Wednesday, December 25, 2013

1513 hrs


Only I know how long it takes. For four years to slip by, day by day, like little grains of sand in some ancient hourglass- every moment caught and lost in its navel.

My stomach clenched. His fingers passed right by. In the one moment that fluttered beneath my skin, an eternity passed between us.

"I can't remember the last time," he said "It has been that long."
I smiled briefly. Another minute, I knew, with practiced patience. Four years and one minute.

The room emptied systematically- plates and people were locked away with little ticks and clicks. The doors shut.

Dessert was offered. A common meal-time courtesy that also served as a prelude to...
The lines were blurred with laughter, the peripheries fell away. It was just us- he and I- in a dimensionless reality. The breath caught in our throats.

An instant, it took- for hair to unfurl, clothes to slide over. That grain of sand took longer to descend, as I drunk in... the breadth of him.
"His wingspan," I corrected myself. I tried to collect it in my arms.

"I need a minute," he said.
He did not take long to tell me "This can happen only this one time".
Each of my hovering questions dissolved one by one in answering pleas in the widening aperture of his eyes. I fell inward. And then, we could See the image of each other.


He had aged just as myself. I followed so close, the footfall of my times linearly aligned to his. This time that had gone by was the same for both of us, in our symmetric geminate lives. I perched upon the hour hand, reading his minutes, knowing that in some roundabout manner he will arrive at the place I'm already at. We met in the middle.

At midnight, the needles align. A second passes and a whole day is born. Similar were our few snatched moments of togetherness; nay, congruence. I understood enough to wait another four, forty, four hundred years. The walkway of our times was marked by the same obscure milestones of smiles and sorrows, humour, vengeance and deceit; other lifetimes ground to its dust.

"I don't know how to explain it" he said.
I smiled. He didn't need to. I understood. His eyes were my looking-glass.

I picked up my bag of stories and, bidding him farewell, walked along our time-path.
Later, or sooner, I know we will pace ourselves to meet again.


The hustle and bustle, the intertwining of so many lives, the traffic of humanity. What was the time?
1513 hrs by my watch. Is that all the time I had spent with him? Even the touch of his hand on my cheek had faded away.
"Have the time of your life," he had said to me. There was so much that I had learned.

1513 hrs, said my watch; the timer on the traffic lights dwindled to single digits; a jet streaked its contrails amid the clouds; I smiled all the way back home.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Ms. Everything [Season 1: Episode 2]

Where's your Death Wish?

Boredom, Boredom, Boredom. Where does a girl go when she wants to have fun- With no money, and worse, no date? Before I joined the university, people had described the place to me as "quaint" and full of "old-world charm". I want to tell them all how full of shit that is. You want to take a vacation? Then sure, Biriyanibad is a great place to go to. But live there for two years? Someone should have a really vehement death wish for that!

Every time I wanted to jump off the half-constructed fifth floor of the hostel complex, which was more often than normal, I would instead flip open the pristine white cover of my smart phone and browse through the Vogue app. My phone was sometimes the only link to the real world. What ever would one do without modern technology?

My weeks are not structured like a regular person's. I have two Mondays to deal with- and they are called Tuesday and Thursday. On a particularly stressful day one week, I stepped into my room to find Big Bird hunched over her laptop.

"Big Bird!" I cried.
"What, you dirty woman?" came the reply.
"I want to die" I whined.
"You could jump off this building, you could eat at the mess for one more night, you could slit your wrists or, if you prefer hanging from the fan, please use the one on your side of the room." offered Big Bird.

But that was not the kind of death I wanted to die. I paused at the door wondering weather I could experience death at the hands of The Aviator more quickly. Or perhaps more slowly. You know, the Shakespearean kind. With the very thought of it killing me, I forced myself to look away and consult my calendar. Tuesday was marked with a thick, red marker- which was not entirely surprising. Tuesday was the day a little blue Smurf made my life miserable with number crunching. Professor Smurf believed in data analysis, the predictability of numbers and springing unpleasant pop-quizzes upon his students. Before each Tuesday, I would tell myself that I would be better prepared to counter his attacks in class and each time, I managed to befuddle myself and fail miserably. This time, however, I was determined to work against the odds and get my quiz score on the right side of the performance distribution curve, quite literally on the right of the X-Axis.

