Category Archives: Storybook

Tiny Tales: The Apple Lion

I realised during the Alphabet Sambar meet yesterday that I wrote this story but never put it up. So here it is for your childhood-scented reading pleasure. Don’t forget to play!

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

The Apple Lion

It started with a spelling test. Ma’am had threatened the class with one later in the week.

“If you have all been studying like good children, you will have no problem. All the bad children who think they can learn everything in one day, they will all FAIL!! And they will be made to stand outside Father Philip’s office! And their parents will be called. And they will also have to sit outside Father Philip’s office. When they see their parents sitting outside Father Philip’s office, then they will think…Oh, I should have studied when ma’am told me to. Otherwise my whole family would not be sitting outside the principal’s office!!”

And she swept out of the class with a menacing clack of heels. Anusuya turned to Minnal, worry pushing the corners of her lips down. She looked just like Ronald MacDonald but with his face upside down. Then Rahil shot a paper pellet at her and she turned to him, frown gone. Fahim was picking his nose, so they started teasing him.

Manu watched them all from under his elbows, his head down on the table. He tried to think of all the big words that they had come across, in the chapters so far. He didn’t want Anusuya to fail. He liked her even though she looked like Ronald MacDonald with her curly, short hair. He lifted his head. Immediately Minnal turned in his direction so he looked away and right into his book. A word swum into focus, just as a paper pellet hit him on the back.

APHELION.

Affy-leen. Apay-le-yon.  Appa-lion. He tried the word on his tongue several times. It didn’t work. Then the chemistry sir slippered into class. Manu always thought of it that way, even though his father had told him that there was no such a thing as ‘slippering’. But sir made a terrific sound with his rubber slippers slapping on the floor. Manu had tried it at home but he couldn’t get the same effect, till he went into the bathroom and slapped his feet around on the wet tiles. Maushi had complained to his mother and she had come and yanked him out of the bathroom, telling him to let the maid do her work. Slipper-slipper-slipper, sir’s feet made that sound announcing his arrival. Everyone straightened in their seats and opened their chemistry textbooks.

That evening, Manu walked to tuition class. He tried slippering but it wouldn’t work with his canvas shoes. Then he passed the empty ground next to tuition didi’s house. Somebody had thrown a half-eaten apple into the compound. He kicked it as he passed. It reminded him of that word he had seen earlier in class. What was it?

Apple-lion.

Idea! He sat down on the staircase and took out his dictionary.

Aphelion

  1. the point farthest from the sun in the orbit of a planet or comet.
  2. the point in the orbit of any orbiting body farthest from the body about which it revolves.

There was a diagram below it showing earth and moon. He looked up, hearing a chatter of voices. Minnal, Fahim and Anusuya entered the building. They paused when they saw him, then they continued. Anusuya asked him,

“What are you doing?”

Manu told her,

“I’m making a game.”

“What game?”,

she bent next to him, looking at the open dictionary.

“It’s to help me remember the spellings,”

said Manu, shutting the books and stuffing them back into his bag.

They had an hour of sums to do. Manu was pulled up once for drawing in his workbook.

“What are these??”

tuition didi demanded, looking at the blobs he had scribbled that morning in class.

“Apples”

said Manu. He didn’t want to reveal his game yet.

“And what about these?”

she asked, pointing to three stick figures with squiggly lines on their tops.

“Lions”

Manu replied in a small voice.

Minnal giggled again, while Fahim tried to laugh and pick his nose at the same time.

When the class was over though, Anusuya sidled upto Manu and asked him,

“So what’s the game?”

Manu looked up from putting away his books, smiling.

“Tomorrow”, he told her, “Come for tuition half an hour early tomorrow. But meet me in the ground.”

Then he looked over her shoulder and gestured with his chin.

“Bring them also.”

The next day Manu told his mother that tuition didi had called them early to prepare for the test. As he reached the ground, he realized they had all come, even Rahil, though he was not in their tuition class.

“Well, what’s the game?”

Rahil demanded as Manu approached them.

Manu took out a sheet of paper on which he had written out all the hard words from the chapter. Then he explained the rules.

“This is the Earth”,

he said, drawing a circle around where they stood, in the dust with his shoe. Then he ran backwards, till he reached the compound wall. From there he began drawing a line in the dust around the Earth circle, till he reached the same point again. The kids watched him curiously.

