Choice Machine

Choice Machine

We generally meet up for smokes, after coming back home for vacations. Our first meet would be on a local hill overseeing the city, among birds, cigarette butts and dogs. I would not get scared of them as I had Vishnu beside, though he is equally scared of dogs. We were just there for each other, in our own zones of fear.

On that day, the first day of our vacations, when Vishnu was done with his college and applying for his Masters in U.S.A, I had to meet him at the same hill. My dad had taken his Bike, and I had to walk. The walk on a sunday afternoon is actually pleasant as the city would be in its afternoon nap. The walk then becomes contemplative, fueled by the desire to smoke, as well as the excitement of meeting a friend who’s completed his education and got a lot of brokerage money back from his college.

Vishnu used to stay in an apartment with a damaged electrical unit counting meter. His flat had an A.C for each room. Since the meter was damaged, the unit count would never increase much for humungous usage of A.C’s. This attracted attention when Vishnu and his flat mates were vacating the flat. Students came running to him asking him to refer them to the owners so that they could live in the flat and rip the electricity board of its money. Vishnu said this “Whoever pays me the highest brokerage money would get the flat”. He got 7,000/- from a guy, and took the next train to Hyderabad to celebrate with us. The meet on the hill was the start of that celebration.

The walk, as I remember saying is mostly pleasant if not for a turn near a big garbage dump. A family of dogs live breed and raise its count, bearing ownership of the place, overthrowing any power coming close to the sewage. People were scared to properly throw garbage into the sewage dump. They would generally scatter garbage near the vicinity of the dump, which in turn increases the size of the dump significantly day by day, until the road becomes a small part of the dump.

I was to walk near the dump today. I could see dogs chilling after their evening lunches, some lying on their stomachs, the younger ones, with a lot of adrenaline, playing around, and most of them wandering and safeguarding the dump. On Sundays, the dogs have a royal lunch of chicken bones and uncooked muttons. Today was a Sunday, and the lot with higher adrenaline were waiting for mates of opposite sex to play around or to boss over meeker beings from other humbler species like cats, rats or humans.

I was a meek human and one healthy rough looking dog spotted me. I sometimes sing to overcome the fear. I started to sing when the dog started to bark and come near me, signaling mates and displaying its dominance onto an unarmed living being. If I had a gun, things would be different. But, all the events that unfold happen because I didn’t have something that I should have had at that point of time.

It started to increase its pace when it suddenly leaped onto me, when I tried to duck unsuccessfully, falling down on my back near sewage pipes kept near the dump, probably for the construction of underground sewage lines. The dog was just about to jump on me, when everything stopped moving around me. The dog was mid air, with its saliva dripping mid air, water puddles with tadpoles remained motionless, the “paan” spit out of the man’s mouth stopped mid air, and the lovely gazes shared by a couple in love from opposite balconies too stopped mid air. This was an incredible amount of detail getting registered when I wanted to see other interesting things that stopped mid air, on the other side of my vision.

I turned my head near the sewage pipes, when my neck gave a cracking sound and locked itself. I tried to move it, but in vain. My vision was now locked into the interiors of the pipe that went 20 feet long, which seemed warped and elongated at that point. When I was slowly getting lost to that eternal length, a contraption of gear wheels and monitors came out from the inner walls of the pipe. The contraptions set itself, displaying three monitors before me.

When my gaze when to the first monitor, it switched itself on and played the series of events that unfolded a minute ago in my life, me walking, the dog spotting, the dog leaping, me falling down, and the dog leaping on me. The monitor then displayed “check the next monitor”. I shifted my gaze to the next one, where the dog leaps on me, starts mauling me, when other dogs join him. I get my pants torn, my head in a puddle, as other dogs come closer to smell me, if I am cooked enough for their dinner, when all of a sudden, a stone hits a dog and the dog yelps and runs. Other stones reach other dogs eventually, making them run hither thither. As I search for the transmitting end of the stones, I see a beautiful girl in her 20’s, with a boy cut and driving a splendor. For the first time, a splendor actually looked splendid in the company of this girl. This girl then runs towards me, lifting me as she puts me on her splendor. She drives me to her place, as I smell her hair which had this beautiful fruity fragrance, and I speculated that she just had had her bath with a fruity smelling shampoo. That smell itself was like Dettol, slowly healing my wounds, when we reached her place. She dressed my wounds, took me back to my place, smiled and asked for my number to ask me if I was feeling fine later. After a few days, I take her out to the hill, overlooking the city, as she has this faint smile on her lips. The monitor said, “Check the last monitor”.

The next monitor had the same events unfolding unto the dog leaping on me, when a idea sat in my head slowly expanding its territory as it ultimately reached the conscious information processing part of my brain. The idea was not a statement. It was a question. A profound one indeed, that being, “If all this was a dream or was it really happening?” Of course, dreams could be coherent, but this was coherent beyond its scope. When this question was getting processed in brain-time, I got a real time idea to check if it’s a dream or not. Rajnikanth in “Baba” gets a couple of mantras, and to check if they work checks it on random things like making a kite land on his lap. For that, he puts his fingers in a certain posture, like a “Yo” and chants the mantra. What could a paralyzed man like me do? So I closed my eyes and opened it to see if everything was still there. All in the midst of the video playing. When I opened my eyes again, the video that was smoothly playing in 720p, changed to 144p and got stuck. What an idea! Everything started to crumble and move around me when my neck cracked again. I was able to move it, when I saw all the contraptions of monitors and wheels closing into normalcy, with the pipe becoming a normal sewage line from an apparent choice/free-will displaying machine.

The “paan” fell on to the ground, tad poles started moving, love gazes and information got exchanged, when the dog completed its leap on me. I took a stone and smashed its head. It ran hither thither making other dogs run too. I got up to see the whole family of dogs running, when I saw the girl driving the splendor come into the street. The street was slowly being filled with the fruity fragrance as she drove past me, not realizing the magnitude of events that would have unfolded if not for my survival instincts to live had acted upon. This was the dichotomy. A potential mate for pleasures with some bruises or bites, or with no one and a perfect body. All interesting things happen to the man who takes up the wrong choices at the wrong times. Literature, Cinema, and poems come out of repentance of not taking up the right choices. I was a walking literature material. Shakespeare too wrote on tragedy, and tragedy is born out of wrong choices.

