Posted by: thetavernthoughts | August 2, 2020

Got half treatment

I checked my DSLR for focus. Things would get nasty very soon. The combination of sun, dust and smoke had already made the air unbreathable. I was perched on the roof of a shop adjoining a key route in my city.  I could feel my perspiration trickle down along my arms, from my armpits to my elbows. From the scope of my camera, I could see the trucks roll out of the hundreds of warehouses. At this key junction, these trucks merged with thousands of two-wheelers that drove back from Mumbai at the end of the office.

I kept my lens focused on the part of T junction opposite to me. Accidents happen every day here and it was my job to film. Constable Pervert-kar appeared in the focus of my lens. Almost on cue, he waved at me. I waved back as a common courtesy to the officer of the law. I could see him smile through my lens. The man had a creepy perverted smile. It seemed like he had something sleazy on his mind at all times. 

I did not notice the quality of his smile the first time I met him. My senior Mr Patne had introduced me to him. Working for a road safety NGO we would often collaborate with the local traffic police. 

“This is Headconstable Chitnis’s protege…Constable Mehule Pavasker”  Mr Patne had told me. “This is my chap…he will be filming here to draw attention to the road safety issues” He had introduced me to Pavaskar.

As soon as Pavaskar smiled, I cringed a little in response. Just enough for my boss to notice. It was Pavaskar who helped us get the permit to film from the rooftop.  My boss had started laughing once we were alone. “Why did you cringe?” he asked me. 

“I don’t know sir, I felt like the cop was really shady. Although he was very helpful” 

“It was his smile. You have a mischievous smile, the actress Anna Hathway has a gorgeous smile. This fellow has a sleazy smile. I call him ‘Main hoon Pervert-kar’”

Pervert-kar the name stuck

I could see his perverted smile in all its glory on that fateful day. There was a loud bang. I could see him get startled through my lens. I quickly moved my camera in the direction he was looking. A collision had happened between a truck and a scooter. The scooter had a woman rider. Her scooter was completely smashed. I zoomed in on her. She seemed unhurt. She did look dazed. Pervert-kar suddenly appeared in the lens. He had a bottle of water with him. 

She seemed to recover and took a sip of water. Pervert-kar clearly knew what he was doing. A crowd started forming around the accident spot. The truck driver was about to run away. Pervert-kar caught him by the collar. I zoomed in further. Perhaps I could capture some police action as well. Pervert-kar whispered into his ears and then slapped him real hard. The crowd cheered. The driver then sat down on the road. 

Pervert-kar turned to the woman. He ensured that she was well. By then other cops arrived on the scene. They whisked the driver away. A lady constable started helping the woman. Pervert-kar got rid of the crowd and got the traffic moving again, albeit much slower. 

Later in the evening, he climbed onto the roof. I looked at his sweat-stained uniform and his tired face. He pulled out the water bottle from my bag and poured a little water on his face. I felt bad for mocking him behind his back. He was providing such an important service to society.

“I need to look at your footage of the accident” 

I showed him the video.
“Good nothing is in the frame.” 

“What?”

He showed me a couple of Rs.500 notes “ My senior showed up so I had to settle for half treatment only” he smiled. He looked more perverted than ever as he stood there with his ill-begotten loot. I looked away from him to hide my disgust. 

The ever-diligent Constable Pervert-kar started appearing everywhere in my life. 

Like once I invited three of my friends for a dinner party of sorts near the route I worked. On this route, outside the main city of Mumbai, where a few local restaurants that served amazing chicken dishes for dinner. We decided to meet at one of these and have a beer each. We had a long drive back and were responsible enough to not get too drunk. 

Right outside the restaurant, I noticed Constable Pervert-kar waiting on his bike. He looked at me and waved. I smiled and entered the restaurant. I was waiting eagerly for a cool beer after spending the day in the sun. 

As soon as the waiter served us our drinks, Pervert-kar appeared. He gestured me to walk away from my table to speak with him in private. So I did.

“I notice you all came here in a car.” He said

“Yes”

“You all just had a drink” 

I looked at him flummoxed. He had caught me red-handed breaking the most cardinal rule of road safety. He smiled as I tried to gather my thoughts. The perverted smile gave me the creeps. He stretched his hand out shamelessly. I pulled out an Rs.100 note and placed it on his hand. 

“Sahib, this is not even half treatment” he said

So I pulled out an Rs.500 note and gave him and asked him for Rs.100 back. 

“Let it be” he said and walked away…smiling.

I was aghast at what had just happened. It completely ruined my evening. I expected Pervert-kar to look the other way for me. After all we knew each other and who did not bend the law a little. Instead, he had gone out of his way to catch me. I did not drink that evening despite having paid the fine to do just that. 

He did let me go once. My girl-friend was dropping me to the aforementioned T-junction. It was right after lunch when these roads are relatively empty. The two-wheelers were still in the offices and the trucks were still being loaded. 

On such empty roads, cars begin to over-speed.  My girlfriend was a careful driver. She noticed the Yellow signal at the T-junction and started slowing down. However, the car immediately behind continued to drive at a high speed. The two cars would have collided but girl-friend instinctively accelerated our car and switched lanes simultaneously. This avoided the collision but we also ended jumping the signal. She parked at the next safe spot she found. We were both terrified by the incidence. 

There was a knock on her window. It was Pervert-kar. He must have noticed us jump the signal. 

“I know the cop, open the window.”  As soon as she rolled down the glass Pervert-kar peeped in and smiled looking at her. 

“Constable sahib…” I said

He looked at me surprised. “Oh! Its you. No need to explain, I saw what happened and also madam here is your girl-friend…she is very preety…I got half treatment looking at her only. No need to explain.” He said smiling as he let us go. I was livid. My girlfriend quickly drove away from the spot before I picked a fight with the cop. 

I simply avoided Pervert-kar after that incidence. One day my boss Mr.Patne called me before I could leave for my daily shoot. 

“Our contact in the police and my dear friend Mr.Chitnis passed away today. We should go and show our respects” 

So I went with Mr Patne to Headconstable Chitnis’s house to show my respect. It was a very small apartment full of old things. Rusty cupboard, old wall clocks.  It was a room, a kitchen and a bathroom. Too many people had come to visit and were standing in that small apartment. The body was on the floor completely covered in a white bedsheet. At the edges of the bedsheet, some of the constable’s charred skin was visible. I dreaded looking at the burnt body. 

So after meeting his grieving widow I immediately stepped out and climbed down the stairs from their second-floor apartment. A few people were standing near the entrance of the apartment building. I stood there waiting for Mr Patne to come back. 

Someone tapped on my shoulder. It was Pervert-kar. He offered me cigarette. He looked gloomy and was not smiling at all. Looking at his sombre countenance I accepted the cigarette and moved away from other mourners. 

“What Happened to Chitnis Sahib” I asked him.

“A tanker overturned about two months ago. It was carrying petroleum which started spilling out. People from the nearby shanties rushed to collect the petroleum in hopes of selling it later. Some of them were just kids. Chitnis sahib rushed to the spot to shoo those kids away from danger. In that instant the spilt petroleum caught fire…he got third-degree burns” 

I placed a hand on his shoulder

“Imagine cremating the burnt urgh” I could sense the anguish in his voice.

He looked at me right in the eyes “ He might have survived had gotten the complete medical care” 

I ask him “Doesn’t the government take care of you guys if you get injured on the job” 

“Government only pays for half the treatment sir…other half we collect” he said stretching his arm out and smiling wistfully.

Posted by: thetavernthoughts | June 18, 2020

Insomania

Ravi admired his belly in the mirror. “Shameless” his wife said.
“In a country where two thirds of the population sleeps hungry, this my dear wife is a status symbol”.

“In a country where coronary disease kills millions that, my dear husband, is a health warning.”

Shamla said as she pulled her husband close.

Ravi looked at their reflection in the mirror. His eyes were shining with happiness.  “Perfect” he said
“Your son has slept” She said

He leaned in to kiss her. Just then foul odor of bleach filled the air. Shamla moved away.

“Your father is clearly awake”

Ravi sighed and opened the door. His father was cleaning the bathroom.

“Baba why are you doing this now?  Don’t know it almost mid night”

“I can’t sleep Ravi. Beside look I found a better way to clean these toilets”

“They are already clean”

“No look”

He looked at the spotlessly clean bathroom floor which was now covered with bleaching powder. His 81 year old father was stooping and cleaning it.

“It was full of germs.”

“Let me do that for you father” Ravi said.

“No, you have no BRAINS. Sit over there and watch me clean the bathroom. Sit”

“Now watch…” his father continued “the important thing is to get the bleach into these crevices. The germs hide on the underside.  I told shamla to clean it properly. She just washes it with soap. You need to bleach it like this. See I even got the gloves…”

And so it was to be.  Ravi spent 2 hours that night watching the stubborn old man clean the toilet. He kept getting drowsier by the minute. His father however, was relentless in his pursuit of making the toilet free of germs.

By the time Ravi entered his bedroom his wife had already slept. As every fiber in Ravi’s body relaxed, he could feel his member stiffen. He could smell the shampoo from his wife’s head. He was so turned on. He tried to spoon gently rubbing his hard on into her rear. She pushed him away in her sleep.

