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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

30 September, 2005

The Auto Ride

The Auto Ride

(Cross posted from my blog: "”)

An American once remarked seeing our autorickshaw.

“How do you sit in one of these things? It is so small.”

“Why, we are a small-built people.” I didn’t explain to him how big a convenience it is to driving-challenged, small-built people like me.

“I mean, what if you have an accident, do you bury the person with the rickshaw?”

I got his point.

Today I rode an autorickshaw to work. It was no ordinary ride. I was seething with fear and fidgety all the time.

The driver, a minor, hardly, about 12 years of age, had me, and another man with him on the narrow driver’s seat. I didn’t have a place to hold so I was hanging on to his steering rod with one foot on his brake. The road had disintegrated in the rain and there were huge craters in which an auto could sink without a trace.

Four people were already sitting in the back. So that made us seven.

“Hey, Chotu,” he called out cheerfully to a friend.

“Hey, Motu,” the friend acknowledged and jumped into the auto beside me.

Now we were eight people in the narrow confines of the auto, which for my American friend was too small to seat one person. I couldn’t squirm; I couldn’t breath. Not that I wanted to, because coming up ahead of me was the open public toilet.

Everyday when I pass this area I hold my breath. When I have passed it I shake my head and say thanks to the Lord. It was that dirty, stinking, and what made it more repulsive was the squatting people. The stench was unbearable.

I held my breath and averted my eyes.

Too late!

The auto’s front wheel sank into a hole big enough to accommodate two such autos and with it I lurched to one side. The man beside me, the “Motu” said something like “@#$%^&*” and jumped out just in time so that the auto didn’t keel over.

The boy-driver hung there working on the accelerator. The man on the other side also jumped out and with some help from the “Motu” pushed the auto to safety.

Catastrophe averted! Talk of Indian ingenuity.

Then there were more such holes ahead of us. I hung on to the steering rod and prayed hard. Lord, reach me safely; what have I done to deserve this?

“Why do you seat so many people? There could be an accident.” I asked out of curiosity.

“Saab, nahi tho kamayi kaise hoga? Aap log panch rupayese jyada deneke liye mana karthe hai, na?”

“How will I earn money otherwise? You refuse to give more than Rupees five.”

This is some curious fundamental of Indian economics that had evaded me earlier. I don’t know the basics of economics, so I wouldn’t dare postulate here. At this point let the economists take over. Or, let me give it a try.

By seating eight people in his auto he earned Rupees forty. That is Rupees twenty-five more than he would earn otherwise. By sitting with eight other people I saved myself Rupees ten. Whoa, anyone see the budding economist in me, or the Chotu, auto-driver?

The auto dropped me right in front of my office. This is where we offer economies of scale to western corporations by taking over their routine customer interaction and marketing functions.

As the auto sped away on the deserted road I saw written on the back of it the usual, “HORN OK PLEASE, TATA.”

Then below it was scrawled something that caught my eye, “Shubh, Labh.” “Auspicious, Profit.”

That sure was an eye-opener.


29 September, 2005

ode to weather

And birds compete in
broad and narrow daylight
Who shall drop first
upon the head of a pretty


27 September, 2005

Permanent Way

This poem was prompted by the news that the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the highest, and surely the most spectacular in the world, is nearing completion.


The centuries were less than kind to you.
But then, virginity's a tease for both bully
and suitor alike: you could hardly think your coy
rebuffs would keep either away, you knew fully
what history meant, that empires destroy
to thrive. And there was the odd flirtation too.

The suitors left but the ravisher, none too gentle,
gorged in heat and scourged you with his lust.
A cynical world watched your screams abate,
your flailing spirit ground to conquest's dust,
a desiccated carcass. And now the tourists wait
like vultures, for tickets to Lhasa Central.



23 September, 2005


Sat sipping sunshine
weakened warmth
filtering away....

A lonely red leaf
twirled an
autumn tune....

I sat on it
and blew away
a distant love....

Just a winter away.


21 September, 2005

Miracle Man

Tracking a person is the hardest thing I've done to death. But it's the thing I know how to do. I follow the prey with all the keenness of a bloodhound. Or, I would like to believe that I do. It's not quite so hard, though. I've done this forever. Reading people, following people. It's knowing people that I try to do. That's my job. Knowing people.

