July 7, 2019

Dragonfly

I don’t know how it came inside the flat. Maybe through the balcony door. We had kept it open because of the heat. The sun shining through all the glass turns the room into a little green house. Especially when the summer sun is out like it was yesterday.

There are a few potted plants on the balcony. And a few more just inside – the ones which need the the sun (which they get through the glass door) but can’t stand the cold of the night. Maybe it was browsing the flowers outside and then saw something green inside and just decided to come in.

When I saw it, it was trying to head out. Unsuccessfully. Through the wrong way. The glass windows must have looked like the open sky to it. A little helicopter, crashing against the glass again and again.

I should open the window. I remember thinking. But I was doing something on my laptop. Too lazy to get up. I’ll do it later. I thought

I found its little lifeless body on the window sill this morning. Its tail twisted into a strange triangle. I was about to vacuum it up but then decided against it. I picked it up using a little piece of paper and dropped it into one of the flowerpots outside.

Advertisements
June 2, 2019

[Fiction] Earthrise

It looked no different from any other day. Barely ten people.

The old lady was there in her usual seat. The one behind the driver. He had never seen her getting up. Or down. It was as if she was a part of the bus. A somewhat worn out mannequin someone had forgotten to take home.

Some of the other regulars were there as well. And then the usual set of two to three new faces. He never knew where these “new” people came from. Magically appearing for a day and then disappearing for ever. Maybe they tried the bus and didn’t like it and went back to the underground. Most people people preferred the underground. It was cleaner, safer and faster. Much much faster.

He had tried the bus too. One day. All those years ago. But unlike most, he had tried the bus and stayed.

He liked the feeling of flying, or hovering to be more accurate. Wheeled vehicles had never made much sense on the surface of Luna. Hover-busses had been quite popular on the early days of settlement, before the Authorities had started building the underground.

He also liked the fact that it took almost two hours to reach the habitat from the mines. That meant that by the time he reached his module he had just enough time left to eat, watch the news on the tele and go to sleep. No time to do anything else.

The routine was comforting. He didn’t want to have to think about what to do. The routine meant that he didn’t have to. It had been almost ten years now. Six days a week. Fifty two weeks in the year. He hadn’t taken a single holiday even though even at his meagre salary he had enough saved now to visit Earth, or even Mars (if he took one of the cheaper shuttles).

There was only once he had taken a break. About five years back. It was after one of the local journos had the bright idea of doing a feature on “Number 26 – Our Last Hoverbus”. The fact that it made to the third page showed how little anything of interest happened on the mining colonies.

Anyway, the article had started out by mentioning how the Authorities had in their immense benevolence had decided to continue running the bus (even though it was making losses) in memory of all those killed in the accident five years ago. Then it had included a three four line profile on each of the regulars. The last one, “man in the last seat”, was about him.

The story had created enough of a buzz for the bus to be crowded with curious people over the next couple of days (again showing how little anything of interest ever happened here). And after the first day, he had decided to take a week off, just to keep away from those crowds.

They had got the story wrong anyway. At least his part of it. Typical crappy journalism.

The man who still travels every day on the same bus his partner had been killed on. She had wanted to take the underground but he had convinced her to take the bus. Still unable to forget his guilt, he travels on the bus, alone, on the same seat everyday where one day five years ago they sat together.

That’s what they had said. It wasn’t correct. She hadn’t been his partner. He had just met her a few weeks back at the mines. It was true he had never met anyone like her before, or since. But they were not married or engaged or anything like that.

And it hadn’t been guilt. It had just been as if the world had moved on and he had got stuck  sat down.

And the report had been wrong about him asking her. It was she who had wanted to take the bus. After seeing the photo he had taken on the previous day (which had been his first day on the bus). She had wanted to see the Earthrise too.

 

 

 

 

June 1, 2019

[Fiction] Hero

As the blue dot on the ship window was steadily growing bigger, a strange anxiety was gripping him more and more. He should have been happy. Going home after all these years.

Home. He wondered if it would even exist now. The place as he remembered it. It had been eight years his time. But decades on Earth. He hoped it still existed, even if as broken down ruins. It was the only place he had ever really called home even though he had lived in more than two dozen different places. Yes, that house, and in a way, this ship. Maybe that’s why he was feeling anxious. The ship had been his home now for the last few years. And tomorrow, he will leave it for good.

