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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

23 February, 2006


For R.D.

what remains free:
stories you wove in the cold breeze
as we sped down congested roads, a patchwork
strung together by laughter, commas and silence.

what stands firm:
stone churches, white churches, chapels
and flowers wired to pews and altars, as broken thoughts flew
and formed wordless prayers for strength.

what remains trapped:
A face in candlelight,
A touch that broke through my dark dream,
tears that fell on the road i wished i'd picked up
but feared i had no right to,
unspoken words
that translated into refrains of songs,

and what do i do now?
sever etched pathways,
run through the desert, for the arrows
are beyond me, within me,
and wait for Orion
to open his portal and let loose
the angel of death?

For nothing remains...


22 February, 2006

Our bodies

Have you also noticed
we have different bodies here?
My legs lounge carelessly over yours
Uncaring of the angle and closeness of limbs
mine or yours.
They do not talk to seduce
Skin on skin is just drowsy and friendly.
Our stomachs protrude on beer and prawns
Unashamedly Rubenesque.
Sand-encrusted feet graze against each other
heads thrown back insolently, almost,
To a sun unused to our honesty.
My hands seem always in yours
Fingers tracing the almost-forgotten mounds of your palms.
Someone slowed the speed
and your kisses are nearly as long
as they were when we waited outside the door
at 4 am after stealthy dates,
a lifetime ago.
Our bodies do not fly or fight here
They gently rock unto themselves
Did you notice?
Our bodies are different here.

© Anita Vasudeva, Feb 2006


Midnight Colloquy

Long after the others have dined
you pad in on pussy feet.
Night’s your time, and your meat
the worried carcass of my mind.



18 February, 2006

Computerben - A True Story

The domain name expired, with it my website went missing from cyber world. I was desperate. I phoned the domain registration company. All this while I was basking in the mistaken assumption that my domain and hosting was already renewed having paid for it earlier.

“But that was hosting renewal, not domain renewal,” Ms. Computerben informed me.

“But I had bought it as a hosting and domain package.”

“No. You renewed the domain. Your site is already showing, “This page cannot be displayed.””

“That I know. Thanks for the kind information.”

Computerbenji didn’t get the sarcasm, as she measured out each word of well-practiced spiel and told me what to do.

“If you have a credit card, pay online. That would be fast and your domain won’t expire. I will keep your domain name on hold till then. But remember there’s only one day.”

But I have a credit card, and for a computer geek as me, making an online payment is child’s play, I think, I mean like adding two and two on an abacus. I maintain a deliberately cool attitude through all this, you know, one must never let the machine overtake one, least of all a computer.

“That would be easy. I have a credit card. I will pay immediately and I hope the site would be online soon.”


So I accessed the domain registering website to pay for my domain name. Their website is a bit muddled but I write such muddle and I can wade through them easily enough.

Me, write content? Who says? This one is straight out of scientific fiction. Total mess up.

I had to wade through many pages with flashy icons before I came to the payment page. There I click and enter my credit card number, the date of expiry, my name, and the code number. Yes, they need all the security they can get.

Then I click “submit.” Hurray job done! Time to celebrate, uncork the bubbly.

“But no, my friend,” computerben says, “more is still to come. Try this:”

Transaction Failed! I look at the screen agast.

Computerben has a habit of playing games. I go back. Do it all over again. No luck.

Transaction Failed!

By now my coolness has developed cracks the size of big lunar craters.

I phone my credit card company. I keep all numbers safely, I am a computer geek you see, so I know what can go wrong.

“See you fools, I have bought your card after much cajoling, and now I can’t use this lump of excreta. You better do something before I dump your card in the nearest stinking gutter.” I let them have it.

The voice at the other end seems oddly metallic. I am talking to computerben again. She doesn’t understand me.

Dial 1 for English Dial 2 for Hindi, - says computerben sweetly, with a false enthusiasm that irritates me. She says as if she is having, well, what else, an orgasmic high.

I dial 1.

Dial 1 for existing customers. Dial 2 for new customers. Dial 3 for our credit card contests says computerben. Did I hear right. Is it 1 or 2? Am I existing or am I new?

