“You remind me of the other men.”
Komal had not talked for a very long time. And for a very long time I had been trying to make her talk. It was painful to see an almost-eight-year-old girl always balled up in a corner, away from the other kids, beating herself up for faults that were not hers.
I had smiled, had joked, had played the clown, had even taken her to a very good ice cream place. But she had refused to talk. Until the day I almost gave up, cried, told her a bit about the sadness I carry in my heart, showed her a bit of the burden I carry on my shoulders and implored her to help me out. Continue reading
Last year, Anandi had called me one afternoon with good news. “Bhaiji, I passed first class in Open University exam.” She had finally gotten herself a 12th standard degree. And she was betting on it to be her exit ticket from a life of suffering, the horrors of which very few of us can imagine.
“So, what now?” I asked.
“You know I wanted to be a doctor. But that’s too much to study. No no. I can never do that. So, I was thinking I will become a nurse. Tai also agrees.” Continue reading
“If an apple costs five rupees and a lemon costs three rupees, how much will you have to pay for both?”
I was sitting outside Raipur railway station, near a fruitseller’s pushcart, trying to teach a bunch of street kids a bit about money and how to count it.
“Don’t bother with them, Saab,” said the fruitseller, a greying man who somehow reminded me of hailstone lemonades that my grandmother always talked of but never made. “They are only here because you offered them each a small platter. What do they care about all this?” Continue reading
In the calm sea of brightly clothed humanity, inching towards the Gariahat Pujo Pandal, there were several things bobbing up and down that caught one’s attention.
The narrow streets carried over a thousand men and women and people of the sex no one wanted to acknowledge. The air carried a hotness and humidity that could only have been the vapours of hopes and ambitions rising from the bodies of these thousands on the streets and the thousands who were here before them. The tall bamboo frames on the side of the road carried branded promises of prosperity and future security, with tiny bindi shaped stars that talked about terms and conditions immediately below the message that celebrated unconditional love. Continue reading
Before 1947, if one had a distinctly Indian name, which 99% Indians did, one could literally die of a name.
In 1943, a British Naval Officer, who was from Indian roots but had been born and brought up as a pure Brit in Sussex, was assigned to a mission at the Bombay port. He had never sympathised with the Indian cause and had taken every step he could to make it known to people that despite his roots, he was very thoroughly a Brit.
But Bombay was a new place and new places come with their new prejudices. When the Master-of-Port at Bombay saw that someone by the name of Rustomji Jahajwalah was asking permission to dock his rowing boat, he assumed almost immediately that the line saying “Boatswain in His Highness’s Royal British Navy” must have been clearly a mistake. Continue reading
And Silver Fountains
Are no longer that far.
Notice that today, they are
In our very homes here,
So much to my fear,
As Man’s dirty parody
Of the Dwarvish Morian tragedy
In which the smaller children
Are overrun by the taller adults,
Who with firebrands held in their teeth
And rising mountains of ashes beneath,
Puff out immaculate misty rings
That float skywards on their wings
As Fallen Angels set to do their share
Of hanging on, as Death, up in the misty air.
And so the children are slowly choking
On the abject indifference of indiscriminate smoking
While not-yet-old men are dying of their dragging faults
And silver coins are pouring out into bolted vaults.