Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Long story short...

Ok, the stories. How do they come? How do they form inside of my head and spill forth here? Who was it...? Yeah, it was Shub who asked me this in one of her comments..These are questions that don't have easy answers, even from me. I mean...but I sat back and mulled over it for a moment. And looking back, it all begins with an idea that just springs up and I build a story round it, with characters, some a figment of my own imagination, some inspired by people around me. And funnily, the stories are much better when I just caught on to a germ of an idea and put it down, then and there. Not much thought, not much mulling, no editing whatsoever. Straight from the heart, as they say. And whenever I've played around with an idea for a few days and then written it, it's got diluted. And I end up feeling, 'sheesh, this could've been better'. And I always wonder about this. Does the impact lie in the spontaneity of the thought? The freshness? Maybe...that's when the characters are still onstage in your mind. But isn't your story supposed to be well etched if you write it after much thought? I guess that's just a problem with my mind. :)

I guess the difference is in the thought process. The shorties are best for...well, shorties. They come in spurts. The slower ideas need more processing time. Maybe I should try writing longer versions of those. Maybe some idea will find it's way into a bigger book someday.

It's like the difference between a 100m dash runner and a marathon runner. Well...

Monday, November 28, 2005

whodunnit?

He sat smoking silently on the dark stairway when it all began. Heard like crackers at first. But it was unlikely - no cricket match,Diwali was still months away and the celebrations (of any kind) couldn't have started so suddenly; at least not in this area. He heard running footsteps, several of them. Then car doors opened and slammed shut. The shots continued. The stairway was half hidden behind a pile of boxes. He started descending, slowly, like a cat, to get a better view. Just then a figure appeared at the foot of the stairway, blocking the street light for a moment. Staggered, in fact. Their eyes met. He leaned against the wall, clutching his waist. Then a lone shot rang out, pushing him forward against the stairs and he slumped. He was not down yet. He lay there and pointed his gun at the half illuminated stranger, who now stood still.

"Aye! What are you doing here? Do you want to die?"

And in a moment, that face was clear. The dreaded gangster Madhav. He started getting up. But it was too late, the small swiss knife blade shone in the light for a fraction of a second, in front of his eyes before plunging deep in his neck.

******

The encounter was not a new thing that the city witnessed that night. But the cops were having a hard time trying to figure out the post mortem report. They were damn sure they'd shot the gangster down. But death due to a knife wound?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Guess who...

Aparna turned to Meera.

"Just what do you think that guy's profession would be?"

Meera turned to see. Ok looks, stubble. He was engrossed in his magazine as he sipped his coffee. It was a Sunday. Hard to tell. Even CEOs looked like they were dressed for a picnic on Sundays.

"Ummmm...playwright?"

Aparna laughed. "How can you tell?"

"I don't know, I just...it just came to me. What do you think?"

Aparna looked at him, the smile at the corner of her mouth not making any efforts to hide her amusement.

"I think he's a software engineer."

"Ah, come on. Every other guy is that. It's too easy a guess."

"Well, I might be right." The girls chuckled. Too bad he wasn't looking at them. Actually by now it was pretty obvious they were using him as a dart board, but it just wasn't getting across to him. EVeryone else, but him.

Meera lowered her voice and leaned across. "You know what appu, he should turn out to be some psychopath, and he's going to kill us both because we're making fun of him. I mean come on, this is feigned ignorance. He knows very well but...he doesn't want to show it. Don't you think?"

"Yeah, right. And the moment we enter our apartment building, he'll be waiting in the dark to step forward and slash our throats."

"Hmmmm, Jack the ripper." Meera said, deep throated, like a TV promo. Their laughter erupted for a second before they brought it down, shooing each other, like a couple of school girls. The giggling continued behind cupped hands.

They turned now again, but he was gone. Ah, what a shame. This was getting to be a lot of fun. But well, it was time to leave anyway.