Fifteen minutes of positive affirmations later, I tried to make myself more comfortable in front of my laptop. I truly made an effort to ingest the undecipherable course material on statistics when- the unthinkable happened. My phone chimed with the arrival of a new message. Instantly, the butterflies in my stomach that had been dormant for an entire week began their apocalyptic fluttering. Could it be what I thought it was? There was only one way to find out.

When I checked my phone, I discovered that my elevated blood pressure was quite justified. I had one new message from The Aviator. It read-
Sorry, babe. I've been dog tired. Working 12-hour days every day for the past week. I shoulda called you but I'm off on another flight. Will make it up to ya. 

My heart was hammering. I didn't know what to do. Part of me wanted to whoop with joy and another part of me wanted to throw the phone away in frustration. Overwhelmed, I screamed.

"What is wrong with you?" yelled Big Bird, irritated.
"I don't have a damn clue what this guy is up to!" I said.
"Which guy?" she asked.
"The Aviator!" I said.
Big Bird gave me a you and your men look and went back to writing her assignment. But what was I to do? After holding my silence for an entire week with utmost impatient patience, I received one measly little text message that I couldn't even reply to. Was I to be happy that he finally remembered that I exist? Or was he just another guy who wasn't very into me? I wanted to put a gun to my head that very moment and shoot myself. Life wasn't worth living when a perfect guy was just perfectly unreachable. It was so much worse in my case because I lived in a place where no guy was ever reachable. And I would never drop my standards low enough to even consider the very few men who wandered the campus.
I had been on campus only for three months but it seemed like a lifetime. My other life back in my own city seemed distant and studded with beloved old lovers and urban convenience. Now I had a non-existent sex life, much less a love life and I was dying with sexual frustration. Seriously, you'd think a guy who flies planes for a living would be able to visit me once in a while!

Four hours later, I was still very much lost in thought. In all that time, I had only scrolled a document up and down and let random sets of data run in a blur. It was certain that Professor Smurf would saute my brains for lunch the next day. At quarter to eight in the evening, with four whole units left to cover, I began fearing for my life. I took multiple deep breaths and began going through the theory of statistics, sincerely praying that my mind wouldn't stray again. And just when I thought I'd gotten into the flow, I heard a loud knock on a door outside.

The sound seemed to be coming from across the quadrangle. I ignored it in vain. It was soon followed by a very angry sounding shout. Someone was determined to have a door opened and the girl inside seemed equally determined to keep it shut. I knew immediately that a full blown cat-fight was in progress. Big Bird and I exchanged do-you-know-what-is-happening looks as we tried to continue working.

Soon, more voices began yelling and screaming. It was too much noise for either of us to handle it. Unable to take it any longer, I went out with abuses waiting to escape my throat.
"Will you calm the fuck-" I began to say, but I lost the rest of the sentence to the sight in front of me. A small crowd had gathered in front of the farthest room in the corridor and a couple of those girls were trying to break the door down.
"What the hell is going on here?" said Big Bird who had materialized next to me.
It didn't take us any longer to find out. With the next shoulder-slam, the door broke open. There was the tiniest moment of dead silence. And then the screaming started.


I stayed inside my room and didn't get off my bed no matter what happened outside. I could hear voices of concern, discretion, gossip, inquiry and the police. But I stayed put through it. 
The next day, a newspaper report speculated "relationship issues" leading to a twenty-something girl ending her life by hanging from a fan. The entire thing was completely incongruent to what my mood was a mere sunset ago. What could be the one big thing that was insurmountable? People were... people, after all. They can be spoken to. Sooner or later, they and their phones would have the flight mode turned off eventually. And come to think of it, could men really make you want to die? Is a man's love really that important- so much so that a girl can't love herself at the end of it or even accept the love that her friends give her?

That day, Professor Smurf cancelled what was supposed to be one of his pop-quizzes but The Aviator still hadn't called. And somehow, it didn't matter then. And back in my room, I crawled back into my bed and intended to stay there. But a soft knock on my door told me I couldn't. When I opened the door and let Big Bird in, she seemed a lot less taller than she usually was. She turned around to face me and there was a moment of silence.
"Are you alright?" she asked.
It was then I knew- I was alright. 

