Sunday, 26 August 2007


The sun had risen and birds were squawking their larynxes hoarse, flapping around, leaving little whiplashed slipstreams of air in their wake and generally disturbing the peace as far as Reverend Waker was concerned.

"Whatever happened to the sweet-sounding birds of yore?" he wondered aloud. "The ones that chirped and sang such bittersweet harmonies. Such gentle and graceful creatures they were. They seem to have disappeared altogether. The skies are filled with winged monstrosities now, blowhorning things out of their way in fits of flight-rage. Birds nowadays are perennially angry and violent."

Sol, who had been sitting beside the reverend in a solemn reverie, now looked up at the birds in silence. Angus had been painting the horizon quietly and with intense concentration. He now kept his easel aside and uttered knowingly, "It is a bio-evolutionary reaction, sir. We learnt this in our BASTARDISE classes."

"What did you say?" asked the reverend, turning the shade of a particularly ripe nectarine.

"Biological Adaptation, Structural Transition And Responsive Development In Species' Evolution. The name's too long, so we use the acronym. Why? Is there something wrong in shortening nomenclature? Am I being disrespectful in some way?"

"Er... no. No. But somehow, it didn't sound right. No matter... you may continue."

"Well, we were taught that as the wheel of time turns, certain things must change. There are changes occuring everywhere and in everything. The direction of the wind, the magnetic polarisation of the earth, the seasons and even nature itself is constantly changing. Baron Chickenfeed's Theory is that 'all change occurs for the better as, is proved in eventuality', though, there are a large number of people who are completely opposed to this line of thought. They are called the Pessymists (in ancient Caldubine, the word 'pessym' approximately amounts to fault, but it also means finding dearth in something or seeking a situation which creates the need for an excuse). Now, most living creatures need to be physically prepared for nature. In other words, a creature must be able to survive on earth, and survive comfortably. It must be able to cope with all the natural changes that are thrown at it. Thus, every specie is slowly but surely changing, mutating and adapting to nature so that it can survive and reproduce. All creatures through long bio-evolutionary processes discard what is useless and superfluous in their body and develop certain traits that they require."

"So what, pray tell, does the BA...... er... this subject or theory have to do with birds squawking their lungs out?"

"Well, one only has to look at the history of birds to realise that their constant squawking is a BITCh."

"Look here, young man! I realise that I am a fairly level-headed and liberal sort of priest, but even I cannot permit you to use such obscene language in the presence of your brother. He is just a child!"

"But sir, we were taught about BITChes at University."

"What kind of a University teaches its student such things?"

Angus raised his head to the morning sky with pride, pointed his finger heavenwards and striking an imperious pose, declared, "The best."

"Well in my time, no university taught such things and children uttering such words were given a sound thrashing."

Angus looked puzzledly at Sol. Sol smiled and shrugged his shoulders. He picked up a stone and threw it as far as he could, then got up and dusted his trousers off and said, "Perhaps, in your day, no one knew what a BITCh was. Its quite an important concept, sir, too fundamentally important to science, for us to ignore. It is a basic concept in the study of life."

The master seemed to hesitate. "Um... what is a... er... what does that word mean?"

"A BITCh, sir, is a Biologically Inherited Trait or Characteristic." Sol replied.

"Ahem... Oh... I see."

"It is a concept of far-reaching importance in our understanding of life itself," Angus continued. "You see whatever we are today, physically, emotionally, culturally, socially and morally, is the result of a long string of changes that occured due to our adaptation to the world and our constant struggle to survive. It is believed that man once had hair all over his body and even a fifth finger!"

"Yes, I've heard that. Hah! That's a laughable idea."

"Nonetheless, some historians are sure that these things did exist, and that it was what we call BASTARDISE-ation that changed our bodies to what they are now."

"That's tripe! All creatures were created by the Creator. And they were created as they are now."

"But, sir," offered Sol, "supposing there was a creator and he did create everything, isn't there a chance he could have made mistakes? And having realised these mistakes, maybe he wanted to change the things he created... as a sort of... correction or... repair."

"Nonsense!" bellowed the reverend. "The Creator is perfect, and so are his creations! He's never made a mistake in his life and never will!"

"But, sir," argued Angus, "if you'll let me tell you the history of birds, you'll realise that this theory does make a lot of sense."

"Bah! Go on..."