“You need to do something about your father.” She mumbled in her sleep “Get him help”

“I just wish he found peace. So much stress at such an old age.”

Next day in the morning Ravi woke up late. He could hear his father ramble on outside.

“Your Mother-in-law knew how to cook. Oh! The samosa she would make. Never too oily and so tasty. None of this ‘idli’ business.”

Judging from the lack of response from his wife, Ravi knew she was already very irritated. So he snuck in to the bathroom, got ready and left for his office avoiding any long contact with his wife. Her long disapproving look and derision in her voice always scared him.

His life is so perfect Ravi thought. A beautiful wife, stable job, a doting son. If only his father was happy too. Perhaps some female company would make him happy. Ravi pondered. No… not in bed of course but someone to talk to and fuss over.

By the end of the day Ravi made up his resolve to employ a full time maid in her late forties. He needed her to be a little chatty. Someone who will mother his wife and be his father’s companion.

Shamla resisted this decision at first. She kept saying “No, this feels like running away from my duty”
However, Ravi coaxed her into meeting a few candidates. They had not told Ravi’s father anything. They wanted to select the maid themselves.

Godavari Amma caught their eye. She used to be a nurse, she knew how to give a massage. She had cooked them an excellent meal. Most importantly she came across as chatty and friendly.

Problem solved Ravi thought. Perhaps he would have a little peace now. His father really did seem to take to the woman.  They would talk for hours. Ravi could finally talk to his wife for hours. Both Ravi and Shamla felt so relaxed, it was almost like the initial days of their marriage. They finally made love patiently and in peace. At night as they cuddled after, Ravi started feeling thirsty. The bottle of water they had brought with them was already empty.

So he got up and left to go get water. As soon as he opened his bedroom door he could hear Godavari Amma’s muffled voice. He wondered if all bounds had been crossed between her and his father. He was about to step back but he could clearly hear her now and it seemed fishy “No… no… everyone is sleeping. Even the old man. God he is annoying…” Ravi’s blood began to boil. How dare this woman refer to his father in that tone.

“Two days from now would be a good time. The madam is going to shop in the city. No one would be home just me and the old man. Finish the job, I have the impression of the key to the old man’s safe.”

The revelation startled Ravi. From being angry he quickly went to being afraid.

“Ok..Ok” she continued “Remember to stab me as well. Just a few times nothing too fatal like the last time.”

Ravi started shivering. He stepped back in to his bedroom. He did not want to alarm this murderer. As he lay in bed Shamla curled up against him. They had peace for the first time in years. He kissed her hand. He could not believe he would give it all up now. After all he would call the police tomorrow. He would make sure all the other members of the family are safe and then confront this woman.

He kissed his wife’s hand again. Suddenly a thought crossed his mind. What if he did nothing? He could have his peace forever. The thought send a shudder down his spine. He tried to put it out of his mind. It gripped him. It was all he could think about.

He kept imagining all the space he would have. His father was old anyways. “nooooo” his conscience screamed back. “How could I even… I might be able to buy a new property with dad’s savings the market is perfect”

He twisted and turned in bed. The first rays of the sun entered the apartment. He still lay there wondering what to do?

“The fact that you are thinking so much means you don’t want to tell anyone. Let’s just say he deserves to find peace.” He rationalized.

Having made that decision Ravi calmly took a bath called his office and took the day off to stay home and sleep. His attitude towards his father became even more affectionate. He tried to spend some time with his father that day.

Next day was the day Ravi knew that. So the next morning as his wife kept on droning about all the things she would like to buy Ravi felt a lump form in his throat. There was no backing out now he felt. The decision had been made. He knew he would feel sad for few days but eventually he would like to convert his father’s room in to a study. He would finally have peace at night.

He could barely get any work done that day. The whole day he just waited for the phone to ring and the police to call. Eventually the phone rang. Rest of the things where just a blur for him that day. The police noticed his lost demeanor and figured he must be in shock. His wife was extra caring towards him. Ravi however just let go. In his own mind he searched for that smidgen of guilt to rise and take over his being. His subconscious however had decided to digest the sin.

So he watched the time go by. To an appropriate question he gently nudged the police investigation in direction of the new maid. Godavari Amma was in hospital alright. She had lost enough blood for stabbings to look serious.

“I pretended to have fainted to save my own life” she had quietly confessed to the police with a tear drop in her eyes.

Of course they did not trust her tears, they started digging into her past and put two and two together.

On the thirteenth day of mourning Godavari Amma had been arrested. Her interrogation revealed the identity of the rest of the gang. They had escaped to the hinterlands of Utter Pradesh never to be heard of again.

Ravi lost jewellery worth 2 lakh rupees and 3 lakhs in cash. In turn he got the peace he was looking for and an extra room he could use. As soon as the dust settled on the incidence he decided to move in to his new room.

It would have a mini-bar he told his wife and a book shelf. A nice music system and everything. Shamla was happy to see her husband active again. He had been quite for the last few weeks. He seemed to be brooding over something lost in his own thoughts.

“I hope you don’t blame yourself for this tragedy”

She had asked him in a hushed tone once at night.

“I wish I did” Ravi had wistfully replied.

Ravi was his true self around his office colleagues those days. He was calm and jovial and focused. Now that hour had come for him to begin his celebration he decided to commemorate it with some gajar ka halwa. So he called up his wife and asked her to make it.

Seeing her husband move on Shamla gladly made it. He went home ready to begin his new and peaceful life. With the sweet taste of halwa on his lips, he reached home salivating.

He used his keys to rush into his house with a smile on his lips. Today was the day he would begin to enjoy his freedom. His wife smiled at him

“Where is my halwa woman?”

“Oh! You seem happy after so many days. Sorry, your son ate the whole halwa during my noon siesta.”

She informed him whilst giving a peck on his cheek.

Suddenly, Ravi felt a knot in the pit of his stomach, for a moment his legs felt wobbly. His face became a mask of fear. Alarmed shamla asked him “Are you ok?”

Ravi quickly recovered “Yes I am fine” he said. His demeanor however, was no more jovial.

“I will make it again tomorrow.” Shamla told him

Ravi said “no need”

He stayed quite for the rest of the night. Smiling graciously whenever his wife tried to cheer him up. At night after she fell asleep Ravi found himself in the grip of his new fear.

“One day you will be an old man Ravi at the mercy of your son” the fear whispered gently into his ears. He tossed and turned in bed. Sleep alluded him. Unable to contain himself any more he walked into his son’s room and watched him sleep peacefully. He knew right then that he would never be at peace again. He would never be able to sleep again. Might as well get some cleaning done, he felt. He picked up a mop and started cleaning sparkling floor of his house.

Posted by: thetavernthoughts | June 5, 2020

A Discerning Environment

There was no way that Mat would forget the taste of plastic. He had just sunk his trunk into something rough and bulbous. He was sure this was a hydrocarbon, it was surely not plastic. For all he knew it was fish scales of some sort. His vision told him it was blue in colour. He was nervous. He could ask his colleagues, fellow microbots. He tried to use his vision and look to the sides. All he could see was a long line of the blue compound he was eating. 

He checked his wifi message board to see what others had countered. The board was filled with jubilant messages of microbots munching on plastic

Why was Mat’s analysis different? 

He shared his location on the wifi message board.
“Who is closest to me? Please check guys” Mat sent out a message. 

“I think it’s me. Brother you have drifted away by about half a meter from the group.” Jay-8 had responded. Mat was relieved to know that Jay-8 was closest to him. He was the one of the most experienced microbot divers in this troop. 

“Let me share the taste with you. Kindly confirm that I am not placed on a fish.”

The data collected by Mat was shared with Jay-8

“Ok! Two things. If you ever land on a body of a fish, remember it will keep moving, your position has been static. Secondly, your entire body will feel pain if you ever sink your trunk into live matter or proteins. Now for the matter at hand, Mat you just dipped your trunk into high-grade nylon. The kind often used to throw away large quantities of…’

A message from line managers interrupted their conversation. 

“INITIAL ANALYSIS GARBAGE BAG. CAUTION ”

“That’s exactly what I was going to say. We, my friend, are on top of a garbage bag. As we eat into this bag there is a risk that filth inside will tumble out and carry us away from the group. 

Mat cautiously extended his trunk once again. He could see his black conical trunk enter inside the blue nylon thread. He felt hungry now that he was no more anxious about what he was eating. His trunk heated up at various spots as the hunger inside him increased. The nylon began to melt and flow into his trunk. The molten contents entered the digestive chamber where they were separated from water by a membrane. The pure nylon residue was split into a simpler version of hydrocarbons. These hydrocarbons were pushed into the excreting section where they were treated by specially developed bacteria that converted the hydrocarbons into perfect manure for seaweed. 

The process of excreting the final product sent a wave of pleasure through Mat who got even hungrier. He lost the track of time as he indulge himself on high-grade nylon. A sudden jolt forced him to end his feast. He felt himself being pulled downwards into the water. The sudden movement scared him and he loosened his grip on the nylon thread for a moment. This was followed by another jolt in the upward direction. Mat frantically shared his location on the wifi. 

