Aug 17, 2014

Country Fruit

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or otherwise, is entirely coincidental.

Hey, move man ! said Rekha , as the signal turned green . She was riding pillion and we were on our way to Phoenix market city mall . It was the eve of Independence day and she didn't want to spend it indoors. I reluctantly got off the couch and went for a shower . I got dressed and noticed she was wearing a  blue jean and a white t-shirt. She was hot . She could have worn a dirty jute bag  with stains all over it and would still have appeared hot to me. Twenty six is a weird age, you know.  I could see half her face through the rear-view mirror . She did not appear to be looking at me or the road . She was just enjoying the wind in her hair .Women are simple creatures,I thought  Who are you kidding? , said a voice in my head . We arrived at the mall and it began to drizzle .

This must be a joke! The board in front read - Two wheeler parking : Rs.50/hr .Loss of parking ticket will invite a blanket charge of Rs.350 . No exceptions . I wanted to turn back and park outside but the horns from behind , the drizzle and the girl on the bike didn't help the cause . Fuck it . I got the ticket and drove through what seemed like an elaborate 3D maze . It took me a good twenty minutes to park and reach the actual mall . It's daylight robbery , Isn't it ? said Rekha  . Finally ! Somebody feels my pain. We navigated through the crowd of teenagers and went into the Woodland store . How does this look , she said , pointing to a sandal . What about the people who come to watch movies ? The parking must cost them more than the movie tickets , I thought . Looks good ,  Rekha , try it on . I couldn't get it out of my head . Only in our country can people get away with such things .

We didn't buy the sandal . It's too plain when I look at it from here , said Rekha after she wore it. I didn't know what a sandal was supposed to look like from five feet and six inches directly above it , So I didn't say anything . We window shopped for a couple of hours and then sat down with a cup of American corn .I want molaga bajji now , announced Rekha . I wanted to put the corn down and kiss her right there . Why are you looking at me like that ? She asked . Nothing , Let's go get some bajji . We walked towards the exit . One fifty saar , said the parking lady and handed over a receipt .

Anna , Rendu tea , naalu molaga bajji , oru lights .I said to the shopkeeper as we sat on the bench in a tea stall right opposite to the mall . I handed the bajji to Rekha and got up to light my cigarette . Hey, I want one too, She said  and put her tongue out like in the smileys .She looked adorable . What is it with her man ? She drives me crazy !  Polam va , I said and kick started my bike after we finished the tea .  She turned her ipod on ,  put one earphone in her ear , one in mine and after shuffling through what seemed liked a million songs, finally settled on 'I want to hold your hand' by The Beatles . I want to do much more to you than just hold your hand baby, I thought and chuckled a bit .The road was relatively empty but I wasn't in any rush . Deii , Enga da vara nadhaari ..!  I screamed at  a kid in moped who came out of nowhere and almost crashed into me . I missed him by a whisker . I looked back and saw that he was shaken  . He must not have been more than twelve years old . Rekha was unfazed . So, I decided to keep moving . How do his parents allow him to drive ?

This was the month of Aadi as per the Tamil calendar . Aadi is weird . During this month , Shops announce big discounts , Wedding halls host exhibitions , newly married couples are not allowed to have sex,  Temples hire big sound systems and play Maariaatha, chella kaaliyaatha dum dum dum dum dum the entire month.We approached my apartment and noticed that a big stage, blocking a three way street was set up . A make up man was giving finishing touches  to people dressed in shining clothes . Just then , someone got on the stage and said mike testing one two three mike testing hello hello check check . The noise got on my nerve . How is this not illegal , I asked Rekha . Chill , Let's go upstairs, you wont hear it , She said and walked up to my apartment on the second floor .

The noise from those monstrous  speakers was unbearable.Only in our country can people get away with such things, I muttered and sat down with my office laptop . After half an hour, I got up and noticed Rekha was standing on the balcony . Hey look ! So many people have gathered . It's nice . I noticed hundreds of people : men, women, children , cows and stray dogs enjoying the music . I decided to stand there for a couple of minutes . It was actually not bad . The singers were doing a good job and I began to enjoy it too . Here, hold it , said Rekha as she handed over a glass with some rum and two ice cubes in it . She had one too . It was leftover Old Monk from the last weekend . Sidedish ? I asked . Bite me , She said and sat down.

We enjoyed the show for a good couple of hours . They played a wide variety of  Tamil songs and the crowd loved it .One aunty even whistled at the performer . There was such joy on people's faces . The show ended with a standing ovation from the audience. Just then I realized how petty I had been earlier.Something which I thought was utterly pointless and annoying turned out to make so many people happy.  Discomforts here and there are bound to occur in a country where billions of people have the freedom to chase their dreams. Standing in a small ,crowded room filled with stinky people and looking at the stars of the night-sky  is much better than sitting alone miserably in my air-conditioned apartment , I thought and looked up at the clock . It was just seconds before midnight .  Happy Independence day ,said Rekha and lit up a cigarette, blowing the smoke right across my face.

