It was a Diwali evening when he rolled down his window and peeked outside. He found himself among the buses, scooters, auto rickshaws, cars, street hawkers, people, smoke, children. He saw them waiting, passing, cursing, coughing, honking, crying, floating. In a maze. Orbiting. Whining. Disbelieving. Without a rest. The busy bees were jumping signal. It was their everyday adventure. Addicted that they were.
Beside the street crowded stood the lamp stalls. Hung shoddily, slyly the fire crackers. Hung there those that were famously called: Atom Bombs. Nobler in life, docile than their namesake, expensive, noisy attention seekers. Would terribly make the babies wake up during the night. In time, those babies would grow up igniting the Atom Bombs, startling everyone in the colony and loving every moment of it.
The beggar girls were jumping like calves, knocking on every window. Knock, knock, knock. Open up. Open up. Coming. Singing. Mostly to themselves.
The peeking man took out a ‘chikki’ box that he had been saving for home to give it to a girl. Another girl appeared. Without thinking he picked up the second box and gave it to her. The third one came rushing. Now he had none. As he was feeling inadequate and angry, a hasty escape plan was hatched inside his mind. Hurriedly he rolled up the window glass and hid behind the tint of it.
My city is a place where kindness is stretched and stretched till it closes the window of my heart and makes me hide in coldness again.
The girl with ‘chikki’ was waving her prize in front of the empty handed girl, in glee. It was not her fault that there was scarcity in the world. The gleeful girl’s other hand was still waving at the window, where there was a repentant man cowering. Her right foot was striking the tar road in a thak-thak Kathak dance. She was shouting, “Hap-hap, hop-hop-hop, happ-py Diwal-eee.”
“Ripped my foot, ripped jeans my foot,’ Madhumita pounced. In a second she was upon Krishna, tickling, giggling, scratching his blue jeans with her vinyl nails, the manner of a slithery cat etched on her body. Ajay stood watching, laughing, gurgling, not even two feet away; his cheerful eyes unknowingly measuring the emotions between the colliding two. Best friends. We are best friends. He thought as he began to feel jealous.
The mock fight ended in minutes, leaving Krishna flabbergasted and Madhumita thereafter chose to go to the bathroom. That was the only time alone between those two men.
“What is the meaning of this?” Krishna asked.
“She loves you.” Ajay said.
“Really?” Krishna asked.
“Um-hum” Ajay nodded his head, rued.
“I don’t love her.” Krishna declared.
“I know.” Ajay said.
Probably Krishna didn’t hear him or didn’t care to stop.
“I just need some fashion tips, that’s all.” he said.
“I know.” Ajay said that again.
“I will go for Garima, you know. Any day. That’s decided.”
“I know. I know.” Ajay kept nodding.
“You know everything, wise man!” Krishna left the room making an ugly face and without waiting for any of them.
The memory of two female hands was still feeling up his legs; wiggling around and warmly coaxing his newly bought jeans.
Forty years later, as an old man, lying alone, Krishna would imagine and reimagine the scene again and again. He wore a lungi now, but in his old soul fancy he would imagine a shy tigress on heat had crawled upon his legs, her face glowing and keen in expectation. Before, of course, he would put his forbidding palm on her forehead stopping her sly advance- commandingly- and forcing her on his crotch in an uninhibited spectacle of dominance.
Penis in his hand, not horny yet, not hopeless yet, this thought would suddenly hit Krishna like an unknown trepidation. The almost forgotten memory of Garima was the witness- she died young; married but without children- that he couldn’t love her. But she was never spurned while wanting sex per se.
But an unattractive woman, restricted further in the garb of a friend if ever wished sex and was refused summarily by a man where would she hide her face?
There was no hope he would come today- Krishna thought to himself before rising up in the bed- yawning and stretching and resigning to another dull lonely day- while wishing for a moment to think something more extravagant to lift himself. Lifting his lungi around his saggy, hopeless legs he chose to visit the bathroom again.
Tell, tell me now
Is that a storm
Will it so gale?
Picking dust on a trail-
Will it so leave me-
If all I pray-
Throughout the night-
If I say her
Name, say, in vain-
Tell, tell me now
Will it tonight,
Will she tonight-
The guy said, Fantastic! Over the phone.
Fantastic! Fantastic! He said rubbing his palms
together in glee. A radiant guy. Who had won-
just won- a publishing contract for a book of his
erudite economic essays; his first. Fantastic!,
unwittingly he said to his caller- by the sound of her
voice a demure lady from the publisher’s office.
The demure lady herself was fantastic. Polite and
happy to help. She explained the draft in detail.
Not that the essayist guy heard anything. Fantastic!
Fantastic! He kept repeating showing clearly
he didn’t know what else to say.