“Relax Mat”

Mat checked to see who had sent him the message. It was Jay-8. Everyone was sharing their locations on the wifi. Mat did a quick analysis. He could see why Jay had messaged him. Everyone else seemed to be moving away from them. The two of them were however at a constant distance. In his panic Mat had probably latched on to a piece of garbage. 

“Do not let go of the debris” Jay warned Mat.

“Are we going up or down Jay?” 

“Wrong question, what are we sitting on. Dip your trunk and share the analysis”

“Its synthetic plastic…”

“Arrgghhh” 

“What happened Jay?”

“I just bit into some form of protein” 

“Are we on top of a fish” 

Jay could feel fear and shame. His digestive system shut down. He was terrified of eating a fish on his very first mission. It was the ultimate failure of his purpose. The grand purpose that every microbot serves. ‘Eating plastics to keep water bodies safe.’ 

He tried to look around, at least to get a glimpse of Jay-8. Across the white surface, he could see Jay-8. He noticed that propellers on the top of Jay-8 were not working. He panicked and soon his own propeller shut. This was a disaster. 

“What was your analysis” Jay-8 asked.

Mat wondered for a moment, what if his system had malfunctioned. What if he had eaten fish tissue thinking it was plastic.

“Snap out of it Mat. Dip your trunk inside and tell me what you get” 

Mat follows the instruction. “I am getting tissue paper this time. Just a moment ago I got plastic. I think my sensors are malfunctioning. Holy-shit. We attacked a fish, we attacked a fish” 

“GRIP ONTO THE DEBRIS” Jay-8 messaged Mat urgently. Mat realised he had almost withdrawn every hook he had. He quickly gripped the surface again. 

“Listen Mat, our job is to observe and report analysis. It is the higher-ups like the line manager who get to see the complete picture. They tell us what to do and we do it. You need to trust them with the final decision” Jay-8 stressed in the message.

Mat calmed down reading that message. He could feel his propellers start slowly at a gentle speed.

“Never let go of the debris Mat. Remember the higher-ups are tracking you. If you fall of debris onto something living it could spell disaster. Living things move very fast. They can carry you out of range.” 

Mat calmed down.  

“DIAPERS AND FECES DETECTED… PROCEED TO EAT”

Mat started laughing after reading the message from the line manager. It made sense, diapers are made from soft synthetic plastic and tissue papers. 

“This is going to be one hell of an experience. Diapers are the best. They are always mixed with protein. So you feel pleasure and pain simultaneously “

They both dipped their trunks. They ate away. 

“Ohh that is tangy” 

“You probably tasted calcium. It comes out with faeces sometimes. Eat away Mat my friend…” 

The captain watched in amazement as thousands of microbots devoured the body in a matter of seconds. 

“The trick captain is to flood their senses with multiple stimuli. Tiny pieces of bones and flesh mixed with the right grade of tissue and plastic. They will devour the body, not even trace DNA will be found. Bones, flesh… everything gone.” 

Captain, shook his head, he shook as if a jolt of current had gone down his spine. 

“Dr what do you think is the purpose of this experiment.”

“Listen Captain, our job is to observe and report analysis. It is the higher-ups like the general who get to see the complete picture. They tell us what to do and we do it. You need to trust them with the final decision”

The scientist stressed on his words as the captain calmed down. 

Posted by: thetavernthoughts | June 4, 2020

Hurling Insults

He was a list of perceived insults where a person should be. If you told Promod Pansekar a name,  he would tell you how the said person had insulted him, on what day and how. Promod had a good memory of false insults. 

The bus to the station in the morning was crowded as usual. Pramod stood smiling in front of me as usual. I smiled at him trying to hide my irritation… as usual. The daily life of Thane city. Wait in a queue for a bus which is late and share the ride with annoying co-passengers. 

“I just saw Kadam get into the line” Promod whispered into my ears. My fake smile vanished. I knew I was going to receive a sermon from Promod. Another true memory of a fake insult. I curled my fists and nodded politely.

“I remember it was a cold January, 2 years ago. It was on a Wednesday, on a relatively cold morning. I was returning home from my morning walk, and….and” Pansekar grit his teeth in anger as he spoke. I closed my eyes in annoyance. I had an important meeting that day. The last thing I wanted to listen to was Promod’s rants about insults. Yet I asked politely “What did he do?… I am sure there’s a simpler explanation” 

“Deshpande Saheb, you are always so diplomatic…he wanted to insult me I could see it. I was tired from the long walk…”

The bus arrived and I tried to make way through the crowd as far away from Promod as possible. I was tired of his morning recountings. Every morning a new tale of insult. No one should begin their day with such negativity. I shoved people out of my way. 

“Finally, some aggression” I could hear Promod speak in my ear.

I stopped exactly in the centre of the bus. Sweat drops flowing down my forehead. He stood opposite to me looking at Mr Kadam angrily. Mr Kadam luckily was near the rear end of the bus far away from Promod’s wrath. 

“I was walking to the lift. This man was right there. He could have held the lift for me. It had arrived just about as I was reaching. He simply stepped in and did not bother to wait. I stopped talking to him then”

I looked at Promod with anger and resignation. What choice did I have? I looked at Kadam and wished I was in his place. 

“Yes, see you also got annoyed with Kadam now. He is a jerk I am telling you.” On his son’s 5th birthday party I bought such an expensive cricket set and the brat did not even seek my blessings. He touched every adult’s feet and thanked. Except mine. How everyone had laughed!”

I was there at the event. I knew why the child had not touched Promod’s feet. Promod had thick eyeglasses. His eyes looked magnified behind them. He also had reputation of shouting at children. So obviously Kadam’s son got scared. This was too much. Who took slights from the actions of a 5 year old. I said nothing though. “Stop talking Stop talking” I kept yelling at him in my head. 

“I have an important meeting today”

I tried to tell Promod. He seemed to not notice “You know manners of a child are a reflection on their parents”

“Seriously Promod! I wonder what your parents taught you” I blurted out under my breathe. It felt good, a bit of my repressed anger had found a vent.

“They taught me forbearance I tell you that”

I smiled wryly. This man was really something. Forbearance really. I had to keep calm. I kept telling myself. “Yes! It’s amazing how much you put up with” I said despite my better sense. Hurling subtle and real insults at this man made me feel better. It was a risky game though. If he caught on he would be bitching about me to someone. 

“True true…” he said

“They should give out Nobel prize for patience you know” 

Promod laughed heartily. “I would surely be a Nobel laureate” 

If only I could record this, I thought to myself. 

“How do you keep so much patience do you meditate?”

“Who has the time? I do pray once before I sleep every night Recite a few shlokas that I know.”

“Wonderful” I added sarcastically. 

“The deep connection I feel with god…I cannot explain. Every time I pray…”

Pramod continued talking, I just stared at him in disbelief. I just needed him to stop talking, how could he not see I was being sarcastic. My heartbeat started to rise. I wanted to give the man a piece of my mind.

“It is like I am one with the infinite. My faith carried me over through the tough times.”

“Seriously! How can you talk about god and then take offence at the smallest of things? Have you heard yourself speak? No one wants to insult you. It is all in your mind. These are good people. Why would they want to insult you? Does it occur to you that you are mean to everybody except me…I give you that…but you are mean. You think everything is about you. You have been telling me all these things and I am trying to tell you that I have an important meeting. You did not even listen. I hate listening to you go crib about other people I absolutely do! So will please just leave me out of all this”

This was it I thought. I had insulted the man to his face. I was sure he was going to be pissed.

He smiled a genuine smile “Of course, you think that way. You see the good in everyone”

His response left me flabbergasted. “I knew you would defend them and get angry at me instead. I am telling you those are mean people not like you”

“You know what I am sorry, I am just stressed about the meeting and this stupid bus is moving slowly”

“Oh! I understand. I have been telling you about these stupid people when I should have been helping you pray”

“Let us just be silent for a while. Let me just calm down” I was in full damage control mode. I did not like Pramod but I was not going to blatantly insult him either. I was curious though how come he did not take afront at what I had just sort of yelled.

“How come you never feel insulted by me?” I could not help but ask. The bus was approaching the station. People started rushing by us to get down. The 2 of us despite the tugs and pushes stayed riveted to our spot. I just had to know.

“How can you insult me? I trust you blindly. A man…as I said is a product of his parents’ upbringing. You would not remember this, you were but a child. My father was something of a tyrant. One day I reached late from the playground…and he decided to punish me. His punishment was lifting me and placing me on a hot pan that was on the stove. He held me there till my buttocks were thoroughly burnt. Unable to contain my fear and pain I ran out of the house as soon as he loosened his grip…Your mother took me in that day. She nursed my wounds. She also gave a piece of her mind to my parents I think. The most important thing she did was that she nursed back my confidence and self-esteem. She did so by teaching me shlokas and prayers. She looked me in the eye and said “These words in Sanskrit will give you the patience to wait till the life shows you better days” I did find that patience my dear friend I am seeing those happy days. My father is long dead, I have a stable job what more could I ask for? A woman so loving and gentle cannot but have a gentle and loving son”

Having said this he joined the last few people waiting to get off the bus. I just stood there stunned.

Posted by: thetavernthoughts | May 14, 2020

The Queen of Jhansi

Fatima stood on the edge of the building verandah with her hands behind her back. “I want to be a member of the club” she said. She curled the big toe into the cement floor. Her pigtails flying about in the cool winter breeze.

