Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Place of Peace

"Mr. Filled Up King, would you please stop trying to unfill your filling?!" screamed Bill in exasperation. It was only the third patient in his dentist's chair today and he was already at the end of his tether. The current patient was attempting to test the strength of his just-filled tooth to see if it might dislodge itself so that he could then claim a handsome refund from Bill.

"I need a holiday." texted Bill to Priya in a Whatsapp message as soon as Filled Up (his actual name) had made himself scarce.

"Ooh, where to?!" texted Priya back, as she battled a furious client-demon at work. She'd managed to confuse the client into thinking that the reason she hadn't sent in a report was because the client hadn't sent her some important material about it, but she was fairly certain the client would soon realise that was hogwash.

"I don't care where we go; let's just get out of this town. I can't take it anymore. Do you know what my latest specimen just did?!" said Bill as he proceeded to fill her in (yes, this author will stop with the filling jokes now); he always referred to his patients as specimens, which somehow described them quite perfectly, given their low IQ.

"Perfect. Tomorrow sound good? Just be ready by 4am. I'll bring my car round and we'll set off."

"Perfect." replied Bill, happily. "I'll shut the clinic early today. I have a headache."

The next morning, promptly at 7am, Priya swung her car onto Bill's porch, narrowly missing a hedge and Nero, one of Bill's canine kids.

"Hullo, Nero! Oh-" said Priya as she was flattened by the massive Neopolitan mastiff as she got out of her car, in one swift move.

"Always on time, as usual, eh?" commented Bill. "Ok, my bags are all packed. Let's be off, shall we. Oh, come on Nero, she's not made of beef, you know."

"Oh-" said Priya as she picked herself up a bit shakily, "Yes. Quite. Get in. Be off. Come on. Good boy."

In an hour's time, they were on the road, on their way. It was a beautiful sunny day, the weather slightly warmer than usual but the air was getting cooler as they moved towards their destination. As they neared their destination, a resort that she'd booked the previous evening, Priya realised they were hopelessly lost; mainly because the GPS on her phone stopped working. Surreptitiously casting a glance at Bill to see if he'd noticed they were lost, she was glad to note that he was too busy enjoying the scenery to notice if they'd even reached the wrong state border. She looked about to see if she could find a pliable local who could give them directions. Fortunately, she soon chanced upon a man with his dog, staring into the hills. He was bespectacled, which gave him an air of vague intelligence, so she hoped that meant he could guide them on their way.

"Hullo there, good sir! Nice doggy you have there. Yours?" she said cheerily, stopping the car by the man and his dog, addressing him as though she had stopped by for a friendly chat.

The man and his dog continued to stare into the distance, ignoring her completely.

"Why have we stopped to chat with these two?" asked Bill, curiously. "Nice dog. Yours?" he repeated to the stranger.

"Can't be his; looks like a stray. No collar, et cetera." said Priya, nonchalantly, as she wondered if she could find a villager with a tongue in his head to point the way to the resort out to them. Now if only she had switched to a better network back when Vodafone had started to turn to shit....

"Stray?! Who's a stray? Brutus is no stray!" shouted a deep male voice suddenly. Bill and Priya both turned their heads, shocked, towards the stranger, who somehow seemed broader and taller now. He slowly turned to face them, his fine chiselled features evident, cloaked in a brown thick jacket, a simple shirt and trousers and thick boots. The stranger continued, "The dogs of Himachal are not of the stray kind. They are strong, quiet and not easily petted. They are deep thinkers mulling over the deteriorating quality of life in the Himachal. They love foreigners but are easily angered if you try and mess with the sheep that they guard for their humans. They are the dogs that Himachal deserves, they are the dogs it needs. Because they.. can take it. They are silent guardians and watchful protectors."

"You sure talk a lot for someone who pretended to have no tongue in their head." observed Priya.

"Himachal?!" shrieked Bill, alarmed. "I thought we were on our way to Goa!" He turned towards Priya with an angry glare. "Please tell me why you own a car if you don't know where anything is."

"Now, hang on here, you said -" began Priya, eager for a fight as always, when she was cut short by the stoic looking Himachal dude.

"Please do not disturb the peace of the hills with your meaningless bickering. If you two need a place to rest for the evening, the doors of my home are open to you."

Priya and Bill stared at him for a bit, trying to make up their minds. He stared back, and curiously enough, so did his dog, and then the two of them turned and walked towards the village.

"Ok, so seeing as we're here, I mean... we might as well, right? You did want a holiday. What does it matter if it's in the hills or on a beach side, eh?" began Priya in a conciliatory tone.

"But I've only packed my shorts! I'll freeze my butt off! But yes, we can hardly drive across the country at this later hour. Drat and double drat."

"Please feel free to follow me to my home once you two are done with your arguing. In silence, please. Ours is a town of peace." said the Himachal dude, pausing a bit to mention this and then resuming his walk home.

Priya drove behind him in silence and they shortly stopped at a narrow street, filled with pleasant looking houses, small and cheery. The Himachal dude wasn't kidding when he said it was a peaceful town. The town was eerily quiet, with just bursts of bird song breaking the silence every now and then. Village folk looked up to watch them pass and calmly continued what they were doing once they were safely inside the Himachal dude's home.

"Um, excuse me, Mr. um.. Mr..." said Priya being painfully polite. Being any sort of polite was painful for her.


"I think what she's trying to get at is: What, kind sir, is your name?" said Bill in his usual direct manner.

"Oh. It's Sujay." he said and turned into a small kitchen. "I hope you like tea. It should warm you two up. You don't seem to be dressed for the weather of the hills. It tends to get cold out here at this time of day." he spoke slowly, as though he were speaking to really stupid children.

