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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

07 December, 2004

An Evening Exercise

(This was read out in alternate voices at the recent Pune read-meet: mine and Niloufer's. I've tried to hide the narrative in layers of dialogue. Do comment.)

- Manasi: Darling, you’re here already?
- Parveen: Yes Manasi, it’s been 10 minutes and you’re late again. It’s going to be absolutely dark when we get back, dear.
- Manasi: I’m so sorry Parveen, but after the kids get home I hardly seem to find any time I can claim for my own.
- Parveen: That’s not my favourite excuse. How are we ever going to shed all these kilos if we’re going to be late everyday!
- Manasi: I know that you so right but I can’t help it. Anyway, tell me which route are we taking today: along Sun Glades Apartments, outside the market and then through the park, or through the Swaminanda complex? New shoes?
- Parveen: Old ones actually; I pulled them out of the dust just this morning. I think the Swaminanda route is too short, so let’s do the other.
- Manasi: No, no, not today dear. Can’t you see that I’m already huffing and puffing? Let’s start with the shorter route before venturing too far. And besides, it’s almost dark.
- Parveen: Ok, but just today. Tomorrow we’ll take the longer route and you had better be on time darling. Mind that ditch.
- Manasi: Yes tomorrow, tomorrow. But you know Parveen, although this route is not ideal for walks, Swaminanda is a fantastic housing complex.
- Parveen: Yes, they do have a lot of amenities here, completely free for residents.
- Manasi: That’s obvious, isn’t it? Getting a place here costs a bomb.
- Parveen: Yes, but the upkeep is excellent. Look, the gardens are always maintained, the streets are always clean and the street-lighting is so reliable for late-walkers like us. What I like best, however, is that there are only bungalows here.
- Manasi: I believe all prospective buyers have to go through a screening process. They didn’t just sell out to all and sundry. You have to be top cream to be able to purchase a plot.
- Parveen: Yes, like my wicked second aunt, the one who has thousands of diamonds and won’t part with any.
- Manasi: Ah yes, she lives in that Italian-styled bungalow, doesn’t she?
- Parveen: Bingo!
- Manasi: This avenue is really pretty, don’t you agree? But they could have planted something other than rathranis.
- Parveen: Actually Manasi, I rather like the rathranis. They grew all over the garden at my grandparents’ place. Their scent holds memories for me.
- Manasi: I know exactly what you mean, Parveen. Me, I love the smell of food. It always makes me happy.
- Parveen: Happy? or hungry?
- Manasi: Actually, a little of both. But happy because it assures me that someone else is doing the cooking and I can take a break! Let’s go around the tennis courts.
- Parveen: Well for me, the rathranis carry memories of my childhood: playing with my sisters and brothers, getting told off by “gramps” and being pampered by all my aunts. They never, for once, let me feel the loss of my mother.
- Manasi: Oh Parveen! That’s so sweet.
- Parveen: I know and … Manasi! Look over there, on the right.
- Manasi: What is it? Should I look now or wait and pretend to look casually?
- Parveen: It doesn’t matter. It’s quite dark. She won’t catch us looking.
- Manasi: OHMYGOD! What in the world …
- Parveen: Shush! She’ll hear us and we’ll lose our cover.
- Manasi: But is that a …
- Parveen: Yes, I believe it’s a cow!
- Manasi: A cow!
- Parveen: It could be a buffalo for all we know.
- Manasi: A cow! A buffalo! What’s the difference, Parveen? From its silhouette, it looks like cattle and that’s all that matters.
- Parveen: Yes, you’re right. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s a cow or a buffalo. Can you still see it? What is it doing?
- Manasi: I can’t see it now that we’ve walked around the bend but when I could, it seemed to be grazing.
- Well, well, what can I say! I’ve always believed this complex was high-flown!
- Manasi: Yes, you wouldn’t imagine a cowshed in the close vicinity of all these posh bungalows.
- Parveen: She had just one cow, didn’t she? If she had more, she would herd them out all together just to save time, wouldn’t she? Let’s take this right.
- Manasi: That makes sense. But if its just one cow, maybe she keeps it as a pet. However, she could be an eccentric; some of these rich folks are. Hey slow down a bit, I’m out of breath.
- Parveen: Yes, and so are Parsis. I understand eccentricity enough to know that a tiger would be eccentricity but a cow is just poor taste.
- Manasi: Really Parveen! That could be it! Maybe she’s taking it out for a walk just like Sushil takes Ginger for a walk every evening. That’s the only exercise he gets. It also explains why we haven’t heard of a cowshed being here before. Everyone would probably be queuing up outside to buy milk, cheese and butter.
- Parveen: What I want to know is: how is it that no one in this complex has taken any objection to someone keeping a cow? I hobnob with a couple of lofty families here and no one has mentioned anything. I met Mrs. Oswal, who’s recently moved into that house with Roman pillars, at a lunch party last Sunday, and she didn’t mention a thing about this. In fact, she actually said that she was particularly happy that she didn’t have any weirdoes for residents.
