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Fairy Lights

She was reminded of the little fairies. She would spend hours in the garden building little houses for them. She would line match boxes with dandelions and petals and lay them out in a row under a thicket or a shelter. She built shelters with leaves and toadstools and little fences of sticks and stones. She would set tiny tealights around the fairy houses and light them in the evening. She would put little figurines and sculptures around the lights for the fairy party that would happen that night. She hung acorns and little trinkets to the bushes to make them look like ornaments. She picked up a beetle or two and set them in the matchbox houses to accompany the fairies in their dances. Then she would go back to her room and watch the little lights dance until the wind blew them out one by one. However, sleep would take her into its heavy embrace before she could complain. What a dreamy little child she was!

The wild poppies sprung deep red in her thoughts. She sat on a stone and gazed into the rain. A group of drenched flowers stood drooping in the rain like a row of helpless little children. Her clothes were damp from a chill breeze and raindrops wet her skin in a steady drizzle. She did not move or walk away from the rain. She let it wet her thick black tweed skirt and her coat.

Her dripping brown hair looked black when wet. Her lace ankle socks were wet. So were her leather boots. Her face seemed blanched yet her cheeks were flushed red in the cold. Her misty breath came out in little white wisps. She drew her black parka around her hair even as tiny droplets clung to her unruly hair. And she shivered mildly in the cold. A shy golden sun hung somewhere in the western horizon beyond the clouds that were swiftly melting in rain. This sun colored the atmosphere in a magical light that seemed sinfully surreal. The only sounds were those of the rain or some evening bird anxious to find its way back to the nest.

The rain had been her companion. When the rains came her little friends would crawl out of the tree barks. Friendly frog babies would hop like little clods of mud and happiness. Caterpillars talked to her about their endless journeys across the terrain and she believed them because she thought they were trains that fairies rode on. She brought some candies and left them in the garden to invite ants. She would watch them for hours and follow them through all their serious business of gathering food. She shook down plants after the rain to get all those shiny water droplets onto herself and loved how it felt. She once did that to a squirrel and it ran like there was a hailstorm as she laughed till she fell to the ground. Then she loved to explore the crevices and hidden nooks and collect little souvenirs. She hid little pebbles, acorns, red leaves, yellow leaves, marbles, twigs, dead beetles, shells, and other treasures in a tin box under a stone near a big tree. The box itself was quite rusty but it worked pretty well for now.

She had work to do. She had to go looking for little creatures that slept in shadows. And the meaning of light and shade. And she had to learn to drink rain water when running. And a new place to hide a special treasure that she would find any moment now. She had to find a blue feather she had once seen a bird shed in its flight. And learn the language of the little ants. She had to pick a handful of wild flowers and drink their fascinating colors. She had to run now and worry about the butterflies that had gone away in the rain and the dragonflies that had arrived. She had to wait and watch for the clouds to dissolve even as her sun emerged in its skilfully mysterious way. Then she had to pray for more caterpillars and pebbles and shiny precious rocks. And she had to build a shelter for her fairies to protect their flimsy wings from rain. And their little dancing lights too.

The Death of Another Piano

They moved in with their equipment and dismantled the piano with perfect dexterity. Each piece was wrapped in crisp brown paper and duct taped. They were exporting the music to another land. To another hand.

Eventually, the pieces of the piano landed in a museum of sorts and all the pieces were assembled with great care.  A small placard announced that it had belonged to the greatest composer of all times Friedrich Hampton. A spotlight shone upon its ornamental carvings announcing its material value. Elite folk wandered in and out of the room. Some of them took pictures of the flawless piano and its grandeur after obtaining permission from the museum curator.

A glass case was constructed around the piano. A persian rug was spread beneath its legs. The whole room was exterminated to prevent termites from creeping into the piano’s wood. Janitors were placed at the entrance to guard the piano all through the day. A close-circuit camera watched the piano at all hours to ensure its safety. The glass case was dusted three times a day. Once a week the glass case was carefully opened and the piano was wiped thoroughly to retain its sheen.

Nobody spoke loud when they entered this room out of solemn respect for the great piano. They gasped and gently murmured to each other about the composer who had died recently and left the piano to be preserved by the museum in his hometown.

The piano stood there for several decades. Students did school projects on the piano. Musicians and scholars walked around it to weigh the kind of music it could produce. Artists and writers were disturbed by the mere story that surrounded the piano’s past. The nouveau riche approached the museum to enquire about its price.

