Monday, August 11, 2014

Evenings set apart by 9448 kms

There was a small rectangular skylight on the attic roof. Barely enough to squeeze my head out when it didn’t snow or rain and pointlessly gaze at the scene outside. It was on the roof slant that faced backside of the building with nothing much to see. But for an attic without a window, even that bit of view was sometimes enough.

When it snowed, I blankly stared at the unending cycle of tiny fluffs slowly covering the shut skylight’s glass and then tumbling down when it became too thick. Rain was always monotonous with the droplets pelting mechanically without anything else happening. Once it was all over, I would place a chair below, stand on it and carefully poke my head out to resume watching. People pulled down shutters when it snowed and there was hardly anything for me to see outside than an occasional car speeding across drawing two parallel black lines on the road blanketed by snow.

Sometimes, I got out and took a cautious stroll in the evenings through the deserted roads with all the shops shut, as they often did. Making the boot marks on the snow all the way behind me. Cars and buses would pass by with the insulated people inside. At times there would be a prostitute waiting by the side of the road dressed in short tights in a really depressing way, rocking back and forth with the sight of every car that sped past.

It was as if the rain and snow fell on the uncovered spirits of people here. It would always be gloomy when it rained or snowed in the evenings. Even the pubs and the parks would assume a sort of worn out look. I would always be reminded of the evenings in my village as a kid where the voltage often dropped during that time of the day. If it rained, power would be cut off and we would sit in the portico with an oil lamp lit and kept at a distance with rain flies buzzing around it. Frogs would croak from the flooded paddy fields.

Turin, away from my village by 9448 kms.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Lurking Tiger, Piling Commitments

Procrastinating a lot of work, I drew a tiger. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Trail of Tiny Red Ants


He was born on the first June 1982 in a nondescript hospital at Pallarmangalm to an infirm housewife, Rohini and a struggling farmer, Narayanan. They remembered nothing in particular about the day except that it was very sunny and a bit too warm. It was as if these rays were deliberately sent to make it as uncomfortable as it could be for him on his first step into the earth. They also remembered that he cried in an unusual way resembling the wailing of a fox. There was no dearth of foxes back then, and in the dusk, one could hear them wailing and howling. Old folks always claimed it to be the sound of the young litter demanding food. 

He was brought home unceremoniously in an Ambassador car, its glistening body swaying and jumping while coasting down the rough roads damaged by the rains. The flooded paddy fields were dimly lit by the monsoon moon that made occasional bursts from the dark clouds above. And a hundred thousand frogs croaked in unison from the fields to a dull noise that seeped into the background blending with it gradually. 

Someone had left the gate open and Rohini, debile from the delivery, lurched out the car and held on to the black iron rails on the gate for support. And the heavens opened up hard. Torrential rains hit everything with a force so mighty that the hiss and sputter of the rains subdued every other noise around her. Ramankutty, the driver, changed his mind about giving them a hand and hastily withdrew to the safe confines of the car, banging the door shut. 

Paru, one of the servants, ran out with a plastic round hat offering it to Narayanan, who pushed aside her aside and ran inside with the white bundle that was wriggling uncomfortably. Running off behind him, Paru stopped on an afterthought and returned to find Rohini balancing herself on the iron gate, drenched in the rain. She pulled the numb figure of Rohini away and hurried into the house while rain pelted mercilessly. 

Sarojini Amma, the grandmother who would later accuse little Unni of stealing tiny round biscuits from the glass jars, rushed to his son and grabbed the bundle off him letting Narayanan heave a sigh of relief and contemplate the rains from the verandah. Paru had led a shivering and weak Rohini inside, and he had bigger concerns now. A stray cut off branch with a heap of leaves and some stones had blocked the water channel, and it was flooding the entire portico. Swearing silently, he went inside shouting for the kerosene lamp to find his spade that the servants had misplaced in his absence.

Little Unni wriggled in the hands of his grandmother while the rain hit the tiled rooftop viciously silencing his foxy wails. Rohini, lying down on the damp bed, watched the dull flashes of lightning through the window across the infinite droplets that fell noisily. She thought of the rain-soaked kid while the fatigue of the days that preceded dragged her off to a disturbed sleep in which she woke up startled a few time to find the silhouette of Paru beside her staring out of the window.


Image courtesy:  sreeni sreedharan 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Drone Attack on the Tiny Hill


From the bottom of the small hill, plains stretched afar with no other mountains in sight anywhere near. The landscape was blanketed by a dark green canopy from thousands of coconut trees that grew tightly together. In the evening, shimmering lights would reveal the presence of houses and other buildings underneath. In an unfinished room on the first floor of a building on the top of the hill facing the picture below, he stood still, staring intently at those flickering lights trying to separate old bulbs from the modern fluorescent ones. Somewhere close to the horizon, he could make out a blurred blueness of the sea and the dull creaking noise that a goods train made while chugging across a metal bridge. 