He glanced around his little kingdom. Maybe they will allow him to keep it. Its not as if the ship took up much space. Yes, he felt quite sure they will allow him to keep it. He was a hero after all. The last hope of humanity. Returning at last. When anyone else would have failed. Anyone else would have gone mad. He did it. He had found what they had sent him to find. And he was returning now.

He wondered what sort of welcome he would get tomorrow. He hoped he didn’t have to meet too many people. Nobody he knew would be there to meet him anyway. It was just too many years for that.

They were still not replying to his transmissions. But he wasn’t worried. He hadn’t used the equipment for years now. Maybe it wasn’t working properly. He would have a look at it tomorrow when he was in orbit. He was feeling tired now. A good time to sleep as any. The last night in his bunk. It was worn out now, almost as if moulded to his shape. He could see the window from his bunk. The blue planet was still growing in size.

***

We can’t let him land. Who knows if he is still carrying the infection. Its too big a risk.

We can’t just kill him. What happens if the press finds out. I can forget re-election. Actually, if the press finds out I ordered the vaporisation of humanities greatest hero, I can forget my fucking political career.

No one will find out. The transmission is still too weak. I’m sure we are the only ones who have caught it. No one will find out if we act now. If we wait till tomorrow, it will be a whole different ball game.

Do what you have to do then. Just keep my name out of it. I can’t help feel a bit sorry for the poor chap. After all he went through for us, he couldn’t even get back home.

I’m sure he would understand if he knew. In fact I am sure he would even approve of it. That’s what heroes are for, aren’t they. To sacrifice for others. To die so that others can live and all that stuff. I’ll call you when its all over.

No don’t call. Not unless things go wrong. Just let me know in the morning. I need some sleep. Have a busy day tomorrow.

May 26, 2019

[Fiction] The Last of the..

They are all gone now. My brothers and sisters.

I miss them. The warm softness of their bodies pressed against mine. Their shouts of joy when Mom and Dad would come home with a bit of food after hours of hungry silence. We would eat and drift off again. Sleep and wait. Wait and sleep.

And dream. Dream of flying. Dream of the blue and the green. Dreams broken by spasms of hunger.

I like my home. It was big once. But we grew. And it grew smaller. In the end we could barely fit. That’s when I knew we would have to leave. We couldn’t live here for ever. One day Mom and Dad would go and not come back again.

There is a hole in the wall for a door. The hole through which they have all left now. The older ones first. Then the others. And then, even my little sister.

I didn’t think she would do it. I thought she was like me. Afraid of the world outside. But she did. Jumped up to the door (I thought she will fall), peeped her tiny head outside and then, when I thought she will turn back and say something, she just vanished. Like all the others. Leaving the sunlight streaming through the hole as if nothing much had happened. As if I was always alone here and everyone else had just been a dream.

I have to go now too. Staying here will mean death and starvation. Going out might mean death too, but it could also mean life, if I am careful and survive the next few days. So I climb up to the hole. And slowly peep outside.

It’s so bright. Dazzling. Our house is in the sky! The ground is a long way off. Something tells me I have to jump. Jump and then aim for the clump of bushes over there, and that’s where I will find the others. I don’t know how I will go there but something tells me I can.

So I jump. I jump and I flap my wings. For the first time ever…

***

Dedicated to a little family of bluetits who had taken up residence in a tiny bird box perched on the wall on our balcony. Mom and Dad bluetit spent the last few months toiling, building their little nest, bringing food for the little ones. Yesterday, the last of the baby bluetits finally left.

May 11, 2019

[Fiction] Tamarind Tree

Hay are you new here. Haven’t seen you before. Aren’t you afraid?

I don’t live here. We came to visit my grandfather and grandmother. You know the big old house by the pond? That’s where they live. Why should I be afraid? My grandfather said there aren’t any snakes any more. They have killed all the snakes now.

It’s not the snakes. Haven’t they told you about the old woman in the tamarind tree. The one who hung herself. She still lives there. And catches little children like you.

My brother said people in the village are idiots. I shouldn’t believe all their gibberish. And I think if I hide here, the other children won’t find me, they don’t like coming this way. Anyway, why don’t you come join us tomorrow? We play in the afternoon every day, sometimes cricket, sometimes hide and seek.

