Monday, May 30, 2011

The Inheritance

(Image from

Two gunshots rang out loud and clear. They ripped the air, and set wings and hearts aflutter.


Princess Chandramukhi had definitely taken after her grandmother. The rebel blood had skipped a generation. Her father, the staid king, His Highness Rajtilak Kulasreshtha, never quite understood the two most-loved women in his life. 

His mother, the erstwhile queen Chandravati, had decided to go riding one frosty morning, when he was a little boy of seven, despite repeated protests by her husband (the mild-mannered King Praveer) and never returned. Whether their favourite Rani had died or eloped or met worse still fates, became the favourite stories of Vayupur's many generations. Some lanes tittered with gossip about how the Queen had left her now 'non-performing' husband for another man (possibly the Nawab of Mirajgarh), and was living a rather hedonistic life under an alibi. Some whispered how the Rani was depressed, and had ridden off the cliff, unable to bear the fetters of Vayupur's restricted life. While some other believed their Queen was possessed by evil powers and had vanished under a mysterious spell. The stories never really stopped, and Raja Praveer died soon after of loneliness and a broken heart for the love of a woman, who never really belonged to him. 

The young Prince Rajtilak was initiated to bear the royal burdens at a tender age of 12, under his mentor, the royal commander, Purushottam. His young mind tried not to heed the stories, and he drowned himself in the royal duties. He had married young too, but never gave his heart to the beautiful Princess Latika. He couldn't have it broken again. But, the day he first set eyes on his beautiful little daughter, he knew his heart was his no more. He named the apple of his eye, after his beautiful mother, and called her Chandramukhi. 


But the good King Rajtilak wondered, today, if naming his daughter after his mother had been a very good idea. She had inherited not just her legendary beauty, but also her legendary temper and impetuousness. He had raised her with as much care as deserving of a princess, and more. She was, after all, his heir apparent. He had no desire of a son, and had refrained from having any more children after Chandramukhi, for fear of loving her less. Queen Latika had only to quietly acquiesce. 

There Chandramukhi was, practicing fencing, this frosty morning, quite like the one many, many years ago, with her favourite 'uncle', Purushottam. The royal commander was now retired from the army, but could never quite take leave of his sworn allegiance to the royal family. He was a grey, old man, but still an agile swordsman. He dodged Chandramukhi's attacks with ease, smiling at the efforts of his best student. The young princess was so much more fiercer than her father. 'She has so much more spirit... just like the Badi Rani, Chandravati', he couldn't help thinking, and lost a moment's focus. Chandramukhi swung her sword, and stopped it just short of her uncle's neck. King Rajtilak smiled from his balcony. He had seen this scene so very often. Purushottam always let her win. His daughter would now really 'fight' with him.

Chandramukhi knew that look in her 'Kaka's' eyes. 
She dropped her sword and said, "I know, I know, I remind you of daadi. But kaka, can't you fight seriously with me?" she admonished him lovingly. "You say I fight well. Why won't you attack me? I'm a big girl now, kaka!" 
Purushottam guffawed and said, "You sure are a big girl and an excellent warrior to the world. But to me, you're still my little princess. Now spare this old man," he said, and sat down under one of the many neem trees that lined the sugarcane farm. 'The yield has been good this year,' he observed and closed his eyes for a brief repose.  

Chandramukhi rolled her eyes. She was tired of being mollycoddled by her elders. They all seemed to want to protect her from something. She knew it was her grandmother's shadow they didn't want her to colour, but she was beyond redemption. The little wooden chest in her room had many souvenirs of the Queen Chandravati's life, that she had collected from the palace over the years. Her favourite pastime was to stare at the regal painting in the palace hall, and coax old servants to tell her stories of her mysterious grandmother. Her father had often chastised her, when he found her chatting thus, but he knew not of the deep engravings in the little girl's heart.

But it was time. It was time.


The swish of the flying spear pierced the frost, and the pitiful bleating of the goat tore through the field. Purushottam awoke with a start, and clutched at his sword. He ran towards the direction of the sound, slashing through the thick crop. He stopped short of the dying animal, still bleating, bleeding, and released the animal of its torment with one swift blow to its neck. Something was amiss. The Raja heard the cries too, just as he was returning to his chamber. He turned around and ran to the balcony. No Purushottam! No Chandramukhi! He grabbed his sword from his room, and ran out in to the field.

Purushottam bent down, inspecting the spear. It had royal initials; quite unlike that of Vayupur. But he remembered the inscriptions from a few weeks ago at the Swarnarath festival. The vast red flags of Naagdwar had been one among the many at the festival of the gold chariot. Every year, neighbouring kingdoms participated in the chariot races. This year, the Prince of Naagdwar, Vikram, had won the tournament. Though Naagdwar was an enemy state, all were welcome to the tournament. The victorious Naagdwar flag had waved jubilantly, before Princess Chandramukhi's beautiful and sullen face. She had not taken the defeat very kindly... 'Princess Chandramukhi... where was she?' He looked frantically around. She was nowhere to be seen. 'Oh my dear God...' Purushottam's lips said a scared, silent prayer.   

Raja Rajtilak had, by then, reached Purushottam. 
"Where is my daughter?" he demanded, his face white with fear. 
"She must be here somewhere, my king. But lie low. It could be an enemy attack. Look here, Naagdwar's symbol on this spear," Purushottam said in hushed tones. "Naagdwar? But..." the Raja was cut short, as  a second spear came flying in their direction, and missed the king's head by a few inches. The spear struck the tree and got lodged in it; it had a red flag tied to it. 