‘No’ said  Aditya, “no girls allowed. This is a boys-only club. Girls cannot be soldiers and we are playing soldiers now.”

Fatima looked at the floor and then looked up straight into Aditya’s eyes. “There are no girls my age in the building. I will complain to aunty if you don’t let me play”

“I told you no girls allowed”

“No one else has problem with me” Fatima shot back “Ask Manya”

“Manya are you a secretly a girl” Aditya sniggered to which Nishant and Prasad laughed heartily.

“If you want to play house with her go ahead, but then you will not be a part of this club anymore”

“Fatima yaar let it go na” Manya asked her with pleading eyes. Looking dejected Fatima walked away. In the tiny 4 floor apartement building, there were no girls she could play with. The only girl friends she had were in school.

She noticed near the stairs her mother was speaking to somebody. She tugged her mother’s grey lined burqa. Her mother was speaking to the building secretary. Fatima stared at him from behind her. Mr Saraf looked at her and smiled.

“What Happened?” her mother asked as soon as Mr. Saraf left.

“The boys refused to let me play.”

“Do you really want to play soldiers? You like playing house more do you not? Why don’t you bring your dolls and play in the kitchen with ammi instead.”

They climbed the stairs to their house on the second floor. Fatima rushed inside, her mother looked at her with dotting eyes. Inside the kitchen the golden rays of the sun lit up Fatima’s light brown eyes. She asked her mother with curiosity “Are there things that only boys can do and girl cannot?”

“Yes, there somethings that boys do more and girls less. There are no rules about these things. Like if I said the word ‘fauji’ what would come to your mind?”

“A man in uniform with a gun”

“Yet, a girl can be a soldier too”

“Really”

“Like the great Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi”

“Who was she?”

Fatima asked her eyes lit with excitement.

Fatima’s mother lifted the spatula she had been using for cooking and fashioned it into a sword.

“Rani Laxmibai the great revolutionary queen who fought the british in our country’s first Independence struggle.”

Fatima Giggled and pulled out a spatula and stood beside her mother.
“Together oh countrymen we shall fight today” Fatima’s mother addressed imaginary crowds “for the honour of Jhansi. The foreigner Britisher must go from our native lands. He seeks to divide us along our caste, creed and language. Then let us pledge today that our great nation is greater than all those things and let that give us the strength to stand. Let us unite and fight.”

With gusto Fatima charged forward. She did not understand half the things her mother had spoken but she understood the tone. With her mock sword she defeated invisible enemies.

“Very good. Now you be the queen.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well you give the speech”

“Together! Oh country men we must fight. For the British are dividing us into cas… I don’t remember. What does British mean?”

“British were people from different country. They came here and divided the country into hindu and muslims. We started fighting each other and that allowed them to rule over us”

This became first of the many questions that Fatima asked. She got answers to all them and she learnt the speech by heart.

“Very good Fatima, will you give this speech on the stage? In front of everyone?”

“Nooooo…” she blushed and ran away.

The building held tiny competition for children to mark its foundation day. Fatima wore simle red nine yard sari and held a toy sword. Her mother fashioned a sling from a shawl and that looked like sling. In it they kept a doll. Fatima by the end of it looked like a miniature Jhansi ki Rani.”

“I shall never surrender Jhansi” she thundered on the stage during her act. Her innocent face full of determination illicited an immediate applause. She won the fancy dress competition that day. Everyone started calling her Jhansi ki Rani.

The adults got busy in their talks, snacks were served after the competition. Emboldened by everyone’s compliments she approached the troop of boys who had created their own assembly in one corner of the building verandah.

“Jhansi ki Rani is here” Manya said.

“See Aditya you were wrong. Girls can be soldiers too.”

Aditya looked at her angrily. Other boys also joined in on the compliments. Facing rebellion within his ranks Aditya started sulking. For the first time Fatima was accepted in to their folds.

At night over the dinner table Fatima could not stop smiling. She chewed on her juicy piece of mutton curry and told her mother everything.

“We were playing chor and police. I and manya were on the same team. We were chor”

Her mother seemed distracted. She kept tugging on her mother’s salwar and kept talking. He father looked at her mother and frowned.
“She making new friends. It will be fine.”

“Abbu” Fatima continued. “Amey could not catch us only. I kept getting away from him. He almost fell down you know” She said with delight in her eyes. Her father did not react. He just pat her head.
“You be careful” he said.
“We need to shield her”
“You cannot always shield her”
“Eh! Mithu will you like to go to mamujaan’s place for a while”

“Mamujaan… I would love to go his place.”

“Why? No. Its perfectly normal over here. She is Jhansi Ki Rani.”

“No. It is not normal. Do you have any idea. People have been staring.”

“It will pass over”

“You’re going to your brother’s place”

Fatima mom got up from the dinner table and walked briskly to the kitchen.

“Rani of Jhansi was very courageous. We will be courageous won’t we Fatima”

“Allah’s sake woman. Have you heard the radio news lately. You know what they call us”

Fatima had never heard her father raise his voice before. She started eating her food in silence and very fast. She did not tell her mother anymore stories that night.

The next day in the morning Fatima could barely remember her parents arguments. She could not wait to finish school and meet her new friends in the evening. She rushed back to her mother after school. She kept looking out of the window waiting for the sun to turn little orange.

As soon as heat of the sun tempered she rushed out of her home. She barely informed her mother that she was going down. Her mother was busy cooking dinner.

Fatima’s father came home at his usual time from his office. He looked unusually tired. Fatima’s mother gave him his usual hot cup of coffee.
He nodded. They sat close together like they always did in this brief moment of absolute privacy. It always calmed him down.
“There is still hope for us here” he said “I saw her below with her friends they seemed quite welcoming”
She nodded in agreement.
“First sign of trouble though you’re both out” He said as he kept his head in her lap. The transistor played an old 50’s tune by the great O P Nayyar.

Fatima watched as Aditya stepped out of the auto with his grand-father. His grandfather looked at him sternly. All the children flocked around the auto to greet him. Fatima followed them she stayed away from the group a little bit. Aditya looked at her more intensly than usual. He joined the group to play. For a while they played catch. Then Aditya stopped them

“Let’s play a new game…” he said

Few minutes later Fatima rushed home. She had not liked the new game at all. She could not understand why.

Her parents broke out of their embrace the moment Fatima knocked on the door. The sight of her Abu made Fatima uncomfortable. She sat silently on the couch listening to the radio and the songs. Her mother looked at her curiously, the child was generally very vivacious.

“What happened? Did you fight on the playground?” Her mother asked her concerned.
“Nothing we were playing new game…I did not like it”
“Why did they keep you out of the new game?”
“No…” a lump formed in Fatima’s thoat. Her eyes almost welled up as her father came close to her.
“What was the game?” her father asked firmly
“I was Babbar ki aulad so I had to hide and they would find me” Her father pulled her…for a moment she was scared. Then he hugged her tightly.

Her mother walked towards the bedroom. “Don’t cry child, we will be going to mama’s house. You can play with your cousins there”

Fatima smiled at the idea of going to her uncle’s place. She quickly ran to her room “I can play Jhansi ki rani with them” she said holding her silver toy sword. Her mother looked at her and stifled a sob.

Posted by: thetavernthoughts | January 12, 2019

The Solution

Aditya watched as the lift reached the sixth floor. His friend Vedant was by his side. They both had mud stains all over their school uniforms. Aditya held the foot ball beside along side with his bag and kept looking at Vedant with a half smile. Vedant kept staring at the indicator of the lift. The lift stopped on the sixth floor.

“Best of  luck” Vedant said with sardonic smile and a sarcastic tone.

“Oh shut up! at least I know how to score a goal. You toh never get selected even. You are bloody girl Aditya, you don’t deserve to be a boy.” Vedant retorted.

The door bank opposite to the lift was open. Vedant’s mother was putting incense sticks outside the door. She turned around and looked at Vedant. Her calm eyes flashed anger.

“Vedant you have spoiled the new t shirt” She caught him by the ear and took inside the house. Aditya smiled looking at the two of them

He pulled out the key to his house with his mud stained hands as the lift proceeded to the tenth floor. Some of the mud rubbed off the corners of the pocket and created a stain. Adiya rushed into the house and put his clothes inside the washing machine taking care to leave them beneath a pile of clothes already inside the machine. He then switched the machine on. He turned on the hot shower and curled up underneath it. The mud flowed down his skin to reveal his wheatish skin. His thin frame barely covered the bones. He looked at his thin long legs. He pushed his calf muscles as if to shape and strength them. He then lied back on the bathroom floor and left the shower water fall on him.

Every one mocked his girly voice and weak frame. The only place he felt appreciated was in the music class at the school. Their new teacher Dixit guruji as deeply impressed with his skill at singing. He closed his eyes he started singing the latest song he had been taught in class. “Let the winter cool the earth, on it, flamingos give  birth…” Simple rhyme and common verse of the song were stuck in his head.

He suddenly heard the main door open. Aditya wrapped a towel and rushed out only to find his father walked in. Father stumbled and the room suddenly reeked of Alcohol. Aditya rushed to support his father.

