YOU HER AND THE AUTHOR
What is it about anonymity? Is it the enigma, perhaps the challenge? You have heard things about her. You have heard that she drives away on her scooter after class hours and delivers to whoever orders. What she delivers, of course, is a mystery. It can’t be anything legal, though.
The scandal happened yesterday. She walked out of the restroom, looking a little flustered. She was holding a paper cutter, which you think is, obviously, a slightly strange item to be brandishing to a restroom. In a short while you found out what the scandal was. Everyone did. It was more than slightly strange, another addition to the list of oddities she held to her credit. She stabbed a boy from her class with a paper cutter. It was more than a little serious, enough to get him sent to the hospital. You’d think that he would do something about it, press charges, maybe? She stabbed him. That is definitely not something a normal person would do. Maybe it has something to do with what she delivers. In fact it probably does. The question is, what did he have to do with it? You know that he isn’t ... well, the type. He’s a nice, normal boy. You know you’ll find out when he comes back, but naturally, he didn’t come today. He will come tomorrow, and a little bit of the enigma will be removed. She hasn’t come to class today, either. Maybe she’s afraid. People are probably looking for her. It is a little exciting though, you admit. So far, it has only added to the enigma.
You hear that a couple of girls from her class went to talk to her at her house. You wonder what that achieved. Maybe something, maybe nothing. From what you hear though, she admitted she’d stabbed him. She didn’t apologise though. She didn’t explain. She expressed absolutely no remorse.
Tomorrow they will come back to class. When she comes back, everyone will look at her accusingly, while she goes on walking, or drawing, or reading her book. She will look at the world nonchalantly, and run her slim fingers through her hair expressionlessly. He will come back, holding his injured arm delicately, glancing around nervously, his expression begging everyone not to ask, and when they do, he will answer evasively, going about sculpting his little ceramic bust as best as he can with one semi –dysfunctional arm.
Then, someone will see them exchange a secret smile in the library while he mouths, “Thanks for not bringing it up,” to her, and she will say “and thanks for not saying anything either” in a soft whisper, but loud enough for that someone else to hear.
All this will do is increase the anonymity and the challenge, and add some enigma to this otherwise normal boy.
What I do every day is I attend class, I have lunch, I drive to the bookstore to do my shift. It’s pretty mundane actually. Except Friday nights, or sometimes when I go to Savera after class.
What happened yesterday is why everyone came over to my house today, to “talk to me.”
What happened yesterday is, I was in the college loo, in the morning. My hair had been getting in my face. So I decided to cut some of it off. Which would have been fine, but I was cutting it in front of the mirror, and this boy walked in. Firstly, I was embarrassed; I didn’t want him- actually anyone- to see me cutting my hair in the college loo. Anyway everyone thinks I’m weird. And then he was obviously kind of taken aback or whatever too, and what with the loos being so small I ended up bumping into him, because I tried to make for the door to leave quickly. Well when I bumped into him I was holding the cutter – it was my good cutter, the big thick one- and it kind of bumped right into his arm. Which meant I’d accidentally stabbed him. So, it was just this accident that happened. Besides, it was his fault too, because he shouldn’t have been in the women’s at all. Anyway so I just kind of hurt him more trying to get the paper cutter out, it was pretty bad, and I yelled at him asking him what the hell he was doing in the women’s, and he was crying and he said he didn’t realise and he then he began to beg me to just go away and not tell anyone this happened, and he was crying too, so I just left.
It was really weird because he was hurt kind of badly and I felt messed up about it, so I went home. Then all these people came and I don’t know what in the world they thought, because they were like “You know, this is pretty serious, everyone’s shocked that youstabbed someone and all, and this could get pretty serious” and all of that. Anyway, I’d told that boy I wouldn’t say, and besides I think I would come off as pretty stupid too, I guess. So I just kept quiet.
When we went back obviously everyone was wondering what happened, but no one asked, thank God. Anyway I met him later in the library and he said thanks, so I said thanks too, for not saying anything.
That was basically what happened, not that it particularly matters, but it wasn’t mundane, like mostly everything else, you know?
I think she knows that everyone thinks of her the way they do, with intrigue, but she’s too afraid to say it aloud even in her mind, because she’s afraid that it might be untrue. She wants it to be true. She looks like anyone else, but its only accumulated incidents that make you think of her as an enigma, like the one that happened yesterday, and other random happenings of a varied nature.
Of course, she’s always working a lot on whims, why would she cut her hair in the middle of the day? She could have waited, but she didn’t. She had it coming I suppose. She seemed very dazed when the whole incident happened, and her face looked positively tragic. She still seems dazed when her friends visit her now. The reason why she isn’t telling them is, of course, that she is embarrassed but it’s also that she knows it will only make everyone wonder. She talks to everyone lying down on her bed, and it’s true, she looks a little flustered.
When she goes back to class, she walks around like she hasn’t a care in the world, but I know she is acutely aware of everyone wondering what happened. Later when she meets the boy, she will look a little flushed; you will see the embarrassment and the gratitude in that flush on her face. Of course, all said and done, she will be glad that something out of the ordinary has happened. She always is when these incidences occur.