Chandramukhi had heard the spears too. Their ring was unmistakable. She ducked in a thicket, and held very still. She sucked in air with her mouth, afraid, her breathing would give her away. Beads of sweat appeared on her brow, as she sat and waited in anticipation. She only hoped her father and uncle would be safe. She prayed they would leave, as she clutched at her sword.

"My liege, I pray you go back to the palace. There could be danger. Send reinforcements for me. I shall try to find the princess till then," Purushottam said. 
"I am not going anywhere without my daughter," the King said. "You go and send soldiers; I will find my daughter.
"But your Highness..." the old commander began in protest, but was cut short.
"Enough," Raja Rajtilak said, "you have my orders."

Purushottam bowed low and turned to leave, when two shots rang out loud and clear. Two gunshots rang out loud and clear. They ripped the air, and set wings and hearts aflutter.


Chandramukhi's body stiffened, and her knuckles grew white with clutching her sword. Suddenly, his hands grabbed at her waist, and turned her about to face him. "Vikram!" she exclaimed. "What's wrong with you? Why did you fire?" she barked at him.  
"They were taking too long, my love. I couldn't wait," said Vikram, pulling her into his arms. 
"Oh, I couldn't wait either," she said, half-laughing, half-crying. 
Vikram pulled her down to do what he had come for. Chandramukhi's young body was a drug he had gotten addicted to, since after the day of the Swarnarath races. Their acrid competition had turned into a violent, passionate love. Since she hadn't a chance to go out alone in the last week, an impatient Prince Vikram had devised this desperate plan today. They would have enough time before anyone came looking for her. He had scared them away. Today, he would take her away for good. She was his.  


The gunshots did not deter King Rajtilak. He was not going to lose his daughter. He  walked towards the direction of the gunshot sounds. He walked up cautiously to the spot where the crop seemed to be disturbed. He peered through the plants, not to find enemies in wait, but a sight of two young bodies writhing in the throes  of passion. He looked away in shame, and muffling a cry, turned around and started walking away. Tears streamed down his face, as he cried without restrain.  He cried like that 7-year-old prince from years ago, who had seen his mother do the unthinkable, in a field like this. His heart ached with the burden of another secret he would have to carry forever. His heart broke once again.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Immortals Of Meluha by Amish: Impressions

   Reading this book was like watching a Hindi remake of an English film, or worse still, watching a Bhojpuri remake of a Hindi film. While one cannot help but notice the merit of the story, it is the execution that is umm... a 1.5 on 5. It is like the tale is smooth, but the telling, rough. Perhaps the 'National Bestseller' *eyeroll* does not deserve such a harsh introduction. Perhaps one shouldn't expect purist language, when the novel is about an histori-mythi-cal society.
   Amish is a good storyteller. If nothing, the plot is rivetting, and the adaptation of familiar characters, myths and geographical locations into the novel, is creditable. But every now and then, as I began to drown into the story, out sprang a line like: What the hell is wrong with the woman? OR Dammit, these bloody people don't understand, and jarred my sensibilities as a reader. Here I am, flowing with the life and times of an ancient people, imagining pictures and sounds from that era, and suddenly, a line, straight from the brazen tongues of today, rudely teleports me back to now. I cannot fault the author for not knowing how a tribal from some thousands of years ago swore, but I grudge him for not trying to match his choice of words with his choice of period. I blame it on B R Chopra (whose 'Mahabharat' I grew up watching) that I cannot imagine mythological figures cursing in Gen X lingo. The writer may have taken his target readers into consideration, but sorry Amish, you lost just too many points there.
   Where the writer has scored is, in the simplicity and pace of narrative, the brilliant, I repeat, adaptation of mythological stories associated with Lord Shiva (the protagonist's namesake), and some lovely research and explanation of some age-old traditions, words and symbolism. The way the concepts of vikarma (and consequently, karma), ideal society or Ram Rajya, Somras, Agnipareeksha, and Mahadev among others, have been explained, is remarkable. Also, names like Shiva, Nandi, Sati, Daksha and Brihaspati have been beautifully lifted off ancient texts, placed aptly and coloured correctly.
   But again and again, where the book has failed me, is in its language - simple to a fault, clichéd, and jarringly modern.
   However, what hasn't worked for me, has probably worked for other readers, making it a hugely popular book of the recent times. Dissatisfied though I am, I look forward to the sequels, if only to benefit from clever new adaptations and perspectives of my favourite old tales.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Love makes beautiful

What does real beauty mean to you?

Interesting question; and oh-so-much-fodder-for-debate.

Five years ago, I would probably have jumped to defend the school of aesthetics when asked what beauty means. I would have sung the same tunes that advertisements and popular culture hammer incessantly into our heads. And while I don’t exactly suggest you get fat now, I will not judge you, just because you don’t look like a product of the glamour factory.

Age, crows’ feet and grey hair put a lot of things into perspective. When your body starts acting in ways beyond your control (and I’m not really Madonna to want to obsessively control it), you begin to learn to find and appreciate beauty outside of it.

Through a marriage, childbirth and a couple of years of parenting, I have gone from a makeup-diet-clothes-obsessed girl to a family-career-oriented woman. Appearances have ceased to matter (much). Disheveled hair and clothes on most occasions – check; stretch marks – check; spare tyre – check; unthreaded eyebrows – check; and how could I forget my faithful friends, the dark circles – check. I ‘look’ just like your or anyone else’s mom, don’t I?

Yet, have you ever noticed how, for the longest time in your life, your mother is the most beautiful woman in the whole world? She is probably replaced by the woman/man you love, and then, perhaps, by the child(ren) you bear. The most beautiful person of your life is almost always the one you love best.