********

Aparna got off the rick and headed down the street leading to her house. Damn street lights. She almost tripped on a rock lying on the road. She suddenly sensed another pair of footsteps behind her and almost immediately her mind went back to the prank she played with Meera. She walked on, not turning back. Her heart beat faster now. Come on Appu, she told herself - Don't be silly. It couldn't happen. Didn't happen in real life. And then she turned. It was him! A groan escaped her mouth. This is ridiculous. These things happened only in Stephen King's novels or the movies. She hastened her steps. And then he called out.

"Ma'am."

She virtually ran now. Her building was just four houses away. She cursed herself. She cursed Meera. And what happened to all the cars in town?

"Hello, ma'am."

She opened her gate and ran in. He stopped outside. "Ma'am".

"Don't you dare come inside,or I'll call the police." He looked genuinely puzzled by this.

Something was not quite right here, a part of her brain protested. Why would a psycopath call out to her and then try slashing her throat? She was breathing heavily now. He chuckled. What cheek!

"Ma'am, I just came to hand this over. Your diary."

She immediately reached to her bag. And then it all came back. She had dropped her phone book (no, she didn't like storing all the numbers on her cell. She and Meera had had innumerable debates over this) and the guy had come to return it. But he left earlier, how did he find it?

"Where...where did you find it?"

"I was outside the hotel ma'am, smoking. I called out when you and the other ma'am got into the rickshaw, but you didn't hear me, so I followed you."

Followed? So fast, on foot? And as if to answer her question, "I rode with my friend who dropped me here."

She didn't know what to say. Well, so much for guessing professions.

"Uh...look, sorry I shouted at you. Just leave it on the gate."

"Ok, ma'am." He shrugged and left.

Heaving a sigh, she quickly grabbed the diary and ran to the door. Once inside, she laughed and dialled Meera's number. She had to tell this to her. She had dropped her on the way. She half expected her 3 year old son to answer the call. But nobody answered. Funny, she shrugged after trying a few more times and kept her bag and diary on the dining table. Something fell out of the diary. A note.

"I know you both were discussing me in the hotel."

And then her cell rang. In the calm of the night, the sound made her jump. She reached for the instrument, her hands shaking. It was an unknown number.

"He...hello."

"he..hello..." imitated the caller's voice, sounding suspiciously like Meera's. And then laughter.

"Meera? What the...?"

"I know that you both were discussing about me in the hotel." Meera said, deep throated.

"Meera, I'll...I'll kill you."

In between laughter, Meera replied. "You just met my cousin Jatin and he was in it from the start. How was it? APRIL FOOOOOOL".

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Just like that...

I love the smell of old books. Whenever I pick up one of the classics or a really old book, you know the ones where the pages are almost like papyrus, crumbling at your touch (ok, maybe I went too far with that), and I smell the pages,mmmmm, it literally transports me back to that time when the book was written, or well, whenever, donno what, but the feeling's really good. You feel one with the characters of the book or the author who's penned it. It's comforting. Especially on a lazy afternoon. And hey, has this happened to you anytime - you're listening to this familiar number that you've heard at home countless times, and when the track stops, you half expect to hear the song which came right after that in your compilation. It's like the jukebox in your head has already begun playing that number.

Well, just a rant...

Monday, November 21, 2005

Well...

They sat at the kitchen table. She munched. He sipped. They didn't speak. Just munched and sipped. She was hungry. He was thirsty. Jussst...munching and sipping. No speaking.

She wiped her mouth with the napkin and cleared her throat. He looked at her. Kept looking.

She bit into her food again. "Mmmhmm, mhhmm?"

He placed the glass down. "Sorry?"

She swallowed hurriedly. Boy, was she hungry.

"I'm sorry. What I meant was, Do you want more?"

He shook his head.

She nodded and went back to her munching. He was done sipping.

He rose.

She sat watching.