I met my friend, had a couple of cigarettes. We decided to go to a local bar, with extremely friendly waiters, and have a couple of beers before waiting to meet our working friend. I never told them about what happened to me on that afternoon. Nowadays, whenever I walk by huge pipes kept near roads, I look into to them hoping for some contraption to come out. Lizards and rats come out with their kids for their lunch. I walk away.

Library and Caffeine

Library and CaffineSherlock Holmes walked into the library. He had heard it was a nice place to hangout. A friend of his recently told him that it was a place for intellectuals. Sherlock knew he had to go.

‘Finally a place, when there is no case’. He thought. ‘Poem I should try’

The place was really nice. It was more than a library. He adjusted the collar and tilted the hat to cover his entire eyes and most of his face. He walked in wanting not to get recognized. If someone had recognize him that moment, then it should have been without seeing the face and just with the silhouette. Had that happened, Sherlock would have got a quarter of his regular dosage of pride. But sometimes people are not good at spotting other people.

He memorized the path he had to take, to get to the section with the nice table. He could see it from the entrance. It was visible, yet far from the entrance. There was a woman, whom he will not mention to Watson. He purposely did not read what section it was. It had beautiful cushion on the sofa-like chairs by the table and the woman on one of the chairs. He walked blind with the tilted hat. He was well aware of the memorized path.

The section had books on feminism. The woman had no need to read. She can write a book again on feminism. Actually she could do that (again) for any -ism. She was intellectual, beautiful, and uptight when she sat. Had so much degrees of education, which she always chose not to use or write behind her name anywhere. Everyone knew she hated to introduce people about the education she had had, and the prestigious institutions she obtained them from. And no one ever wondered how they knew every detail about the education she had had, and the prestigious institutions she obtained them from. She always introduced herself as a woman and nothing more, yet people always knew who and what she was. That was how it was in India.

The blind, well-informed and aware Sherlock, switched off his blindness by removing his hat. He sat opposite to the feminist. She was actually a lot of -ists.

“This is a nice chair. Fabric from Mumbai, and through Chennai and then to London, I deduce from the-” He was interrupted in the middle of his ice breaker.

And she did it with the with the words “You deduce it from…” and she completed his deduction in her voice. Holmes was shook, but serene outside. He instantly knew who she was, he had not caught a proper sight until then. He had not looked at her for effect. And when he did, he knew. She was the woman from the TV talk shows. She made men commit guilt-suicides, and women do push-ups crying.

‘What is she doing in this town? I am sure no one other than me streams Indian television. No one knows her here.’
Sherlock can act like he deduced everything, when he feeds her some of her own portfolio. Actually he could deduce, just by a look at her. And he chose to actually deduce. Only then he realized he did not need the knowledge first place. He broke down to the tiniest details just by a ten second observation.

And he finished his deductions “so that is you. And no I am not interested in the coffee you are going to offer.” And it seemed like he picked a random book from the rack behind. It was out-of-place. The positioning was a mistake by a reckless user. Sherlock chose not to think bad about the stranger. Because it read ‘The science of deduction’. That is why he chose the place. Not the girl, not the chair. He had not read the section’s name, but noticed the book on the shelf.

He had told everything about her. Not by the knowledge but by deduction alone. She should react the way everyone had done when they are deduce-profiled. And she did react, but a bit different.

“Wow! That is so cool. Do you know me? Are you a fan of my blog?” the big O in her happy mouth fixated. She was proud someone recognized her. And the someone was tall and looked strong and smart. She was happy. The someone was not even Indian. She was delighted. She did not know him. She was in pink clouds of heaven.

‘She does not know me’ he thought. He placed the book in front of her and told that he was the author, Sherlock Holmes. She had not given much notice to the book, or his words, or his name. Anyway she did not know Sherlock Holmes. She was not from London. He deduced her ignorance, and chose to explain.

“I deduced all those things I told about you from…” He continued. Talking about the shoes, the direction she faced, the mobile phone she held, the mark in her nose, the way her lips are, the tissue she reused, the section she sat, her confidence, the stare, the voice, the eyes. Everything contributed in deducing things about her. He had even praised her a little on the course of his explanation. His mind changed, he would take the coffee she is going to offer when he finished with the Science of deduction on her. She was beautiful, and a person like Sherlock can see more than what other people could see. Yet she remained beautiful.

It was a performance he realized. Which was usually more than enough for a human being to offer coffee. Science, statistics and history suggested the same. Also he was in his best shirt that day. Long time since he had coffee with an intellectual like her. He smiled at her when he finished, her face changed from sweetness and surprise to…

“Judgmental bastard” she said. “Stupid snap judgments on women you don’t even know about.”


The great Sherlock had missed to notice the cup of cappuccino on the floor. He noticed the coffee only when it hit his face.

He wiped his face, did not look around and continued reading his own book. She had walked out. He drank the little coffee that was left in the cup. He began reading his own book. It was not snap judgment but deduction, and not a bit was wrong as he had his own memory of the newspaper articles and interviews he had seen, to compare it with. But she choose to give him some cappuccino and disgrace him for the alleged judgment. The worst curse word of the century. And if one reads a chapter, after wiping his face off thick frothy coffee, before getting up to leave, it is not seen as disgrace.

A chapter he read before he vanished from the library.

No one in London knew how he felt that day, or if it was one of the reasons he chose to make the fall, because this was just an urban legend. They just knew for sure that Sherlock stopped deducing random, intellectual, female strangers, since the visit to a library.

As it Happened


What’s happening in Sara’s place? I saw flashes of light this morning. Ambulance arrived.

This is something out of my control. I think it is him. He is the one for me. He is the one I was waiting for a long time exclaimed nineteen year old Sara. Yes, you are right! It is Sara that tall, bubbly, dusky … Siddhartha’s ‘Ex girl friend’. “We were strangers until my friend introduced him to me. I experienced that opposites attract is true when I met Siddhartha. We were hi and bye friends before we officially talked for a reason. ” recollects Sara.

Sara: So are you interested in playing this role in my play?

Siddhartha: Yes. Actually I like the script. It’s nice dude. Did you write it?

Sara: (he wasn’t listening to it I know that) Yes it’s mine.

Siddhartha: I need clarification in the climax. Can you please repeat it?

Sara: yeah! See the plot is like you want to go to…

(Siddhartha was just watching her playing with the pen, expressing the story in the best way through her eyes. He saw her passion for theatre. He liked her for the drama queen she had been.)