Ms. Everything [Season One: Episode 1]

Mindless Metaphors 

It had been a long night. When I finally collapsed into a permissible horizontal position at exactly 2:51 AM, my mind was still charged by being awake for far too long. Lying atop the crumpled sheets, my loud head raced to the thoughts of the only thing that would shut me up. Involuntarily, my fingers dug into the frictionless edges of the pleasantly unfamiliar pillow and I wrapped it around my ears to keep my thoughts from escaping. I had just re-learned the meaning of hunger. The muscle-memory of the newly acquired pragmatism was still too fresh. 

I reached out in the semi-darkness and got hold of a stray tissue, and improvising with a blunt eye-pencil, I wrote:
His eyes were too swift and his movements too subtle. He was blending in, marking his predator territory. He put only one step forward and no more, waiting for the sound of a wet muzzle in the the grass. The doe pattered her hooves in his direction, drawn by the velvet scent of his night soul. He stood like the shadow in the golden haven of pre-dusk light. He knew it would only take a minute. Soon, she would raise her treacherous nose and her doe eyes would meet him. And he would see the Death fade like a twinkle in them.


"Shall I turn off the light?" a voice asked from the other side. 
I nodded. I was too weary to even acknowledge the shuffling of another body that got into bed a moment later. In the darkness of my mind, I had already raised my nose to meet the gaze of a pair of very hungry eyes. The moment to be ripped apart was not far. Meanwhile, The Aviator was operating on a different scale of time altogether. He took flight a full second before I had anticipated. I ducked and spun two arms' length away just in time. His jaw snapped angrily. 

"What's the matter?" I said, "You thought hunting was that easy?"
"And you think I cannot give chase, do you, my deer girl?" he asked. 

So it had begun. A prelude, a chase- in a pattern devised by the ancient rules of survival. The hunter had to eat, and the doe had to be eaten. There would be the swift, liquid motion of frantic limbs; the one precise action of a pounce. There would be much shredding of skin and flesh, and his claws would leave the scars of his triumph on my body. The beautiful brown skin would always bear the marks of true hunger. 

I felt a breath on my shoulder and slowly turned to displace the soft tickle of it. 
"God, it sucks to pull an all-nighter!" Ms. Newton groaned beside me. My cat-loving nerd friend had just helped me study for an exam due to happen the following day. She had also offered to share her congested single bed with me, her pupil- without putting the stuffed cat out, of course. 
"I am so hungry!" she continued as she tossed uncomfortably. Her elbow sunk into the foreign texture of a sheet of paper below her, stopping her short of her complaints. 
"Are we sleeping on my fucking notes?!" she cried, alarmed. 
Lights were turned on and the crime scene was cleared. As I lifted my weary body off the bed, Ms. Newton shot a none-too-subtle glare at me. 
"I'll go back to my room" I said, and gathered all my things. The banality of my ever-vivid imagination stopped short at nothing to make me miserable. As I walked out of Ms. Newton's room, I couldn't help but wonder why all the excitement in my life happened on the surface of the wrong kind of sheets. 

Ms. Everything [Season One: Pilot]

Meet Ms. Everything. For purposes of convenience, we'll call her Eva (like the Españoles do). Not because she's an olive-skinned beauty, but because she's as brown as any South Indian Tam-Brahm girl can get and she's the alpha of all bitches *snap*. Her life is a glossy magazine to the onlooker but only she knows the frustrations of living on a student allowance. Despite her noble pursuits of intellect, she just wishes she could quit her Master's degree, use her perfectly employable Bachelor's degree and Fendi for herself, already!

A dozen potential suitors queuing up their conversations to be replied on her mail-box, IM, Facebook and WhatsApp regardless, Eva remains single by self-inflicted choice and maintains unnaturally high standards that can only be satisfied by men who are as fictitious as sky-high towers of Mills and Boon volumes in second-hand bookshops. But tall, dark and almost handsome men do exist in some proportion in the horizon of frivolous romantic escapades, always beckoning but never making that last flight into the world of togetherness. The number of commitment phobic fuckwits only add to the all-fart-no-poop predicament of her constipated expectations. Two ex-boyfriends and innumerable mostly-one-time flings later, Eva is yet to find her own version of Carrie Bradshaw's Mr. Big, who is also, preferably, Mr. Too Big. 

