Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Fleeting Existence

There are some people waiting with me for the rain to stop. I don’t know them, they must be new applicants. The summer break is going on. There’s still a month before college reopens and I’ve come to collect some certificates.

We are standing in the library corridor, us and the college dogs, and the rain is beating hard in the open area in the front. A girl is trying to deal with her umbrella which is totally deformed and inverted by the wind. I’m just glad that I chose the pencil skirt over the flowy stuff I’m usually so fond of. I’m reading something by Kazuo Ishiguro.  I am two pages into it. The lawns and the trees in the front are just hints of green and brown, faintly visible, through the thick, translucent sheath of the shower. I cannot even see the water where it hits the ground; a mad spray rises from it.

The spray is reaching me, despite my back clinging to the bricked wall of the corridor. Fine drops of water wet my legs. I shut the book. The rain is like a lion’s roar now. The sky is sealed with dense grey clouds.  It doesn’t look like the rain is going to stop anytime soon.  I don’t have an umbrella and I have the certificates in my handbag, for their protection.

Another dog joins us. It shakes the water off itself. I take a step away from it. Now, the raindrops visibly clobber the puddles. Without wasting a second, I turn right, and move out of the main building.

I am holding my bag close to me, my head bending over it. My back is already wet. I descend the stairs in front of Rud South. The water is running down the stairs too, moving in thick, clear streams. It flows with a certain might, forcing me to fix my feet strong to the ground each time I take a step. It reminds me of the time I’d gone to Rishikesh with my family.

We had a cottage on the outskirts of Rishikesh and the Ganges used to flow sparkling clear behind it. We could bathe in the section of the river close to the cottage because of the series of rocks to the left, which curtailed the flow of the river. But the water pressure in the part beyond it was dangerously high.

One morning, my father took me by the hand and we began walking to the water beyond. I was a tall girl of ten and my neck remained comfortably above the water. My father was to my left. Suddenly his grip on my hand grew strong. The next instant, my feet were off the river base. He turned and stood against the flow of the river, facing me, his arms circling me protectively. The river had completely swept me off my feet. I held onto him, laughing nervously, my lower body flying. He smiled. “Relax. You won’t go anywhere,” he said.

This was not strange coming from a man who would tell his children about his adventures in the Yamuna, back in the days when the Yamuna in Delhi used to be clean. “Close your eyes and feel the water,” he said. I shut my eyes. The water was so strong against my body that it could have taken me anywhere it wanted. I tried to fix my feet back but it was funny how they would just not listen to me. I could feel the warmth of the early morning sun on my face and hear the gushing water trying its strength on me. Somewhere, somebody rang a temple bell. Its ring echoing reached my ears while I hung like a cloth clipped to a clothesline suspended in a storm.

I’m drenched but I’ve been able to save the handbag. I splash past the people hiding in the photocopy shop. I enter my car, into the melody of raga Desh. The music reaches a crescendo as I drive out of the parking lot and look back. The college building is bright against the morose sky. The ancient trees are dancing to the music in my car. Another year with you, I say in my head, and then we part ways in search of new loves.

© Rasagya Kabra, June 26, 2011

Saturday, June 18, 2011


There were stubs of her lilac cigarettes in the green and red ashtray.  She sat with her head in her hands. How could she do this? She hated him, alright, and he had threatened her, but still, how could she do what she’d done?

The chisel still lay beside him, the blood on it caking into a maroon crust. There were drops of dried white paint on its handle from opening the paint can the previous night.

When she’d driven the chisel into his neck, the spray of blood had nearly blinded her. She’d washed her eyes in the kitchen sink. It’d been the first time she’d had blood in them, and she’d realized that it made them burn the same way as soap does.

She was surprised she'd actually killed him with a chisel. She  must have ruptured a carotid artery there, otherwise he wouldn't have died.

She didn't know what to do with the body. She was sorry that it’d happened, but something had to be done, now that there was no going back in time; nothing with which she could erase what’d happened.

She lived on the fifth storey of an apartment building. There was no way she could take the man down and give him anything like a burial. There was security at the gate 24x7, and she couldn’t take any chances. She had enough of her own mess to deal with.