Bill gave Priya a withering look.

"So what sights are there to see hereabouts? Besides, you know, mountains and stuff." said Priya brightly, attempting to shift the conversation away from the present topic.

"Well, there is the viewpoint from Mount Chambra. There is the stream by the hills to the east. And then there's the haunted townhall. Will that be one spoon of sugar or two?" he asked without the slightest change of his tone.

"Haunted townhall?!" said Bill excitedly, forgetting all about Goa immediately. "Where is it? And how soon can we see it?!"

"Well." said Sujay, measuring his response as he slowly stirred their tea. "I suppose the best time to experience a haunted place would be at nightfall, which is two hours from now. And I'm guessing neither of you is tired enough to sleep immediately. So perhaps we can visit it in a short while from now. I will pack us a meal to take there."

"Well, a man who can cook and not talk a lot. And a thinker, too. What a nice fellow." whispered Priya to Bill as she looked at Sujay with admiration. She turned back to Bill, "Aren't you glad we didn't make it to Goa, now?! I know how you love ghosts."

"I don't believe in ghosts!" scoffed Bill. "But it sure will make for a good story. I'm always looking for new places to set my spooky tales in."

After Sujay had packed them a meal, they drove the short distance to the townhall. The townhall was a huge building. It seemed to have been built within the last five years, was well maintained, had a nice manicured lawn in front of it and even had a pleasant looking security guard posted in the front of it. In short, it looked nothing like a haunted place, at all.

"Is the Himachal haunting as distinct as its dog is?" asked Bill, looking around for some sign of a shadowy sighting.

Sujay looked at him for a moment before he replied quietly, "I think you will find that it is distinctive enough to leave an impression on a person for a long, long time."

"Ooh. Ghosts and all. At least you don't have any hair to lose over it, eh." joked Priya to Bill, who gave her another withering look. She looked at the security guard and asked Sujay about it, "What's he looking so happy about anyway? If a Himachal haunting is as scary as you say it is, shouldn't he be scared out of his mind and not be reporting for work, and all that?"

"Well," said Sujay, in his slow and steady manner, "You'll find that the town and its people have reached a sort of - arrangement - so to speak, with the ghost that haunts the townhall. We do not disturb its peace and it chooses to ignore us." He paused a bit, hesitantly, but seemed to make up his mind as he went on, "Perhaps it would be easier to show you..."

He walked slowly up to the entrance of the townhall and looked towards a window of the building. It seemed like any of the other windows. But just briefly, Priya thought she saw two red eyes staring back out of the darkness at them from it. She blinked and wished she had brought some beer along to make this easier to observe.

"So when you say agreement, is it like a written thing then? How does a ghost sign something anyway? Can't imagine any legality would hold any binds over it, eh?" asked Priya in a barrage of questions.

Sujay held up a hand. "Please. I will take questions once we are back home. You wished to see the ghost of the townhall. I will grant you your wish; but we must go in silence."

He bid them to follow him into the building. Brutus wisely sat outside, 'wisely' was the only way to describe anything Brutus did, and watched them disappear into the darkness of the townhall.

Sujay lit up a lantern he had brought with him and the gloom cleared slightly before it as he held it out before him. The townhall was extremely well taken care of; not a cobweb in sight. There was a large room with a stage and chairs arranged before it. To either side opened sets of stairs leading, presumably to some of the rooms whose windows looked to the outside of the structure.

"We are allowed to use the townhall for peace. For good. Not religious gatherings. Not even political gatherings. The ghost doesn't like that. It has - expressed dissatisfaction - in the past, when this was done." said Sujay. "If you wish to see - it - we may. If you are sure that this is what you want to do."

"Oh, I'm pretty sure." said Bill, rubbing his hands with glee. "So is Priya, of course."

Unbeknownst to him, Priya didn't want to see any more of the dratted haunted building than she absolutely had to. More than the townhall itself, which was disappointingly not scary looking at all, it was Sujay's solemn manner that was creeping Priya out. She wasn't so sure she didn't believe in ghosts any more. Not that she was superstitious in the least. But the man seemed honest and here he was talking about a ghost like it was his retarded sibling that had to be kept in a good temper at all times. It almost made one believe it were true. She shivered slightly, as she felt someone's eyes on the back of her neck. She didn't turn around to confirm it.

"Right, let's just get on with it and go home, alright. I'm cold and getting hungry." she said briskly, putting on her brave face.

Sujay walked towards the stairs on their left and began to climb them, and bid them to follow him. Priya went up next, determined not to be the last one up the stairs and Bill followed the two of them. Something else followed them up, quietly, in the darkness.

Sujay reached a corridor and walked down it and stopped before a door numbered '11'. All the other doors looked the same, all numbered sequentially. Nothing really looked out of place. Except, of course, that this door opened by itself as they stood watching it.

"Well, come on in." said Sujay dully to them as he entered the room.

Priya had her misgivings but refused to show Bill that she could be scared in the least and sauntered into the room. Bill followed and the door promptly closed behind them.

"Good host." said Bill out loud. Or good automatic doors, he thought to himself, not wanting to hurt Sujay's feelings seeing as he had been nice to them so far. Can't blame hill people for all this silence making them all a little mad. What other entertainment was there for this lot out here, anyway?

"You may sit down." said Sujay, pointing to two chairs that were placed before a fireplace. In which, inexplicably, there was a crackling flame. Sujay remained standing and stood to one side of the hearth. He seemed to be waiting, as though it was a drill and he merely had to wait his turn for the next happening.

