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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

31 May, 2005

Summer Musings


only when summer sears earth
can water morph
in to rainclouds


only when fire chars mud
can wombs appear
ready to nurture


hot summer nights
stoke fires
of ashen passion


hot sand grains
sculpting stone
etching history eternity


sensual summer
slowly sears
sells simmering soul


sensual winds
sweat and salt
souls forever thirsty.


Divine is this lust
addiction and passion
chanting - hari hari - hari hari

(attempt at collaboration with Juno from Caferati)


Afternoon mirage

You were leaning against the pillar when I saw you, looking at me. I felt violated in that first instant, but then it didn’t matter after that. You were something new and different. Something that this city offered me every day, and I refused each time. Contradiction in my soul, I looked at you, and I thought you smiled.

And then, you walked up to me, and looked at the book in my hand, the one I was planning to buy from the vendor under the Grand Arcade. I thought your eyes twinkled, but I can never be sure, because eyes rarely twinkle, people do, and you said, “That is a good book. Do you like reading about places in general, or is it only this particular author?”

I’m not used to being spoken to by strangers, unless they’re beggars or they’re policemen, and so my first instinct was to stare through you. I’m not a people person, despite the fact that I come from the City of Joy. I find people intrusive, I find their questions intrusive, I would rather live in a land where no one cares or no one bothers you. So, I shrug, for all that I find you interesting, and I say, “Excuse me, I have to go somewhere.”

There’s a smile again from you, and I smile back, despite the chill in my voice a moment ago. Is that something you do for everyone, I wonder. “He’s an excellent author. One of my favourites. But if you’re a beginner, I don’t think this is the one for you. Here – “

And you fetched that book I had discarded on the pile a few seconds earlier, before I looked up to see you leaning against the pillar, “ – This is a good one. He writes forcefully, almost tragically. If you’re just starting, you may get overwhelmed, and then you may feel that he’s not really speaking to you, but telling you things you don’t really want to know.”

This time, I could not help myself, so the smile broadened, and I say, “I can tell you’re an expert on him.”

“No, not an expert!” sunny laughter, “Hardly an expert. I’m just… someone who knows what I read.”

It might have ended there. It might have ended with me turning back to the vendor who did not really understand who this third person was, but not really concerned since he was getting two books sold in the place of one, and me walking away. I would have turned to you, thanked you for your help, and I would have walked back into my portal of anonymity and secret pavements.

But then, “You’re not from Calcutta, are you?”

That took me back, and I laughed again, for it was so untrue, and it was so expected. “Actually, I am. I’ve lived in this city for twenty-one years. But now, I live in Delhi. I’m settled there.”

“I should have guessed. Yes, it would either be Delhi, or abroad.”

“Is that a judgement you’re passing?”

“No, no… like I said before, I’m no expert. I pass no judgements. It was just… something that struck me. Something I thought. Delhi is a nice place. I’ve been there a lot of times. I have family there.”

I laughed, and thought about that extended family every Bengali has, huddled together in a single locality in South Delhi, unified by its greens, its tangail saris, and its sweet shops. “Let me guess – Chittaranjan Park?”

And you laughed as well, rich and deep, from somewhere I could not fathom. “Of course! But I rarely lived with them! I prefer to stay at this small hotel I know of, near Connaught Place. It’s called – “

“- The Bengal Lodge. Yes, I know about it. It’s like another extension of Chittaranjan Park.”

“But without the hassles of having your family there!”

“I’m surprised.”

“At what?”

“You don’t want to live with your family in Chittaranjan? I mean, you just struck me as so… so... I mean – “

“Typical?” Quiet smile, and I blushed, despite myself. For what on earth did I care?

“I’m sorry, but yes. I would have assumed you would love to soak in all that ambience in Chittaranjan.”

And that was when your brows furrowed, and you scratched your ear lightly before answering, “You know, of all the words I hate, ‘typical’ is the most profound.”

“Are you a Leo?” Was I flirting? “That would explain it!”

Throaty laughter and you clapped your hands in glee, “No, a Scorpio, actually! What does Linda Goodman say about them?”

“That they’re awful people to cross, and you should be wary of them.”

“But isn’t that the truth for everyone?”

“Not really. There are some people who wouldn’t really mind if you crossed them, who would just take it all, and leave it behind somewhere.”

“And, would you be very shocked if I told you that I was one of them?” A hand up to prevent me from interrupting, when I open my mouth - “That’s again a picture you built up about me, isn’t it? Like the fact that I was a typical Bengali who would love to stay in Chittaranjan Park and soak up the ‘ambience’, as you put it?”

“Well, wouldn’t you?”

You stopped, and placed your hands behind your back, and now I look at you. Yes, you look typical. Somebody you see on the roads of Calcutta almost every other day. Frizzled hair, sensuous mouth, mirthful eyes that promise so much behind black rimmed glasses Fashion has suddenly brought back ‘in’ again, plaid kurta that crackles when you walk, open-toed sandals worn well and frayed. I wonder how typical you are, though, when you say, “Of course, I would. But I would still not like to stay with my family. Isn’t that something common between the both of us?”

You took me by surprise, and I stopped. Was I that obvious? Perhaps, I was. Perhaps it was clear that I was wandering, and wondering about my destination. That had nothing to do with the city I had left or the city I had abandoned. That had nothing to do with the lover I had left and the lover I was seeing. That had something to do with a stranger in a familiar city, meeting another stranger who seems to know every word I speak before I speak it. That seems to be about clichés.

