Stories & Poems

Two Brothers and A Cat

It is a bright sunny day. The landscape is dry with little vegetation. A distant train bellows smoke. A house stands alone in the scorching heat. It is a ragged old wooden shack in dilapidated condition. An armchair lies rocking in the porch. An emaciated cat sleeps beside it.

An old man is inside the house. He has a wrinkled face, droopy shoulders and exhausted disposition. He is wearing a blue toque. Soup brews in a pot on the stove. There is a cube of cheese on a plate.

The kitchen is divided into two identical parts. Utensils, refrigerators, microwave oven - there are two of everything and are positioned in the same way. A white line divides the two sides.

Another old man enters the kitchen from the right side while the first one works on the left. He is well built and walks about with confidence. He is wearing a red toque.  And he proceeds to cook on his side of the kitchen. The two men mill about ignoring each other's presence. 

The first man looks at his plate of cheese. It is empty.

"Where is my cheese?," demands the first one.

"What?" says the second one as he turns around to face him.

"Where is my cheese, Lee?"

"What cheese, Bruce?"

"The cheese that was here on my plate on my side," says Bruce as he clenches his fist angrily. He is trying very hard not to shout.

"I don't know anything about your cheese, Bruce."

"Don't lie to me. You've always bullied me. Not this time. Give me back my cheese.", shouts Bruce and throws the plate angrily onto the floor. It shatters into pieces. Lee wonders why it broke. The salesman had said it was made from unbreakable chinaware. He shakes off his head. He has more important matters at hand.

"Listen. Calm down, brother. Here, have a tub of olives. It'll go well with your soup," says Lee and slides the tub of olives to the other side.

Bruce isn't impressed. He lets out a huge breath and storms out of the kitchen to his room. He opens his bedside drawer and pulls out a revolver. He comes back in the kitchen and points the gun at Lee.

"What the hell do you think you are doing?" Lee is clearly not amused. "You need to calm down." He steps towards the other side stepping over the broken plate hoping to grab the gun from Bruce.

"Where is my cheese?" shouts Bruce. He has lost all control over his emotions. He is really angry. His finger is on the trigger. His hands are unsteady. He is shaking.

Suddenly, the cat leaps across the kitchen stepping on Bruce's feet. This startles him and he accidentally fires a shot. The bullet goes through Lee's left eye into his head. He collapses and dies immediately. There is blood all over the floor. The white line turns red.

"Aaaaaaaarrrgh!" screams Bruce. He is crying uncontrollably and stands there shell-shocked. "You fucking cat! Where are you?"

Bruce is blaming the cat for this tragedy. He looks around the house for the cat and finds it in a corner behind the bookshelf trying to scratch at something. But, it isn't able to get through to whatever it is scratching at. The space is too narrow for its claws.

"Come here you little cunt", says Bruce even as he is crying and shivering. He grabs it by the belly. The cat screeches. It has a premonition of what is about to happen. Its tail stands on its end.

Bruce looks at it despicably. "You killed my brother. Who will tell me now where my cheese is? It definitely ain't you. What use are you then, you little cocksucker?"

He takes his gun and shoots the cat through its right eye and drops it on the floor. There is blood splattered across the books and the walls. He exits the room.

There is movement behind the shelf. A book has fallen down. It looks tattered. There is a mouse eating a cube of cheese over it. A gunshot is heard from the kitchen and it seems as if a man just dropped to the floor. The mouse is startled and runs away. And we see the name of the book - 'Who moved my cheese?'

Two Cappuccinos, Some Cigarettes

"Two Cappuccinos, please."

I pulled a cigarette out of the box and lit it up. Ashish switched on his laptop.

"Bhai, this third question needs a lot of work," he said as he showed me his GMAT application for one of the many colleges he chose to apply. 

"Yeah, let me have a look."

"This is such fuckery man. So many colleges, so many applications."

"You chose it."

"Yeah, bro. I have to get out of where I am."

"Hmm."

He lit up a cigarette. I tried to blow rings out of mine. 

"Bro, I have to get into this college. I am running out of options."

I made a few edits to his application by fixing the grammar and adding words which can be worthy of representing the person sitting in front of me. His future dependent upon how an old man in a tweed jacket sitting in the familiar comfort of his office, with a shelf full of books, interprets these words.