The empty spaces left for windows in the room would let stiff evening breeze inside sending loose sheets of paper on his desk up in the air. It was a salty wind from the sea afar with a mild sea stench that was hard to figure out unless one actually made an effort. 

Scurrying back to his desk to get the papers, he saw a small snout followed by a reluctant head peeping from the corridor. Another bored stray dog exploring the place in the evening. It hesitated for a moment and hastily turned to run away through the hallway. There were a couple of them downstairs sniffing around, chasing small kids and chicken. People went on with their lives unperturbed, unaware of him above watching them with a blasé indifference. 

The stillness of life around him made him shiver. He was alone in the huge building. He longed for a wandering drone laden with explosives to strike the building, reducing the giant concrete edifice with him inside into ember in seconds. An easy way out for him and an interesting tale for the locals to recount. 

He stood there fantasising about drones, on the second-floor window of that huge unfinished building dimly lit by the fast fading reflections from a sun that the sea had already drowned.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Tiny Red Hyenas

One thing that makes the idea of committing suicide at this place I stay obnoxious are these carnivores ants that seem to devour anything from dead spiders to raw rice. I tried challenging them with a lot of things inconsumable by usual creature standards, and they kept outflanking me at every stage. Nothing could stop them when they made up their minds to have something. They drilled through the thickest plastic packets and slid through the tightest container lids. 

But it was when I read a report about these stray hyenas in some African city which gnawed off bits from the bodies of homeless people sleeping in the streets that I started thinking about the ants polishing me off. Leave suicide, at least I wouldn’t feel them. What about a paralysis? What if I pass out inside one of these days maybe from food poisoning or something? In a couple of days, these tiny red hyenas would turn me into a shining white skeleton. 

The next couple of days were pretty dispiriting. Every night I would listen to the uncanny stillness around me and I felt nature armed with all these creature extensions waiting like a fossor. 

It’s not a pretty thought, being slowly consumed by a swarm of tiny red ants.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Grave Digger's Blues

Back in Turin, I was once the part of a group that was trained by the Italian army to handle captivity as hostages. It involved a simulated hostage situation in which we were ambushed by their soldiers in a bus journey and held captive/killed.

I don’t recollect everything with any great clarity from the exhaustion and stress that we all endured that day. It was pretty much like a real hostage situation and they did everything possible to drain the last drop of our energy and hopes. Threatened, shouted at us, made us kneel on our knees for hours under hot sun, shot us with blanks using AK-47s and made us dig our own graves. 

It was exhausting and depressing. I’d never thought mere physical exhaustion would induce welcome thoughts about death. At one point they forced me to lie head down on the grass in the noon sun for a thoroughly long period of time. I spent most of the time studying couple of grasshoppers. The key was to divert the mind from paying attention to physical suffering or mental stress.

I toyed with the idea of escape twice, once identifying a blind spot taking advantage of which I could make run for one of their trucks and if it had the key, I could pull out from the situation. Next was when one soldier was forcing us to run while being attached to each other and we reached a spot far from his company. It was five of us with him alone. But our instructions were not to escape and just bear the experience without attracting their attention as any such antics would have invited harder punishments. 

By the end of the exercise they covered our heads with sacks, led us blind to some kind of a grave or pit of some sort, dumped us in it and started shooting like crazy. The bullets were blanks but they sounded very real. Moreover, we had no clue that it was the end of the exercise. A couple of false hopes before had deceived us and a sort of crazy desperation had set in. I started penning down the stuff below in my mind to pass time and keep the desperation under check.  

“I could feel the blue sky above, the fluttering leaves in the spring breeze, the teeming life of the wilderness and the damp earth tempting me to burrow. It was fresh air that I took in and the moist winds filled me with an unhinged excitement.

And I decided to dig. Loosing myself to the surreal deception.

The dark milieu of roots surrounded me. The blue sky was no longer the vastness but a fast fading patch I no longer cared to notice. Breathing in the stale air, I panted and dug on. In a while, I felt the damp mud covering me and I still kept going. My grave, I decided, would stretch to the centre of the earth.”

Kept repeating it to myself. 

It was quite an experience. Once it was over, we had drinks with the soldiers and all that but I really started doubting whether I’d survive something like that in real life. Got over that bit of immature enthusiasm which used to associate such situations with some sort of a thrill

Found the passage above in some old folder in the computer today. “The End” by doors was playing in the background. And thought I’d write about it lest I forget it all. 


Image courtesy :  Brian Jackson (Rhunyc @