So you become what you wanted to be. Lights fade… lights off.

Siddhartha: Now I get it. When do we start practice?

Sara: Probably Monday! Okay I got to go.

Siddhartha, he is my first crush. I told you we were opposites. His favourite colour was black, mine was white. He loves and has a dog, I hate dogs. He was an automobile freak. I know nothing about them. He hates Chennai especially its traffic. I love Chennai no matter what people say about it. He doesn’t like the institution we study and as usual we were opposites. I loved the place, the people, the weather, the monsoon rains, the greenery, my department; it’s weird when I recollect saying of course I liked a few subjects. He on the opposite had no friends, made no friends, hardly talked to people and wasted a semester in FIFA, DOTA and GTA. That’s a brief introduction about us.

“Next monday we have internals let’s start at least this Wednesday” I told him over the phone. He said yes but never did. “Sara! It’s me. Hey I want your notes to study for tomorrow’s exam” pleaded a voice over the phone. I had never helped anyone in this situation instead I made them cry for not asking me in advance. But this guy is someone I could never say no to.

I liked him. He even did. I woke him up every morning after a battle of seven- five minutes he asks for before he gets up from bed. Between I get dressed up, skip my breakfast to meet him for a morning coffee and then we went to class. I sit in the third row second column and he at the fifth row third column. I started falling for him. I often made eye contact with him, took all his practical works, records, assignments and made him free so that he talked to me a little longer after college hours. I always put an extra effort towards everything. In particular, studies. “Love always takes you in the path of success and if it doesn’t it’s not love”. I read this quote in Facebook. I wanted to prove that it’s love. So I did.

We now started understanding each other well. I convinced myself to like dogs. I wear black frequently now. I also search about the release of new cars in Google. I have transformed myself to a person whom I never wanted to be. He on the other hand stayed the same. Again we were opposites. I gathered courage and confidence to propose him before he left for his 20th birthday to his hometown. He said yes the next week. Now ours has become an unusual love story with usual stuff in between. The usual long night talks, text messages under the table, frequent lunch dates at canteen, gifts, surprises and fights. But, something in me said it is not going to last long.

I was no longer able to resist being that person he made me. To be precise, I made myself for him. I started realising; apparently thinking that I have changed so much for him. On the other hand he has done nothing for me and this induced that spark of battle in our love. I often quoted this and made every petty issue big. “I never asked you to love me, or change yourself for me. Honestly I don’t love you because you are not the person I loved. It was just a mask” he shouted. He started avoiding me. I tried calling him to meet but, ended up leaving voice messages. My status said “Love stories are written to be felt, not to be read”. His status replied “I hate love stories”. When mine was “What’s more painful than being hurt by the one who loved you the most?” His read “no pain no gain!” Was this intentional? I didn’t know. I always had a smile when I thought of him. This time we are not opposites. He felt the same. His ego stopped him from talking to me. My self-respect asked me not to. And, Time separated us.

‘I saw him with his family recently in the alumni meet and I was talking to his wife. She was beautiful. She has exactly the same ideologies, wishes, aspirations as that of him. She must have been the one for him. They are so perfect together. And now I realise “opposites just attract but only like dissolves in like.” After a hard day of struggle I gained the courage to talk with him. I saw him with his friends. He was coming to me. I smiled. He smiled. Not every smile leads to a happy ending. We shook hands, said bye! And again we became strangers but this time with memories’. She cried.

Yesterday I saw him offering condolences to her family, placing her favourite white gown over her tomb, crying at her funeral. I suddenly noticed that it is the same white gown she is wearing now and my Ouija board burned to ashes.

A Coffee Meeting


“Wake up, Charvi!”, mother called out. 6.30 A.M. Mom’s voice as wakeup call was so much solace rather than the alarm tone that would ring on working mornings at my apartment. It was supposed to be a happy weekend for me at home. I was one another from the corporate world that loved the job she does but awaits weekends to get a break from assignments and projects.

But that was not going to be just another weekend!

There is another very special reason why I awaited this day. I smiled at the sun that was being generous by not throwing strong rays on my face. I wanted to look beautiful today. I did not want to do anything. I was just waiting to hear his voice. Yes! Aayush had said we shall talk today.

It had been a really long time since I caught the light from his beaming eyes, laughed at his simple jokes, held his warm hands and had a walk out on the beach side.

I met him during my third year at college, not even knowing he existed before. We both seemed to be the ‘keep it simple’ kind of people. Extroverts, both. Always analysing life. No wonder we liked each other, that later grew to be a relationship.

I was elated when we both got placed in the same company during campus recruitments. Ended up being offered projects at the same place. My joy knew no bounds! I totally loved having him beside at office. He liked it too. But in due course, I was able to sense that he smiled only because I wanted him to. It shouldn’t go this way for long, I decided.

This was our conversation:

“What is that you are not telling me, Aayush! What is bothering you?”

“This is not what I am Charu, I don’t find any meaning by typing codes all day. It feels like I am living with machines, killing literature. I just want to go away. Find my life!”

That was when I could feel my temples throb. It was hard for me to swallow. But what I cared more for was his life. I wanted him to love whatever he does, like me.

After passing educational and physical fitness exams with really good results, Aayush joined the Army. I have never seen him so full of life since we took our software projects. And now he comes home only during annual vacations.

We all might feel a little insecure about his career. But Aayush felt, to him, this is perfect.

I was waiting at the table for his arrival with a steaming hot coffee by my side. I wanted to etch every moment with him in my mind since our meetings were reduced to countable times a year.

There he was, finally, with that light in his eyes, sturdy build, reassuring smile.

“Hi Charu! Wassup? Looks like you a long conversation with the moon?”

“Yes. Was catching some of its radiance when you weren’t around!”

Our conversations were always unusually interesting.

I felt like he was all that was real, unmindful of what was happening around me. I could feel myself becoming more alive as the conversation built on. It brought me so much happiness to look right at him, sitting opposite to me. We spoke for 2 hours, time didn’t seem to exist.

Soon it was time for him to go. “Bye Charu, Don’t bore the moon and miss me too much.”, “Haha! You take care, fighter”. I wanted to see him until he left the room, the way he would turn to go; his bold, quick walk. But those little hopes were dead as soon as I saw “Call Disconnected” on the Skype window!