"Here, look at this now. Does this seem better?"

"Nice. Can we change this line? It sounds a little casual."

"Nonchalant. That's the word you are looking for. Anyways, I'll edit it." I made a few more edits, carefully removing any remnants of the betrayal of my attitude about this whole application business.

Our coffees arrived just as we stubbed our cigarettes. 

"Boss, you can place it here," said Ashish to the waiter as he shut down the laptop and placed it on the chair next to him. 

We sat at the outdoor seating of a cafe on a bright weekday February morning. The winter weather is reluctantly taking its leave. The air has lost its chilly sting. The sun smiles a warm glow and is a lot more welcome than it would be in a couple of months. On the street opposite us, people in rickshaws, cars, bikes, on foot rush to get to their jobs. 

"Man, I am so totally disillusioned by this whole thing," I remarked in a sudden outburst. 

"By what thing?"

"This whole work thing. Getting up every morning, doing the same thing everyday."

"Yeah, I get you. But, gotta do it to feed this thing right here," pointed Ashish to his still not fat belly.

"I know. But, what I mean is why should it be so difficult and energy-sapping? Why should work have such negative connotations? There is something fundamentally wrong with the way we look at work and by we, I mean everyone."

I lit up another cigarette and sipped on the cappuccino. Ashish was already on his second cigarette but had not yet touch the cuppa. 

"Dude, I just want to get out of India. Get a decent college abroad, find a good job and make a lot of money", said Ashish. He had probably day-dreamed about all these things while I was looking at people outside and ruminating on the deadly routine of everything around us.

"Why? Why do you want to make a lot of money?"

"I just want to chill man."

"THAT. Exactly that is the fundamental fallacy. Money doesn't buy you 'chill'."

"What does?"

"I don't know, yet."

Silence glided into our conversation as we smoked yet another cigarette. However cliched it is, there is a real joy in smoking a cigarette sitting in a cafe under the shade while the sun outside is shining bright and the breeze is cool enough to be nice but not as cold as to make you uncomfortable. 

I peeked inside the glass wall separating us from the indoor area of the cafe. There is that couple which seems to be a part of every cafe as if they come free with your coffee - the one who hold hands, the guy keeps trying to make the girl smile and they seem completely over each other. A couple of girls who looked like they had skipped college talk animatedly. Outside, where we were, two big guys came and sat on the chairs next to us. They placed their cigarette boxes on the table-top and allowed their huge belly to take up the space between them and the table. They looked like men who beat people for a living.

"I have figured out the problem. Let's work backwards."

"OK", nodded Ashish.

"Look. My stress at work is a factor of how much pressure my client puts on me. Her stress is related to how much pressure her boss is applying on her, which, in turn is dependent upon the stress her boss's boss is under - so on and so forth. "

"Right."

"Eventually, it reaches to the top to the CEO who drives the whole chain of pressures and deadlines. Now, the fundamental reason for the stress and worries of so many people is what drives the CEO."

"Ahan."

"Are you listening or just nodding along?"

"Yeah man, I am listening. Go on."

"OK. So, if we figure out and fix the driving factor behind that CEO, we can potentially make lives of a lot of people easier. Take my client's company for example. The CEO is driven crazy by money - quarterly revenue numbers is his holy grail. But, does he really need to? I mean, he's already a billionaire or multi-millionaire at the least."

"Yeah, but maybe he enjoys money."

"Maybe. But, do you enjoy the money or the stuff and experiences you buy with it?"

"Hmm. True. But you do need that money to buy that stuff."

"Correct. But, what if you don't need that stuff?"

"What do you mean?"

"Think about it - all these companies selling us bags, clothes, watches etc. worth a fortune - what if we don't need all that stuff? Whom do we have to impress? So many industries have cropped up to feed on our desire to please someone else even at the disposal of our own sanity. Take advertising for example. If only we removed every form of advertising in the world, there'd be a lot less demand for stuff we don't need. Obviously, I am not thinking this through but you get my point, right?"

"Yeah, I do."

"There is something Will Smith may or may not have said but I am always reminded of it in such conversations - 'I wish everyone had fame and money and then they'll realise that it is not the answer.'

I paused to take a puff of the whatever little was left of my cigarette.