"Birds were singular creatures, often extremely intelligent, yet very often, extremely stupid. Though most could fly, some were flightless. Some were soft, gentle and vulnerable and drank only the juices and nectar which they obtained from flowers, inflicting the least amount of damage possible, whereas some would bite, strike, hunt, maim and kill prey in order to devour them in a most barbarous and ravenous fashion. However, over the years, birds evolved and became slightly civilised. They became thinking creatures, somewhat like man, but not at the same level. They developed a primitive system of morals. They saw that due to the hunter-prey situation, most non-preying birds were dying out, so the weaker birds formed a sort of union and revolted against the stronger ones. The weaker birds decided, that each of them will constantly keep a vigil for the preying birds. If they saw a preying bird they would instantly scream, warning the others of approaching danger. This has led to a number of problems. Apart from the incessant noise that results from this, there's also the fact that most birds don't have very sharp eyes. So one of them may think that there is a preying bird lurking around nearby and scream, thus causing much mass hysteria, when really, it may have been nothing but a distant zeppelin, floating around, minding its own business. Mass paranoia has engulfed the world of birds. There voices have subsequently evolved into shrill screams so that they can be heard even at a distance. There were some birds which had such weak hearts that a sudden loud sound would actually kill them. Those birds have now become extinct, for obvious reasons. So here we have an excellent illustration of BASTARDISE-ation."

"This is all poppycock!" The reverend was livid and fuming with rage. His eyes were bloodshot and were about to burst out, and his fists were clenched so tightly that they were turning purple. "I cannot stand this blasphemy!"

"But, sir," Angus continued, calmly, "It really is quite a beautiful concept. It makes you think about life and humanity in a different perspective. It tells you that we are all equal and that we are all brothers in a way."

"Yes," said Sol, joyfully, "The same BASTARD exists in each and very one of us. We are all products of BASTARDISE-ation, and therefore, we are all one."

"Stop this, I tell you!"

"Why," Angus said, "just the thought of all of us sharing the sames BITChes gives me goose pimples! Every single BITCh we have is something we share with all of humanity. Isn't it wonderful?"

"Stop! I order you to stop!" The reverend clamped his hands over his ears and seemed as though he were in physical agony. But, Angus and Sol were so immersed in the topic that they couldn't even hear him.

"It is spectacular!" screamed Sol. "Just imagine how deep this theory really goes! It defines so many things. Everything we have in our bodies is a BITCh! Everything we have now is a result of BITChes our ancestors had! Our progeny and their progeny and all our successors will have new and improved BITChes! Our BITChes unify us all! Our BITChes are our link to the past and our step into the future! They are our inheritence and define our place in the world! They will be our legacy once we are gone. Everything that we are or will be shall be defined by BITChes. BITChes are our identity! In fact, going strictly by the definition, every non-artificial thing given to us by our ancestors and our parents, is a BITCh! Our parents gave us our very lives! Therefore..."

Both Angus and Sol shouted gleefully in unison, "Life is a BITCh!"

gggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!" the reverend screamed. The scream was so loud that it even startled the birds in the sky, who were generally used to constant loud noises. His scream echoed into the horizon and then there was sudden silence.

"This is unbelievable!" growled the reverend. "They teach children heresy in school! It is the reign of the destroyer! The evil one is upon us and he will destroy everything that is sacred and holy!"

The reverend's head now looked like an unusually large tomato and it was throbbing like a plate of disturbed jello. He tore fistfulls of hair as he shrieked and saliva blubbered out of his mouth. He looked like a raving lunatic.

"I will not have this!" he spluttered. "This has to end! I'm going to burn the University down! I'm going to destroy the books and kill the teachers that put such evil ideas in your head! Oh Lord! Save us! Apocalypse is on us. You boys will never go to that University again! It is the seat of all evil! It teaches you that the Creator made mistakes? That is a lie! That is blasphemy!"

"But, sir," Sol said timidly, "isn't it possible that...?"

"NO! It isn't! The lord, our Creator makes no mistakes! He is the nameless ideal! He can do no wrong! You hear me?"

"In that case, sir" said Angus, calmly (though, a touch annoyed), "How do you explain what you call the devil or the destroyer? He tries to destroy and corrupt everything that the creator has made, by your own admission. Wouldn't you say creating him was a bit of a boo-boo on the creator's part? Or is he just sadistic and wants to destroy everything and make everyone suffer for the simple joy of it?"


Suddenly, there were numerous sparks all over the reverend's body and he, inexplicably, burst into flames. He uttered a horrific scream, and in an instant, he disappeared.

There was a silent pause for a moment and then everything went back to normal. The birds started squawking again, the wind started blowing again, the trees started rustling again. Everything was back as it had been. It was as if nothing had happened.

