Before and After

Déjà vu is him saying something at dinner that you have heard once before and are thinking of obsessively 12 times after. It’s the sad looking tree that multiplies by the minute everytime you put your head out the window, when the music in your earphones dictates the life you want to have. It’s the perfect life because you are wearing a green skirt and black vest and it’s a perfect song, the kind that you’ve listened to a 100 times before but feels new now, like kissing the same person after a really long time. You wonder what it’s like when you are in faraway lands, you wonder if their tongues will probe deeper into your mouth, seeking out every bad thought you have had about other tongues. That grab of the buttocks is the squeeze you give your vagina in the back seat of a taxi because you are thinking dirty things. Nobody is looking and you squeeze it harder, crushing it between your thighs wondering why you don’t do this often.

The woman carrying the hungry baby in her arms is guilt that speaks several languages. The distance that you put between yourself and your bag is lazy virtue. The laziness is telling yourself that it would take ages before you find your wallet to put coins in her hands before the signal goes green. Virtue is telling yourself that you would be enabling her laziness so you don’t reach for your bag.

On the highway, as your car speeds into thoughts about life and death, career and women, writing and reading, drinking and sex, you look over to your left and wonder if the vacancy in his eyes is boredom or sleep. It’s the same question that finds itself on tables devoid of conversations because you have exhausted them all. As faces gleam in the light their phones throw over them, you wonder if there’s a new question you can ask that can send that phone skittering across the hall, while they ponder over the brilliant question you have just asked them.

In bed, you let go.

The morning after, you try to remember how you let go just so you could do it again. Sometimes you succeed and when this happens, the journey back home is pleasant, like watching rain drops fall on windows from a distance and not wanting to touch them because you are the heroine of your life and you don’t go around chasing after things that want to go. When you don’t succeed, you will think about fish and prawn because you know you will never have to let go of them.

Déjà vu is the pain in your neck you knew you would be shaking off hours before it happened.

It’s also a tree that’s part of your story a little too much because you don’t want to be guilty when they cut it down to dust one day. At least you wrote about the tree. It doesn’t matter if you wrote about it the same way you write about that mug. As long as you write 500 words every day, you don’t have to wake up with the nightmare that like driving, if you don’t do it enough, you will forget how to write.

Like J Law

I met a chubby girl today. I wish she becomes my best friend. She smells like rose powder and baby oil. Her hands are clean and her nails are neat and unpolished.  She is good at math and all the teachers like her very much. I hate my bag because it keeps falling off my shoulders and the books are all uneven when I open the bag. I spend a lot of time trying to arrange the books in my bag every night, the class works on one side, the text books on the other, the home works in the last partition. But when I open it next morning, the class works and home works are all jumbled and I can’t find most of the things. Her bag is better, it has only 2 partitions and all her books look evenly arranged when she opens them.

All the boys really like her a lot. I think I like her more than the boys do, because in the Games period they all run away to play Volley ball. She likes watching other girls playing badminton so I sit with her in the court and watch. She doesn’t realise how special she is, like Jennifer Lawrence. She also looks a bit like J Law. I don’t want to tell her that. She likes me because I don’t talk much. All the others ask her a lot of questions. ‘How are you so fair?’ ‘Do you really have your own room’? ‘Why do you get to school so early?’

When I told my mom about her, she said she drinks milk that’s why she is fair. I told her to give me two glasses everyday. One day, when they announced dictation test, I copied ‘fraternization’ from her. She looked at me and didn’t say anything. That scared me a lot. I have stopped looking into her book after that. I don’t know what she thinks of me. A week after that, Deepak told me to tell her that he likes her. I haven’t told this to her yet. Deepak’s friend is Balram. I really like Balram. I don’t know what to do. What if she likes both of them and they all become friends?

Pira Peri Pora

As I made my way into the circle of seats in Rangashankara, I caught myself saying that it’s ok if the play sucks, at least I would be watching one. Maybe because of that, I am still not able to say very much about the play. Pira Peri Pora is based on Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. From whatever little I managed to skimp through about Titus Andronicus, I could gather that it was a story about revenge, evil and goodness. And that it was criticised even in Shakespeare’s own time for its violent content.

I quite enjoyed the location the play began with. It appeared to be some sort of a prison kitchen, like in V for Vendetta. Orders were given by a woman over loudspeakers and were accompanied by a set of blinding yellow spot lights. I liked the infrequent chopping of the vegetables that the characters were scarily reminded to get back to. They chopped cabbages, tomatoes, and potatoes and put them away in what seemed to be a lab glass bowl with an artificial red liquid inside it with baby parts floating; arms, legs, butts.

A recipe book appears randomly in much the same way a wailing baby appears minutes later. This was the only absurdity the play was able to offer. In that, only the appearances of these things seemed random, while the events unfurling around these things itself managed to send the audience into quiet the hissing spree. Point in case, when the three of them start throwing the baby around and one manages to snap out the baby’s arm.