So, you smile in an almost gentle way, and say, “Don’t worry so much about it. It’s something a lot of people go through these days. I’m in that stage myself. I can recognise it so well in the people I meet. Don’t worry so much about it. Would you like a cup of tea?”

We had already reached the Birla Planetorium. I hadn’t thought we had walked that far. I didn’t need to travel that far. I should have turned left much earlier, at the Park Street junction, and I hadn’t. So I shook myself inside, and I smiled, despite my discomfiture, and said, “No, thank you. I have to be going. It was nice meeting you. But I have to go now.”

“Are you sure? You don’t want tea? They make excellent stuff here,” you said, gesturing to the little boy who sat under the huge tree, studiously arranging his faded glass tumblers in a neat column that almost reached up to his knees. I smiled, at the sight. I would have liked to see this in Delhi, I thought.

“No. Thank you. It was nice talking to you. I must leave now.”

“Very well. Goodbye and take care. I hope you enjoy the book.”

I laugh, “I’m sure I will.”


When I jumped into the sea
All I thought was
‘I have to cut this rope
I have to cut this rope’
This rope they threw around my neck;
‘To save me’, they said,
But it tears through my skin
As they yank and yank me
To plough a field that is not mine.
The cracked ground cries out for water
And I refuse to water it with tears or sweat;
Let it be theirs.
Let me be.
Just let me be me
I have to jump before
They pass the reins
To stronger, younger hands;
I have to cut this rope
I have to cut this rope
And sink into nothingness
Where they can’t follow…

I have to buy my own rope.


29 May, 2005

Summer Sonnet

Like corporate annual reports,
Odes to summer, are, I confess,
Not among my favourite thoughts;
They're things I write under duress.
But having decided I would write one,
I sit, sweating, with pursed lips,
Should I make it funny, a light one?
Glib, nonsensical, even - gasp - flip?

(Alas! I'm using up the quota
Of lines the classic sonnet permits.
I wouldn't mind if it was shorter.
A full fourteen lines can be the pits.
Only two more lines? What a bummer!)
Oh well. Here's my poem: I hate summer.

Written for, and read at, the Bombay Summer read-meet.


22 May, 2005

No answers.

Do you remember?
The empty house
rooms full ofimprinted space
my space;
the glimmer ofblue light
as I faded into a
shimmering screen

out of sight...

Do you remember?
From across the worlds
had I reached out
lived a lifewith you;
had been there
an invisible apparition
when you
wanted it to….

Perhaps the walls
told you
my history
my mystery
still haunts
your memory
perhaps the
mists part
and you see
me beckoning
to you
through time...

Do you?


20 May, 2005

the souvenir

They loved their hostess’ home

Ooooh !! look at the corals

And these shells, wow

Well, this shell is rather special , really

A hermit crab lived in it, you see

A hermit crab ?

The ones that have soft backs ?

And live in abandoned shells

Make it their home

And carry it around all their lives ?

Yes, yes, the very same ones

And this one was a huge bugger

You can well see that by the size of its shell

And the stubborn fellow wouldn’t come out

We poked and we pried, but no, he wouldn’t

Finally, we lit a fire, and roasted the guy out of his home

See how the shell shines…

All fired up, they decided

A hermit crab shell too must sit on their shelves

If not for anything, gory stories to tell

A big one was found

And he too, wouldn’t come out

They poked and pried

But chickened out at the fire

And finally decided to take the chappy home alive

A bucket was found

Sand filled in

And the fellow was given relief camp for the night

Before going to bed, however

They had a little fight

You don’t love me enough she said

You cannot even empty a hermit crab shell

At two in the morning

She found the pillow unmarked

And the car keys missing

So she went to the bucket for some solace

And found the shell owner missing too.

Both her best possessions gone

In one night

Was too much for a woman to take

Hunt, call, cry, and hunt again

Till at six in the morning

The husband is back, car keys and all

But the crab nowhere to be found

I dreamt last night

Of fires being lit all round our home

By social status seeking whales.

For in Atlantis, they say

Human homes take prided place

In their drawing room showcase.

Some times, destinies, you don’t need to change, he said

So I went back to the beach instead


18 May, 2005

A home by the coconut grove

Few years back
i did not have enough,
today i still donot have enough
i earn much much more.

i need a home,
i need a 500 sq ft place
that i will decorate with my books,
her bric brac
and our dreams.

unfortunately all homes
by the sea
near coconut groves
are too damn expensive.

i will keep my books in my tin trunk,
her bric bracs collecting dust,
and our dreams in a pickle jar

until i earn enough
to buy a 500 sq ft home
for us
by the sea,
near the coconut grove.

18 May 2005


15 May, 2005

Insatiable Lust

Krish shifted gears smoothly, and the car lurched forward in one seamless motion. He let out a sigh then, before moving the joystick forward, and switched the radio on. As the hard beat of the Afro bongo banged throughout the car interior, the Baleno coursed out over the smooth stretch of tarmac that Mumbaikars (Bombayites? He wondered, idly, for a split second) called The Queen’s Necklace.

I stood out there at the tip of Nariman Point. Nothing ahead, but clear blue-grey sea. It had rained last night. The city was still wet. The roads glistened as if newly boiled tar had been poured on them. The archer on the Air India building was poised to leap clear of some invisible barrier, and I could almost see the target of his arrow. He was shining in a red neon glow that I so wished I could have. The water buoys below my feet were locked into place, and yet there was an immense sense of instability. There was an immense sense of satisfaction from that.

This is my city.