“And this is the road the moon goes on, around the Earth.”

“No, no, the sun goes around the Earth,”

Minnal insisted.

“Stupid, Earth goes around sun,”

Rahil corrected her.

“And moon also goes around Earth.”

Anusuya added.

Minnal looked crestfallen but they all fell silent, turning to him.

“You will all be satellites. I will stand over here,”

said Manu, pointing to the ground, where he stood next to the compound wall.

“I will call out one word. If it is Minnal’s turn, she must spell out the word. Each letter in the word means, she takes one step to the moon road. Like if I say ‘Sun’, she takes a step for S, then U and then N. If you don’t know the spelling of the word, you pass. The next person takes that turn.”

Fahim scratched his nose. Manu rushed on before the finger went into the nose.

“If everyone passes, everybody has to go back to Planet Earth. Then I will spell the word correctly and we will take a new word.”

Minnal screwed up her forehead.

“What happens when we reach the moon road?”

Rahil asked.

Manu hadn’t thought about it but noticing Anusuya’s smile gave him a new idea.

“Then you become a satellite. If Minnal doesn’t know the word I give, then she can ask you for a new word.”

“Minnal doesn’t know any words!”

said Fahim, gravely studying a grey blob on his finger as he spoke.

Minnal opened her mouth but when she saw Fahim’s hand, she shut up.

“How do you spell satelli..”

Anusuya began.

Manu drowned her out speaking as loudly as he could. He didn’t want Fahim to say Anusuya didn’t know any words.

“The satellite people will try to reach me as fast as they can by spelling the words I give. If you make a mistake, the satellite explodes and you fall back onto Planet Earth.”

“Satellites are not explosive, stupid!”

said Minnal.

“In this game, they are. They are bomb-satellites. They have to reach the finish without exploding.”

Fahim had dropped to his knees to tie his sneakers.

“First one to reach where I am standing is the winner. That person takes this list and gets to call out new words for the others.”

“What is this game called?”

Anusuya wanted to know.

“Apple Lion”, Manu replied. “That’s where I’m standing. It’s the apple lion of this game. It means the point furthest on the moon road from Earth.”

They liked the name. They began to play. Surprisingly Minnal won the first game and became the Apple Lion. And the first word she gave Manu was ‘Aphelion’. He pretended he didn’t know its spelling though he had recited it twenty times the previous day. Anusuya was next and she got it right. He wanted her to be the next Apple Lion.

The next day they played it, walking around on tin cans tied under their feet. Everyone got the spelling of ‘Stilts’ right. By Day 3, everyone knew all the answers and they made him promise he’d bring a fresh Apple Lion list from another chapter, the next day.

Manu went home and ate his dinner without complaint. He didn’t even notice that there was tindli in the sabzi. The Apple Lion was going to pass the spelling test with full marks.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

#Ideastory: Artist of Reality

Reality Artist

He’s an artist of reality.

He shoots
seconds after the shutters click
when people aren’t posing anymore.

Only with his eyes.

#DIYCreativeClub: Throwback

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This is for CassyFry’s #DIYCreativeClub challenge. Today’s prompt was ‘Throwback’.

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

#DIYCreativeClub: Hope

Today, the world. Tomorrow, a better phone. For @cassyfry's #DIYCreativeClub challenge. Today's prompt is #Hope Bombay represents one kind of glittering, distant dream for a lot of Indians. It's home to Bollywood. Thousands of hopefuls flock to this city daily hoping to have their words, their voices, their faces or their bodies discovered. Andheri, besides being the city's most populous suburb, is also the Mecca where all tinsel town hopefuls have to pay homage. I spotted this young man hastily brushing his hair into the perfect set using his phone as a mirror. And in a blink of an eye, he turned and was gone, vanishing into the sea of auditions and casting calls and other delightful sharks in my Island City. #struggler #andheri #bollywood #tinseltown #selfie #metrosexual #metrosexualgiveaway #model #aspire #aspirant #actor #artist #bombay #mumbai #twitterpoetry #people #dandy #men #man #boy

A post shared by Ramya Pandyan (@ideasmithy) on

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For CassyFry’s #DIYCreativeClub challenge. Today’s prompt was ‘Hope’.