The play seemed more effective when the characters used the stage and did things with it, unlike during their monologues which were dry and long. A housefly buzzes past them now and then and they wonder if they must squash it to death and now they do; now they don’t. I liked how the lights were dangerously red and yellow at times and a mellow white at most others. A heap of onions along with other vegetables popped out of two gunny bags. At no point during the play was I intrigued to find out what in the world they were trying to cook. They chopped anything they found at the working station and in went the cabbages, onions, potatoes, chillies. No rotis or rice was to be found anywhere on the stage. I don’t know why but that bothered me more than what they did to the baby.

The dystopic prison setting enables the macabre narration that the characters bring to an otherwise dull climax. Some of the techniques they used stayed with me longer than the story itself. The falling- into- the- black hole bit was rather charming. Even as the list of unanswered questions kept piling, why are they imprisoned? Who imprisoned them? Why isn’t there a sense of exterior place or time, it didn’t take much time getting used to repetitive patterns in their behavior.

Once or twice, I recall siding with the captors themselves. The three of them kept forgetting where they were. The rude lady over the loudspeakers had to keep threatening them to get back to work. The only thing that didn’t make sense was neither of them seemed to actually fear consequences. As if being locked up in a prison kitchen was the only worst thing that could happen.

Strangers

If stranger had a name, it would be the awkwardness that hung over our heads at lunch yesterday, the hope of seeing a familiar face, the desire to add an extra chair at our table. It would be the skillful way I avoid his eyes and hands. Every movement your feet makes in that hour is a calculation, every word; measured and uttered in thoughts before anywhere else. Three years ago, the table we sat at and the food we ate was enough to make me sigh in content all day. It’s a different sigh now. One that comes only after you drop me home. Letting go is a lot easier, now that the stranger between us has a name, a face and seems more sombre than us.

Love Built on Discord

I read this short story today and want to believe it changed my life. So often you find yourself midst couples who are so into each other, it becomes difficult to converse beyond a point because your eye wanders, and now you see his hand cupping her waist, now you see her finger tracing his jawline, her leg on his thighs, his hand on her butt. This is the kind of distraction outperformed only by awkward silences.

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My favourite lines are — “The atmosphere was humid with his and his wife’s mutual attraction. All four of us were distracted by it as we spoke. The two of us were acting in accordance with a new law of the universe, the conservation of romantic energy, which meant that an increase in their affection had to be balanced by a decrease in ours”

Read the story here

Testing 123

A shaky hut stands so quiet on a land so lost; one wouldn’t wonder where the hut had vanished to, if it did. A tree grows right in front of the hut and matches every detail with the dry land. Every morning just before the sun rose, I would see the father-daughter sitting by the bench and waiting. I don’t know what they were waiting for. They would just. I would wait for the cranky engine sound to follow soon after this. The van would start and I would watch it disappear into the giant ball of yellow shining ahead. Hours later, a horse would come speeding ahead, a young man riding it and the girl clutching at his quivering sides. They would stop, she would give him water, and he would drink some and throw the rest on a stone nearby. The water would vanish into various maps before fare welling into Africa and then a dot and then nothing. He too, would disappear like that.

I saw a strange boy one day peering into their house. The girl came out minutes later. He wanted water. She gave him the key to the well. They looked at each other long and hard enough for me to get bored. Before he left he flipped out his camera, took the girl’s photo and smiled. She was as quiet as air in a key hole.

Every night after that he would stop by and shine a round light by the side of her bed. She would come out and look at him. There was stillness and they seemed unbothered by it. He was as fast as light; she was as pale as the moon.

One day the father died. Nobody knows how he died but when he did, the girl took the van and left home. She drove past the tree, past the other tree half a mile away from the first tree, past the spot where her father would tell her to get out from the van, past the spot where she once found a dead crow and then she stopped because she couldn’t go any further. There were fences, tall and strong, all around her. She couldn’t cross the fence so she came back home to find the horse man’s family. He married her and fought with her lover.

The lover fought wisely and won her back. She was quieter than ever.

When the horse man leaves, moon and light would come together and creep under the sheets every night. Legs entwined, fingers tracing eyelashes, eyes looking for secrets, hands reaching out for more, and hearts beating thickly.

One morning, a pile of bombs fell on the land and everything ruptured into nothingness. The sun bellowed into an orange sound, the earth fell from under their feet even as the tree was ripped apart and sent flying across continents.

****

When clouds of dust would come whizzing by, I would close my eyes real tight and make mohre carry me. She was pregnant with Siya but she would carry me still. Often she would smile a heavy smile when I told her to do this. The same smile I would see when uninvited relatives would stop by for coffee at home. She wouldn’t know what to do when they would suddenly stop by. We had no coffee, no juice, and no biscuits. Mohre would crush some ginger into boiling water and hand it to them. ‘It’s so cold today. You must have some hot ginger’, she would say. And they would drink it without complaining. After they left, she would scoop out the bits of ginger and use it in whatever dinner was made that night, which was rare actually because I was told we didn’t like dinner as a family. We made good breakfast, light but good.

