He was halfway there and in no real hurry, so Raman walked as he had for the last few kilometers – leisurely and easily. It had been a bumpy start to the day, what with his vehicle’s engine seizing on the way to work and needing to be dropped off at the service center and his tripping on a loose brick on the pavement on his way home and landing face down with his palm attempting and failing to break his fall. He’d taken the day off, rested and on receiving a call from the service center a few hours later, decided he’d walk back and fetch his vehicle. Things were looking up now. And as he continued on his way, so did he. But the clear sky that had welcomed him out the door was now a shade of grey. He quickened his pace, but he could not outrun the clouds that seemingly instantaneously, growled and burst into lightning, thunder and a downpour that had seemed impossible just a few minutes ago. Raman was flat out running now. Had he paused to think, he might have taken shelter at a nearby shop or under a bus stand. But in his mind, all he wanted to do was reach the service center. So he ran, taking care to jump over puddles and loose stones, not wanting to trip a second time that day.

In his urgency however, he didn’t notice that he’d run off the pavement and was now running on the side of the road. Bikes and cars sped past him, just as eager to get to wherever they were going. After about a kilometer of running, he stopped and panted for breath. The weight of the wet clothes coupled with the stress of running left him gasping a little and he waited to regain his composure, still unmistakably getting drenched however. Just then a car, a blue sedan came speeding past him and mindless of the puddle next to him, splashed into and out of it, leaving an extremely brown pair of pants and shoes and an extremely angry wearer of said attire. He yelled pointlessly at the car that was long gone and then stopped, disappointment and rage lingering on his face. When he’d regained his composure, he wondered if he should just return home, change into some dry clothes and come back for the vehicle later. But he was almost there and he’d have to get drenched to go back anyway. Might as well power through and complete the mission at hand, he told himself and forged on. Soon he found himself at the mechanic’s shop where a burly man and a young boy were hard at work, tightening screws and fixing things that probably never fixing. At the sight of this dripping, disheveled man, the owner immediately dropped his screwdriver and beckoned Raman to sit on the stool he’d just gotten off of. Looking at his state, he whispered something to the little boy and the latter ran off into a small room in the shop. It took the owner a few more seconds to recognize the customer that had dropped off his vehicle in the morning. He listened to Raman’s day of woes, entries that had come pouring out the man with very little poking and meanwhile the little boy had returned, two hot cups of tea in his small hands that he offered both the men gingerly, but with a wide smile. It was only when the kid sat down on the floor next to him that Raman noticed the kid had a prosthetic leg. He looked at the mechanic, questioningly and was told about the accident at the shop a few years ago that had left the child maimed. They’d explored a few options before deciding the child needed to have a way to walk again and found a sympathetic doctor who had treated the child free of charge. The once ever-cheerful boy had spent months in pain and teary struggle, adapting to this new appendage. Raman listened to it all in silence, his eyes locked on the boy who had now resumed tightening a few smaller screws on a part of a vehicle, humming a tune from a familiar song.

Once they’d finished drinking their hot beverages, the mechanic took Raman to his vehicle, showed him the estimate and gave him the sign off. Raman was only half listening now, his mind still on the cheerful disposition of the boy who had apparently gone through so much at such a young age and had somehow managed to find a way to smile despite it all.

Before he left the shop, he shook the owner’s hand and then went over to the boy and thanked him for the best tea he’d ever had. The boy gave him a glowing smile and Raman patted him on the head.

As he rode back, the clouds having cleared up, he was still full of thoughts, a mixed bag of shame, pride, gratitude and contentment. The roads were still a mess though, he noted amid these thoughts, and slowed down as he saw an old man walking off the pavement by the side of the road and in the opposite direction.

He gently rode into and out of the puddle directly next to the old man, taking care not to splash on him even a little.

The Jhalmuriwaala

He walked slowly, pushing his cycle that carried his means of livelihood. As he passed every second house, he’d announce his presence, making sure to advertise his offerings as lip-smacking & delicious as in possible. Onions, carrots, groundnuts and more. He took particular care to slow down in front of his regular patrons’ houses & call out a little extra loudly.  He stopped at the door of the local iron-wallah, one of the regulars, and cried –

“Bitiyaaa! Aapke Jhalmuriwaale uncle aa gye hain!! πŸ™‚ “.

And as if on cue, a little girl came bounding out the door, “Jhalmuri uncle aa gye!”. And as he made a show of dishing out her favorite components in just the right quantities into a paper cone, he asked her – “Toh aaj aapne kya seekha ischool me?”

And the girl told him. Her teacher had scolded her for not completing her homework. But it wasn’t her fault. Her mother had fallen ill the previous day. Was she alright today?, he enquired. She was, he was assured.