A great vicarious pleasure that you get only when you’re standing here on the edge. There were voices drifting down, but the glorious sea wind muffled them all. I turned back, and saw my friends standing farther away closer to the shore, jeans rolled up, slightly tipsy, and someone laughed, I don’t remember who, someone called out and told me to be careful, and I waved back. This is my life. Chapter closed, a chapter ready to start. I need my reading glasses. I need so much more than just that.

Nariman Point is a man-made spectacle of tall buildings, centaurs etched in neon, great big three-headed dumb-bells that hold back the tide and teenagers drunk with lust. I’ve drunk from the same broth, and I’ve licked my lips at the sensation. It’s been a grand life.

There was something engaging about watching families ‘at work’, Krish thought, as the Baleno zoomed past the makeshift balustrade of Marine Drive. This single stretch of road attracted you from miles away, you came unbidden to its call, and you sat and ran and frolicked under the great big trees that lined the pavement. There was sea and there was wind, and yet, there was your family, and that was the most important thing of all.

Faster than the speed of light...

Krish was the kind of man who seized life by the horns and wondered where on earth the matador was - and if he wasn’t going to show up, Krish might as well take his place and kill the bloody thing. It was something unmediated, something that happened, and he took his role in life without question. There was no room for any questions. Not now, not when he argued with the parking attendant in front of the Hilton Towers, who always demanded more money than he was wont to get.

Krish could react, as well. He could roll his window down, and yell at the poor bugger till he turned red and tearful, and took the meager change that was flung in his direction. I’m not a monster, he argued, when his friends teased him, I’m just a man who has worked hard and wants to keep everything he’s got. It’s about knowing what your worth is, he would say, and he chuckled at the line now, as the signal approached, a merciful green overhead, and he gunned the engine. The car shot forward, and he thought about the neon Sagittarius again.

The view from this window amazes me to no end, and yet I was oblivious to all that, with her sitting across me. Whenever she smiled, I wondered why. Whenever she didn’t, I wondered again. I know I was acting maudlin, not the way men in my position are meant to, but that didn’t really help. I extended my hand and covered hers with mine, on the table. The Hilton is a wonderful place to make love to, I thought. And I wondered if love was also on her mind.

I wanted desperately for her to fall in love with me, and I looked for any telltale signs. When her mobile phone rang, and she switched it off, after a cursory glance at the number. Or the way she scanned the menu when the waiter held it for her, and then looked back up at me as if seeking direction for what she should eat.

So I held her hand and told her that she was the most beautiful woman on the face of the earth that night, and for a second, as she believed me, she truly was. I laughed at my silliness and even more at her naiveté, but it was a fling, a casual affair that dictated the comings and goings of the world.

I smiled proudly that night, like a man supremely in control, yet I kept on wondering whether the waiter was the real one in charge. I was a puppet, a chief puppet for all my machinations, and he, the great white shape swathed in a great white apron who served and bobbed and curtsied and said ‘Very good, sir’, and ‘Excellent choice, madam’, he was the one who pulled all the strings. Sly bastard. I slipped him a five-hundred rupee note afterwards, when we left the restaurant. I told him to send up a bottle of champagne up to my room in an hour’s time, and he nodded, without a single flick of emotion, tongue, nose, eye or ear that showed me he knew me.

Signboards screamed for attention, streetlamps like steady two-second milestones, as the Baleno wound its way over the tarmac. His ears drummed to the beat from the radio. A part of him tried to listen to the words, and gave up, and then resumed the attempt again. There were ideas forming in his head, but the car stopped him from giving into those thoughts. It acted like a security blanket, a barrier to the thoughts he may have had. The only thing that remained were these – memories that flashed at the breath neck speed he was driving, and a libido that seemed to surge every time the car growled beneath him.

He grinned. He could do not much else. The streetlamps that lined their way through the center of Maine Drive were too blindening, and there was only a gut instinct that prevented him from dying. It had always been that way. And he knew another name for that instinct.I longed to see what else they could give me.

I longed to see what else I could give them. A simple give-and-take relationship, I was told, and so we called a general meeting. Fancy term for a bunch of college kids to hang out at Jazz by the Bay. Gary Lawyer was singing, and from time to time, I was craning my head back to see the man. His eyes were closed, and his lips moved in a trance. I wanted to sing like that. But I was drunk, and drunk people want to do so many things. I had wanted to walk here all the way from Andheri, and had certainly not done that. The walk from Churchgate had sufficed.

The meeting started, and the questions began.

What was I looking for? Had I ever been anything other than a man on the prowl for them? Did I love anyone? Did I believe in love?

(That irritating woman had a nasal voice, and I could not stand it, as she drawled, on and on and on.)

What about lust? Was I truly insatiable? Did I think I could have any woman I wanted?

(That irritating woman with the nasal voice had a nice set of legs, and a good set of boobs to match, and I kept on looking at her. I may have smiled.)

Was I thinking of something?


Would I force myself on a woman who did not want me? (Was she giving me a hint? I smiled some more at her.

The questions were meaningless, and everyone laughed at the end of it. Gary came over to our table and shook hands when we told him we were fans. It was funny, watching the women giggle like school girls in front of him, and then, after he had left, to collapse on their boyfriend’s laps. They would probably shag them tonight, thinking of Gary lawyer. I looked over the irritating woman with the nasal voice and the heaving bosom, and announced that I was going to the loo.