Now, think back and try to remember who was Miss Universe in 2005 (no Googling!). Too far back? OK, how about Miss Earth in 2008? How about the vital stats of umm… Jennifer Aniston? No? Me neither. For all their glitz, beauty queens and movie stars remain in our memories for as long as the circus lasts. The most beautiful people in our lives, our little worlds, however, are not who the pageants and glossies declare.

The constant of all kinds of beauty is really, love.

Like a child to a mother, a lover to his lover, a deity to its devotee, a cause to its activist, a pet to its master, a muse to an artist, the examples are endless. When you truly love someone, their less than perfect bodies, ideas and minds become insignificant. There is no escaping the adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Because it is in a pair of loving eyes that real beauty is born.

(This post is an entry for the Indiblogger Real Beauty contest)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The sculptor

   (picture from

   The hours had been intolerably long; trickling away in painfully slow minutes. She had been browsing the net for hours, her head filled with stories of elves and fairies and monsters that walk among us. Suddenly the screen flickered, and glowed a bright green. She tapped at the keys vigorously, and moved the mouse about. She bent down, and turned off the main switch. But the screen stay put, with bold red lettering on it, that read: YOU DIE TONIGHT!
   Outside, through the piercing solitude of the night, she could hear suddenly the dull noise. Thud-thud-thud... like hammering, or footsteps perhaps.
   "No!", her mind revolted. "It cannot be." The night was too spent for anyone to be awake. "Your mind is playing tricks on you!" she heard herself say. And then, the next moment, the irony struck her - her mind was telling her that her mind was playing tricks. On the screen, the words continued to flicker. But suddenly, the red bold letters transformed to an almost demure small, clean, white font, which read:
   "Don't run away. This will soon be over."
   Too stunned to even wipe the sweat that was profusely wetting her brow, she heard the steps again. Or not.
   She hit hard some random keys, fighting the letters that were. But the letters stayed, glowed and mocked. She tried to drown the sound of those thudding steps with her tapping of the keys, but it seemed like a fort she couldn't hold for long. The phone! She'd have to call someone for help. She picked up her cell, and began to dial her boyfriend's number. Her heart sank, when she realised there was no network.
   For the briefest of moment, she felt her old self return. "So much for your effing 3G, moron!"
   And then the steps. And then the silence.
   She felt herself the protagonist from one of those horror movies that she'd always mocked for being too coincidental - how the network failed just when the heroine decided to call for help. She was certain her present scenario wasn't what her professor had in mind, when she'd declared, "Be the stars of your own film!"
   "HA HA HA! HA HA HA!"
   The last thing she heard was a scream - was it her own? - and the monitor glowing with a smiley.
   Then there was black. Consciousness left her.
   "Why am I being carried?" a voice in her mind echoed. "Oh, and so amazing is that island over there. Isn't it, Cliffe?" shouted another.
   "Cliff" the voice corrected. "That's where we are headed. You and I. A 1000-foot drop off this glorious cliff, before we reach that island." The heavy thud continued under her, footsteps of this man called Cliffe, who was carrying her to the edge of an abyss. She enjoyed floating like this, looking up at his face, familiar from some lifetime. An old boyfriend perhaps. But he was called Clyde. "Heh, he is cute," she thought, as his face started receding towards the sky. "Oh, but he's not flying... I am falling. It is I who dies tonight," she thought to herself, as she floated down like a leaf through the satiny darkness.
   Ah, the devious comfort of knowledge! The wonderful tyranny of ignorance!
   For a moment, she felt glad that she had had that message on the screen. "It is death," her voice went on, "How much worse can it get? There's no choice to're free!"
   "Oh, you are mad, woman," the other voice chided. "But you never wanted to make the choice, did you? Cliffe asked you so many times, didn't he? You ran away from it."
   "Who's Cliffe? He was Clyde!" she argued.
   Before the voice in her head, or were there two, could carry forth their learned discussion...
   Rude water. She didn't know what was more terrifying - its chill, or the one that it had sent up her spine. Her arms danced around wildly, as she struggled to get a breath of air - it seemed it had all turned cement - and the darkness brought forth newer nightmares.
   Far in the distance, she thought she heard those steps again. Yes! There he was. And then, surprisingly, he lit a match. Faint light.
   "Surely this is it," she thought. Surely, this was her end.
   In a strange frenzy then, she began removing her clothing. They were too heavy, and she wanted to feel light. She had never thought lightness would be her last wish.
   Beside the sodden pile of clothes, she sat naked and in wait. The island seemed to have shrunk into a pebble's worth of land, and she tossed it into the water. He stood beside her, aloof, unaffected by her bare body, having lit a cigarette with his match and letting it burn away. He wasn't even Cliffe anymore. Here now stood a random colleague from her workplace, who she had bumped into earlier in the day at the office canteen. There was nowhere to go, nothing to hide, no one to wait for. Here and now was freedom. If this was death, she didn't quite mind it. But wait, the thudding hadn't stopped. Thud-thud-thud...
   "Stop fooling yourself, woman!" the voice snapped her out of her reverie. "There's no voice. There hasn't been a voice. You've been kidnapped, and you'll be murdered."
   The man stepped closer and peering at her said, "Do you know me?" If a snake had spoken, she was sure he'd have sounded much the same.
   "No...", she lied.
   "Hmmm. Good. Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Ayam. Do you know why you're here?"
   "No...", she lied. Again.
   "Oh, I see. Doesn't matter. I'll tell you. You're here because I am going to kill you," he said.
   She could see the cold, crude white of his skin - as much as she could in the glow of the cigarette that hung from his lips.
   "Then why don't you?" she asked.
   "What's the hurry? We have time, don't we? I certainly do. And whether you do or not, is quite immaterial, won't you agree? Ha ha ha!" He was evidently pleased with his joke. But she couldn't get the image of the snake out of her mind - If one had laughed she was sure...
   "Anyway, while we wait, let me tell you a story..." he made the incredulous proposition.
   She heard the wind howl. She heard the sea roar, She could feel the surf slide onto her naked skin - and the sudden independence of it struck her. For the first time in her life, she wasn't conscious of her body, didn't find it ugly.
   Her thoughts were interrupted by the figure pinning her strongly on the floor. "Shall we begin?" he said, carefully placing his hands around her neck. But all she could focus on, was the sound of those steps.
   The steps, the incessant footsteps continued to climb an interminable staircase. Far sometimes, sometimes jarring, but constant like her heart. Even as Ayam slowly squeezed the life out of her, telling her wondrous tales of more elves, more fairies and more monsters that walk among us, the thud-thud-thud stayed to comfort her. Her eyes began to bulge, her breath leaving her, Ayam's death-like grip on her beautiful neck.
   It hit her then. Ayam was her hatred for herself. That monster called self-loathing. It had got to her today. "But I am beautiful," she gasped for breath. "I want to... (choke)... live."
   "A little too late, aren't you?" he said mockingly, his eyes in an intense love-hate gaze.
   "No...(choke)..don't...", and she woke up with a start.
   "Damn, that was scary!" she giggled nervously, and walked toward her bedroom. It was nearly half past three, and she had been asleep, slumped over her keyboard for more than half an hour.
  Her eccentric sculptor neighbour was still carving away. "That sure was a masterpiece," he said, and smiled to himself. He had more black dreams to create tonight.

