Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Monsoon In Mumbai

Home is the first rains in Mumbai.

The violence of the raindrops
Erasing summer’s fetid relics,

Where arms outstretched, we welcomed
The Rain God to his own abode

Where our paper boats floated
Before sinking in the puddles

We giggled in their misery
Assured of a dry, safe haven

Saturday, July 05, 2014


Pleased to share my contribution to this month's Spark magazine. Their theme for the month was 'Conversations' and I have written three byte-sized stories that revolve around conversations and end (hopefully) unexpectedly.
Some of it was experimental for me but so please go easy with the criticism Read on.


 The Last Banter

“Did you see the newspaper yesterday?”
“No, why?”
The two thin men sat on their haunches on the wooden platform, passing to each other a fast disappearing beedi.
“There has been a shortage of onion crop this year. The prices are going up.”
“First, they will take our jobs away, and now we can’t afford onions!”
“Oh well, at least we won’t need the onions to cry. Our tears will be real.”
A moment’s pause and they both broke into guffaws.
However, silence followed laughter as both sat reflecting on the misfortune that was about to befall them.
There had been a memo stuck with pins to the notice board. It went onto inform them that their division was overstaffed and that volume of the work did not justify the volume of the staff. Some people would be losing their jobs.
The news was accepted with a sense of inevitability. These two brothers, bonded by a common labour, could see the writing on the wall. The suspense though was overbearing. Would one of them lose their job? Or, would both? Will this be their last act of bravura? Would it be the last beedi they shared thus?
“Did you check it?”
“Yes, it’s tight. Everything is in order.”
The pride in their work was obvious in their demeanour. They believed that their work was a solemn duty.
The beedi was put out.
“It’s about time. He should be here.”
A bevy of men walked in through the door. The focus was one on a lean bespectacled man in the center. He walked with the grave air of a person lost in thought.
The two men saw him and wondered who the more condemned one was. With a careful leap, they got down from the gallows.


“What’s your name?”
The tone of the question had all the marking of a rough interrogation.
“How old are you?”
“Where are you from?”
“Pinocchio is a strange name. Are you a real boy or a wooden puppet?”
The sentence was delivered in a derisory tone and laughter was heard across the room.
“I suppose you just need to see whether my nose grows when I lie.”
The laughter died out in the hall. People nervously shifted in their seats. The answer was unexpected. It was mean. It was anything but what they had expected out of Pinocchio.
“That’s a little rude, don’t you think?” the tone softened a bit. “Never mind. Let’s continue.”
“Solve this riddle for me. A man is on an airplane with his wife and child. The plane catches fire and they have only one parachute between them. What would they do?”
“How old is the child?”
“That means that its chances of survival by itself are fairly remote. In that case, I would say that the woman should jump leaving the man and the child behind.”
“Why is that?”
“Logically, the survival of the species is dependent more on women than it is on men.”
“But couldn’t the woman take a chance and carry the child along?”
“Perhaps, but the probability of survival would reduce too much to make that viable.”
Heads shook in the room. The project file was shut down with a large thump. The subject should no signs of empathy humans are capable of. Their only currency was logic. The plan to humanize subject CRN-11 was going nowhere. A hundred years had gone by since the Turing Test was passed. What Alan Turing didn’t know is that even when he asked “Can Machines think?” he couldn’t have imagined that the only thinking they would ever be capable of was being logical.


Prasoon was fascinated by the ten avatars of Vishnu. There was a comic book on ‘Dashavatar’ (ten avatars of Vishnu), an animated movie on it, photos and idols of most of the avatars in the wood-crafted temple next to the kitchen, and at least one or two names in the extended family named after them.
Prasoon’s ten-year-old mind wrapped itself around the many possibilities that Vishnu had to offer as a superhero. His parents were happy that in the era of the Ironman and Superman and all other forms of men and women doing super-deeds, their son was found peering over his Hindu mythology book at quiet moments on a sleepy Sunday. What they were not prepared for was the many questions his enthrallment would bring about.
“Papa?” he asked his father, who was hidden behind the sports pages of the newspaper.
“Vishnu is very powerful, right?”
“And he can take many forms at the same time?”
“Can he take any form he wants?”
“Yes, he can.” said his father, a tinge of irritation building up.
“Does he always fight against evil?”
“Yes, yes, we have spoken about this many times before, Prasoon!”
“But he is always good, right? So why does he fight against himself?”
The paper was folded down and a face with a quizzical look peered at the boy.
“What do you mean?”
“In the book it says that when Rama goes to marry Sita, Parshurama comes and is very angry with him. He challenges Rama to string his bow which he claims is as powerful as the one Rama has broken. When Rama strings it, he says that an arrow has to be fired and he aims it at Parshurama. Doesn’t that mean that he is fighting against himself?”
“Why do you say he is fighting against himself?”
“Papa, you forgot? Rama is an avatar of Vishnu. Parshurama is also an avatar of Vishnu. Doesn’t that mean he is fighting himself?”
“You have a point here, Prasoon!”
After a pause, the father added “Rama was a really good man. Maybe even better than Parshurama, and he needed to prove that point. Set that standard.”
And the explanation expanded some more. “It is not that Parshurama was bad, but Rama was perfect. Not all of us can be perfect all the time like Rama. We may be more like Parshurama. Sometimes we make good choices and sometimes we don’t.”
“Are you saying that we may make mistakes and it is ok to fail?”
“Yes. You know, Rama didn’t punish Parshurama. He let him go.”
Prasoon rushed into his room and came back with a sheet of paper, handing it gingerly to his father.
“Papa, can you please sign this? You are my Rama,” he said with a sheepish smile, as his father pored over the red lines in his son’s report card.