I don’t like the other children. I like to stay here. The tree is my friend. But I can help you hide. If you just climb up to this branch here.

This one? But won’t they be able to see me?

Don’t worry. Come sit beside me. And I promise. They won’t find you. Ever.

May 6, 2019

[Fiction] Picnic

The sudden violent gust of wind almost knocked him off his feet. And then, as if to give him one more warning, the first of the lightnings started flashing in the distance. Jagged white lines splitting the low inky black clouds, followed a second two later by the deep rumbling, crackling thunder.

A few brave seagulls were still flying about, their cries now mixing with the howling of the wind. The cheerful blue green sea of the morning had turned a mysterious and threatening dark blue. Wave after wave was pounding the rocks, turning into white spray, like a million tiny teeth trying to eat up the earth.

We have to go back now. He said. We will get cut off.

We can’t. We are already cut off. She had been standing facing the sea, watching the waves, but was looking at him now. Her face impassive. But he felt as if he could detect something in her eyes. He had noticed her eyes even in the morning when he had first seen her on the beach. It was as if there was a deep sadness hidden behind those pale grey eyes. It had been there even when she was laughing and smiling in the morning. But now there was something else. He couldn’t recognise what it was. But it seemed to remind him of something he couldn’t quite place his fingers on.

***

She was beautiful. That was the first thing which had struck him when he had seen her walking along the beach in the morning. Barefeet. Walking along the line where the waves were coming up to. Some just falling short of her feet. And some gently kissing them with their last breath.

Not the kind of beautiful you would see in a movie, or adorning the pages of a magazine or billboard. But a different kind of beautiful. A kind of pure and innocent and sacred looking beauty. It made him remember of the time he had gone on a trip to a ski resort and in the night, after everyone else had fallen asleep, walked out by himself on the icy slopes of the mountain and had seen the Himalayas all around him, glowing in the silent starlight.

She was the kind of beautiful that made his heart stop and his stomach tighten.

He had struck up a conversation. He didn’t know how. Striking up conversations with people he didn’t know, and that too beautiful girls, were not what one would call his forte. Maybe it was the way she smiled at him when she had looked up and seen him staring. Maybe it was the realisation that if he didn’t, he might regret it for the rest of his life.

Anyway, he had managed to start talking and then it had seemed easy. As if he had known her all her life. He had guessed, rightly, that she wasn’t from here. She was staying somewhere nearby for a few weeks. Probably the village down the road, he had thought. The one where he had stocked up in the morning for the day’s walk.

It was her day out walking too. She wasn’t exactly going in the same direction as he was but then, he didn’t mind. The whole areas was so beautiful. And she had mentioned about this secret island she had found. Just a mile from the coast. At low tide you could walk to it, over a narrow stretch of rocks.

It had taken them a couple of hours to reach the island. He had enjoyed chatting with her. Walking with her. She had seemed friendly; and interested. He had told her a lot about himself. She had told him a little. She liked travelling and walking. She liked desolate places and she liked the sea. Just like him. She also liked picnics.

She had a boyfriend once but lived alone now. Something had happened to him. She didn’t elaborate. He didn’t push. He had been secretly pleased to know that she was single now

He had been very aware of her. Of her body which he could almost see under that translucent white beach dress she had been wearing. It had left most of her shoulders and back bare. And he could see the little beads of sweat forming and making her skin glisten in the sun.

He had been very aware of her. Of the low huskyness of her voice. Of her hair, which the wind was sometimes blowing into his face, giving him a faint taste of her smell. A smell which seemed vaguely familiar.

The side of the island which faced the coast was nothing much to look at. Just like lots of those other jagged rocks which dotted the coastline in these areas. Some just a single rock, some bigger, big enough for a colony of what seemed like thousands of seagulls. From the coast this looked like one of those slightly bigger ones.

But if you came close enough to this one, you realised that it is not just a rock jutting out of the sea. But a proper island. Tiny. But still an island. And with traces of human habitation. You could see a series of almost imperceptible steps cut into the rock face, leading to the top. And when you reached the top, you were in for a surprise. Halfway down the rock, on the other side, shielded from the coast, was a little lighthouse (or at least what looked like the remnants of one). And then if you went down, there was this perfect little cove. Horse shoe shaped, with sand in between and rocks at the end of the horseshoes, almost cutting off the sea and creating a lagoon. The water was shallow and clear, you could see the bottom in most places.