- Manasi: Hmm … it is possible that no one knows about it yet. I mean, she is taking that animal out only in the dark. We are probably the first ones to spot her.
- Parveen: If what you’re suggesting is actually true, then I believe it is our responsibility to raise the alarm. We may not live in this complex, but we like to take our walks in here and we have a few friends here.
- Manasi: Honestly speaking, Parveen, I don’t like the idea of getting involved in these kinds of matters. They turn into major headaches in no time.
- Parveen: Look Manasi, there’s no need to get involved in a big way. We’ll just tell Mrs. Oswal about it. Her husband is ‘elitism’ personified; he’ll take it from there.
- Manasi: But Parveen, we know nothing about the owners. We may have seen her near that white bungalow with the turrets but that may not necessarily be her home. It’s also likely that she’s an outsider just visiting or just bringing her cow in to graze.
- Parveen: Either way, the residents have a right to know. Come on, Manasi, think about it. It starts with one cow. If we keep quiet, they’ll bring others and there will be a cowshed here in no time. In fact there may even open a branch next to our buildings.
- Manasi: You’re exaggerating, Parveen, you know that.
- Parveen: Yes, I am but there is something in what I’m saying, you’ll have to agree.
- Manasi: Ok, I give up, but wait, let’s not go to the Oswal’s immediately. We need to confirm what we saw. It was dark, after all.
- Parveen: You have a point. So let’s walk back that way and confirm.
- Manasi: We needn’t go back; we’ll just follow this hedge and we’ll be there anyway.
- Parveen: That’s right! I forgot.
- Manasi: Parveen, I have an idea. If we do meet the cow owner now, let’s march right up to her and tell her that such behaviour is not expected in this housing complex and that she can take her cow and go live on a farm. If we intimidate her enough, we may not have to go to the Oswal’s with this after all.
- Parveen: You really keep away from confrontations, don’t you? Alright, I won’t force you into going to the Oswal’s. But, there’s our cow-herder, so let’s get her!
- Manasi: Thanks. Yes, I see her.
- Parveen: Is that the same cow she was walking earlier?
- Manasi: Umm … I can’t say. It does look a bit different now, doesn’t it?
- Parveen: Yes and it doesn’t seem to be grazing at all; it just seems to be sniffing around that light pole a lot.
- Manasi: Oh!
- Parveen: I thought only dogs did that. Cows usually do it standing, don’t they?
- Manasi: Yes, they don’t lift a leg.
- Parveen: Then it must be a dog.
- Manasi: Why it is a dog! What a huge dog!
- Parveen: You have to be joking Manasi.
- Manasi: No Parveen, I’m not. Great Danes are tall.
- Parveen: As tall as a human?
- Manasi: My uncle, in Darjeeling, has 2 of them, and one almost reaches his shoulder. Of course, most of them don’t grow that tall. But this one here could be another exception.
- Parveen: Oh dear! And we imagined it being a cow! How silly!
- Manasi: Don’t feel stupid darling. Blame it on the dark. How can you expect to see anything clearly from 50 feet away under twilight when you’ve crossed 40?
- Parveen: Oh no! Not twilight anymore; it’s dark already. Let’s quicken our pace; I’ve got to get home for soap-time.
- Manasi: Me too. Only in my case it going to be soup-time. I hardly ever get to watch TV serials. It’s always HBO at my place.
- Parveen: You need to exercise your authority as the home-maker, you know. Shut down the kitchen for a day in protest. They’ll learn.
- Manasi: I wish! A bit nippy today, isn’t it? Say, we walked a great deal further. How many kilos do you reckon?
- Parveen: Definitely two.
- Manasi: It better be two, or I’m quitting from tomorrow.
- Parveen: Nice try!


Blogger Max Babi said...

Sonia, this was a hit at the second readmeet [Pune]
and the wry sense of humour redeems it from becoming
an abtuse exercise wherein the slowly shifting spectra
of dialogue, almost like multihued sheets of cloth unfurling, could tax a brain. This is a good experiment and you could stretch further to a novella size, I guess.

08 December, 2004 01:47  
Blogger Akshay said...

Reflecting what Max just said I really liked the concept and the wry humor in the piece and you should extend it may be at the next meet you good a part two .
A morning exercise? ?

09 December, 2004 04:52  
Blogger Prakriti said...

How about not writing the names of the speaker at every line? Let the story build in the imagination using just the dialogues without being stopped at the beginning of the line every time?

I personally find the shorter versions more hard hitting, whether it's humor or other forms. Short, smooth, and relevant to the central theme.

My humble view, of course!

09 December, 2004 18:02  
Blogger raindanseuse said...

Thanks Max, Akshay.

Prakriti, my original was written without the names. I had indeed intended the to voices to be implied but I was asked to add names as it was difficult to keep up with the voices when there's no one reading them out as we did as the read-meet.

13 December, 2004 00:30  

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