Early one morning, a slight seismic disturbance was observed in the area. Subsequently, an earthquake rocked the whole place and brought down all the buildings. The glass case shattered into a hundred pieces and large chunks of debris fell upon the piano.

Rescue workers toiled day and night to trace corpses and save people who were stuck under huge piles of rubble. Bulldozers were brought in order to help clear out the land. The museum area was inaccessible to people. The government tried to salvage bits and pieces of all that remained of the museum’s exhibits of the glorious past. The piano had been completely wrecked. It was a great loss. It had invited a great deal of tourism into the town.

The last moments of the piano:

The townsfolk had made a zombie out of its soul and a whore out of its body. Everybody thought that the piano stopped existing when it was physically shattered but they had killed it decades ago. It had generously allowed the earth to consume its frame and the rubble to devastate its components. Nobody could have had a happier burial.

This is how I was killed .

Away

End of the day I am just the language I think in and the languages that I don’t understand. All of it put together.

I wrote a story:

It was 2.00 PM in the middle of Mount Road. The odour of burning tar invaded the nostrils of the few pedestrians who had dared to venture out in the heat. Everybody had something to do.

Some hundred people had been ruthlessly stuffed into a bus like ruffled duck feathers. A few of them were sticking out in all directions. The bus obstinately continued its journey shrieking like an asymmetrical banshee.

The pavements were generously blessed with spittles and betelnut stains. They held the crumbs from the feet of a thousand wayfarers and stood unflinching. A wilted banana skin smiled like comic relief. There were odd dogs, sweaty library-goers and cyclists.

There was white noise. And the typical afternoon icecream bell. The mosque harbored plump pigeons that sought respite in its cozy crevices. The signals monotonously influenced butterfly effects, without so much as a sigh. Some truants had escaped school early and were biting into raw mango slivers coated with chilli powder.

The bustle was intimidating. Death lunged forward like a speeding bus or a careening auto. The black and white lines of the pedestrian crossing looked abandoned like violated rules.

Madness. Women heaved huge shopping bags into air-conditioned cars that stood like crazy Greek Gods who had descended to the ghettoes. Young girls giggled by with their dupattahs fluttering in the hot noon breeze. All was neutral like intense lethargy juxtaposed with incredible activity. Everybody was getting somewhere. Really?

In the middle of the mindless drone and chaos, sat a lonely translucent void. It was occupied by a cripple upon a tricycle. He had traveled a hundred miles by hand. From one street to another. Baby steps. Like withering shadows that grow upon nameless walls, his feet dangled in vulnerable suspension. His irrelevance was enormously relevant. Where is everybody running? Away from him.

Like a powerful epiphany he sat, momentously conjuring up tears upon onlookers’ eyes. In him they saw a personification of their own insignificance. A desconstruction of their safe shields of escapism. In him they saw the truth. Stripped to bare circumstances. They could not hide in their heavily-painted dance masks any more. They suffocated under their layers of silks. The air-condition singed their perfect skins. And they had an intense, irresistible urge to run. They wanted to run away from the one who embodied their own handicaps. They wanted to find the use for their efficient yet immobile limbs. They wanted to quickly retreat into their comfortable lives and forget that suffering existed. They were guilty and embarassed about his condition and they knew not why. He mirrored their own poverty of the soul.

Like a symbol in a suppressed deluge of emotions, he wheeled himself away. To encounter another set of hollow humans.

He who has legs let him run. Away from the truth, away from the self, away, away, away.

A Warning

Note: This work has been largely translated from meows heard during midnight’s witching hour at Sumeet Mazumdar Co-operative Housing Society.

This is Carla Ferguson howling from the eighteenth balcony in Block B. This is to warn you all that the territory in this block and beyond is entirely meant for myself and my minions. Anybody who dares trespass into our foraging limits shall end up with a half-chewed ear like our dear romance-stricken Romeo Rodriguez. We understand that he bravely attempted to retrieve a large helping out of Alley 4 garbage bin despite the presence of my trusted friends Clawhook and Mohawk. We also understand that he did this in a chivalrous move towards Madamoiselle Pamela Snow.

This final howl shall serve as warning for the other turncoats who ran with tails tucked between their legs a few minutes back.

Myowwwrrr!!

P.S: A better portion of this translation was lost in the background noises which largely consisted of groans from our protagonist, recently deprived of a better half of his auditory instrument.

