Ashamed to Narrate This

The rain still sprayed at my face when I decided to step out from under the overhang. The wind was harsh, sending stormy clouds hurling into one another in a confused somersault. I decided to brave anything just to attain home and sleep well before tomorrow’s marathon.

I had never in my 21 years exercised my limbs, except only to wave at one of my parents to get me what was away from my arm’s reach. But I was running this marathon tomorrow because she would be there.

Locating my bike in the dark was difficult. All of them in the line were glistening with cold pimples on their naked skin.

When I finally identified, there came a lash of wetness, back to back, upon my back. Post a short struggle to start the vehicle, by which time I had become as wet as a dripping leaf, I took to the road, driving as fast and as slow as I could manage on the glossy surface.

It was raining pins and needles. Icy cold prickles syringed my nape, making me cringe as if in embarrassment. The new monsoon freezed my exposure. I struggled to view the road through the coloured water on my glasses. Blinking red, constant yellows. An occasional green granting us permission to move, in a smudged tone. It was like running around in a pub, pushing through a hybrid of psychedelic colours; but since my knowledge of pubs sprouted only from books and films, it felt immature to imagine this. Also, I had to concentrate on the road.

I left OMR and scurried into the service road. And immediately regretted. I was cutting through the logged rainwater, sending waves on both sides and inviting some quantity into my shoes. They were new shoes and new socks, bought especially. I lifted my feet and placed it awkwardly on the crash guard. Thankfully the road was empty with no audience.

*

I hurried up the steps and stopped outside the closed door. Shaking my shoes and wringing my socks, I dislodged murky water in the corner of the veranda and silently reclined my shoes on the wall. As I pushed open the door my nose picked up the acrid smell of extinguished candles. Father was there on the sofa, sitting with no vest, and not bothering to towel his wet chest, mother emerged from the kitchen carrying a ladle, sticking to the insides of which was hot pulp of some vegetable.

I crossed the hall on my toes into my bedroom, and stretched the socks on the clothesline there. ‘Why are you drying them here?’ Mother asked, following me.

‘I want them ready for tomorrow’s marathon.’

‘Don’t you have another pair?’

‘This is Puma.’ I hoped she would appreciate that.

I had dinner, but only a little, prompting a question from my mother, ‘You can’t eat properly either when you are too happy or too sad. Which one is it?’ I thought I blushed.

Ashamed to Narrate this

Original illustration by Swathi Venkateswaran*

All I knew next was jumping onto my bed. I had slept like a dead. In the morning, I responded sharply to the alarm – later a great surprise to mother, father and the alarm clock – and hoisted myself and beamed at nothing. While telling myself that I was a brisk young man ready to run a marathon, I jumped down from the bed and landed on the pool of water formed overnight from the clothesline. Shluck! Something dragged my feet and I banged my left arm on the frame of the bed. There was a momentary blankness; freaky heartbeats and mind full of emptiness.

I brought myself to existence, like pushing the head out from a dark womb, and searched for meaning, looked for cause and effect from my position on the floor. I tried to get up, to open the door my parents were banging, but I was lying flat on my back with legs undecidedly hanging in the air, unable to voice anything except buckets of breath.

*

But all is well that ends well, isn’t it? She called me after returning from the marathon, asking in a tone of concern (I would like to assume) why I didn’t show up that morning.

Should I ask her to read this?

 

*You can find her other amazing artworks here.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Marriage of Men

FLASH FICTION #17:

I think it was the wedding of my mother’s cousin’s son, in Trichy, in which we entered familiarity. Familiarity, not friendship. Friendship is too costly a term to be used to describe, even now, the poor bond between us.

Originally, the friction we had always had developed during our first meeting in another marriage we attended as primary school children. It had to do with a plaything he refused to share with me, and then on, until this Trichy marriage, only cold glances had been shared both ways.

Between these two marriages we had met at many familial occasions. He was a writer, his mother would proudly announce to all who were obliged to listen. But since our family was mostly philistine, no one understood what it was to be a writer, and so simply nodded and prevaricated the subject. ‘My son is doing his Engineering,’ my mother would say, and at the turn of awed faces, she would proudly add, ‘At IIT.’ There would follow the immediate question of how I managed to place myself in an IIT, and then my mother would drop into an hour long monologue of how I had always been academically strong, and how she had never had the trouble, right from my wee years, of entreating me to study. And if the moment was opportune, she would even quip at the end that her son had conscientiously refrained from anything extra-curricular, like writing, for example. Although, I must admit, this remark only made me feel profane and less intellectual; especially so in his presence.

All through the occasion we would mutually try our bests not to come too close to each other. We would meet the same cousins, same relatives and same family friends, but never together and never at the same place. And Ramya! She was the object of a sort of competition between us; always individually sneaking to speak to her, and trying to gauge the feeling she had for the other of us. There just had been this indescribable thing between us, so much that I could not come to understand it myself. But looking back from now, it seems ludicrous that we had not considered the bitter resentment a temporary, immature feeling.

IMG-20170509-WA0002

Original illustration by Swathi Venkateswaran*

Back to the Trichy wedding. Nothing had changed; only I had begun to work, and heard he was attempting to publish his novel. We still maintained the same frigidity, even while lunching at the opposite corners of the long dining table. After the meal, at the same time the ceremonies got over, the bride’s father summoned me. ‘Go home, open the locker and get me the white envelope inside; we forgot it,’ he hurriedly dropped the words. I nodded my head to display responsibility and darted off to the exit, where I realised it.