Only Sol and Angus remained rooted to where they had been standing. They stared at the spot where the reverend had been sitting. There was no trace of him now. Not even a speck of ash.

"What was that?" asked Sol, after a long silence.

"I've heard of this," Angus replied. "Master Wu Li Zentao had told me about this. It is called Spontaneous Combustion. No one has ever been able to explain it."

"Really? Master Wu Li actually axplained it to you?"

"No. He just randomly said 'Spontaneous Combustion' one day and I went to the library and read about it."

"What shall we do now?" asked Sol.

"We shall go back and pretend this never happened." replied Angus.

As they walked away, Sol asked, "But what do you think happened? There has to be some rationale behind this. There has to be. Right?"

"Well," Angus replied, "I think the creator realised he had made a mistake. So he erased it."

Saturday, 25 August 2007


If you were to follow the river Hoogliffey from where it falls into the Oceanbay Sea to the Gotrigan glacier, where it is born, high, very high up in the mighty Mount Ane, somewhere in between, you would come across a big city called Caldub. Caldub is a bustling, cosmopolitan metropolis where many thousands of people live and work. It has tall skyscrapers, massive palaces, castles and forts, huge parks, green gardens, numerous schools, theatres, restaurants, museums, cars, buses, trains, trams, people and animals. It has everything you would expect a big, important city to have. In fact, it even has large wooded areas around it. The river Hoogliffey flows past the South-Western edge of the city and across the river, surrounded by lush, green wooded areas and quite detached from the city, lies the great Caldub University. It is renowned all over the known world for the immensity of its grounds and for its history of spawning great minds in just about every field of any importance. The University grounds are indeed vast, containing large wooded areas, numerous playing fields, parks, gardens, big buildings of both Gothic and modern strains, academic blocks, hostels, libraries, galleries, museums, gymnasiums, residential blocks and stadiums. In fact, there is a building of particular importance in the premises and that is called the Mystic Lotus Hall of Assembly.