He wanted to leave, obviously. He just raised his hand, but didn't wave.

She smiled through her mouthful. Or was it just his imagination?

He left. She munched some more. A few moments later, she stood watching him from the kitchen window. He turned at her one last time and disappeared into the darkness.

She looked down at her bulging tummy and waved her palm on it. The baby moved. She looked into the darkness again.

She wondered if she should tell her sister about the Indian burglar, who didn't have the heart to rob them. After all, this was a country foreign to him as well. Poor guy. She thought about her husband, snoring so lovingly. Should she tell him?

She let it be. For now, she wanted to rob the entire kitchen off all the goodies. Boy, this guy's one helluva eater, she thought, looking down again.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Chasing cars and unfinished dreams...

The hot car chase. Adrenalin rushing. You watch with your heart pounding. You want the hero to somehow shake his trail off. You want him to disappear into thin air. You want him to lose the big guy driving like a madman behind him. And you probably didn’t even notice that there were a dozen cars that got mowed down in the rat race.

Imagine the scene after the hero and villain vanished in the cloud of exhaust smoke. Imagine you’re a bystander and you watch the carnage they left behind. You move your eyes slowly toward the pile up. Time stands still. Crowds flock to the mangled remains of the cars. Innocent, unsuspecting people. That guy you see pasted to his wheel was probably rushing to office because he had a presentation to make that would bag him his first promotion. That woman who’s trying to step out of her car, screaming when she realizes she’s left both her feet in the floor of the car; probably a mother of two, rushing to pick her children up from school, or probably going to the mall to buy her mother that lemon green saree she’d promised her. You see that brand new hatch-back resting on its back, its driver clambering out? He’s had multiple fractures, probably even a hemorrhage that the doctor later that day, would mournfully announce to his family members. The new car was bought after much discussion with wife and parents, after considering a myriad opinions and factors so it would not be hard on him and his family. He wanted only comfort for them, nothing more. And…and that cute little red car you see pasted atop another sleek looking machine? That car was probably an emotional attachment of an old retired man, whose son didn’t have the heart to sell it, despite having enough money to buy him an SUV.

I know it’s only a movie. But just imagine.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The thin read line...

Some time back, I watched this movie 'Meenaxi - A tale of three cities'. Well, the movie was nothing to write home about, but the premise was interesting. For those of you who've not seen it, first advice - you didn't miss a lot, so relax. Next - The central character (well, might not be wise to call him that, but well, for convention sake) is a writer who goes through some trying times while penning a novel. The character of his novel appears in his thoughts (to us, she appears as another character in the movie) and leads him through the story. Often luring him into areas that he normally won't go as a writer, because he as a writer believes in a certain style, a certain plot idea. But this girl, his main character, coaxes, goads, cajoles him into coming out with different plot ideas for her.

Interesting plot...like I said. I've always imagined that myself. What if my characters come to life and start telling me what to do with my work? Going by the kind of stories I dish out, it would be a living nightmare, for me at least. But we're digressing. The point I like to make here is that, this idea is intriguing and the director could've done better with the material, rather than treating it like one of his paintings. You can appreciate a piece of canvass with colors and patterns that don't make head or tail to you, but lemme tell you - it's a totally different thing when you're trying to tell a story on celluloid. You need to have your story on the screen like an architect's blue print. Clear. Sharp. Oh well, there are those other kind of movies as well, but we're not going there today...

But I've thought about this idea often - character of a novel comes to life and talks to the writer. And slowly the character takes the wheel and it's a drive to hell. Ok, here's the deal. How about you guys building on this basic premise and sharing your thoughts here? Something. Anything. Go wild. It would be great...since some of you have some great stuff on your blogs.

Just for a lark.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Raksha Bandhan revisited...

Something I posted in Blurty long ago... And when I saw a friend's niece 'n' nephew battle it out at a party the other day, I couldn't help recalling this particular incident. This was something I witnessed near my ex-office. And I kid you not, this is real, not made up. Read on..


