Goodwill Counting

“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

The Things They Carried to Durga Pujo

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

Happy Independence Day

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

Misty Mountains and Silver Fountains

Misty Mountains
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.

Though Much is Lost, Much Abides

The Mumbai-Nagpur Duronto Express on 23rd June did not come even to the starting station until it was well over an hour late. Expectant passengers passed their time looking from the announcement screen to the digital clock hanging all along platform number 18. Bored of the wait, a group of three friends, well past their age of retirement, sat down and decided to play a game of Hearts. Only god knows why they were bent on playing a game of four when they were only three. Perhaps, it was some wisdom that a 24 year old cynic did not possess. It was definitely beyond his understanding. Continue reading

Being an Authorpreneur: why writing feels so much like starting up

People like Eric Schmidt scare the daylight out of me when they say we are, presently, producing as much content in 48 hours as we did from the beginning of time till 2003. Just take a minute and imagine: every single day we are producing as much text as there is in half the libraries of the world. What Schmidt is basically telling us is that we can be great writers, but if we can’t figure out a way to stand out in today’s crowded world of content, we are just hobbyists and little else. Continue reading

Shadowed Prayers

“Shoo, shoo, go away. Away, I said.”

The young dogs were the first to push their noses where they did not belong, but, unlike the people who came later, they were decent enough to heed the words of the lady, who was demanding her space. They heeded, because she had been good to them these past few days, feeding them when no one else had. They took care not to come too close, but they also knew that going away would mean no dinner. So, they paced.

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How I met our Game of Thrones

 “You have anything I can watch on Saturday?”

I stood leaning on the door of the piratemaster of our undergraduate hostel, scratching my left forearm under the elbow. The day was really sunny outside and if you were someone sitting inside the dimly lit room, high on the latest episode of Breaking Bad, one look at me would have gotten you cracking. With the rich, bright, sepia sunlight streaming in from behind me, I looked totally like a goodoldgone addict itching for more methamphetamine to shoot up my bloodstream — even mosquito bites on my forearm, from last few nights, had been scratched enough to look like puncture marks from overused needles.

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Swings

“Looooook at meeeeeee.”

I tore myself away from page 136 of The Further Adventures of Brer Rabbit to look at her. She had her head thrown back, laughing out into the sky that would have been moving so fast in front of her eyes that the clouds would have seemed to be coming alive and running around like little white rabbits let loose in a barn full of hay. She was taking that swing as high as it would go, kicking hard off the soft tonsured soil in the grass from where thousands of children had previously taken flight. As she launched herself again, she nodded at me asking me to join her on the swing — come, there’s enough space for both of us. Continue reading