This is a blog about writing. Mostly short fiction. And occasional personal rant once in a while, if I may. Feel free to make your comments and feel sane again.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I dedicate this, a little plastic gem to renowned Mr Bush and his famous expression Shock and Awe. My tounge is -without doubt- in cheek. So please don't send a CIA operative to my house. I have yet to place orders for some really smart American weapons!
Joke and Grave
A 14-fact file about Joke and Grave
(Please jot: all spilling mistakes are international)
The historical origin of the catchy title (Joke and Grave) goes back to the time when a Neanderthal picked up a fist size stone and hurled it at another. He didn’t miss. The other Neanderthal took the hit on his temple and the impact killed him on the spot. The hitter laughed and buried the other. Joke and Grave.
This directly contradicts the Fact 1 by a simple argument that millions of years before the Neanderthal roamed the earth, there were monkeys who could pick up a missile and throw it with a fair degree of precision. Despite their ridiculous status in animal hierarchy, the wild boars and certain species of wolves are renowned for their grave digging skill that rewards them with an easy meal. It is on formal records that they are still faster at it than your average Neanderthal. As for their joke telling skill, the arguments are equally strong, but too technical, lengthy, and full of confusing jargon for the limited scope of this simple file.
Nearly all good Jokes are at the cost of somebody’s life (and Grave). We eat (and laugh) when somebody else dies.
(As a practical example of this rhetoric, a Joke derived from Fact 3 is illustrated in Fact 4.)
Above mentioned Fact 3 is reversible. We die when someone has to have the last laugh.
(Do me a favour, think about it.)
Despite its obvious musical value, several army-chair theorists have questioned the popularity of the term Joke and Grave. They argued their case with an alternative term called Block and Rave. Its neat rhyming value notwithstanding, it never really caught on. Maybe, they didn’t have sufficient advertising budget. These things happen.
Two hungry cats were fighting for a loaf of bread. As a result, they tore the loaf into two unequal pieces. After mauling each other, bruised and bloodied, they went to a monkey for justice. The monkey placed the bread pieces on his old fashioned weighing scale. As a result, the bigger piece tipped the balance needle, so the smart (and hungry) monkey took a hefty bite and put the remaining piece back on the scale. Now the needle tilted in favour of the other piece. The monkey chewed up a mouthful from the larger piece to balance the scale. The first piece again weighed more so... And so on and so forth.
By and by, the monkey had a hearty meal. Finally in his element, he grabbed both the cats by their necks, strangled them, and buried them. Joke and Grave
We finished reading the first half of the 14-fact file, the Joke part. Now let’s enter our Grave to read the rest.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
This is speed writing. It works best when you feel blocked, or get stuck with a dead-end story. Happens to me every other day! So you start writing in a void, without an idea, or a single conscious thought, or any kind of systematic planning. It takes a few minutes to put down the first skeletal draft (pure drivel), and if you believe in it, then some semblance of character/s and a plot emerges-if you are lucky. It might take a few days, weeks, or months to shape and polish it to perfection. This might be rewritten, so let's be open-minded about it!
A New Life
Her Swift Dsire is doing 170 kms per hour, tyres screaming, overtaking every other car on Mumbai - Pune highway. Geera Punjabi is in the driver seat: her eyes blood shot and puffed, her blood laced with rounds of vodka, her calf muscles aching from constant pressure, and her pride shaken like a rag puppet. This is speed therapy, cleans the mental clogging, according to her best friend. Works best in a top down car with cool wind blowing in your face!
"I can use a cigarette," she mutters an oft-repeated sentence from her college years.
Irrationally fragmented images of her life wheezes past like green trees and waving shrubs in the car window. Dad's posting all over the country. Schools, schools and more schools. Bicycle injuries. Cousins' marriages. Love affairs that costed a few years of life and her college degree. Sudden marriage into money and high-rise respectability that turned out to be hollow. Wayward husband. Kids that grew too fast. She lifts her foot from accelerator paddle against her wishes She slows down the car and stops at a toll booth. The uniformed man touches her white, manicured hand on sly as he accepts the money and hands over the ripped receipt.
"Sick bastard," she mumbles and slams her foot down. The speed needle hits 180 in a few seconds. She enters an endless claustrophobic tunnel. An intestine of a giant beast. Overhead lights reminds her of an endless, fake diamond necklace. She blinks, breathes easy as her car emerges into blinding bright sunshine. She has an idea to punish her husband. But there are catches. She still loves him. Two kids who can go either way, so divorce is out of question. Nevertheless she has to teach him lesson for being a regular customer of certain 'pleasure establishment,' as the the detective agency has phrased it in the report. Why can't he be open about it and talk to her instead? There is no answer.