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Tiny Tales: Luka

I wrote this for an Alphabet Sambar prompt. Several members of the group said they did not get it. But two others did and liked it. Tell me what you think. Also, to keep from biasing you, I’ve posted the prompt at the bottom of the story and not here.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

Luka

The man clutches the bottle to him, his spirit hungrier than his stomach, for succor. The glass is warm, from hours of holding and caressing. But it stays unyielding. He clutches it closer. The drink is long gone and he has no money for more. But he is convinced that the magical respite it brings, has seeped through to the bottle. He will take the bottle with him. He has paid for it, fair and square.

The fingers of his left hand close over its neck and he picks it up. His right hand supporting its base, he curls it up inside him, warm from the weather outside.

“Mine.” he croons.

On the street, an old woman stares at him. Her hair turns to hissing snakes as he passes, but he knows she is harmless. Medusa fallen from the grace of a Greek god. She told him her story once, how her lover had cut her and dropped her like garbage, because his mother didn’t approve. She was a kindred soul in agony. She frowns at him now.

“What you got there?”

“A handful of wishes.” He replies, allowing her a peek at the lovely succor his coat has been hiding. But only a peek. Kindred or not, he won’t share.

“Mine.” he mutters.

“Won’t bring her back, you know.”

He gives her a gentle smile. He knows, of course. It’s the first rule. Or maybe it’s the second. No wishing for love, no wishing to bring back the dead. But she’s looking at the bottle so hungrily now that he moves away. No one must know what he has.

He reaches his building door and looks up. He strokes the bottle but nothing happens.

“LUKA!!” he says.

The noise in his right ear gets louder and he stumbles. Then, two small hands reach around his waist and start to pull him up the staircase. He reminds himself to recast the wishes better in the morning. He doesn’t like being kept waiting at his own door.

“You’re late, Luka.”

“I fell asleep.” says the little voice, slightly muffled in his jacket.

“Djinns don’t sleep.”

The man smiles. He remembers his training. Djinns are very sly creatures but they are pure magic. This one has an angelic face. He looks exactly like a nine year old. Luka. But Luka is magic. He can make wishes come true, provided those wishes are correctly framed. Mostly he is really very good. But with djinns you never know. He has to keep an eye on the bottle at all times.

“Mine.” he whispers again. His elbow knocks against the djinn’s head, as his grasp tightens around the bottle and he hears a little cry. The djinn looks up at him, eyes filling with tears. He puts his left hand on the little head and strokes the hair. Such a guileless face. The eyes just like hers.

They reach the door and Luka lets him go. Immediately the man crumples, his knees buckling. The bottle falls out of his hand and rolls away. He lunges after it in panic and grabs hold of it, before it hurtles over the staircase. Luka is still standing at the doorway frozen.

“You little shit. You made me fall. Trying to break the bottle, are you?”

He gets to his feet, not unsteady anymore. The bottle has given him some of its power, from four hours of holding.

Only the old woman on the street hears Luka scream.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

The prompt was:  Dijnns are cursed malevolent entities known to twist innocent wishes. Dijnns are like temptations; fulfilling wishes without hard work. Dijnns represent the ‘easy way’ to get our wants. So this prompt is to write about the wishes that Dijnns can fulfil or can’t fulfil. You can write about Djinns and or wishes, together or individually. Write about you as a Djinn and the interesting journey you have had. Or write about a conversation that you may have with a Djinn. Or go personal and write about personal wishes. How your wishes make you different from others, and how much you are willing to risk to fulfil your wishes. Or go all psychological, ‘Why do you wish what you wish?’ Also remember, “Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.” Couldn’t resist the song, from pussy cat dolls :).

*If you’re a lover of words and like the idea of prompts, join Alphabet Sambar. We’re always happy to meet new members. Alphabet Sambar is on Facebook and Twitter. To attend a meet, shoot me an email at ideasmithy[at]gmail[dot]com.

Tiny Tales: Clearance Sale

This is the first thing I wrote in 2015 and I’m glad it was both catharsis and short fiction. I didn’t publish it earlier for fear of hurting someone. But it seems it doesn’t matter anymore. Here goes:

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

“I’m having a Clearance Sale for 2014,”

she says,

“You see, 2015 comes in the shape of a cupboard that I haven’t opened yet. And I don’t want to put anything old in there. 2014 needs to go before I can open 2015.”

