a sort of porter, to come down, which he did; when I pointed down into the vault.

‘Well,’ said he, ‘what of it?’

‘Can’t we get them out?’ said I. ‘Haven’t you some place in your warehouse where you can put them? Have you nothing for them to eat?’

‘You’re crazy, boy,’ said he; ‘Do you suppose, that Parkins and Wood would want their warehouse turned into a hospital?’

I then went to my boardinghouse, and told Handsome Mary of what I had seen; asking her if she could not do something to get the woman and girls removed; or if she could not do that, let me have some food for them. But though a kind person in the main, Mary replied that she gave away enough to beggars in her own street (which was true enough) without looking after the whole neighborhood.

Going into the kitchen, I accosted the cook, a little shriveled-up old Welshwoman, with a saucy tongue, whom the sailors called Brandy-Nan ; and begged her to give me some cold victuals, if she had nothing better, to take to the vault. But she broke out into a storm of swearing at the miserable occupants of the vault, and refused. I then stepped into the room where our dinner was being spread; and waiting till the girl had gone out, I snatched some bread and cheese from a stand, and thrusting it into the bosom of my frock, left the house. Hurrying to the lane, I dropped the food down into the vault. One of the girls caught at it convulsively, but fell back, apparently fainting; the sister pushed the other’s arm aside, and took the bread in her hand; but with a weak and uncertain grasp like an infant’s. She placed it to her mouth; but letting it fall again, murmured faintly something like ‘water.’ The woman did not stir; her head was bowed over, just as I had seen her.

Seeing how it was, I ran down toward the docks to a mean little sailor tavern, and begged for a pitcher; but the cross old man who kept it refused, unless I would pay for it. But I had no money. So as my boardinghouse was some way off, and it would be lost time to run to the ship for the big iron pot; under the impulse of the moment I hurried to one of the Boodle Hydrants, which I remembered having seen running near the scene of the still smoldering fire in an old rag house; and taking off a new tarpaulin hat, which had been loaned me that day, filled it with water.

With this, I returned to Launcelott’s-Hey; and with considerable difficulty, like getting down into a well, I contrived to descend with it into the vault; where there was hardly space enough for me to stand. The two girls drank out of the hat together; looking up at me with an unalterable, idiotic expression, that almost made me faint. The woman spoke not a word, and did not stir. While the girls were breaking and eating the bread, I tried to lift the woman’s head; but, feeble as she was, she seemed bent upon holding it down. Observing her arms still clasped upon her bosom, and that something seemed hiddenunder the rags there, a thought crossed my mind, which impelled me forcibly to withdraw her hands for a moment; when I caught a glimpse of a meager little babe, the lower part of its body thrust into an old bonnet. Its face was dazzlingly white, even in its squalor; but the closed eyes looked like balls of indigo. It must have been dead some hours.

The woman refusing to speak, eat, or drink, I asked one of the girls who they were, and where they lived; but she only stared vacantly, muttering something that could not be understood.

The air of the place was now getting too much for me; but I stood deliberating a moment, whether it was possible for me to drag them out of the vault. But if I did, what then? They would only perish in the street, and here they were at least protected from the rain; and more than that, might die in seclusion.

I crawled up into the street, and looking down upon them again, almost repented that I had brought them any food; for it would only tend to prolong their misery, without hope of any permanent relief; for die they must very soon; they were too far gone for any medicine to help them. I hardly know whether I ought to confess another thing that occured to me as I stood there; but it was this – I felt an almost irresistable impulse to do them the last mercy, of in some way putting an end to their horrible lives; and I should almost have done so, I think, had I not been deterred by thoughts of the law. For I knew well that the law, which would let them perish themselves without giving them one cup of water, would spend a thousand pounds, if necessary, in convicting him who should so much as offer to relieve them from their miserable existance.