She check the truck and her face in the rear view mirror. Is that nose too big? What happened to the full bloom lips that fascinated him so much? Has she grown that old and unattractive? She studies the mirror. It is a split second delay in her reaction that glances her car against an overtaking car. Impact makes a terrible metallic scream. An impatient Jeep rider from the other side forces her to twist the steering wheel, but the air pressure in the wheels hasn't been checked for a week, so the car skids a few feet before it can go straight. She brakes hard, a terrible mistake. Her elbow hits the door panel from the impact and goes numb. Next moment she is in the way of a truck too loaded to slow down in hurry. Her car turn a neat 90 degree on sudden impact, is thrown clear off the road. It slams into the railing that comes loose, twists and breaks. The car turns over like a cheap plastic toy. A slow black out.
Geera Panjabi is sprawled in her seat, hanging on the cracked steering wheel, her feet still in one piece. The engine finally dies down. She passes out on and off. In her subconscious state, she pulls up her feet and waits in the wrecked car. A lapse of time she is unable fathom and an overpowering stuffiness resulting from fumes of petrol. Her eyes open as if in deep sleep. A white Ambassador taxi stops by. A thin man climbs down. He examines the damage and looks inside the car. "She is probably..." he yells to his companion sitting in the car. They try to open Geera's car. She pretends to be unconscious.
"She is till warm," the man mutters as they pull her out through the shattered wind shield. She is thrilled by the touch of another life. "That feels good," she mumble in delirium.
"Are you okay?" the man asks as she tries to stand up on her feet and falls.
She wakes up in a speeding ambulance. An unknown face looks down at her.
"It feels good to be alive," she tells herself. "My mobile phone, three silk dresses and crockery in the backseat...Rotary meeting...younger kid's report card for..."
Geera Panjabi smiles despite a dead hand, an oxygen mask and an IV bottle swinging over her head.
She knows what to do with her new life.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
How I Wrote It / Why I Wrote It:
Every budding writer thinks of making it big. Million dollar advances. Critics going crazy or baying for blood. Jealous peers. Paparazzi followers. Interview in the news papers and on TV. Wild adulation. Crazy fan mails. Invitation to exclusive parties. Honorary membership in snooty clubs. Hobnobbing with other celebrities. Joining the rich and famous circles. Standard Elvis Presley fantasies. But there could be a dark down side, or buried wounds behind flashing cameras and exclusive sound bytes. That was the idea that spurred me on....................................................................................................................
The Price of Success
He parked his battered scooter in the dark, deserted basement and climbed up two stories worth of stairs. "Goddamn elevator! First thing to do is to buy a decent house in the proper locality." Overnight celebrity author of ‘PAST ’ mumbled out of breath. The impromptu press conferences after the prize announcements had left him bitter, confused, exhausted and disoriented. This was his first run in with the celebrity journalism.
He saw a dozen bouquets sat waiting outside his apartment door. The sight of flowers soothed his nerves somewhat. The yellow roses in a shiny golden clasp, the daffodils in a bamboo basket, a bunch of pink-red orchids in the ornate terracotta pot and several others. Most of the flowers he could recognize, but not the names of the senders. He put down his leather case, crouched on the floor, and started reading the rectangle tags. One with the blue roses caught his eye.
‘HEARTY COMPLEMENTS AND BEST WISHES FROM
The handwriting hadn't changed since the school days. Same outlandish flourishes to Rs and Ms.
"Hey," he thought, "Kali, you remember me all right, how would you get my address!" He fought tears as he visualized his friend he had not met for twenty-one years. Why has Rosanna not taken the bouquets inside, he wondered. His wife loved flowers too much to let them wither away outside. His wrist watch showed 12.45 . They must have delivered after she was asleep. This courier people must insist on signed acknowledgement, he mumbled. He entered the apartment with the blue rose bouquet from Kali Menon.
Rosanna grabbed his arms and cried out ‘Patrick!’
He took her in his arms, and looked around in the drawing room. Every inch of space, all three chairs, the sofa, their broad arm rests, the battered coffee table, the telephone stand, the window sills, the mantle place, the top of book case and even lampshade and the entire floor was laden under flower bouquets, baskets, gift wrapped bundles and colourful junk. The worn brown linoleum floor was invisible. He accidentally kicked a flower basket when she loosened her embrace. The room held a peculiar mix of fragrance. The husband and wife looked into each other’s eyes.
"You did it," she said in a tear-streaked voice.
"What took you so long?"
"My agent suggested an urgent press conference. It is all convoluted, clever marketing now. I am dead. What I say is through the media, or what they interpret and announce on my behalf. My publicist's fabrications carry more weight now than what I say, do, or feel. I am a celebrity. I cannot be myself. It is irresponsible, too risky. I cannot afford to be me anymore."
"Come off it. There are some telegrams. A citation from the president, can you beat that?"
Rosana, a 41-year old woman clad in faded robe, jumped over the bouquets and reached under the table to retrieve a stack of telegram among evening papers carrying his photos. He read and reread the message from Kali till he could not take it any more.