He surveys the life that she has laid out in neat stacks and tidy piles. He notes that her OCD has not made it to the ‘Sell’ list. He looks over to her. She’s doing something to her hair, stringing it out between her fingers and squinting up through the strands. Now and then she draws out a hand and a grey hair comes away with it, which she deposits into a carton she has labeled ‘Worries’. She’s sitting on a poorly assembled chair, whose seat is askew and all legs of different lengths.

“I made that when I decided to take up carpentry.”

“Carpentry and you??”

he guffaws, picturing the skinny girl in front of him trying to pick up a power drill.

She frowns at him and opens her mouth, while he waits for the entertainment that usually follows such a remark. But she stops short of saying anything. Then she places both her hands on her head. Her face contorts and she looks like she’s trying to pull her skull off.

“GNNNNNNRRRRRGGGHHHHHH,”

she goes. Then she stops and breathes noisily.

“It’s too deeply entrenched, my Patchy Feminism.”

“If it’s patchy, you should dab at it with stain remover, not try to pull it off like a helmet,”

he observes.

“Stain remover,”

she says, Resentful Acid oozing from in between syllables,

“Stain removers don’t do their job well. They remove everything. Oh. Oh.”

He waits for her to reach the conclusion. She doesn’t lack for Intelligence (another thing he notices is not on the List) but Determination is something she tends to have in short supply. It might have been used up already. He watches till the Rebellious Spirit ebbs and she replaces it with Fake Detachment. And he turns away grinning. No matter how hard she tries, there are things that will always be left behind on her shelves.

“Maybe you’ll be able to take some of them up in 2015,”

he says with a yawn.

“No! I have to get rid of everything. It was such an untidy year, arriving in bits and pieces and messily wrapped parcels. I spent most of it cleaning up and picking up things that got broken.”

She stares at him and her eyes grow wide. She can never keep up Fake Detachment for very long. There are inflections in her voice, the neon plastic colours of 2014 flecking sound with styrofoam shards and smothering thermocol. He hates when he can see the inside of her mind this way, without feeling what she feels. What’s wrong with styrofoam and thermocol? She just thinks – or feels – or is – too much.

He nudges a stack of paper with his toe and touches the top. It starts at the base with a couple of diaries, sheds to writing pads and ends with looseleaf sheets of paper, held down by a little box of glittery paper clips and thumbtacks shaped like ladybirds. This, he is not unhappy to see leaving. The Fancy Stationery is a veneer around her Compulsive List-making. Her Elaborate Time Arrangements are lurking in there too, making paper shells and digital mazes around Quiet Desperation. He steps away, breaking contact. Immediately her Too Many Adjectives and Catchphrases drip off his fingers and congeal into the general mass of Excessive Verbosity. They need to go.

Paid Bills lie in a corner and he is careful to avoid going there. They are the noose around his Spontaneous Excitement and he won’t risk any more of it getting choked, than it already does, being around her.

He turns and is surprised to find her standing right behind him. Their noses are touching and he thinks she looks like Cyclops. But he can’t move. She shuts her eyes and he feels her eyelids scrape over his cheeks. Then he hears a sickening sound like velcro scabs peeling off raw human flesh. She is peeling him off her. Their eyeballs (which he realizes only now are melded together) flatten and stretch. Finally they pop out, her optic nerves hitting him across the face. She’s ripping his fingers off her torso now and something small and hard hits him in the stomach. It’s black with slivers of pink and the maroon trickle seeping from the ventricles stains his clothes. He looks up (her optic nerves swing across his nose this time) and sees a hole in the middle of her chest. A thunderous sound jolts him, which he discerns as the word SOLD!

He realizes dimly that he is shouting but his words are getting further and further away. As he watches, her form now drained of melanin, starts to fade. It thins to a hair fine line. Now the line breaks under her right ear and moves snakelike to her right. There it stops and just like in the game, turns right angle, growing just a bit. A little above her head, it turns again. He watches as it turns into a doorframe around her. In a flash, colour fills in between them, a solid wooden door with a polished brass handle. Incredibly, he can see her even through all this. He tries to turn but he is packed in tight. Plastic boards that say FEELING crush his ribcage. A glass case containing a replica of her in his favorite dress, presses down on his shoulders. The carton of Verbosity is dripping unwieldy, catatonic words on his shoulder. And look, even her Patchy Feminism is growing on his jeans and now on his belt in green, furry strokes.