Feb 1, 2014

The Greedy Pig !

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or otherwise, is entirely coincidental.

It's a boy! Announced the midwife as she delivered the piglet. Immediately a sense of relief swept over the mother's face .The Piglet let out a loud squeal. Perhaps he knew this was the first of many lives he was going to touch.His father was just finishing up a cigarette outside,checking the young attendant in the mirror .

This was ten years ago. He was no more a piglet; he was a fully grown pig now.He lived in a separate sty with his wife and kids. After graduating from a private convent in the city , he had no problem finding a job.   He had recently been recruited by a reputed slaughterhouse. It was one of the biggest and the most modernized slaughterhouses in the country .The Pig had to report to work without fail early in the morning and work late into the night everyday.There was heavy penalty for absenteeism and  indiscipline. His work involved operating a complex machine which turned live screaming chicken into ready to cook packets of assorted chicken pieces . Any error made by the pig was dealt with severely by the elder pigs. At the end of every month, he would be rewarded with five buckets of rice or wheat. This was the currency in operation in the pigs world.

The pig toiled for an entire month, trying to understand the workings of the slaughterhouse. He put in long hours every day and barely had any time to himself. On salary day, he was eagerly awaiting the five buckets of wheat. He had decided on wheat because he knew rice would make him fat and nobody likes a fat pig ! He planned to send some wheat to his parents after saving enough for his family . His wife had recently been blessed with twins.He had also hoped to buy himself a nice little suit. All his life, the pig had dreamed about wearing a nice black suit and walking down the street, much to the envy of all the other pigs.His dreams were about to come true. All he had to do was walk into the elder pig's cabin, collect his five buckets of wheat and walk out of the door to a life of comfort and extravagance .

Where are the other three buckets, I was promised five per month? Asked the pig in anger when the elder pig handed him just two buckets of wheat as his salary. The elder pig looked up at the pig in a fit of rage and said One bucket goes to the government for allowing us to run the slaughterhouse, one  goes to the facilities and food department in the slaughterhouse as they provide you with an environment to work and food to eat, one bucket has been deducted as the slaughterhouse is not making enough profits . So there you go pig. Take your two buckets and hush hush .The pig wanted to say a lot but stopped himself . He carried his two buckets out of the office where several other pigs were discussing a recently concluded wrestling match. Isn't this unfair? Asked the pig to his peers. The other pigs looked at him up and down and said Try getting these two buckets  in other slaughterhouses.They are even worse. You are lucky to be here. Be grateful pig

The pig's sty was at a considerable distance from the slaughterhouse. He thought about what the other pigs had said. The elder pig had easily explained the missing buckets but how would he explain it to his wife? He couldn't think of a satisfactory answer.He hoped his wife would be asleep by the time he got home. He knocked on the door of his sty. She was wide awake and had made him a special cake.The piglets were asleep. She sensed that something was wrong as soon as he walked in. What happened ?She asked. The pig told her the entire story. She wasn't convinced. He must have spent it on booze and meat, this greedy pig, she thought.How could he do this with two little children to take care of ?  She started to cry. The pig tried to console her but his efforts didn't yield any result. He went to bed but sleep evaded him. At around five in the morning he got up and noticed that his wife was missing. Her clothes, the little piglets, and the buckets were gone. Can't blame her , he thought even though he was heartbroken. He searched from pillar to post but he knew he wouldn't find her or his piglets.

He wandered aimlessly. After a while, he bumped into some friends. Hey look at Mr. Professional, exclaimed one of them. They were playing some card game and invited him for a round of beer. The pig declined the offer and explained his reasons for it. He politely bid goodbye and walked back in search of his wife and kids .Greedy fucker , doesn't want to loosen his purse strings !  Thought his friends and continued with the game.The pig continued his search. He looked at his watch and panicked. He was already late to the slaughterhouse. He paused his search and ran as fast as he could but couldn't make it in time. The gate closed in his face. He would lose three days’ worth of wheat for absenteeism as per the slaughterhouse policy. He let out a loud cry of anguish.As this also violated the policy,  The security dog promptly spanked the pig and chased it away.

Dejected, He ran to his parents' sty to seek help. He knocked on the door and his mother opened the door. She was glad to see her son. He narrated the entire story to his parents. His mother got up, walked into the kitchen and came back with a bowl of rice and offered it to him. You must be hungry, she said.The Pig finished his rice and excused himself to resume his search.His parents suggested he approach the police and seek help .He agreed and started to leave. He heard the door close behind him. He could overhear his father saying That greedy pig must have spent it on booze and whores.That's why his wife must have left him. Tears rolled down the pig's cheek. He wiped it down immediately. How shameful would it be if  someone saw a grown  pig cry!

