Amla and the Little Girl

It was a quiet afternoon, typical of North-Indian and Pakistani summer at peak, when people lived behind closed doors lest their children run out to play and fall prey to the evil howling winds that come travelling all the way from the deserts of southern Balochistan, Cholistan, and Rajasthan.

And it wasn’t more than mere eight years since economic liberalisation was initiated in 1991. So the Indian middle class at large had not grown accustomed to the air-conditioners, and not everyone had evaporative coolers either. Since those are also called swamp coolers, but the malarial-swamp that the North-Bihar already was, I guess people didn’t want more swamps to breed mosquitoes in! So they settled for fans instead. Needles to mention, these afternoons were laid-back. There were Usha-Lexus fans hovering over most heads, beside the halo of mosquitoes that would grace them in evenings spent outdoors. And these fans relentlessly moved the air in the room, sometimes even creaking as if humming a lullaby, putting people to sleep. And having spent most of the morning, rather first half of the day doing household chores, the women really treasured their siestas; so much so that they would even coax their young children into sleeping, keeping an arm around them, making sure they are in her clutches, else she might need to look after them. Restless with energy, the clever kids would close their eyes in no time, and would quietly sneak away whilst the mother they lay fast asleep.

(Excuse the repeated mention of mosquitoes. One hates them but one just cannot ignore them. Especially when it was around the same time that an uncredited piece of poetry called ‘Machhar Chalisa’ – a forty line ode to the mosquitoes, found a place in the vernacular newspapers, no kidding!)

But this little girl, obediently lay on her back staring at the fan as it moved with a stirring sound, wondering if she had those blades affixed her back would she be able soar in the sky, much like the choppers she would see often. And then the poster of some exotic place, on the wall across caught her fancy. Gazing at the waterfall in some forest, she fantasised going down that path every day to fetch water from her little cottage near the woods; typical of the fairy tales she had heard, since she hadn’t yet begun reading more than probably three letter words. Continue reading

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How We Happened

(Written on May 30th, 2013. Previously appeared on Facebook.)

April 15th, 2006. Moon Light Dinner. Shantanu Mishra was apparently given a ‘dare’ to go up to Oshin Vipra Sagar and give her a ‘Child Rights and You’ wristband. He asks a friend to call her and when she is right in front of him, he extends his hand within a fraction of a second, holds hers, shakes and utters what seemed like an automated message “Hi! I am Shantanu Mishra, class tenth”. Well, then he slides the wrist band against her hand, and, there she was, smitten by the loving touch of his skin against hers. First such experience as a teen, the anxious girl could not offer compliance. Just goes away, without having seen his face clearly. But the touch embedded in her unconscious, every bit of it.
The following morning he sends a friend of his to call her. The friend barges into the girl’s hostel, announcing Shantanu wants to talk to Oshin. Well, next was the obvious. It was a middle school girl’s hostel! Giggles, and giggles, and more giggles.
The girl, shy, blushing like a tomato, (and a little embarrassed too), walks out with his friend and one of hers, to ‘inquire’ what he wants to talk about.
Her heart was racing. She was shy, and everything was happening too fast.
Continue reading

A Retrospective Reverie

She lay on her side looking at the helix as it hung from the ceiling, twirling colors causing an onset of hypnosis of some sort. Clenched between her teeth was, a red fountain pen, its black ink drying at the steel nib; while she held onto a jacquard turquoise cushion. Yes, she had gotten used to keeping her arms around something. Continue reading

An Acoustic Sojourn

24-March-2013

As the screeching giant vehicle halted under the Gulmohar tree, it had already precursored the much procrastinated commotion of the men and women who commuted by the bus daily to earn their livelihood, and bring back home the required. The birds atop the wilting trees within the walls of the land owned by the mill, chirped breathlessly from the moment I approached this place. The worn out blue chalk tip-toed and swiftly marked its path on the magenta imitation of silk. Seated for a while on the stool in this ramshackle room, the monotonous buzzing of the mosquitoes going around my head had now started to seem like what I would call silence. There was no change in it. It was a constant layer of sound steadily enveloping me which soon after it had begun, had ceased to bring out any auditory and cognitive response from me. Now, it should not seem ironic why I would call it silence.  Continue reading