"What if instead of focusing towards making more money, we could focus on making more people happy - yourself as well as the people you work with. Of course, happiness is a subjective term and has different meanings for different people. That's alright, make a company with people who have same definition of happiness as you. Instead of looking at quarterly revenue, let's look at how happy people are. No one wants to be poor so I am assuming, if everyone's happy, revenue will follow. I mean we work for a living, why kill ourselves working?"

"Amen to that."

"Anywho. Fuck! I am late for work."

"Bro, but we have to redo the fourth question also."

"Yeah, I'll see you in the evening."

 

You just read my first ever short story. If you liked/disliked what you read, please do add in your comments below. For a writer, apathy from his readers is worse than criticism. So, I'd love to know your thoughts. 

Jack's complete lack of orientation

One day you are in Delhi. Same day in Indore. Next day in Mumbai. Then you might be in Gokarna. You are Jack’s complete lack of orientation. 

You see faces passing by, you stop to look at them, pretending to yourself to be curious about the world around you. But, you don’t care anymore. Sounds are muffled, faces blurry, your actions involuntary. You are going along with the wave that is sweeping everyone into motion - the ticket counter lady, as she wakes up everyday to enter some numbers on a piece of plastic to produce a piece of paper; you explain Murphy’s law to her after having switched queues multiple times and still ending up in the slowest one. The steward who greets you and everyone in front of and behind you - "Hello Welcome", while thinking about what he'll do after he gets out of this job of serving the great Indian upper middle class. You can still hear his words as you move ahead in the aisle - whether he is actually saying it to someone else or it is the echo - it is the same to you - you can’t make out the difference. As you type, the only sounds you hear are your keyboard’s and the only smell is the stewardess’ perfume as she closes the luggage compartments. You crack your fingers. You write about cracking your fingers. Then you are blank, wondering what to write next. You start noticing the complete lack of the concept of private space as one guy starts playing music - the fact that he plays Bandeh by Indian Ocean makes you feel less .... umm.. what's the word - you can’t think clearly anymore. You hear people speaking broken English in the horrible Indian accent that we've been blessed with. You cringe at its sound. Probably you are a jerk for thinking so. An honest jerk. Does that make it better? I wonder how and when people started lying. Why would you need to? You can’t think through the answers. You think about your blog and question yourself whether it is too preachy. You drink water. You write about drinking water. You look at the hostesses and try to imagine what kind of a person she would be in real life. The chubby one with a smile on her face - she looks like someone who likes to spend time with her family. The good looking one with high brow - she's the one who likes to party. You judge and stereotype everyone. The steward with an apologetic smile on his face - you still hear his "Hello, Welcome Sir". You judge people around you although they haven't done anything to trouble you. Perhaps they have - you think you want them to disappear. But, you are not sure. You notice a lady wearing huge sunglasses enter and place her wide ass on the business class seat. You judge her. You think and wonder at the sense of entitlement people have. You peek at the laptop of the foreigner next to you. Your eyes are droopy. Another hostess - she has a nice smile. Not the sexy, hot kind of smile. Not even the cute kind of smile. Your girlfriend has a cute smile. No, what this hostess has is an ‘innocent’ smile - as many of my friends in the one-way street of love will say. The flight is ready to depart. 

"Ladies and Gentlemen - this is a seat belt. "

"Put on your own mask before assisting someone else." 

"Mutual funds are subject to market risk…"

“To attract attention while wearing your life jacket, take off your clothes."

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Hello Welcome!"

You listen to a story by the Foreigner who is an assistant director. You remark on how remarkable the story is.

You smile a condescending smile looking at the guy who is wasting his life on Candy Crush. You judged him. 

“Sir, please switch off your laptop"

You fiddle through the in-flight magazine. You see the beautiful places you want to go to. Plans of going to such places begin shaping up in your head. 

You look at the glossy ads of bathroom equipments with beautiful girls. You no longer remember the name of the brand.

“We’ve begun descent into…."

You close your eyes. Your thoughts jump from one to another. Your head hurts. 

Thuk!

“Thank you for travelling with us."

“Hello Welcome!"