I'm good at it. That's why they hire me.

I sit here in my apartment, in a building gone to seed. The stairs up here are stained with god-knows-what. There are voices wafting in from somewhere not so very far away, as you climb up the stairs, but you don't really pay attention to them. They're not important. Nothing is, other than why they come. They come to see me. To ask my help. I help people. By knowing them.

I came here some years back. I worked as a hack. I rode in open-air double-decker buses. I laughed when it rained and the water stung. I laughed because even in all that poverty, I had absolutely no idea what I was doiing. And then, one day, I looked into the cracked mirror in the hall of my two-room closet, and I knew what I was supposed to do.

The woman who sits in front of me looks at me in something mingled with fear and confidence. She doesn't know for a fact that I can do what she wants, but she hopes I can. It would make her life so much simpler if I can. So I smile at her, show her my yellowed teeth, and wait for that touch of recoil. It would be boring if she fawned over me, believed every word I said, adored me. This is riskier, risquer. I prefer it this way.

"I can give what you want," I rasp, in the voice that I have perfected over the years, because I've discovered they like it best this way.

She trembles because she's not sure she wants to know. I tremble at the absurdity of it all.

"Give it to me," I croak again, and I thrust my hand out.

She's dressed quite well, this one. From somewhere in Malabar Hills, her house has a lovely view of the sea. She stands out there at the living room window every day, before heading out to a corporate job. She's a bitch at work, though. Her coworkers find her demanding, over-zealous and simply ball-busting. That sounds funny. And when she comes back home, she's Miss Honey and Cream to her husband. He's an investmant banker himself, and he sees the ocean from his office on the fifteenth floor of a Nariman Point skyscraper. They're a happy family. Or, they would be, if she had not come here to my door. Asking me to tell her something she already knows.

"This is his?" She nods in reply, and clasps her hand across her lap. There are only two chairs in this room, and it's threadbare otherwise. There's the fan overhead, and I keep it on a a low speed as much as for the weather, as for the effect of suspense it creates in my clients' minds. It's all a show, a lovely spoof they love to believe in.

"When was the last time he wore it?" I ask, handling the tie in my hand. Silk. Patterned. Quite ugly, really. Not at all to my taste. But I need to find out when he tied it around his neck last, or the effect will not be a hundred per cent.

"Two days back," she answers, and her voice is quite calm. She's one of the stronger ones, I can tell. She has to be. She's a ball-buster. I can tell that from her thin lips. I'd like to kiss those thin lips, but that's hardly business-like behaviour on my part, and so I sit still. Not exactly still: I still leer at her, I still handle the tie, crinkling it and pulling it, testing its strength.

I drop it on the floor. That contact is all that I find necessary.

"It's quite clear," I pronounce, and she looks up at me. Her eyebrows arch upward, but that's all.

"My payment, first," I say, leaning back against the chair.

She looks at me. She's skeptical of course. She's never believed in power of anything but her own, but she's here because she's heard of me in good faith. She has faith, not belief. That's very strange, but I feel the same way. Faith, not belief. It sounds funny, but it's not. So, she looks at me, shrugs imperceptably, and then opens her handbag. Takes out her cheque book, signs it with a flourish. Her hands are heavily veined. I wonder if she has anorexia. I don't find such thin women appealing, though. Pity.

I accept the cheque she hands me over.

"You can go home now," I say, "It's done."

She gets up from her chair now, and turns. She whirls around though, once, just to look at me, an absurd figure still seating on my lone chair, the room quite empty and dusty, thin shaft of sunlight from the blinded window, and the closed door leading to the other room. It's an absurd little picture and she can't really imagine how she fits into the whole thing. But she does. But she did. I smile. What else am I supposed to do?

She shuts the door behind her, and climbs down the stairs, one by one, slowly, past the stained walls, past the not-so-far-away voices of children, down the stairs. But she's lighter. She's lighter because she has faith - not belief - that I made her philandering husband break his affair with his secretary. The ball-buster.