Priya and Bill took their places in the seats, Priya grateful for the fire and Bill peering into it to see what electrical device had turned it on. They sat this way for a while, no one saying anything, until the humming began. It was hard to describe what they heard. It seemed to have been born from a tune that started on their own lips. Both Bill and Priya felt that they knew the tune and yet, had never heard it before. Bill felt like it was something he had heard in his childhood, reassuring and inviting warm memories of happier days. Priya felt that it was something she listened to on those cold nights she lay alone in bed, making her feel better as she dropped off to sleep. Sujay seemed not to notice. He merely shuffled, only slightly uncomfortably, as though he was waiting for the charade to be over.

The humming grew louder and louder and both Bill and Priya were as though hypnotised. They'd never been this happy before. And then just as the humming reached a peak, it died down and the room was filled with a pleasant glow, almost as if it were daylight outside. They glanced towards the window and noticed it was still night, of course. Bill looked around for hidden lighting. Priya was still feeling cheery and bright and felt almost as if she'd been drugged. This happy state was momentarily interrupted when she felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up into a kind face that blinked out of eyeless sockets at her as it asked her if she felt alright.

After Priya had fallen out of her chair and passed out on the floor, it was Bill's turn to face the eyeless form that stood before them.

Sorry about your friend, said a voice in his head, that seemed to be coming from the figure in front of him, but people do tend to do that when they - encounter - me for the first time.

"Oh think nothing of it," said Bill. "Usually she does that after a couple of beers. You just helped her get there without the intoxication. Haha."

The form, which seemed effeminate, merely looked back at him, a reddish glow emanating from where its eyeballs should have been.

Do you want to know why I am, it asked Bill, suddenly.

"Why you are, what?" asked Bill, slightly embarrassed that he didn't believe in the thing that was addressing him so politely.

You know, why I am. Why I exist. Why I continue to be. It's not very difficult to explain if I try. And if you have the time, it spoke into Bill's synapses.

"Sure. I've got nowhere else to be."

What followed was a strange psychedelic trip in Bill's mind, full of fast moving colours and pictures. Pain, anguish, torment, wails of generations. He saw images of war, strife, people killing their own neighbours. Religious symbols, political rallies, hatred and the ugliness of humanity. Suddenly all the images parted and gave way to peace. Profound, pleasant peace, with images of the village they'd stepped into today.

And that, dear Bill, is why I am. The figure had moved closer to Bill now, as though monitoring his reaction. Throughout my earthly existence in the flesh, I had fought long and hard for peace. For rationality. For reason. But only in death, I managed to achieve all of this in this quiet little town. The place that had once seen bloodshed and ruin, born of the senseless greed of men. Only after I came back as - this - I was able to bargain for peace and an end to their useless ideologies. For they know what will happen if they destroy the peace now.

For a split second, the figure seemed a lot larger, darker and angrier than it had been, and Bill had to tear his eyes away as it assumed a most terrifying form. And just like that, it was gone.

The room was dark once more, Sujay's lantern offering the only glow. They heaved Priya up off the floor, neither of them speaking to each other. The door opened to let them out and shut behind them and they made their way quietly to the car.

Priya came to in a little bit, as the smell of food being warmed up wafted into her nostrils. "Did I miss anything?" she asked, relieved to be back in the comfort of her own car and to see Sujay warming up their packed meal on a fire the security guard was helping to stoke nearby. She had only a vague memory of climbing up the stairs and entering a room where everything seemed happy and couldn't remember anything after that. Except that the back of her head was developing a large sized bump on it.

At first, neither of them replied to her. It was only after they had begun to eat that Bill responded, "Perhaps it's just as well that you did miss it. You're bound to be as scary in your afterlife, as well."

She looked at Bill, not comprehending. Sujay hid a smile, the first she'd seen him smile since they met him. The security guard went back to his seat, and Brutus sat quietly watching them all eat their meal. Upstairs, a window closed very quietly and two glowing red points in it disappeared into the darkness of the room.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Good friend, bad friend

It's the people who don't have something who realise that object's true value. Like the poor person who knows the value of a one rupee coin better than any rich person can. Like the person who has been without food for days who would find even the stalest of rotis to be equivalent to a yuppie's five star buffet. Like the lonely person who knows the value of a true friend.

I may not have been the best of friends to my social circle. Which is not to mean I don't try. I have grown up in figuring out how it is an adult should treat their friends: with respect, with care, with concern and going out of your way for them as much as is humanly possible, to make sure they're okay and feel validated. Of late, I've been facing flak from various friends: being called obnoxious, boisterous, an opportunist. But I'm none of those; or perhaps I'm all of those. On the one hand, I'm glad these people felt comfortable enough with me to vent out their frustrations even if they came out as insults aimed at me. But every good doormat needs a dusting out every now and then. So step off and come back when I'm cleaner, okay love?

Thursday, April 02, 2015

An Abominable April Apparition

(Another in my series of revenge stories about Bill and Sujay. This one was written in response to a play Bill wrote about us. With me belching nitroglycerine (yesIknowdontask))

Sujay raced out of the office. If what Priya had said in her text to him was true, he had no time to lose. He reached the ground floor of his office building, panted towards the exit of the building and found her there grinning up at him.

"What happened? I got your text. Is everything OK? Where's Bill now?!" he asked, still catching his breath.

Meanwhile, from around the corner, Bill came strolling casually to where they both stood. "Hello. What are you two ragamuffins up to this time? And clever ploy, Priya, I didn't fall for it, as usual." he remarked nonchalantly.

"Bill, thank goodness you're okay! Priya said something had happened to you and - wait. Why are you OK. And what are you doing here anyway?!" said Sujay, comprehension dawning on him albeit slowly. He turned to the smirking Priya,"OK, what's going on here?"