The next day, and the next, I passed the vault three times, and still met the same sight. The girls leaning up against the woman on each side, and the woman with her arms still folded around the babe, and her head bowed. The first evening I did not see the bread that I dropped down in the morning; but the second evening, the bread I had dropped that morning remained untouched. On the third morning the smell that came from the vault was such, that I accosted the same policeman I had accosted before, who was patrolling the same street, and told him that the persons I had spoken to him about were dead, and he had better have them removed. He looked as if he did not believe me, and added, that it was not his street.

When I arrived at the docks on my way to the ship, I entered the guardhouse within the walls, and asked for one of the captains, to whom I told the story; but, from what he said, was left to infer that the Dock Police was distinct from that of the town, and this was not the right place to lodge my information.

I could do no more that morning, being obliged to repair the ship; but at twelve o’clock, when I went to dinner, I hurried into Launcelott’s-Hey, when I found that the vault was empty. In place of the woman and children, a heap of quicklime was glistening.

I could not learn who had taken them away, or whither they had gone; but my prayer was answered – they were dead, departed, and at peace.

But again I looked into the vault, and in fancy beheld the pale, shrunken forms still crouching there. Ah! What are our creeds, and how do we hope to be saved? Tell me, oh Bible, that story of Lazarus again, that I may find comfort in my heart for the poor and forlorn. Surrounded as we are by the wants of fellow men, and yet given to follow our own pleasures, regardless of their pains, are we not like people sitting up with a corpse, and making merry in the house of the dead?


 

 

School of Good Things – 13th child

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59 children attended the School of Good things. Morning till evening they sat in the semi-circular classroom, taking notes, being nice, and praying for good things. They would all wear the same clothes, read the same books, listen to the same songs, eat the same food, because all human life was created in equality.

The same teachers taught the same 59 children, day in and day out, except of course on Sunday when all of them played the same games; week after week, one year after another for 23 years. Next year, as commanded by tradition, most of the children would stay back and become a part of the school, and the others would go out and try and propagate good things in a world which was slowly losing its character.

Next year most would stay and others would go away.
Except for the 13th child.


Picture credits – here

The year was ’93

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Something nasty had happened a few days ago in my side of the city but it got so hot in the nights so I decided to leave my bedroom windows open anyway. Light breeze blew and past the flimsy green curtain I could see tiny stars in the black sky. It was past 2 in the night and I was thinking of the nasty thing that had happened a few days ago. Someone had said something to someone else and as things happen everyone got angry and blood was shed. Children still continued on play on the red streets but there were fewer people out in the night now and that is why I lay here in my bed and I was not out with my friend talking about our dreams for the future, discussing how we would get out of this rot hole and make it big, real big.

Sleep was just about to wrap me in her arms when I saw the little child clinging on the iron grills. He struggled to get inside, one thin hand in and then a leg and soon he was sitting on my bed staring at me with his big grey eyes.

Yellow, yellow, gold gold” , he began to chant. “Gold, gold, gold, yellow, yellow

In another world my heart would have given away and I would have died of fright on seeing a little child in white climb through a grilled window on to my bed. But not today, not in this part of the city where I lived. I touched his cheek, pulled him close and went to sleep.


The streets were empty that night too but they had brought us many gifts. Each house had got a gift and some gifts were bigger than the others. I pulled the hood over my head and silently walked through the narrow alleys stopping now and then to look at the locked doors. I could hear some kids laughing and playing in balconies but none were to be seen on the road.

You are late”

I looked up and I could see my friend.

You have to see what they gave me”

I climbed up the rickety stair to his terrace. He had always looked handsome in his blue overalls. I hugged him and then I saw the green monstrosity lying in a corner.

It is so big”

“Yes”

I touched the cold metal body and was amazed at the size of this gift. Next to it lay a long cylindrical box. I took out the gift out of the box and put it on my shoulder.

Be careful with that one, it is very sensitive and it will come back to us” 

I rolled my eyes at him.

You know I don’t like when you do that”

I know but you can’t do anything now, see what I have in my hand”, I giggled. I usually did not giggle, in fact I never giggled except with him. Well, that was not true. He wasn’t anyone special. He was just somebody I knew, someone I had grown up and I had to tolerate him till I met better people. Looking at him standing there with love and hope in his eyes I felt sick. He was good and he was handsome, also nice and kind but he quite didn’t cut it. He smiled at me and began walking towards me and past him I saw the little child in white, the child from my bedroom trying to climb over the parapet.