Little Drops

Life. Soul. Feeling alive. Love. Movement. These are all emotions within themselves. For someone to feel these emotions for the first time… only imagination can help us wonder the reception of such experiences. There are some feelings which languages can never express. Birth is such. Love is such and death is such. I hadn’t known these as well nor did I ever have the need to. For, how could I when I was nothing but a fluidic embodiment secreted by biological reactions. But something unexpected happened and I rolled out of my flesh jail where I was imprisoned all these years. I felt a pressure that squeezed me through a tiny pore and before I could realise it, I was dangling at the corner of my sac, with a wavering vibe running through me.

The air around was ecstatic, filled with roars and screams. Fireworks had been set off and drums rolled boisterously. Rio de Janeiro stood right in front, throwing its charm all over as I lay there motionless, struck by the enormity of that enchanting beauty. My translucent skin glistened when the focus lights hit me with their new found allurement. It made me flicker and the crowd roared displaying their emotions. The stands were filled with people dressed in all colours imaginable and long poles outlined the entire field. Flags of various countries waved with pride atop these poles but amongst them one particular flag caught my eye. It flew higher than the rest with five rings- three on top and two at the bottom, intertwined with a sense of fraternity and respect for each other and embedded in plain white background. I overflowed with joy which grew enticed by the eyes that focused onto me. I wasn’t sure why nor could my knowledge locate the reason. But my heart had started melting which made a broad smile bloom across my face. Emotions ran unbound and the need to find reason if it had ever crossed my mind earlier, had been long forgotten.

As the wonder of visual enigma combined with glory and pride caused by nothingness started filling me, I sensed something. A sound reverberated through me… a loud and heavy heartbeat with sound of repeated deep breathing. As I turned about, I saw my creator. He was tall and well built, drenched in sweat and I was seeping from the corner of his eye. That is when truth hit me and I realised that I hadn’t been the creation of god but a mere providence of physiological mechanism and human feelings. I was a secretion, the emotional symbolisation of his historic victory. This realisation led to a fall which was very steep from glory to a common congruence accorded with his emotions. My heart started to regret deeply for I had relished a moment that wasn’t mine. But the shame was short lived and I soon recovered, transforming into a content little soul.

He looked around and hanging at the corner of his eye, I watched a world that swept into me taking the form of a sea of emotions. His breathing became predictive but his heart raced at a pace faster than he just had a few moments back. Air whooshed past me as he fell on his knees, the gravity of his achievement unbearable even by his fiery strength. That sudden gush of air made me surpass the comfort of his eyelid and I was hanging on an eyelash, clinging hard to it for if I let go it was imminent death for me. I would splatter into a hundred thousand droplets and get absorbed by the coarse red soil of the running route.

I moved steadily to the eyeward end of his lash and swept down his face. Just then, the sky roared. We both looked up and saw a lightning streak creating beautiful art in the dark sky. The air had turned moist and winds blew past me. He kept looking up with raised hands with his face tilted, sloping parallel to the sky and I enjoyed the view from atop him. Little raindrops started falling and a few people started dancing in the stands, a few smiled looking at the sky and the others kept the roaring on. I slid a little forward, nearer to his nose to get a clear view of the stands and for the first time, he felt my presence. He wiped his cheeks and I climbed on the index finger of his hand that now faced the raining sky.

Little raindrops fell all around me, bursting with enjoyment. For, though they would fall to burst and evade life, their short life was filled with the happiness from that wondrous fall. I kept looking up as I locked my eyes on her. She was tranquility… serene, pure and beautiful. Ah, Heavenly…. That was the one word to define her. True, after all she was heaven’s manifestation. She looked at me and smiled but then ecstasy took over as she fell on me. We rolled into one… fluttering, as we mixed and fell. She blushed and I bubbled with the joy of new love, enticed by each other’s beauty. I was salty and understood pristineness with her touch.

She looked below and insinuated that both our lives and love were about to end. The ground beneath was to destroy everything that was gruelled with such huge efforts. Frightened, I looked at her to see her smile. We hugged and fell as one on the ground in front of his knees and soon the earth took us into her.

Emotions… they sculpted the very few moments of my life. I was the physical reaction to a man’s victory. I had boiled with pride, bathed in glory, ransacked in guilt, understood happiness, fell in love and attained eternity. As I look back, I am not greedy of a few more moments to live. No. I feel fulfillment.

Now, as I look below on the vast green fields which I soar over, I feel alive again. I turn to see her right next to me. The sky turns into a deep blue hue and the air is filled with the noise of roaring winds. As we start to fall, she holds my hand tight and we both start roaring, gleaming and bursting with joy. We have been born again in another place and at another time. Life would end soon but these feelings from our past present and future will stay unruptured by time.

Engineering Accidents

Plane wingThe plane was going down. The angle made a few passengers to strap themselves in. It was not because the flight was landing, destinaiton was hours away. It was not because the pilot was almost dead, there was something wrong with the flight which made it go down and also made the pilot hit his head hard, when he was holding both hands to his chest in pain. The co-pilot was flying it alone, he did not hesitate to check a guide in the open as the pilot won’t see it now. The pilot was unconscious. The co-pilot did not know what was wrong, but he knew what could be. He knew that it could be solved if a person with good knowledge on aeronautics and flight, got ten minutes in the room below his feet. The room with wires and switches.

The problem, and the way to fix it was told to the air-hostess. Sandhya was the cutest air-hostess on earth. Her mother said it, she almost believed it. That was the reason she walked with so much confidence. Dusky, not so short, the perfect lip gloss from her sister, and she liked her uniform. Confidence radiated, so people whom she spoke to replied with clarity even in the crisis. They knew death was waiting but they spoke well.

People were asked questions. The pilot could be treated, but could not be made fit enough to take up the stick again. She found two doctors from the passengers’ list, and they went to work on the pilot. The doctors did not hesitate, ‘let him at least die treated, die healthy’ they thought in sync. So they worked hard, sweat more in work than in fear. Extreme risky measures were taken in the heart operation, and the pilot could now talk in vowels and he was also accepting the fate. The pilot even joked about the situation which the spectators found incomprehensible and very funny. They laughed their hearts out.

The air-hostess also found a pilot trainee. He was taken to the cockpit. He reminded the co-pilot of his wife, when the trainee picked his nose. They worked hard in the cockpit, the trainee was intelligent and calm. There was no interview when he walked in. He sat in the co-pilot’s seat and the co-pilot in the pilot’s. The pilot had requested his headphones to talk with the co-pilot. So the acting pilot also heard the joke, he understood it and laughed artificially. He was also getting there, the region of acceptance. Sandhya had no time to visit the cockpit. He did not need confidence, he had something much better.