I saw the small girl punch the boy almost double her size. He sat down, holding his bleeding nose. The mother came running out.

"Why did you hit him?"

"Because he pulled my hair."

Turning to the boy now...

"Why did you pull her hair?"

"Because called me a thief."

"What did you steal?" (Note how there's no effort on the mom's part to corroborate this piece of information)

"I didn't steal anything. I borrowed her pen."

"He stole it. He didn't ask me."

The little fist was still clenched. The mother just shakes her head and goes back in. The boy looks at his hand, now red with the bloodied nose.They're silent for a few moments. I bend down to tie my shoelace. My document can wait. This is getting too interesting a plot to walk away from. What next, I wonder. The girl brings out a small hankie from her pocket and wipes his nose. "Sorry."

The boy doesn't know what to say. He pushes her away. She gives him the hankie. "Keep it."

He throws it down. The next moment, Mohammad Ali says, 'Want to fight? Hmm?' He starts prancing, sparring, with his fists at his chin.

The plot thickens. The girl says, 'Don't be silly."

''Yeah? Let's see...' he comes near her and tries to hit her. The little girl moves at lightning speed and kicks him in the knee. He yowls and crouches. And before he can bring up his protesting face, contorted with agony, a small hard fist lands on his left cheekbone, keeling him over.Now I'm realllly impressed. Is this a Charlie's angel in the making or what? The mother comes out now, livid.

"Enough Meena. Don't practice your karate on your brother.'

Then she looks at the brother. 'See? I told you to attend classes regularly. This is what happens if you bunk."

I couldn't take it anymore. Chuckling, I continue walking, leaving behind a triumphant sis.

When this duo reaches college, I know who needs to be saved from the baddies. Heheheh...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Between worlds...

Violence begets violence. He knew it. But he didn't care. He fed on it. He could breathe when he was violent. It was like recharging his batteries. There was no moral battle inside of him. It was something he didn't know about. He'd heard about it, seen it on TV and the silver screen. But he didn't care. He did what came naturally to him. And violence was the food he grew up on, on the streets. Survival was not some fancy word used in history text-books, but a way of life for him. He knew that if he had to survive the day, he had to push his way through. He had to fight. He had to be violent. That was his world.
And then, to this world, she came. Like a whiff of fresh air from an open window. She stepped in accidentally to this world. To his world. He didn't know whether to welcome her or to send her away. She explored. She questioned. She was distressed with the way he existed. She wanted to hold his hand and lead him out into the other world. A world not so much violent as his. A world that had happy faces. Of people. The civilized world, she told him. He raised his eye-brows. Civilization? Where was it? They argued. They argued about it at length. But he was tempted. He knew it was going to be difficult. And he knew he might not fit. But he wanted to do it. The very change of heart in him, surprised him. He'd never felt like this before. He'd seen it happening in movies. But this was life as he'd known. And it was happening to him. Should he relent? But what would he get? For that matter, what did he have? He knew only one way of living. He had forgotten how to smile. He didn't know how to talk to people not from his world. She was his only contact.
Was it love? He didn't know. And then, with this thought came fear. Something which he'd not known for a long time. His heart never beat any faster than this before. He knew it was fear. He had feared once, but that was a different kind of fear. That fear was not accompanied by another fear. But this fear had companions. And it troubled him. The fear of loss was supreme to any other fear he'd known in a long time. But then the feeling of hope slowly rose its head higher. Hope that he might not have to be violent anymore. He might not have to play the game of death every other day. He had to change. For her. It was numbing that she could change his feelings in this way. Almost humiliate his soul in this manner, but he pushed those thoughts away.
She waited. For him. For his decision. And then he came and gave her his hand. To go to the new world. There was no looking back now. He was about to throw the gun away when she held his hand.
"If ever this forces you to go back to your world, this will remind me to accompany you."