In that small room with purple walls

In that small room with purple walls

You sat on the bed, giggling like water in a moving jug.

When I tried to touch you, you slapped my hands away and giggled some more.

 

In the bathroom, my water was ready –

The door locked – the lights, dim.

You banged on the door with a thousand fists and twelve fingers-

I don’t remember opening the door –

But you ran in – all thousand fists and twelve fingers and fell into the tub, into my water.

When the water jumped up and fell down — one-two-three of my eyelashes drowned in it too.

In that small room with purple walls.

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Fair Night

There is a man at the fair who wears thick wooden hoops on his thin, dark arm. He stands inside and will only come to you if you pay him 10 rupees for 5 hoops. And then he goes and stands back in the corner again. The first two buttons on his loose, white shirt are always undone. I put my arm over the railing and wonder if he is watching. I wonder if he isn’t already tired from watching countless tiny girls making terrible aims at dolls, toy cars and teddy bears. I aim for the doll in the nice blue dress with the sparkly wings. I miss all three times. And then I aim for the packet of Parle G biscuits which I get. I am frowning and pa is now pulling me by the arm to take me over to where ma is standing with my little sister. She has made my sister try all of the three frocks which now lie crumpled and decided on the dirty chair. I look at her tired face and want to hit her. Ma has picked the same three frocks for me. Whatever I get, my little sister gets. That’s how it has always been.

Pa says that he doesn’t want to eat anything and ma says that we can always go back home and she will make something for us. Pa says no to that although I know he wants to eat karimeen sambar again. I wish we don’t. I want to eat Chinese but before I can say anything, Pa has spotted a Dosa point that will give you 33 different dosas and before I know it, I am being pulled into the tiny room with the four tables squeezed next to each other. It smells odd here – old and chipped walls, smelly table top and a tall, steel glass that I push away. Ma orders 4 masalas. I don’t want to eat it but I believe I am old enough to know that in this battle, mothers always win. I tear big pieces of the Dosa and dump it in the space between the table and the wall. I make sure that no one notices, especially the waiters.

On the way back home in our green Omni, I look at my little sister who is fast asleep. Her flabby cheeks are dancing sideways and I want to tear them off. She looks peaceful in her sleep and this annoys me very much. The road looks empty and noiseless. The street lights fall in neat box-like patterns on my lap and I play a game. I must poke in between all the yellow spaces that form and must hurry before the next one comes. Till we get home, I play this game. I miss just the one time.

In bed I cannot sleep so I keep shifting positions until I find one that allows me to look at the moon. The only thing that disturbs me is pa’s loud yawning. He is sitting in the hall watching TV. Every now and then, his mouth makes a loud quadrilateral and yawns terribly. And since then, I cover myself up fiercely whenever I hear a male yawn.

Penance

British Council organised a short fiction workshop with writer Jahnavi Barua last weekend. This isn’t my first attempt at fiction. But I don’t know what it is. Read and tell me. Thank you.

On some days Savitri hides behind the fridge and eats chicken momos. Her son doesn’t know. Ahalya, her daughter in law, knows but acts like she doesn’t. When she sees Savitri afterwards, she turns her head determinedly, refusing to make eye contact. Karthik first brought the momos two weeks ago; Savitri found out from the warm peppery smell in his bag, caught him and admonished him for eating gopi’s manchuri again. The doctor won’t find your heart only, your body will be full of China, she’d said.

  • Ajji, firstly it is not gopi’s manchuri. It is gobi. Gobi means cauliflower. Cauliflower means hookosu. And I’m not eating gobi, I’m eating momos.

Same thing, she said and then slyly asked for a bite. Karthik giggled. He wasn’t going to tell her that it had chicken. His eyes widened and as she took her first bite, he began making rooster noises. Ajji, you are eating chicken, he finally said. He wondered if she was going to collapse but she didn’t move and her face had the kind of smug satisfaction that was only seen when her son yelled at Ahalya for putting too much salt in sambar.

That her 18 year old hippie grandson had just destroyed her 72 year old Brahmin life didn’t seem to worry her even a little bit. After attacking three momos she went to have bath. The geyser was off so Karthik assumed she was having cold water bath as penance in the freezing mad winter. Since then she has been smuggling chicken momos into the house through Karthik every week. She gives him 50 Rs extra to keep his mouth shut. If your appa finds out, then I won’t be able to show my face to him, she’d pleaded.

But soon she started worrying. Often she’d sit huddled in the pooja room in a catatonic state, muttering and chanting prayers Karthik had never heard before. When Karthik told her that he didn’t feel bad about eating chicken because he removed his sacred thread before eating, she wondered if things would have been easier if, like Karthik, she could also be just not Brahmin for a few minutes every day.

She slowly started to take it all out on her son. She banged his coffee on the table every morning and growled at him whenever he asked if her leg was ok.

On Ganesh Chaturti, she told Karthik to bring her 2 plates of momos. When Savitri and Ahalya sat together in the kitchen making paysa for the pooja, Savitri asked her if she’d ever tasted chicken. Ahalya was silent for a long time and when she could no longer bear it, she said that she didn’t care about the gods but her husband would never forgive her if she ever did such a thing. Savitri withdrew into a corner that evening and devoured both plates of momos after which she went straight to bed. No penance that night.

(to be continued) (or not)

DULL HOLE

My bad day is a young male sitting anywhere in the classroom – his eyelashes thick with disapproval and his demeanour aching to break open in a string of loud and menacing laughter.

My bad day is an unwelcome pause that struts in between the beginning and the end of a sentence that I have forgotten midway. The pause blinks twice in the darkness behind my eyes before taking off.

My bad day is a tongue that hangs mutely in sandpapery devotion to a mind that can only see scratches.

When I walk out of a bad class, my dejection follows me around wearing a black hood. Its hisses are meaner than the many rejections in my mail box.

I seek the company of my alone table and here I fall back on the many assurances I can afford to believe in.

Then I open my laptop and drown in the many miseries of a dull admin life.

Salt and Pepper

In some worlds, I’m longing to start living.

In most others, I’m already living without meaning to.

There is nothing sadder than the tragedy of someone living in their past and getting others to live it with them.

It’s always hard to say goodbye — even to the most terrible version of ourselves.

After all, it’s the only reliable thing in the whole world:

The comfort of knowing that we will be just as menacing as our enemy and just as quiet as a sleeping friend.

Objects

I’m a little worried. Places have lost their meanings today. An unkempt desk at work makes sure that I will read. A clean desk just makes me want to watch things I have watched a hundred times before. I find that I can only rely on silence. I don’t know what to get out of it. I didn’t notice the sunlight falling on the corridor today, I didn’t notice the time it took to get to college today. It’s all becoming mechanical, faces are crowds, words are tiresome, the netbook is a war-site – complaining bitterly about all the times I have dropped it, the ambulance siren is less scary, the food from Peace is tasty, I am having two lunches and skipping breakfast and dinner, I have forgotten how to smile at myself, I have forgotten how to sleep.