She went on and on and he patiently listened and watched her devour his preparation.

Finally, as he always did, he packed up his bag, waved goodbye to her and left.

Not everyone engaged him the way this little girl did every other day. No one paused for longer than a transaction’s worth of time. Few even registered his face

Not this girl though. He’d forgotten how she’d started talking to him. But now it’d become a part of his route. A part of his routine. 

He’d stopped charging her for the jhalmuri weeks ago.

Her stories were payment enough for him.


The crack on the pavement had begun yawning at some point and had never closed its mouth. Unfortunately, Ramana was too lost in his thoughts to notice it and his right leg sank into it, tripping him enough to lose his balance and fall onto the surface, which he had the presence of mind to try and break with his hands. Unfortunately, one of these hands held a milk packet and the other clutched a newspaper roll of the day (14 Feb 1994), both of which he had just procured, and the result was two scraped palms, a mildly twisted foot, a very wet newspaper and one lost milk packet. “Great”, he muttered once he’d picked himself back up and examined the damage, “Just great.”. Perhaps, at this point, I should tell you a little about Ramana. He was 23 years old, a college-dropout at the age of 19 and a filler of job applications for a 3-year period, a pursuit at which he was yet to be successful. It was around the last qualification that he had been deep in thought about when he’d stuck his foot into the pavement crack. His father, Dr. Sapthagiri, [“M.D”, he’d made a point of announcing everytime he introduced himself] was not so quietly disappointed with the credentials of his non-Dr., non-MD son and made no attempts at hiding said disappointment everytime Ramana was within earshot. “40000 Rubees per annum!”, the good doctor had called out to Ramana’s mother, Lakshmi, that very morning. It seemed as if within the last few days, all of Sapthagiri’s friends’ sons and daughters had started their respective employments with salaries greater than Ramana’s current income of 0 INR. After the 5th day of hearing numbers in the morning in lieu of a “Good morning”, he started suspecting that his father was just inventing friends and their children at this point. Dr. Lakshmi (Ph.D) would merely sigh at her husband’s not-so-subtle mocking and cast a look of pity mixed with concern in the direction of Ramana’s room. It’s not as if the boy wasn’t trying. He just hadn’t had the good fortune of being one of those offsprings that got the best genes of both parents. Here it seemed as if he’d gotten neither. But he Was still trying.

Ramana had left the house to carry out his daily routine of bringing the day’s newspaper and a packet of milk, the number his father had called out still ringing in his ears and the train of thoughts that stemmed from his here had culminated in his crashing onto the pavement, milk and all. He’d just about dusted himself off and was searching for a hotel or something he could wash his hands at, when the propreitor of the store near where he’d fallen came rushing out – “Ayyoo, I keep telling these Municipality fellows to do something about this pavement, but do they listen! Never! Vaa vaa, come inside and clean yourself up”, he beckoned Ramana inside his shop and led him to a small sink at the back. Once he’d washed himself off and disposed of the wet milk packet and the useless newspaper roll, his eyes lingered on the rest of the store that was filled with pictures of locations that were decidedly not where they were. The store owner was a photographer, he decided, and asked incredulously- “So, you’ve been to alllll these places?”. The owner laughed and said – “No no, I’m a travel agent, the first one in the town! We’ve opened only a few months ago!”, he said proudly. Ramana had to take his word for it. It was the first time in his life that he was hearing about this sort of a profession. “So, what does a travel agent do? You’ve already denied travelling to these places”, he asked wisely. The owner, Satish, explained that he had contractors in all the places in the pictures and that they served as guides. The guides took people in the town to different places, showed them around and brought them back to the town. How many people and how many places so far, Ramana had wondered and Satish had admitted that they had only taken 2 people so far to another town 50 kms from there, but it was a start. Some of the photos had been sent to him by rich relatives by post, but that is where they wanted to go eventually, he had confided in the boy, once he’d decided that Ramana was not a prospective customer and just a curious fellow albeit a somewhat dim one from the looks of it. He did not voice this last bit of opinion. Ramana, after a few more smart sounding dialogues left Satish’s shop, thankful and filled with admiration. Here was a chap, creating an occupation out of nothing and he on the other hand had spent the last 3 years merely applying to mainstream occupations – many typing establishments (even though his typing speed was yet to be determined), some banks and one post office.