And here, at this very moment, in fact, there is a huge gathering of young men and women. It is the first day of the academic year and the new batch of students are being welcomed by senior students and teachers alike. Hundreds of students have filled the hall and there is scarcely any place to move. We see a multitude of faces talking to each other, some laughing, smiling, some worried, some scared, some annoyed, angry. It is quite a gathering here. Let us close in on two young men. Though eavesdropping is indeed a bad habit, we shall listen in to what they are saying, simply because if we were to stand around doing nothing, our journey would end right here. So here we see two young men, both of similar height and build. One has dark hair combed back neatly, a pair of sharp and alert eyes, which seem to be looking for something or someone, a sharp nose and thin lips. He walks purposefully, seemingly preoccupied and ostensibly quite hassled. The other has quite a striking shock of white hair, peculiar for his age. He has softer features, is quite fair and has a pair of bright blue eyes and a thin white goatee on his chin. He seems just the opposite of his companion. He walks with a swagger, perhaps hardly aware that he is walking, and has a constant smile stuck on his face. The white-haired boy speaks first:
"An' whar is yer bonny bruthar, Angus meladdy?"
"If I knew where he was, I wouldn't be searching for him, would I? This blasted crowd isn't letting me move and that boy's nowhere to be seen."
"Ye means, ye cannae find yer own bruthar? Ha! Angus, soul o'mine, yer such a loose-buttoned ol' toot, ah tells ye."
"Oh keep quiet, O'Leander. My brother is about average height and has just about no distinguishing features at all. He's not the type who'd stand out in a crowd, you know."
"Well, tell us wha' 'e looks like, then. Ah shall busy me baiby blues to locate yer darlin' li'l cubling."
"I just told you. He's about average height and build. He has fair hair, brownish I'd say. He has deep brown eyes. His nose is like mine. And you'd better keep your eyes open because you almost knocked that poor child over, O'Leander you stupid simian!"
O'Leander turns to the girl in question and makes a gesture of apology.
"Ah'm sorry, luv. Didn't mean tae push ye like tha'. Nae 'arm dun, eh? Nuthin' broken ah 'ope?"
The girl, a little disoriented, manages to smile and shake her head graciously.
"Good gurl. 's okay, she'll live. Let's move on."
"You really ought to look where you're going O'Leander. That girl was scared out of a year's growth back there."
"Fergit aboot tha'. Angus, ol' dear chummy, ah 'ave tae ask ye a qustion."
"Wha' does ye think o' this 'ere new Club summa the guys back in the 'ostel 'ave started, eh?"
"Do you mean the Requiem Club?"
"Yea, ah does mean the requiem club. Wha' does ye think. Ye fancy joinin' it?"
"It sounds interesting, if not a little a morbid."
"Yea, bu' wha' is life, ah says, if i' ain't go' a li'l morbidity, a li'l macabreness, a li'l moroseness, eh?"
"Hmmm... I'll have to think about it."
"Oh cam aun, Angus fella-mehearty! It'll be murderous fun! An' thar'll be loads o' pretty li'l ninotchkas joinin' too."
"Ah! So that's why you want so badly to join, eh? Well, I have my doubts about any 'pretty little ninotchkas' joining, but the club itself sounds like an interesting idea. I'm pretty sure its not going to be too easy for us to join, though. There will be some sort of criteria for membership. They won't just let anyone in, you know? I'm sure there will be interviews or initiations or the like."
"Nae, me pal, heart o' me hearts, there ain't. None fer us, at least. Ye see, yesterday, this boy comes up tae me an' asks me whether ah'm interested in joinin' this 'ere Requiem Club. S' ah says to 'im, ah says 'sounds good bu' ah'll have tae ask Angus, me buddy, an' ye'd bluddy well wait until ah've asked 'im'. S' then, this blighter, 'e asks me, 'oo is this 'ere Angus? An' ah says, 'Ye don't ken Angus? Angus Telum? The luvliest person on this 'ere planet, an' a great pal o' mine, too. You can rest assured, tha' if 'e ain't joinin' then I ain't joinin', either.' S' this fella is just waitin' fer me word, an' ah'm waitin' fer yers, see?"
"A likely story, O'Leander. I bet it was the other way around."
"S' wha'? S' wha' if i' was? Oh, awright! I' wis Stamford 'oo came tae me an' wis askin' fer ye. An' ah says ah don't rightly ken yer whereaboots, bu' ah could readily pass on a message. S' 'e says tae me tha' ah should ask ye whether ye are interested in joinin' the club. An' ah asks 'im if ah could join too. An' he looks hesitant, an' ah says tha' ye wouldn't join if ah couldn't. S' 'e says awright, then. S' wha' does ye say. Shall ah give 'im the nod, eh?"
"Very shrewd, O'Leander."
"Yea or nae. Jus' give me the word."
"Listen O'Leander, don't pester me. I'm a little preoccupied right now. I'm in no postion to make any decisions. Why don't you decide and do what you think is right?"
"Awright, then. Ah decide tha' we shall join. Ye an' ah are goin' tae be members an' when an' if we find yer bruthar, we shall ask 'im too. Jolly good gumdrops, then!"
"Whatever you say, O'Leander."
And saying this, Angus walks away from O'Leander weaving his way through the crowd. O'Leander stays rooted to the spot, not bothering to move and shouts out to Angus: "S' ah'll tell 'im?"
A boy pushes his way through the crowd and comes to O'Leander and says, "Yes?"
O'Leander looks at the boy, puzzledly.
"Ah beg yer pardon?"
"You just called me."
"Nae, ah didnae call ye."
"But, you just called my name."
"Ah, don't even knae yer bally name, child."
"Oh, all right. Sorry then."
And he turns to leave.
"Nae, wait a minnit! Come back."
The boy retraces his steps.
"Wha's yer name, boy?"
"Sol. Sol Telum."
"Well, bustlin' babelfish! Ye is Angus's bruthar, ain't ye? Yer bruthar is scourin' the whole bluddy 'all lookin' fer ye, an' 'ere ye is. Crikey! You two 'ave the same nose! Thar was sumthin' in yer face looked like good ol' Angus. Why ah called ye back. Wha' a bloomin' coincidence! Wha' a luvly twist o' fate, eh? Ah'm so winnied ah'm afraid ah'll bust ou' o' me shirt!"
"Do you know Angus, then?"
"Ken 'im? 'e is practically me bruthar. Tha' makes us bruthars too, righ'? C'm'ere, bruthar mehearty, soul o' mine."
And he crushes Sol in a tight bear hug. For a moment Sol can't breathe. Then when O'Leander let's him go, he takes a deep breath, and the blood that has rushed to his head starts to disperse. O'Leander stretches out a hand to him.
"Me naim's O'Leander. Wight Rhett O'Leander."
Sol shakes the outstretched hand and immediately realises his grave mistake as it closes in on his, in a crunching grasp, so that he can feel each and every bone in his hand breaking simultaneously. After a few seconds of vigorous shaking, O'Leander lets his hand go and says, "Listen, we'd better find yer bruthar. 'e's 'assled as burnin' 'ell tryin' tae locate ye. 'e wen' this way. Follow me."
He proceeds to push everyone out of his way, much to their annoyance, laughing and saying, "Ah get i'! Ah says, 'S' ah'll tell 'im?' an' ye 'eard me say 'Sol Telum'! Ha! Ha! Ha! This is 'ilarious! Ah says, 'S' ah'll tell 'im' an' 'e thinks ah says 'is name! S' ah'll tell 'im an' Sol Telum! S' ah'll tell 'im an' Sol Telum! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!"
And Sol follows him giving apologetic looks to everyone.
"S' Sol, soul o' mine, does ye fancy joinin' a real secret, mysterious, morbid, macabre, morose club?"

