Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Orphan

The promises of a festive season are always many. We nourish the festival and its myth in hope that it will bring into our lives some of those finest moments that we long so  much to have in the present life, as the many people in the stories from past had. When some events take place that shakes us up from the conscious sleep we conveniently choose for ourselves, we say it’s bad. I thought about saying the same when I was asked to help some of my friends to provide groceries and other goods to a home for the disabled. It was under a charity organization run by one of the Christian sects. There were poor and disabled, physically and mentally. There were kids too. One of them had lost his mother just a month back. This poem, perhaps, was inspired from my visit to that home. I would like to add some value to this poem by dedicating it to those children and homeless adults.   
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The Orphan

The intimacy of your tears
With the loneliness of my days
Cannot comprehend why
I am alone in a city of crowds.

The kindness of your words
Cannot mean why my ears go shut
At the music of laughter and
The harmony of gatherings.

The smile of your empathy
Cannot bridge the rupture
Of my redemption and someone else’s

This poem has also been published in Poem

Monday, August 27, 2012


Image Courtesy: Google
Sometimes, we find ourselves so aligned with the rhythm of the cosmos that the fluttering wings of a distant butterfly can have its share in helping us experience some of the indelible moments.

Woman’s Equality Day is commemorated each year by the people of the United States of America, on August 26th. I published this poem on Poem without knowing this specific detail. One of my friends in Facebook told me about this. That was the moment I realized I was attuned with the cosmic music and that my thoughts crossed those living on the other side of the planet, unknowingly.

I would like to publish the comment of my Facebook friend Sabine Schonwalder from Italy at the end of this post. The poem is here for you all to enjoy.

My long sari,
An overlapping image with my body,
Floats in front of your eyes,
In a luring sensation above and below nakedness,
As if I belong to the world of mathematics,
Always shown for something else:
Suppose X is Y and A is B,
I am a woman and my soul is free.

I dedicate this poem to all women, everywhere in the world. 
Sabine Schonwalder: Very nice title for International Women's Equality Day :-)  It creates an image in front of my eyes, so... well done :-)

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Day before Onam

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A woman came out the house that was the biggest and luxurious on the shore of the national Highway 17 that connected Cannanore and Calicut, just at the junction before the suburban bridge. Vinod, her husband might be in his room preparing his speech to be delivered in front of the judge. Their married life would end today.

It was the month of rain, but that day the sun was bright and that was good. She stood in the sunlight on the terrace.

Smitha worked in the State Bank. Her husband Vinod was a real-estate broker, a term he always disliked to be addressed with. Her only daughter, Priya was in a prestigious school in Mumbai and only son, Prakash was doing his MBA from Harvard. Her husband’s second son though, studied in a much less expensive school in Kerala that taught MBA, the same subject, but included a set of extra curricular activities including student strikes, breaking the glasses of State Buses, and damaging public property. However, He was not a regular visible participant in these activities. His name was Raghu and just once, he was officially ‘caught’ by the law for damaging public property and was put away. Vinod had to spend a lot of money to release Raghu.

He was a scrupulous child. Never again he risked being found out.

Vinod had another wife, Pallavi before he married Smitha. Raghu was the son he had in that marriage. Vinod divorced her when he found Smitha was a better choice for his prudential plans. Smitha was never married before. Her father thought about her secure future and after many considerations he decided Smitha would be happier with this man who knew how to be in the bright side of success. Even though divorced, Vinod still paid for his son, her step son. Smitha never minded it, she never cared about money her husband made, usually, until it all came down like a castle of cards.

Smitha thought about it again, but she could not understand now why she did not dislike or give any particular concern for her husband’s paternal inclination before. Things started falling down the previous year. Even her father had predicted that the real estate business in Kerala would not be affected by economic crisis. Predictions were wronged by some unprecedented influences. She could not understand what. They said it was the ripples of the global fiscal crisis, but she was sure it was something else that happened with her husband’s business.

Thinking deep about the reasons of the financial cripple her husband was now in, she could locate only one cause; his exclusive and unsevered connection with the past. Past if did not let go at the right time, could become a snare that could bind you hard and can take you down…down...real down. And that was what happened, she was sure. He still paid for Raghu, the student revolutionary. Her own son and daughter were lacking the same support from their father.