As he walked back, he thought about the last thing Satish had told him in response to what he had asked. “I started this because I wanted to travel the world but I had no money, so I thought I’d atleast try to make other people travel the world and give me money to help them do it.”. Ramana thought about what he wanted most in the world. “I want a job”, he said loudly and a resting dog stood up suddenly. By the time he reached home, he’d made up his mind. He would start a job agency for people searching for jobs. He had filled up so many forms, surely there was some merit to that, wasn’t there? What if he couldn’t get a job himself? He would help others and that would be his job. He didn’t know everything that it would take to start such an establishment, but he’d figure it out. He’d show his father that he too could make thousands of rubees. Hmph.

He walked in the door, a new man. Determined.

He washed his legs and prepared to go to his room to write up the initial plan to set up a job agency when his father’s voice rang out – “Where is the paper da Ramana?

The butler did it.

He’d proved them all wrong. He reread the mail he held in his hand, a letter that was addressed to him – K Pazhanisamy – for the first time in the decade that he’d worked at the Selvam residence. The contents hadn’t changed from the first time he’d opened it with shaking hands –

Mr. Pazhanisamy
Subject : B.Sc Mathematics results.."

The subjects and marks per were listed neatly and he looked at them again to make sure he’d read them right. And finally came to the last line. He blinked.

It hadn’t been an easy journey. The Selvams may have called him the butler when in the presence of their friends and extended family. But he knew he was merely a glorified servant as far as they were really concerned. And to that end, while he’d never had to go to bed without a meal for as long as he’d be in their charge, it had stung to see Saravanan Selvam, the apple of everyone’s eye in the household, who was the same age as Pazhani, grow up with seemingly no obstacles and have access to the best of everything, even as the latter waited on him everyday, polishing his almost-always-new shoes, serving him hot meals and pressing his branded clothes, all the while wondering what he’d done wrong to not be able to enjoy the same luxuries.



He walked barefoot because the gravel felt like acupressure against his broken, aching soles. Even the occasional pebble’s jab did not bother him much, because by now, pain had started to feel like a relative, that kept visiting even if you kept changing residences to avoid them.
He smiled to himself as he reached the end of the cliff and looked to his right. “Well? This is it eh Fluff?”, he addressed an imaginary dog that had already met its untimely demise a few days earlier.
The late-evening sun from this vantage point looked glorious.
Instead of jumping immediately like he’d intended to, he groaned involuntarily, as he bent and sat down at the edge, letting his tired legs hang out down the side of the cliff.
Looking at nothing in particular he tried to reflect on what had happened over the week but at that point, he drew a blank, as if the walk had drained him of memories as much as energy.
Oh well. It didn’t matter, did it. He was already here.
He pressed one tense hand to the ground behind him, as if to no longer postpone the final task he’d set for himself when he heard a loud “Woof!”.
Turning around to see the source of the sound, he saw a snowy mass bounding up to him and halting at his side. He watched puzzled at this white pup with wide eyes staring back at him with what seemed to be equal bewilderment. After a few seconds, it nuzzled the hand he’d placed on the ground and sat next to him. Still surprised, he patted the now resting pup and relaxed. The soft coat under his palm quivered gently and steadied.
He sighed and looked at the sun again.

It hadn’t set just yet.

Bhagavad Gita …As it was

A post on a book club group on Facebook about the book “Bhagavad Gita As it Is” triggered this memory and I wanted to “pen” it down while I still remembered it –

I don’t care much for religious scriptures anymore except for the mythological offerings that are still very interesting (pardon the harsh tone and read onΒ πŸ˜… ) but I have one memory associated with this book that stands out. We had a quiz contest in school that I was a part of (because my teacher no doubt thought – “This guy is good in Spoken English. Must be good at interpreting scriptures as well.”) . Anyway, I turned out to be surprisingly decently smart about it and learnt enough for the quiz and our team made it to the semi finals (?) where we got weeded out but were sitting in the audience like sheep on a farm looking at birds flying in the sky.Β πŸ˜•

The one consolation was that all of us in the audience had team-based-numbers i.e. one number per team and the quizmaster called out a team number at random when the finalists couldn’t answer a question, to see if the audience teams could. The questions rolled on and on one of them, they ended up calling our number. We were overjoyed. “Oh, we’re going to ROCK this chance”, we thought and started high fiving each other walking down to the podium. I still remember the question (albeit vaguely) they re-read out for our benefit ‘coz in our happiness, we realized we hadn’t paid attention to any part of it except the Number-calling. The question was “What did King Ambarish do with his own hands that proved him to be very humble?” ….Or something to that effect – it’s been 18 years .We blinked at each other. We had no clue.Well, I stepped up and decided, he was a King, so he’d go big or go home..Right? I cleared my throat and confidently spoke into the mic – “Uhh…He Cut off his hands.” . The quizmaster looked at me like they were justified in not passing us through to the finals but were also surprised that we, these ignorant worms, made it till the semis. But they politely said – “No…no…He CLEANED the temple with his own hands.”. I was stumped but put on a brave face and walked back, this time not looking at my friends.