ILLICIT ACTIVITY OUTSIDE
THE DOOR TO NARNIA
The office is white, stark, stylish, like no nonsense can ever go on here.
And that might be why two girls are hiding under a desk, white, stark as the office. It might, just.
There’s scuffling, and occasional sighs, very warm. Giggles. Very inappropriate mumbling, effervescent, light, bubbling, rising up to the ceiling in escalating excitement. Two little girls playing hide and seek, breaking buttons, knocking their heads against the table top, their colourful socks’ seams coming loose, giggling uncontrollably. One bites the others ear and the other swats her away, with bright, fluorescent coloured giggles.
But they hush now; a man is walking into the room. Bright yellow shirt, pink tie, just the right baby pink beret perched on his head at the perfect angle and an absolutely straight face wearing the funkiest Black glasses you ever saw. Just the kind of person you would expect to see in a perfectly styled, white as snow, always in season Prada office.
One of the girls is suppressing a laugh, and the other is trying to suppress her some more, hand on mouth, almost unable to stop giggling herself. They keep hiding, each in turn silently shushing the other, long, lithe limbs entangled. Their hearts sound like an elephant rampage, beating nervously, excitedly, against respective ribcages, close together. Quiet, hush, they murmur alternatively, unable to wipe off glowing adolescent smiles from their faces.
The man is carrying a huge rolled up sheet. He walks very decidedly to the centre of the room, where he unrolls the sheet. He seems completely unaware that he isn’t alone. It is the life size image of a white house with blue doors and windows. It covers up the whole floor of the huge white room that they are all in.
Then he walks to the table, as if he knew that they were there all along. The girls can hear approaching footsteps, their smiles are fading, panic stricken expressions replacing them. He drags the girls out by the scruffs of their collars to the centre of the room, bending down. He opens the blue paper door on the blown up poster of the white house, and pushes them in.
They stare, as though their minds are about to explode, at Narnia.
ON A WARM WARM NIGHT
WE LIE AWAKE
Its a narrow night, squeezed between a long day and an early sunrise, thinks the little girl in the house next door. She thinks of the story she’ll write tomorrow and how its going to be funny, and everything will be just the way she wants it, it’s her story, after all.
Then she remembers, vaguely, a song that the boy in the corner of her class had told her about. He’d asked her, evidently apprehensive, did she like music. Well, of course she did, it was MUSIC! Who didn't like music?! Well, his brother didn't he liked ... Well, the boy wasn't sure what his brother liked. She had looked shocked, verging on appalled. A few girls from their class were also going the same way; they tittered, at a distance. She didn't like these girls, she said, he murmured a subtle agreement (maybe) and they’d moved away. Then he’d shyly told her about a song by ‘Porcupine Tree.’ She’d listen to it, ‘Porcupine tree’ sounded funny though, she laughed out to him. Ears red, he volunteered his ipod. She listened to it, it wasn't like much she had heard before, it was true, she glanced at him three minutes into the song. Two and a half minutes later, she gave him her verdict. She liked it. It was cool.
It hadn't been like anything she had heard, and she had downloaded it as soon as she got home.
Now, lying in the dark of this narrow night, she thinks of how she had thought of smoke, of feet slowly climbing creaky stairs and alien orbs in the night sky, and she isn't so sure. Maybe the story isn't her own after all. Maybe it’s all charted in a master tape. She realises she isn't being very coherent and exhales slowwwly. It’s a very hot night; the AC needs to be turned up.
She feels sleepy, but not.
The boy from the corner of her class remembers the journey home today very clearly. He’d had an ice cream afterwards, but his brother hadn't waited for him. He said he had ‘stuff to do’. His brother always turns the AC up too high, like now, and now the boy is shivering under the sheets, acutely aware of pages turned sharply every time the preceding numerical is solved. It’s a whip crack, he thinks. Every fucking page turned is a whip crack. He notes the expletive in his head and realises he’s getting annoyed. He turns violently, making his brother note his annoyance.
His brother turns a page louder this time. Him, and that stupid guitar, that could never wait, so why should his studying wait? Even Mumma would agree. He smiles, pleased at his wise conclusion. He turns to the next page.
He knows Mumma agrees because she has always said so. Always said that it is so lovely to see his hard work, to see the results every month, and Mumma is sure he will get into the top three IITs at least. Shuruthi Aunty thinks so too. In fact they all do, all the uncles too. He’s a very hardworking boy, they’d expressed, this last Deepawali.
The boy from the corner of her class is annoyed by Shuruthi Aunty every morning when he goes to school. She watches him every morning. She watches him LIKE A HAWK, she thinks, it pleases her to watch her neighbours like a hawk, she knows things about them, then. She believes in BEING AWARE. She likes to be aware of that girl in the next building, the one who comes home only for vacations and wears much too much kohl. That girl is so vain, she likes being pretty, Shuruthi Aunty always told her maid, when she saw the girl leaving the compound gates. It is NOT SAFE, this liking being pretty, she thinks. She believes in being safe. Her like for being aware has something to do with her dislike for being unsafe, she has always said. She stands, every morning, at her balcony, being aware, making her maid as aware as she is.
