Tag Archives: Children

E is for Evil

EI’m really late with this one. This is E is for Evil, Saturday’s A to Z Challenge prompt. I struggled with finding the right E word. I wanted to do something dark and all the E words I could think of, were positive and bright (Exuberant. Elaborate. Excess.). Fortunately a friend suggested EVIL (how did I *not* think of that?) and the story began to take shape. Here it is.

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

E is for Evil

She trudges down the gravel path, one fist held to her mouth. The other one is clamped over a doll. The doll’s golden hair is dragging in the gravel and the edges of it are dotted with black dirt specks already. She’s near the line of parked cars, next to the entrance now and there are three cars. Blue, white and blue again. The second bell rings and all the kids are inside already. Still she doesn’t hurry. Instead, she stops. She takes away her hand from her mouth, a little spittle string stretching from it. Rooting around in her pocket, she brings out a key.

A tall lady appears at the entrance.

“Rubina! Come in at once! What are you doing? Your classmates are already inside.”

Her heels make a tick-tocking sound on the gravel path as she hurries up to rush the girl in. The key has disappeared, not into the pocket, but elsewhere, hidden. The girl knows not to hide things in the same place more than once. A firm, smooth hand clamps over her wrist and pulls her towards the door.

Dragging along a little behind the teacher, she makes a scraping sound on the gravel with her shoes. But she stops suddenly and in a flash, sticks the chewing gum from her mouth, on the teacher’s tight skirt. It’s such a smooth motion, so light, the woman doesn’t even feel it. She will only see it later, in the laughter in the room, when the chair sticks to her skirt. Just the thought satisfies the girl and she allows herself to be herded to her classroom, without resistance.

It is geography and the master is drawing a map on the board. The girl yawns, her mouth opening wide. Immediately a gasp goes through the class. She looks around surprised. The boy sitting to her right edges his desk away, with a loud scraping sound. It makes the master turn around.

“What is this noise?!”

Everyone is staring at her and following their gaze, the master looks at her too.

“Rubina, come and sit down in the front desk. Come here at once!”

The girl stands up and gets out of her desk. Her classmates all lean away from her, as she passes to the front desk. There is an outburst of whispering.

“SILENCE! Go back to your maps!”

And he turns around. The class is silent. But she can feel forty pairs of eyes boring into her back. The girl on her left is not even pretending to look at her map, but is staring at Rubina openly. She’s the only one with a smile on her face. Rubina turns to look at the rest of the class. They’re all staring at her but no one says a word.

The girl on her left, Natalie, leans back and whispers to the boy behind her.

“See, I told you.”

The boy gapes at Natalie, too scared to look at Rubina. Natalie holds her stare and eventually, he is compelled to follow it to Rubina’s face.

Blood, he mouths.

When the bell rings, the class stays put instead of running about as they usually do. The master looks surprised but doesn’t want to be late for his next class so he rushes off.

Rubina gets up, to go back to her seat. Whispers turn into a rumble.

MONSTER.

She hears it and whips around, an unusual movement for her. And when she turns, she sees the trail of blood that she has left behind on the floor. She stares at it, puzzled.

Then, a pencil hits her sharp on the side of her neck. It clatters to the floor. She looks around angrily but she can’t tell who threw it. She decides to pick it up to see if anyone has etched their name on it. And when she bends, she notices the stream of blood down the side of her ankle. She looks up and sees the blood on her chair. There’s a streak down the front leg of the chair. And on the seat, there’s a spattered mess of red. Dead.

The kids get to their feet in unison and run around her and out of the class. She stays in position, crouching. When the last of the footsteps die away, she stands up. Reaching out a finger, she touches the seat. The blood has dried and crumbles at her touch. She traces a line through it, the red powder caking under her fingernail.

Suddenly a boy appears at the entrance of the class.

“KILLER!! KILLER!!”

he shouts and runs away.

Rubina looks down at her fingers. They are flecked with red and brown. She stares down at her ankles, one with a red streak and the other with a brownish wound. The marks on the seat match one ankle and the spots on the floor, the other. It could be true. She looks up, a little smile playing on her lips and surveys the class. One fist goes up to her mouth. What should she kill next?