‘Didn’t you go?’ Bride’s father again. ‘Uh-no, I don’t know the route; we reached the hall directly.’ He sighed in reply and noticed Keshav sitting in the last row. ‘Keshav, you have your father’s bike? Good. Go home – ’ ‘I don’t know to ride it,’ came back the quick reply. ‘Useless boys! Give this fellow the bike, go home with him and bring back the… he knows; now go fast, you two.’

Keshav and I stared at each other. Before us was the white car, ribboned and taped with roses, soon waiting to carry away the happy couple. Without a word, I went to start his father’s old Suzuki, and watching about him strangely, he came to sit pillion.  The directions were indicated with silent gestures, and when at times he brought his hand in front of my eyes, I shook my head to warn him. The search was even more difficult, not because of the deep location of the envelope, but we had to coordinate silently, both not wanting to be the first to talk. We returned similarly, just as the couple were climbing down the steps.

Uncle, from behind, raised his eyebrows at us. I quickly parked the bike in a corner and let my hands into my jeans. Keshav pointed at my shirt pocket, from where the envelope was projecting. I jogged to Uncle and handed it. To this day, I don’t know who spoke first, but I’m sure the ice has broken, and it would only need another marriage to melt the pieces.

*You can find her other amazing artworks here.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

The Idiot

Flash Fiction #13:

In haste, he inserted his feet into the casuals instead of the black leathers and climbed down the two floors. Arjun, roaming in his territory at the parking lot, pointed out the blunder with a filling bark. Pausing, Tommy looked down to see his formal trousers reaching his casual shoes. He climbed up the steps in twos and corrected the footwear, but forgot to collect the helmet from beside the shoestand. Another filling bark from Arjun and Tommy again climbed the two floors. He took his helmet and some heavy breaths.

Tucking his shirt in, he walked to where his bike was relaxing under the drumstick tree. A few nosy stems from an overgrown branch lovingly scratched his helmet as he kickstarted his bike.

He was about to exit the parking lot when Arjun again barked. This time it was an overflowing bark; just too loud. Tommy braked and checked the side-stand – it was safely lifted up. He turned to Arjun questioningly, and got an indicative bark again. After confirming he hadn’t missed anything, Tommy ignored the further barks as he sped away.

With his project status meeting due in 1 minute, he was flat out like a lizard drinking when the junction signal switched making him come to a sudden, swerving stop. If he hadn’t forgotten his helmet, he would have escaped the irritating red.

An old man sounded his horn from behind him. Tommy stayed. But as the oldie didn’t seem to let go easily, Tommy tilted his bike and created way for the deathbed Honda. The oldie, once at par with Tommy, slapped his helmet – tup!

His Project Manager would have begun addressing the team. Tommy lifted his buttocks from the seat, stretched his left palm and brought it harshly on the oldie’s wrinkled cheek. The neighbouring cab driver had to step out to keep the frail man from falling. Tommy then rode away, leaving the lizard twitching on its back on the hot tar.

The Bounty Hunter

Dr Schultz became a bounty hunter, but only after

Plucking molars for a living did not render

His life even a Quentin pleasanter.

 

In his adventurous rounds he found a slave,

Whose name you can never pronounce, save

Only with silence observed in the ‘D’ of Dave.

 

Unlike the cherished country mango

Was the colour of Schultz’s find, Django,

Who, in search of his taken wife, was on a long go.

 

Schultz found in a White estate the wife

And himself ran into an irreversible strife,

For, in the end, from him was taken his life.

 

Lucky Django escaped on horseback after blowing

The estate and its Whites amidst blood flowing,

To live happily ever after with his dear wife following.

 

 

 

 

A Costly Mistake

Flash Fiction #08:

Sher Khan was a successful robber. How much wealth he and his 99 apprentices had amassed over the years is upto the imagination of greedy minds.

One night, while robbing the house of the Inspector General’s secret mistress, a serendipitous mistake committed landed him in prison.

But his pride and feeling of importance were unsurpassed by even plump tomatoes. While in prison, he made a call – not to a lawyer, though he could have hired the most expensive of black gowns.

Following this call, the Inspector General was handed divorce papers and dragged to court for a lofty alimony.

Sorry, Harry!

With pouring sweat blurring my sight,

And puny Harry refusing to bear my weight,

I decided to walk, albeit with a reluctant gait.

 

My legs trembled, for tiring was the hike1

And my gunny sack I found difficult to hike3

Through the harsh land of this vast rike.

 

Far away showed up a stony inn.

We ran the remaining road to happily jump in,

Wishing with all hope for a pony of gin.

 

Looming over me stood barman Bob

With a jug of ale as was his job

And a little watch by a golden fob.

 

While Harry smiled over a pack of hay

Drinking the ale, I said ‘Hey hey!’

Seeing us, what would the sun say?

 

Barman Bob hiked2 the cost of the drink

So much that the pay would push me to the brink

And would even cause Harry’s forehead to wrink.

 

What could I do other than to sell Harry?

And return home with skin so tarry,

To breathe of barmen always wary.

 

Hike:

Noun

  1. A long walk or walking tour.
  2. A sharp increase, especially in price or cost.

Verb

  1. Pull or lift up (something, especially clothing).