(Co-written with Abhimanyu Jain @abhiqrtz)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

They said it was love...

I remember this day ~ when we coined ~ what transcends ~ all definition
They said ~ it was love ~ we were too entrenched ~ to care
Drank in each other ~ touched and ached ~ felt more than what ~ love could have faked
And in their soft caress ~ they finally taught ~ the world ~ love, how its done
The world ~ watched them drown ~ let them drown ~ their depths too deep
But what does ~ the world know ~ Of depths or ecstasy ~ of drowning, fingers entwined?
Of bodies in joy ~ of minds in pain ~ of a longing ~ even in togetherness
Their rigid love ~ we smoothened to curves ~ with our sigh-ridden calls ~ to each other
 (Co-written with @_eroteme_)

The farewell

   They laid carnations on the grave. Her favourite flowers. How often he had walked home carrying a bunch. He was carrying one that day too. But nothing could have prepared him for what he saw, as he opened the door of his home on that summer evening of '98.
   She lay there in the passage to their drawing room, in a pool of blood. Eyes still open, smiling even, as if welcoming him. He fell to his knees and clutched his head. She had slit her wrists. "Oh God... Oh MY GOD!" he shrieked. "What happened? Why did you...," he asked in shock, even as he rushed towards the medicine cabinet to get the first aid kit out.
   "Don't." she said softly, stopping him mid step, "I was just waiting to tell you I loved you," and closed her eyes forever.
   "NO! Please don't leave me Yana, please!" He held her face, and kissed her forehead, bawling like a baby. He had booked two tickets to Bali just a few days ago. "She needs a vacation," her doc had told them last week. Six years. Six years he had been caring for her, through her chronic, complicated illnesses. "We'll be okay," he'd smile assuringly, as her put her to sleep every night. She'd just smile sadly.
   But he knew she was slipping away. His beautiful, young bride was slipping away everyday, as they tried in vain to battle her premature Alzheimer's and depression. Her past was fading, and her present turning dark. There was little he could do. Sometimes, love isn't enough. He dialed the police station and hospital numbers.
   As he waited for them to arrive, he sat next to her, and looked around their drawing room misty-eyed. It was neat and orderly just as she had done it up, when they first moved here. She had picked all the things personally and supervised every small detail in the house. And now she lay there, lifeless like her favourite Victorian furniture, her favourite Persian rug, her favourite Chinese vase. He slouched on the floor next to her and stared at the eerie whiteness of the wall. Their 20" wedding frame was missing! Bewildered, he wiped his tears and stood up.
   His first instinct was to check their bedroom. He ran up the stairs, and right enough, found the frame propped up on their bed. Her ivory wedding dress lay neatly alongside it. The floor was strewn with their wedding photographs. She had probably spent her final hours trying desperately to hold on to the slipping memory of the happiest day of her life. She had probably decided life wasn't worth living, if she couldn't remember the love of her life - him. He broke down, and threw himself on the bed. His heart threatened to stop with the pain he felt. Tears streamed down his face, as he lovingly caressed her dress. That's when he found the note, neatly rolled into a scroll, and slid into her gold wedding band.

"Dear Jim,

   Now, don't be mad at me. Look at it this way; no more medicine schedules on that darned excel sheet! (Bad joke. So, sue me!)
   P.S.: Darling, I know you won't be in the best of your minds when you read this. But this is something I meant to tell you for so many months. It has taken many painful days and nights to say this to you. I want to leave. I need to leave.
   Meeting you has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. In you I found the love I had always dreamt of, waited for. In your arms I found the solace and love a woman can only dream of. Only with you, I could feel happy, healthy and whole. I have no regrets. You loved me like a man should a woman. You loved me like a dream. But life can sometimes cruelly shatter dreams. Six years you stayed by my side. Nursed me, held me, took care of me. Even in my imperfection, you remained perfect. I've never felt more loved than in these six years I've spent with you. But I could give you nothing back. Not even happy memories, because they are beginning to deceive me...
   I'm sorry, Jim. You deserve a better life, a partner, who can take care of you. Who can love you, like I wished I could. Do me a favour, Jim. I have gathered all my stuff here. Burn all of this up. Burn my memories off. Start your life again, Jim. Marry. Have kids. Play with your grandchildren. Promise me you will, and forgive me. Love, Yana."
   He kissed the letter, and as he held it tight, felt something on the other side. He turned it around and found their two Bali tickets attached to the letter and a small note under it. It read,

"P.P.S.: Go. I hate to be a spoilsport."