They sat down on the beach, on a big towel she had in her bag. He was already quite hungry and gulped through half of his sandwiches. Leaving the rest for later. She didn’t want any. She was on some sort of a weird keto diet. Only meat. And that too once a day, in the evening.

She had got her book out and turned over, lying on her stomach.

He didn’t know what to do. It was an unusually warm day. And humid. And with very little breeze. He should have checked the weather before leaving. He was feeling hot and sticky in his jeans and T-shirt. The sea looked so inviting.

She seemed to guess what was on his mind. Go on, take a dip. The water here is usually nice and warm this time of the year. She had said.

Would love to. But I wasn’t actually planning on swimming today. Didn’t bring my trunks.

Go without them. Don’t worry. I won’t watch. And I don’t think anyone else will come here today. She had said in a slightly playful , teasing voice.

He had gone behind the rocks a bit further down the beach to take off his clothes. Furtively glancing back once or twice to see if she was watching. He had wanted her to watch. He wasn’t exactly proud of his body. But he was all right, not muscular but athletic, definitely not in the “a few extra pounds” category.

She hadn’t seemed interested. Still buried in her book when he had walked into the water naked. Not even glancing up once. Maybe it was just his imagination when he had thought she might be attracted to him. He had felt a little disappointed. And a little angry with himself.

The water had been worth it. Cool. Refreshing. And so unusually calm. He must have stayed in the water for at least an hour, if not more. Finally when he had come out and walked back to the rocks where he had left his clothes he had felt a moment of panic. His clothes were gone.

Hey, I have kept them here. She was sitting up now. Watching him. Patting his neatly folded pile of clothes which were beside her now. You kept them too close to the water. The sea could have carried them away. And as much as I am enjoying watching you now, I’m sure you wouldn’t like to walk back to civilisation like this. She said. Laughing now. With a twinkle in her eyes.

So you were watching me. He had said. He could feel himself getting excited. He had to cover his private parts with his hands. She was still looking at him.

Isn’t that what you wanted? She had said, throwing a towel at him. To dry yourself. And cover your modesty. And don’t get any ideas. Naughty boy!

She had seemed much more cheerful and flirty to him now than in the morning. But nothing much had happened. After teasing him a little about his sexy bum she had gone back to her book. And he had finished the rest of his sandwiches (she still refusing to have any) and had fallen asleep beside her. In his dreams he felt as if she had taken his head in her lap and was gently stroking his hair. And crying silently. Drops of tear slowly rolling down her cheek and falling on his face.

He had woken up with a start. It wasn’t tears. It was actually a drop or two of rain which had started falling and had woken him up. The sun had gone. The wind had picked up. Everything had become darker, colder. He had stood up with a start and when the sudden gust of wind had almost knocked him off his feet.

***

Why didn’t you wake me up before? We should have left much earlier. He had almost shouted at her. He felt angry. Angry at himself. Angry at her. And then felt ashamed for shouting.

I had fallen asleep too. And don’t worry. We can take shelter in the lighthouse. This should blow over soon.

It hadn’t blown over. If anything, the storm had only intensified. By the time they had made their way to the lighthouse, it had become almost become pitch black. Except for the occasional flashes of lightning. The thick stone walls of the lighthouse had kept the wind out but the it had no roof and very soon the rain had started drenching them. And then the waves had started rising.

As he had started growing worried, started shivering a bit in the cold, she had come closer to him. Hugging him. Taking his clothes off and drawing him into her warmth. She smelt sweet. Mesmerising. He had got a faint hint of the smell before. In the morning when the wind had blown her hair over his face. But now it had seemed to grow much stronger.

He had recognised the smell now. It was the smell of the Raat ki Rani flower. The queen of the night. There used to be a tree near his home. The flowers would bloom at night and drop off before dawn, forming a white carpet below the tree. His mother would warn him not to go near the tree at night. The flowers are dangerous. She would say. They attract snakes.