She took a deep breath. There was no other way out. She got six garbage bags, the biggest knives in her kitchen- boning knives and cleavers, and invoked the spirit of Dexter Morgan.


P.S. I wrote it as a part of a getting- into-the-writing –mode exercise. I was given the three things in the picture (the thing in between is an eraser, just in case you’re wondering), and I had to come up with a story in fifteen minutes. This is what I came up with.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Street Smart

Her hair glistened in the yellow streetlight as she twisted it sideways, made a spiral bun and put a small butterfly clip on it, her hands working with mechanical ease. She was standing with her back to me, and I saw her face only when she turned to him and they sat down on the yellow and black striped edge of the footpath, to divide their coins.

The golden five rupee coins were in one vertical row; the silver five rupee coins in another and the thin one and two rupee coins in two separate stacks.

He was a tone darker than her, just as old- eleven or twelve, with light brown hair that looked paler in the light from my headlights. He sat tapping his right thigh rhythmically against the ground, as she began dividing each row into two. She would approach each stack with her fingers stretched downward, the pile rising in the cavity of her palm, take as much of each row as she could and form a new one. Then she would carefully equalize the two rows, adding a coin here, removing a coin there. If there were an odd number of coins and the pile could not be divided equally, she would make up for the missing coin with those of a smaller denomination. While she worked with attentive eyes and precise movements of her hands to keep the stacks in order, he was busy singing a silent song, his head joining his thigh in the music.

After she was done, she smiled fondly at the neat job, gently moved his piles toward him, and started keeping her coins in her cloth bag. He broke his song, looked at his piles suspiciously and with one quick movement of his hand, took the last three of her golden coins left outside.

“Give my money back,” she said, with a frown.

“Now it’s mine,” he said grinning, his eyes lively.

“Give it to me, or…”

“Or what”?

Throwing him a triumphant glance that lasted a hundredth of a second, she smashed his neat rows with a single stroke of her hand, and ran away with a fistful of his golden coins.He ran after her.

Her laughter rang in the silence of the night. Her anklets added music to the gentle hum of Delhi’s breath. Her dupatta, red and green, fluttered after her, as the glass chambered Satya Paul mannequins looked on.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Boe- gun- villa

She was in pre- school and her bus used to drop her in front of a house that had bougainvillea clusters hanging over its boundary walls. Once she had asked Hari Singh what those vines were and he had said ‘Boe-gun-villa’, taking her schoolbag on his shoulder and opening his big, black umbrella.  That evening she had told her mother that they should grow bougainvillea and her mother had said that it was useless and spiky and would trample over everything else in the garden. Their house also had high boundary walls, but those were covered with night blossoming star jasmine, small white flowers that were nothing like the flourishing pink flowers of bougainvillea.

As the summer receded, the bougainvillea clusters grew denser and tiny pale flowers appeared inside the pink bracts. Whenever Hari Singh was late, he found her gazing at the vines, absorbed in the flood of pink against the bright, rain washed green. The flowers were high up, out of her reach, and Hari Singh’s too. The ones that lay dropped on the road were dirty and dead.

Eventually, she succeeded in making Hari Singh ask the guard’s permission and take a small cutting of the vine from the garden of the house. She smiled and thanked the guard who had a Super Mario moustache. As she eagerly took the brier from Hari Singh, a thorn pricked her finger. She winced briefly. Holding it more carefully, she gently touched the pink flowers and found that they were paper thin, and the pale ones inside them were very frail, too. They had no fragrance, unlike the star jasmine at home, and, somehow, the three flowers on the twig did not look as pretty as the loaded bunches above. Her finger tip began to hurt. Home was fifteen minutes away, and walking, she occasionally looked at the flowers.  By the time they reached back, the flowers were droopy. She filled a glass with water and put the branchlet inside it. She checked it every hour but the flowers only drooped more.

Later in the evening she chucked the twig in the trash can and threw the water in the kitchen sink, the jasmine outside began to blossom, its aroma filling the house through the open windows.