The good thing about this place is that it’s got an amazing blue lighting inside that’s so frikkin’ dark and sexy. And it’s full. Perennially. So, I was pretty clear, that as she snaked her way through the dark blue crowd towards the men’s loo, they wouldn’t be able to trace her path. And I was waiting for her, just inside the door, when she came in. I grabbed her and pushed her against the wall, and started kissing her hungrily. The only guy in there gave me a thumbs-up, which I ignored, and left. I took her into one of the stalls, and when we came out, the rest of the gang were into the fifth round of beers.

They were not interested in the answers to the questions they had asked me, and I never bothered to reply.

Krish smiled at the words of the song, and he yelled them out to himself. Seconds were all it took, for the car to zoom out from beneath the Marine Lines flyover, and the Baleno swerved to the right, to avoid hitting a Zen that careened down from it. The driver, a fat Punjabi with a headful of turban, screamed an obscenity that never made it through the thick windows of the Baleno, and Krish calmly showed him his middle finger in response.

It was an orchestra that he knew well. Soon, Thackers would come up ahead, and he would pull down the car a notch, coax her/ it into settling for a pace that would give the rest of these mother-****ers a measure of peace, but it was still some way ahead. There was Bachelors, and Barista, and as he sped past them, the yawning mouth of Chowpatty started forming to his left. He pressed his foot down on the accelerator. Jennifer Lopez jived to Get Right on the radio.

Green chilly ice cream from Bachelors’. The shot that it gives you. It drives your breath out of your nostrils, and the back of your throat surges in something much wilder than what a piece of menthol will do for you. It takes time to get used to it. It takes a few seconds to let it overwhelm you. But the trick is never to lose control. The trick is to let your taste buds tingle for a few seconds and then inhale deeply, master the flavour and the cool texture leaves you hungry for more. The second spoonful is so much easier, so much tastier, and yet it’s never enough. The scoop of ice cream in your cup finishes too fast, all too soon, and you’re left gazing at the empty cup with a touch of accusation.

‘Drama King!’ he said, and I grinned at him.

‘God, you can make a masala film out of the silliest things!’ she said, in tandem, and I ginned again.

‘I can’t help it. That’s how I think of it. It’s quite sexy!’

‘Ass!’ in unison.

I could think of other things. She was having some strawberries with cream, delicious and frothy. He stuck to tried and tested vanilla. I nudged him, and told him that he would have to do better than that. He was shy, and laughed it off. So I never pressed him, because he was my friend. He’d been through it all with me. I would let him be. I would leave her alone. But you could see that she needed me.

She needed Ethiopian coffee at Barista, steamed just right, whirling brown qawwah, a flavour that decided it would do nothing else but intoxicate you. She had changed since that stormy night at the Hilton, we both had. I wondered what it was she wanted now, but I think I knew. It was something insatiable, and there could hardly be a single word for it. There were subtle nuances to it that I could not catch, no matter how hard I tried.

I needed to drive. She needed to drive me crazy.

The end. Fiction that never exists. Songs that tell you lies. A road that tantalizes you with its length and curves at the last moment.

The Baleno shot out through the wide curve of Marine Drive like the armed Centaur on the Air India building, and Krish guided her/ it left towards Malabar Hill. He cut the gas, and the car groaned softly to herself in protest, as Krish wheeled her in, after the other cars that stood their chance to alight the hill. A huge hoarding changed colours and shapes overhead, and he laughed to himself at the pun on the billboard. The drive wound itself down, and a sigh escaped his lips, even as Jennifer Lopez reached the crescendo of her song on the radio.

This was the end, he thought, as the car snaked upwards at a tamed pace, and he could see the long trail of streetlamps that glowed in the dark far off into the sea, the Queen’s Necklace they called it, and many other names that reminded them of how much they coveted it and wanted t own it, but now as the Baleno climbed up, he could only think that the sight of majesty somehow killed it, this was the end. The dissipation of lust.

Living - Then 'n' now - Perceptions

you breathe in my blush
and exhale a fresco.
bated, i change colours.

Then n now
Awake, I search.
you did not sleep
in our bed, again

Her story
His version
And then the Truth


10 May, 2005

Syringe baby.

She sits there
on the pavement
outside the door…

Her lonely perch
day after day
humming lost
tunes with
empty eyes
and a full womb
a syringe
by her side

I wonder…..

What games are played in the
hormone hungry
name of damp love
a chaotic fevered addiction
wounding love
as wombs are
torn apart
and discarded…

the world
goes by
dropping a coin
for her
lonesome tune

she weeps
fondling her
syringe baby
by the road…

She sits there
on the pavement
outside the door…


07 May, 2005

No words left

There's rent to be paid by the tenth -
It's done.

And doctors' bills for ills and chills,
all done.

Deadlines obeyed, dues paid,
yes, done.

Stories told, products sold,
we're done

Squeezed them out past block and drought,
they're done.

The yoke of words bespoke -

Free now to write what i want to write but...
i'm done.

(The detritus of my aborted ghazal, reassembled in another form)


06 May, 2005

The Bus Ride


Heat waves seemed to be rising from the tarmac as she made her way to the bus-stop. Weather reports on the Radio had said this was the hottest day that season and she couldn't help but agree. It had been excruciatingly hot the past few weeks, with no sign of relief but today the heat was simply unbearable. A droplet of sweat trickled its way from her scalp down her spine leaving an uncomfortably wet trail on her back. Her hair felt grimy and sticky and her clothes were sticking to her uncomfortably. She wiped her face and the back of her neck, for what seemed like the hundreth time that day and glanced down the road in vain. No bus in sight, just the road stretching out in front of her; all concrete with not a vestige of greenery. Praying fervently for a bus to come soon, she started pacing up and down, fanning herself with the day's Mid-Day. At least when she was in the bus and it was moving she would feel some breeze.