Priya seemed excited about something but clearly it wasn't about the mortal danger that her message had indicated had occurred to the seemingly fine Bill. "April Fool! Did you forget it's the 1st of April? I must say you're a lot more worried about Bill than he was about you. You might want to sort that out with him. Ok, now anyway, here's the plan -" she went on in her usual breathless loud manner, causing everyone in the near vicinity to turn to look where the noise was coming from.

"Wait", said Sujay raising a hand somberly, "You mean to say you pulled a fast one on me? This is your idea of an April Fool's Day joke?! Why, I should never trust anything you ever say again, you little -"

"Now, Sujay, calm down. The important thing is everyone's okay, and we're all here and now we're all going out for a little drive." said Priya dismissively as Sujay's mouth opened and shut like a fish, incredulous at her callousness.

"I do have a job I'm trying to keep you know! I honestly thought something had happened. If everything's alright, and if you two don't mind, I think I'd like to get back to not kissing my boss' ass." said Sujay coldly.

"Oh pooh, of course you don't, come on now you two, hop in. I've got her all fueled up and ready", said Priya, hopping into her overly large car, which looked like a truck compared with her small stature. "Come, come, time's a-wasting" she continued, patting the seat next to her.

Sujay was aware that any protests were futile, so he quietly slunk into the seat but remained tight-lipped, determined not to speak to her for the remainder of his life, if he could help it.

"So, where are we going, anyway?", asked Bill, brightly. "I can't tell you how glad I am to be away from my specimens. Frankly, I was glad for a casualty if it gave me an excuse to get out of my clinic for the evening." Bill had shut down his dental clinic early, deciding that Priya had probably had a plan to meet which is why she'd sent him that silly message that Sujay had met with an accident at work. Either way, they were bound to meet with one in Priya's car knowing the way she drove, so it didn't really matter that the text itself was a joke.

"And we're off!", shouted Priya happily as she tore out of the office driveway, tyres squealing. "So there's this hill I've always wanted to visit, just a little way out of town. I mean, a hundred kilometres isn't that far off is it, no of course it isn't. We can even drive up all the way to the top. And today apparently they're having some sort of music concert up there, would you believe? It sounds like a lot of fun and one of my favourite local bands is playing. Can't remember their name, but what does that matter, really, eh?" her rambling finally coming to a brief halt as she looked up at Sujay's angry face. "Are you still mad at me, old boy?"

" ", said Sujay's anger. Which was probably for the best given the number of expletives running through his mind every time he contemplated Priya and her stupid text message.

They hurtled along towards the hill, Priya frequently consulting her Google map for directions, scaring a cow or two and several motorists along the way every time she did so. "I really don't know why these people can't watch where they're going."

"It's probably enough that they can see where you're going and move safely out of the way", observed Bill wryly.

Two death-defying hours later, they'd reached the top of the hill. The hill was lovely and green and very inviting to the three, who loved all sorts of nature walks. Sujay had trekked here with his colleagues before and still remembered how breathtakingly beautiful the view from the top had been, though it seemed even more gorgeous on this fine day. He'd almost forgotten he was angry with Priya as he looked eagerly about him. "So what time does the show begin?"

"Oh, any minute now, looks like they're just about done setting up" said Priya loudly, pointing to some guitarists tuning their instruments. There was a small crowd gathered, hardly some fifty people in all, sitting on mats that had been arranged before a makeshift stage. Some others stood around the mats under nearby trees, smoking what suspiciously smelt nothing like tobacco.

"Ah. Just give me one moment, won't you two?" said Sujay as he walked up to one of the smokers.

"Knew he'd find something to interest him." said Priya as she produced a beer bottle from nowhere and opened it up with her bangle. "Beer?"

"No. Stop trying to get me to drink. I keep telling you I don't like the stuff." muttered Bill, pushing the proffered bottle away. "This concert better be good. Can't say I like any of the newfangled stuff these so called modern musicians come up with."

"Oh Bill, just keep your eye on the prize." said Priya, finishing up her beer and reaching for another one.

"And what prize is that, exactly?"

"Well, you shee", she slurred, swigging her drink, "at the end of the show there's supposed to be a special attraction. Very shecretive about the whole thing, the organisers were. No telling what it could be. Must be good though or why'd all these hundreds of folk be here." she squinted through the haze of her stupor. "Really crowding up around here, isn't it and everyone seems to be twins."

By now the band had begun playing some listenable rock music, all of which were their own compositions. Bill, the swaying Priya and the happily-high Sujay listened for an hour, each in their own reverie, enjoying the view from the hill to which the rock music seemed like a mere background score. After the band wound down, a bright looking young chap appeared on stage and beckoned everyone closer.

"And now, guys, here's what you've all been waiting for. We're happy to introduce to you someone we've only just met. For your viewing pleasure only, please welcome on stage the Yeti of Champari Hills!"

"A Yeti? Did he just say, 'yeti'?" asked Bill in surprise, "But those don't exist!"

"A yeti! I love yetish" sighed Priya happily, only just managing to stay upright after her tenth beer.

"Yetis rock" nodded Sujay in agreement, on his third joint now.

Meanwhile, the crowd looked on in curiosity, fully expecting someone in costume to come on stage trying to scare them all. After all, it was April Fool's Day. Anything was possible.

"Roar?" said a short white fluffy thing that had been rolled onto the stage in a wheeled cage.

The 'yeti' was a three foot furry beast, not unlike the images people had heretofore been shown of yetis. Except for the fact that it was several feet shorter than the images would have had people believe. But it did have unusually large feet for a creature of its size.