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

E is for Evil

*Image courtesy mack2happy on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ideamarked Jan2011: Astrology, Fiction, Photography, Music, Technology, Poetry, Social Rules & Life Lessons

The first month of 2011 has whooshed by slipperier than the icy roads we Mumbaikers nearly came to expect with a rare winter! I’ve been poking around into a lot of corners and old places, nostalgia washing over me with this old blog URL and template. After the daily post pressure of Reverb10 and a demanding December calender let up, January has been packed in a different way. I’ve been enjoying it and hope that it’s an indication of things to come in the rest of the year. Here’s a mixed bag of goodies to cheer you along at end of the first month:

  • Ugly Christmas sweaters by sun sign! (via Astrology.com)
  • Extra short stories for 2011 (via Sakshi)
  • A secret can be a burden. And someone who shares your burden has to be a real guardian angel. Like the one this postcard is about. (via PostSecret)
  • 1000 Life Lessons or How to stay alive forever (1000 secrets)
  • Doocing may loom high even on our sheltered desi selves as we all get connected. Here’s five ways to tread with caution on Twitter and Facebook (via EconomicTimes, tipped off by Gautam Ghosh, who is quoted in the story)
  • Mumbai through the eyes of my favorite Bangalore photo-blogger. No mains and crosses in Claustraphobicity, I’m afraid! (Mumbai Paused)
  • In marketers’ hell! Swoosh Eyebrows (via FoundShit)
  • An old favorite of mine and mamma to twin boys, this time she gets a sharp lesson in watching her words in front of the kids! (via Mamma of Twins)
  • A History of Nudism – short story at Daily Fiction‘s new blog.
  • So bad, it’s good. Move over French maid fantasy, Mmmbai is here! Aye Hiphopper by Ishq Bector (via Youtube)
  • Memorable moments and traditions from wedding ceremonies across countries, religions and social systems. (via Matador Network)
  • How technology/ mobile connectivity is helping Indian education (via EducationTimes, tipped off by Moksh Juneja, who is quoted in the story)
  • Social Rules To Not Making Empty Promises and To Mean What You Say – I can think of a helluva lot of people who need to know this and not one of them is shy! (link courtesy Arcopol Chaudhuri)
  • Echoes fade and memories die, Autumn frosts have slain July“….gives me goosebumps. (Lewis Carrol at OldPoetry)

Playground Panorama

The open space opposite to my building affords a number of interesting sights. It inspired this story, for one. That was about the ground as a separator. But how about the ground as a space in itself? Here’s what it plays home to.

Yesterday evening, I spotted this man walking his dog in the pouring rain.   Now, I have heard of doggy-sweaters before, in cold places. But this is the first time I’ve seen a dog in a raincoat! What was funnier was that the man himself wasn’t rain-protected. Some people sure love their animals more than life itself!

The summer was full of screaming kids, playing crazily in a way that only children on summer vacations do. In one of those brief lulls, the park looked almost desolate. Except for its lone guest, a solitary bicycle parked right in its midst.

The same thing a few weeks later, right after a particularly rainy night yielded this sight: a log right in the middle of the empty ground, now lush with grass.

The weather hasn’t deterred our young, budding sportsmen.

Any semi-green patch in Mumbai acts like a magnet for all the children of the vicinity. This particular park doesn’t belong to any one housing society and doesn’t have an entrance fee either. So it often plays host to impromptu cricket matches, rainy football games, bat-and-ball toss and sundry other games that appeal to every boy under the age of 12 (and most of them above to, in retrospect). The kids come from the surrounding colonies and also the adjoining slum area. I’d like to say it’s a place where they all mingle but that isn’t really the case. They play in their own groups but at least they all play within close vicinity and I haven’t seen any territory battles happening.

A cricket game had just begun. First, a lone ranger staked out the pitch. Or perhaps he was sentenced to a remote fielding location. Either way, he didn’t look too bothered by it.

I was most intrigued by the batsman, being as he was the same height as the bat he was holding…just about.

They were watched by a cosy duo sitting on a log in a corner. I wondered what these two had to talk about that was so important. *Sigh* The good old days of a bestest friend to share playground secrets with!

In another corner, I spotted a bunch of boys practicing dahi-ka-handi for upcoming Janamashtami (which also kicks off festival season in Mumbai…hooray!).