The lady said she too once studied Econ. A long time
ago. Far past than he could count the years with his
fingers, she laughed. Her professor, Professor Bhalerao
had been strict. Had taught her a marginal cost thing
which had not been so bad, but, Mrs. Surekha Patil’s
lectures on behavioral economics had been fantastic-
and the theory of games?- she rushed- the prisoner’s
dilemma and all?- kind of fun! She laughed again.
Indeed, she had read all the essays by our essayist-
the whole book!- despite her ignorance and lack of
time after a job, and being a mother of an autistic son.
But. Truly. He wrote well.
Thereafter the conversation was over. For the guy kept
mum. The lady stood on her toes, the heels by the
wayside- waiting- the phone in her hand turning warm.
She flushed. The world turning down on her: happiness,
doubtful. Unknownst to her a tall tree had taken root in the
essayist’s room. Splaying branches into the future- its
fickle round leaves of probabilities swayed- the ripe yellow
fruits of payoffs were hanging at the end. He said, I don’t know
how to say it, but, you are lovely. Will you go out with me?
The lady laughed. Nervously mentioning a bottleneck.
The guy said, Listen, I have calculated.
You, me, and your son, together. We will be fantastic!
Please, please, I am a good guy-
But I want to shout.
There’s a hush, so what?
I want to shout.
Even if you are there
or not there- after dark-
laid bare in bed, or clipping nails,
or staring out of the window to the cold-
or reading out, in light, two friends and
a bear: children’s grim fairy tales
I want to shout.
I want to shout.
I want to shout.
I want to shout.
For a reason unknown, for unfelt pain
A lungful of cry, a shriek profane-
With no word of rage, with no disdain
For the hell of it- I want to shout.
But, the greeter in the mall
But, the teacher in the hallway
But, the preacher of the good soul
“The life is so profound and brisk-
Why can’t you feel the bliss… of no sound?
Keep quiet or go away from here.”
Please, please I am a good guy-
But I don’t want to go.
Not me. Not like this.
For the silence of a frow is
an impossible thing.
out in the open, deep in the dark
for me silently it larks, forever-
an urge to fill up the void-
with a shout, and an-
Abe drew his knife. “Is he looking?”, the boy whispered.
“I hope so”, the father said.
2. Kindness at Zombie town
Blood trickling down. The old man lent his umbrella.
They don’t eat what they don’t see.
3. Long Journey
“Goodness needs no intent.’ The co-passenger said waving my purse at me.
‘Next time, I buy.”
Upon hearing Mary said, “John ain’t my son, Isaiah. You are. Come down…look after me.”
5. World Cruise
My penis envy was not apparent till I married a Filipino girl on a world cruise.
6. Gravity of a Romance
Without looking away from the apple, Issac said, “Could you wait, Kathy, till I solve this?”
7. Royal Affair
Kalpurnia sobbed, “Big breasts?”
“No, no”, Caesar said.
“No freaking way.”
8. Broken Roof
When Mt. Everest melted, Kalki was at Pamir. Water poured in to fill up the roof.
9. Laughing Matter
‘Haha,’ thought the mother hyena. One thing to kill the woman.
The baby would be another.
10. Sixteen and Counting
“What you counting?”
“Words in my novel.”
“Really? How far could you go?”
D’Qar bound, R2-D2 bleeped, ‘It’s not that I don’t feel regret. Just that regret repairs nothing.’
12. Dear Santa
When the children are asleep, I stay awake.
For my gift.
– A good father
13. A Poet’s Sexuality
‘A poet’s sexuality is a strange thing’: Neruda wrote in the morning and snored all night.
14. Time Pass
“Kiss me.’ the dragon nudged the princess. ‘There isn’t much to do till the prince arrives.”
15. Bad Dreams
Putting children asleep, Mrs. Goebbles had a terrible vision. That she had crept inside their dreams.
16. Blind Lane
One lane. One house. One tree. The tree jumps. The house giggles. The lane turns blind.
Your sadness is not a precious thing
-The indulgent fool!-
The precious is a landowner’s land trove
( For God doesn’t make land anymore. )
The precious is a beautiful woman’s sneer
( At things. At people. At you. At less. )
Her monopoly on consensual sex, and
the alcohol that kept you going despite
that horribly low feeling is extremely precious.
The precious is what you yearned for and
fought for and killed for and snitched for
and what you rightly knew precious and
acquired them as yours ( Deservedly so )
and showed them to the world and said,
‘Look, look, this is mine, and that? That’s mine too.’
That power of invoking green monsters in
others is truly precious. While your sadness-
your incompleteness- your lost faith- you
keep it unknown, hide it inside a dark vault-
under a shade, below the ground, with
a dead body that is yet to be yours.