He manages one last look at her but she isn’t even looking in his direction. Beyond her, a cupboard stands slightly ajar. He watches as she pulls it open and steps into it. There is only white light and it melts everything that is on his side and is him. His last impression is of the cupboard doors. The right one bears the numerals 1 and 5 while the left says 20.

He doesn’t know how long has passed before the wooden door that he is behind, opens again. He tries twitching a finger but all he hears is the sound of paper rustling. A damp finger touches a corner of him and he feels himself turned over.

“I’ll take this book,”

a voice says.

#IdeaStory: Sea of Words

Sea of words

I’m drowning in a sea of words, she says
You don’t want to be rescued, he observes
So she asks if they can write a story together.

20 Steps: A Digital Love Story

1. He sends her a carefully worded to sound casual-but-smart message.

2. She replies with the digital equivalent of a laugh.

3. Encouraged, he does some more of that.

4. She chuckles (digitally, of course). He notices that her smile is crooked and that her teeth don’t quite line up. He wonders whether to judge her for not using Photoshop or be impressed that she doesn’t feel the need to.

5. While he’s thinking, she springs a snarky/smart/weird reference on him that makes him laugh.

6. Encouraged, she does more of that.

7. They continue in this fashion, trading funny lines, witty insights and an occasional urban angst reflection, that they agree (without words) to consider original.

8. The dating site goes down for 27 hours. They return surprised at the relief they feel that the chat history hasn’t been vaporised. But just in case, she says, maybe it’s not such a reliable platform after all? Sure, he agrees, how about moving this to chat instead?

9. They now feature on each other’s ‘Last messaged’ and ‘Always Show’ chat lists. Gripes about work, mid-morning panic pangs and I’m-so-bored-but-it’s-not-time-to-stop-work-yet chats feature on these.

10. Work hits. Life intervenes. Illness happens. Or, never mind that deus ex machina crap, it’s just a weekend. But she types his name into the search bar every now and then. And he stalks her photos on a lonesome Tuesday night.

20 Steps

*Image (without text) via thanunkorn on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

11. 4 days later, a Hi goes unanswered. 2 days later the reply goes unnoticed. 3 days later a message goes undelivered. A week later, they are online at the same time but they don’t exchange a word.

12. 10 days later she says ‘What’s up?’ He replies ‘Same old’. Another week passes.

13. A month later, he says ‘Hey’. She replies (after 20 minutes), ‘How are you?’. They talk. It’s almost like it once was. Almost. But he’s texting a prospective hookup about later. And she is parallel-chat-flirting with a new crush/Fwb. There are no goodbyes in this conversation that is peppered by intervals of at least 5 minutes between each message.

14. Three weeks later, he messages saying he is going to be in her city. She replies “Oh cool”. No further communication.

15. Two days later she pings him saying she saw his profile on another dating app and isn’t it funny how things turned out? He replies with a smiley.

16. A month later, she notices his profile picture has changed to show a geographic landmark that she recognises from her own city. She chooses not to comment on it. She forgets about it.

17. He changes his profile picture back to one more his style, his city after 2 weeks. This time, there’s a girl in the picture as well, her head pressed close to his. Two weeks later, he notices the Facebook ticker shows her rapidly commenting and liking some guy’s status updates. His eyes move back to his feed before he can even think about it.

18. She receives a friend request from someone. It’s an old classmate. Among the 37 common friends, she notices his face. And she wonders if she should ask how they know him. She files it away in her head for a later, more casual conversation where it won’t be noticed. And she forgets about it.

19. He pings and says ‘What’s up?’. She says ‘Same old’.

20. Repeat from 1.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

I also posted this to my other blog, XX Factor. If you’d like to read more on my take on modern relationships, do visit The Dating Game. Posts you might like:

#IdeaStory: Laughter

image

Her laughter
exploded
into a thousand pieces
that went skipping
over his wonder.

One stuck
deep in his heart
and bled when she left.

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