The Pig sat down and thought about his options.He was never the one to make instinctive decisions.In one day, his life had turned upside down .He had never liked the cops and didn't want to approach them to report his missing family.They would all laugh and mock him. Just then ,he saw the elder pig's cart approach the intersection.It was driven by the security dog.The cart was loaded with rice and wheat. He counted the buckets ,there were ten of them. Maybe If steal three buckets from the cart , all my problems will be solved  thought the pig .This was his moment. The cart was still at the intersection and if he moved swiftly, he could succeed. He ran as fast as he could and jumped on to the back of the cart. He had never seen so much grain in his life. It looked glorious in the sunshine. He stuck his head into the buckets and began enjoying himself.He emptied the first bucket and moved on to the second . Thudddddd ..!! The noise was deafening and it echoed around the neighborhood. The cart had halted and the security dog was on top of the pig with a rifle in his hand. The pig lay there lifeless. Blood rushed out of the pigs neck where the bullet had hit him.The security dog dragged the pigs body out of the cart . Greedy pig !  He said as he drove away from the spot.

Aug 25, 2013

Men will be Men

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or otherwise, is entirely coincidental.

New Bus Stand, Pondicherry, 10:28 PM,   Jan 8, 2011

Fuck! I forgot my train tickets at home .You stay here with my bag, I’ll go home and get the print out. I told my brother and prepared to leave. My home was just a ten minute ride away from the bus stand but I wasn't concerned about time or distance. I had already left late (according to my parents) and my dad had given me the angry eye. I rang the doorbell and asked mom for the tickets. My dad uttered something but I grabbed the ticket from my mom as fast as I could and fled the scene .It would be at least three months before I next see my dad .I rushed to the bus depot because I had to travel 40 km to board my train to Mumbai. I reached and my brother had found a bus which was about to leave in fifteen minutes. He had also bought two Kingfisher beers .We gulped it down and bid goodbye to each other. Thank God for younger brothers. I got on the bus and settled down on the last seat of the bus near the window. The radio on the bus played old Tamil classics and there is just something about those classics late at night.

I had a slight buzz going on, a combination of beer and adrenalin, which was surprising because it was just one tin.  The thing with traveling alone is that we get time to rewind and watch your recent past in your head and really see if it was worth the trouble. And my recent past had not been pleasant, to put it mildly. Dramas, heartbreaks, new college in a new city, the last six months were a roller coaster. As I continued thinking it made me very angry at a lot of people and my beer buzz faded away. Damn.  I looked around to see what was going on. Three men boarded the bus and sat next to me. One of them was considerably older than the other two so I figured he was the father. They started talking and it turns out that the two younger men were brothers and the older man was their uncle. All three men were drunk, which was not surprising because any late night bus from Pondicherry on a weekend carries at least a few people who will pass out before their destination .For those wondering why; Alcohol is much cheaper in Pondicherry and available in abundance when compared to the neighboring hypocrite state of Tamil Nadu which is a topic I don’t even know where to begin. The three men seemed to have an animated conversation but I was too preoccupied with my own thoughts to pay attention to anybody.

Suddenly, one of the three men called someone up and asked them to have food prepared and informed them that they would arrive at three in the morning and would have to leave by five .I wondered why someone would want food prepared at this hour ans what would happen if I made a similar request at my home. I began paying attention to their conversation. One of the men had married a girl in secret against his family's wishes with the help of his brother and his uncle. It had resulted in a feud with his father ending up in hospital. They had not been allowed to see their father when they had tried to visit him in the evening by their relatives, who blamed the three of them for the whole fiasco .These three didn't want to create further drama and left the hospital. They then got drunk  and were now heading back home to carry food for the patient and the relatives hoping that their anger would have cooled down by the next day .What a mess!

My destination would arrive in about ten minutes. The bus was overcrowded and I was running late. So I started my preparations to get down a bit early. I looked under the seat to find my luggage trapped between two big sacks. I tried very hard but I was unable to pull out my bag from under the seat because there were so many people blocking it .I panicked for second and pulled my bag with some force and activated Murphy's Law. It got stuck in a position where I could neither pull it up nor push it down. I remembered my dad's angry eye again. How pissed would he be if I rang the doorbell at 2 am and said Dad, I missed my train because I was unable to pull the bag from under my seat. Do you have something to eat?   Just then, two of the three men got up, cleared a few people out of the way and pulled my bag free in a matter of seconds. They said I would not be able to get down from the bus with such luggage, so they would give it to me through the window after I get down. One of them held on to my 20 kg bag for ten minutes on his lap,  till my destination and finally handed it to me through the window after I got down. I said thanks Anna a couple of times and crossed the road.