“Had dinner” his father asked with blood shot eyes. “I am not going to have any” His father suddenly got up and walked to the bedroom and crashed on the bed. Aditya put a bedsheet on him and rushed out. He put on a music channel and started humming tunes. He listened intently to how their tones were being modulated. He tried to figure every strum of the guitar and every beat of the drum. Eventually, he switched off the music channel and closed his eyes to practice one more time the song his teacher had taught him. He rehearsed first in his mind and then slowly gave his voice. This time the world around him disappeared, for him, only music emanating from his lips remained. He mentally corrected the scales to match the tones taught by his guru. Aditya felt that he had sung perfectly. After rehearsing the entire song he closed his eyes and observed the silence as taught to him by his teacher.

The Silence was broken however by sound of claps. He opened his eyes. His mother was at the main door waiting for him.  He rushed into her arms. “You sing well” she said, “Your voice is surely a gift of the gods.” Aditya could feel the blood rush into his cheeks. It had been a while since his mother said anything nice to anybody. She too was extremely thin.

“Have you had dinner?”

“No I was waiting for you mother” He said.

“What about your Dad?”

“Inside”

“Ok, go get the plates,”

They generally had dinner in silence but tonight Aditya’s mother was full of questions.

“Where did you learn to sing like this?”

“New teacher in school” Aditya answered with his mouth full of food.

“Yes but so well.”

“I do not know about that but Dixit guruji considers me his favourite student.”

“Wow. We must meet him then.”

Aditya smiled as he noticed his mother’s eyes light up like never before. Her cell phone began to ring, Aditya looked intently as she cut the call and spoke to him instead.

“Look Aditya I will give you a note. Give it to your Guruji.”

“Ok”

She tucked him to bed that night, Aditya counted her mobile phone rang four times in between. She cut the call four times. Aditya hugged her and fell asleep smiling.

The next morning he eagerly waited for the music class. The lectures had never seemed longer and tedious before. He wanted to meet his guruji. His mother had given a beautiful brown envelope with a letter inside for his teacher. Throughout the lectures Aditya kept looking at the envelope wondering what his mother had written. He desperately wanted to know what was in it. The only way to know was to give it to his teacher. Finally after lunch, the music period started.

Aditya sat in the front row, right in front of his favourite teacher. Mr Dixit, cleared his throat and looked at the faces of  the children. They all seemed a little sleepy, except Aditya who was as always excited. He smiled at Aditya.

“Today we learn the basics of Indian Classical Music”

The lecture was mostly about Ragas, Aroha and Avroha in the Indian Classical music. At the end of the lecture, the teacher to increase level of the class made them recite and practice a fast paced song. When the lecture ended Aditya gave his teacher the envelope. The teacher opened the envelope and read the letter.

“You mother wants me to teach you along with my other students who take these lessons privately. Are you interested?”

“Yes” Aditya said eagerly.

“Come with your mother, I am writing my address behind on the envelope.”

The next day after school Aditya opened the door with his own key. Lo, Behold his mother was right there. She was scrambling through her purse.

“Don’t relax, get fresh and ready we are going to music teacher house for your private tutoring.”

Aditya rushed in to the bathroom. Even in the sound of drops of shower he could various tones of music. He wiped the steam of the mirror in the bathroom. He smiled and looked at his perfect white teeth. He then proceeded to gargle loudly and spit out the water.

“Aditya come out fast.” His mother called, Aditya rushed out of the Bathroom.

Since that day Aditya started spending evenings with his guruji. Many other students came to Guruji’s place to learn music. They were from many different schools. Aditya could easily blend in, especially because Aditya’s voice made him something of a celebrity.

All guruji had to do was teach a new raga and Aditya seemed to effortlessly pick it up. At the end of the session Guruji would make every student sing personally, to help them get over stage fright and to see how much they had learnt.

On everyone of these opportunities Aditya felt a surge of emotion veiling up in his chest. A strange tension would seize him. Slowly beginning from toe and straight to his his head. He would feel as if his body is completely paralysed. Eventually it would be his turn to sing. He would walk in front of the class with jelly feet. He would survey the room and clear his throat before beginning to sing the Raga that had been rehearsed. As Aditya would sing the tension in his nerves would dissipate. He would feel light as feather before becoming completely focused on the music emanating from his throat. He could sense the rhythm in the ragas and control the pitch accordingly. Although he would make mistakes, the melody of his voice covered up these blunders. At the end of the song, other students would generally applaud the young boy. Aditya could feel the blood gush into his cheeks and he felt that his ear were hot every time.

What he enjoyed the most, however, was rehearsing everything he had learnt in front of his mom and dad. On very second day itself his father had surprised him by coming to pick him outside the class. Aditya had run towards his father as fast as his legs could follow him. His guru taught him that music was holy, and he believed his guru that day.

He remembered what his teacher had said. “Music is scared and it guides you to the divine. It is more about finding the inner truth, like Yoga, it is way of the union with the universal truth. The way of music is the way of warrior. In path of music you will meet many enemies, internal and external. The only way to beat them is practice, patience and sacrifice. SACRIFICE children is most important of the three. If you ever chose to become a musician by trade you will understand what I mean.”

As his father drove him back home. Aditya knew he was ready to sacrifice anything for music. The scared chants it seems, had enchanted his parents to come together again. After going home he practiced some more patiently. As he slept at night he wondered what sacrifice he would have to make in order to become the best singer in world.

The next evening, his mother dropped him off early at guruji’s place. He was surprised to see lot of elder students singing. Aditya sat listening carefully to them. The students were mostly in their early teens. One of them caught aditya eye and ear. God her voice Aditya noted. Geeta looked at him and Aditya realised that he had been staring. He involutarily blushed that seemed to make geeta smile. Guruji gave the class five minutes recess.

Geeta walked up to him. His heart started beating madly.

“Hey, I am Geeta, what are you called kid?”

“Aditya”

“Aditya, what std are you in Aditya.”

“I am in 1st Std”

“Wow, you are really grown up! Tell me what you are doing here”

Aditya felt a little annoyed with that question. He answered confidently though

“Is it not obvious that I am here to learn singing.”

Geeta was taken aback “Well you could be like Guruji’s relative!”

“Oh! No no, mom dropped me a little early today”

‘What have you been learning?”

“The basic exercises for modulation you know” As he spoke Aditya noticed that sleeve of Geeta’s kurta had raised up to expose her wrist. Her wrist seemed to have faint cuts. Geeta suddenly folded her hands and Aditya looked up at her startled.

“Sing” she commanded. “I want to see what you know”

Aditya swallowed a bit of saliva as his throat got dry and palms sweaty. She look right into his eyes, and his heart beat had suddenly gone through the roof. He cleared his throat and said “I am the best in my class. I will show you.”

Aditya closed his eyes to block her out and started to sing. His notes were out of tune at first. He did not stop or open his eyes. Instead he observed something in his mind’s eye as he started to give his voice form. It was Geeta’s wrists and those subtle cuts. It reminded him of his own dysfunctional childhood. His voice thus, got a twinge of that sad note. Geeta was taken aback by the clarity and serenity of his voice. When he opened his eyes he could see the look of shock in her eyes. She patted his back and said “Do not ever give up singing”. Their recess ended and Aditya sat there gloating.

The second session was a blurr to Aditya. He kept thinking about the stunned look on Geeta’s face when he had stopped singing. The look gave him a strange thrill. When their session was over, he followed Geeta out of the class. She was with other girl’s in the class. She waved at him as he approached her.

“Aditya here has a brilliant voice?” Geeta told her friend

“I know I heard him too, Just hope puberty does not ruin it for him.”

Geeta giggled “I am sure he would be fine”

Aditya the silent spectator to the the whole conversation, however, suddenly felt a little sick in stomach. “What the hell was this Puberty thing?” As children from his batch started arriving the class Aditya took his place right in front of the teacher’s desk.

“Today we are going to practice the intonation for Raga…” Although the sounds were falling on his ears, Aditya could not comprehend the things being taught by guruji. His mind was occupied with one thought. What would happen if he lost his voice. That day at rehearsal time, he was consistently off beat. After repeatedly explaining the problem to him, guruji got annoyed.

“All the praise is going to head. Remember Music is scared and demands humility” Guruji shouted at him.

Aditya could feel the perspiration on his forehead. His lips went dry.

“I am sorry Sir, I did not quite follow the concept today.”

“Of course you did not follow the concept. Your head was full of praise. Go sit down.”

Everyone in the class began to murmur. Aditya sat down humiliated. He decided to go home and practice on current session more. He strained his memory to figure out what Guruji had said during the lecture. As other students took their turn, Aditya furiously worked to understand what he had missed. By the end of the lecture he was fairly confident that he had learnt everything he had missed.

With stoic determination he waited out Guruji’s house. One by one all the students left. Aditya’s father had not arrived. As the crowd thinned out Aditya’s mind went right back to the horrible day. ‘Puberty’ one word suddenly sprung up and once again Aditya felt anxiety rise from within and take over his entire existence. What was the dark magic of this word which had so distracted him. He instinctively knew that the word had an adult innuendo. He brushed the thought out of head angrily and decided to focus on his missed lecture instead. He wanted to reach home and practice everything he had learnt. He was angry with his father for being late. Just then his father arrived.

