That Family Festival

When Tabu’s mother breathed for the last time and closed her eyes, Tabu’s plastic clown, the wacky battery toy he calls ‘circus man’, clapped his hands and smiled his painted smile. The boy’s father, entering the room to stop the clown’s noise, discovered his dead wife and started.

After the doctor had come and gone to do the unnecessary vetting, after chests and breasts were beaten, the body of the young lady – not beautiful, but all the world to Tabu and father – was lowered into the rented glass box. Soon, plies of coloured flowers began accumulating over the box. Friends, relatives and neighbours visited to do the same ritualistic enquiry. Tabu’s friends, all little like Tabu, came to gape and whisper at the glass box and leave with their parents, attaining a sense of maturity.

The incense stick was replaced. Flowers and garlands were shoved off to leave way for the oncoming batch. Tabu’s father’s manager dropped in with his decorated wife, and before leaving, announced a week of paid leave. Tabu’s paternal grandmother, a mentally weak old woman, settled down at the head of her daughter-in-law with a large bowl of flour. Mindless of her surrounding, she poured in tumblers of water and began kneading as hard as her age and mind permitted. She had been meaning to do this for many days. For that night’s dinner, Tabu’s mother had planned to cook the packet of penne he had picked in the supermarket. But now with no one to intervene in her kitchen activities, the old woman concentrated her energy on the solidifying mass to get out of them soft rotis. Her husband loved her soft rotis.

That evening, Tabu’s father and three uncles shouldered their dear dead to the cemetrey a kilometre away. Once at the ground, a tussle erupted between the elder uncle and his two younger brothers on whether to bury or electrically burn. Tabu’s father pleaded with the warring factions to stop arguing, but they kept vetoing the opposite’s decision. Losing patience, Tabu’s father slapped the elder brother. As if suddenly realising their bereavement, all three calmed down. Tabu’s mother was presented in a copper container an hour later.

Back at home, Tabu’s grandmother had washed the floor and was waiting for others and her husband with set plates and a hotpack of soft rotis. Tabu was on her lap, trying to retain his mother’s face and silently praying it should stay with him forever.

A week later, Tabu’s father nailed his wife’s newly framed photograph beside his father’s.

Dear Aaila

FLASH FICTION #12:

Salim sweatingly pedaled to the stop. He had to be there at 8 to meet Kajal, but was late by many minutes. If not today, all his dreams would go shapeless.

Kajal was standing on the pavement tapping her foot in expectancy, waiting to receive the letter from Salim and deposit it with Aaila. It was the last day of her college, and the first time she was postmanning a love letter.

After handing over the letter and receiving promises that it would find Aaila, Salim turned his bicycle around. Kajal, in hurry, stepped down the pavement to cross the road. The sound of a large vehicle coming to a sudden stop, and the synchronous exclamations of the passersby tapped Salim’s instinct. There was no Kajal; only her blood squeezed out by the front tyre.

Salim didn’t sleep that night. He cried, hit himself on the forehead and went on hunger for days. He knew it was his fault. Only if he had arrived a bit earlier that morning… Aaila would have received his love letter.

Of Filth and Wealth

I am going to need a handful of Oregano to digest the unexpected developments of last week. The young, carefree minds that work in the fields of my mother’s native saying they don’t know who Trump is would register as uncommonness. While the same minds travelling to the nearest town to exchange their invalid notes of ₹500 and ₹1000, the possession of the latter being extremely rare, is the most common sight today.

Billionaire Trump rising to the top of the most powerful country took many by surprise, and Mr Modi’s announcement of demonetization hours before a midnight recorded a tremor of 7.3 on the Richter scale in the Indian subcontinent. While the poor who live in houses not more than one-storey tall escaped the quake, the rich who touch clouds if bored fell down spectacularly, although a bit tragically in their own eyes.

There are many Indians – notable economists and some others who don’t drink their morning coffee without The Hindu – who welcome the PM’s move with predictions of long-term benefits for the nation. And then there are others – Trumpish minds – who remain silly and naïve and ignorant and characteristic of all such synonyms that Oxford could give you, and painfully talk of long queues outside ATMs and create memes to ridicule this move.

And about this Trump, what he could do, no one can say, because, well, he himself doesn’t know. But there is some vague, indecipherable sense of satisfaction smiling deep within me at the thought of this win. A fleeting feeling of schadenfreude. All those relatives who have a natural awe for even the American illiterates and soggy minds would pause a minute to reconsider their admiration. Wouldn’t that be awesome, to see a false sense of respect become nothing in so little a time?

Now then, if you still have not exchanged your notes, join me tomorrow outside ICICI, Adyar at 9 sharp. Let us joke over America’s decision while progressing in the queue.

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).