Fifteen interminable minutes later, no. 167, belching out thick dark carbon monoxide fumes, rolled to stop in front of her. It was packed like a tin of sardines with not much hope of getting a seat, but she consoled herself by thinking of the long shower she would take once back home. The bus would take her across the town to the apartment complex where she was sharing a two-bedroom unit with three other girls. Hanging on, she gingerly fished into her huge canvas bag for her wallet so she could pay for her ticket. As she tried to accomplish the juggling act and maintain her balance, a man got up and offered his seat to her. Smiling gratefully at him and murmuring a quick thanks she collapsed into the seat and waved at the conductor so he could come and give her the ticket.

The bus lurched to a stop and more people climbed in. A bunch of school kids from the municipality school who also travelled across town to attend school. She saw them daily on her way back home and marvelled at how cheerful and enthusiastic they seemed, despite their obvious poverty. Most of them were barefoot and wore clothes that were so old that they were almost threadbare at certain places. But they were all clean and when she asked them about what they studied, they happily told her all about the English miss and Maths sir. Today she didn't feel like talking to them. She was exhausted and her head was throbbing. She had been on her feet all day, running around getting work accomplished, with not even her usual hour-long lunch break. She had rolled her chapati and vegetables and hurriedly swallowed it, in between tasks. Leaning back she closed her eyes and before long she fell asleep.


He looked down at her and smiled to himself. He had been observing her for two months now. She was there in the bus everyday from Monday to Saturday at the same time. In the past few weeks, she seemed more tired and haggard and was always grateful to get a seat. He had offered her a seat several times before, but she never seemed to notice him. Today, she looked like she'd collapse if she didn't get a seat. Her thin cotton kurta was plastered to her body, making it easier for him to admire her full breasts today. As the bus turned around a corner, he swayed forward, his crotch brushing against her shoulder. He stiffened and tried to hold himself away, but when she didn't react, he looked down in surprise. She was fast asleep; her head had lolled down to the other side, her hands lay lax in her lap, loosely holding her ugly canvas bag. Her dupatta had slipped down and he could see the gentle curve of her breasts and her cleavage. She had a sexy body, this girl.

The bus turned around another corner, tires squealing in protest at the weight and speed they were being subjected to. This time when his body touched her, he didn't move away. Infact he moved closer and pressed his crotch harder against her shoulder. That felt good. For two months he had been looking at her, imagining how she'd feel against him and by the time she got down from the bus he would be in acute pain. It was a good thing he got down just two stops later and could rush home to find relief between his wife's legs. That fat, ugly bitch. She didn't know a thing about giving him pleasure. She just lay there inert while he grunted and shoved over her. He looked down at this girl's breasts and smiled again as his mind filled with erotic visions.


She woke up with a start when the lady next to her shook her. As she moved aside to let the woman pass, she noticed that the lady was pregnant. She looked up up to smile at her, instead she found herself looking into the beady eyes of the man who had offered her his seat. He had a wierd look in his eyes.When the pregnant lady had slid past her, the man gestured to her to move in. She slid down the seat so he could sit down. He slipped into the seat and relaxed back with his bag on his lap. He slipped one hand under his bag and spread his legs apart pressing them against hers.

Feeling a little uncomfortable she shrank further into the corner. Almost as if he took this as an invitation, he relaxed even more, spreading his legs further apart so his thighs continued to press against hers. When she asked him to move a little and give her some breathing space, he leered back at her with a smile, but didn't move much. Turning, she stared out of the window at the buildings, cow-sheds and fields that passed by.

A few minutes later, conscious of constant gaze she turned and looked at him. He was staring at her intently and that same wierd look was in his eyes. Thinking he must have been affected by the heat, she asked him if he was OK and if he would like some water. He just continued to stare. Feeling decidedly uncomfortable by now, she slipped her bag over her shoulder and got up, gesturing to him to be allowed space to move out. He didn't move, just stared back so she forced herself to move past him, conscious of his knees pressing against her thighs as she slipped out. Her kurta dragged over his legs and as she pulled it behind her quickly, she thought she felt something brush against her backside. She turned to look at him, only to turn away immediately because of the way he was staring at her.

As she walked down the length of the bus she shuddered mentally. She'd been taking this bus for two months now, and never had she come across such a wierd man. This was probably the kind of man her flatmates had warned her about when she had told them she'd be commuting to work everyday by bus. The bus screeched to a stop outside her apartment complex and she hurriedly climbed down. Crossing, she quickly made her way towards her apartment block. She couldn't wait to take that shower.

“Your thoughts aren’t written words”

“Your thoughts aren’t written words,” said my English teacher in college.

I was a science student then and English classes were a joke for us budding scientists and engineers. At least, that’s what we thought about the essay under discussion in our English textbook. Certainly we could write better than those hackneyed pen pushers could. But we indulged her because of her pretty looks, friendly demeanor, and the way she teased our brains, not to say our other senses.

The discussion was about why some people are so arrogant and think they can write better but do not put pen to paper. These people often viciously run down a written work, saying they “think” they can write better than any author can.

The teacher had earlier asked us to comment on a famous author’s essay that was in our textbook in college. She also asked what we thought about the author as a writer. We were all into Ayn Rand, Harold Robbins and even JD Salinger and thought we were literary geniuses. “Harold Robbins” was heady stuff with his characters’ sex and promiscuity, Ayn Rand stoked our ambitions to be world changers and JD Salinger, well, JD Salinger, we read because everybody said we should.