20 September, 2005


(This is a contribution to an exercise on the Caferati board, posted here for feedback.)


“Marathekeri.” That’s what her mother Mary calls Julie. She is different. She is a chattakari, chattakari meaning Anglo-Indian girl from Kerala. She does unusual things. She climbs trees, she sits under them and dreams and when Mary calls out to her to clean the fish and chop the beef she goes and sits near the backwaters and watches the boats glide by.

“Girl, how will you tend to your family if you are like this?” Mary would ask.

“Mamma, don’t get on my nerves,” Julie would say.
She likes dark colors. She paints her lips blood red.

People just stare at her, turn around and say, “There goes our chattakari.”

“Phoo, poda,” she would say to them.

She likes to read. She reads Jane Austen and William Makepeace Thackeray. “Vanity Fair” is a favorite. She thinks she is English though she is half Malayalee.

“She has a Madamma’s blood in her you know. That’s why she is like that,” people say.

That day she climbed and sat on a huge tree in the compound her home in Trivandrum. The tree is old and gnarled. It looks like a Banyan tree. She actually meant to climb to the topmost branch. But she lost interest half way and she just sat there watching some children play.

The day was hot; it was also humid. She heard Mary call her, “Marathekeri, you again on that old tree? Wait till Pappa comes. I will tell him.”

But she doesn’t listen. She is listening to the sound of her inner voice. A voice that tells her she shouldn’t be here sitting on this tree. A voice inside that tells her she should stop dreaming of where beautiful women sit in beautiful parlors and speaking in hushed tones in the English countryside.

“You tell him what you want, Mamma, I am not afraid,” She calls out to Mary.

Then she listens to her inner voices.

“Julie you should fall in love. Didn’t Dennis make an advance during the last Christmas dance at the Railway Institute?”

“But I don’t like Dennis, he is so naïve.”

“But then how will you be like the heroine Amelia and her suitor Dobbin in “Vanity Fair”?”

“But Dennis isn’t like Dobbin at all.”

“What’s the matter? It’s time you had someone. Momma calls you a “marathekeri” meaning climber of trees. You can’t climb trees like this all the time. You are older now. You have to give up your childish petulance.”

“I am not petulant. And don’t call me a “Marathekeri” just because I like climbing on trees.”

“Oh, how can I tell you something without you flinging it back at me?”

“Then don’t.”


“I do what I like. I am Julie. I don’t need your advice.”

“Then do what you want. I am not bothered.”

She climbs down with a heavy heart. The day is still hot. Amelia was in her heart and her mind. She very much wanted Dennis to propose to her. But then what about her dream of Amelia, of being with soft gentle people who talk in whispers in the gentle countryside of England? Marrying Dennis would mean accepting the life of a railway man’s wife in some godforsaken remote railway station in India, like her mother Mary.

“Oh, tell me voice what should I do?”

The voice didn’t answer.

“Voice, voice, don’t leave me like this. Answer me. Don’t leave me like this.”

The voice didn’t answer.

"Oh, voice where are you? Don't leave me like this, please!" Julie cried bitterly.

The voice doesn't answer. The voice is dead.

Ó John P Matthew 2005

16 September, 2005

the poet as a lover...

these trickling drops of rain
that traverse from your eyes to your lips
and then break into a surreal flame
urge me like a moth to hum paeans
and perish at the threshold of our kiss


© Dan Husain
September 8, 2005


14 September, 2005


these words slither dark
from the spaces between the keys
here they come,
from between the A and the S
and then the L and the semicolon
leaving a trail as they climb laboriously
onto the screen, forming words
dredging memories
thoughts love hate sorrow
one letter at a time
revelling in their freedom
making friends, enemies
fights, gossip,
falling in love, making more
baby words,
populating this screen
and in the end
disappearing into nothingness:
this very word now
this very poem


13 September, 2005

The story (: at the coffee table :) so far

Just realised we haven't posted SatCT updates here so far.