"Ahem. I said, ROAR" said the Yeti, in a slightly louder voice. The crowd looked on dumbfounded and not the least bit scared. They were still waiting for someone to tell them if they were supposed to laugh or clap or think.

"Bill, what is that teddy bear with the big feet on stage asking us to do?" said Priya blinking at the stage wondering if it was time for her to consider limiting herself to just nine beers next time.

"Profound, whatever it is." said Sujay, taking a deep drag. He was always a man of few words. And on weed, even more so. Less so, that is.

"I think it's trying to scare us. Hang on while I take a closer look, alright?" said Bill as he moved in the direction of the stage.

He stood right in front of the stage observing the animal. It seemed real enough. No evidence of make up or an artificial costume. And it was definitely not a beast anyone had ever documented. What on earth was going on and where'd these bozos find a real live Yeti, anyway?

"I say, old chap, if you're not going to be running away in fear, perhaps I could interest you in some foot impressions. I've always got a good sum for them, you know. But I'll take any amount of money you're willing to part with, really. They keep hiking up the taxes on cigarettes, the bastards." sighed the Yeti, mournfully.

Bill looked around and saw that the organisers seemed to have left. Which was strange. Not as strange as a talking Yeti, but this was getting to be quite an interesting day and he wanted to focus on one unimaginable occurrence at a time. The crowd too had thinned as people left, bored with the entire display. They thought they'd get to see a celebrity and realised that they'd been pranked instead. Talking big footed monsters just didn't have the same effect on them. He turned back to the cage which was now empty. He turned again to where Priya and Sujay were, respectively, lying flat on the ground, sozzled, and staring down at the Yeti.

"It's just a thousand bucks for a foot impression, young man, it's not like I'm asking you for a kidney. Think of how famous you'll be, eh?" said the Yeti to Sujay enticingly, as he lit up a cigarette. "I don't suppose she'd notice if you pulled a note out of her purse." he suggested, pointing down to the passed out Priya.

"I say, what on earth is going on. And why'd the organisers leave you here? And how many of you are there?" asked Bill, full of questions as always. He was never looking for his next story, yet they seemed to be happening to him all the time. Why couldn't his life just be boring and uninteresting like everyone else's?!

"Well, young fellow, I'm afraid there's just one of me. And I myself am a thousand years old. Which is a lot of time for one to come up with smart marketing gimmicks for foot impressions but sadly I seem to be lacking in the sales skills department." said the Yeti, ruefully. "And about the organisers, yes, people are abandoning me all the time. They spend all their time trying to find me and when they finally do, for some reason they can't wait to get rid of me again."

It slowly began to dawn on Bill that the reason there was a great mystery surrounding the Yeti and quite possibly the reason no one seemed to be able to find it was that nobody actually wanted it to be found once they'd chanced upon it.

"It isn't easy, you know," hacked the Yeti, lighting another cigarette,"keeping a fine young Yeti like myself happy. I need my cigarettes. That costs more money than anyone who's found me so far is prepared to spend. That and I find human women not too unappealing. Not that any of them have felt the same way." sighed the Yeti again, which brought on another cough attack.

"So basically, those organisers have dumped you on us. And what are we to do with you?" asked Bill, in exasperation. He was damned if he was bringing a smoking Yeti home to his bounding canine kids.

"Hey there, sweety, what say we go to your place tonight," said the Yeti, peering at Priya, who seemed to be coming around having smelled the tobacco and realising she hadn't had a puff all day, yet.

Sujay in the meantime, decided to make the most of the entire experience and was attempting to click pictures of the Yeti. The weed had helped him to remain calm. He knew what he was seeing was important, and could probably be something to rave to people about later. But right now, he just wanted to take it nice and slow. He stepped back, trying to adjust both Priya and the Yeti, who now had a hand on Priya's thigh, into the frame, and unknowingly was moving towards the edge of the hill. Weed tends to blunt your sense of distance a bit. Not that I'd know, of course.

"Get your ruddy paw off me you beast," growled Priya, "and give me a damned cigarette. Have to clear my head. Got a long drive home, you know. God knows these two can't drive for nuts."

"I say, can we leave already? And no, Mr. Yeti, or whatever your name is, you can't come home with any of us, especially not Priya, her landlord doesn't even like her having humans over." said Bill, not the least bit protectively. He knew Priya could handle herself in a fight and right now he was more worried about getting off this damned hill today, if possible. "Where's Sujay? Let's get him and get going." He turned just in time to see Sujay falling off the edge of the hill.

Having backed away sufficiently for a nice wide angle shot, Sujay seemed to have found the ground had slipped from under his feet and seemed slightly confused, given he was feeling no high passion of any kind at this time. Fortunately, for him, he landed only a brief distance below on a sort of parapet like structure a couple of feet below the cliff edge.

"I'LL SAVE YOU, LAD! YOU CAN THANK ME WITH MONEY, LATER!" yelled the heroic Yeti, lunging off the cliff edge and disappearing far beyond Sujay, missing the parapet by miles.

"Oh." said Sujay as he turned to click a shot of the falling Yeti. "Here, Bill, hoist me up, will you. Not sure how I got down here."

Bill helped Sujay up and the three bundled themselves into Priya's car, relieved to finally be going home.

As Priya sped away towards the city, somewhere far beneath the hill came a low 'ouch' followed by a hopeless "I don't suppose anyone's got a smoke on them, somewhere?"