“I cannot bear this discrimination anymore,” she had said the previous month. He had remained silent to all her questions and that she felt endlessly disgraceful because he seemed not to bother to acknowledge her presence.

“You never loved each other,” her family councilor friend, Swetha had said. For Vinod, it was a solid financial backbone that he expected in marrying Smitha, his previous wife had no job. For Smitha, it was all for her father, her only blood-relative existed upon earth that kept her from being an alien, self-born. She needed to please him and so Vinod was a viable option. For her father, maybe it was the prospect of real-estate and its immunity to the global financial crisis.

Smitha was about to turn away from the terrace when her attention spilled at the nearby small tile roofed house. In front of the house was a little girl, making a floral carpet. It was the day before Onam. She realized it with an unspeakable pang in her heart. The previous year, her son and daughter were here, celebrating Onam, making floral carpets and making sadhya, the Onam feast. That was when the whole family came together, for the final time. Vinod was there too, even if the business was off track already, he never showed it then. He appeared all excited, helping kids and no one had spoken about Raghu. She remembered that even then the absence of Raghu’s reference made her feel relieved.
Image Courtesy: Google

She never actually liked Raghu. Her dislike towards the boy was not just because now her husband was borrowing money from her to help him in his cultural activities, which always involved political leaders and parties, though only once it was the police and the courtroom. It was also because Raghu represented what she displaced when she entered Vinod’d life. And she never even doubted the fact that she had this thought running all through her veins ever since she heard Vinod talk about Raghu, twenty one years back, even when they met for the first time.

It was after the previous Onam Vinod revealed he was bankrupt, but she took it bravely. They had her salary to survive on, which was good money. But then…Raghu had needs too. 

The thought of her son asking her about how they would celebrate this year’s Onam returned to her mind. It was how they parted and he bordered his plane for the US, the previous year. She returned from the terrace to her room, which was in the first floor. The door to Vinod’s room was visible from the stairs and she saw it was not opened and the bottom of the door still had a dark border.

He might not have woken up yet, she thought. Should she wake him up?  She did not feel it unusual to think that way. Today was the perhaps the final day of them together under this roof, if everything went fine. Today they will be granted divorce. Swetha had promised that. And she had also promised Smitha that she would drop her at the court, so that Smitha can avoid the embarrassment of asking the ex-husband a ride to the very ceremony that made him her ex-. It sounded funny when she thought about it.

She saw the land phone sitting on the tea-poi near the sofa in the hall in front of Vinod’s room. It had not rung the whole day, yesterday. She had expected her children to call her… or Vinod. She remembered clearly, how she had revealed the news of their decision to the kids. They hadn’t asked her if there would be an Onam celebration this year. They had just kept silence, both of them.

Smitha heard a vehicle honking outside the gate. At first she had thought it was a traffic problem early in the morning. She looked at the clock on the wall inside her room, it showed 7 am. Then the honking grew consistent. Perhaps an accident, she thought. She considered going out to the terrace again and watching it from there. It seemed unwise, because it could be Swetha asking her to open the gate. Smitha had asked her to arrive as early as possible, but this early was a real surprise. A true friend, Smitha thought.

Smitha opened the main door and found an unfamiliar car in front of her gate. She took the remote control and hit the red button, the gate opened with its regular music. She closed the front door and went inside. Whoever it was, it was not Swetha. So it could be a visitor to Vinod, may be his advocate. But the car that entered through the gate was still unfamiliar. She knew Vinod’s advocate and his car, it was a Hyundai Alto. The car that crossed the gate to the driveway was a Toyota Innova, a taxi.

She went inside and knocked on Vinod’s door. It was the only wise decision she could think of. She was about to go into her own room leaving the guests to her willful negligence when she heard a call; “Amma!”

She turned. The voice was familiar. Her son! “Amma, open the door,” –this time it was her daughter. Were they here? To see the final dramatic act of this play?  

Vinod came out of his room too, bleary eyed and with a bed head. He opened the main door. The two youngsters, the brother and sister rushed inside. They hugged their father one after the other, and walked towards where their mother was, at the bottom of the stairs, stunned at this paranormal scene.