“I think I can write better than him any day,” said one hotshot blood rushing to his head.

“You “think” you can. But that is a thought. Your thoughts aren’t written words. Why don’t you sit down and write a better essay and show us?” Said the pretty Shanti Narasimhan.

That brings me to the point I want to make here.

When somebody writes something there would be hundreds, no millions, who “think” they can writer better than the writer, the hapless one who ventured into the wide world of written words. But that is just a “thought” and remains in the realm of fantasy, ideology, and dreams.

As an analogy if you can picture a beautiful painting in your mind can you draw and paint it too? Isn’t it that too simple to be true? Imagine it in the mind and, lo and behold, it is on canvas and you are a famous painter. If everybody could do that everybody would be Miachaelangelo and Rembrandt. Likewise if everybody could imagine that novel in their mind they would become great writers like Shakespeare and William Faulkner.

But the sad fact is that is not the way it is. Not everybody is Michaelangelo and William Faulkner and not every person who thinks he or she can write is a writer. Nor can they transfer their “thought” by way of motor nerves to the finger tips, coherently think and write it down and polish it enough to be read by the hawk-like eyes of the reading millions. Not everybody has the mind-to-hand co-ordination to write even a grocery list without mistakes.

No sir, if you can’t do that, then what you think remains in the realm of thought and not in the realm of “written words” and published articles. Accept it as writing’s bitter truth.

Now imagine what happens when an author works hard on his manuscript and his work is published and he gets some amount of grudging recognition.

“I “think” I can write better than him. I can write circles around him, any day.”

“I “think” he is a poor writer. I could have done better.”

“He absolutely can’t freaking write. I can “think” better than he can. I have better ideas. I would have written that piece, if I had the time.”

The learned community called reviewers just destroys hours of concentrated labor with remarks like “absolute tripe,” “not worth the money,” and “so and so should stop writing.”

All this is accompanied by a lot of jealousy, many snipings, daggers to the back of the author, and a lot of smirking. But remember the parenthetical word “think” in the above sentences. Your thoughts were just “thoughts” not “written words.” Because you didn’t sit down to create something out of nothing.

It is only when you sit down, make the fingers move, take that important step to organize your thinking, side-step the verbal pitfalls, the grammatical chasms, the lurking dangers of syntax — into which a less experienced writer can fall — is the time you learn that writing is difficult and you need a lot of experience to write well.

One thing a writer has to realize is the fact that all his or her work will be judged by people who are poor writers who mistakenly think they can write better. A writer has to blank out this potentially dangerous army of critics to progress in his or her career.

We are living in desperate times for writers. If you send your manuscripts to publishers or agents, remember, the people looking at it already think they can write and “think” better than you. So you have to be absolutely, undoubtedly, brilliant to impress them.

Even if the poor and harried writer makes some progress, is published by some publisher at last, there will be people who say, “He or she can’t write.” They said it about Tom Woolf, a writer I consider one of the best writers alive. They will say it about you, too, when you are published. Don’t let it deter you.

At that time remember to say to yourself, “People, your thoughts are just thought. They aren’t written words. I wrote it and that makes all the difference.”

04 May, 2005

Musical Moods

I walk through these
Musical moods, holding the notes
Of everyman's hopes

Slivers of sunshine
Divide my shadow
Into queuing quavers

Her leavened voice to my side
Slithers and slides
Through the heavy air

Naked is my core
A collection of sparks
Lit by glowing music motes

Inevitably, my heart strings
Are rooted in this land of
Enlightened enthusiasm



03 May, 2005

And now that I've left...

and now that i'm on the road...

i miss that which i left behind..

an applecore with seeds sticking out..

a crumpled tissue with some chaat masaala sticking to it...

a riled-up rickshaw wallah who didnt get the late night bakhra he was counting on...

a newpaper, carelessly strewn around the look-before-you-step balcony?

unflushed tea leaves in the kitchen sink?

the scuffed out nameboard on the old wooden door that announces that the landlord is [OUT] not [IN].

A straggly looking cat, who will mew in anticipation until it decides to adopt a new, more reliable human who will share a bit of milk and a bit of food with it, and not just unscrupuluously walk out one fine day..

The local Chinese-wallah.. Who will order his leftover scrawny chicken lollipops after everyone's eaten and gone, and he saves these, knowing that I'll trudge along at 1 AM and eat whatever he dishes out, and be grateful for it?

Maybe I do miss them. Yes, I do, actually.


(Copyright, May 2005 - Pranay Srinivasan)


I'm leaving

I'm leaving.
I'm leaving,
and, in a just-by-the-way sort of way, I'm wondering -
what is there to leave?

There wasn't much
to begin with

That chaabi-wale Sardarji
Pannalal, putaayi-wale,
Slim Neha, the tailor-ess
One-eyed Sudha, the sweeper-ess
Babu, the chai-wala
Shama, the Dhaba
Tokas, the drunk landlord,
Ramesh, landlord's flunkey -
what is there to leave,
but these

And the Gurudwara I always meant to enter,
to touch my forehead to the floor,
and wish the things I've wished for, before -
except that I always wished,
too far into the night,
when all gates were locked to my wishing.

And the vegetable-stall
(the lonely one, with damp sack-cloths for roof and walls and floor and table-cloth and basket-lining)
with its rows of exotic broccoli... woven baskets bearing purple lettuce and even, lemongrass
that I wanted to buy (but didn't know what to do with).