He was going to ask his father the causes for the delay, but the alcohol on his breathe gave him away. His father seemed to be in his senses. Aditya stared at his father’s face and sat beside him in silence. His father had a guilty look on his face.

“Sorry, I am late, I got caught up at work.”

Aditya knew it was a lie. He also knew his mother would be upset now, they would probably fight. He was terrified of the quarrel he was sure would ensue. All he wanted to do was practice his session. Perhaps singing would save the day for him. So he practiced with unusual fervor that evening. His mother happy with his progress kept calm despite his father’s clear relapse.

The whole night Aditya tossed and turned. What if he got puberty and lost his voice, his family would fall apart!

The child with miraculous voice however was fast becoming very famous. His teacher had offered to send him to a televised show. This was big deal for Aditya and his family. His fathered seemed to be sobering his act again. Success brought with it the anxiety of losing. He was now haunted in his dreams. Losing his voice would mean losing the world.

During one late night practice session before the big televised show, the subject of puberty was broached again in front of Aditya. One of the older students seemed to have lost the control of his voice. Since it was just boys in class the guruji seemed liberal with use of launguage. Guruji laughed “When the balls get heavy so does the voice” Everyone laughed.

After the class Aditya asked his Guruji “What was the joke all about?”

“Well son it is not my place to tell you. It happens with age you just focus on your singing”

“What if my voice gets heavy to and I am not able to control it.”

“You will still be able to train your voice.”

“I will not lose my voice”

“Well you may not sound as sweet as you do. Look if your voice becomes completely terrible you can still play an instrument. Every person will find his/her place in the world of music. Don’t worry.  Does Ustad Zakir Hussain have a good voice? Who knows? But he plays tabla so well!” Guruji explained.

Aditya felt that the teacher was consoling him. He felt very anxious.

He asked one of the friendlier teenage boys. “What’s the deal with you people not controlling you voice.”

“You will face issues once you hit puberty as well”

“What is puberty?”

Pointing towards Aditya’s balls the elder boy said “They start working little man. And man learns to get the big…hahaha you will understand with time”

“What does that mean?”

“You are a kid you will learn with time.” The teenager answered very seriously this time.

The televised show went well. Aditya’s father called every relative that they knew. He was estactic. They all praised him a-lot. He was the first member of the extended family to appear on television. More shows were lined up. Aditya had been star of the show, his innocent eyes and sweet voice made him quite famous.

All the praise only made aditya more anxious. All musicians make sacrifices. The phrase was stuck in his head. He could not afford to sing badly anymore.

That night as his parents slept, Aditya twisted and turned in his bed. He had to make his sacrifices. He could not afford to lose the control of his voice. The night dragged on for Aditya. He could feel his stomach churn with anxiety. His mouth filled with bile. He rushed to the bathroom. He closed the door quickily. He did not want his parents to find him this way.

He rushed to aim the vomit at the commode, in turn he ended up dropping things on the floor. Fortunately the noise was not too loud. One of the things he dropped was a razor. As bent and picked the razor, Aditya cut his fingers. The blood just gushed out. Keeping his hand to the side Aditya picked up other things off the floor. He suddenly realised he also had to piss. All the anxiety had gone to his bladder.

In a hurry he ended using his injured hand to hold his penis while he took an aim. The wound immediately burned and Aditya immediately moved his other hand to replace the injured one. As he pissed into the pot, he noticed his testicles dangling. He knew then what the elder boy had meant. When the testicles start working you loose control over your voice. 

The pain of the freshly cut palm made him think clearly. “All musicians make sacrifices, to be the best musician I will make the biggest sacrifice of all times.” Thinking thus, Aditya picked up the razor with his injured hand. The blood started flowing from the former wound profusely.

His legs started shivering, but he moved his hand down with force. The razor sliced thorugh his testicles. The world suddenly became red Aditya smiled at the sacrifice he had made. 

When he came back to his senses he screamed. His shouts woke up his parents. They took him to the hospital. 

“I slipped and fell on it in my sleep” he claimed. Both the parents looked at him sympathetically but Aditya could feel the distinct tension between them. He felt drowsy because of the medications. As he drifted off into his sleep he could hear his father apologies profusely as his mother kept saying “I have had enough” 

“Atleast I will have my voice” Aditya thought as he smiled to sleep.

Posted by: thetavernthoughts | August 3, 2016

The Haggle

The phone begins to ring at night. He can hear the rain pelt on the window sill. He knows it is not a normal call. It is an emergency. It’s weird how emergencies tend to happen at night. It was almost stereotypical. Rainy night and a damsel in distress. Rohit Mehta is smiling ear to ear. This is his moment and he knows it. He lets the phone ring for a while patiently. Eventually the phone stops ringing but he does not care because he knows she will call him again soon. Almost on cue the mobile starts ringing again.

“Hello” he says softly after a pause.

“Rohit!” She exclaimed relieved.

“Breath Meera. Take a deep breath” The sobbing begins.

Meera walks out of the gate her mobile clutched tightly in her hands. The rain pelting on her makes her skin glow despite the gloomy mood. Tears roll down her cheeks and merge with the pelting rain drops. Her eye are swollen and she is completely distraught.

“He is at it again” She screams into the phone.”He is at it again. My own father snatching my hard earned money. His drinking problems are drowning my life. I hate him. He forced me out on the streets in the middle of the night again. I have nowhere to go.”

“Don’t worry Meera. First things first. Call one of your girl pals to come pick you up. I am sure they will not mind you spending a night  at their place.”

“I just said I have no one to go to.”

“What about your friend Heena?”

“She will act all haughty and weird like she has done me a big favour. She disses about me behind my back.”

“Do you want me to come pick you?”

“Can you do that please? As a friend?”

He grins even more”I don’t…I was sleeping…I cannot bring you back here.”

“Please…I am sorry I am disturbing you.”

“Sure I will leave immediately.”

Rohit notices the golden hue of the street lights as he drives. The rain makes them look misty and gives them the beautiful hue. There is something special about the monsoon nights in Mumbai. The usually busy streets are almost desolate. Only people stirring are the cab drivers and late night tea vendors. He enjoyed the late night drive to Meera’s place. He had seen it only once before but he knew the route.  She keeps calling him the whole time to find out where he had reached.

She walks down the Juhu Tara road, feeling unsafe. Few Prostitutes are walking the streets. She walks towards the Juhu Beach. She sends him a text “Come to Juhu Beach.” She ensures that she steers clear of the “street walking crowd”. Walking down such a sensitive street she was scared that some one might approach her thinking she was one of the prostitutes. She would die of embarrassment. Presently she notices an empty corner of the street right opposite to the beach under the street light. Her clothes are completely wet and her harem pants are sticking to her calves. Her T-shirt is clinging to her body. She wraps her arms around her chest, feeling completely exposed.  A middle aged plump woman wearing a gaudy green sari comes and stands right beside her. The woman has tied her hair in a bow and she is wearing a bright red lip stick. She was clearly a prostitute. Both the women look at each other awkwardly. They both have contempt on their face.

“Did he beat you?” The prostitute asks.

“What do you mean?”

“Did your man beat you and throw you out?”

“No my father” Meera says. Meera is scared of the position she was in and the woman’s company makes her feel strangely safe.

“Alcoholic?”

Meera nods

“Where will you go?” The elder one asks.

“I have a friend.”

“I do things for money. To feed myself and my family. Good food and everything. Don’t judge me. Judge the men who do this to me.” The prostitute said suddenly with righteousness. “Shameless they all are, not beneath negotiating with middle aged whore. Or attacking Young girl’s chastity. You be careful”

Suddenly a cab stops right in front of the woman. She approaches the cab and starts talking and laughing. The rain seems to be slowly subsiding. Meera takes out her cell phone from the water proof pouch, she notices a message from Rohit.

“2 mins”

She looks up and looks at the prostitute, who is leaning into the taxi cab. Meera can hear the conversation very clearly.

“No, Sahib, Rs 700 will not do for an hour.”

Meera is disgusted by the whole thing. She feels even more depressed.

The prostitute laughs loudly “Fine! for you 15 mins for Rs 400”

Just then a car stops in front of Meera. The window rolls down, it is Rohit with a concerned look on his face. Meera looks at him and starts running towards the car, safe from the rain and weird crowd of the night. She is relived and her eyes are lit up.

“ohh! you actually came” she said hugging him.

“I had too. Any gentleman would!”

She looks ahead, away from his face, through the windshield at the golden lit street. The rain started pelting and the rhythmic sound of the car wiper  was the only sound they heard.

She noticed that he looked at her on and off through her peripheral vision. They were driving randomly through the streets.

“Wait, take a left from here, go straight till that junction and then take another left.” She instructed him. “Stop behind that parked van”

Rohit noticed that they were behind a large and old apartment complex. He could hear the crashing of the ocean waves near by and he realized they were near the sea. He looked to his right and he could see the dark Arabian sea looking back at him. He turned the engine off and the rain pelted on. He noticed the melodious cacophony of the rain and golden hue of the street lamp on her beautiful face, if only they were meeting under different circumstance, he thought.

A small tear drop formed on her face.