   The bell rang.
   It was the cops. He was surprised to see their lawyer with them. "What's he doing here?" he wondered to himself, puzzled.
   "Hi Jim," the lawyer said, "I'm so sorry. Yana called me this morning about her will. She wanted me to keep a copy ready. I had no idea..." He handed Jim a copy. Tears welled in Jim's eyes. She had been planning it for a while. 'Why didn't you let me in to your biggest secret?' He took a deep breath, and nodded. The cops went about their business in a cold manner, as his world came crashing down. They began to take the corpse away. His love gone cold, white. "May I, officer?" he asked, choking with emotion. "Of course," said the officer, and respectfully laid down Yana's still beautiful body. He kissed her lightly on the lips one last time. "Goodbye my love," he said, bursting into a fresh spate of tears.
   Hours later, when he could summon the courage, he opened her will. She had left everything to him, and asked him to burn it all. He would. There was nothing here for him anymore. This house now felt like a coffin. She was all around. In every nook. In every breath. He could think of no better way to let it all go. Moments later, he was out on the porch with several cans of gasoline. He splashed it all around the house. He was having none of it stay with him, without her in it. She had left him behind; he would leave all of this behind. He smiled, and dropped a burning match on the balcony. An angry streak went right into the house and started turning everything it touched into ash. He began to walk away, even as fire engines rung their bells furiously and approached the home of Mr. and late Mrs. Smith.


   That night had been a living nightmare. Cops, questions, fire and darkness. Courts, more cops, lawyers, friends and alcohol followed soon after. He had walked through those days in a daze, until he found her. Today he had brought her to the charred remains of his past for the first time. He did not wish to walk down that road again. That neighbourhood, that pain. But she had insisted. Behind their good life, she had sensed a void. All through their first days together in Bali four years ago, their whirlwind romance, their crazy-quick wedding, their marriage and kids, a part of him had been missing.
   "It's time you truly fulfilled Yana's last wish, darling," she said softly. "Forgive her for leaving you. Forgive yourself for not being able to stop her. You have never once visited her grave. Let's go say hello. You need it for a goodbye."

(Co-authored with Nikhil Deshmukh @red_devil22)

Point blank love

It was like she took a 12 gauge shotgun, 
Pointed it straight at my heart, 
And pulled the trigger at point blank range
It was like even the blood she spilled would do her bidding; 
Make patterns, write love letters. 
Every drop splattered on the walls, 
Retreated in slow motion, back into my body, 
Like an ingenious design of the unknown.
Forming a stronger love than the one she shot out, 
In a cycle, till she runs out of shells. 
She kissed him and began to leave; a love too strong to fight.
A love too strong to fight, too strong to be one with. 
A true love that would hurt her, like she had hurt him. 
A love that turned to venom inside him, made him want to hurt her.
Like holding a 12 gauge shotgun, pointing straight at her heart, 
And pulling the trigger at point blank range.
He loads the revolver one last time, faces the mirror, 
Sees her, and pulls the trigger. 
He crashes out of his dream head first,
A million glittering pieces and reality.

(Co-written with Siddarth Pathak @ShivaShadow)

Monday, May 09, 2011


   I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said Twitter has changed my life. Though there was a stage of disillusionment, when I proceeded to delete my account, I came right back to it; an addict.
   Day after day, I witness streams of brilliance, profundity, honesty, vanity, meanness, and sometimes plain stupidity. It is human nature, joy and misery at its best. And oh, art. Achingly beautiful art. One thing I thank Twitter a lot for, is the portal of beautiful words it has opened up for me. And people capable of such beauty. Sifting through several thousand tweets, I've chanced upon people who never cease to please. It is a joyride of poetry, stories, little victories and losses, love, wisdom, laughter and fleeting yet firm friendships. A place of endless amusement, discovery and ego-massages, and, sadly, my only excuse of a social life.
   But what I owe to Twitter the most is, what I call, Tweeterature. Laugh if you will, but I find this corny coinage a very fitting tribute to this tireless factory that produces Twitter literature. This seemingly restricting140-character limit extracts the most intense, insane kind of beauty a poet or a writer is capable of. After experimenting with micropoetry, I landed this wonderful spot called microfiction, whereby I attempted to create complete stories in a line or two. It was good, but I was left wanting. Soon I chanced upon two of my wonderful author friends on Twitter (@ramyaranee and @indianerotica) collaborating on my timeline, and conjuring up the most wonderful kind of stories, one tweet at a time. I wanted to do it too. That jugalbandi looked like so much fun. I waited for someone to follow my lead. And someone did.
     One fine morning, when I was throwing random lines at my timeline, like I usually do, a follower (who has since become a friend) called @tishman responded with a tweet that connected. I tweeted back with a third line in sequence and over the next few hours, we tweeted back and forth, and wove what became my first story collaboration on Twitter. It was exhilarating! I gathered each of our story tweets carefully later that day, and put it up on my blog. I think I was as proud and happy as the day Jishnu was born! :)
   It became something of a ritual. Each morning he or I would throw an opening line to the other, and a story would be created. We wrote 'Snatches of a Dream', 'Another time for love' and 'The raw deal'. I had never before experienced such creative challenges. It's like trying to drive a car that has two steering wheels and two drivers, who often steer in the opposite direction. Sometimes, you read each other's mind, follow a plot with a telepathic agreement, and sometimes, take off in a direction that completely stumps the other person. But not knowing what the next line of your story will be, is exciting, to say the least.
   Others caught whiff of the exhilaration, and I got my next enthusiastic co-author in @red_devil22. He slipped into the co-writer's seat with equal ease, and has been consistently writing stories with me. We have churned out a sizable number of stories yet, that include 'Knot in love', 'Crushed', 'Green love', 'A train to forever after,' 'Lovesick' and 'The reunion.' We seem to show no signs of tiring, and I hope there will be many more such wonderful collaborations. A couple of other Twitter friends played along too, and with @ShwetaKaushik was born 'Saviours', and as a deviation, @pranavvk and I co-wrote a poem called 'A change of heart'.
   Each piece of Tweeterature has come with its share of exultation and grrr. As with everything else in life, collaborative story writing is about getting your way. You are happy when your co-author follows your lead, understands your pre-set plot and plays along. When they veer off your chosen track, you, well, don't like it. But that's also where the wonderful challenge is. You then try to match up to the unexpected step, and continue with the story without losing the plot. Sometimes, just for fun, or as a mild act of vengeance, you throw them off track too. But it is these crests and troughs that make the writing experience so amazing.
   Another interesting facet is the gender of the co-author. Most of these stories have inadvertently focused on man-woman encounters/relationships, and I hate to admit that this is one classic space for stereotypes. While my repertoire of, and experience with, co-authors is really little, two things have leapt out at me. One: the men love sex; two: the women love love. I know it isn't news. But I've never before seen such a frank display of preferences. It's a place for writing out fantasies, in the shadow of characters. It is about giving vent to disappointments and expressing joy. It is about meeting our innate narcissistic needs. It's amazing really, how in writing fiction, we let out facts.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