Here, minus the disqualified and withdrawn stories, and in alphabetical order, by author, are the ones selected so far :

[Title, Author, Average rating by selectors]

The Inevitables, Albert Barton, 6.167

Song of the cuckoo bird, Amitabha Mukerjee, 6.750

A Successful Man, Anita Vasudeva, 6.250

Roukas In Bits And Pieces, Anoopa Anand, 6.000

Fortune Cooking, Arjun R Kolady, 7.167

Finding / Losing, Arundhati Mundlay, 7.500

The Badshah of Blah Blah, B.K Sreedhar, 6.750

The Long Shirt, Deepak Morris, 8.750

Travelling Ticket Examiner, Govindraj Umarji, 8.000

Reverse Sweep, Krishna Jambur, 7.000

Five Litres Of Kerosene, Minakshi S Desai, 7.000

Slipping Sands, Mitali Salian, 6.000

The Last Time, Namrata Sathe, 6.125

Sororicide, Paritosh Uttam, 6.250

A wedding in Multan, Prashant Poplai, 8.625

The Journey, Sachin Gandhi, 6.000

The Snake And The Stick!, Salil Desai, 7.000

The Void, Sandhya A Ranade, 6.400

Opportunity Knocks But Once, Sheela Jaywant, 8.600

The Scholarship Papers, Titash Neogi, 6.000

Maitreyi, Usha Sitaaraam, 6.350

Zemma And Oran, Vidhya Vaidhyanathan, 6.875

The Fat Man, Vikram Rajan, 7.250

Reluctant Revelations, Vineeta Malkani, 6.000

As Real As It Gets, Vinod G, 6.450

While we work with these authors, there may be some drop-outs. So we're holding on the next 10 to 15 selections for a short while. Keep in touch!


12 September, 2005


Gently please, don’t mind the dust. For this was organic too,
and shared air and breath with him, as did the roach
and the rodent. Step lightly round those scribbled scraps
that lie like leaves on untended graves. Sounds encroach,
even footfalls desecrate the quiet which wraps
this home turned cenotaph. For here silence grew

like an anthill, a maze of byways, histories trapped in a womb,
the fluid conscious of ages. Those books once lived and talked,
chattered to him like squirrels, or spoke gravely like the owl
as he fed them or was fed smiling, or laughingly mocked
like a master by his wards: a benign terror on the prowl.
Tread softly. They lie like children, dead now, in this catacomb.




Nine-yard saree
fading in the sunlight
borne with grace.
Brow bent with age,
with wrinkles of poverty.
Eyes squint,
item is held close to face
to determine what it is.

"Thirty rupees.
Very good material, Sir.
Will hold water. For ages."
I paid the amount instantly.
As I walk away,
I steal a quick glance.

Old woman, frail but proud.
Proud of a day's hard labour.
Of her keep honestly earned.
A bit of kumkum, some flowers,
the last of her green bangles.

I look at me.
Levis, Adidas, Clavin Klein.
I would give my fortune
for the dignity she exudes.


06 September, 2005

once upon an eternity

once upon a star-filled night
we will meet
and you will look at me
the dark pools of your eyes
like the ocean, foaming waves
swelling up with questions
my eyes will look into yours
like a tunnel on some mountain
pass, hope
gleaming at the other end.

we will embrace
you and i

each time you
imprint a question on the sand,
the arms of
despair will wipe it out
and again.

once upon an eternity
we will meet.


Waiting To Fly

Can I rant here? I wonder. Of course I can, my brain tells me. This is my space. My computer and these are my words.
Everybody alive wants something. Including those who say they do not. They want, I want, you want. And if you don’t want, life simply ends.
That is death, living death.

I want to be rich, famous, kind, charitable, compassionate, slim, beautiful, perfect. I want my face to launch a thousand books, and my life to be filled with positive energy. More than anything else I want to be happy, which I am most of the time. Still…little things like a dull day at work fill me with gloom, if nobody calls me, I am upset, if too many people call, I feel rushed, if I don’t write, I feel guilty, when I write I want to finish it soon.
When I was a child, I imagined life would be perfect when I grew up and got married. Instantly I would be rich, I imagined. I would have everything that I did not when I was in school and college. Getting married then became my ambition. It was the goal in my life. Every boy I met was looked at as a potential husband, which is really funny as my imagination offered some respite from the real world. The thought was discarded in minutes and I was off on another trip in my mind. Suddenly I became this VERY famous career woman, heading my own conglomerate dashing around in planes, concluding fabulous deals, wearing chic suits.