Sunday, March 29, 2015


Maybe if you
Had been the one to 
Wipe the tears 
I cried for you 
You'd feel differently 
But as it stands 
You decide for two 
So stick by 
Your vain demands

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Butcher Fan Club

(This is a tongue in cheek story about my very good friends Bill and Sujay, written in response to Bill's story featuring myself and Sujay. Not nearly as well written as Bill's but it had to be done.)

"I don't know if I like this place." muttered Sujay from under the brim of his sunhat. He took another sip of the bloody mary he was drinking and continued gazing towards the sea, changing his position only slightly on the beach chair. "I somehow expected it to be more.. exotic."

Bill looked at him irritably from over the rim of his margarita glass. "More exotic, how? Did you expect the tribals to come out dancing around us at every step of the way? It's Sri Lanka in 2015; we won't even have the luck of some LTTE troops jumping us." he sighed morosely. "I hope someone starts a nuclear war somewhere and just gets all of this over with."

Before Sujay could ask him 'all of what', they were interrupted by a huge crash from somewhere behind them. The two of them jumped off their deck chairs and ran towards the source of the noise. They reached the lobby of the resort they were staying at and and saw the owner shaking his head mournfully as he looked up at what appeared to be a very large, and inexplicably slightly dented, egg. And when I say large, I mean humongous, for an egg. Also, it appeared to be covered with bits of what once made up the roof of the hotel.

"10 years you spend building something you think will last you fifty. You spend all those millions of rupees. And this has to happen. Flying eggs, of all things. I wonder if the bleeding thing's mother's going to follow next-" moaned the owner plaintively to himself. Bill interrupted the owner's meandering soliloquy to ask him what was wrong, though it was obvious enough to anyone witnessing the scene: "Lakshan, why is there a giant egg on the floor of your resort?" Lakshan gave him a look that suggested something he would have liked to have done with the egg to Bill, but managed a polite reply, instead: "I'm sure I don't know, Dr. Bill," he said coldly, with an emphasis on the 'doctor' that is reserved for dentists everywhere, "I certainly didn't ask for one to be delivered in this location or size."

Sujay, Bill and the resort owner, along with most of the staff who hadn't continued to sleep through the gigantic crash, and a couple of other curious resort dwellers gathered round to stare at the egg. It was about seven feet tall and was a rich royal purple. It seemed to have pink dots on it arrayed in a certain pattern that looked sort of like Braille, except the pattern remained flat on the egg's smooth surface. There were patches where the colour seemed to have faded off, as though the egg had been scratched by something. As they gazed on, not too sure what to do about the whole thing, quite suddenly, the egg started to quiver.

A smooth fissure developed along the surface of the egg, and it began to split apart. Everyone moved back several steps and attempted to hide behind various items of furniture. Everyone, that is, except for Bill and Sujay whose curiosity about the occurrence got the better of them. "You know, this would make for an excellent story..." said Bill, more to himself than anyone else. Sujay stared on, and thought he could make out a figure in the gradually opening structure. It opened up very neatly with one half of the egg flipping upwards, as though it had been hinged onto the bottom half. It looked almost like... "A spacecraft?!" said Sujay incredulously. Just as his brain began to try to comprehend why a purple egg shaped spaceship would want to appear at the very resort he'd decided to holiday at, something jumped heavily, and a bit clumsily, out of it.

The thing, or perhaps it was safer to say alien, was short and bulky, surprisingly so for something coming out of a seven foot tall egg. It was less than half the size of the egg, just around four and a half feet tall, and looked much like a dinosaur. And if you must know, it looked like a stegosaurus, to be exact. Except, for some reason, it was pink and fuzzy and seemed to be walking towards them.

"Um, Bill, do you mind, perhaps, I don't know, moving a bit, so I can, you know, run for my life?" whispered Sujay urgently as the alien dinosaur lumbered towards the two of them. Bill seemed in no mood to step away as he looked on in excitement and replied, "Nonsense, I'm sure it's come in peace. It's humans you've to fear, you know. How fascinating it looks, I can't wait to see it up close." Meanwhile, the fuzzy pink stegosaurus seemed slightly unsteady on its feet and blinked up at them in a mild manner.

"'Ere", it started, its breath smelling strangely a bit like beer and its accent strangely a mix of cockney and something one couldn't quite put one's finger on yet, "'ere, which one of yous is the butcher man, den?" the alien demanded, looking from one to the other. The other folk in the hotel seemed to have vanished entirely. Sri Lankans, unlike Indians, it would appear, did not seem to like a good show and had scampered off in the interests of their own self preservation, instead. "HE IS!" yelled Sujay almost immediately, pointing towards Bill with one hand, as he pinched his nose between the fingers of his other hand to block the stench of the (drunk? really?!) dinosaur's breath. "Ah", said the now slightly self satisfied looking dinosaur. "the butcher man hisself. I told 'em you were real, dey jes wouldn't believe me. But who's the idiot now, eh? Eh?" it said to the uncomprehending Bill triumphantly and almost looked like it wanted to tap the side of its snout with its tail.

"What on earth do you mean? Who doesn't think I'm real? Where in the universe are you from? And what is that thing?" He asked in a single breath, pointing at the egg shaped spaceship the dinosaur had stepped out of. "Purple nelly? Yeah, she been mine for two thousand Medusa years now. Nice eh? Picked the colour out meself and all. Sure she's got a bit o' dents and scratches but what you expect, new driver, doing million of light years through outer space ain't no joke, what? Yeah." sighed the dinosaur looking back at its extra terrestrial vehicle, noticing a couple of new dents caused by the crash through the resort roof. "Oh, yeah, you have no idea what I'm 'ere for now, do you? Okay know wot, let me start from the beginnin', eh? So, we read a bit of your books, yeah, we get those on Medusa, books, your interwebs and whatnot, gosh you humans sure are a stupid lot eh? (snigger) I mean, cat videos on social media, really? Ain't you lot got bigger problems? But our little Butcher Fan Club out on the planet absolutely swears by your writin' though, butcher man. But you sees, no one outside the club believes authors are real. They can't believe as there's any intelligent life out here, what with the aforementioned cat videos, and there wos no real person what could write smart things on earth and then I was like no way, I'm goin' to find him and get his ortergraph and show you lot and so here I am." the alien said happily grinning up at Bill. "I'm Purpaza, by the way, be sure to spell that right on the ortergraph, yeah?"

