Monday, March 23, 2015

Blind Hunger, Sleeping Woman

Staring groggily into my watch, I saw it was about 2 in the morning. She was snoring away peacefully beside me. It took a while for me to realise why I was up so dazed. It was an intense pang of hunger. Nothing like I had ever experienced before. A curious one at that, it was not the kind that would make you snatch food or go fishing inside dumpsters. This was more like a weed induced one that gets your brain to overclock into immediate action.

It was a warm windless night as always. A crummy fluorescent bulb dangling outside lit the gate and a bit of the road beyond it dully.

I sat on the bed for a few minutes thinking. I couldn’t try the kitchen as it had nothing. And I needed something substantial. The only option was trying my luck outside despite there being no possibility of some eatery open at this hour. Everything here closed down before 10, and I have seldom seen anything but street dogs and snoring security guards after 12.

I didn’t wake her up and quietly slipped outside, locked the house, quietly opened the gate and pushed the bike outside without starting it. I didn’t wish to wake her up. “If she had the same problem, she’d be up instead of slumbering away like a log”, I thought. Once I was far enough, I started the bike and headed for the Highway.

As the highway wound into the hills towards the University, the air became mildly colder. Except for some sputtering trucks, it was practically deserted, and I revved up to 80s which was the best I could hope to get with that 9 bhp bike. It felt good to ride against the cold wind.

There was a small food cart converted to a stall near the University where they sold cigarettes during the day and did unlicensed restaurant business in the night. Seeing the light and some people, I stopped to check it out. They would close only by 4, said the guy running it. Every day, he would sneak in spiced up chicken pieces, tapioca and beef to cook them behind the stall using a kerosene stove. I ordered fried chicken, boiled tapioca and black tea.

The food wasn’t bad. It was while sipping tea after polishing off tapioca and chicken that I thought about she waking up to find me nowhere around. Appetite receiving all the focus of attention, I’d forgotten to take the phone with me. And what if I die in an accident on my way back? How would it be for her? The guy goes to sleep next to you and the next thing you hear is that he dies in an accident. It would be sort of surreal, I thought.

Surrealism wasn’t in the universe's plan for that night it seems. It was about quarter to 4 by the time I reached back.  She never got a whiff of all this happening around her, sleeping curled into a ball. I listened to the sounds from the darkness outside and watched an old cat scratching the bike’s saddle furiously for a while. The fluorescent bulb kept doing its best to illuminate the draggy picture. 


Image courtesy of Fanny Berthiaume @ deviantart
Title and general idea courtesy of Haruki Murakami

The Station House Officer

He got up and walked to the matki in the corner. Two constables standing by the door shifted uneasily and watched him gulping down two glasses of water half of which spilled down his uniform painting an odd pattern.

This was the fifth in the month. But this one was different from last two men that soldiers had brought who were alive for a few hours.

Holding the empty stained glass in his hands, he stared into the darkness outside. It was a windless summer night. Snores of dead man’s relatives huddled outside mixed with the shrill chirping of the crickets. He returned to make a final check of its pulse. Holding its wispy arm, he felt the queasy cold that had soaked up the body and realised the futility of checking for anything. He wondered how it became so cold in the warm stuffy air all around.

Soldiers carrying it inside had apologised in hushed tones for the delay, nervously glancing at the cowered relatives slumbering outside and had hastily left.

For a moment, its dark wrinkled skin reminded him of a sun-dried mango peel. This person could be anything between 50 to 80 years, he thought. A fresh greyish scar ran from it’s naval to the neck which he guessed to be from work at the camp. Some mysterious new technique, he assumed. He annoyingly wished that the soldiers would deal with the bodies themselves.

It was an unusually busy time of the year. The phone kept ringing, and soldiers came down often with bodies or poorly faxed sheets with names and addresses. Trucks were moving in and out from the mines after the lull. Villagers stood near the gate occasionally craning to take a peek at the happenings inside, some occasionally trembling their way in asking for their missing relatives.

Sighing, he signed the constables, who hurriedly stripped the dead man of his dhoti and rolled the body into a convenient bundle. Their work was pointlessly perfect, and he suddenly felt at ease and grinned. In another minute, they quietly carried it into the darkness outside. Never discussing the whereabouts, he simply hoped that they would use some creativity in their disposal method this time. Their last work was far from good with the bruised body hung on a tree not far way to make it look like a suicide. The sight of its slender silhouette swaying gently in the morning breeze had given him a nasty scare on his walk home.

One of the dead man’s relatives sleeping outside got into a fit of coughing, silencing the crickets for a while.

Resting his legs on the table, he slowly slipped into a restless sleep and dreamt of dried mango peels swaying in the wind. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015



Winter was dead. Not that it made any difference in this part of the earth. Its stale corpse lay drying in the summer sun. I spent days returning home from the prosaic work in the night and watched downloaded TV series having greasy takeaway dinner. Staying late into the night, my sweat-damp thoughts wandered into sleep to return to an uneasy consciousness in the morning under a quiet fan deprived of its life from the routine power failure.

The patterns in life that recurred were lifeless fans, mosquitoes and summer sun.

There was a sea, just a few minutes drive away.

A warm stinking sea.

*          *          *

I went fishing. With few decaying bits of shrimp as baits. Waited for a long time on the pillar of an old railway bridge. Trains passed occasionally shaking the old concrete with me on it, the rail above and all. Sun went down, leaving a humid, windless evening. Throwing the reeking shrimp into the water below, I too left.

And it rained suddenly. A vicious one at that. It drenched me and the bike I was riding. Rain pelleted its hot engine case turning itself into hot steam.

Steam that reeked of decayed shrimp.

*          *          *

They were selling tapioca in a small truck. It was just dug out wrapped in the fresh rain-soaked mud. I bought a few and stopped on the way at the fish market to get three sardines. Fried the sardines and boiled the tapioca.

I had tapioca and sardines while the rain continued through the night.

A night that smelt of the first rain.

*          *          *