The reunion

   She poured him a stiff one on the rocks, and some overflowing on to the table. "It's rather hot today," she said, offering him the frosted glass with some gold liquid in it.
   He pulled down his tie as if on cue, responding to the two buttons of her shirt, which she had unbuttoned. Hot it was. She was making it worse. This woman knew a man's anticipation. He took the glass gratefully, sipped, and drunk in the luscious sight of her. She was beautiful.
   "Thanks for fixing this meeting," he mumbled. His senses were fixed on her. Her slender frame, smooth skin, those peeking thighs that taunted, those arms he wanted, her copper-streaked hair. It wasn't the whiskey yet; he was high on her. She walked up to him and sat close, their legs almost brushing.
   "Oh, don't be formal, love," she said, "It is, after all, our anniversary."
   He smiled weakly. They had been divorced for nearly three years now. But she had refused to vacate a very special place in his heart. Three years. It seemed like a blur. Life was never the same without her. Her vivaciousness, her bold charm. They were madly in love, until their marriage could bear their careers no more. He missed her. But he never acknowledged that. Tonight was different though. "Do you miss me?" he asked, shuffling closer. He was surprised at his own words. Was it the whiskey or her... He was falling, failing too fast for his liking. She just sat there, taking it in.
   "I miss being constantly told how desirable I am by a man, who had me every night," she said.
   "You are...," he started.
   "I know," she cut him off, "but is she desirable?"
   "The problem is always the same, honey. They are not you," he whispered, drilling his gaze on her. He held her hand. It felt the same. Tender. A slight shiver ran down his spine. "They can never be you."
    She walked up behind him, slid her hands inside his shirt, rested her face on his broad back and said, "You haven't lost touch." A single tear rolled down her cheek.
    "Three years, baby. This fire, all this fire, and no you," he said, "I've missed you like hell." He took a deep breath and pulled her closer into a tight embrace. Tonight there would be no inhibitions, no pretensions. He kissed her. Those lips still tasted sweet and warm. He thought peaches. Vintage her. He wanted her. He didn't care.
   She half returned his kiss. Then, "No." She broke away. The pain had been too great to want it again. "We mustn't... I shouldn't have called you here," she said.    
   "Shhh...!" he said, and kissed her some more. "I'll go away again... just not yet," he said, undoing the zipper down her back. "I've missed this, love. I've missed you", his voice quivered, as pulled down her bra strap over her shoulder, and put his lips to her shoulder. His lips sizzled. She was perfect. He wasn't going to forget this couch in a hurry. She pulled off his shirt. It was lust and abandon like when they had first made love, except they now knew what they wanted and how to offer it. She ran her fingers through his hair, and led him towards the couch. The small table fell off, as they bumped into it, and so did the half full glass, breaking.
   She let him consume her, she let herself consume him. Passions danced, bodies writhed, time flew. The stars gave way to the sun, and the soft morning light bathed the reunited lovers. He stroked her cheek, as she opened her eyes.
   "I'm glad you came. I don't have much time left," she said. "I'm flying off to the US this afternoon. That's where Sunil wants to shift base. He has always wanted to..." she trailed off. She couldn't bear to look in his eyes. She got out of bed with a reluctant urgency. Her clothes lay scattered around the room, and his thoughts equally so.
   " mean..", he stopped short, lit a cigarette and just lay there naked.
   "I remarried; yes," she said, avoiding his gaze. The way he had held her all night told her he hadn't been able to let go. "But I needed to know if I could truly leave here, without any strings attached."
   "And?" he asked as nonchalantly as he could manage, letting out a puff.
   "And I have my answer. Too many effing strings," she said wistfully. Their divorce was an ugly fact they had never really come to terms with. They were only lawfully out of each other lives. "I could never let you go. I can't. It's a funny game, this. Still carry your pic in my wallet, still want your arms around me more than anything else when I'm low," she said.
   He turned his moist eyes away from her, as he put on his clothes. His phone buzzed. It was his wife. "Hi honey... yeah, the flight was good... I'll be headed to the meeting in some time," he said softly into the phone.
   She dressed up too, in silence, and dialed room service. The broken pieces needed to be picked up. She put back the receiver, and observed simply, "You're married too. I needn't carry the cross of guilt alone," she added, planting another kiss on his forehead, and buttoning his shirt, just like before.
    "Some things never change. Perhaps some bridges are best not burned," he said, and flashed a broad, sad smile.
   She smiled back, as if at an internal joke. "Where do we go from here?" she asked matter-of-factly.
   He took a deep breath. "If you could, somehow, for some reason, for one reason, miss your flight, I would do away with all your dummies in my life," he said softly.
   Was she hearing him right? It was an incredulous line, coming from him. But so was this moment. Her mind whirred so loud, it almost made noises. Things were moving too fast, too awry, too perfect.
   "Are you crazy?" she said, and laughed.
   "Never saner. Wanna run away?" he offered.
   She picked up her phone and switched it off. Sunil would never know where to find her.
   "I do," she said; one more time.