I walked back with my head held high…like a King.

On my own legs.

Apparently just actions as simple as those also count as huge achievements for one. Right?


I don’t know anything about ants

On my kitchen platform sits a steel plate. This is not the permanent position of said plate. It has been placed there only temporarily and at the time was for the purposes of holding something that will be described in the very next para.

The steel plate, last night, was filled with some quantity of water, perhaps to the 75% mark and squarely in the center of the circular plate sat a plastic container which housed, as of that moment, 2 Gulab Jamuns.

It was 1 AM and I found myself at the crossroads of DecisionLand. On the one hand, there was the healthy, sane option of brushing my teeth, drinking a glass of warm water and going to bed at (what is now considered) a reasonably early hour. On the other, there was the far more tempting, but highly detridental option of tiptoeing to the kitchen and gorging on the gulab jamuns that had been procured earlier that evening. Why, you may ask, must an adult tiptoe in the comfort of his own home. But this is the vice of a habit developed by an individual who has been a minor for some years longer than he has been a legal adult.

Anyway, I found myself in the kitchen with my hand on the plastic container before the results of thorough deliberation were out. And it is at this point that I noticed One ant. A lone warrior, clinging to the side of this container and if it had eyes that I could spot, possibly they would have been full of focus waiting for this precise moment when a human would come and unblock its way to what-it-had-no-doubt smelt its way to – sweet, divine ant-treasure. I wondered how it had made its way across the body of water in the plate but did not linger much on it. Meanwhile, evident that things had not gone the way the Warrior Ant had planned, it darted in the direction opposite the cover sensing perhaps that I had spotted it before the cover was opened. For good measure, I lifted the box out of the “pool” and decided to open it held in my hands, away from a place of familiarity to the Warrior, who had by now dropped into the water below. And it is at this point, that I noticed an extremely disturbing sight. Close to 20 more ants lay scattered in the water, some hidden from view by the box that was now in my hands, and some in plain sight that I had simply not seen. These were Warriors who had not made it to the Holy Jamun Land :O My mind at this time was racing with multiple thoughts, some for the Fallen Warriors, some about the box in my hand. What if the Warrior was just the last one who was about to enter the box and many had already succeeded and were now already partaking of its contents? What would I see when I opened the box?

I stood in silence for a few seconds contemplating the possibilities. It was probably a lesser duration than I exaggerate at this point, but the thoughts were there. “Let’s assume that the worst has not happened”, I thought, “and that this singular Warrior was the only one to make it. “. How did he (not necessarily, might have been a Wonder Womant as well, but for the purposes of this anecdote) make it? Had there been a plan of attack? Was this the leader of the troop? Had the army decided that it would be sufficient if one mant made it, for the greanter good? Was this the ant version of a heist? Did ants have heists? I’d learnt in the few minutes that I’d concentrated in my biology classes back in school that there was fierce collaboration in ant colonies, but was this a part of it?

I moved closer to the platform and looked again at the fallen Warriors….Noble souls, one and all. They drifted there…unaware of their sacrifice’s futility. I placed the box on the side and sadly emptied the contents of the plate into the sink. This was the order of Nature and I was a cold blooded ant disposer 😦 I refilled the contents of the plate with some more water than before, making the moat a little harder to wade than before …My heart wept for the sacrifices to come as I thought about the next batch of Warrior Ants that would indulge in the pursuit of sweet fortunes..And my mind decided. No more.

There would be no more mindless sacrifices. No more Ant drownings.

Not on my watch.

I opened the box and popped the last two Jamuns in my mouth.

Time to brush and go to sleep.