And the juice-wala who covers his tall mugs
with a carefully hygeinic silver foil, but
recycles the drinking straws,
but whom I patronized anyway,
because he said 'yes, ma'am?'
so politely.

What is there to leave, except :
Very white walls
and very grey floors
and very cold baths?

Or windows that wouldn't close all the way and virgins who wouldn't go all the way?

What's there to leave
except a leaking bathroom roof?
except a sink that wasn't?
and a black spot on marble, a greasy reminder of that first disastrous attempt to cook halwaa in a steel pot?

Except for the cobwebs
that I didn't like to touch,
because of the guilt of watching a spider, stamping
(all eight feet!)
in a futile rage, but already gathering up a broken strand,
furiously weaving up a home, again...

I'm leaving;
I don't have the heart to sweep away a home,
two times in a row

and except for a broken-built-broken web,
what, really, is there to leave

(C) Annie Zaidi, May 2005


After ages.. posting again


RAJESH: Husband
SUDHA: Other Woman
NATASHA: Their 6 year old daughter.

Setting: A drawing room; A television set before a 3 seater completely upholstered couch; 2 other armchairs; a table next to one armchair with a telephone; A chest of drawers with a mirror, preferably; 2 windows, 2 doors. Both windows open onto a balcony, one door leads to
the balcony, one leads into a passageway into the house.

(Stage Left) Anita enters, wearing executive clothes, carrying a large thick handbag, and a fat paperback omnibus under her arm, looking furious. tear stains are marked on her face, where her makeup has been disturbed, and she has dark circles under her eyes. Rajesh follows her
into the room, slamming the door shut, muttering something under his breath. Red welts, finger scratchmarks three parallel red lines run down the side of his face. His shirt is torn and his hair is dishevelled. He tosses his car keys onto the table and slumps into the armchair next to the telephone. Anita literally plonks herself on the
sofa and strews her belongings all over the place - cellphone, handbag, jacket, book.

A brief silence ensues...

RAJESH: I'm tired. And my head is hurting.
ANITA: (looks up with disgust) So?
(and she returns to watching TV... still motionless except for her thumb,clicking through the channels)

( A brief pause)

RAJESH: Where's Natasha? At your mother's?
ANITA: How does it matter? and Since when did you care about your "brother's child"?


RAJESH: (after a while) (sighs) So now you're not even talking to me?
ANITA: (clicks her tongue sarcastically).


Then at length,

ANITA: I have decided. I want a divorce.
RAJESH : (with a defeated look) Please no, I'm sorry. (He offers her his hand).

ANITA: (dismissed his gesture and slaps her hand away) Fuck off Rajesh. Just fuck off forever. When I see you, I am filled with loathing. I loathe your presence, your touch, I don't even want to be near you.

RAJESH: (sobbing uncontrollably) I beg you, Jaan, please don't leave...
ANITA: (interjects) Don't call me Jaan!!! (she snaps)

RAJESH sits silent.

ANITA: I am tired of your schoolboy locker room antics. I am going to ruin your life and take back what is mine. I want you out of my house tonight, and forever.

RAJESH: I beg you, I cannot live without you and Natasha. Don't leave, please! I beg you. I swear that was just a fling, nothing serious. I don't have any feelings for that woman. It was a momentary lapse; It will not repeat ever
again. I will be faithful.

ANITA: (with tears in her eyes) Isn't that what you told me last time? When you had a romp in the sack with that slut from the Secretarial College? And before that with the college chick, when Nats was 2 years old?? I can't trust you anymore. This is exactly why I had the house
transferred to my name.

Suddenly the phone rings, and Rajesh sits up with a start. He picks up the phone after 3-4 rings.

RAJESH: Hello.

RAJESH: Oh, it's you. What do you want?

ANITA: (in the background) It's that whore again, isn't it?

RAJESH: (color slowly draining from his face) Are you sure? How can that be?

RAJESH: Stop saying that. That is impossible. I can't do anything. I have my own problems aplenty.

ANITA: Whats going on? Who is that???

RAJESH: Stop going hysterical. There are solutions to this problem. What I'm saying is what I mean. Stop reading into the issue too much.

(Suddenly drops the phone and runs over to the chest of drawers. He opens the top drawer and begins scrabbling around for something. His shaking hand closes around a pistol, and he removes it with a wry smile on his face. He checks the chamber and the rounds in it. He then runs out of the door, after staring for a moment at Anita's spellbound face, who is unable to move.)

(Anita runs to the hanging phone, and screams "Hello, Hello???", but is answered by a engaged tone of the phone disconnected. She runs after Rajesh Stage Left).

Curtains close.

(Copyright, May 2005) Pranay Srinivasan

02 May, 2005

Report on Collective Script Writing Workshop

The fifteen aspiring script writers gathered early morning today at the
Pune University Main Building, and drove off via the Expressway to
Bebed-ohol, at one of my friend's farmhouse. Sonia, Pranay The
Srinvians, Partha and Smita Shetty managed to beat us Puneris by a
quarter hour or so.

Neeraj had ferried Deepak and Alaka from Camp, whilst a surprise entry
Yash Chavan, my mate from Pune Jazz Club [Sonia is another] had shown
up in a spanking new Hyundai Accent stuffed with Praneeta, Pesi et al.
Kaveeta had gathered the Aundh area caferati. Archana was dropped by
her father, she driving a four wheeler in place of the familiar two
wheeler. The dad surveyed us all as an entymologist would survey some
weird species of new insects. She shook him off with huge trouble, and
at one point I thought he might be on our tail till the venue.