Wednesday, 6 June 2007


limbs awaken
the momentary chill
shivers through lithe digits
the perils of gravity and lightness
lost as light is submerged in vaporous breaths


velveteen shadows ride through the
rippled reflections of white moonlight
filtered through the filigreed branches

there is movement in the void

eyes are
watching you

twinkling like the stars that you can't see

your scent fills their lungs
your image fills their eyes
tonight they have come after


Saturday, 2 June 2007


The aeroplane/airplane started losing altitude exactly 4 hours and 20 minutes after departure, making my stomach churn ever so slightly. This made me a little queasy… Heh! As if I wasn’t feeling uneasy already. The clarity of the blue sky disappeared as we descended into the gathering mass of clouds and the plane began to rumble a little as we sank into the murky fog of the nearest cumulonimbus which was shaped, unsettlingly, like a particularly brilliant mushroom cloud… the kind that made Oppenheimer quote the Gita. My head was, quite literally, in the clouds… and it was not a good feeling. As the plane broke out of the clouds, the view was spectacular. The ground was a crucible of multicoloured barrenness – white, yellow, brown, ochre, amber, red, orange, grey. Miles and miles of desert extended as far as the eye could survey. Then as we got closer to ground, specks of black came into view… little blots on the desolate horizon. Squinting and straining my eyes, I realised what they were. Huge steel constructs, massive iron-clad monsters, luminous metallic giants bobbing up and down with robotic precision. Oil wells, like gigantic, mindless zombies sucking black milk out of the earth’s bosom. Watch me smile.

So we landed and we walked out of the plane into an air-conditioned promenade which led to the airport. The airport was fancy - all marble, glass, neon and light. My first few steps into the airport and there were hot women everywhere. After collecting our baggage and documents we walked on, my mother and grandmother looking for my father, while I looked at the women as surreptitiously as possible. My father was waiting of course, and there was a quick exchange of greetings and embraces and then we were off.

Kuwait is a curious mixture of the west and the (middle) east. The roads are huge and well laid out, just like those of any American or European city. Traffic moves very fast here and the cars are fancy. Hummers, Porsches, Ferraris, Mercedeses, BMWs, Audis, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins, you name it, they’ve got it. There are skyscrapers and high-rises, there are humongous shopping malls and perhaps every major fast-food chain in the world. But there are local market places too, and small hookah shops and burqa-clad women and dishdasha-clad men, and grand mosques with elaborate facades and intricately carved walls with rich inlay work, and eating joints peddling the rich local flavour. There are green patches too, though they are rare. There are small areas here and there, along the coast mostly, where some landscaping has been done. The grass needs to be watered all the time and therefore, the sprinklers are always on.

There are all kinds of people here. The local Kuwaitis are actually a minority; they are severely outnumbered by the expatriates. Apart from the innumerable Indians, there is a huge number of Philippinos, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, a host of people from the Arabic countries including Egyptians, Lebanese and Syrians, not to mention Europeans, Americans and Africans. The local Kuwaitis are the ones with the money and the power. They invest and govern. The dirty work is done by everyone else.

The thing that struck me as I first entered the city was the lack of people. As an Indian, I am used to seeing people a large number of people on the roads, everywhere, all the time. But the difference between my country and this place is stark. The streets and pavements are never crowded… but that is perhaps because it is always too hot to be walking around. The heat is oppressive – 45°C in the day and 35°C at night. I am used to temperatures like that… I’ve grown up in Delhi, for God’s sake! But it’s a different sort of eat here. It’s a humid, sweltering, sweaty, drab heat as opposed to the dry, searing heat in Delhi. But that’s quite all right, because ever place is air-conditioned here. Even the cheesiest, seediest, sad little shack will have air-conditioning.