Then I met him. One rainy, dreary afternoon. All drenched, with water seeping into my every pore, this man came into my life. And he left. Then he returned, while I pursued my career. Till finally we decided we would marry, despite parental disapproval. A part of me wanted to elope, another part wanted a grand wedding. The latter won. To be married I had to quit my job. Indian marriages and jobs don’t go together, I was told. Delirious I agreed, spending six months traveling across India, collecting my trousseau. It was loads of fun.

I was married. I imagined this great guy would take care of all my needs, put things in perspective for me, protect me, while all I’d do is sit at home, supervise the servants, buy jewellery, clothes and look pretty for him when he came home from work. I even saw myself – slim, beautiful, with a nice bindi on my forehead, dressed in the most fabulous organdi sarees, delicately climbing into chauffer driven cars and going off to visit friends and family. Ha ha. That vision of a perfect life lasted, till a few weeks after the wedding day.

Real life became very different from what I imagined it would be, and it took me a little while to get used to living with a new family who were slightly reluctant to accept this new woman in their lives. I actually lived there, ate there, slept there, and voiced my opinion whether I was supposed to or not. For me too, it was different. I changed from carefree career woman to housewife, constantly under scrutiny.
Well, all of that is over now. I am a writer, an editor, a freelance journalist, wife and mom. I still want – I am not slim, I still court success, and once it is achieved in one aspect of my life, I want more.

There is so much I think I can do, so much more has to be done, and all I do is play one more computer game, make a few more points on Pop and Drop………pathetic.

Now, that moment of truth has passed. The words that were forming in my brain have eased out, and the ideas have stopped flowing. For the first time in days, my brain is spent.

I want to go to work, at the same time I want to stay home. I want to go to the parlour at the same time I want to save that fuel. Am off to play Collapse. A game I have not touched in months. I have the internet to myself and peace surrounds me. I am home, not facing bright yellow walls and listening to World Space all alone in the office. Restless, rearing to go like a race horse in a stable, I am breathing hard, as I wait for my turn to fly.

And then I read Bokovski. If I was even remotely like he said a writer should be, I would never write at all. I would be a woman with a lost soul, a lost cause and an unmarked grave.
(c) Ameeta Agnihotri.

05 September, 2005

Watching My Unspeaking Father Board The Bus Home

That tree on the other side of the road
Seems bare.
Only yesterday
I stood by the cemetery,
Mesmerised by the fiery blooms
Hovering over silent bones,
And heard the leaves whispering
Secrets of those who come and weep.

This tree stands silent
And yet,
Defies steel hurtling past
Trying to flee, trying to weave past
Patches, unravel threads,
And create new patterns
That have no place for a tree,
Any tree.

And as they check the tickets,
The exhaust smoke
Blurs the long road
And my tree becomes
A Picasso dream in water.


04 September, 2005


is it rain
or you within,
dancing in drops
on my parched skin?

each drop brings
a piece of sky
each pore
becomes an eye

dance in rain
I still do
and the rain dances
around you...




03 September, 2005

Poem for N.A.

You wear your darkness like a cape,
comfort-clung with the ease of years,
trust requited in its drape:
perfect sanctuary for fears.

Each languid swish fans the air,
unsettles winking stars like dust:
sequined specks in a cloud of hair
that shimmer with each gentle gust.

But these are no fairy lights:
no friendly goblins’ tease and play,
nor merry dance of elves and sprites
to keep a wicked witch away.

For they are fires lit by shades
to cleanse the fearful night of dread,
and light a way through pain-hung glades
to take the living to the dead.


02 September, 2005


after you were gone
the urn came out
from the ugly incineration box
we floated your ashes
      in the desolate wind

and then we divided up
the curved banister
the kitchen stove,
and the parrot
restlessly strutting its perch

you had already died
they said: death
was a merciful relief

and then on the verandah
we sat; the spiderweb
like a tea strainer
for the stars,
we search for meaning
in your life.

is your fulfillment
in those you leave behind?
      are we doing "better"
than dadu and you -
your going away,
is this then part of progress?

i enter your room
the bed is barren,
the sheets austere and white.
a bird sings outside
smoke beyond the river

all is as it should be
i feel unsheltered.

there is no one
to hold my hand
no one to ask - stay,
just a few more minutes...

i walk out
the stars are benign enough
but progress does not seem
that meaningful.