Yesterday, his wife had called him intelligent. His daughter wanted to make wax dolls, she was heating paraffin over pan. It got to flames, they poured water, turned off the stove. Nothing stopped the flame. The co-pilot put a lid over it and explained, all that need to be done was to cut oxygen. There he was called intelligent. Morning the wife kissed him bye, and called him a clever husband.

That thought flooded in, he heard his wife’s voice ‘intelligent’ ‘clever’. Too much happiness to handle, the muscles could not help but curve the lips to a permanent smile. That was enough for him to think clear. Also he had the trainee who reminded him of his sweet wife. He did not need Sandhya to walk past or talk confident, like the passengers had needed. He and the trainee found a way to delay the death. The flight was now straight. But there was leaking fuel and no communication. Not a good situation, but death was as far as it was sure. Two hours was good time bought for an almost nose down flight.
Two hours to death. Everyone knew.

It was clearly party time. A couple kissed in front of everyone. They did not even hold hands in the flight till then. A stand-up comedian, whom Sandhya and an old man recognized was requested to perform and he did. A bartender from the list, and all the alcohol and juice from the pantry and the cargo, it became a legit party. The smuggler did not take out the cocaine out of his tummy, he felt that god won’t accept him into heaven if he helped in intoxication, a sin, before death. But Sandhya called him, he was astonished how an air-hostess found what the army of security at the airport missed. He forgot he was a psychology student. He was asked to talk with the children. He accepted to do it, god is going to love him. Doors to heaven inside the man’s head opened wide open when the kids were made to stand around him with ice cream cones in hand.

Every professional, or pursuer of profession had work. They were the best on earth for the couple of hours.
He was watching it all. He was an Aeronautical engineer, the kind which deals with flights and rooms inside flights with wires and switches. He felt guilty for not volunteering to help. Half hour since the technical failure. He had not spoken a word. He had the only unhappy, painful heart in the flight. He overheard the co-pilot talk with the pilot trainee after the flight was put to autopilot and they joined the party. All that needed to be done was to have an appropriate engineer in the room for ten minutes. After that the flight can be made to land in the nearest airport.
His guilt, engineering college ID card and doubt was killing him. The former two teamed up and so he called Sandhya. He was about to accept that he was an engineering final year student. He was ready to take up the responsibility, to try fix the plane. She walked to him, smiling. To the student it looked like she knew what he was about to declare.

“Yes, I know. We have an hour now. I do not want to risk making it short giving you the room.” she said. So she really knew.

It hurt, but did not hurt his ego. He had company of millions. Students who don’t exactly know what they study. His feelings showed on his face. Now Sandhya was hurt.

“Are you single? Men’s college right?” she looked at the ID card which he had waved to call her.
He had replied positive, and also added he had always been.

“I love you. I mean it. You did not fight, but accepted the ignorance, and let people live. I am your girlfriend. If we survive, I will marry you in two years.” She patted him and walked away to the children. There were no parachutes, they were all damaged at the beginning of the problem. Also he cannot just try fix two for a marriage.

It was enough, dying with his love. Which was the initial concern when the problem was announced, dying single. She had been loving and caring. The beautiful glances she gave was enough to prove it. He also began to smile. He plugged in earphones and created a romantic playlist and listened to it. The first playlist on his mobile. He was happy.

Only regret, he was an engineering student. He could have helped in some way had he studied something else, or just gave up the idea of education in an institution after school.

When it was one hour fifty minutes since the announcement, Sandhya sat beside him and held his hands for twenty days. The first eleven minutes of the twenty days they were alive.


  1. It is not easy to become a doctor. Requires too much marks in schools and lot of money. So the number is less and most of them are good.
  2. Most other professions do not need the kind of dexterity and precision.
  3. An engineer needs the above and more, but there are too many engineers to trust one (many do not trust themselves), especially a student. Not all engineering students become engineers. Actually very less do. Most work in IT, sales, marketing, media and arts.
  4. Everyone knows this but few realize it at the right time.
  5. Take right choices and prevent accidents.

Beyond Borders


With moist and dismayed eyes, a foreign worker, in clothes mildly smeared with grease and paint, stood first in the queue, pusillanimously lost in thought. He looked like a Bangladeshi, Anu thought.

Just behind the Bangladeshi, a middle aged rotund Chinese man was leaning on the side rails with two large red plastic shopping bags placed near his feet. Oblivious to the surrounding, he was busy over the phone, thanking and laughing courteously, “Hái méiyǒu, xièxiè.”

Crawling on one of the bags was a large fly that caught the keen attention of ten years old Kani. He couldn’t take his eyes off.

The moment Anu saw her son’s eyes sparkling brighter, she knew the reason. As always she was fascinated by his interest displayed even before he had turned one. From as early as seven months old he used to look for ants and insects in the corners of the marble floor and follow them crawling on four. And flying insects thrilled him all the more. Long before he pronounced the word, “Amma,” to call her, he had learnt to say in Tamil ‘Poochchi’ (insect), which made history, becoming the first word he learnt to speak.

Eager to continue where they had left their conversation just before leaving home, Anu asked her husband, “And what did that pinoy colleague of yours exactly say to anger you that much? You didn’t tell me the details.”

Excited, wide eyed Somu said, “He had the cheek to say right on my face that without them our country will cease to function. Can you believe, Anu?”

Although the haze due to the conflagration in the Sumatran forests, seemed to have reduced to healthy levels, in about six or seven out of the ten faces that belonged to the migrants, there were several with N9 masks.

“Without the Filipinos?”

“Foreign workers in general, I suppose. I just couldn’t stand his temerity, you know. I was intensely searing inside.” She just nodded looking at his face.

His chubby face was becoming more and more rounded with the receding hairline, she thought. The black curls highlighted his already fair complexion.

As if muttering to herself Anu said, “Humans seem to push the days of the week just for the weekend, to actually live.” The queues were long.

The air at the bus interchange was filled with an erratic mixture of children shrieking, loud laughter of young people in groups, buses manoeuvring and halting, bus doors opening and closing.

Mandarin, Tamil, Malay, Tagalog, Hokkien and Bangla heard here and there were though certainly not mellifluous, but an intriguing babel. The aroma of the satay from the nearby hawker wafted along with the breeze.