Unstructured Life - Day 1

Yesterday was the first day in a long time when I didn’t have to do anything or be anywhere. It felt good. But, not as good as I felt day before when the anticipation of enjoying the pleasures of unstructured life filled up my heart. I was effusing happiness and it was infectious. Yesterday, it took other people to remind me that I don’t have to report in to work on Monday.

Sometimes the anticipation is more enjoyable than the actual thing. In anticipation, you imagine all the things that you would do and sometimes the reality is good but not great. This happens when you plan a trip. You take stock of all the options available to you, make a list of all the things you would do and you feel happy and excited. But, when you actually go to a vacation, you end up missing out on some of those things for lack of time/money/energy or some other factor. 

Overall, I am happy with the way my day has went by. I wanted my actions to be deliberate with whatever I choose to do. I woke up late after a night of debauchery. Cooked a mean breakfast which involved mango shake and veg pakoras. Watched a bit of In the Mood for Love which is an intriguing movie by Wong Kar Wai. If you haven’t watched any of his movies, go ahead and do it right now but go with an appetite for quirk. Then I took a long nap, woke up and ate fruits. I then tied-up my shoelaces and went for a good run. Came back, sipped green tea while reading The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Then I caught up with a friend, helped my roomie put in some new plants in the house and then went for an hour of Snooker. I ended the day with dinner and then finishing up the movie. 

Right now, I am at a good place where I am not worried about the future. Although, a lot of people have asked me what I’m going to do and a lot of them expect me to start up again which is hugely inspiring, I am not sure as to what my next step is going to be because I honestly have no idea. In all probability, I’ll take up a job again but this time I’ll be deliberate in choosing where I want to work.

I feel happy, relieved, fulfilled and a little skeptical of my own thoughts. See, even though I am feeling good right now, there will be a time in the future where I will start worrying about what to do next. I want to be prepared for that situation and be courageous enough to look at the man in the mirror and tell him that you have survived for so long and will do no matter what happens.

Meanwhile, I want to spend time doing things that I enjoy and ones that make me feel good. And in case you are still reading this blog tomorrow, you will get to know about it.

Did you like what you read so far? You can subscribe to my mailing list to get updates on new posts. I am not sure how frequently I’ll send you an email but it will never be more often than once a week. 
Appreciate your time. Thanks!

Illusions | Haiku

Richard Bach is a master at weaving simple stories into something deeply profound and moving. Illusions was also in my list of the best books I read last year

You can swim through walls,

Walk on water,

And everything that is taught in this book could be wrong.

#BookReviews in Haiku

On Illusions - Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach

Aliens

There is a world which is called Bumics where lives a specie known as Hreathens.

They lead a life listening to music but not like we humans do on earth. Music is the air they breathe in literal terms. They look like us but with a slight yet important difference - they don’t have a nose. Instead, they have a headphone over their heads since birth. That is their life giving element. They don’t breathe but they have to listen to music all the time or else they die.

The way we hold our breaths, they stop listening to music for a small time while changing the batteries of their iPods and stereo systems. If the batteries die out, or their iPod breaks, they have to replace it. But, sometimes they can’t find the replacement at the right time and then they die. At other times, they can’t find the right music for a long time and they feel suffocated which again causes death.

When they want to get high, or they want to entertain themselves and have a good time, they buy a detachable nose, with which they breathe air. For their parties, they buy big containers of air which blows it all around the room. When they are breathing, everything else seems secondary. They are lost in the process of breathing, the fresh air that enters into their body, goes into their lungs and gives them energy. The air takes them somewhere else and they forget that they are Hreathen beings living on the planet Bumics. It takes them to another planet (Earth, maybe). That is also the time when they are actually able to focus on the music.

Hreathens had forgotten that they’ve been listening to music all this while. They had taken it for granted and had lost the joy of listening to music. But, these sessions of breathing helps them realise how simple, yet beautiful is this life giving process to them. They enjoy it, it is almost as if they’ve been hearing the music all the time but this is the first time they have listened to it. They also call it meditation. 

The kids always miss the silent H in the spelling. Their monks ask them the purpose of H in their life. They spend their lifetime finding out that answer. They don’t realise that it is a non existent question. They can very well live without the extra H. But no, their mind, like ours seeks conflict. They can’t let it go.

One day, one of them is breathing some really good air and he feels as if he has been transported into a different world altogether. He feels as if he has become a different specie. Almost human.