The waves were lapping at the base of the lighthouse now. It wouldn’t be very long before most of the island would be under water. He thought to himself. But yet he was feeling oddly calm. As though this was happening to someone else. As though a part of his brain knew what was happening but the part responsible for generating fear had just stopped functioning.

The sweeness of her smell was almost overwhelming. She had drawn his head into her breast, caressing him in their milky smoothness. She had her legs wrapped around him now. He was on her and inside her. They moved in unision, rhythmically, as she tried to pull him more and more into the wetness and warmth between her legs. As the water started touching them, he felt oddly happy, even ecstatic.

The last thing he ever saw was her face, when a sudden burst of lightning lit everything up for a second. She was looking at him. And he know knew what it was he had seen in her eyes earlier but couldn’t quite recognise. It was pity. She had tears streaming down her face, just like he has seen in his dream. And she was looking down at him with a mix of love and pity.

The last thing he ever heard was her moan, as he felt himself draining into her. And then he felt the warm stickiness of his own blood as her fangs drove deep into his neck.

***

With a sudden cracking sound and a flash of fire, something rose up into the sky, and then disappeared before one could blink one’s eyes. Almost as if it was never there. The commotion woke up a few hundred seagulls from their slumber. The only witnesses. No people around for miles. The seagulls settled down after a few minutes and once more the only sounds you could hear were the howling of the wind and the crashing of the waves.

February 22, 2019

Vernal

I was born on the spring equinox which means in a month from now, I will be a year older.

It wasn’t a bad year, now that I think of it.

I visited a couple of new places (Peak District and Dorset and Sikkim and Houston). I started learning to fly a real aeroplane (although a microlight, not a passenger aircraft), started doing meditation more seriously, was in Chicago in the midst of the Polar Vortex and then met some friends who I had not met for years and years in Texas.

But I don’t know whether its the age (I am closer to 40 now than to 30) or something else, when I try to look back, none of the memories seem to be very vivid. Its as if the colour palette of my memory is changing from primary colours to more pastel shades.

I was asked a question the other day – “Tell me something you have done which you are really proud of”. I managed to answer something sufficiently coherent and intelligent sounding (one wouldn’t survive very long in Consulting if one couldn’t make up coherent and intelligent sounding answers to random questions on the fly) but if I had to be honest to myself, I wouldn’t really be able to think of anything which I have done in the last 36 years which I can say I am really proud of. And the surprising thing is that I don’t really feel bad about that.

Maybe I am not one of those people who have come in to this world to accomplish great things. Maybe I am just here to watch.

I came across this Zen poem the other day.

My legacy –
What will it be?
Flowers in spring,
The cuckoo in summer,
And the crimson maples
Of autumn …

Tags: ,
December 26, 2018

Room on the Roof

The water overflowing from the flowerpot spreads out, trying to find an exit, like a flooded river, disrupting a column of tiny black ants in the process, who scurry to find an alternative route to their food source (or their ant colony, wherever they were heading originally before their great flood).

There is a slight breeze, scattering a few dried leaves here and there on the roof.

The breeze makes the bamboos sway. The bamboos here are not tall and straight like the ones in Sikkim. They are more flexible, they bend and sway in the wind, as if they remember that bamboos are actually grass and want to show their grass like nature. They grow in clumps, so that they can support each other in their quest to reach up. “Together we can stand tall”, like the old “Unity is Strength” ads which used to come on TV long back, when there was only one TV channel.

The sun is pleasant this time of the year. It would probably have been warmer, but for the cloud of pollution which seems to hang over Kolkata in winter. You can see it from your window on the plane. One moment you are in brilliant sunlight and then you start descending into this grey thing which seems to cling to each and every part of the city, like a bad spell. Reminds me of Theoden in the Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers when he was under the spell of Saruman. If only there was a Gandalf to set the city free, or maybe a fleet of giant vacuum cleaning drones floating three thousand feet above ground.

“Haze”. That seems to be the one constant in the Google Weather Forecast every day. The temperature changes, the wind changes, the position of the sun and the moon changes. But the haze is there forever. But to look at the positive side, without the haze, the sun might have been too warm for me to sit and laze on the roof, the reflection from my laptop screen too bright for me to write anything. Without the haze, humanity forever poorer by this one blog post.