Note No. 2:
Those who don’t understand head or tail of this post, please read Myowww… 

Myowww…

As I walked on the concrete wall which was fragrantly warm in the afternoon sun, I planned my activities for the evening. I would dig the garbage bin in the fifth alley for fish bones. There lived the old lady Mrs. Su-Shi with a mouth that puckered like she had eaten the sourest of lemons. She cooked fish almost every other day. We all thronged restlessly around her house, trying to keep our dignity by not looking as desperate as we really were. Then she would wrap the fish bones in a piece of newspaper with salt crystals sticking to its sogginess and deftly throw it into the bin. And we would pounce shamelessly into the bin. Sometimes I’d stand precariously on the bin’s rim and snarl at the other fellows, my tail bristling. I’d bare my fangs. We bit each other a number of times and made such a din that the old lady threw cold water on us a couple of times.

I was worried about my whiskers. Some of them seemed to be drooping of late. Since when did such human traits possess me? I do not know. I licked myself lazily, considering a nap under the gray car that had just got parked near the side walk. On second thoughts I decided that it would be better for me to do some climbing. In two leaps I was in Mr. Patel’s balcony. It was usually filled with dry leaves. There were a few withered potted plants hanging there like a joke. Mr. Patel never came into the balcony. His balcony had old newspapers piled high. Pigeon droppings were everywhere. The branches of the gul mohur were right into his bedroom. Yet he seemed to be in some kind of a penance inside his house. One never saw him come outside except when he wanted to buy his diabetic pills. He wore sandals that looked older than I am. I always try running between his legs because I love him. His soles smelled like sleepy mice. And he does not mind me at all.

Did I tell you about fat cat Carla Ferguson? She is the meanest, fattest and loudest cat in all of Sumeet Mazumdar Co-op Housing Society (SMCHS). Till the death of Dr. Don, the fat black cat, she was thin as a clothesline and quiet as a mouse (I’d get severely clawed for that analogy). With the unfortunate expiry of his ninth and last life, she acquired power in leaps and bounds. Dr. Don was called that way for his surgical precision in clawing one’s eye out.

I have forgotten to tell you my name. How so typical of me! I’m the official serenader for all of SMCHS and my name is Romeo Rodriguez. I can alternatively sing in baritone, alto and soprano. Some ladies of the Reshamiah household do not take well to my attempts at imitating one of their own kind. They ungratefully soak me in buckets of cold water. I sit high above their kitchen sun shade singing well into the night trusting the forces of gravity to save me from the Reshamiahn receptacles of water and other liquids.

My whiskers continued to worry me as I sat on Mr. Patel’s balcony. I leaped into the next balcony hoping to find some respite in the smell of Surf Excel in Sivarama Iyer’s sun-drying dhoti. He detested me. He had once seen me with a squirrel’s tail in my mouth. He did not investigate into the situation deeply. Had he done it he would have found that I never ate the squirrel. It was the rowdy squirrel that had jumped on my head and left his tail behind as souvenir for his daredevil act. Yet, Sivarama Iyer’s wife with her shining diamond ear rings would always give me some left-overs. She called me Chuppuni. I did not mind her as long as her culinary treats descended down my esophagus. Sometimes I wished she did not call me that in front of Pamela Snow. But she always did. “Chuppuneeeee!”, she would call out loud just when I tried to present some passionately-twitching whiskers to Pam. When I started an ancient crooning in my soprano voice her shrill voice would cry, “Chuppunee” in front of the several thousand admirers jostling around me. Then I would sigh, meow ever-so gently and walk slowly to balcony number 128, to eat yesterday’s idlis. Such is life!

All of a sudden, I remembered the party in C Block. It was Anjali’s birthday. Oh how could I forget! I thought it is not appropriate for someone of my stature to run in front of everyone and therefore I began to walk swiftly. Anjali was 6 years old. She had never once forgotten to give me a huge piece of cake on her birthday. However, I was never sure where it would land when she threw it at me. Sometimes it landed on my forehead making it impossible to eat it with dignity. At other times it was painfully far away daubed between my left shin and my tail. Today I got a fairly large piece of strawberry cake. The only issue was that I had to share it with Carla Ferguson. I waited hoping she would generously be indifferent to insignificant things like strawberry cake pieces at 6-year old birthday parties, but I was terribly wrong as usual. She confronted me with a when-was-the-last-time-you-were-clawed-in-the-eye look. She was huge and seemed to have manicured her claws for the purpose. And I slinked mournfully into the darkness, eyeing the cake glumly. The shin-and-tail predicament was way better than this. I hope Pam Snow was not around to see what had just happened. I once looked back to see Carla licking the cake off her nose.