My dad has been showing us around, but really there isn’t much you can do here except eat and shop. And the Kuwaiti people have a monetary system which is quite different from the systems in other countries. The currency consists of Kuwaiti Dinars (called KD) and Fils. 1000 Fils (not 100 Fils) make 1 KD. The denominations are slightly strange too. 20 KD is the highest value note you can get. Then there’s 10 KD, 5 KD, ½ KD and ¼ KD. And then you have coins worth 100 Fils and 50 Fils. It takes a little time to get used to the system.

My days are spent lazing around, sleeping, eating, reading and watching the telly, since it’s too hot to even think about stepping out in the daytime. In the evenings we do step out, but as I said there isn’t much to do, and I hate malls. I live in Gurgaon, the land of malls, and even though the malls here are bigger, better and fancier, the novelty has faded. I am now focussing my energy on eating. I am going to try out every cuisine available here. Just you watch. I am going to come back a bloated rum ball (without the rum).

I finally met Sindhu a couple of days ago. We had coffee and snacks and talked. It was nice to finally meet a friend here. I have been warned by friends back in Pune that if I don’t come back with good booze from the duty free, there will be dire consequences.

In other news, I am tackling Gravity’s Rainbow with renewed vigour.

“What’s that?”
“What’s what?”
“If I knew what’s what I’d be racing turtles in Central High!”
Sometimes Archie Comics can be wonderfully hilarious.

More later.

Friday, 18 May 2007


The city died at 12:53 pm. All that is left now is a slight, sudden fragrance of life. The white palaces speak of unnamed phantoms at midnight, spirits that burst into light at dawn and inflame the air with urgency. As you walk, dust spirals into the air and envelops you in a mist. The city itself is a haze. A gash of a soapy hand across a mirror. The mind recalls certain curious elements of prosperity and fellowship. This card-castle crumbled in one deft movement of a finger. The dead mingle here with natural curiosity. It is in the wasteful pirsuit of happy memories that they gather in loose celebration here. The streets are fading fast from vision. Ruins amass on the shoulders of naked sculptures. The insects are moving away into the light, while the city plunges further into darkness with the burden of death. Death. Death, like the masterful swerve of a baton. Death, like an explosion of birds into the sky. Death, like a spinning, dancing dervish. Death speaks through the trees here, a wonderful, kind language. It speaks of wisdom and life. It speaks of decay. This is a city where you once lived. There is silence and a self-concious restraint in the walls and shattered glass now. This is in your memory. There is a growing gravity. A spreading quicksand. The dead are reclaiming what's their's. I think I will stay here one more night and see what happens.

You Dream

Yesterday you whispered in my ear
amidst falling fragile autumn fire leaves
And laughed with your head on my shoulder
Dancing on smooth blades of grass
Your feet light as the air that left my lips
to the gathering breath in your bosom
tasting you gently in ways that made you smile
and your tongue's soft caress hid
in the touch of your fingers
I smelt your hair and in it
lay the fragrance of the soil
which flowers penetrate
to nestle themselves under the sun's warmth
Your sweat and your tears
In which I glided like a sea turtle
paddling to the safety of your arms
and the familiar island of your body
Your skin soft and smooth against mine
Embraced so that I could hide within you
And there I stayed
till the last star's arc was complete across the sky
and lost unto the final hour
You left while I slept
Wond'ring aloud today
I will reveal that you have
lived only in my senses for such moments
That the earth may never know.


Except for garbled vagaries and morose, disjointed sentences, severely lacking fervour and sincerity, I don't speak. And I don't speak unless spoken to. Unspoken words spill out of the pores of my skin like beads of invisible perspiration and evaporate rapidly filling the air with the ominous unsaid. They float and long for a glance, a touch, a moment. And often these muted syllables from the depth of my recalcitrant soul fall precipitously on deaf ears.

"You have become quite quiet."
"No. Its just that you don't listen to me."
"Well obviously we can't listen to what hasn't been said!"

Shall you have me speak then? My vocal chords are strung like piano strings and my guts are strung like a harp. You shall hear me speak volumes. Just leave me alone right now.


- Can someone please tell me what this is all about?