Childhood is never out of vogue, even in a concrete jungle. It stakes out its own spaces and finds plays to jump and play.

Flying Solo: Airport @ InOrbit Mall

Their practice run inspired this post. And here’s what came out of attending a real gig. Airport played at InOrbit Mall, Malad on 8 May 2010 for the AND-‘Share The Wealth’ initiative for World Fair Trade Day.

This is not a review but what came after the concert. Art is impression and expression both at once. And endless circle of communication. Thank you once again, guys.

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

Love. I’ve been thinking about it.

Once, the idea was embedded in a setting of fear. Fear of missing the one, fear of hurting him, fear of being hurt, of losing him, of losing face, losing a dream, of being broken irrevocably by it. Love.

Those fears have ceased. I didn’t get over them. Experiencing something you greatly fear is a settling, if not disappointing experience. Things are rarely as scary as we imagine. Or perhaps we just imagine the worst possible without also imagining healing, recovery and the peace that follows. Yes, we are paralysed by what we imagine until reality sets us free.

There’s a line in ‘Gone With The Wind’ which says it is not good for a woman to lose her fears. I fear (only, heh) that it may be true of me now. So much that seemed too big or mysterious or threatening is commonplace, even mundane now. The horror is gone, the worry dissolved and so is the hope of rescue, the thrill of release. If the purpose of a difficult experience is to harden you, what happens when you don’t need the protection any more? After slaying the dragons, what good are the arrows you’ve collected and the skill you’ve acquired? Redundancies make for heavy company.

An evening of sweet romantic music, about love, under the stars. I enjoyed it alone. I didn’t dream of someone to share it with. I didn’t want to socialize or even talk to anyone new. And when it was over, I walked around a bit with AmZ who’s hobbling about on a sprained ankle. Being with AmZ isn’t socializing. It’s just being.

We chatted of this and that and then we parted ways. There’s an emotion between passion and indifference. It feels like acceptance and yet it’s more. It’s that inability to label a person. Not because ‘it’s complicated’. But because you know they are so much more than who they are with you, larger than what you perceive of them. They are the past you’ve shared and the easy camaraderie that resulted but they are beyond that. It’s not your place to define it, just to be thankful for what you do have and rejoice in all else, even that which you are not given to sharing with them.

As I sit in the food court of the mall later, writing this, a kid walks by, his face messy with the icecream that his nose is buried in. And it occurs to me, that this child and every other running about on this crowded Saturday evening…each of them, is here because somewhere sometime two people kissed and made love. There would be the loveless unions, of course. But doesn’t it seem like such ‘normal’ everyday instances of life that one is given to noticing in a suburban mall, can only exist in the sharing of everyday lives? Yes. Love is all around me.

Love.
It’s tripping over a fallen poster. It’s fighting over who gets to use the toilet first.
It’s explaining that the traffic is hell and that parking is a nightmare. It’s scowling and asking the waiter to come back after 10 minutes when its companion has arrived.
It’s fighting and making up. It’s fighting and staying angry.
It’s writing and singing love songs in public.
It’s blushing and frowning, both at once.
It’s staring up at the stars enjoying itself. It’s lovely.

Thank you for the ride, Airport. Abhi to seekha hain, indeed. The best is already here and there’s more to come.

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

Airport‘s songs are Hindi and of the sweet, balladic variety. They sound really good in the open air. Sultry weather notwithstanding, the mood suits their music. I’m not sure I have a favorite yet but I’m leaning towards Seher with a ear cocked in the direction of ‘Abhi toh‘.

If you like this post, drop into Airport‘s MySpace page to sample their music. Updates on their future gigs are posted on their Facebook page. Airport is Arijit Datta, Vinay Lobo, Sidd Coutto and Amit Ahuja. Sapna Bhavnani (of Mad O’ Wot fame) supports them. Now, I do too. 🙂

Katy And I

My school had an interesting way of encouraging children to read. An annual Book Fair was held every year in a couple of the classrooms. After school-hours, parents coming to pick up their kids could buy those books. It was a much anticipated event for me and I’d go and look over the books during my lunch break and go back tell my mother about what was on offer. A few days later, I might be surprised with one of the books I mentioned or perhaps she’d come and look at the books with me and then decide to buy something. Those are my earliest memories of browsing.

In the later years, as the school board got marketing-savvy, they’d also visit each classroom and display a few choice books and talk about them – a promotion of sorts. By the time I got to secondary school, I had discovered the vast library my school owned and was a regular there, matronly (scary) librarian notwithstanding. But the Book Fair was still a special event.

At the end of the year, would be the annual day when various dances, songs and recitals were put up for the benefit of the parents. And at the end was the long-drawn out prize distribution where children were rewarded for good academic performance, winning scholarships but also sports victories as well as cultural activities. I had the pleasure of walking up the dais a few times in my twelve-year long school career, for a few scattered academic wins and once for a music prize.

The annual day of my third standard yielded the first prize in the singing competition for my rendition of ‘My Favorite Things’. It was my first time on that dais. As I nervously shook hands with the school Father, he smiled and handed me the certificate. Attached under it, was a gift-voucher redeemable at the next Book Fair. I would learn the next year, when I walked that dais again to get an academic certificate, that all the prizes included a Book Fair voucher.

When the Fair came along, mum and I walked down the stacks of books on desks and as we came up to the teacher’s desk, I put down a heavy bound book and my mother handed over the voucher. I couldn’t believe my luck. I was the proud owner of the kind of book I had only seen in pictures. It had a solid navy-blue leather bound cover on which was embossed in gold letters,

Katy front

Hamlyn Classics

What Katy Did
and
What Katy Did at School

Susan Coolidge

The text was bordered by gold lines and edged with pictures of trees. I thought it was beautiful. The spine had the title and author’s name in smaller typeface, crowned with the same tree motif. I fell in love with the book instantly.

It actually was over a year before I got down to actually reading it. I was too scared to breathe on it till then but the fine-stroked pictures in it won me over and I dove right into the story. The adventures of a motherless, lively 12-year-old girl, eldest of six siblings kept me amused for many long hours.

Katy was only one of the many books that I had the privilege of growing up with, as my parents kept me well-supplied with good books. Owing to Mumbai’s space constraints however, my father was also equally strict that some books should be disposed off every year to make place for the new ones. I dreaded the annual book-clearing as much as I looked forward to the Book Fair.

The books that I had outgrown were removed and given to the raddiwalla. I was required to do the sorting myself, after which one of my parents would inspect my shelf and tell me that I needed to get rid of more, else I’d never have place to stock anymore. There were many accusations and tearful confrontations and books were handed over with a heavy-heart.

Katy resisted the clearing attempts of a number of years, my parents also yielding probably due to its beautiful binding (they are book-lovers too, after all). When it finally made it to the pile, I sneaked out of bed in the night and retrieved it – two years in a row.

Finally, the summer that I was twelve, the same age that Katy was at the start of the book, I finally sighed and gave up the fight. Katy went out of the door that day with a pile of books that were deemed too young for a soon-teenager. I didn’t sleep too well that night and was restless all of the next day.

Two days later, I couldn’t stand it anymore and went down to the raddiwalla’s shop in a frantic bid to buy back Katy. To my utter dismay, it had been sold already while the rest of my collection still lay in the same neat stack in one corner of the shop. If I had a best friend or a blog in those days, I would have ranted and raved all day.

I think Katy was special to me for a lot of reasons. There was of course, the fact that in a way, it was the first book that I really earned for myself. Then there was its beautiful hardbound leather cover, its striking pictures and each chapter beginning with old English lettering. And finally there was Katy herself. The book was about a girl, with a very different world around her, than mine. But inside, she felt so much like me, with her grand intentions that often came to nothing, her bright ideas distracted by momentary mischief and silliness and the mistakes she made. Yes, Katy was special.

I would come to realize just how special only in the years to come as I faced some of my own personal challenges, had my own little victories. I did read the sequel called ‘What Katy did next’ borrowed from the school library. But it was a paperback with a coloured cover and didn’t impact me all that much.

There must have been some kind of divine connection or perhaps my longing for my beloved book was so strong that – would you believe it – I got it back!! After I finished school, I took to haunting the raddiwala’s shop often. I had always known that his shop was a treasure-trove of books but till then I had been dependent on my mother to pick out good books and pay for them. As my pocket-money and my geographical boundaries increased, so did my browsing.

