Thursday, October 24, 2013

Aslan in Udyog Bhawan

On the dry scorcher of a Sunday afternoon, I came across Aslan near Udyog Bhawan Metro Station. 

Dusty July roads were yet to be dampened by the scanty rains that the Capital earned and stray leaves flitted around in an occasional dry breeze. Metro and its surroundings were devoid of commuters with all offices closed shut. Green sentry boxes by bungalow gates were empty, their dopey occupants lying in front of the whizzing large coolers inside.  Monkeys dozed away on the trees, waiting for the sun to go down. 

Standing outside the metro waiting for a rickshaw on that desolate day, I found him walking across with none of the grace that his picture in my mind carried. Apart from that, he was still the same Aslan, huge with the gilded skin. 

Afternoon,” he said with a frigid sadness, the voice still sinewy. “I wish it had been a good one,” he added and licked few tiny blobs of blood on his legs.  Dogs...” he paused and continued after cleaning the bare wounds for a while that looked like ugly tattoo patches on his perfect skin, “those infernal street dogs.”

He curled himself down on the exit of the Metro where the excess treated cold air from down below bunked out. When the silence started getting a bit awkward, I asked, “Don’t they get scared?” He looked at me for a while and replied, “No. They probably think I’m a plump calf.” Raising himself up, he said, maybe to himself, “got to leave before the monkeys get down”. 

He walked away in the evening sun, the leaves and the dust.

Image courtesy:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Tribute to the Dolphin Hotel of my Life

I woke up in the morning to find myself staring at a door that was wide open. It quietly rocked in the sea wind from an open window above my bed. There was a dull creeping sensation all over from a couple of red ants that were everywhere in the bed, their ruby selves visibly moving about in the worn out but well laundered white sheet. The fan above struggled in circles and I was sweating from the humid air inside. 

For a while, I did nothing and kept staring at the door. I didn’t remember closing it but I might have done it nevertheless. Shifting my glance to the grimy coffee table beside the door, I found almost all the contents from yesterday night as I’d left them. The old laptop, a small steel flask, two oddly twisted paper cups, a book on law of contracts and the huge bronze keychain with the room keys. Nothing had been taken. If someone had broken in, he had quietly contemplated the picture inside and left. 

I clambered out of the bed and stepped to the corridor outside. It was deserted as always. The walls had been painted light green and the mild odor of fresh paint lingered in the trapped air. Shivering, I stepped back and closed the door shut. It was 4 in the afternoon and I’d missed another day in my life. 

This was the dolphin hotel that I had. 

It had no one but a senile receptionist who kept staring at an old 14” TV set. He handed me the keys when I walked in, which was, almost always in the midnight. I would take a late train to Thalassery and walk all the way through the dark rain soaked roads to the lodge, the lights from the occasional cars and trucks guiding me to it. He’d always be there, slightly twisting his mouth into a cursory smile acknowledging my familiarly and hand me the keys of a random room. I’d always ask whether it was to the direction of the sea and he’d nod. 

I’d seldom seen any other occupants, though there would be occasional dust bins with trash placed outside some doors indicating the presence of occupants within. Once I came across a scruffy foreigner with a backpack on the stairs and we both eyed each other speculatively while we crossed.

One sleepless humid night, I took a scrap of paper and wrote “This is the Dolphin hotel. Don’t let appearances fool you. Open your door in the midnight and walk out to the old Dolphin hotel. Do not be scared when you find the sheep man waiting in the end of your corridor.”

I tore off the portion, folded it and placed it carefully inside after removing a draw from the shelf. I replaced the draw and slept imagining nothing. 


Dolphin Hotel and the sheep man © Haruki Murakami and Vintage Books International
Image courtesy

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Thought Pilfering Woman

She always slept with an arm behind her head. And mouth slightly open. In a naively ugly way. With that sight, I would pull down the shutters, close the door quietly and leave. Every time I left that scene, I would go and stand by the kitchen window with the kids playing in the park two stories below. I would stare at them blankly for a while. It was like a routine.

There was nothing to think about her. It was as if she sucked out all thoughts from your mind. Her twisted shape sleeping soundly with the hand behind the head, operating that silent apparatus that pilfered your thoughts. And thoroughly unsettled, I would stand by the window and stare. Day after day. I felt neither love nor hatred because none of those feelings endured her presence. The stray thoughts that I forced into my mind would reverberate and die in the hollow nothingness within. This would quieten me which would annoy her. And she would start arguing. Not a passionate argument. An argument which spewed a kind of cold annoyance. 

Standing outside one night, I turned the flashlight towards the sky. It sent a straight beam into the night sky and faded into the dark abyss above. I switched the beam on and off like an SOS message. She kept straightening out the clothes on the line occasionally glowering at me. 

Grill on one Hinge

 “She might be staying here with me for a day or two.” he said, impelled by a hollow curiosity.

A second’s pause or a normal interval and she replied, “Good… better when I’m not there”. 

         That was all they talked about Ann’s plan to stay with him while she was away, a few thousand kilometers separating them. He found her response cryptic. 

What was “better”? Was she assuming that we would be making out?
Maybe she wasn’t even thinking anything. Or she was just trying to be the quintessential being teeming with mystery. 

         They drifted from one monotonous topic to the other. The boredom was distinct but they struggled on like the long journey through a sombre one-way passage to some exit. It was the strange exchange of a statement for a monosyllable. 

“I guess the grill is still hanging on one hinge.” “Yes”.
“And the clothes all piled up” “Yes”.
“Even the dishes still lying there”.    

            He noticed for the first time that he always replied the third question with silence if the answer was no different from the first two. And she would understand it. Theirs was a curious match with infinite understanding that bred infinite contempt. 

            She finally hung up. The hanging up part was like a breath of fresh air. Not that he hated her. They had no place for such strong feelings in the relationship. It was only the exchange of voice without actually seeing the person that suffocated him. It choked him to imagine what the expressions were on the person’s face on the other side. Telemarketers and that sort of people were fine. But not the familiar ones.
            Did I really have to lie? She wasn’t really of the possessive kind. In fact as far as Ann was concerned, she didn’t really care. Then why did I tell her Ann would be staying for a while? 

            Contorting wildly to stretch, he walked to the grill. It was like a screen door but she had called it ‘Grill’ since she could not remember the word ‘screen door’ and it had stuck. One of the hinges came off shortly after they shifted to this small flat. And it had since been a brewing cause of annoyance between them.

Will it ever be fixed? Or will it always be a nagging disturbance deep down somewhere in my mind, ruining my happiness in the least expecting times? Or will it be one of those problems that persistently nagged me till I sorted them out and later joked with her how much of an easy task it was?

Phone beeped and it was a message from Ann. “Keep all this between you and me. I just don’t trust your types.”

        He found it depressingly funny. Married or not, he was sure to let out things that bothered him, especially if it was something demanding secrecy. A sexist friend had commented that it was a feminine trait. 

            But I am a lesbian inside, so why should I care! A lesbian trapped in the body of a straight male.

            He typed a quick reply “I’ll try hard.”  

          That is the most honest I can ever be. That is the absolute ultimate limit of honesty that any living being can expect ever from me. Yes, it sure is.

         Ann replied with a strange smiley like thing. He looked at it from different angles and could get no clue as to what it meant or even whether it was a smiley or something else. 

Elaborate cryptisicm. 

The Grill made a grinding noise in the wind. It was not a struggling noise. It was the sound of comfort. As if it had all along wished to be on that one hinge.