There is a kite stuck in the bamboo next to our roof. When I was a child, it would have caused me great excitement. I would have tried to retrieve it with a wooden pole to the great consternation of my grandmother who was always coming across little news items in her Bengali newspaper about some kid or the other falling off the roof while trying to fly kites. Failing the pole, I would have tied a piece of rock to a string (or the corpse of a pen) and tried to strategically throw it at the kite – the idea was to somehow entangle your string with the kites string and then pull it in. Not that my parents couldn’t buy me a kite. But somehow retrieving a used kite, one someone else has lost in a battle seemed like a lot more fun than just going to the shop and buying a brand new one.

I would sit in my study room which was on the roof, supposedly “studying”, watching the kites instead. There would be lots of them in the sky at this time of the year (and if you are from Kolkata, you would know that that means I live in the outskirts where kites are flown in winter rather than the city where its flown mostly around August / September).

“Battle” somehow seems like two grandiose a word for it and two kites “fighting” to me conjures up funny images of the flimsy rectangular pieces of paper on a little frame made of bamboo sticks suddenly growing arms and legs and engaging in hand to hand combat.

The Bengali word for kite fighting / kite battles / kite whatever is pyanch. Not panch as in the Hindi for five but pyanch . Google tells me that the English translation is “screw” but that doesn’t seem to convey the right meaning as well. Its more on the lines of getting entangled, like two pieces of string, and that’s what actually happens, the kites don’t fight, the strings (usually coated with ground glass using some sticky material), rub against each other and the weaker string ultimately breaks. Pyanch is used in wrestling as well, Kustir Pyanch, to pin down your opponent in some sort of a wrestling move.

If you are watching a Pyanch, and you know which way the wind is blowing, you can sort of approximate where the losing kite will end up, blown by the wind once it is no longer tethered to its owner below. And if you are an unlucky child like me, it will never ever end up on your roof. Yours could be the only two storeyed building in the neighbourhood of smaller houses, you could have a great big roof, it could be crisscrossed with clothes lines which you could expect any self respecting kite to get stuck to. But no, the kites will insist on diverting from their flight path in the last moment and land on somewhere impossible, like the pond, or the road between two houses where already some of the neighbourhood kids with whom you cannot expect to fight it out are standing, or some odd tree just our of your reach.

I never figured it out how it is proabilistically possible. Maybe some kind of observer effect as in Quantum Theory or Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. When hopeful child is standing on the roof, the probability of the lost kite materialising on said roof tends towards zero and probability of lost kite materialising on some other nearby location inaccessible to said child tends towards one.

There is a kite stuck in the bamboo next to our roof. Its red and black. It was red and black. It has been there for a few days and the red is fading to a dirty pink and the black to a dirty grey. It tries to mock me, bobbing up and down in the wind. I could reach it with something if I wanted to. But I no longer fly kites. It will stay there for a few more days till the wind and the morning dew gets the paper and the string and the little wooden frame (just two perpendicular sticks really), falls to the ground. I could reach it with something if I wanted to but I am not interested any more. Didn’t the Buddha say you should get rid of your wants and desires. Hey lost kites of Kolkata, now that you are stuck waiting for me to rescue you, I no longer desire you. See, who had the last laugh.

The little round birds, which look like medium sized ball of grey wool with a beak and two sticky legs stuck in like some sort of children’s art project are called Chatar Pakhi in Bengali and Jungle Babblers in English. The Indian monochrome version of angry birds, they can’t seem to walk, just bounce around in little jumps. And they are quite vocal and fearless. A flock of them will try to mob you with angry chirping if you are standing near their food source. Not like the ghugus (spotted doves) which despite their much bigger size seems to be afraid of everyone else, even the smaller Chatars.

There used to be snakes. In the little bamboo forest behind our house. I remember them coming into the house once or twice when I was quite small. My father having to dispose them off with a stick. The smell of carbolic acid (which apparently deters snakes and we used to sprinkle around doors and windows when we were trying to deter such unexpected guests) still triggers the “caution, snake!” signal in my subconscious. The snakes are no longer around. Ever since, a couple of years back, someone bought all the land behind our house cut down most of the bamboo groves and filled up the ponds. Luckily for us (or unluckily for whoever bought the land), the market has gone down and the land is now lying idle, a few clumps of bamboo still left and lots of tall grass and shrubs growing back, a little green fightback in a losing battle or urbanisation. The snakes have all disappeared but there is still a family of monitor lizards left. Sometimes you can see them sunning themselves. The last of the monitors.