I stumbled and I fell back.

What did you just do?”, he ran towards to me, helped me get up and we both looked at the big cylindrical gift tearing through the clouds into the sky.

You know it is going to come back to us right?” 

I picked up the little child in my arms and together with him, the three of us ran down the stairs into the street far away into the unknown as my friend’s house exploded behind us.

The year was ’93. We were in Mumbai. My friend was a Muslim. And a few days back some Hindus had been shot in his house.


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A few months later I was seated near a lake and I was taking down gold ornaments off my body. It had been a long tiresome day and I had done good. Why could this just not be it, why did the night have to come, however did it come to this, I was going to see better days and make it big, real big and I was going to meet better people. I used to roam the streets in night free as an independent person of our sovereign country, when did I start dreading the dark?

The other girl seated next to me kept a hand on my bare shoulder, “it is time to go, they will be waiting for us, you did good today“, she said. I looked at her and sighed. I thought of the little child in white who had crawled through the grills in my window chanting gold, gold, gold, yellow, yellow. I laughed in my head. I had the gold, I was covered in yellow for most part of the day and in the night it all came off and that is what I had come to dread.

Do you know what it feels like to be dead inside and living everyday, day by day? Do you know what it feels like to give away your freedom of mind, to give away your thoughts, to be dead and feel nothing in your head or on your body?

We walked to the inside room of the temple. They would be waiting there for us – men of god, sinners of skin. What a bunch of idiots, those people who believed in the sayings of these men. If the believers saw them like we did every night, they would give up their beliefs for good, or perhaps they would not – one has to be a perverted oneself to place faith in such obviously commercial shenanigans.

We, me and her, we walked to the centre of this tasteless sacred chamber and sat by the fire, they could not see that the fire was not reflected in our dead eyes, they were just staring at our naked breasts. It was going to be like every other night, tonight I was going to die a little more.

There was a knock on the door. One more person, I thought.

Someone got up to let the one more person in. I don’t know who it was, it is difficult to see with dead eyes. I heard the door creak open while staring into the fire and then I heard a roar.
And then I heard them scream.
I turned away from the fire to see a flash of yellow.

The bridge, the 7th basement and me.

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When I turned left on the flyover that day little did I know that I was going to drive my car over so many innocent bodies. I heard the sound of tyre hit flesh, I felt the tyres move over flesh, over those bodies. I was terrified, I was scared. I wanted to turn back but if I did I knew I would just go over those fleshy bodies writhing in agony all over again.

The bridge ahead was a few kilometers long and I could see the bodies that I would have to drive over if I wanted to reach the institute in time. Today was going to be a very exciting day, he had promised he would show me how to break into the system and he said I would have the files a minute before they knew and a minute before they came with their guns in their kelvar wear to take us away. I really wanted to be at the institute, I could not stop and help my victims and there were so many of them. I could not turn back, if I ran over them again they would die, at least now after I had unknowingly driven over them they had a good chance to survive with minor injuries.

I took one last look at all those living bodies in front of me till the end of the bridge, I locked the doors, I turned up the air conditioning, I put on Do I wanna know to full blast, changed the gears, shut my eyes tight and hit the gas.

Flesh, screech, screech, screech, thod thod thod …argh…flesh,flesh, screech,flesh,flesh, screech, flesh screech.

When I opened my eyes I was down from the bridge and on the road with the sparkling blue sea on one side. Though curious I dared not look back. I rolled down the windows I let some fresh air come in and I just drove to the institute, I could not think much I had just probably slaughtered numerous live beings.

Did it matter, does anything matter anyway?

Up ahead I saw a check post and I saw the men in blue and I knew today was the day when orange became my black and I would be behind iron bars. Life was about to change, life does change after you end lives and the men in blue would carry on that transition for me. They would see the blood around my car and they would see the guilt in my eyes. So I put on my shades and muttered a prayer to a god I didn’t believe in – let me pass, let this pass, I need to get to the institute. 



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A few hours later I was sitting in the seventh basement of our institute and he was frantically typing. I had always liked the intensity with which he would type. It was dark all around us, I could just see his face in the dim light from his mac. Three small screens popped in three different corners on the laptop screen, he looked at me – are you absolutely sure?

Clutching the .45mm inside my jacket, I nodded, yes.

He pursed his lips, hit three keys and then handed me the pen-drive. They will be here in a minute, they have to see it, he took my hands in his and kissed them. His brown hair had never looked better, in fact today was the day he had looked his best. I wanted to ask him about his dog but I heard their footsteps before I saw him break his mac into half.

I got away from him and as they circled around us I shot him.



 Picture credits and links – bridge, institute.

She finds it difficult to bathe now

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Every time she is about to bathe, she finds it difficult, to touch the water, to be in the bathroom. She finds it difficult to take a bath. The water in the tub reminds of her of that day in January, seven years back, it reminds her of that day when her world, as she knew it fell apart in a matter of minutes. 

That day in January, seven years back

Her older kids were playing on the terrace. One was eight, the other seven. Kids are kids and kids sometimes think that some things are fun, kids are curious and in innocent curiosity the older child got hold of a knife and stabbed the younger one. Once, twice, thrice. He was curious. It was fun.

The seven year old screamed. Screamed out loud.

She was bathing her youngest of two years in a tub. She heard the scream. She ran three floors up, anxiously calling out what was wrong, why are you screaming dear child.

His brother lying in blood, screaming in agony, the oldest child knew he had done something wrong. He heard the mother come upstairs. He did what any child would do to escape a scolding. He jumped off the third floor terrace.

After those few minutes

One died on the grill, other with a knife in his stomach and the youngest drowned in the tub.

Now

The world went silent when he told me the story. She finds it difficult to bathe now, he tells me. He sips his beer, he takes a drag. I am scared, I want to hug him.

Western Aristocrats and Jane

On the eastern side of the lake, where Jane lived, the villagers were plain and did not come from much wealth. They lived in simple cottages with little furniture and some convenience. For food they ate what they grew in their backyards. For fun they sat around the fire late into the starry night. For work, most of them looked after their fields, few worked with the Church and others walked across the rickety wooden bridge to the western side of the town to work for the aristocracy.

Jane would wake up every morning, take a bath, put on freshly laundered clothes, dab a little perfume on her neck and wrists, and tie her shoes neatly. Then along with the men who too were dressed neatly she would cross the rickety wooden bridge to the land of the aristocrats.

The aristocrats on the western side of the lake held power, influence and other glittering things. They dressed impeccably in colours white blue red green and golden. They walked with the air of kings and they seemed to bathe in perfumes. You could sense an aristocrat from a mile away, such was their aura.

Jane worked for Alfred Montgomery.

Mr. Montgomery lived with his three children in a five storied brick house, a little away from the sky blue lake. The ground floor was a parlour for visitors. It was lavishly furnished, it even had a fireplace. Jane had never been inside the parlour. She was neither a visitor not a guest. She was a clerk, a secretary who handled Mr. Montgomery’s paperwork.

In the office on the first floor she would sit at one end, far away at the other end sat Mr. Montgomery behind his large wooden table, his head buried among the papers. He would speak only when needed and he would never hand her the files. He would just give a slight nod when he was done with signing the paperwork and push the file to the centre of the large wooden table. Jane would then walk over to the table, take the file and get to work.

She thought he smelled fantastic. It was too sad that she could not be near him any more than distance social decorum would allow.

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Know why the Western Aristocrats stay away from the Eastern Villagers in the next post.  

An easier interpretation of why I left Nitaya on that beach

In order for this post to make sense please read In Another City I had taken to Coffee and On that beach I left Nitaya from the book.  


Many of my patient readers have asked me – what was going on in the last post? Was the narrator delusional? Did she see ghosts? What was the deal with the table? What was the Russian name doing in between? Did she kill him? 

I still have to decide whether the protagonist is a delusional murderer or is there another story but I will try and make the rest of it clear to you – 

She is sitting in a cafe reading War and Peace. The cafe is in the open and is fairly deserted. She is sitting in a corner. The cafe has wooden tables. People sometimes doodle on wooden tables – names, numbers, cartoons etc.

When she lifts her cup she sees a hello written on the table. Now she is very happy that she spoke to a handsome boy in the library from where she borrowed the book, and between reading aloud War and Peace and having her coffee she happily starts to talk to the stranger who she thinks would have engraved the hello upon which her coffee mug is placed.

But when she picks up her coffee mug again the hello is not there on the table. The person who wrote that hello is a beautiful stranger in a far away city and in some magical way he has heard her quote Tolstoy and he begins to converse with her via the table by scribing/etching/engraving on it. Everytime she touches the words they disappear, this is one of the ways he knows she has read them. Magic magic !

So they set a date to meet which takes her to a new city ( I had Santorini islands in mind) and then they have fun and stuff.

And she is just telling us how they had fun and stuff , what they did etc etc. In her telling of the love tale the reader goes with her to places – the sea shore, the terraced cafes etc etc and thus the reader ends up in the final scene.

Here the reader sees the beautiful man reading out Crime and Punishment to her. The line he quotes is of special significance – do you understand what it means when you have absolutely nowhere to turn?

As he speaks these lines, the cook serves them with green sauced pasta. The color green triggers the repressed memory of Nitaya. And the quote from the book triggers a string of remembrances. The quote is very important here because literally it means that she had nowhere to turn to when she got locked in that cursed( probably cursed) house. Or it could mean that the entire story of Nitaya was her creation to escape from something ( something terrible that happened to her in her childhood perhaps, too cliched?), Nitaya was an escape when she had nowhere to turn to.

In the last part when she walks in to that old house, I had imagined it as her literally walking into her past, literally stepping into her past. Imagine visiting your childhood home or colony and imagine seeing your old self there.

Here again she is living in the past with the beautiful man till the cook interjects and tells the reader that he is already dead. He tells that he was found dead on a sea shore with a book in his hand a month ago. He also says that he was a beautiful man.

One could perceive the last line to be her confession of his murder.


I am open to any alternate suggestions for the madness of her mind. Apparently there are only so many ways one can innovate in the horror/mystery genre. I want to try something new, a new reason for her being a killer rather the obvious cliched ones – troubled childhood, abused childhood, evil possession, witch, haunted object, ghost narrator etc.

Dear reader if you have read an unconventional horror story/movie or if you have an out of the box idea do share it in the comments below.

The old man with his old woman

The village is small, smaller still are the nineteen houses of the village. The old man lives with his old woman in the sixteenth house from the blue lake in the east corner of this village. The blue lake in the east corner of the village has fishes of nineteen different colours. Every summer morning the old man goes to blue lake and brings home sixteen fishes for his old woman.

Time dissolves slowly when one has little to think but it runs a little fast when one is old. They would get up in the morning the old man and his old woman, he would make coffee, she would light a fire, they would sit near the window , he would read the newspaper and she would wait for their children to call.

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I went to visit them in the grey month of winter. They would wake me up early, make me coffee, take me to the fields and teach me fishing. We would laugh, they would talk but not about their hay days or about life. They would not give me any lessons in wisdom instead the old man would take my hand and while we walked on the brown road under an umbrella, he would ask me to listen to the sound of the rain.

The old woman would make my hair while we sat in the sun under the big leafed tree and she would not talk about her lovers past or her children or tell me how she met her old man, no. She would instead sing. Her song was not about a broken heart or a sullen dream nor did she sing of life and its vagaries but her song was one that of happiness, an ebullient verve to cherish the passing of time.

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In the night we lay in the grass looking at the stars. They would hold hands and I would play my guitar. I would think of my city but I never spoke of its polluted skies. I knew they had lived for sixteen years in the city of star light and dreams and neither did they speak of it or its polluted skies. They never spoke of the fallen human spirit in those concrete jungles of fame. Instead they guided me through the luminous constellations and taught me on the stars to put a name.

They did not tell me to fall in love or to follow my dreams or to burn with my passions.
No.
Speak to me, the old man sang. Laugh with me, the old woman smiled. Just breathe, they said.


If you enjoyed reading this post,
don’t forget to share it or leave a comment below.

You can find more of such stories in my book 27 Broken Footprints. 


I have been told often about this story reminds people of their grandparents. 


This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend,
 an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

It was a sweater made for two

It was a sweater made for two. The outside pink,
the inside blue.

He often wore the blue when she used to be in his arms,
in their balcony near the snow clad mountains,
the two of them having tea, talking love and
dreaming about the future.

Now he is gone, and she sits alone, having tea and
remembering his love; the pink on the outside and the
blue inside, touching her like he used to.

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Haydy, you need to see

Haydy has always been intelligent – smart connecting the dots understanding applying. Haydy has always been the best at what he does, he has always been the best at what others do too. Needless to say, Haydy has developed an unkind disposition towards all people less smart than his. It is not that he does not possess the emotional capacity to avoid inflicting humiliation. He is deeply empathetic. Haydy just cannot help himself. He speaks what he sees.

Sometimes he thinks it is this empathy which is holding him back. He would like to be cent percent correct in every problem he solves, every solution he offers. He is tired of being 99.99% close to answers all the time.

He asks his adviser what is it that he is doing wrong, why can he not get that 100 on his sheet.

Haydy, you know things, but you need to see, his adviser replies. It is very important to see.

Haydy rolls his eyes and walks out. He has never liked obscurities, double meaning thoughts, the greys. The world is black and white he believes and standing on the 43rd floor of the national bank, that is how he sees it.

Standing on the 43rd floor of the national bank, from behind a pillar he sees policemen spreading out on the floor. The alarms are blaring and he sees that they have not seen him. He also sees the through the small window on the fire escape door a man run up the stairs. He sees his adviser being escorted out by a man in uniform and he knows that the building is being emptied.

He knows that he is on the last floor of the building, he also knows that the man he saw running upstairs was not a policemen. Quietly he slips through the fire exit.In the maintenance room upstairs, he enters with a smile on his face.

Oh, hello, he says.

The man sitting at the far of the room looks up and smiles.

Game over, Haydy thinks.

They are all looking for you.

The man smiles and pats the seat next to him. Haydy sees his clothes and he knows that the man is carrying a gun. Haydy also knows that the man can kill him but Haydy does not really care. The building has been locked down, Haydy knows that. There is no other way out.

He goes and sits beside the man. Haydy knows that the game is over. He can see that. It is that simple really.

The game my dear sir, he whispers, is over.

Just then several policemen enter the room. They look at the two men sitting together on a bench. Haydy sees them and knows he should walk to them now. The game is over. The killer has been caught, he knows.He has seen everything.

The man at the bench fires a shot at Haydy. He then throws his gun, screams and starts to cry. Clutching his neck, Haydy falls to the ground looking at the man, the killer. Haydy sighs. He did not see this.  His adviser was right. He should have seen the man properly, he should have seen his face.

They are twins, a policeman said and wrapper a blanket around the killer. There there it’s over now. 

siblings
Perfection in Black and White

When the children played with knives

When it was asked to the parents why they let their children sit play in the sharp hollows of the ten feet tall statue of Lady Prudence the parents looked lost like children often do when they do not understand the unreasonable adult rules.

They are our flesh and blood but we do not particularly like them. We do not have the means to spoil them hardly the means to feed them. We are poor we own but little and certainly not virtues. I did not plan on having them. Neither did he. It just happened. They just happened. 

It was not discernible, the response the parents had given. It was assumed that the two thirty five year old adults had no capacity for reason given their lack of formal education. Their gibberish response was dissected by being put in the proper context of understanding – extensive trauma suffered from living years on the street and the past eighty seven nights in the city square mall.

Then after two prime time specials it was again asked of the parents why they let their children play in the sharp hollows of the ten feet tall statue of Lady Prudence, did they not love them? The parents looked exasperated.