One such young not-so-gentleman (let us call him The Aviator) with a sizeable bulge in both dorsal and ventral pockets currently exists in her life. Well, "exist" may be too tangible a word at the moment. But let us just say that he lives in her phone and pops up to say hello every time he has a rush of testosterone. Come to think of it, that is not a very favorable situation for Eva now, is it? Nonetheless, she suddenly feels as if standards have been set for HER. What is the meaning of Eva not being able to meet the standards of a strong member of the weak-in-the-knees sex? Even with her self-esteem in a limbo, she will limbo lower. 'Cuz bitches be that flexible. 

Our story begins with The Aviator denying runway clearance to Eva's Flight of Fantasy and her room-mate in her hole of a Ladies' Hostel unwilling to discuss this situation in reasonable octaves of Girl-talk. Being of the proportions of Big Bird from Sesame Street, this big bird of a room-mate prefers to live in the ideal world of childhood innocence and constantly lectures Eva about how she should engage in self-improvement and learn to love herself instead of obsessing about love and engagement rings.

A motley crew of mostly straight but all sexually frustrated women in the Ladies' Hostel are Eva's emotional and intellectual stuffed toys to keep her sane in her dreams at night. How could any girl ever exist without her band of sighing and cooing pajama buddies, ready to give her boosts of optimism every now and then, anyway?

To Eva's dismay, however, her life isn't about sexy men, a glamorous career, cocktails with the girls and designer hand-bags at all. While this avid re-reader of The Confessions of a Shopaholic series and Swearing-by-Carrie Sex and the City maniac lives in a world of her strong, independent and successful woman fantasy, she is constantly haunted by dead-lines, eat-out budgeting, ex-boyfriend pacification and long caffeinated nights with frizzy pillow hair. Sometimes, her perfectly chick-lit-on-paper life should just be un-leafed and made kites out of. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Ms. Everything [The Premise]

The investment for the business of writing can also get expensive depending upon the fanciness of the brand of coffee you prefer. But when you have drunk enough coffee over most of your career as a writer and have produced nothing, you know it's time to sit your ass down and bloody well get started. 

What does it take to be a good writer? While I can write poetry that punches the reader right in the face, why is it that I cannot sustain prose? I write chapter after chapter, only to mire my way into a dead-end. Death of the plot. Period. 

Then again, I have these periods of rejuvenation. A kick-start after the intellectual hibernation during PMS and I embark on a totally unrelated, fresh project. Today marks the beginning of such a totally new unrelated project. 

There I was, drinking my post-dinner, stay-up-till-midnight, six-bucks-a-cup of coffee when I had this epiphany. Of course I can not write prose chapter-by-chapter! I have to write it episode-by-episode. The answer was right there- Carrie Bradshaw's voice in my head. Season after season, Carrie Bradshaw sat down and addressed those nagging concerns that haunt every woman. The wisdom of it all was right there in black and white, being typed across the screen of her turn-of-the-millennium laptop. Each episode blended seamlessly into the lives of millions of worshipers of her column. 

We're going to be A-Okay. Enough with the morose metaphor making. Enough with the attempts to write serious, literary fiction. Ms. Everything is going to be a novelist. And she's going to write her novel in episodes.  This is the power of Caffeine! This is the era of Post-Ovulation Frustration. The reaction to No Action. 

Fasten your seat-belts, ladies. We're going to have them men changing their gears for us. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Whore Prose

I live the lie of language.

I am no woman- for a "woman" has a man inside her. 
I am a bitch. And a bitch has every man inside her. 

I am all consuming, devouring the universe whole. How many generations did it take for me to perfect this? How many of my mothers were fucked for me to learn that creation and recreation were the same? How many coats of mascara will make my lashes look deceptively coquettish over the face of lust?

You think I embody innocence. You think you can rest your head at my breast and find your solace. You think you can come inside me with that monumental shudder and I will simply arch back and gasp, my eyes wide with awe. You think you're special when I smile for you. You think my outstretched arm expects you to grasp it. You think I'm fragile and need to be held. 

You think I want your love

See that ruby blush frozen on my cheeks? See those diamanté lips? See my scarlet dress glimmering in the spotlight? That is not my body's adornment for you- that is the igneous crust I wear; the aftermath of my primordial outburst of lava, blasting apart my core. I am the cold face of granite. My heart is pretty and wonderful to hold but it will never beat for you. 