After the ladies got busy in the kitchen unpacking what seemed like a
treasure tove of sandwiches, apples, bananas and other eatables in
quantities enough to feed the Bebed-ohol village pop. 1249 for a
year... we started the formal intros.

Deepak Morris was the hero, and the air was crackling with anticipation
when he started to speak. He possesses a deceivingly simple personality
and it amazes one to listen to him speak like a pro. A highly skilled
facilitator and a gifted playwright, as we discovered along the way
today. There was a written agenda, yet another painstaking effort from
the highly mentally organised Sonia Menezes, but we put our heads on
the block with Deepak holding the well-ground axe.

He took us out in the thick lawns and made us play games that must have
looked kiddish to the battery of curious onlookers from Amit
Engineering, only thirty metres away and also the increasingly
bewildered chowkidar and his brood nearby. One game, seemingly a
management-booster game concerned all of us running around holding
hands, very pleasant to do since at least seven of us were attractive
young ladies, and the rest need no description, and Deepak playing God,
would make a thunderous noise : FIVE. And breaking the hand holds, we
would break up into three groups as we were Fifteen. What brilliant

However, trouble reared its familiar and ugly head when he shouted
SEVEN. This resulted in two groups with one laggard gawking at us
moronishly. Deepak said sitting down counted zero and kneeling counted
half a person. Thus many more delicious arithmetical formulae emerged
whilst we went snaking around holding hands, causing unprecendented
merriment to the lurkers just beyond the earshot. It did encourage
lightening speed brainwork and trouble-evading if not trouble-shooting.

First session was introduction, once inside the farmhouse which was
basically a cool place but heated up soon. Stress was laid on writing
experience. Deepak then wanted to try out our hand at acting -which
made some of us rear up like wild horses, but he made us see his point
in no time.

Tea-break interevened and we drove back to Bebed-ohol proper, where
Poonam Hotel [restaurant would be a better handle] built like a small
canteen fed us fabulous tea. Some more socializing followed. Back to
the workshop, Deepak asked us to make four groups and come up with a
fairytale, with four characters playing out the whole thing, along with
improvised dialogue. Taking liberties with dialogue and a smattering of
modernity, first Sonia's foursome came up with a jazzy combo : taking
cues from Rapunzel and Jack and the Beanstalk. This act was good, with
inventive dialogue and mirthful interjections, but it forced icy
chilled water in our guts... we hear meaning yours truly, Alaka,
Praneeta and Neeraj. Because we had chosen Jack & The Beanstalk only.
However we managed to improvise well, Alaka was the beanstalk, frozen
in her upright pose with a broom in hand to double her height, Neeraj
as Jack fitted the bill well, I was a passable nearly mad giant, and
Praneeta a beligerant wife. Deepak's comments were that the first and
last part were loose, and at one point I had collided with Praneeta
before falling dead as she aimed a cellphone at me and said Chhooo!
Others passed muster too. As playwrights we must understand the
contigencies of acting, DM held the view strongly. The kind reader
should do well to note we were given a miserable duration of 10 mins
only to prepare the whole thing... highly unfair Deepak !

The next exercise was : we were to recall some incidence and describe
in great details. This was to find out how keen an observer the
aspiring script writer is... and with a weak observation the playwright
has the chance of a snowflake in hell, as far as survival is concerned.

Sonia spoke about her gettig stuck hopelessly in a traffic snarl and
having unintentionally touched the rear-end of a bike in front, with
the owner glaring at her in the typical Puneri style which can get
anyone's goat. It got her goat all right. When she managed to zoom past
his bike she heard him ask if she had no eyes, she gave a fitting
reply. Deepak analysed this story and commented on the observational
part. Rucha spoke about a bad hair day when everything went wrong with
a clockwork precision -when finally the dog jumped into her lap and
started licking her face. All the tension vanished magically... DM
seemed to like the episode and commented on the observation aspects.

I'll jump to myself now -since fifteen episodes would cause your
eyelids to turn leaden. I told them about a high voltage cable breaking
due to a huge fleet carrying truck having snapped it near my office. It
was interesting to see how the gas agency fellows got into a much
practice drill to loop up the broken cable and stash it away in a
series of loops behind the pole, but at the last moment it uncoiled and
hit the most enterprising fellow right in his face. Meanwhile someone
found the driver in his skyhigh cabin having some sort of an epileptic
fit. He was getting electrocuted. Another old
hand, touched the metal enclosure of the truck and not getting a fat
shock,climbed up, pulled the driver out with his collars, and dumped
into waiting hands of some five or six guys right below. When this
adventurous fellow saw that the huge cable was not live, immdtly he
started shivering because the other end has to be live -and he had
almost flirted with Death. He asked me for a smoke, which somebody else
provided, and he was shivering so bad he could not even light his fag.
DM complimented, and we moved on.

The next exercise, was the best. DM asked us to write an entire scene,
now that we knew about characters, hanging indents, and a little about
scripts. He asked all of us to think of a whole scene and write a
script, an actual script with stress on dialogue that does away with
narration. Many scripts were produced, perchance ten out of fifteen,
for there were a band of abandoning writers too.

As it is past midnight and yawns are making my eyes water, I will tell
you about my attempt -and request others to post theirs. Actually DM
analyzed all and said we needed strengthening some part or the they all will be posting their scripts here.



01 May, 2005

For the Ryzers

Until we get the board back on the rails, leave a message here, hm?