(Co-written with Nikhil Deshmukh @red_devil22)

Wednesday, May 04, 2011


   As she lay there, bleeding, every part of her hurting, doctors and nurses hovering around her - their faces covered, their eyes worried - she could remember only one thing.
   His face. Vengeful. Red. Unlike the face she knew and loved. Playful. Naughty. Besotted."Why, Jack, why?" she had managed between breaths. Her vision getting blurred with each passing moment. She sank into an indescribable blackness, as she felt the knife go through both her hearts - flesh and feeling. "Stay awake!" the doctor kept saying. Her eyes felt leaden. The pain wasn't exactly alien. She knew how it felt to be butchered. On the inside. Her feelings often left to hang out dry after brutal assaults on her character. She kept floating in and out of consciousness as she heard shouts of "Don't give up...Don't give up!" She felt like she was being sucked into a vortex of memories.
   Jack was obsessive love personified. But he was a gentle lover. It was unimaginable that the hands which loved so tenderly, could want to kill. But hadn't she always known that? On the night they had first met, he had almost sniffed the life out of the goons, who had tried to harass her. He then took her home, and healed her with a love she didn't know existed. As she fell back on his large sofa, shivering, he brought out a swab of cotton, and cleaned the cut on her arm. He had wrapped her in a large Pashmina shawl, and stroked her head, saying "You'll be fine." His smile was so reassuring. She felt nice, warm and fuzzy, as she watched him brew coffee for her in his functional kitchen.
   One thing led to another, and before she knew it, his functional kitchen and home was hers. But moving in with him was perhaps the biggest mistake of her life. The realisation hit, when she found all the messages in her phone erased one day. It had surprised her at first. Only Jack could've done it. 'But why?' Questions swirled in her mind. Was he snooping on her? Didn't she love him? Why would he be scanning her phone in her absence? There were a few messages from her friends, harmlessly signed 'Miss You' or 'Love You'. Wait, was he suspecting her of infidelity? She thought he knew better. She started watching her back. Sure enough, Jack appeared in dark alleys, in parking lots, in basements, always in the shadows, shadowing her. His love for her grew everyday - alien tentacles holding her tighter each day in a vice-like grip.
   Some nights he would brandish his favourite Swiss knife, as they lay in bed. He'd run the knife down her body, tearing away her gown with it, as she watched frozen, in strange fear and fascination. He'd laugh at her nervousness. "What's love without a little danger?", he would ask. His would move the knife close to her face, as he kissed her with a manic intensity. It was unbearable. Unbearable, yet addictive. The cold of his knife and the warmth of his body made her swoon. She could not bear nights without him making mad, passionate and painful love to her. But mornings would bring back the greater darkness in him. She would often wake up to find her purse ransacked, her laptop scanned, her phone checked. Yet she could never question him. She needed him. Needed his strong arms, which would protect her from the whole world. Needed that baritone to tell her he loved her. For all his flaws, he had filled a vacuum no one had. But now he questioned her. She tolerated the suffocation only for those nights of love. But now she questioned herself.
   "Jack, do you remember the first time we slept together?", she casually asked at a dinner one day.
   "Of course I do, baby. Why do you ask?" he asked.
   "Do you believe our love was born that night?" she persisted.
   "Yes. What are you getting at?"
   "Do you believe I've loved you and no other since that day - mind, body and soul?" she urged.
   He looked away.
   " Answer me, Jack."   
   "I don't know. But what I know is that you are mine! I own you. Every breath you take is mine. I cannot bear to see any man come close to you and sense your scent. I'll pluck their eyes out, if they lay them on you!" he said, with a strange gleam in his eyes. He dug the fork into the table. She gripped her chair in an instinct. Some bells started to ring inside her.
   "You cannot control me!" she screamed. "You cannot stalk me like this, Jack! I cannot take this anymore! You..." A plate came crashing on the floor, and then several others. Jack drowned her first confrontation in a violent pandemonium. "You're mine, bitch," he growled. "You don't know what you signed up for, baby," he laughed a spine-chilling laugh.  
   The whole restaurant had their eyes fixed on them. But he was oblivious. "What's this?" he yelled, holding up a cheap lighter in his hand. "Who the fuck does this belong to? I got it in your purse!" "It's only..." she couldn't complete her sentence. Ladies rushed out screaming, and their men watched in horror as Jack screamed "Shut up, you lying whore!" and flung a pitcher at her. 
   Drenched in beer, she started running, screaming in fear, horror and pain. What had she done? Who was this person she had been living with, sleeping with? Thump, thump, thump... Jack was closing in. She ran up to a dead end in the dark alleyway. She could see Jack's teeth gleaming white from where she stood, and he could see shiny beads of perspiration on her pretty forehead. She fumbled to open her purse. 'Good Lord, where is it?' She rummaged desperately looking for that one thing that could possibly save her... Jack was inching closer. "What are you scared of, baby? Come to me. I won't hurt you. How can I hurt you? Don't you know, I love you...?" he rambled with each step. She prayed, as her hands searched the insides of her purse. Jack's hands fondled the knife in his pocket.
   "I couldn't help it, baby. I just couldn't see them around you! Know what, I thrust this knife inside that cashier friend of yours. That was his lighter, wasn't it?" She muffled a horrified scream, as he said that. 'He had killed Aakash?' She sobbed violently, as she crouched behind a bin, still groping inside her purse. She could now smell him.
    Her phone lay on their bed, ringing, where Jack had been checking it for messages from Aakash, while she got ready for dinner. Her heart sank, when she couldn't find it in her bag. Suddenly, she was yanked up by her hair, and her eyes met his. He was crying too. "What did Aakash have to tell you? What big fucking secret did he have to tell you?" he yelled in her ear. She dared not tell him the warning signs Aakash had given her. "Be safe. Be well." He had texted her often in the evenings. She had no idea those four simple words were so loaded. He had never told her directly for fear of hurting her. He had meant to warn her about Jack; his shady past, his ex-wife, who had mysteriously disappeared. It was a small town. News travelled fast. "I should have listened to his warnings Jack, I should have," she managed. She winced in pain as he pulled her hair harder. Suddenly, that comforting cold metal inside her purse...
   She couldn't believe she was carrying Jack's gift in her purse. She was carrying the same purse on her birthday last month, when he gave her a .22 pistol. "Shoot any bastard, who tries to hurt you," he had said. "After all, I cannot be there, watching you all the time." She smiled, as she began to fish out the gun. But before she could summon her fingers to do the job, he summoned his. He began to throttle her. "You must go, so you can stay," he said, his eyes bloodshot; his face vengeful, red. "Why, Jack, why?" she cried, as he drove the knife through her chest.
    Bang! The noise rang clear in that empty lane, as two bodies slumped to the ground. The bullet had entered his neck, and out of his skull. "You blow my mind away," he had tenderly said, after their first night together. She had meant it in a different way now. And there she lay, her heart broken, literally. He lay beside, his hand over her chest, just the way they had lain many warm nights in their bed. She could hear sirens in the distance...
    Blackness. Then light - cold, inhuman, surgical lights. "Don't give up," they kept saying. She wouldn't. Jack had loved her zest for life.