01 September, 2005

Being Pragmatic

There was a murder here last week, I thought vaguely, walking down the Gateway Walls, the boundary of waist-high stone that separated Bombay city from the Arabian Sea. Not that the murder had anything to do with me. It was just one of those crazy things that people never expect to happen in this city. People come to Bombay, and people live here, and they expect it to be heaven on earth. Nothing bad could ever happen here, they say.

Not me. I’m the pragmatic one. Or so I like to think.

Because that’s all one can do. Think. And hope. And realize that, in the end, it was all meant to be.


Terrible to think there was a murder here, only last week. That sort of thing never happens in Bombay. That’s the kind of thing people in Delhi are so used to, not us, not here! It’s strange to think of random people coming in from wherever and just... slitting people’s throats. At the Gateway, where so many people come around, happily posing, pressing, pushing for pictures… how strange.It would be strange also if I asked to have a picture of you and me together.

It would be strange because it would be so... soon. I hate that word. I hate being the understanding person who goes slow. The pragmatic one. I hate to be the one who has to pretend to be the silent partner, the one who must take it easy when I know that it’s the last thing on my mind.

I guess that makes me the fool.

I smile, for I see you, and I wave. You wave back, and a rush of happy blood surges to my brain...


I like the way you talk about random things in the world. I like the way you smile and tilt your head. I like the way you raise your eyebrows so instinctively when I say something funny, something overtly serious, or something hypocritical. I like the child that you are, but to be honest, I can’t help feeling slightly worried about that part of you.

“I’ve never been here before. It’s great.”

I smile at your honesty. Some people would say something like, O, I’ve been here ages ago, - by personal invite from the owners! “It’s one of my favourite places,” I reply, and I love the smile you beam my way in response. There’s a reason why I like you... there’s a reason why...

You so obviously love the sea. You’ve been here for ages. All your life. A Bombay Boy. It sounds funny to put it like that, and I smirk, remembering the film by the same name... you probably hated it, if you ever saw it! And that’s when I think – I know so little about you. And I’m not sure whether what I know is what I’m looking for. And yet, I’m sitting here, absolutely riveted to my seat. What’s the word my pragmatic soul is searching for...?

Aa, yes, it’s smitten...

And you smile in response again now. I wonder whether you’re really not a mind-reader.


I’m a bit overawed by all this, I admit. The fancy restaurant, the fancy coffee, the fancy croissants, the fancy people sitting not five yards away from us. It’s even more unnerving, to realize that you’ll grab the cheque as soon as it comes, and I’m going to sit there, fidgeting before the waiter, as you take your time choosing which credit card to pay with. There’s something funny in there, of course, and I can’t help smiling at the thought: even though I would gladly go Dutch, there’s just no way I’d be able to afford it, given your penchant for the most expensive places in Bombay!

I actually smiled at that thought, and your hand came out to clasp mine.But then you retract.That‘s the way it goes. Begin the game. The Game. The Hide and Seek. The I’ll-count-to-hundred-and-you-go-hide-till-I-find-you game. There are a million names for it. I’m horrible at the game, and yet I realize why it’s so important I play it. I’m just not a pragmatist. Just not the kind of person who understands that human beings need to have someone run away from them, before they can be stimulated enough to run towards them. Silly theory. I never did understand it. But I have to play it. Whoever wants to die a virgin, after all?

And at that, I smile again.


They met some weeks earlier, at a party A had thrown for his promotion at work. X had stood at a pillar, sipping at the wine, when he spied Y. Y had stood at the balustrade, chatting with C, when she noticed X talking with A. There had been different moments.

There had been one moment. At the buffet counter, shoulders nudged, smiles exchanged, and enquiries were later made. Someone worked at a high profile MNC bank. The other was an artist, with a single exhibition out. Whispers were made among mutual friends, approving the match, and numbers were freely handed out. But of course, X decided it would be strange to call up Y without speaking to her before. And Y decided that it would seem much too desperate to call up first.