“Who invited you here?” this was Smitha’s first response to Priya, who ran towards Smitha and hugged her.  
“No one mom. We just wanted to see if our parents are capable of making this crucial decision alone. And if you weren’t, I honestly believed we both could help you,” It was Prakash.
“Come on kids, take rest. You have crossed miles to reach here. Tons of fatigue and germs,” Vinod said as if pampering an LKG lad. He knew how to make people enter into deals, she thought momentarily.

Something kept her attention along with her two kids. It was the movement in the verandah. There was someone else with them, she realized. Not just one, but two.

Prakash went out the front door, suddenly, and came back after a moment. Along with him were Pallvi and Raghu.
“I am sorry if I am causing a disturbance to you. I am also sorry for not asking your permission to enter into this house… your house, Smitha,” Pallavi said.

Smitha and Vinod stood aghast, staring at Pallavi and Raghu. Walking towards Smitha, Raghu bent and touched her feet, as a gesture of politeness. “We are not here to give you trouble,” he said, standing up in front of Smitha. “We are here because Prakash and Priya invited us.”

Pallavi smiled. “I already know what is happening between the two of you and what the importance of this day is in the life of this family. I won’t say this man; your husband; deserves any respect. He left me for money and social security, which he felt you, could offer him. But today when these kids came to me and I saw their tears, I could not deny their request.”

“Can you leave us alone, please,” Vinod said, his voice sounding hollow.

“I can. But I don’t want these two kids to have the same fate as my Raghu. I did not marry anyone else after our divorce thinking Raghu might never get the same love from any other man. And you as his father always met his demands, never even thinking if your wife would like your generosity.”

“I know this very well aunti that the previous time it was your money that pappa gave me. He didn’t tell me, however. I knew about his business being down and I also knew he could not have trusted anyone else at this time of downfall to borrow money from,” Raghu said. “Smitha aunty, I know you never liked me living like a parasite feeding on your husband’s money… your money, now. It’s over… I don’t want anything else from him, except just one final request.” He said and turned towards Vinod.
Image Courtesy: Google

Raghu spoke again; “They say one must trade whatever one has to celebrate Onam. Can you trade love with egotism, just this once and let this family be together once again?”

Vinod looked at Raghu, with beads of tears on his eyelashes. Prakash was facing the front door, his right hand over his face. Priya sat on the sofa and blinked off her tears, hard.

“You are not just making a decision here; you are giving your children a new life,” Pallvi said.                 
She looked at Raghu and they both moved towards the main door. The car was waiting outside. There at the door, Swetha appeared. “Am I late?” she smirked and glanced at Smitha, beamingly. “I hope you are going to give that judge an off day today.”

It had started to drizzle slightly, though the sun was still shining and the beaming pearls of rain created a floral carpet in those dry minds that were in their journey back to togetherness. Pallavi stopped and smiled at this and said; “Happy Onam.” 

Friday, August 3, 2012


R.I.P. Rajesh Khanna (1942-2012)
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Dear reader, this is my latest short story. I dedicate this story to the acting phenomenon, late Mr. Rajesh Khanna, the evergreen superstar of Bollywood.

“Crimson,” I called the earthworm. It didn’t look up, though. Of course, it might not have learnt it that I had given him a name, yet. “Crimson,” I called it again. This time, he stopped and with what seemed a strained move, raised his long head up. “Me?” he asked. I was not shocked. Of course, I am not lying. Just because I want this story not to be about the astonishment and shock in discovering a talking earthworm, which I named “Crimson”, I wouldn’t lie. Naming him Crimson had other reasons too. His skin colour was the last of them. It was a rainy June day, but that morning, rain clouds came only after the sun rose crimson and thick. It was an off day since it was the Day of the Departed Souls for the Hindus.
“Did you call me?” the earthworm asked once again.

I was a bit nervous thinking if it would be a problem just naming an earth worm on random instinct. I was crazy. It was my intention to float on my imagination and creativity to survive the whip lashing of reality. However, I was not at all imagining the pleasant voice of the worm. It wounded rather pleased.

“Yes, I am sorry if the name offended you…friend” I hesitated.
“It’s a very good name,” said the earthworm. “You are blessed by the muse, I can see that!” it added merrily.
“Please don’t take me in the wrong way. Do you have a real name?”
“Yes, I do have, but you might not be able to understand if I say it. It makes meaning only in the earth-worm-language. I am sorry.” It was strange, wasn’t it? I had a name for someone I met only a moment before. And I was not even sure if we would meet at any time in the future, either. After some time, he would dive deep into some secret caverns in the soil and I will retire to my den.