- Its about a man. A man who lived. A man who awoke in the morning to smell fresh dew on the grass, and parried a little while, before bending down painfully to pick up the newspaper. A man who went to work his shift in a factory, who stood in an assembly line for hours on end using his expertise in the mundane and monotonous. Who cast his sobriety in a bid for sustenance and liesure. Who screwed cogs onto machines moving slowly on a languid conveyor belt, unwittingly becoming a worthy cog himself in the ramshackle construct of urban existence. Who earned a salary and provided for a family which he called his, by picking out 8 hours of his day lovingly and feeding it into the blast furnace. Who came home to a loving, immaculate wife, who kissed him and asked him how his day was, humming merrily in the kitchen making dinner while he spoke, and to his two noisy children, apples of his eyes, whom he sent to school and for piano lessons. Who watched television with a beer in his hand, filling his mind with swiftly moving images which accounted for entertainment in his life. Who paid bills and taxes which sucked him dry but kept his conscience clear and made him in his own eyes an honest and outstanding citizen. Who bought a car, and took a loan, and mortgaged his house, and went to PTA meetings, and voted a for a bright future and watched it all crumble down in the wake of ruthless war-mongers and faceless propaganda-makers. Who clung desperately and assiduosly to a thin, brittle string of patience and solidarity in the hope of retaining a normal, wholesome life of contentment and fulfillment, which would elude him till he breathed his last. Until he would cease to be the man who lived. Until he would be buried under the same grass on which he once started his day. Until he would be mourned and missed by his family and friends. Until he would be a tombstone, his life shortened summarily into a 20-word epitaph. And he would be lost to utter anonimity.

- Golly, that sounds like my father.

- And mine. So we are brothers.

- No, we're not.

- Yes, we are. All men are brothers.

- No, they're not.

- Certainly, they are. We are descended from our father, the conceptual man, the perfect one, the faultless ideal. You and I are his imperfect sons. Our follies and misgivings are fogivable, for although bits of that perfection seeped into all of us, they were mixed and churned into a crucible of sins and falsities. So here we are, in a world of his progeny who are but parts of our own being, and all we can find are differences and points of departure.

- But you and I cannot be brothers.

- Why not? Why do you disagree so fervently?

- Because love is far more important than fraternity.

- I love you, brother. I love you like you were a part of my own being. I care for your cares and rest and well-being. Can you not see that?

- But if we were to brothers, your sister would be my sister.

- Yes. That is true. What of it?

- I love her. She is the love of my love. On a velvet night, with glistening diamond gemstones in the sky, with paintbrush cotton-fed clouds and silver poker-faced moon, I made love to her between smooth satin sheets, all sweaty and wondrous, the delight of a journey through her body like streamlined fingers I entered her gardens of lustrous flowers and insanity. Beauty and lust and dreams and pleasure and wine and water and passion and redemption and blood and life and death and birth and cycles and circles and form and matter and shape and structure and light and darkness and crests and troughs and rhythm and speed and excitement and lethargy and climax and sleep.

- You bastard! You motherfucker! You son of a horned swine! You illegitimate product of the devil's lust. You shit-eater of the lowest gutters. Damnation! Hell-fire! Curses! You son of a dirty whore! I will kill you. No. I will cut your balls off and slice your shaft. Then I will rape your sister and kill your mother in front of your eyes. Then I will eat your flesh as I slice it off bit by bit till there's nothing left of you but blood and bones. Then I will drink your blood and powdergrind your bones and burn them and dance around the fire in madness. I know where your live and I have seen where you sleep. Just you wait, shitfucker. I will send you to the steamiest bowels of hell till even your spirit writhes in agony and terror and begs for mercy and forgiveness. And then I will kill myself and go to hell and go to work on your spirit......

The Burden

He shifted under the oppressive weight of the burdens on his shoulders.

"The burden of desire,

The burden of pain,

The burden of loss,

The burden of gain..."

It should have snowed today. But the post-autumn sky had left nothing but dead leaves and a chill in the air which made all his white hair stand on end. When he walked, the breeze cut through him like a frigid razor-blade and made his eyes water. He blew warmth into his numb hands and rubbed them together to bring them back to life. He hadn't had a morsel to eat since last afternoon when he had found loose change under the park bench. It had been enough to buy him a soup and a newspaper. And he had read about explosions in the London subway, explosions in the Kashmir valley, explosions in Afghanistan, explosions in Madrid's trains, deaths in Biafra, deaths in Iran, deaths on the West Coast of America, deaths in the eastern islands of Asia. And he had walked out of the restaurant and vomited the soup out on the footpath. He had looked around guiltily, at the people walking past him. They had such hatred in their eyes for him. He could have sworn that one of them had called him vagrant under her breath. He had felt a warm tear emerge on his eyelids and trickle down his cheek. On page 12 of the newspaper there was a picture of a child in a famine-stricken village in Sudan. It was nothing but skin and bones, except for its stomach which was swollen up. It was trying to crawl to a food camp so that it could eat. The child couldn't walk for it had no strength to walk. Its boney, spindly legs couldn't stand the burden of its body. With its last breath and last ounce of strength, it tried to crawl to the only thing that could keep it alive. A vulture stood nearby, watching and waiting for the inevitable.