This is it. I think I don’t know more about them. I will come back with more information once my thought changes.

Do you think we become them for brief moments when we are listening to music and can focus on our breathing for the first time?

Did you like what you read so far? You can subscribe to my mailing list to get updates on new posts. I am not sure how frequently I’ll send you an email but it will never be more often than once a week. 
Appreciate your time. Thanks!

On the origin of language

In a discussion with a friend, I’d call it a discussion even though she was quiet and I was quiet and we were sitting without a care in the world, we figured out why language was invented - To Lie.

This is it. This is the end of the post, the end of everything, you can go home now.

————————————————————————————————————————-

Or, you can choose to stay back and get to know what preceded that.

————————————————————————————————————————-

So I see you decided to stay back, I’m glad. What happened was this: We were just sitting and chilling, looking at each other for quite some time, smiling, looking into each other’s eyes and just having a general feeling of contentment, happiness and fun. We didn’t speak a single word and yet our eyes said things to each other and it felt like our true feelings were communicated. After some time she asks: “Why do you think the language was made for?” to which I reply, “To lie”.

Isn’t that true? It is so hard to hide your true emotions and feelings as compared to lying in words. All the lie detectors in the world check your emotions not what you say - even they know where the actual truth comes from. All the people we lie to, they always sense something is wrong no matter how well we choose our words. But feelings, they are the true tell of what is in your mind.

Maybe, the inventors of language were actually really bad people who wanted to lie and do things which were until then not heard of and they’d wanted to keep that a secret. And that is why they invented language as a means to communicate instead of gestures, feelings and touch. So that they could lie.

I believe a true conversation happens without words. Isn’t that what they say about a good friend, he’s someone who can share a silence with and still feel like you’ve had the best conversation in the world.

Do you like what you read so far? You can subscribe to my mailing list to get updates on new posts. I am not sure how frequently I’ll send you an email but it will never be more often than once a week.
Appreciate your time. Thanks!

What I see with my left eye

When I was 14 years old, a freak accident gave me the ability, if it is the right word to use, to see weird shapes with my left eye. 

Here’s what happened: While playing badminton, a friend hit me with the racket on my eye. Don’t ask how it is even possible, but it just goes to show how bad my doubles partner was at the game. Anyways, the doctor said it is fine and nothing serious. But, of course there was something very serious.

A few days later, I couldn’t see above a certain horizontal level with my left eye. So, assuming you were my height then, I would have to raise my neck a little bit to look at your face. This time the doctor did say it was something serious. Apparently, my retina had detached from its position and was hanging loose.

The operation involved cutting open my eye(yes!), inserting some ice instrument (yes!) which then burns the retina so that it melts and sticks to its original place (yes!). The doc said that this eye burn is common to people in colder areas. I don’t know how much of it is correct because the doctor could have tried to explain me things in a simple way or I could have misunderstood him or my memory isn’t as sharp as it was then. The doctors among you can vet how correct this is. To close the eye back, they had to stitch it up (yes!). You could actually see 4 black stitches in my eye. They gradually melted away and my eye became almost perfect.

Almost.

What’s remaining is I see your face in a little contorted shape with my left eye. And I see weird shapes which look like these:

image

I don’t really know what to make of it. This shape is funny, because if I try too hard to notice it, it shifts its place. But when I really relax, it lets me have a look. I think the shape has changed over the years. It feels as if they are black stars floating in a sky of yellow liquid. Just observing these shapes is a good way to spend some time alone. 

When my mind is at peace, they present themselves to me. When I am not looking, they appear. When I look too hard, they go away. But, if at times, I tell myself that I am not looking, and still let the eye move, they reveal themselves to me. A momentary loss of mind control pushes them away and they become haywire and scatter away. I guess they just need a clear mind as a breeding ground. It is as if they are waiting for mind to be at rest. Otherwise they run amok at free will which is neither mine nor does it seems theirs.

I don’t know if to conclude something from it but it reminds me of something I’ve read in way too many books: It is when you are at peace, your mind is calm that all the beauty of life presents itself to you. 

Do you like what you read so far? You can subscribe to my mailing list to get updates on new posts. I am not sure how frequently I’ll send you an email but it will never be more often than once a week. 

Appreciate your time. Thanks!