And one wonderful, brilliant, lovely day, I found my beloved Katy sitting atop a pile of magazines. It was inconceivable that the book should come back and be spotted by me but it did happen. I opened the leather cover lovingly, after all those years and sure enough, on the page leaf was my name and the date of purchase, albeit crossed out by a strange hand. On the facing page was the rubber stamp of a bookshop in another part of the city. My Katy had gone on an adventure and come home to me.

Katy spine

I just finished reading it again last week and as always, it kept me engrossed. This precious navy blue leather-bound volume will stay one of my treasured possessions and will be passed on to my children or bequeathed in my will to someone I love.

~O~O~O~O~O~

Friends of Books - Library that delivers and I connect with bloggers at BlogAdda.com

This post won the ‘My Oldest Book, its Memories‘ contest on BlogAdda. And the prizes were these.

The Gameplan (The Perfect Life)

One of my landmark conversations with my boss started off with,

I have a plan.

He smiled and said,

I’m always glad to hear that. Let’s hear it.

And in that moment I knew he had assessed me (right) before I’d assessed myself and he liked what he saw. I like it too. I like being prepared, I like making lists. I always have a plan.

Of course I would have a game-plan for life. It got formulated somewhere in my late teens and pretty well fell into shape as I eased out of them, so let’s say for convenience that the plan is about a decade old now, shall we? Here’s what I planned my life would look like –

20 yrs – Graduate. I was put into school a year early so this wasn’t really an unrealistic goal. Next step: get into one of the big b-schools

22 yrs – Complete education (finally!) and start working.

23/24 yrs – Get married to an intelligent, loving, sensible man (preferably a few years older than me) and be a part of a cool, smart, urban couple. Have great sex, read together, enjoy music together, lounge around Sundays in kurtas and jeans.

26 yrs – Have baby no.1. Having spent at least a year enjoying the marital relationship before comitting to parenthood. Maternity leave to be spent exploring art and music since presumably working life wouldn’t allow for it.

29/30 yrs – Have baby no.2. Preferably of opposite sex as baby no.1 (one of each). Three year gap is recommended for healthy sibling relationships. I definitely want to have more than one child. Having been an only child myself, I wouldn’t want my kid to grow up without siblings. Maternity leave no.2 activities to be a continuation or alternate to maternity leave no.1

30 yrs – Take a sabbatical to spend time with children and re-assess career. By this time, I expected to have worked for about 8 years and be an ‘important’ person in the workforce. Probably work from home.

32 yrs – Back to work. Kids in school and pre-school respectively.

45 yrs – Quit career. Kid no.1 is 19 yrs old and kid no.2 is 16. Write a book.

47 yrs – Both kids are legal adults now and presumably able to fend for selves. Husband should have had as much sex, affection, attention, energy as he could possibly want from me by now. Leave home and spend a year in a Buddhist monastry.

48 yrs – Return to everyday living/stay in the monastry/who knows? I figured that by this time I’d know what I really wanted to do with my life and would have checked off all the necessary expectations so people would leave me alone to live my life as I wanted.

Career success – check
Financial stability – check
Artistic fulfilment (music, art, writing) – check
Marriage – check
Motherhood – check

I still think it was a damn good, if somewhat ambitious plan. What a lovely life it would have been if it had gone that way!

20/20 vision at Lalbagh

And I would have to take the road on this day…. Mumbai’s twin obsessions – Ganeshji and cricket (okay, that’s national mania) spiral their noisy, raucous ways into my senses. The roads are alive and a heady hysteria of celebration. Like an oil colour with neon under-tints that someone smudged before it was completely dry. Colours blurring into lights, sounds echoing into one another, it is all one royal, spectacularly messy picture. What picture? A panorama – a constantly shifting, moving scene.

Lalbaghcha raja looks on benevolently as devotees lined up for 15 hours break into dance right in the middle of traffic, celebrating a victorious match. The fire-crackers all stocked up for tomorrow’s grand farewell for the city’s most beloved deity, are being let loose on the streets to cheer the boys in blue. Even ensconced in the safety of a dark car, I suppress a grimace. The noise! The blinding lights! Electricity being spent like nobody can afford it! And traffic grinding to a standstill.