This is because she likes being safe.
The maid is having a hard time falling asleep tonight. She has thoughts of her two little children, left behind in the village. It must be cooler there. It never gets this hot there. She wonders what they ate tonight. She thinks and thinks of them, unable to stop thinking. There are too many mosquitoes tonight. She feels like they will eat her alive. She wonders if the children are bothered by mosquitoes every night, and a sudden fear grips her. She creeps out onto the balcony, she will ask didi if she can talk to her children tomorrow. She hopes they won’t contract malaria. A few more months and she can go home. She stares out onto the road, thinking of all the names of all the neighbours that she can’t remember, for a brief moment, before she goes back to worrying about her two little children.
It’s a narrow night, squeezed between two very long days, the little girl from next door thinks. She nods her head to the implacable beat of a beautiful, unusual song, where there seem to be three separate beats, and she can choose any one. She can almost feel them, the metallic tones. She nods her head, but she isn’t really nodding, she only thinks she’s nodding. She thinks that she is falling asleep, and it’s such a warm, balmy night. She likes the word ‘balmy’. It’s a good word.
The boy from the corner of her class wakes up very groggy next morning, thinking, as usual, of excuses not to wake up, listing them in his head, while Shuruthi Aunty watches from the balcony, the street, and the sandwich that the maid is packing for her son. She’s being aware. She’s always on top of everything. She’s telling the maid there were so many mosquitoes last night. In fact, there were so many mosquitoes last night, that the family next door, they lit a mosquito coil in their daughter’s bedroom, you know, to kill the mosquitoes.
They lit the coil, and the daughter asphyxiated and died. In fact, it just happened an hour ago. It was so sad, really, she went on, the girl next door, so young, too. She shook her head. The maid had packed the sandwich, and Shuruthi Aunty went down to drop her son off at the compound gate. She saw a neighbour on her way back up, and shared the news about the girl next door. Really Shuruthi, how did you find out so soon, said the neighbour. It really was too sad, it was agreed.
THE UNBORN CHILD
Blank screen, blank page, blank verse. You shut your notebook with a contented sigh. You pull at your hair sometimes, in the hope that it will grow longer, but mother says it never will. You write for her, sometimes, for mum. You always showed her your writing, even as a child. She’s beautiful, you’ve heard everyone say, and you agree completely. You wrote about it, long ago. You wrote about it recently, too. She looked so pretty from where you were sitting, at her feet, in the grass. The sky was so blue. Like a thousand diamonds sparkling in the sun. It made you think of a song.
You write about music sometimes. You tried to play the flute once, but when you blew into it, it caught fire. You dropped it; the flames had nearly singed your hair. You had been shocked, nearly bursting into tears. Later, when you calmed down, you watched the fire sing. The flute had never sounded better. You remember the strains fading into the night. It makes you mellow even now. Mother said you had found a new way of making music, you had clapped your hands in excitement.
Blank verse always captivated you. Blank pages made you want to write, and blank screens made you want to break them with the neat swipe of a baseball bat. No one likes a mess, you have been taught, and neither do you. You clean up the pieces when the screen shatters. Each piece is very beautiful. They reflect your eyes. They reflect the sky behind your eyes, and the trees.
Its the season for the trees to shed their leaves now, and each purple layer of skin falls onto your head, into your palms, onto the ground. It doesn’t rain, it only ever sheds leaves here, the seasons work like that, mother had said. You wrote about that. About leaf shedding.
It was shedding leaves when the sky cracked open, and you are just shutting your notebook. The last thing you see is the sky crack open.
THE SHORT CIRCUIT
You lay side by side
And pondered why
I would want to understand.
You talked and i crammed
All the logic you threw at me
into my hollow head,
even though i disagreed
You lay side by side
and I read you a story,
the third of the night.
I read it by candle light.
It wasn't romance that prompted it.
Just a switchboard
That short circuited,
and a desire to read.
I watched the wall
Charred above the switchboard,
scarred beyond recognition,
inhaling slightly burnt air,
and how you smelt different.
I never realised when we fell asleep.
In the morning, I imagine,
no one reads aloud, really.
We have strange ways of spending time
You run, I hide
I chase, You seek
There are shades of blue
Shades of green
Swirls of white
Tricks of light
Eight colours in a rainbow
Ninth colours to be seen
I’m holding on so tight
To Auld Lang Syne
Faery dust of memories
Moments which may never be mine
Places with faces
Letters left unposted
Words softly spoken
Words left unsaid…
Childhood is a kingdom
Where nobody dies
But thoughts turned to feelings
Feelings turned to words
You grew up, So did I
Words turned to battle cries
You ran, I hid
I caught, You sought
So many things of so long ago
Drawings in pink and indigo
Secret histories that I’ll never know
And through paper cuts and burnt toast
Chasing cars and Coffee gone cold
There is fairy dust of memories
of which I let go.