“Earlier men used to awkward and scared around a crying girls but now all we need to do  is scream selfie! and they start smiling.”

A small smile formed on her face as she looked at him imitate a selfie pose. She fondly punches him on his biceps.

“Hey, at least you don’t have to see my boss’s scowling face. Do you want to hear him snore at a meeting.” Rohit says fetching his mobile phone and shows her a clip. His boss is slowly passing out in middle of the presentation. Everyone is awkwardly stifling a smile. She burst out laughing.“Your presentation was so boring?”

He pretends to be offended “My boss is an idiot dude.” She keeps laughing and looking at his face. He keeps staring back with a silly smile. She stops laughing and looks away again blushing. The rain pelts on as he hold her hand. She suddenly leans into him.

“I really like you” she says.

“I like you too” he says.

“Will you come like this every time I call you?” She says looking at their intertwined fingers. A weird smile and a smirk forms on his face. He uses his other hand caress her forehead

“As long as I am here.”

“Why do you plan to leave soon?”

“Yes, MBA from London I guess”

“When?”

“We’ll see when it happens.”

“Do you love me?” she asks.

“I will if we keep doing this” he says

“If you love me, will you marry?”

“Don’t do this, this is not fair.”

“What do you mean?Unfair?” she asks.

“I have my career, you know and long road to settling down. Thinking about marriage is scary, I am million miles away, don’t make me feel guilty for being ambitious.”

She moves away and looks at him.

“You think I will come in the way of your ambition.”

“I am sorry” he backs down a little “I am sorry I am just being honest. I don’t want to make promises I am not sure about.”

“Let’s just be friends then.” she says.

“Sure.”

“You will come to take care of me as a friend.”

“Of course” he says with a smile.

She knew the “Of course” meant a ‘no’. She knew no one wants to marry a drunk’s daughter in the arrange marriage scenario. Love was her only hope. Love and Marriage.It seems both of them were not available to her at the same time. She would have to settle for love, or the pretense of it.

She slowly ties her hair into pony tail and then leans back in to Rohit. Their fingers intertwine and she leans on his chest. The weird smile forms on his face again. She closes her eyes as he kisses her exposed neck. He would take care of her now. At least for a while he would care for her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: thetavernthoughts | June 21, 2016

Don’t Be a Horcrux

I am a Responsible drinker, I have always been. Crossing your limits makes you embarrass yourself, and more often than not, you end up being a burden on your drinking companions. So I believe every man should mark his capacity. My boss Mr Shatanu Naidu was of exactly opposite opinion. He believed your capacity to hold liquor marked you. If you cannot guzzle down alcoholic beverages by the Litre, you are not man enough. I was not man enough according to my boss. He called me a peg man. This did not bode well with me. Not only was his condescension humiliating but also inconvenient to my short-term plans. I needed the job desperately due to certain financial difficulties and a word encouragement from Mr Naidu would have put me at ease and made me feel more secure.

All my efforts to impress him seemed to back fire. He berated even the smallest of things about me. He looked at me with disgust ever time I would chat up the receptionist, Gayatri, as if she was his daughter and he made it a point to mock my reading habit.Once he audibly sniggered as I discussed the latest book I was reading with Gayatri. Obviously, I began to hate that man. People used to tell me that I was the boss’s ‘punching bag’. I was terrified of the prospect of being fired. I needed the job and I needed the money. I became very edgy because of this situation, I began to doubt my abilities. Often at night I would go through the day before rigorously. One wrong step and I would be fired. I knew it.

I remember distinctly even now it had been raining heavily that day. I was stuck with Mr Naidu in office working overtime to meet a deadline. It was a Friday evening I was looking forward to having couple of stiff pegs that night. As our work drew to an end, Mr Naidu asked me “Will you join me for a few drinks, the weather seems fine.” Now I hated the man and last thing that I wanted was to spend the night listening to his insults. Yet, my fear of displeasing him got the better of me once again and I reluctantly agreed to accompany him.

In a typical dingy bar with the usual melancholy instrumental versions of old hindi songs playing in the background, we both sat drinking in awkward silence. I wondered why this man had invited me if he was going to sit there and drink like I did not exist. The waiter came and served us our second peg. I told the waiter I needed three cubes of ice in my rum. Mr Naidu observed that and said”I don’t have to tell them anything, they know exactly how I like my vodka.”

“Do you frequent this bar sir?”
“Do state the obvious that is a lot of fun!”

“I mean sir is your home near by, do you live with your family?”

“Yes, I live few blocks from here, when I am done the waiter always hails me a cab.”

“Do you live with your family?”

“Yes, I have one child, before you ask.”

“Ok”

I kept my silence for while after that comment. I wondered how to get through to the man. I sipped on my drink slowly, thinking about my next line of attack. The aim of the conversation was to find a way to build a connection with my boss.

“Did you complete your schooling here as well?”

He suppressed a smile “This area has developed recently don’t you know that. Stop insulting me!”

“WHAT?” I ask exasperated. “How am I insulting you?”

“You are asking wrong questions and wasting my time.”

“I am trying to make conversation sir, I probing to see what topic would get you talking.”

“How about books then?”Mr Naidu suggested

“Sure, but you mock me every time you see a book in my hand.”

“I mock because of your lack of understanding.”

“How do you know that I do not?” I asked, once again ignoring the insult. My self esteem seemed to have hit a new low.

“Remember when you were telling the receptionist about the way Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the galaxy begins. The part where Aurther Dent’s home is being torn down to build a road and at the same time his alien friend is trying to explain to him the Earth is being torn down to build a hyper galactic highway.”

“Yes” I said smiling, “I was amazed at how he draws a parallel between Earth our Home and the house we live in. The imagination involved in writing that part, all of it, is simply brilliant.”

“Is that the only way to relate to that?”

“I guess not sir”

“Guess not is it”

“I am sure there are more ways” I said getting a bit irritated. The waiter served us our next peg and my boss, I felt was getting high and aggressive. He was blatantly attacking me on every turn.

“Good, be sure and specific. Now, are you planning to fool around with Gayatri, our secretary?”

“Excuse me sir, no!”

“You are clearly inexperienced in these matters are you not? Not much of a player.”

“No sir!”

Mr Naidu suddenly leaned forward onto the table.

“It is a good thing that you are not.” he said in a soft tone suddenly.

“Why?”

“Long ago when I was your age I had the fortune of meeting quite a few. I went to study abroad you see.”

“You had fun.”

“Thank You for stating the obvious again.” This time there was a difference in his tone it seemed to lack its sharpness, almost like a friendly punch.

“So…” he continued” you need to get one thing. They always leave something inside you.”

I suppressed a smile on his choice of words. I understood what he meant. His beady eyes seem to glitter even more. I could see red veins popping up in the corners of his eyes and I realised that my boss was drunk. The man had been insulting me for months about my lack of drinking abilities and yet here he was, high in 3 pegs. Yet, in my spineless state I chose not to point that out, I instead started thinking of ways to get him to talk.I wondered if I could get him to share something private so as to forge the bond I had been seeking to make.

“Give me a memory sir. What do you mean? Give me an instance” I tried to probe.

“Instances, you want instances!You tell me instead, something existential, share an insight you have had through all your reading.”

I thought about it for a while. I could see he was making the conversation impersonal. I had to say something, I knew he would mock my perspective. Once again I swallowed my anger and I said.

“Sir, I believe that we the Human Race are at crossroads. One will lead to immortality and the other to extinction.” I did not like the turn of the conversation. I did not want it to become intellectual. Intellectual debates do not lead anywhere. I wanted an instance of his life, so as to get him vulnerable and forge a connection. I wanted him to think of me as a friend.

“Extinction and Immortality, very interesting, but you still the miss the point. Somewhere in that statement is the belief we humans can control our destiny. You are wrong there. You don’t know anything about life.”

“No, sir I don’t.”

Mr Naidu guzzles down another 60 ml peg. I could see now he was totally drunk.

“You read the words but to understand their depth you need to relate it to real life. Don’t interrupt me wait.” He had another stiff drink of vodka. “You talk so eloquently what do you know about the world ending, what do you know about women. You are just intellectualizing. You know?”

“Tell me sir your own experience sir, I will learn from it.”

“Fair enough” he said in a slurred tone. “Every woman will make a horcrux out of you, she will leave a bit of her life with you. Cruel in-laws, broken families, betrayals. Their insecurities, you will see them all, even if you are just banging them and they are banging you. At some point the woman will bear her heart to you and you will be condemned like I was to think and care about them forever. I know this because I see a lot of myself in you. You cannot “not give a fuck”. You will think that the life stories they share are somehow enriching your experiences, yet, in the end you will find yourself stuck in their stories and carrying their burdens. What for? So don’t fuck around, you will only end up being a horcrux.”

“Fine sir I will wait for the one.”

“The One! Huh”

“You do not believe in the “One”.”

“Love is a grand delusion which never leaves my boy. ‘Kavita’ the one for me.”

“I hope that is your wife sir”

“Kavita died when I was 18, Kavita is every woman I have known since. You see my boy Life’s like that. No one controls anything and you my friend have been lucky enough to not be confronted with harsh realities. Hence, the difference in perspective. You think the Hitch Hiker’s Guide talks about losing earth our home, and I know it means that within minutes your world could end.”