Love. What is this strange word? 

But of course you know what the word love means. All parents love their children. Kids are breathing parts outside their bodies – part of one, half of another. Children are nature’s way of telling you have a purpose and what man may live without loving his purpose?

Our purpose never was the achievement of an approved-by-all ideal five years down the line. Our purpose was not to be discovered in the mall in the night by the guards. We slept where we could, they played where they could. They were grown up enough to answer nature’s calls. They could take care of themselves. They knew black from white. Now we can never go back. Now our purpose has changed. 

The city never understood the purpose the parents spoke about. They were poor, extremely poor but poverty could not obliterate the idea of love or care. Poverty could not loosen the hold of the selfish gene. So it was asked again of the parents why they let their children sit play in the sharp hollows of the ten feet tall statue of Lady Prudence, did they not know that they could die?

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The mother said nothing and looked down. The father held her hand and looked away.

The city silently rejoiced. The children did matter. They did matter. They did matter.

You found them in the hands of the Lady, one in each, blood flowing along her legs. In the morning when the mall doors were opened the city was greeted to the sight of two ten year old children in the hands of the Lady, the Lady herself was standing in a pool of blood. Just because they are in her hands, just because there was blood, you think they are dead? 

How she fell in love with a shorter man – An abstract

That evening as she reached the shore she realized her dress was not proper. She was wearing a skirt and also shoes. But then she had thought they would be going out – why had she worn the shoes?

The keys felt solid, she pressed them hard as she crossed the road back to her hotel. The sky was a mild blue and a mild grey and she could still hear the waves over the playing children as she walked through the park.

Did she like children? Not particularly. She thought them to be too daft. Look at them so happy, she often said, revering in ignored bliss. Look at us, she often thought, suffering in named miseries. If it changed for them, she never asked, would it change for us too?

Sorry.

The man had stepped on her long skirt.

She muttered him a pardon as he stepped ahead on the staircase.

Would you like to sit with me on the terrace, he said, without looking back.

The coffee here is excellent, as you already probably know, you are staying here I see, the keys in your hand, your skirt is very fine, I am so sorry I stepped on it.

Still two steps behind him she heard all that he had said, slightly amused at the distance in their conversation.  But if he was not willing to step down, she was not willing to step up. She liked his thin profile. She liked how he was talking to her – two steps ahead like a man, a polite demand in his plea. But he was short, too short. She had never liked short men; she had never liked men shorter than her.

She opened the door and entered her room. She removed her shoe and laced her feet into a pretty blue. He was sitting outside in the terrace at a table for two. Beyond him she could see the sea, she could still hear it.

A man in brown brushed past her and stood outside her locked room. She could see another man in brown at the staircase. She could also see him looking at her from the terrace. She looked at her blue feet. A man on the beach had offered to walk her to her room. She had declined. He had also asked her to get rid of her shoes.

You are right, the coffee here is excellent.

I knew you would agree.

She smiled at him as he ordered the coffee. She could see the men in brown still standing outside her room.

I see that you have left you shoes behind.

Yes I indeed have, do you like what I am wearing now?

Oh, I like the blue way better than the brown.

From Perfection in Black and White
From Perfection in Black and White

Lies may please but they don’t heal

Manipulating emotions is the underlying philosophy for various lifestyle economic endeavors which rely on advertising to secure their market space and share. Inadvertently these marketing gimmicks intertwine with our cultural set-up and long before we know we become the products that we use – we start pretending and leading alternate lives – in our heads and in our behaviors – all pretensions and lies – trying to be cool, trying to fit in.

The culture which you surround yourself with bears the burnt of most of your attitudes, you can blame people around you for who are, most of the times. I used to think that life on screen was real.

I used to pretend. I used to lie. A lot.

I was a chronic liar. I was a consummate liar. I was a bloody good liar.

Why did I lie?

Because I could. Because I liked it. Because I could get away with it.

(I am all in for honest confessions but I suddenly do not like where this post is going).