The breeze bore the message of the approaching showers. The heavily gathering clouds not just dimmed the sunlight but had suddenly increased the humidity.

Being one of the first few in the line for the route number 960, getting seats of their choice was too difficult.

The Bangladeshi worker had gone straight all the way to the back and took the left window seat of the long row of last seats.

Kani slowly walked ahead keeping his sight on the fly.

“He went on saying things like they are a cheerful and contended bunch even with lower wages.”

“Lower?” Anu asked.

“Ya lah. Somewhat lower than us locals.”

“True,” she agreed.

The stout Chinese man placed the bags purposely on the adjacent seat so that the foreign workers boarding behind wouldn’t occupy it.

Watching the fly, Kani stood there blocking the way for the other passengers. Spontaneously pulling him along, “Only a common house fly, just a little bigger,” Somu hushed. They moved to the rear. Kani’s focus remained on the fly.

As the bus exited at the woodlands interchange, Somu continued, “You know, I couldn’t help telling him, why you don’t go back since you are paid low here. But left the place abruptly without saying more when he went on to say I must learn to be happy.”


“Obviously, he meant us Singaporeans,” Somu said lowering his voice.

Near the exit, seated at the centre of the bus the three domestic workers dressed in their week end best, dolled up in all accessories, started watching videos happily, ready to thoroughly enjoy their off day. One of them answered a call, “One ang paraan, sanay maging late,” assuring their punctuality to the friends on the other side.

Seated right behind his parents, next to the Bangladeshi worker, Kani kept getting up restlessly from his seat to take a look at the fly.

When a zaftig middle aged Malay woman boarded at the Marsiling station, one of the foreign worker seated behind the driver spontaneously got up to give her the seat. The lady hesitated for a second and was about to lumber to the rear when the other guy at the window seat followed suit. Happily, she sat on the aisle seat and started looking out the window.

Looking around within the bus, Anu said, “Its fine. Not like you had feared. I can even see a few empty seats.”

“You don’t know darling. This bus really gets crowded on Sundays. We could have gone shopping next week after our car is back from servicing,” he sulked.

“Oh come on, Somu. Look at him! He seems to be enjoying the ride.”

“If not for the parking woes in Little India area, I wouldn’t choose to travel in this bus, especially during the week end,” he said for the third time.

When the fly flew to the rear, it landed on the tab the domestic worker was holding. She jumped and shooed it off with a giggle. Her two friends joined in the amusement.

Kani got excited and shrieked, “Pa, look he is flying this way!” Suddenly feeling shy for having expressed loudly, sat on his seat quietly observing.

The insect had comfortably settled on the glass window near the exit. Once in while glancing at the fly, Kani sat calmly. He shared his discovery, “Musca domestica,” tugging at his mother’s shoulder. He pointed to the fly when Anu, from the front seat, turned to smile at him.

After the first few stops, at the Kranji station, foreign workers were boarding in bunches.

Somu gave her a, “I told you,” kind of a look.

“Kani needs to see some real world at least once in a while,” Anu smiled gathering the locks of hair and tugging them behind her ears with her right hand.

There was an empty seat after the exit. A tall and slender looking Chinese woman who had boarded looked around, waved her hand with a pointed finger, “Go and sit there lah.” The foreign worker who looked like a Tamil guy, got up like an obedient student and moved to the back. With a serious expression, “Thank you,” she said curtly.

“What do you mean Anu? Don’t tell me that only crowded bus rides are real life,” Somu chided with a laugh.

“Not exactly, but in a way yes,” Anu beamed.

Many were startled when the Malay woman, in her attempt to alight at the Bukit Panjang CC advanced to the rear saying, “Cannot tahaan this anymore. Why are these people so smelly?” Right after getting off the bus, she threw an acrimonious expression at the bus from where she stood.

“Ma, why is that old aunty rankling for no apparent reason?”

“Hush, are you bored? Want my mobile?”

“No,” he said and went back to watch the big fly.

As the bus entered the BKE, most of them were getting busy texting. Most of them had dozed off in their seats. The bus suddenly quietened.

The two tall housing board block of flats followed by a few private condominiums beyond the greens, on the right disappeared within minutes.

The long terrain ride with the lush natural habitat on either sides of the expressway, as always brought a serene feeling within, Anu delved.

“Oh my God! I took the wrong set of shopping bags! I never bought these live crab,” the Chinese man suddenly jolted. He held the tied bag with a large creepy crab within.

He stood up to go near the driver. “You have to get off at the Tanglin CC and cross the road via the overhead bridge and board a bus back to Bukit Panjang,” as he said calmly, the driver smartly kept his eyes on the road.

Kani was eager have a look at the crab from near but Somu said, “No need to go all the way there. We are speeding in the expressway Kani. It’s enough to look from here. I thought you were scared of crabs,” he chuckled.

“Of course, I wouldn’t dare touch it. Just want a closer look,” he said but sat back in his seat.

The Bangladeshi worker was sincerely trying hard to look away from the young Anglo Chinese couple in secret and mild canoodle at the right end of the long back seat. He had been talking seriously to someone for more than ten minutes. Sensing the network was bound to go erratic in the PIE, he winded up his conversation smartly, “Jaani. Achchaa, thaarpor kotha bolbo, han?”

The road widening works near the exit to Eng Neo Avenue and Adams Road suddenly reminded of the city life.

“You look ravishing in this sari,” Somu whispered in her ear.

“And you say that the umpteenth time, Somu. I still can’t forget the day you stood at the shop dead against me choosing this,” Reminiscing, they both laughed to look behind at Kani.

Very much familiar with the expressway, traffic, the downtown line works along the Bukit Timah road, Kani was observing all that he could, mostly within the bus as if he might never get another chance to travel by bus.

Once at Whitley Road, louring, the urban face of the city showed. “Comes under the sub order Cyclorrhapha,” Kani bent down to whisper into Somu’s ears. The father forced a smile and looked at the fly.

Grumblingly, the Chinese man with the shopping bags alighted.

With not many passengers boarding or alighting, the bus streamlined in the Bukit Timah Road.

When the bus reached Little India, most of the commuters alighted. “Bus rides are damn interesting Pa,” Kani mused as he got down.

Not losing sight of the Bangladeshi worker who had also alighted, Kani told his parents to wait for a few minutes. When Anu pulled him, he said, “Ma, please wait just for a few minutes.”