Bill was thoroughly confused now. For the first time in his life, he found himself wishing he'd been back at his clinic instead of staring down at a pink, drunk little alien dinosaur who seemed to have got it into its stupid little head that he was one of the best writers on his planet. Sure, he was a good writer, with several published books to his credit, but even on his best days he would more often than not get annoyed at his written word than want to summon the energy to pen another sentence. Now, here was an alien, shaped like a dinosaur of all things, asking him for an autograph. He wondered, for a minute, if he was dreaming. If he was, it would still make for a good story to write once he woke up, he conceded. "Are you a dinosaur?" he managed as he tried to take it all in. "Dinosaur? Is that wot I look like to you folk? Yeah, sure, that's what I am. If you lot could see wot I really looked like your brain wud prolly shut down, which is why human brains sort of process us as looking like pink and fuzzy things. Never could understand that. Sure theys is some science behind dat but I never was one for the understanding or the explainin' of it." said Purpaza. It looked around at the resort for what seemed to be the first time and seemed to wrinkle its snout in disgust. "You know, I best be gettin' along, got to catch up with the gals' for our night out and all, and I'm pretty sure they's is goin' t' be late as usual, but still, gots to do up the spikes and whatnot, so... getting that ortergraph now would be nice." it finished, staring up at Bill, tapping a forefoot impatiently. "Right, right, of course," said Bill matter-of-factly, "Sujay, I don't suppose you have a pen on you anywhere? Sujay?" asked Bill looking to his left where Sujay had last been seen, but clearly didn't appear to be any more. Bill looked around the room and saw Sujay creeping up behind Purpaza, with a bedsheet in his hands.

Sometime during the time the alien was engaged in discussing its reason for being there, Sujay had decided to run for his life. After he reached the relative safety of the outside of the resort, however, he realised he was being disloyal and reluctantly decided to rescue Bill from a possible alien attack. If there was one thing Sujay was not, it was disloyal. Besides, you could hardly trust a drunk human; goodness' knew what a drunk alien could be capable of. So he ran to their ground floor room and quickly yanked the sheet off the bed, thinking to himself that he could at least trap the alien with the sheet and figure out what to do with the creature once this had been accomplished.

So here he was, creeping up on the impatient looking alien, bedsheet raised, as he stepped aside to avoid its tail, and with one quick move, threw the bedsheet over the alien and yelled to Bill: "Quick, Bill, grab the sheet and hold it down over the monster!" Bill was a bit amused by this terrible plan, but decided to help in any case. It wasn't everyday that a friend got it into their misguided head to save your life, so one must accede to their requests when they did. Purpaza, at this point was confused and annoyed. She (yes, she was a she, back where she came from) was talking to her most favourite author in the universe one minute and was just going to give him her copy of Rainbow's End to sign, and now, without warning, she found herself seeing white nothingness and hearing a lot of excited yelling. This is not what she'd driven millions of light years through the galaxy for. She wouldn't stand for it. She wouldn't lie down for it, either.

With a mighty roar and flip of the tail, Purpaza managed to sweep Sujay quite literally off his feet and also get the sheet off herself. She looked angrily at the prostrate Sujay and hissed at him. "'Ere! That's no way to treat a lady, why I orter-" she began and seemed to be moving towards Sujay to inflict a tad more physical damage when Bill stepped in between them. "Now, now, Purpaza, Sujay was only trying to rescue me. Friends do that sort of thing out here; dog knows they cause more harm than good in the process, but there it is. Please don't hurt him. I'm sure he didn't mean to hurt you." Purpaza looked furiously down at Sujay but forced herself to calm down and looked back at Bill, putting aside her plan of annihilating at least one human being during her brief visit to Earth. "Right you are, good sir. Much as I'd love to swat out every human in existence, if you say this is that Sujay wot posts that Rationalist stuff on your Facebook (yes, we has been actively stalking you lot on Facebook, hope you don't mind), I guess he orter be given another chance. And any friend of yours is a friend of the Butcher Fan Club, I suppose." said Purpaza, at her tactful best. She quietly handed Bill her copy of Rainbow's End, along with a pen she seemed to have magicked out from somewhere upon her person and waited patiently as he signed it for her. As Bill handed it back to her, he seemed a little sad that he wouldn't be able to get more details about this Medusa place she kept speaking of and the size of the Butcher Fan Club. Sujay, on the other hand, was still closely inspecting the floor with his face, hoping that if he lay still enough, all the aliens in the immediate vicinity would go away and leave him alone. "Thank you, good sir. 'Ppreciate it. Now if you don't mind, I'll be flicking a beer bottle from the bar over there and be on my way. And yeah, we's is all looking forward to Fidayeen, you can be sure", she said as she winked at him and did both of the things she had proposed.

With a superalien effort, she leapt into her dented vehicle and lowered the top with a flick of a switch. In another second, the egg had vanished from sight.


"Is it gone?" asked Sujay of Bill in a loud whisper. He was still lying motionless on the floor just in case the damned alien came back for the rest of the beer in the bar. "Oh yes, she's gone", said Bill with a note of regret in his voice, "Maybe I should have hitched a ride. Would've been interesting. Oh well." He helped Sujay back onto his feet and they made their way to the beach side once more. "I suppose having an alien fan club is better than a nuclear war. For today, in any case." said Bill as he raised his margarita glass back to his lips, his eyes twinkling with glee.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Indian Online Dating Scene... and my experiences

I've been online dating since late last year. Sure, it's not the best way to meet people, but what other choice do we social network addicted, working from homers have these days? I've come to realise that while I try to write about serious issues on this blog, the posts that do receive the highest reads and likes continue to be about my own miserable experiences in life. Thanks for that, by the way.

I therefore want you to take my small hand as I lead you through my awful dating experiences of the past couple of months. It's not pretty. But it will be fun to watch. I promise.

  • Date 1: The first guy I ever met via the dating app I was using at the time, who I kind of clicked with turned out to be a wee bit of a stalker. The first two days we chatted he seemed to be drunk all the time so I unliked him; he managed to find me by tracking down my LinkedIn profile and messaged me. Being the unwitting idiot that I am, I gave him a second chance. We met once. He bought me flowers. Then insisted on only videoconferencing from there on out. The last couple of straws were his constant put downs and snide remarks and that one time when he showed me a picture of a gun he'd just finished cleaning...

  • Date 2: The second chap I met seemed nice. A photographer, traveller, bookworm. Long funny conversations. We met once at a coffee shop after which he introduced me to some amazing North Eastern restaurants I didn't know existed. After that he insisted on me coming over to his place where he promised me lots of tea. After the first two visits over and an almost intimate moment, he quickly blocked all further visits by introducing his cousin sister who had to sleep over and insisting we remain friends. Oh well.

  • Date 3: This one guy I met treated our first date like a job interview. I knew I got the job when he said we should meet again for dinner sometime. I found it strange though how he'd never been in a single relationship in the past and how he changed his profile pictures on the dating site even as he was still in a text mode with me. Some things just aren't met to last. And virgins scare me.

  • Date 4: So I meet this guy who, on date three, mentions how he didn't 'feel like' going out and wanted to come over to my place instead and have a couple of drinks with me. After a firm no and polite inquiries as to what was wrong with any of Bangalore's numerous coffee shops, I never heard from him again.

  • Date 5: Easily the most painful and hard to forget. Seemed like a lovely chap who was offended by my pointing out that he was in my life to flirt with me and not my friends. 

  • Date 6: A fellow I was on the phone with, seemed hilarious enough, but shocked me one day when he mentioned how he never liked to have sex in the heat of the moment until his partner went and took a quick shower. After which, he'd use a solution on her nether regions to remove any 'foul odour'. I told him I was so glad he'd told me that, and proceed to never text him again.
The online Indian dating scene has the potential to make traditional arranged marriages look warm and fuzzy. But the path to Mr Right is doomed to be lined with many thorns. Look out for more posts in this series.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The problem with sex (Updated)

Sex is clearly a very big problem. Ask any teacher who's had to discipline boys and girls from talking to each other in class. After all, talking between boys and girls leads to sex, right?

Sex is such a big problem, that you have men up in arms about legalising prostitution - not so that women and men who might actually want to consider a viable option as a sex worker will have their rights protected, and so that it also means there will be less trafficking of minors who are unable to give their consent to being used for sex - but so that their sexually starved brethren will be able to bang out their frustrations in their friendly neighbourhood red light area. After all, if a man is sexually frustrated, he might commit rape, right? Just like a poor man has every right to kill or rob people to satisfy his need.

Clearly, sex is a problem that's staring us in the face. In the darkness of your bedroom, under the covers, far far behind the last book in your bookshelf so mom can't find it. Too little sex and you can be turned into an angry wreck, fuming at every happy couple that passes you by, or alternatively actually pursuing a hobby of worth and making something worthy of your life. Too much sex and you're a nymphoniac tharki slut who should be named and shamed and taught to be more cultural.

I mean, it's not as though sex is a vital function that can be used as an expression of love between two loving partners of a consensual relationship; it's not as if sex is as basic to our human character, as say, hunger and the satisfaction of it is. If you're asexual, it surely doesn't matter to you. But if you are a sexual being, sex, I'm reckoning is something that should be on your mind, at least once a year on your birthday, if you're lucky.

Now, even Google turns on us sex 'aficionados'. Pooh-poohing the 'dirty' human desire for sex and ignoring the fact that we're all naked underneath our clothes, Blogger has announced its new Adult Content Policy*.  Basically it says that if you have sexually explicit content or graphic depictions of nudity on your blogs (unless they're relevant to the subject like art and stuff (no, mommy, no more naked pictures of your baby on your blog unless you've artfully twisted the umbilical cord remnants around its neck)), Blogger will force you to take off said content or will convert your blog to a private one.

I never expected Google to do a Harsh Vardhan on us. I mean, what if the blog were discussing sex in a positive way, teaching young adults what was okay or not? Do they have to poke about in the dark, perverted, paedophilic recesses of the Internet to find out how to have sex? If blogging is all about freedom of expression, how is this new ruling going to help? If they're all for blocking porn, why on earth can't they find a way to do that without taking away the rights from other bloggers who aren't using it for porn? Does this mean that someday TOI will be censored by the gods of the Internet for those shots of Deepika's cleavage and be deemed a porn site?

I wish I could somehow blame this on Modi and make it go away.

*Update: As of March 2015, Blogger stated it wasn't going through with the proposed changes.