The fan hung lazily and looked at the other occupants of the room – A lamp, a table, a chair and a human. The human seemed lost in thought. And he didn’t seem like he would be getting off the chair anytime soon. Which meant the fan wouldn’t have to move anytime soon either. That was a relief. It sighed noiselessly. As its eyes drifted from one wing to another looking at through its limited, yet relatively broad perspectives, it got a different angled view of the room everytime.Β It wondered what the human was thinking about. He didn’t seem to do much at all. He always sat there for most of the day, except to get up and look through a slit in the door and yell at a passerby (what what could be made out) – the fan had learnt a lot of what we humans take for granted, purely by observing and listening over the time it had hung around in the room since its time of installation. Two years . Had it only been that long? It had spun so much, that it felt a bit more woozy everytime. And maybe it was imagining things but it seemed to be descending a bit more of late. Oh well. The mind, even a metallic one can play tricks on you if you’re as dizzy as you were after tens of minutes of spinning.
It jerked out of its reverie as the man got up from his chair.
“Oh boy. Here we go again”, it thought to itself.
He walked up to the only switch on the wall and turned it on.
Slowly, the fan began to spin. 30 rpm….60 rpm…130 rpm…200 rpm..All the way upto its maximum set 350 rpm. The fan felt breathless at this point. It wasn’t a new sensation, but this time, it felt a bit more breathless than usual. It gave in and tried to become one with the spin.
But something…something was wrong.
The stem gave way and jerked away from the ceiling, tipping to one side first and within the fan could realize it, the cable connecting it to the ceiling Snapped and it spun at an angle, into the air, in an arc and towards the unsuspecting man.
The fan closed its eyes as it unintentionally sliced the man’s head clean in two and crashed into the wall opposite his seat just above the table.
It tried to open its eyes…No..eye..The other eye seemed to be missing. And it realized that it had no sensation anywhere else. But it didn’t matter.
The spinning had stopped.

PS – Please don’t be alarmed. This is only …a fan fiction….πŸ˜‚πŸ§ I’m sorry for the nightmares.

A Wednesday Evening

I sat down on the pavement facing the sunset and opened up the Parle-G packet. There must have been others who followed the crackling opening of the cover with the subsequent sating of his hunger , for he bounded up to me from nowhere at the sound.

Unexpected but welcome, the visitor padded the ground next to my feet and looked in turn at me and the yellow cover in my hand. I held one of the biscuits out in front of him and he bit at it from my hand pausing right at the intersection between my fingers and the biscuit. He waited eagerly and yet patiently, while I had one as well.

We repeated the activity till the cover had been deprived of its contents entirely. 10 minutes? 15 minutes? 20? I’d lost track. I patted the top of his head gingerly and he reciprocated with a gentle nuzzle against my palm.

The light drowning us by now was artificial. The sun had set.

I is for Ignored [#AtoZChallenge]

“Whoaaaaaaa”, he yelled, a sound only he could hear. One second he saw the clear blue skies and in the very next, an expansive patch of brown mud and this pattern repeated as he rose into an arc and his ascent slowed to a halt and then he descended in the same topsy-turvy fashion with increasing velocity before crashing onto a rough surface that was immediately engulfed in darkness. He blinked. He could see nothing for what seemed like ages, but heard muffled voices in a tongue he’d come to understand in bits and pieces – some words more familiar than others. He’d learnt a lot of things over the years. He knew his name was what his handlers called “fifty paisa” , but he was always spoken about carelessly, it seemed, with lesser reverence than others of his kind.

“Heads”, he heard someone call out. And he knew his outing for the day was almost done. A brief glimmer of sunlight when one of the voices would whoop and the other would groan (he’d come to distinguish these sounds over time as well). And back into the recesses of a velcro covered, stifling enclosure he’d go with the rest of his species for company – who didn’t say much but sometimes brushed against him involuntarily. 

He closed his eyes and waited for the familiar scrape of velcros indicating his nap-time. But it never came. Instead, today, he found himself being slipped in a crevice of sorts lined with material he was unfamiliar with. He fell and waited for a landing but he kept slipping further down, grazing a surface, rolling slightly and falling through another hole of sorts for a duration only slightly lesser than the time it had taken him to down the arc moments earlier. “Thump”, he fell face down on something hard and dusty. He whimpered. Again, no one heard him. He waited for some agent to retrieve and return him to his familiar surroundings. No one came. He kept waiting even as dust settled on his side that faced the skies. Once in a while he felt enormous pressure on his backside, but it was always a hurried application that was immediately lifted. Initially he mistook those events to be rescue missions. But they weren’t and he stayed where he was.

After a while, he felt something he hadn’t felt in a long time. He felt akin to what we would describle as …moist. “Patter”. “Patter”. “Patter”. The sound accompanying the object that caused the wetness kept hitting him and eventually he felt himself rising slowly. From his vantage point, all he could see was the surface he had been lying on but from a slight height through a medium he could not explain, but it wasn’t clear. Now this surface seemed to be moving and him along with itself. He felt himself being rocked gently initially – back and forth – and then the surface began pushing him. He kept moving for a while and then fell sharply. Another thump. This time he’d fallen face-up so he could see the new gap he’d fallen from – one among a series of adjacent gaps. By now, the skies had cleared up so he could see the skies but the view was punctuated uniformly by the surface above.

He sighed in resignation. As he felt the moisture slowly abandoning him, so did hopes of his being rescued this time.

Not that it mattered to anyone.