2A 702

Category: , , , By The Last Leg

As a little kid still walking on all fours, more out of choice than an inability to walk properly, Sinha had spent many a dedicated evenings listening to his father sing. Not that he had much choice, with his supposedly rich lifestyle leaving him no friends to play around with. That given, he adored his father’s voice – growing up to believe that no person could express grief, glee, love and remorse and the entire relative gamut of emotions as well as his father.

More than a listener, Sinha was an extension to all that his father sung about. He would join him unfailingly, match every note of his with the perfection of a maestro, and even outdo him in his inability to hold a note for long. The father, encouraging and proud, took as much delight in his son’s prowess as he did in his own. He would often challenge Sinha with renditions of timeless classics, ones that he had devoted years of rigorous training and riyaaz to perfect, only to be stumped by his son and his quick and unexpected grasp. Together, they admired and learnt from each other.

This one evening, it rained like it never had, like it really wanted to rain. The prodigies, both followers and disciples of each other, sat around a fireplace clearing their throats. Mutually, they had decided to sing for their mothers tonight -a simple song, no difficult notes, no elaborate aalap, just the first two lines.

‘Aye Maa, teri surat se alag

Bhagwan ki surat kya hogi?’

Both mothers in anticipatory attendance, the sons sang. The son hit every note perfect, as he always used to. The father faltered, choked, paused and broke down in inconsolable tears. Sinha smelt victory for the briefest of moments, then saw it being snatched away. For the rest of the night, the better part of tomorrow and most of his years – as a child, as an adolescent, as a boy and as a man, he wondered what happened that evening. He wondered how his father, the greatest singer of all, could falter at two of the simplest lines he had ever sung. He wondered why he cried. He wondered why HE did not. He wondered.

And then, he met Saraswat.



Category: , , , By The Last Leg

How paralysed are we, as a generation? For how long can we keep fooling ourselves, trapped nauseously in this drudgery of dependence – on people, brands, MTV, tabloids, on love, on war, on George ‘imbecile’ Bush, on humanity? Whatever little is left of this proclaimed revolution, which by the way, is a total fallacy, a gimmick if you please, has been stripped off its very identity by this unwanted abundance of halogen lights, voicemail, public transport, 1000 rupee notes, mp3 and most of all – the fucking internet.

Around me, dazed and spineless, sit these idle heads wondering pointlessly what it is that they are here for today? Is it a congress of men and women, who go green, red and amber at the sight of each other but are too formally correct and polite to say so? Is it a cheap fashion parade where each looks like a shallow portrait of the other, talking precariously to their celebrated genitals, in a world where eye contact or spiritual connect of any sort is, at best, secondary?

I wonder if the walls in this ‘digital fortress’ are alive, living as much, if not more than the uninspired souls that occupy the large platinum thrones inside. Maybe, just maybe, these patchy white walls are the ones that somehow hold the sanctity of this godforsaken place intact. What if they have had enough? What if they refuse to stay mute witnesses to this dead Poseidon? What if they explode, breaking free of all the tyrant clutches that entrap them, taking down with them the anarchy that prevails?

What if?

P.S: I post this on my Web Log. The irony!

P.P.S: Are you any better off?


Distance. Convenience.

Category: , , , , , By The Last Leg

The tap runs with all its might, sudden splats and noises in between suggesting either congestion or the possibility of water shortage. She cries softly now, and at the top of her voice the very next moment. Her throat and tears seem to have an understanding, one taking over the mantle as soon as the other tires out and reversing roles as they go. In parts, she cries and howls – with passing expressions of guilt, anger, remorse, loneliness and bravado on her face – all together but markedly distinct. How convenient it is for men, to just not care and let go. Why can she not be like them, hurtful and still not give a damn? For the past hour or more, the tap has been running exactly like it is now. It serves many purposes, you know. When tired and momentarily decisive as to finally unlock the bath, it helps her wash away her truth. Otherwise, it camouflages her shrills, enough to let them stay behind these walls and yet lets her be aware of her tears, her pain. She tells herself to stop, more out of boredom than anything else, looks up and washes her face again.

Somewhere a few blocks away from her, another bath is soaked in a running tap. Thick ruby layers of blood rush out with striking disdain, sudden splats and noises suggesting a slow death. He lies patiently now, and shivering dangerously the very next moment. For the past minute or more, he has been lying curled inside a square tile box, exactly like he is now. In parts, he cries and howls – with passing expressions of guilt, pain, escape and relief. One decisive moment, he tells himself to stop, looks up and lets go conveniently.



Category: , , , , By The Last Leg

“DPS? Excuse me! DPS!!” a hoarse female voice shrieked somewhere close by.

It was eight in the morning and the earliest movie screening began at 10:30. Although Chanakya Cinemas was quite a lively place, with unwarranted people ambling around all day and fast food joint owners stealing each other’s potential customers, there was hardly a soul in the vicinity that early.

“DPS?” She asked enquiringly.

“Yes.” I said, twirling my pompous teen moustache. Delhi Public School was quite a brand name.

“Suraj Bhan,” she yelled back at me jutting her sweaty masculine hands to my face, almost demanding a hand-shake as opposed to coyly suggesting one.

“Suraj Bhan, are you sure? That…umm…sounds more like your father’s name.”

“That’s my school, you dick. I - AM – K A M I N I.” By the look on her face, I knew she had been asked the same question a zillion times before. Her tone was more like an open challenge to anyone and everyone who had the damn balls to ask again, politely or otherwise.

“I am Sahil. Hello.”

Kamini was rather unattractive and I am not saying that because she had called me names seconds ago. Her albino-like skin, of the colour of nude nails, left hair and discoloured betel-stained teeth made up for repulsion.

Minutes crawled by, insignificantly. Her indifference struck my public school womaniser ego and threatened to tear it apart. My eyes shifted from the leather boutique and the ticket window to the Chinese girl strolling aimlessly, to and fro the bus stop and the pungent pile of garbage across the street. If at all I looked at her, her disdain was too evident to brush off.

I figured I had to stop being a sissy about it all, and say something. Whatever happened to the indomitable Stud, who could juggle a dozen girls on his fingers like they were dices?

“Its really difficult getting tickets here. Do you…err…come here often?”

“No. Yes, actually. Never mind that. Are you done thinking of ways to talk me up now or you’ve got some more? Will you join me for a smoke, instead?”

A smoke? Where the fuck did that come from? Are my lips too black? Do I look like a smoke junkie? What is a smoke junkie, anyway? Is that a test, failing which I’d be deemed a child forever?

I thought myself a fool to have started the conversation.

“I don’t smoke with an empty stomach, you know.”

“Oh, come on DPS! You are not a child, are you?

I was right, wasn’t I? She just called me a fucking child. What next? Do I just give in? I could run away and spare myself the inevitable. Oh, to hell with it! What harm is a harmless smoke?

So be it. Between unapproving stares and maniacal coughs, I smoked my first cigarette. I wonder if it was just that or the ultimate emotion of having proved myself to this beast of a woman - I stood there with a pretty retarded smile on my face. Yet again, she stole away my moment of glory, affirming herself back to dent my battered self furthermore. The nerve, I say.

“Listen, its just 9. We still have an hour. Let’s go to the mart and have some ice-cream. We can get the tickets later.”

The thought of her speaking for the both of us did not sit well with me. I, as all other testosterone-charged boys, relished the company of a girl. Kamini, however, was hardly a girl, not that her muscles intimidated me but she did question my self-nurtured image of an alpha-male now and again.

“No. I don’t think so. I don’t want any ice-cream. As a matter of fact, I think I want to get my movie tickets first and NOT dig my teeth into a sundae. YOU go ahead and do whatever.”

I could have put it all together in a sentence but I chose not to, because if I had, I would not be able to use the word ‘I’ that often.

We boarded an auto-rickshaw. She did not have to convince me into it. One long piercing vernacular stare was all it took.

Warped as it may be, the human mind outdoes certain situations – as if there was much left to be outdone, you would think. Chanakya Cinemas was all over the news channels a week ago, largely because of a scandal. Words echoed blaringly in my head like they do out of a faulty transistor.

It was the God damn scandal.

………In the early hours of the morning yesterday, Delhi Police, in a sensational series of events, busted a flourishing sex racket north of Chanakya Puri. A few girls, reportedly, are said to be missing as they fled the scene. It seems the locals had little knowledge of………

Suddenly, her name ‘Kamini’ started making a lot more sense to me. For all I knew, she could easily be one of those girls. She wasn’t holier-than-thou anyway. I mean, what sort of a girl studies in Suraj Bhan School, if at all such an institution even exists?

“Here, your ice-cream. Pay me later.”

This mart looked more like a closely knit, two-storey colony to me. By now, I had begun imagining things. Amidst all the confusion, God decided to play a practical joke on me. All I could see around me were chemist shops.

The faulty transistor blared again. Louder, this time around!

“Listen Kamini……errr…..I……..was thinking……why don’t I……….we…err….buy the tickets in the meantime?”

What happened after that is of no consequence. As was the order of the day, the movie too, did not make much sense to me. I was quiet mostly, for a good part of the movie. Actually, for the entire two and a half hours, and the fifteen-minute interval too. Kamini, I would guess was watching the movie for the umpteenth time, since she seemed to deliver the actresses’ dialogues way in advance. Although, her voice would suit the conniving vamp a hell lot. All in all, good fun!

A brazen air had stalled all activity outside as I ran my way to the bus stop after the movie. For once, she let me be. She just walked down the theatre stairs onto the same spot where she had been, lit a cigarette and rested herself back on a little sidewalk chair. You could sense a wait, like a pendulum that has just completed an oscillation and was gearing up for another. She looked at me once and possibly, for the last time and let out a tired puff. Afar and alone, beyond the glitter of sun rays off a water puddle near the sidewalk, she waved at me crassly - bidding farewell to a day, a child-boy, a movie and a fucking scandal.


Such as These...

Category: , , , By The Last Leg

A thousand desires such as these,

a thousand moments to set this night on fire -

Reach out and you can touch them.

Touch them with your silences,

you can reach them with your name.

Rivers, mountains, rain,

rain against the torrid hillscape -

Rain against a landscape of pain.

I loved it as a child,

as a lost young man.

Empty landscapes bleached by a sleepy tan,

It comes like a dark nameless woman.

Her eyes mend my noisy slumber,

Her body contains me, like the sun in December.

Pause me, hold me,

Reach me where no man could do.

I walk over these solemn sands, and you?

A thousand desires such as these,

A thousand moments to set this night on fire -


Knock and Mate

Category: , , , , By The Last Leg

She looked out the window unwittingly, the way you do when you don’t intend to see anything. The lanes were buzzing, with activity and bees. Lights had taken effect. The usual. Bystanders, though visibly occupied with themselves, seemed just as concerned with the others. Men were walking along, gaze shifting nervously even as women folk met them in the eye.

A taxi drove in and eased to a halt at the end of the square. Somewhat 30, dressed adequately in a shirt and cotton pyjamas, wheat complexioned, thin and bow-legged, a young man stepped out. He reached for his pocket and from the bundle of notes tucked into, flung a 500 rupee note at the driver.

Just about then, she stopped looking. A lull in the air, the road down below wet in dew, window glasses dripping of breath, a lonely moon and stars scattered far and few in between. On nights exactly like the one today, Aparajita would run down to the square and amidst all the mindless chaos, listen to her footsteps as she walked. Not today, not after she could not hear them anymore.

The young man paced away towards a sapless wooden staircase, up and over to a door. Both sides of the door were put together just enough to suggest being shut. He knocked. Broken knocks. The kind that are not meant to be heard.

Given the weather outside, the night was unusually cold. Aparajita, now suiting herself for the night, wiped the mist off her mirror. She was very clean about herself, blades and scissors were always handy and she would bathe in fruit extracts every night. Her face bore an ignorant smile and her eyes, a hundred stories. Perfumes, especially on the neck, were a prerequisite. Her breasts, robust, pregnant with milk and weighed down, were tied neatly in a blouse. She made sure that newspapers were laid down, a cigar box was placed on the bed-side table, lights were dim, curtains closed and sheets were rolled out on the bed tidy.

Business was rewarding. Nights would begin with knocks on the door. Loud knocks, hesitant knocks, indifferent knocks, familiar knocks, authoritative knocks, desperate knocks. Dawn would break out with a weary thud.

His hands trembled nervously, brushing his pockets now and again, seemingly looking for something and then deciding against it. Ill at ease, he knocked. Curious knocks. The kind that want to know what awaits them.

Aparajita, wenched up for the night, lay immersed in the puff of a sofa. Lights were such that they did not say much about the room or the person who owned it. It had a bed, a steel cupboard, a plastic bed-side table and a sofa - all bought out of a cheap warehouse in the city. A segment of the western wall was covered in layers of cement, sealing the window that was, as if shutting out the world outside of it.

He knocked again. Telling knocks. The kind that are answered.


Between the Lines

Category: , , By The Last Leg


It has been a while. To what exactly, I am yet to establish. Not that our lives are strewn together so that things refuse to make sense otherwise. Neither are they drawn so independent that we exist only as harmless and insincere fleeting memories in each other’s minds. Whichever way, I know not what to write. Would you?

Is it the discomfort of being in a room, where everything is just the same and yet so different? People, furniture, machines, mugs and papers seem to be filling in the spaces just quite right - as they used to, but you seem alien and unfamiliar to the whole deal. Like that piece in a two-sided jigsaw puzzle that is set facing the opposite side.

Is it the mask, the pretence that confronts us? Are we now reduced to nothing but incomplete scattered portions of our selves, searching frantically for each other through these words?

Is it just the disoriented insomniac in me reaching out, to an alphabet of a person, so they can both put back their pieces of the jigsaw together?

Do you know what I mean? Have I already written more than I wanted to?

Maybe it is just the fact that there is something very liberating about the letters that we share. I don’t mean liberation in terms of freedom or revolution or anything large in consequence but just the sheerness of it. Maybe it is the comfort of knowing that you won’t judge. Maybe it is the rain. Maybe because it has been a while. To what exactly, I am yet to establish.

How are you, K? Is my best friend hiding something from me? I hope not.




Talking Tales

Category: , , , , , By The Last Leg

Unless you drive too far from Delhi, all roads leading to the city are vehicle-friendly, implying that you need not take your 4WD to sustain the bumps. 4 am on the coldest January morning of the year, we were cutting through the mist and comfortably cruising along to Agra.

The way I see it, most Indian men/women pay their first visits to Agra with their parents. It is a phenomenon, unexplainable by any realm of logic. My father did so and so did his father. With him on the wheel and me on my mother’s lap, three generations now had the same stories to tell.

Once we stepped into the Mughal capital of old, we were frighteningly surrounded by a strong floral scent locally called attar. For the uninitiated, Attar is a perfume extracted from flowers, a beloved indulgence for Muslims and as I then noticed, for Agra folk. For the curious kid in me, the city had much to offer. Yes, the Taj Mahal was an aesthetic delight. Like everyone else, we rushed in with impatient curiosity, trying to beat others to it but were forced to stay put, stunned and dumbfounded at the sight. Young and old alike, stood dazed and appalled by its simplistic magnificence. As we walked closer to the Taj - past the gates, beside the fountains and above the stairs, paces fell and walks slowed in sheer disbelief.

That said, Agra was essentially, a land of story tellers, each unique and conflicting, but with an inherent quality of spreading joy. Before we knew, we had stories seeping in from just about everywhere. From the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort to Fatehpur Sikri, fascinating anecdotes followed us. At Sikri, another Mughal Capital once, we came across a story so often repeated it was deafeningly resounding. It so goes that a soldier once tried to escape the capital through the infamous tunnel in Sikri. As he got out in wait of a free life, he was welcomed by none other than Akbar himself, in a virtual canopy of soldiers surrounding him. The emperor bend forward calmly, looked at the soldier and asked him in a father-like tone, ‘Humari khidmat ne tabiyat-marz kar diya, janab’? It finds you wondering whether to laud the historic tunnel more or the tale woven around it.