That’s when A got into the act, called both of them, and told Y that X was interested in getting some Impressionist pieces for his collection. And then left them alone.

For their first date, X had procured passes to an exclusive drama performance at the NCPA. And after that, a midnight dinner at the Taj. They talked about art and the show, about their mutual friends, about what the stars in the sky that night suggested, and then X dropped Y home. There was no goodnight kiss, and Y wondered why not. X wondered why not, either, and debated with himself whether or not he should have asked her out for a drink.

There were phone conversations in the week after that. He was busy with meetings, and she was working on a new collection. Life came in the way. But they talked. About little things. And they still wondered, albeit privately, why they hadn’t kissed.


Roll the dice. Walk across the Walls. Feel the sea salt spray. There’s a rush of sea in the air suddenly, and I’m splashed! You’re laughing, and I’m indignant, but then a split-second later, I’m laughing as well. It’s ridiculous how beautiful your face looks when it’s laughing, and that sets me off smiling at first, and then laughing, as well. We touch, and I’m on fire. (Too cliched!) I rope my fingers around your back, and my breath falls heavy on your shoulder. I’m soaked to the skin, and warm to the core.

Damn it, why don’t you kiss me?

Utter Vexation.


The lights of the Press Club are shining bright ahead in the darkness, by the time why leave the cafe. There are still people around the Walls, though, but I suppose that never changes, whatever time of day it is. The sea is choppy, too, and I remember the slight drizzle while we were inside. I’ve always had something special... a special fondness for the rain... I would sit for hours once, by the window sill, looking out... and I wonder if it’s the same with you. I turn to ask -

You’re wet!

You’re wet!

And spluttering like a wet... Something!


I hold you in my arms, and by this time you’re laughing as well. You’re looking lovely, a sparkle in your eyes... O, damn, why must I degenerate into cliches now? They sound so bloody trite

Stop talking, stop talking. Fingers burn. (Trite again.)

There. I kissed you. Was this the first time?


If you were to ask me about my life now, I would say what Danny Ocean said to the parole committee in Ocean's Eleven - "I fell into a self-destructive pattern."

It feels funny as I stand here on this island and my feet are being washed by the waves of water. It feels funny talking to myself as I stare at the sunset. I guess I had read enough of Robinson Crusoe and seen Cast Away at least ten times to know that I could not lose my speech as a vestigeal activity if I kept talking like this.

I know one thing for sure, there isn't going to be any Man Friday for me here. Forget about losing my speech, sometimes I feel, I need the Man Friday just to have sex. I need him to have sex like rabbits do before I get bored of it.

I don't know what was worse - me graduating to be a successful manager, me marrying a rich business tycoon, me being born beautiful, my face being burnt in an accident, or my husband losing his love for me. It feels funny comparing the worse things of my life to find out which was the worst. Still, what else could you do standing alone watching the sunset?

I have read enough books and seen enough movies to keep telling this story using quotes by various characters. Shannon McFarlane, the protagonist of Invisible Monsters said, "Hysteria needs an audience." This is all I've been doing, getting my goddamned audience. The day I crashed onto this island, I never wanted to go back to the unheeding audience back home. I broke every bit of my boat into these shapely pieces, which I use for domestic purposes now. Didn't I tell you what Daniel Ocean said?

Rewind. In case you haven't figured out yet, then what you're hearing right now should be a high-bass-low-treble voice over like the ones they have in the movies. Ellis Redding said a story in 'Shawshank', Seth said it in 'Boiler Room', Adam Meeks said it in 'Frailty' and now Mrs. Ridhima Kapoor is telling you a story in 'Hysteria'.

We rewind to what I want to show you and where I want you to see it from. Stop thinking of my silhouette stepping into the water at this island. Think High School. Think College. Think Beautiful. Think Genius. Think Intelligent. Think Smart. Think Greedy. Think Envied. Think Desired. Think Loved.

Didn't I tell you what Madeline said in Amelie? You haven't seen Amelie? She said, "The bitch liked to spread her legs on satin." It was in French, but here it still makes sense.