The bookshelves are almost empty now. Most of the books given away. They look sad, like abandoned houses. The place of my study table is taken by a cupboard for general stuff . So much of my child hood was spent in this room, isolated from the rest of the house by a flight of stairs, it had glass windows on two sides, a door leading to the roof on the third side and another flight of stairs leading to the Thakur Ghor (the little shrine with photos and figurines of gods and goddesses which is a standard in most Bengali homes).

So much of my child hood was spent in this room, alone, observing the world from my very own watchtower, under the watchful eyes of the multitude of gods and goddesses sitting in the Thakur Ghor a few feet above me. I think more than any other room, this is the room I grew up in. Maybe the room, in a way, made me what I am today.

When I come back to India next year, we may not have this house any more. My parents are planning to sell it and move to a smaller apartment. I don’t really regret it. Maybe my room will become the abode and refuge of some other shy self conscious socially inept kid like me. In the meanwhile, I still have a couple of more days to enjoy my Room on the Roof

December 21, 2018

little dirty toe, dipped in Haiku lake, muddies the waters

I discovered the wonderful world of Haiku in one of my random journeys down the internet rabbit holes. And then, I decided to have some fun on my own. Apologies in advance to any Haiku enthusiasts whose sensibilities I may be disturbing.

The photos are taken in Sikkim and West Bengal over the last few weeks

***

Semi frozen lake
Two ducks searching for their food
Poor frozen asses


***

Monitor lizard
Sits in the sun all day long
Such a lazy bum

***

When wife is angry
Eat your dinner. Fast, fast, fast
Must stay strong for fight

***

You give me nice food
I eat. I poo on your roof.
World not fair, my friend

***

This is so tiresome
Sticking to syllable count
Maybe ignore photo?

***

God hears my prayers
But ignores me nonetheless
As me not good boy

***

Can go on and on
Maybe you getting irritated?
Will stop. Don’t kill me

Tags: , ,
December 15, 2018

[Fiction] Room Service

I don’t know her name. I don’t know anything about her other than that she works in the hotel I’m staying in and brings food and water to my room.

This is not like one of those big corporate hotels I normally stay in the UK when I’m traveling for work. In fact, I’d be surprised if there are more than two dozen rooms here. And at the moment, because it’s off season, even those two dozen are mostly empty.

She’s also anything but like the staff in those hotels. She doesn’t say things like Hello sir, how are you today. Did you have a busy day. I am not sure if she can speak English. She smiles at me though, when she sees me now. A shy, diffident smile, as if she is not sure whether she should be smiling or not, as if she needs some encouragement (in terms of me smiling back). I usually smile back.

She asks whether I need water or not. And once she has served the food she tells me, in her Nepali Hindi accent Abhi khalo, thanda ho jaiga (eat now or the food will get cold), as if she is my mother. I find it kind of endearing. I feel like speaking a bit more with her but I don’t know what to say other than my customary thanks.

When I switch off the lights in my room at night and remove the curtains, I can see the pinpricks of light on the distant mountain ranges. Some yellow and some white. The concentration is higher in the lower slopes (may be the bigger towns or villages) and dwindles as you go up till it’s just one or two isolated lights twinkling near the top, surrounded by darkness, like stars. You know they are not stars because if you strain your eyes, you can see the dark outline of the mountain against the dark background of the sky.

I wonder what she is doing now. Maybe she lives in the hotel somewhere and is alone in her bed like me, probably in a room on the ground floor, a room without a view. Or maybe she lives somewhere else, with her family, perhaps a husband and a child, sitting together in front of the television now. I wonder about her just as I wonder about those lights on the distant mountain. And just as I will never find out anything more about the lights, I will never find out anything more about her.

I am leavin Gangtok quite early tomorrow morning. I don’t think I will come across her before I leave. I might leave a tip for her with the manager. And a review about the hotel on TripAdvisor. Something about nice views and friendly room service..

Tags: , ,
%d bloggers like this: