Friday, May 30, 2008

The Return

She entered the house which she had left more than three years ago. It had been empty for a week; the family was on a trip to the hillside for the summers.

Pallid sunlight percolated through the curtained windows, accentuating, rather than dispersing, the darkness and melancholy inside. She had never approved of curtains. Unnecessary frills. She had had no secrets to keep.

The windows, themselves, were altered. She had insisted on grilled ones; a prudent defence against her toddling grandson’s ever increasing reach. The grills were now gone, making way for fashionable sliding panes.

The floor had been redone; the stone slabs of her time replaced by marble. She knew they had wanted it even whilst she was there but had had to wait. It would have been too slippery for her with the rheumatic arthritis she had carried since she was sixty.

The grandfather clock stood, covered in a coat of dust but resolute as ever, against the freshly repainted wall. It appeared to have long since stopped ticking. Quite considerate of him to let it stay there, she thought. Her rocking chair, which had occupied the centre of the drawing room and from where she could and did watch over all the other rooms, had disappeared. It made the room look more spacious, she conceded.

The kitchen was almost entirely reoriented. The platform was longer, the utensils stacked away inside a cabinet, since built, on the wall. An electric apparatus guarded over the oven instead of the creaky, oil coated exhaust fan she had. A larger refrigerator for a smaller family, she mused, running her hands over the sleek, glossy surface of it.

The room that had been hers now seemed to belong to her grandson. Her bed and her almirah were in their rightful places. The contents of each were, of course, changed. A section of the almirah, locked, contained some of her saris, a photo album and the Bhagwad Gita, preserved with mothballs. The saris were starting to fray at the edges. A wooden shelf had been added on one of the walls and supported a couple of her grandson’s books. The rest were strewn on the bed. Her temple, by the bedside, had been removed. Its position had perhaps been too precarious in the child’s continued presence. Nevertheless, it annoyed her a little.

Her son’s and daughter in law’s room had remained largely untouched except for the temple, shifted there from the other room.

The Gods were as she had left them. The only additions were two framed pictures of her husband and herself. The flowers, hung on and around them, were withered.

Monday, May 19, 2008


A tired sun, its warmth feebler, its person easier to look at, like a spent, self possessed celebrity, prepares to smile at the camera for the final few moments before turning in for the day, drowning into the far side of the ocean. A single, long red orange stream, glistening and blurred, makes its way from it, through the grey sea, to the beach; unique for each grain of sand. It presents the sun with a tall, sparkling and altogether flawed reflection of itself.

The full moon, having shown up for work early, has spent the last hour, grudging the presence of its brighter counterpart and awaiting the appearance of its entourage of stars. The ocean pays scant heed to its presence yet, aware that the oversight will be made up for later, in the high tides of that night.

It is strange how the mighty, seemingly imperturbable, waters respond to the moon; rising higher as the moon gradually unmasks itself. Lusting for an object so far away, so unattainable and so miniscule. It is the way of the world’s mightiest creations. The Oceans. The Mountains. Man.

The sand stretches forever on either side of me. A great, powerful expanse of granules, united together to defend the land from the ocean’s onslaught. Seated on the sand, close to the ocean, I can feel the tide coming in. The waves, with each passing minute, die nearer me. Soon they will reach my outstretched legs, forcing the shells and the sands into the gap between my toes, before snatching some back again with that tingling feeling of the earth moving beneath me. In time, they will move beyond me.

The failed writer put down his pen, closed his diary and sighed. He looked up into the fading ocean, abandoning his search for a peace that was never his, waiting for a peace that would tonight be his.

Saturday, May 03, 2008


A popular Hindi movie song, which sounded vaguely similar to a popular English number of two decades earlier, crackled out of the car radio. Radios, rather.

For each of the several dozen cars waiting for the lights to turn green contained within itself this ingenious device of modern entertainment and was tuned into the only broadcasting channel available in the city. Recreation in the stressful lives of today is essential. And those who happened to be part of that indistinguishable mass of automobiles were going to get it in generous proportions, whether or not they desired it.

Finally, for what seemed like the loss of billions of rupees, the lights turned green. The world, engulfed in a sometimes screaming, sometimes groaning tirade of melancholy horns, struggled towards its many destinations, swerving, braking and speeding in sudden bursts in the quest for an elusive fissure in the loosely assembled walls of metal that would carry it to the end of its journey faster than the rest of itself. It was as if a mysterious, human, hand bade it to carry its selves thus; a hand so influential as to remain invisible and the carrying out of its orders seem involuntary.

A few meters on, the world encountered an unexpected roadblock. An old man, his faltering sight failing to notice the switching over of the lights and unaware of the approaching mayhem, was stranded halfway from the safety of the foot lanes in either direction. The deafening screech of collective brakes brought the world to a standstill, a hair’s breadth away from the man. The old man looked up, bewildered, but obstinate.

“I…I only have to cross this road…” he stammered, the frantic honking drowning out the rest of his words.

The world watched, enraged and uncomprehending, as the man, shaking his head as memories of the quieter and drowsier world of a bygone era came back to him, completed his journey to the other side at an excruciatingly slow pace.

The world resumed its furious pace.