Here I was auditing my problems which didn't even exist and getting pissed at people for no reason at all while these three men, in a space of fifty minutes, showed me that the bridge between boys and men exists for a reason.

Aug 4, 2013

The Ceremony at Sivakasi

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or otherwise, is entirely coincidental.

It was 1:45 in the afternoon , the July sun was at its peak in Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu . The family home had been repainted just a week back and it was sporting a bright new look .On the porch, a small girl was crying, her red  banana had been snatched away by a  group of five year old boys who were grinning from ear to ear .The lunch was almost  over . The last batch of relatives finished their lunch and the maids took the plantain leaves out and fed them to the cows . A well polished silver square container with betel leaf was being passed around .It was only three hours before the groom and his family members arrived . A few of them dispersed to find a place to have a nap , while the others occupied themselves with card games and gossips .

'Diya! Get up Akka  ! Why are you not getting ready ? Don't you want to look nice for Mama ?'  shrieked her little sister .She was so excited about her sister's marriage . She would  get two sets of new dresses , lots of jewelry and all the sweets she could eat plus two weeks of holiday at school and lots of photographs . Just then her sister's mobile buzzed .She tried to reach it but Diya quickly pulled it towards her . Go and play outside , I have work to do said Diya. She closed the door and looked at the message on her phone .

 [ 'Diya  .. What happens if he says yes .I know I was calm before you left but  I am freaking out now . .Please tell me you will stop this ? ' ]

She typed out ' Don't worry . I'll take care .Just don't text. I'll message you after its over ' and sent it , deleted the entire conversation from her phone and proceeded to take a shower . The cold water put some calmness into her . She walked out and dried herself . Her mother would come in in a few minutes . It was an elaborate ceremony  and it would take her a couple of hours to get ready .If the groom said yes , they would go ahead and fix a date for the marriage . She didn't know the groom personally but had heard about him on a number of occasion through her parents . Ajay this . Ajay that . To her Ajay was okay ,made good money ,didn't look too bad but more importantly approved by her parents and relatives . She didn't have the stomach to do anything else other than marry this guy .

Just then her mother walked in and asked her to get ready . Her mother looked very content about the entire situation . She had known earlier about the texting boy . She had prayed that Diya doesn't follow up on him and her prayer had come true . She still didn't trust Diya completely because she knew her daughter was not the innocent girl everybody believed her to be . Diya's mobile buzzed again . This time her mother picked it up . Diya's heart skipped a beat . It was from Airtel Money . Diya had been working in Chennai for two years now . She would be forced to quit her job once she got married . She had known this earlier . After fours years of college in her hometown she wanted to experience the City before her parents locked her down in old fashioned clothes , in an old fashioned house with an old fashioned husband.

She got ready and looked at herself in the mirror .  ' Who could say no to this ' she thought to herself  and chuckled a little . She felt bad for the poor guy who was in Chennai hoping she would stop all this and marry him instead . For a while she too believed this was possible . Chennai had shown her what life could have been  .She had a good job , helpful roommates and an adorable boyfriend . She had told him this was going to happen but he didn't want to believe it .Before she left , she had told him she would try everything to stop her marriage but she knew it wasn't true . He didn't .

The Open hall was a sight to behold with its natural lighting and its sheer grandeur . It was 5:30 in the evening. Just as expected the groom and his family had arrived and now everybody had gathered around in the main hall . Family members were all seated on the floor . The bride walked down the corridor . She was carrying the tray of coffee her mother had handed out to her in the kitchen. The kids were running down the corridor , into the main hall hoping to annoy some more people . Diya walked carefully , thinking about what she was about to do . She almost wanted to walk down the hall  and scream to everybody that this was not what she wanted . She wanted to work and earn . She wanted to get married to her guy in Chennai .Chennai had always felt like home to her . She didn't want to spend her entire life in this  little town in the middle of nowhere . She couldn't do any of those things though .

She had hoped she wouldn't be weak when the moment came . Now she was really nervous . She entered the Open hall . Everybody just turned around to catch a glimpse of the bride . She looked beautiful . She walked towards the groom and his family . She gave them all her coffee and got their blessings .She sat down and  glanced towards the floor . Her father spoke in an intense voice asking the groom's father for his word . Ajay's father then joked that he was already married .His wife gave him an angry glare.

The crowd held its collective breath for the groom to speak . He sat upright and said ' Who could say no to her' . A  big wave of joy swept across the Open hall . Everybody stood up and began greeting each other . Sweets  and coffee were distributed among the audience . The bride started to walk towards her room. The mobile in her hand buzzed just then . She looked  to see that no one was watching and looked at the text .  It read    ' Did he say No? ' . 

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