I am a bitch. I will always have six inches at my heel every step of the way. They will be trampled upon before they snap. And you- you're just another one of them.

I lead you on, oh yes, I do. I tell you lies, I tongue stories into every pore of your skin. I give you what were once my dreams. And you think they're real. But of course, I took the time to make it far, far better than the last time. I'm an excellent story-teller and you're a sucker for them, so why not make the best of it?

You will never learn the difference between the climax and the plot twist. You will come again, like you always do. And I will tell you another seven-minute story. Only bed-time exists while sleep eludes forever. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Letters to a Book-lover, 5 September, 2013


Dear Book-lover,

I have not seen you before but deep inside, I know who you are. I know what you're doing when you're standing at that book-shelf, peering at the gentle bumps of the spines. When you stretch out your arm, I wonder which book it will eventually touch. As your fingers approach the books, my body tingles with anticipation.

Top shelf, right hand corner. You're almost there. But in one fluid movement, your arm drops. My eyes, I'm afraid, were not where yours were. And out you pull a blue hard-back. I know which one it is. My breath catches in my throat audibly. You look up but I look away, hurriedly.

Stay cool, I tell myself, pretend to look at these books.
I run my hand across the shelf I'm at. I don't know which one to pick. I pull out an old volume at random. "Gitanjali" it says, translated by William Radice. I look out from the corner of my eye- you're still there; you're still turned towards me. I have no choice but to open the book in hand.

Are you still looking at me?
Will you take that book?
Will you fall in love with the people in it the way I did?
Will you be gentle and not judge them?

I read what I'm looking at. My heart is hammering.
My head is filled with the vision of you and my eyes begin to drink these words-

"Tear me, oh tear me-
    there isn't much time.
That I might fall, be shed to the dust-
    fear of this starts to climb.
I know not if in your garland
    this flower will find a seat;
But let at least the wounds you inflict 
    be in its fate."

I can feel my blood singing it to you. I want you to hear it. I want to say to you-

"Tear me, oh tear me
    before it's too late."

I look up. But you're gone.

Until I see you again,



Thursday, August 29, 2013

Letters to a Book-lover, 29 August, 2013


Dear Book-lover,

I have remained inactive for over forty-eight hours now. I behave either like a vegetable- a curly lady-finger, if you may- sleeping and letting my thoughts flow into my pillow, or like a zombie- walking around with a frozen smile on my face, feeding myself or taking a shower.

I was lying in bed just now, hair on face. The smell of last night's shampoo was half-way out. There was an unnatural silence. Surely, there had to be some background noise in a large, crowded ladies' hostel? But I told myself that I must not bother, and I must go back to sleep. I was just not ready to be awake. It was my time to rest.

But no matter how much I tried to sleep, I would wake up and look at my clock, only to find that I had passed about 6 or 7 minutes in REM slumber. Semi-dreams floated past my eyes, punctuated by a hunger beyond the hours of breakfast. And then something inside me panicked. I sat up, heart-quickening. I could almost tell what I needed to escape my state of mournful slumber but it seemed to be just beyond my reach.

My gut lurched with anxiety. This time, I did not want to drown the over-whelming feeling of stress with another "quick nap". This was good stress. It was a happy kind of urge... And when I closed my eyes, I could remember the smells and sounds and pictures.

We are walking down an aisle of book-shelves. The over-tall tower of books seem to converge at the head like an arch above us. I can hear the whisper of the pages. Our noses curve upward, following the scent of an exotic promise... The scent of an old book, yellow with olden gold. I know which one it is but I cannot reach it high up there. 

I look up at you with longing in my eyes. I feel so little next to you that it looks to me that you may be as tall as those beloved book-shelves. Our eyes meet and yours crinkle with knowing. 
Your hand leaves mine, and I feel a temporary vacuum. A breeze of temptation occupies it a second later. I can see your veined fore-arm reaching for that cracked spine. 

I don't know for how long we held that book in our hands. But I am now cradling it in my arms. I shall read it again. This time, I cannot tell you how the pages bleed and under which dog-ear I left my heart.
This time, you are not here. Only your affricate name leaves my lips.

Your laterally approximated,