“Can I have a few dollars, pa?” he said hurriedly keeping an eye on the foreign worker.

Taking out his wallet from his pant pocket, Somu asked impatiently, “But what do you need money so urgently for?” Kani pulled out a ten dollar note.

He pointed to the Bangladeshi standing with a lost expression on his face. “He needs to top up his ez link, Pa. I heard him cry over the phone. He is totally broke and in a dire state, Ma.”

“Don’t tell me you can understand their language.”

“Oh, I’d say I have been gleaning their language over the year,” he said. Always observing, he would smile and wave at the Bangladeshi workers who cleaned the chute and the common areas. But Anu never expected him to have picked up their language.

Kani swiftly went near the foreign worker and asked, “Where do you want to go?”

“Paya Lebar,” said the foreign worker, looking at Kani a little hesitantly.

With all kindness, Kani said softly and slowly, “You take the train to Bugis and from there you board the green line towards Pasir Ris, you understand?” The Bangladeshi just nodded shyly.

Gently, Kani thrust the ten dollar note into his hand and hopped back to join his parents. As if trying to prevent them from looking at that guy, he pulled each by his hands.

Curiously, He turned to look and was titillated to see the housefly riding on the tattered back pack of the Bangladeshi.

“Eureka! Single pair of wings! Comes under the higher classification of Diptera,” he squealed.

Jayanthi Sankar has been creatively active for the past twenty one years in short stories, novels, translation, transcreations and essays. Having written primarily in Tamil, she has authored more than 28 books, she has started writing more in English in the recent years. Several of her books have been awarded by renowned organisations. Her short story ‘Read Singapore’, published in the quarterly magazine Ceriph – ISSUE TWO – 2010, has been included in the anthology ‘The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume One’. The same short story has been translated into Russian anthology: To Go to S’pore, contemporary writing from Singapore, edited by Kirill Cherbitski. Her short story collections have been short listed thrice for Singapore Literature Prize. After ‘Loss and Laws’, ‘Horizon afar’ is the second collection of her Tamil short stories into English. The collection her English stories are expected to be published as collection next year. Born and brought up in India, she lives in Singapore since 1990. You can reach her at her website.

What’s cooking?


You know what’s the hardest job on the planet?

No, not a banker.

Teacher? It’s easier.

The hardest job on the planet is to be a food critic, with a capital F and a capital C. But it’s always easy to assist one. That is what I do. Ojas, Assistant Food Reviewer, HotMeals Magazine. What do I do? The easy job. I write down whatever Riya says, or, whatever she doesn’t say. Riya is the Senior Food Reviewer I’m working under. She has this unique thing in her when it comes to tasting food. Before she could tell me about the taste, her face tells me a million things. For instance, when a perfect coffee makes its way down her throat, her eyebrow muscles would shrink a millimeter, just a millimeter. A sweet is tasty only if her lips make a pout for a brief second, after swallowing it.

Oh, and Riya is very beautiful. We just have a professional relationship though, but then who wouldn’t want to love such a girl! She is the most expressive person I’ve ever seen. Her face would tell me what her words wouldn’t.

We were having this usual conversation about the tastes of the foods that’s been served to us at this hotel, when she said, “You know what! Why don’t you come to my place tonight? I’ll cook. You be the judge!” She had that flawless smile all over her face. ‘A Date?’ I thought. Oh, why not! I shook my head like a child waiting for the cotton candy.

So, there I was, at Riya’s, waiting for her to sit across me and eagerly look at me as I taste her food. On the dining table was a photo of Riya with a tall guy (probably her brother, I thought). There was food all over the table. There was Mutton Liver with Fava Beans, Fish Sashimi, Beef stew and Tika kebab. Wow. Fish, sheep, cow and chicken. How diverse and unbiased!

She finally came out of the kitchen and sat down across me. Just when I was about to start eating, she said, “We’ll do it the usual way, shall we? I’ll eat them first and we’ll discuss on the recipes and then you shall eat it. This helps me serve you the best dinner!”

Thank God! I shook my head in approval.

She tasted the sashimi first. Her face relaxed a bit. Sweeter than usual, I wrote down and looked at her, waiting for her to give her comments. Instead, she looked at the picture on the table and said, “This is Karan, my ex. He was such a sweet guy. At least at the beginning.”

Why is she talking about that guy now?

She then tasted the liver. No big reaction. Probably less salty, I wrote down.

“You know, everything was fine between us until he became more submissive. Not just to me, but to everyone around him. He was this laughing stock people always enjoyed making fun of. And the worst part was that he didn’t even realize it.”

I shook my head as if being attentive but I was clueless why she was talking about that guy and not about the recipes. And why was she telling all this to me?

Beef stew followed. Her face shrunk and her hands stiffened. Too much Spice.

Her face reddened. “When I told him this, he started yelling at me! How dare he shout at me?” She hit the table hard, and spoke at a very high tone, “THOSE WORDS! Swearing a girl? He was a cheap shit! I didn’t know why I loved such a guy. I was so angry that I….” she stopped midway realizing she was out of control. She came back to her cool and looked at me and said, “I wanted to eat him alive!” and laughed as if she had cracked a funny joke.

I relaxed a bit and smiled at her joke, still wondering why she was talking about that guy. I gestured if I could eat and she nodded. Just when I was about to eat the first piece of the mutton, something struck me. I looked at the photo again and then the recipes.

I dropped my spoon down and looked at her. She had her usual broad smile.

Only this time, it wasn’t welcoming.

It was psychotic.




Shoot To See What Cracks

Dad and daughter

Yes, I was a small town girl;

Caught inside the claws of board exams

My eyes;

They were only allowed to see text books

My brains;

Should only take the content from study material

Coz life would slip away in 0.001 marks,

Told all analog and digital sources.

“Is everything that exists now around my marks?

The food I eat, the time when I sleep, the things I see?”

Oh, yes!

Torturous hours that ate away my holidays,

Special classes they call’em, had just started!

I was trying to figure out if reality had only marks and exams

Or this is just a screen, claiming itself to be the only real thing!

Pages that ran for hundreds in text books didn’t interest me,

The illustrations of Enid Blyton and Tinkle did.

‘Let it wait! Finish boards’, said mom and dad.

‘Sit with only those who study better than you’, teachers said.

Today, was not like any other day;

My hands wanted to sway,

My feet wanted to walk on pebbles;

For I had always loved little troubles.