Another teardrop had crawled down his wrinkled cheeks and had fallen on the child's picture as his hands trembled. He had looked at the picture and then at the soup that he had vomited on the footpath. He couldn't bear to think of what he had wasted, and how precious little there was of it in the world. And he had gone hungry for the rest of the day. But the body is a harsh mistress. It craved for food, and his self-imposed penance had not been, he realised, a matter of choice. And that is why he had looked across the road and had frozen inadvertently. A half-eaten sandwich wrapped in shiny aluminium foil lay in a bin. His mouth watered. His head swam. His body hurt because of exhaustion. His stomach growled, craving that sandwich, begging and pkeading him to move, to cross the road and to pick the sandwich up. But he didn't move. He couldn't.

When had his life become a burden? When had it come to a point where his survival was more important than what he believed in, what he stood for? Going hungry for a few days wouldn't kill him. The bread that he had abstained from eating would feed a child who would go to school and grow up to be a great, learned and accomplished man. It would perhaps feed someone who would change the world. Who was he? A vagrant? A tramp? A burden on society which was stuck with the responsibiltiy of keeping him alive because it had spawned him and failed him? An anonymous entity with an existence without purpose? A failure? An object of no requirement, of no use to anyone or anything? He closed his moist eyes and saw the dying child from the picture in the newspaper bending down like Atlas and bearing him on its shoulders. The child had died because of him. He had crushed it with his mere existence. He opened his eyes and looked at the sandwich across the road. And stood frozen once more.

It was gone.

Someone had taken it while he was lost in his thoughts. Someone who really deserved it. Perhaps a poor woman had taken it to feed her starving child, perhaps a starving young man had taken it and was fueling his energy to work for a better future. It did not matter who had taken it. It only mattered that he hadn't and had helped someone more worthy of life, survive another day.

He hadn't noticed that in his initial shock and ensuing joy and relief, he had stepped off the footpath and had walked a considerable distance. And he hadn't noticed that a car had approached him at a great speed, unable to stop in time... And he would not notice much else henceforth. Death can come in many different ways and very unexpectedly, just like an unexpected breeze or drizzle can put out a perfect flame. But death can rid you of all your burdens in a single, silent second of darkness. His death was not silent, but instantaneous.

"The burden of flesh,

The burden of breath,

The burden of birth,

The burdren of death..."

A few kilometres away, a middle-aged man in a pair of jeans and a leather jacket sat on a park-bench. He surveyed the wooded greens and the path that ran through the secluded spot where he sat, through his horn-rimmed spectacles. He was waiting and watching. At a distance he saw a little a girl cycling towards him in a pink bicycle with frilly ribbons on the handbars. She had black, ebony hair, dark eyes, pink lips and soft skin, he could tell. His breath became sharp and harder, his eyes had a glint of lust, like the glint in the eyes of a predator who has sighted prey. Or the glint in the eyes of a vulture waiting for a creature to die so it could devour it. He began to tremble with anticipation. Though, he had eaten in the morning, his mouth watered. But it was a hunger of a different kind. He took the last bite out of a sandwich he had found in a bin. He was fortunate to have found a snack just lying there for him to take for free. He was going to need all the energy it was giving him for what he was going to do. He crumpled the aluminium foil it was wrapped in, and threw it on the grass. The foil lay on the soft green blades, as the man approached the little girl in the little pink bicycle.

"Hello, sweetheart. Are you all alone? Do you want some candy?"

A shiny wrapper gleamed in his palm. The girl's eyes widened. She took the candy bar from the man's hand and smiled.

"Why don't you come for a ride with me? I'll buy you lots of candy."

She nodded. He picked her up and put her on his shoulder. "Wow! You're a big girl, aren't you, sweetheart?"

She giggled.

"Don't worry. I'll take good care of you. I'll show you a good time."

The aluminium foil lay still in the sunshine, like a drop of silver on the green carpet. Until a strong gust of wind blew it away. And then there was only the grass.

It should have snowed today.

"The burden of virtue,

The burden of sin,

The burden of a life,

That kills from within."