However, I still felt there was something in us that was common. We both would engage without knowing what lies ahead of us in the secrets of the world we exist; I with words and mind, he with his slithering body and pointed head, which he now rested back on the surface of the laterite stone that lined the courtyard of the house I took as my vacation residence.

An abyss, one foot deep was ahead of Crimson. Probably he could manage to find some short-cut through the porous stone into the earth below towards the direction he was cruising. One quality in him was in stark contrast with mine—he knew how to keep going after a moment of pause.

As I was about to move on with the impact this earthly lesson was bearing upon me, something—a movement near Crimson—invited my attention.


Crimson was about to bump into a troop of ants marching into a hole in the stone. Or perhaps they were coming out of it.

And he didn’t see. “Crimson! Be careful!!” I shouted.

But that was perhaps too loud a voice for Crimson, the earthworm to hear. I saw a small fifteen centimeter, half an inch PVC pipe lying near the stone pavement lining the courtyard, the very stone upon which a merciless assault would soon draw ‘the end’ curtain to the life of my latest acquaintance.

I took the pipe and placed it in front of Crimson, in an attempt to make him crawl inside through the mouth of the pipe. I knew he couldn’t move over the slippery surface of the pipe. Therefore, I did not try it that way.

As his pointy head touched the pipe, he drew his flowing muscular movement to a pause. He raised his head in a disdainful swing and asked me, “What in the world are you doing?”
“Watch out! Ants!” I cried.         
“What!” he said in a sudden and indolent tone in his voice. “This is not the way to deal with it. Come on! You human; you have no idea!”
Now that was offensive! It was pure racism.

Crimson changed his route with a turn rightward from the pipe. I put the mouth of the pipe in front of him again; this time with a silent agitation, but with genuine interest to save him. He swiftly swung his body again. This time, however, the ants were close. So close that one of the ants’ antennae touched Crimson in his head—a moment of shock, silent astonishment and destiny. Predator and prey, eyes in eyes.

Even though, that was a moment that might take away my racist friend forever from me and I might be destined to witness a wild conflict for survival and existence right in front of my eyes, I felt a sort of grandeur associated with it. It was when nature revealed one of the most intriguing of its secrets close at hand. Killing to survive. No bar, no judiciary. The only rule was the rule of existence and survival.
Image Courtesy: Google

I didn’t know what to do next. Crimson might be killed and the ants would take him to the deep caverns of unending storage. That was good for them, but I felt it unjust against my short time acquaintance. The ant opened its tentacles and moved closer.

I closed my eyes, but suddenly opened them as I felt something rubbed against my arm that was extended towards Crimson to offer him the mouth of the pipe. It was a black fly with a pair of silver wings.

As I watched, the fly sat on the ant that was touching Crimson with its antennae and opening its tentacles. When the fly rose in the air, there was no ant. I didn’t know that flies eat ants. This fly did. It was a big one and was decidedly hungry. But I knew the curtain of end was still imminent. There were ants, by this time, on the slithering body of Crimson. And that made him swirl his body more.

Hope has a mysterious nature. It arrives when we least expect it and even at times when a huge storm had nearly devastated our belongings. Sometimes, I felt, hope was an element that the air is made of.

Two more flies, black with silver wings flew down and landed on the earth worm. They had trouble balancing themselves on the swinging Crimson. But they did.

When hope condenses on the grasses like snow, the best thing we can do is to give a hand-stretch of help. I had made my mind. I dropped the piece of pipe and picked Crimson using my bare fingers and dropped him on the soil below the lining laterite stones.

The swarm of ants spread across the stone. The flies were hunting their lunch too. Crimson straightened up and raised his head to look at me. There was contempt and frustration in that look as if I had intervened into a superior event that my human stupidity could hardly grasp in meaning and dimension. I knew he was part of nature, but without me, nature would never fulfill its destiny; I am part of that same nature too. I wished I could have the magical gesticulations of Rajesh Khanna, the seventies superstar of Bollywood, with which I could have somehow managed to keep Crimson calm. But it was wishful thinking. Rajesh Khanna was dead, unlike Crimson, who hurried into a hole under a swell near the place I dropped him.