Across the road, three kids are skipping down the road…I mean it, skipping down the road. Where in the vast machinery of this city do you get to see that? Today’s kids are all about X-Box and Beyblades and what not (or perhaps not, I’m too old to keep up with school fads). But these three are skipping down the road and briefly one of them stops and yells throatily,

Hum jeet gaye!!!!!!

to no one in particular. Ah, the magic of childhood, where you can scream out to the heavens and no one thinks it odd!

But up ahead, I can see a man weaving his way through the traffic on foot. And he has this huge smile on his face. In another moment, another traffic jam, I’d think he was one of those poor devils, driven to insanity by the hard grind of life in this city. You see them every once in awhile, clothes a-tatter, hollowed eyes and manic grins. But his smile has a look of pure beatification on it. It is the smile of a man who feels blessed, of one tasting something infinitely sweeter than success or any of the many thrills Mumbai offers. It is the smile of pure, unadulterated joy.

For a brief moment, I stay poised, the glue of skepticism holding me to the brink. I’m not religious! I don’t even like cricket! Think of the money being used while people are committing suicide in the rest of the state! And the other sportspeople who struggle all their lives for a scrap of attention that the nation lavishes on cricketers! There’s nothing glorious about that!!!

But there is something about that man’s smile. My city still remembers how to smile like that! And then smooth, graceful diver turned gleeful kid splashing into water, I fall into the celebratory moment.

Crackers exploding everywhere, a thousand fairy-lights gleaming overhead and another thousand twinkling back at them from the wet patches on the road. The world is one huge riotous celebration of life. Ganapathi bappa moraya!!! And our boys in blue have really, really, really done it!!!!

Lalbaghcha raja and the boys in blue just made my day. And the glow lasts me an entire evening. Two hours later, a well-dressed man outside a club is screaming into his cellphone,

Congrats, man!! We won!

And a fashionably bald man is hugged by a perfect stranger, right before my eyes. Across a hip bar, he starts to swivel his eyes heavenward and then stops short, shrugs with a smile and mouths,

Well, ganapathi bappa moraya and all that…

Strange it is then, that a machine-like, super-efficient, no-nonsense place like Mumbai…when it decides to feel, compels you to care too. So farewell, beloved benevolent elephant-god, bless our trials for another year and give us a reason to celebrate at the end of it. And welcome home, boys in blue, the adulation of a billion Indians awaits you!

A child shall show the way…

I found this in my mailbox today.

Last week I took my children to a restaurant. My six-year-old son asked if he could say grace. As we bowed our heads he said, “God is good. God is great. Thank You for the food, and I would even thank you more if Mom gets us ice cream for dessert. And Liberty and justice for all. Amen!”

Along with the laughter from the other customers nearby, I heard a woman remark, “That’s what’s wrong with this country. Kids today don’t even know how to pray. Asking God for ice-cream. Why, I never!”

Hearing this, my son burst into tears and asked me, “Did I do it wrong? Is God mad at me?”
As I held him and assured him that he had done a terrific job and God was certainly not mad at him, an elderly gentleman approached the table.

He winked at my son and said, “I happen to know that God thought that was a great prayer.”

“Really?” my son asked.

“Cross my heart.” Then in a theatrical whisper he added, indicating the woman whose remark had started this whole thing, “Too bad she never asks God for ice cream. A little ice cream is good for the soul sometimes.”

Naturally, I bought my kids ice cream at the end of the meal. My son stared at his for a moment and then did something I will remember the rest of my life. He picked up his sundae and without a word walked over and placed it in front of the woman. With a big smile he told her,

“Here, this is for you. Ice cream is good for the soul sometimes, and my soul is good already.”

It also reminded me of a certain generous little 9-year-old I know. We had a bar of chocolate to split between the two of us for a snack. While I devoured mine in 2 minutes flat, she broke off cube after tiny cube and decided to save half of it for later. As we chomped our way to cocoa bliss, she suddenly stared at me, then wordlessly walked to the refrigerator and took out her saved-up chocolate. Putting it into my hands, she said “Akka, you eat it. You are thinner than me and you work so hard, you need it more than I do.” It made me want to cry…I swear it did.

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