I sometimes considered a career as a rogue. With a name like mine I could easily get away with it. I already had enough scratches and scars to assist me in my climb to glory as a mean, rough and dont-mess-with-me don. Surely my friends Surly Sriraman, Potty and Wrinkle Tail would support me in this endeavor. Yet this was just a dream. I am of a gentlemanly temparement as I euphemistically put it.

I sadly remembered that the harrowing experience with Carla Ferguson had made me forget to visit the garbage bin. Still I went there for I had nothing else to do. I saw Trinket around the corner. He was the hungriest in all of SMCHS. He would n’t have left a scrap behind. I peered into the garbage bin knowing fully well it had nothing. I purred mournfully as I sat at Mrs. Su-shi’s doorstep. The evening descended like a veil of tantalizing fish scents.

The Sea

As I leave my house today, I know I’d be entering the fiery evening. I had already seen the redness in the slanted rays of the sun that fell into my room. This evening has been bequeathed to madness. I have forgotten to bind my hair. I have forgotten to paint my lips. I have forgotten to empty my nakedness into a bowl of shame.

I know the glowering evening sun makes my skin seem a mustard orange. The people around me in their ordinary trousers and shirts are quietly considering my eyes. The sun has entered the windows of my eyes. My hair longs to be lifted up in a wild spree of mad uninhibition.

As if it were a dream a sea breeze lifts my hair up in its own madness to kiss everything in a hurry. Suddenly everything falls silent. I find myself still walking down my staircase in a hurry to reach the next landing. Every landing is deja vu. In the darkness of the staircase and the grilles that weave little webs of spidery light, I feel like I’m in an infinite whirling road winding downwards.

Now I’m on the road the sun enviously wiping my colour off me and replacing it with its own. The treetops shimmer like torches. A breeze disturbs the vehicle sounds without a warning. Birds are returning home. They too believe. Mad world.

The sea shore eats my soul up with every step into its nudeness. I find myself singing a song. Another madness wants me to quit singing. The approved madness. The accepted madness. The madness of the silent. The madness of the spectator. The madness of the passive hermit. I peel this madness off me with deliberate defiance. The former madness is easy to remember. We are trained for it from childhood. The latter madness is difficult yet is permanent.

Now I’m holding onto the sides of an anchored ship, now I’m sailing on the sea blue yacht, now I’m the boat with the dark-skinned fisherman, now I’m the writhing fish in his net, now I’m the lights that wake up like dragon eyes at twilight, now I’m twilight with its thousand children feet running, now I’m the smell of salt and sea, now I’m wild hair, now a beholder, next the beholded, now a breath and then a single abandoned bird hurriedly flying after its clan racing ahead.

This evening has been bequeathed to madness. I hear the conversations of a thousand men. Money worries, mother-in-law worries, exams, exultation, kites, kisses, crabs, catamarans… I stand inane, unblinking like a fish eye. Into the sea lies my destiny. Like one of Chekhov’s heroines I have considered dying by lightning. It does not fascinate me. Nor do I wear red like that woman and speak of dying seasons with blushing cheeks. I’m another creature at the infinite sea shore. At the sea that orgasms with several white bones and churns out the of flavour of life  by tonnes. The sea does not see if I’m Shelley. It swallows like an organism. Like the whale that puked Jonah, the sea regurgitates bleached bodies of young lovers, bad swimmers, boys who failed exams and poets.

The sea is insomniac. Such passion overcomes its being that it cannot let go of anything. It chews and ruminates and only sea shells survive its restlessness. Such a sea stretched before me like a huge conundrum. Its only foil was the sky. A counterpart spitting stars. A sudden madness overtook me and I began walking. Away from the sea. Away from the kite illusions and the bird illusions. I walked away from the sand that swallowed my toes. I walked away from the roads, from the breeze, from my wildness, from the need to escape. I ran away from prospective death. I walked back into the madness called life. I walked back into the incorrigible madness called life. I declare myself incapable of death as much as I’m incapable of life. I could not… could not walk away from the sea within myself.