(Co-authored with Nikhil Deshmukh @red_devil22) 

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

A train to forever after

   That dusk marked big thresholds in her life. From a known, cruel day to an unknown, perhaps, kind night. The horizon beckoned.
   The ordeal that the last six months were, had sapped her of all her mental fortitude. She felt bleary. Yet strangely conscious. She had very few possessions. A child, a scar from the newest wound on her swollen lip, a box of clothes and a ticket to as far as she could go. She let out a cold breath. She wanted to grin, but 'aaarggh, this bloody cut.' She grimaced, still feeling the sting of his blow.
    It had been this way ever since she could remember. It was hard to believe love was the beginning of it all, and this child the beginning of the flash point. He'd loved her crazy. Her every wish, his manna from the heavens. But in his loss of trust, he had turned monster.
   His jealous rages had become a way of life, and she was reminded of gentler manners only when a young man in the train said, "What beautiful eyes these are."
   She looked up, surprised. He sat across from her, looking unabashedly.
   "I'm an artist," he explained, "and you are mistress of the most beautiful pair of eyes I've ever seen."
   She looked at him, smiled through her pain; said "You're kind," and turned away.
   "Those wonderful eyes are tired too. Maybe they should sleep," he said, offering her his seat. She nodded, too tired to resist and slept like she hadn't in days.
   She woke up to find him curled like a baby on the floor below. Tranquil. Something in her melted, but she denied that emotion. She gathered her bundles and her child, and prepared to leave. But she couldn't leave without a goodbye and a thank you. Strings. She bent down, and whispered a 'thank you' in his ear, ever so softly, hoping he wouldn't wake up. But he did. He sprang up, and said, "Pleasure. No thank yous, please..."   
   "...Anna," she offered.
     He smiled, and pulled out a paper. "This is for you, Anna."
   She took the paper from his hands, and stared at it intently. There she was; beautiful, scar-free like before.
   "It isn't true; this picture," she said politely, and smiled. She couldn't help feeling flattered.
   "I see people," he said, "I see you; and you are beautiful."
   His words danced violently in her head, as the train chugged off. He was gone. She stood transfixed for a while, his words gnawing at her heart. It was all she needed. Somehow his validation mattered more than anything else. She wasn't just an object; she felt alive.
   As if by some unseen force, she felt compelled to get off the train. Clutching the portrait and her possessions, she jumped. Her things scattered about her, her baby in her arms, in this strange land, she stood; and wept. Like a cloudburst on a barren heart, she wept. She realised she was free at last. Terribly alone, beautiful and free. Unloaded off her murky past. Of her ugly brush with love. Free. She held on to her child, and breathed in a lungful of uninhibited air.
   "Shall we go home?" a familiar voice said.
   She turned around, her heart frozen for a moment; then smiled.

(Co-authored with Nikhil Deshmukh @red_devill22)