My father would repeatedly tell me – one should be honest, one should always tell the truth. I would hear those words but I never really listened. Or actually cared. He would tell me – it is a very strenuous hobby – lying; one has to remember all the lies of the past and to maintain the charade one has to add more lies; it is a viscous cycle; feeding on itself; it never ends.

But then I never really bothered. I was so young.

How the mighty fall!

My lies caught up with me in good time. Not that I could not keep up with the complex concoctions but that I had simply grown weary of all the artificial worlds I had created. I started practicing honesty.  It was very difficult initially. I had to belittle my past words. But I stuck through. I did not lie. I did not manipulate. I spoke the truth, however, harsh it was.

My father always says – an honest man has nothing to fear. And he is right. An honest man does not actually have anything to fear. And there is great calm in the arms of truth. But sometimes the truth can be unwanted.

Should one really-always-absolutely-without-fail always tell the truth? Is keeping silent another form of lies?

indian wedding

A year back one of my friends was getting married to her boyfriend of eight years. The marriage preparations were complete and in a few days she would lawfully be forever his. She was all over the moon and the stars and the even over the galaxies beyond those stars.

In the course of the preparations I had run into the groom many-a-times. Some of those many times were awkward. We were too close, too uncomfortably close. But I ignored it – Indian weddings ignore the concept of space and privacy – everyone is into everyone.

It was three days before the wedding. I was in the balcony speaking over the phone when he comes from the behind and whispers in my other ear. I turn around step back and ask him – ok , right, what is up?

He advances. I am flabbergasted. He tries to give me some logical poppycock as to why we should do it.

I laugh in his face. I ask him – are you drunk?

He says no.

So then I proceed to tell him the loop holes in his logical poppycock theory.

He is visibly hurt. But he retreats.

The following evening, I hear him proclaim his deep love for my friend, in front of hundreds of well dressed people. I see my friend – she has tears in her eyes. I see their parents. I see their friends and relatives. Everyone is so happy. And I do not know what to do – the marriage is in two days. Should I tell her? Should I not? My brain is doing ethical somersaults.

I decide to ignore it at first – it really is not any of my business. People don’t always marry for love and sometimes partners are okay with the infidelity of their partners. And she is a good friend and I do love her. I really do not want to break her heart. He does love. And maybe she knows. If she knows then I could tell her. But…

Then it happens again that night. He finds me in the kitchen and tells me to think about it. I tell him no.

The next day, as fate would have it, at brunch, my friend decides to entertain us girls with her entire love story – how they are made for each other, how it was meant to be, how did they first kiss, how he asked her to marry him, how he is the man of her dreams…..blah blah ….how loyal he is….wait…what?!

When she mentioned the loyalty part with pride apparent in her eyes, the dilemma in my head was resolved. She was indeed marrying him for love and she thought he was a nice honorable man.

Then I knew I had to tell her. Of what had happened. Of the lewd texts. Of the indecent proposal.

All this and much more I had to tell her, two days before the wedding.

I took her for a walk after the brunch. I told her what happened. I showed her the texts.

She was shocked. She was hurt. She did not speak for a very long time.

Then she cried.

And I guess I fell in love with her a little more after that. Because not once did she doubt me.

Once the matter was brought out in the open, a few other women came forward and presented proof of his lecherous habits. The following days were very ugly. The marriage was called off. And though my friend cried a lot over her broken heart and cracked idea of love, she was immensely glad that I did what I did – the right thing, that I told her the truth.


This blog post my contribution for the Indi Happy Hour Topic –Kitna chain hota hai na sachchai mein –organized by Kinley on Indiblogger.

A little on the company – Kinley water comes with the assurance of safety from The Coca-Cola Company. That is why they introduced Kinley with reverse –osmosis along with the latest technology to ensure purity of our product. Because they believe that right to pure, safe drinking water is fundamental.

In their recent marketing effort, they have associated their brand with truth and honesty, as can be seen in the following commercial.


All the images used in this post have been taken from the very generous free-sharing-open-source-kind-of-market that we have on the world wide web. For my take on this kind of sharing, if you are interested please read – this.

        Image Links – Image 1 – Link