I was 10.

‘Mohre’, I asked one day. ‘Why does your wedding dress have so much blood on it’?

She looked upset. I didn’t want her to be mad at me. But the blood scared me and I wanted to know.

‘I will tell you when you grow up’, she would say.

I was 13 when I asked her the same question.

She looked thoughtful, not mad this time. ‘I will tell you’, she said.

I was 16. She brought her wedding dress to me the night before my wedding. She held me close and said, ‘Today I will tell you why there was blood on my dress’

‘I know why there was blood mohre. I just want to know if it hurts’

She hugged me tight and wept. She tore my 45 year old fiancé’s photo to bits and we left home that night and never returned.

****

‘Parvaneh, did you take anything from my bag?’

-No. I wasn’t anywhere near your tent.

‘My bulb is missing. Any idea where you saw it’

-No. I am going to my car to get some cds.

‘Ok. Look for my bulb after you get your cds’

A pair of twins wearing red and white appear on the scene. They each have an arm missing. They are carrying a log with 3 dead ducks hanging on to it. They go just as easily as they come. Two men walk into the woods carrying what we will assume, human flesh in plastic bags. They are talking about a man named Hamid who may or may not have twins. A man and his son are arguing in the woods, their voices are shrill like the air around them. There is blood on the land they know nothing of. There is a faraway murder smell creeping behind them, stopping when they turn around.

A strange man, knife in his side pocket, mouth smelling of old beer, mutton and blood walks up to the son’s bag and starts looking into it.

-HEY, that’s my bag. What are you looking for?

I know, I was just seeing. Do you have gas? I need gas.

–No, we are on our way out.

Look at that! You have full tank. I am taking some. You can go, son. Your father and I will talk business while I get fuel. Go on, go.

Yes, go son! Call your mother soon.

–Er, alright. Take care, Dad. Bye.

The son walks away from the woods. Now and then he turns back to see if the man has killed his father. He wants to stop but he doesn’t. He keeps walking. If something were to happen, I wouldn’t keep walking like this, he says to himself.

A pregnant woman carrying a swing is seen on the camp. This is a rumour so don’t believe it.

A woman stands by the edge of a lake and looks at the mountains ahead. They are at once distant and close, like the memory of an echo. Behind her, her boyfriend narrates the story of how she got 2 different eye colours. Her left eye is purple, and her right, dark grey. The man listening to the story was looking for his bulb only minutes ago and is now thrilled by the story. A year ago, at a kite flying competition, while she was flying her kite, the bulb burst in her face and injured her eye. Since then she has begun to see things. She knows bad things will happen before they do, which is why in a matter of minutes her boyfriend and her will be gone from the camp.

A man hides behind the trees and watches a girl get into a car. She is rummaging through some cds. The man walks towards her, knife in his side pocket, human blood rotting under nails, and animal breath in his hair. She freaks out, puts the window down and asks him what the hell. He needs a favor, he says. He needs her to come with him to close the pump so the camp doesn’t get flooded. —-Why should I come? Can’t you go alone?

No, I need you to come because I am not going to come here everytime to turn the pump off. It won’t take long. Just 5 minutes. You can leave soon after I show you where the pump is.

–I’ll call my friend, you can take him.

No, it’s right here behind those trees. Just come.

–O.K.

Even the leaves ruffled in disapproval. Why was she going? Hadn’t she heard enough stories about what happened to young women who decided to help strangers? Especially when they needed help behind the woods?

A pair of twins wearing red and white appear on the scene. They each have an arm missing. They are carrying a log with 3 dead ducks hanging on to it. They go just as easily as they come. The girl notices them, the twins notice her but nobody says anything. At this point it is difficult to say whether they have really seen each other or not.

‘Parvaneh, did you take anything from my bag?’

-No. I wasn’t anywhere near your tent.

‘My bulb is missing. Any idea where you saw it’

-No. I am going to my car to get some cds.

‘Ok. Look for my bulb after you get your cds’

A man named Hamid who may or may not have twins wanders into the woods, knife in his side pocket, hands all bloodied because he has been butchering animals all morning. He sees a girl sitting under a tree, reading and listening to music. She is listening to her favourite band. She wants to watch this band live before she dies. If she were to know what happens next, she would probably make a new wish.

She sees Hamid and screams. He laughs, she calms down. I am scared. He asks if he may sit next to her. She says ok and he sits. In a matter of minutes he has borrowed her mp3 and they are both listening to her favourite band. Now Hamid slides out a saw from underneath his sleeves. I don’t know what happens to the girl. She may or may not have died. Her favourite band appears in front of them and starts playing.

****