The story, most heard is the one where Shah Jehan, ordered the limbs of the chief architect of the tomb stone, to be cut off. Most people would take that as a co-incidence but this story would inevitably be followed by two other stories. The first being, a story about how the emperor desired to built a replica of the Taj Mahal for his final resting abode. While it was still being erected, Shah Jehan was imprisoned by his son, the oppressive Aurangzeb confining him within the walls of Mussamman Burz, an isolated chamber in the Agra fort. Shah Jehan lived for another 8 years in absolute seclusion, with nothing but a mirror image of the Taj Mahal to keep him satiated. That, as ironic as it might be, would be the second story.

When it comes to Agra and more so the Taj, a million such stories need to be told and listened to. What, in the eyes of a curious eight year old, makes the city what it is today, is not the message of love or the exquisite designs or the fascinating history. It is indeed the flawless brilliance of these story tellers, rich in attar and drenched in narrative.


Ruin Man

Category: , , , , By The Last Leg

Jenga is a game of mental and physical skill. In the game, players take turns to remove a block from a tower and balance it on top, creating a higher and increasingly unstable structure as the game progresses.

Bernard looked suspect, yet again. His scruffy overbearing moustache fail to veil the anxiety underneath, stiff taut muscles giving it away.

He and his eleven unmotivated friends – devotees rather, had suddenly taken a fond liking to this game called Jenga. Days and nights had passed by, with them trying to get their heads over it. It must have been the prospect of creating something grand and unique, only to watch it twist, twirl and eventually tumble down in a heap. For why else, would a group of dim-wits gruel their brains for so long, if not for the juvenile sadist laugh it ended with?

Coupling the game with frantic bouts of alcohol can make it even trickier. Whiskey was the order of the day, or so Bernard had wished. Single malt with nothing but a few cubes of ice. Even before the grey-white of ice could mix with the gold of whiskey, the mob was already quite inebriated – hands trembling, shoulders dropping and eyes shifting a little too much. The revelry continued and so did the drinking. As and how the moon kept losing itself in the clouds, an increasing number faltered at the game and the lesser drinkers passed out conveniently.

In no time, everyone but Bernard had given in to the whiskey and lay awkwardly across the room like a strewn of dead bodies after a bloody war. Bernard sat around the Jenga structure, watching over his newly-conquered castle. Victorious in this battle of wits and alcoholism, he pulled out another block, winked a familiar juvenile sadist laugh and watched his reward collapse to the ground.


Echo, Shadow. Obloquy, Impression.

Category: , , By The Last Leg

He rehearsed his lines backstage for the twelfth time in as many minutes. By now, Siddharth had drawn nervous of his own shadow and aware of the shadows that drifted by, like moving storyboards on the dark granite floor beneath his feet.

“Of such misery does she cut me off, commend me to your honourable wife. Tell her the process of Antonio's end. Say how I loved you, speak me fair in death, and, when the tale is told, bid her be judge whether Bassanio had not once a love.”

How much of a parallel they drew from each other’s lives, was difficult to say. Was it Siddharth, a hopeless depressive who could not name the source of his melancholy, borrowing from Antonio? Or was it Antonio, unable to muster the energy to defend himself against execution, surfacing through Siddharth?

“Repent but you that you shall lose your friend, and he repents not that he pays your debt. For if the Jew does cut but deep enough, I'll pay it presently with all my heart.”

Nearly a thousand pair of hands roared thunderously, claps and cheers from people who had just witnessed and loved his best performance ever. Passive and cold, he stood there like an adversary to his own soul. His throat felt dry, almost as if he had been swallowing his tears. Submissive yet convinced, he allowed himself to take in as much of the new-found adulation as he could. He let the nameless stares chase him; he let the harsh flickering flashes hurt him.

The player and the played, both faint manifestations of two intertwined destinies, bowed down gently even as the red satin end of the curtains drew closer, and apart.