"Shall I heat up the soup and serve the dinner now?" his wife asked.
"I am not hungry anymore," he said as the room full of flowers begun to close in on him.
Monday, March 9, 2009
The merciless epidemic AID has inspired countless number of stories, films, dramas, and novels. Here is my take. How did I write it? The idea came when I visited a friend of mine at a Design Institute. I saw countless number of young students mingling in the cafeteria, in the lush compound, and the restaurants outside the Institute.
I wrote the story in one sitting but had pretty tough time coming up with a twist for a few months! Then I polished and polished till my fingers ached and I felt sick my self. First person narratives sound arrogant at times, but I find it intimate, and that is the way I write most of the time.
The title sounds too much like John Wayne's Western 'She Wore a Yellow Ribbon' because, I leafed through an old classic Hollywood movie guide and got the neat idea for the title.
Here is the story. Enjoy!
She Wore A Red Ribbon
Pale sunshine braved through the icy blue sky. A nip in the morning air made my skin tingles. The 1500 cc engine throbbing under me, I turned right under the arch of Pyramid, the cutting edge design institute of Asia. The happy young crowd milled about. Many of these pony-tailed and pierced ears types would take up their prima donna jobs at Esprit, Braun, or Swatch. A few might end up in drug rehabilitation centers. I passed the avant-garde facade of the main building and reached the girls’ hostel complex. All the guards knew me by now, but as per the rule, I asked the guard anyway to call Nora Kandinsky from c-714.
I parked the bike and strolled between the rows of well-maintained shrubs. The yellows of marigold in pots competed with the pinks of palm-sized roses. The shiny dew on emerald leaves had yet to dry. The aroma of fried eggs and wails of UB40 from the canteen filled the air.
There. A bird announced her arrival. She ran down the marble steps, all 17 of them. She wore a screaming yellow shirt, tomato red pants, and a matching wristband. A red ribbon fluttered from her hair. The only sober color about her was my khaki sweater dangling from her shoulder. The young guard gave her an eyeful as she crossed the gate. Looking at the rhythm of her breasts, I tried not to smile. She handed her leather bag to me and pulled on the sweater.
"These silly elastic bands." Her head emerged through the neck of the garment: an angel’s face without cheekbones. No lipstick for those lips.
"It is designed for men," I started a half-hearted argument.
"Not by a Pyramid designer!"
"Why don’t you return it to me? You were to keep it for only one semester." I felt a mild stir in my groin as remembered the day we went on a drive in my convertible, the bet she won because her silk scarf turned out to be wider than the seat width. She had kept the sweater from that day.
"Till death do us part," she announced.
She led me to the furthest bench from the gate. I guessed - demand for a lavish dinner today. Or she might have received a long-winded letter from her home and wanted a ‘serious conversation.’ Probably both.
We sat down under the acacia. She dug into her pocket and picked out three chocolate nuggets. She offered me one with a tilt of her head.
"Nikky, how old are you?" I pointed at the chocolates.
"I am seven, 17 or 70. How does that matter now?" She started chewing. With a few deft movements, she made a peacock out of the gold foil wrapper.
"You seem to be all right. Your blood reports came back normal? Any fever since we met last fortnight?"
A long spell of silence connected us. I tried what I was good at.
"Where have you been?" She pushed my face away.
"I was down with a nasty flu for a week. And then the soda ash delivery business, I told you about. Too much travelling these days. I called you, but your hostel phone was dead." I patted my mobile on her knees.
"What are these trips all about?"
"Sales calls and stuff like that. Are you taking the medicine? Better to finish the complete dose."
Her fever was the third instance in this semester. She never fell ill so easily.
She tugged at me but wouldn’t look in my eyes.
"You missed me, didn’t you?" I held her tight. "I have found a fundoo Thai restaurant. Let me take you out for a spicy, candlelit dinner tonight."
A vein on her smooth brown neck throbbed imperceptibly. I kept my arm on her shoulder, but her smile was missing.
She turned to hold my face in her tiny hands and checked me, like a plastic surgeon looking for a flaw. She rubbed her nose on my chin and pecked. No comments about my new aftershave. I propped her up on the bench and started to kiss. With a sudden pull, she snatched away from me. She raised her hand and slapped me. Hard.
"What the f..." Tears in her eyes stopped me dead.
I looked around to see if anybody was looking at us. Nikky got up. She and her stupid leather bag. She pulled out some papers and thrust them in my face. I was too mad to read but the word HIV+ registered. One paper had a logo of twisted red ribbon.
The traffic noise seemed to die down; green leaves and branches above me were a green blur, the hostel building swayed gently in distance. A squabble was on in the canteen. I felt a man-size hole in my stomach.
"I am volunteering for a HIV drug experiment program," she whispered.