I take a chance and dial 1.

Dial 1 for gold card. Dial 2 for silver card.

I dial 1 again. I have a gold card.

Dial 1 for billing information, dial 2 for a loan on your credit card outstanding, dial 3 for grrrrr!

Exasperating, rude and genuinely maddening.

I almost convulse with indignation. Instead I use my string of chosen expletives. Even that doesn’t work.

And then:

Dial 9 for operator assistance!


What brilliance! Couldn’t they have put an operator there in the beginning and avoided wasting my precious minutes? Whatever happened to the human touch in business? No, this is the age of computerbens, they want to show that they are the superior species.

“I am computerben how can I assist you?” This model is the primitive human clone.

“I made attempts to pay using my credit card. Each time it failed. I want to know the reason.”

“But, sir, this is customer support not billing support,” says computerben sweetly.

“What’s the difference?” I ask belligerently.

A moment of silence.

“The difference? Well, we handle support and they handle billing.”

She is positively amused by my ignorance and I can imagine a perfect sneer in her voice.

But I fall flat for this seductive line and ask for the number of billing support.

By now I am thoroughly ruffled. The cool avoirdupois is gone. I dial billing support.

Dial 1 for existing customers. Dial 2 for new customers, computerben’s sweetness is unwavering.


Again I dial any random number. I am smarter, being wiser now. I want to circumvent the system. I keep dialing any number till I come to that part that says dial 9 for operator assistance. I know computerben’s ploy by now.

At last, computerben says, Dial 9 for operator assistance.

I dial 9.

Mesmerizing, lilting music assails me.

All operators are busy. Please hold on, she says.

Meanwhile, the credit card company plugs their loans, their SMS contests, the music concerts they are sponsoring and the hurricane and tsunami charities they are supporting. Then a human voice, a live computerben clone comes online.

Your card number?

I give my card number.

Your expiry date?

I give my card expiry date. I have all these written down in a small diary, which I keep with me at all times. After all, being wired and networked means you are working twenty-four hours of the day anywhere you are.

Your name?

I give my name.

Your address?

Now why would live computerben want that? Is she going to pay me a visit? If so, should I dress up in a tie and jacket for the grand seduction?

“So what’s the problem?” live computerben clone sounds as if she is tired of watching 24-hour music channels but her voice is still sweet.

“I charged my card twice on the internet and each time the transaction failed.”

“What message did you receive?”

“Transaction failed.”

“But, sir, I don’t see anything wrong with your card. Then how did the transaction fail?”

I grit my teeth. She is supposed to know that. How do they manage to pick the dumbest ones for the job?

“I thought I asked you the same question. Aren’t you supposed to know computerbenji?”

“Sorry, what? Did you ask me something?”

“Yes, I asked you why my transactions failed, you dumbo. What’s the answer?”

“Nothing is wrong with your account. Try using the card again. It looks perfectly okay to me. But I see you have Rupees fifteen-thousand outstanding in your account.”

“Yes,” I say and rue all the useless clothes and gadgets that are occupying precious space in my meager house.

Will she ask me to pay up, or else?

“We will give you a loan of Rupees fifteen-thousand that will pay off that outstanding amount. This loan will only attract a one per cent interest. Otherwise we would charge you three per cent.”

“Yes, yes, yes,” I am so grateful that I stammer very badly.

On hindsight, I realize, this was a ploy. If they pay me a loan to pay this outstanding, who will pay me to pay for future expenses? Computerben laid a trap and I very gullibly fell into it.

“You will get the loan this very day. See the benefits we give you at ABC Credit Card Company. You will pay only one per cent interest,” Computerben’s voice is exultant.

“Thank you,” I bow graciously.

Another sale made.

Some more music from the albums the credit card company is sponsoring, some more new loan schemes and SMS contests and Computerben disconnects.

I am totally disoriented and at a loss for words.

Why had I phoned them in the first place?

To pay for my domain registration.

Did I get that done?


But I bought something didn’t I?