“Did it feel like that with Kavita’s Demise?” I asked shakily

“No it felt that way when the Surgeon told me to choose between my wife and my first-born. Do you get it? Sitting there and telling the surgeon ‘let the mother live’ and then looking in to the eyes of my still-born infant do you get it. Now do you understand you fool how deep literature can be. You philosophizing jackass. Don’t you get it we control nothing. Birth of life on Earth was an accident. Evolution of humanity was an accident. Its end can very well be just another accident. Not fate or co incidence mind you, an accident.”

The conversation tapered off after that moment. My boss had peg too many. Less than what he claimed he was capable of. I did not have the heart to judge him though. He was vulnerable. I asked the waiter to hail a cab for him. I supported him as he got inside the cab.

“Do not be afraid to speak your mind. Kiss asses do not last long in my office.” He said as a parting shot. I tried to pay the bill but the manager said that Mr Naidu would clear it the next time and refused to take money from me. So I made my way home thinking about the information my boss had just divulged. Horcruxes, what a thing to say. I tried to imagine the moment he stood there looking at his wife, knowing that he had just signed his son’s death warrant. I tried to fathom what he might have gone through. Suddenly the irony dawned upon me. I had become his horcrux. I carried a bit of his soul with me. The man I hated and tried to manipulate at every instant. I was not sure if my boss would feel a connection with me after this. I was sure I would not hate him as much. I did not agree with him though. Maybe, it is because of what he says, maybe I have had a sheltered life, so such conversation seem to stay with me. Maybe it is just the law of conversation. I wondered if all ‘real’ conversations were like these. Few moments of vulnerability when we reveal our souls and make horcruxes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: thetavernthoughts | June 10, 2015

The Danger Zone

I decided to write this blog post over a month ago. I am not busy or caught up with extra work for a simple blog post to take so long. It is pure procrastination and laziness that stopped me. I am not ashamed to admit it. When we are growing up, our parents and teachers warn us against a lot of things. Don’t talk to strangers, this is the first warning that we get from them. They warn us against wrong friends, drugs and many other things. However, they seem to forget the biggest danger of all. The comfort zone.

While for most people comfort zone is an abstract psychologically place, my comfort zone is actually tangible. It is my home and apartment, known to all my friends as 12/D. Living alone, away from parental supervision this tiny apartment has become my comfort zone. I too comfortable to leave it behind and do something. The house is supposed to a place of solitude where I can continue my creative pursuits after office hours. Instead it has become a place to hide from effort and work. Here in my apartment, I sit and smoke endless cigarettes and drink zillion cups of chai tea. All of this make up my comfort zone.

Comfort is a major dream killer. No one has ever achieved their goals by being comfortable. Goals become pipe dreams when you refuse to embrace discomfort. Breaking through the comfort-zone is the only breakthrough that we generally need. Procrastination is to a great extent is a product of our comfort-zone. This dangerous phenomenon keeps us glued and stationary in life. To be dynamic and achieve goals we need to learn to make ourselves uncomfortable.

I started a process about a month ago, before starting my new job. I called it charting the zone. I looked at my life and made a list of things that I want and compared it to the actions that I take on daily basis. All actions that I took during the day that were driven by my comfort. I made a list of those actions. I called it charting out the zone. The entire purpose of this blog post is to work out a way to break through this danger zone.

 The process of breaking through the zone works in a simple manner. I set a goal for the week and I achieve it. There are also numerous lifestyle changes which I want to make. I intend to make these one step at a time every week. Beginning with this week.

This week I choose to make two lifestyle changes. First involves my diet. I intend to switch to green tea slowly this week. The chai tea that I have is full of sugar and is harmful to my health in long term. A simple choice of drinking green tea could have enormous health benefits long term. I am addicted to chai tea and the transition to green tea will not be simple. To motivate myself daily and keep the momentum going I am going to use a ruse. I am going to buy a pair of jeans that are to tight for me. I am going to try and wear them every morning. Nothing will inspire me more than my thinning waist line.

The second change is my writing routine. No more half finished articles and poems and stories. This will be my unreasonable request to myself. So here is my grand deceleration. I will publish at least one poem every-week on the blog to show that I mean business. Along with that I will post in this on going series about my quest to move out of my comfort zone.

So wish me luck.

Posted by: thetavernthoughts | May 20, 2015

The One Wish

He looked at the flower in disbelief. The flower of eternal wisdom and boundless power. The quest for this ethereal flower had claimed endless lives. Mad believers who believed in the flower even when there had been no proof of its existence anywhere in the world. Such faith and such sacrifice and yet it was he the dumb giant who would hold it in his hands. That had not been his original name though. He was born under the name Genteel, Genteel giant.

Long before he could understand his strength and his nature, he was snatched away by the magicians, the tiny humans. It was they who first called him the dumb giant. In comparison to them he was dumb. Trapped by their spells, despite his enormous strength, he was not able to breakthrough and free himself.

When he reached adulthood and finally became the towering 32 ft giant he was destined to be. He noticed how puny the terrifying humans were in his comparison. Bound to them by their spells he had gotten used to them whispering commands in his ears. The humiliation of it all, he wondered then if there was anything in entire living kind, plant, animal, human or mythic that could call him puny. Even the elephants would cower on his sight. Suddenly an eagle screeched and the giant looked up. He realized that to the eagle soaring at those heights even he was puny. For the first time in his life Dumb Giant developed a strong desire to fly. It was his one wish.

He could not fly, however, if his master did set him free, so he longed for freedom more than anything else. Every-time he saw one of his kind, he could see the same pain in their eyes. They, the giants, were easy going peace loving people. Along with slavery, the humans and their spells brought war and murder and deceit. He did not even know what the word meant until he became a pawn in a plot by his master to trick a king into giving them a large piece of land. The worst was the building of the temples to please gods. Cruel gods who were pleased at the fruits of his labor. He did not know why the temple was being built until he overheard his master talk with his best friend one-day.

“The design is such that it shall trap the goddess Tipha-a-asundra. The one who adorns the flower of wisdom in her hair like a tiara. This is not a temple my friend, this is a device that can invoke the immortals in heaven and capture them.”

“No one who has gone after the flower has survived, are you sure you want to do this?”

“Yes, because unlike them I will have a Goddess at my beck and call.”

Just like the his master had said, few nights after the completion for the temple, he had been tasked to deliver deer meat in secret within the sanctum sanctorum. That night inside the sanctum sanctorum he met her the goddess herself.

She was as tall as him. Her golden wheatish skin seemed to light up the room. Sanctum had only one tiny window and the goddess was looking out. She was lying on her side along the Yantra on the floor. She sat up by supporting her weight on her right hand. She wore a tiara of emeralds with a white flower made of moonstone on the corner. She wore turquoise full length gown with long splits on the side  revealing her well formed, beautiful legs. Her eyes matched the colours of her clothes. Her lips shapely pink were shut tightly, in a pensive manner. She looked at the giant walk towards her with deer meat in his hands eyes wide in wonder. He looked away embarrassed and refused to match the goddesses brilliant. The great goddess could sense him compare his ugliness to her beauty and grace. She could feel the silent worship beginning in his heart.

“Speak your heart mortal, I am a goddess, although trapped I can still help your cause.”

“Are you distressed because of your entrapment?”

“No, it is the pettiness of men that has caused me distressed. People always reveal their inner most desires which tells me alot about them. What is yours great Genteel.”

She said the last part very delicately. It took while for the giant to realise that she was referring to the his real name. He looked her stunned and overwhelmed, she smiled at him wistfully.

“Do you know why I have been bound here giant?”

“The master wants flower of eternal wisdom. So that he can become the master of the universe.”

“And you genteel, what would you use that wisdom for?”

He smiled stupidly and answered “To fly”

“Sounds harmless, be careful though you might hold the flower in your hand soon, and you can use it fulfill only one wish.”

The giant had been intrigued  by the goddess’s prophecy.

Although that is exactly how the events had unfolded. Next day his greed master the magi started his journey to the flower of eternal wisdom. The route to which was told to him by the goddess in his ears, as she flew by their side as a humming bird. At distance unknown to both the magi and the giant, his best friend was following them. waiting for the right moment to strike so that he could have the flower of eternal wisdom.

Their quest had brought them to these strange woods, where the goddess walked along side of them as a vixen. Her houl dricing away mortals and immortals alike. At distance, they could see the flower light up the forest at night. its light was akin to that of a big firefly. The gaint even from his vantage could literally see the greed rise in his masters eyes. He was disgusted by it. Then right around the time they were in sight of the flower, the greedy best friend had fired an arrow towards his master. As soon as the master died goddess was set free from his spell, so she turned to her original form and smite the best friend with a flick of her finger. Then she disappeared. Leaving the giant alone to complete the easy last leg of the journey.

As he stood in front of the flower, his entire life flashed in front of him. He realized the one wish he tells the flower to complete should have lot of impact. He asked himself what it was that he would change about the world if he could. The answer took a while to formulate. The genteel giant decided that all the creatures in mythology were a slave to magis and their spells. The best way to keep the mythical dimensions safe was to make them all magic blind. With that wish in his heart the gaint consumed the flower forever vanished for humanity.

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