Oh, I guess the tape skipped a few years. Rewind. While the tape rewinds you can see everything in reverse - me getting married, falling in love, earning big bucks and getting my degree in management studies. You can actually see the dean take that gold medal away from me.

I worked as a senior manager in his company. We were discussing extra dividends and liquidity one day. On the next day we were discussing our love for carnatic music. On the next day it was Robert Ludlum and Stephen King. The next month we were discussing our love for each other. I resigned and we got married. Then I got promoted. From that day on, I was his senior personal manager. You can laugh at this.

Think happy marriage. Think accident. Think fire. Think me losing my face. Think burnt skin. Think scar. To tell you the truth, it hurt when it burnt but it burnt a lot more after it could no longer hurt.

Didn't I tell you what Danny Ocean said?

Madeline said, "The bitch liked to spread her legs on satin."

The bitch was a television actress he met at one of those page 3 parties. The rumors go that he screwed her the first night he met her. She was just another snooty bitch who acted extra nice and extra virtuous on the small screen. About the party, I should mention the fake breasts and the low neckline.

I fell back into my room, my corner. My books and my movies to my rescue. Didn't I scream what Brad Pitt screamed when he first entered Cool World - "Moooooooooom!"?

It took me three months, nine to five working hours, six days a week to dismantle my boat completely. For those three months, I was busy. Earlier it took me four full-length movies with ad commercials to get rid of one day. It could also be one thirty-five thousand word novel. That was how days were timed in my corner of the room.

Didn't I tell you what Danny Ocean said?

Didn't I tell you what Shannon McFarlane said?

I needed an audience. You're even more hysteric when all your life you've had an audience and then suddenly you wake up in the hospital bed to see that the theatre is completely empty.

Right now, I am knee-deep into red water. The water has been reflecting the evening light from the sky. The sun's still hanging around, impatiently waiting for me to complete my story impatient to leave. I could walk ten minutes to the other side of the island and sleep there waiting for the sun to rise again. This is how small my world has become.

The day, twenty-first of August in the year two thousand four. I remember how I had convinced my husband to buy the classic 007 weapon - a Walther PPK as a show piece. He gave in to my persuasion. I also asked him to buy six rounds to display along with it for effect. I never let him know that I needed an audience. I never let him realise that I had changed and I knew everything.

That night when he was 'attending a conference' I went into the room and shot two rounds at his crotch, two in his heart and one into the head of the bitch.

In the morning at 5:30 AM near the dock, I bought the newspaper. I didn't stay home the whole night knowing that the police would call and I was a bad actor. I looked at the beautiful blood smothered suite 901 at the splendid Taj. The creamy pink satin smothered like someone had slobbered it with blood.

I'm no criminal. Don't look at my face like it's burnt! It was hysteria then. That moment I had the biggest audience ever - one billion people of India!

I drove off before I was tracked down - my boat and I, to this island that I had found out on one of my lonely cruises. They wouldn't imagine that I could be here. All they would report is 'Tycoon and Mistress found dead in hotel room, Wife Absconding'.

By now people must have read and known the life stories of Mr. Kapoor, Mrs. Kapoor and the actress as presented by the media. After two months the actress would be forgotten, her role given to someone else. Vinod Kapoor Charitable Trust School will be built with all this money that he and I left behind with no legal heir. Various top psychologists will analyse Mrs. Kapoor’s life from all angles. The crime will be talked about through the years. Some may call me psychotic, some may call me the black widow and some may just call me a depressed soul.

The silhouette that you can now see is waist deep in water. The sun disappeared as soon as he heard about the blood smothered room. I could still walk ten minutes to wait for the sunrise. But didn't I tell you what Danny Ocean said?

My torso gets wet as my torn top floats around the water and sticks to my skin again. My neck feels the ripples of water touching it. The gleam of the evening sun on the water is gone. It's just dark now.

I still could walk ten minutes to the sunrise. A wave of water chokes me for a second, as I taste the salt. I still have one round left in the last gift my dear husband bought me.

But didn't I tell you what Danny Ocean said?

I don't really need an audience any more.