The moon, who I have missed seeing, so high,

Who I had missed seeing, shone on the sky.

Amidst shrubs and heaps my house stood

Anything will be slithering on the ground, as it could!

Pitch darkness, to me, did bring solace,

Making out things with my eyes was tough as a maze!

“Perfect!” My brain sounded

This is when I wanted my thoughts to break loose

When I could shoo away all formulas and definitions

And let the river in my mind, flow at its fastest!

Oops! Ain’t I supposed to be with my books?

Running equations over and over in my head?

Scanning the whole page leaving out the number alone?

Won’t asking for a walk under the night sky a be luxury to ask for?

By a girl who is appearing for the upcoming board exams?

These days…

Nothing should matter to me except my marks,

This was an untold rule, by the way world functioned around me!

I should not mind, if my shoes came apart,

Or if I lost in a game of darts,

Or if I didn’t get a good haircut,

All these were just 1/1000th important of a math short-cut!

Mind wavered just like the trees around

The breeze took me to a time 7 years back!

Sitting at the dining table and crying, I saw myself,

Excursion bag lying nearby.

The big day had just got over, school excursion to amusement park.

My first outing, that was, without family!

‘How many teachers are assisting you?

What is the time period?

How many are going with you?

What is the expense that you are paying?

What is the bus that you guys are taking?

At what time will you come back?’

Exhausted was I, after providing a precise answer;

To every single anxious query above.

I had to ask back just that,

The only one small question:

“Appa, can I take 20 rupees with me? I might wanna eat something”,

Oh! These words were hindered,

Quarter way through their journey;

They kept banging, in the head where they were stopped,

Rushing to come out.

The fool in me took lead,

‘Mayu! Dad is anxious, he is worried, tensed is he,

He won’t give you money, he will rather stop you from going!’

All day, along with the fool in me,

I had been watching crazy going mates about ice creams, lollipops and much more.

Here, penniless, I was sitting, wishing I got those words out.

Then came a pal, who generously got me ice cream with her coins!

I snapped at the fool, ‘Had you not stopped me,

I would have owned the biggest happiness here; you ruined it!

You ruined all of it’,

She refused to answer.

Poof! She was gone, leaving me in a puddle of tears and cream!

Back home, the cream has dried off from my face,

But the tears hadn’t.

Mom and Dad could only see an unexpected sad face, in place of a happy one!

It was before they opened their mouths to enquire,

I had gotten all the words that were blooming in my head:

Of how those previous words went unheard,

How the happiness I hoped to find went unseen along with them.

“Had you asked me, I would have given you 40 bucks.

I was thinking your teachers didn’t like children handling money.”

Was what I heard in the middle of so much sadness!

Could I hate myself more than how much I did back then?

Cursing myself, that is how

The then me, sat at that table crying over my partnership with the fool!

A leaf that fluttered to hit my head brought me back,

To the place where I stood longing to walk outside in the eeriness at 11.45 P.M.

“No fool! Don’t enter again. I will sort this out”,

Shouted a voice in my head!

Gathering courage, wanting to have more,

Than just exams and marks,

To feel the life I was living,

To make reality more beautiful,

To just let me be myself for a while,

I walked inside determined to ask:

If I can open the locked-for-the-night gates

And walk out for a bit.

“Pa! Can I just go out and take a walk,

I will unlock the gates and lock them myself when I am done!”

Surprisingly, these words came unblocked, unhindered.

Seconds in between seemed to last forever.

“It’s very late at night, you have to study so much” – Dad

(Expected! Duh! Go back and take those boring books – I thought)

Surprisingly, the voice continued,

“Here! Take the keys, come back before its late! And be safe, there might be snakes out there”

I think I jumped up, as I took those keys!

Knowing no bounds of freedom,

My feet lept forward, determined to make the most of ‘before it’s late’,

“Hey stop!” (What now – Confused me)

“Take this flashlight with you, I told you it’s not very safe”

And that was when I felt the river in my mind;

Flow at its fastest and deepest!



Hey, why don’t you take this battle?” I heard them offer.
And at that, I scoffed. The nerve!
This wasn’t even their battle to start with.
I’ll give you a battle, I thought, rolling up my sleeves
To fight two 13-year-olds.

I entered the room to punch their noses;
and I almost did; but I saw his face.
My brother glowed with immense pride and joy
He began the battle, failing to hide that smile on his face;
and said: I will. I will take this battle.

I stopped. I slowly backed off.
I hated his friends, indeed I did. He knew it too.
But when he was so happy to finally get his chance,
in his house, on his iPad, on his game, with his account,
All I could do was helplessly watch, and not say a word.

Half a minute later; ‘What are you doing?’
they screamed, ‘This isn’t the way!’
But I’m doing what you said, he whispered back, scared.
‘We shouldn’t have let you play,” They said;
‘We shouldn’t have let you play.’

‘Put the Goblins here, put the Barbarians there,’
I listened, as that’s all I could do.
‘You’re so stupid, did you not think this through?’
‘You’re so bad, I can’t watch this. This is suicide!’ they just wouldn’t stop.
You’re right, I thought, glaring. I couldn’t watch this either.

His face was sweating like never before,
it had lost its glow.
It had lost its determination, its joy.
His hands shook and all it did was
Destroy, some more.

I couldn’t take it anymore.
I had to play the mean sister yet again,
And sent them all outside to play.
As he walked past, I stole a glance at his face;
So defeated, so forlorn, I ached all over, I really did.

A few hours later now, we ate in silence.
I couldn’t keep it in, I really tried.
Despite my efforts to not interfere, I ended up doing just that.
I asked him: ‘Why do you let them treat you that way?’

At that, his head snapped back to look at me.
His eyebrows raised, in utter annoyance.
As if to say, ‘How dare you ask such a thing?’
His lips a thin line, complimenting his eyebrows;
it said: ‘How dare you think that?’

But his eyes told a different story
They were frightened; crestfallen.
Like a fish out of water, like a picture without colour.
He tried to mask it, I’ll give you that.
But they spoke loud and clear, a message you can’t ignore.

He summed up his courage; and with four words he replied.
Just four, no more, no less.
They threw me speechless, I really could not say more.
He looked at me with those helpless eyes.

Just like a poor little boy who didn’t know how to get his way.
Just like a poor little boy who didn’t know how to express what he felt.
Just like a fish out of water;
A picture without colour,
He looked at me in the eye.

‘They are my friends.’