A loan for Rupees fifteen-thousand at one per cent interest per month and more loans to come till I am completely bankrupt.

I phone my domain registration company.

“Did you pay for your domain registration?” The Ms. Computerben there asks me.

“No. I tried to make a credit card payment. But it failed twice. So what do I do? Will my domain name expire?”

“You can send us a cheque by mail. I will hold your domain name for two days. But no guarantee.”

But why did I go through the whole exercise when I could have paid by cheque? And the thought of having to pay a loan for my credit card outstanding still rankles me.

Never in the whole episode did I feel as if I was a human being interacting with another, not even once. Well, next time I have a payment to make I will trust good old cheque, and not computerben.

13 February, 2006

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival - writing contest results

SMS Poetry
The winners:
first place, Rohinton Daruwala
second, Devashish Makhija
third, Rinku Dutta.

Flash Fiction
The winners:
first place, Misha Singh
second, Annie Zaidi
joint third, Pawan Sony, Shiladitya Chakraborty & Anita Vasudeva.

Their poems and stories can be seen in today's TOI, page 4 (in the Bombay edition, that is; don't think it will be carried in other cities) or on the Kala Ghoda Gazette: SMS Poetry; Flash Fiction (FF). You can also see the shortlisted entries at here (SMS) and here (FF).


12 February, 2006

Caferati at Kala Ghoda

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival
Caferati is going to be hosting an evening at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival!

(: Too many updates to this page, so basically re-editing it :)

If you happen to be in Bombay on the 12th February, do join us at 5:30 p.m., at the David Sasson Library Garden, Kalaghoda. Entry is free, but seating may be limited. (Ryzers, you can let us know you're coming by signing up at this event page.)

A few of us are also organising a couple of contests as part of the Literature and Writing section of the festival.

See our SMS Poetry Contest and Flash Fiction contest pages for the rules, prizes, jury and submission details.

Watch this page or sign up at this newsgroup to get contest updates.

The complete Literature and Writing Festival schedule is up here.

Writing and Literature at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

(I'm post-dating this entry so that it stays on top of the page until the 12th.)


10 February, 2006

Knight on a Black Stallion

Were I tall, rich and handsome, I sure would have a lot of funny things to say to pretty women. Liek this:-

“I love you! Marry me!”
“Give me three reasons why.”
“I’ve a tragic history like your favourite fiction hero.”
“Like what?
“Well, I was bullied at school.”
“Give me a better reason!”
“I saved your honour.”
That party, when I had just the shade of nail-gloss you wanted?”
“I’m a knight. Ain’t I?”
“You don’t have an armour”
“I got insurance.”
“No gleaming sword.”
“I got a plasma-screen.”
“Where’s your black stallion?”
“I got a black limousine.”
“You’re crude.”
“I love you.”
“Go away!”
“Be honest! I am your knight.”
“Done. I’m going to ask your father, and we’re marrying next week. It’s not the same as a black horse, but we can still ride into the sunset in my car.”

Well, I'm not tall, rich or handsome. Dark (as in 'tall, dar and handsome') I am, but so is everyone in India. All I have are these words.

Mumbai, 1 February 2006

05 February, 2006


I wish to spread
like a pinch of vermilion
at the crescent
where your hair lords
over your forehead.


© Dan Husain
November, 2005


04 February, 2006


You did not tell me those were tear drops
that stained your eyes, you blamed dust
and told me it was normal. I believed
your lie and then joked about things
that made you laugh and forget,
for a moment, the terrible pain
you carried inside so silently.

I nearly guessed the truth once
but your explanations were clever
and so beautifully wrapped in evasions
that I failed to understand things
and did not probe deeper into the hardness
of your self-defence, and instead
remained comfortably gullible.

But if I only knew, would I have acted
differently or even changed the course
of events completely? Maybe or maybe not,
but who knows? Time makes conjectures
such an easy and convenient exercise
like the poetry we read and write to seek
explanations for the inexplicable in life.

But I do know that, if nothing else, the flowers
on this stone would have sung a different song
because you would be sleeping more peacefully.