The Hill

He looked like he planned to spend the entire day sitting out on the branch kicking his legs and day dreaming about Dragon Ball Z or whatever anime he had last watched. But unlike the other days, today he hopped off the tree.

He stomped a few leaves, savoring the sound of them crunching. He looked hard at his sandals and seemed reluctant to put them back on. He crushed more leaves as he made his way down the mud road. A thin layer of dirt stuck to his bare feet. Behind him trailed a long line of foot prints that zigged and zagged and overlapped.

He turned to the swaying bamboo; a yellow cluster of them blocked the view behind him. He looked around like he was lost in a memory or maybe he was just thinking hard. He moved to the left, the side with the trees that blocked off the sharp drop on that side of the hill. Leaves gave way underneath him as he hopped of the crumbling red wall that blocked the bit of land before the drop.

They were brown and dry and hid the ground. It seemed like you would find nothing but leaves if you tried to dig your way to the other side of the planet. The smell of dry leaves and bark coated the area while an unceasing breeze flowed through the trees.

No else seemed to be on the hill. The world below look like an alien place. The wind carried the distant noises of the city. The grey towers and roads dotted the landscape between the green cover to the blue horizon. No one could see him, but he saw all in his elevated realm.

He drew a deep breath and put his hand on a tree. This was an act of rebellion; no one is supposed to go there they always said. It didn’t make sense. They only risk you face is the risk of remembering that the rest of the hectic noisy world still existed.

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T Word Essays

T seems to be a portentous letter. Yes I know what portentous means, no I didn’t look at a dictionary to learn what it meant, and yes I am smug about the fact that I know what it means.

Terribly tiny tales were these series of images that had a line or two that would make up an entire story.  And they would be these tiny, tragic stories that were very enjoyable. I haven’t come across them in a while so I assume they aren’t written anymore or have dipped in quality. I found myself struggling to work with fiction the other day, everything kept turning into a novel. So I’ve decided to try and do something similar to the terribly tiny tales type. Not too close though, nor too different.

Today we were told we will have to try and type out word essays throughout this month for our creative writing course, a very convenient task. I’ve been writing these essays since forever and should beat everyone else to the end. I had forgotten where I had stopped this series and wondered if I should even bother continuing it when the word essays were mentioned and terribly tiny tales and the letter T screamed from some corner in my head. The letter, had in a few seconds, filled me with ideas about what to do with the blog.

These essays are a welcome break between stories, poems and non fiction, and these breaks stop myself from working too hard and sounding like a tactless crustacean. This is one assignment that’s terribly portentous of being all too easy.

PS: If you haven’t noticed, every sentence has a word starting with t. T is a very easy word to work with after all; I wonder if I should start writing these word essays differently.

The Beetles and the Flies

He was an odd one, as beetles go. He buzzed a wasps buzz, upturned and kicking, his black belly exposed.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to disturb him. He buzzed along the paper, still unread. Face rested on two finger I drifted back to the days worry of monotony. I’m always lost without routine, nothing new gets done unless there’s some order about the rest of the day. But that’s when they started flying in.

Flies, the big see through wing kind that fly into wind shields. A few thumped against the window before flying in. They began buzzing around the room, five, eight, not more than eleven. I realized a video was still playing, the PC screen still glowing. They had stopped buzzing around the room and I wondered what they were doing in the city. I lent back, it was time to stop spending so much time with the PC, make a schedule perhaps.

The Beetle was gone and a lizard had sneaked down, gorging himself on the flies. One was caught in web of the resident spider who dances between the PC and the table, his wings gone. I spent the next few… minuets(?) telling myself that I should probably start writing. Nothing is new without the familiar, not even the see through wings on the floor.

Commercial Street

In that road raveled by swift feet and roving eyes the mannequins still and frozen look on unfazed.

On their perches and slightly elevated stands, they stare wearing faint but sly smiles on their unchanging faces. Decorated, white skinned and brown haired they’re an odd contrast to the crowds that pour through the streets. Some that are naked, pitch black, bald, and without any facial features are being shuffled around by men. Their faces are turned and in that direction they stare an eyeless stare.

One has silver hair and a broken nose with cracks becoming mosaic. A few in suits and backs against the wall guard the dust covered entrance to a shop. Gold glitters on hands, chests and necks behind dusty glass. The crowds thin and slow along side these appendages which are always black in color. One bust ends at the nose, just enough to include a sly smile.

A standoff between unarmed torsos runs from either end of another shop.  No one sees them, no one wonders and tries to follow the slanted gaze of those mannequins that look out to… something, something far away. They rattle with the traffic, long before the crowds take notice of screeching horns. But they never move,never tire of their stares. What are those plastic Venus de Milo’s smiling about anyway?

The Glass House

I understand why she can’t stand the house, some people don’t mind being seen so much as having to see.

Down a wide, green, cobbled road, after the sleepy houses that have been around since the end of the British Raj, is where the family’s new house in Mangalore is hidden away. These large house that could have only existed in a time that has passed, are now green with moss, have plants booming in untamed corners, roofs collapsing, red tiles cracking and adventurous dogs (who take advantage of the very uneven terrain, frequent slopes and drooping trees to climb onto the sunny remains of roofs). The newer concrete  houses with aged cement, mossed paint, and small yards are also lonely as their owners also decide to leave town and live in countries where their children work. New, luxurious apartments have sprung up in the area. Smaller but very charming little apartments that have housed at least one generation also line the road, bolder than the behemoths drawn to the back of their plots.

Our house, the glass house, is down this road, down a small cobbled slip that runs down a gentle slope. A white house and a white car, clearly built by a man quite a lot of money and very little taste or reservation, guards the entrance to the lane. Travelers often stop to look twice at the awkward, white stone and wood, built in what is unmistakably supposed to be inspired by old Indian mansions. On the other side is a grey moss covered wall, and large trees that hide a large house behind it. On the other side of this entrance is a path to a large apartment.

Behind the awkward white house is an empty plot with old house that is surrounded by wild grass, and has a roof which has crashed to the ground.  It has a curious amounts of books inside, which are now a sickened shade brown. Behind this empty plot is our landlords house, and after that is our house. After the grey compound wall on the left, which houses a large grey house with a well forested garden, and a lonely old man, is a large courtyard and a two story house rented to three people. This house, with resilient wild flowers and plants exploding all over it, would have been rented to four people if there wasn’t a property dispute going on. Behind it, at the end of the street next to us, is a pink four story apartment that looks like a house. It does a poor job of hiding the street behind it.

Anyone who walks onto the tiny street is immediately spotted and heard by everyone on the street (maybe even by the people on the street behind it). Many species of bored housewives,canines and felines have eyes ready to pounce on anything that stroll by. The residents of the apartment can also steal glances unnoticed and unobstructed through our street and the next from their elevated windows. The awkward inward folding gates to our house is guarded by the Muslim women who are always drying clothes at the bottom of the apartment, the three families in the house before it, and the matron of our house.

She is always in her living room that looks straight at the gate. She asks adroit questions that’ll help her determined the age and occupation of at least three generations as she smiles and permits you to open the gate. Walk down along her house with an endless supply of young relatives sticking out of the many windows, and up the stairs try to avoid the inquiring stares from the living room of the people who live below us. The stairs end at our house which faces a window to our landlords house. You can often see their feet or upper torso as they leave the bedroom and head to the kitchen.

On the left you can see the entire street, and the entire street can see both you and into the first bedroom of the house. Above these house you can see another apartment from where you can once again be observed unnoticed. On the right you can see a basement. We used to live in the large apartment above the basement.It’s surprisingly populated for a basement. You can also see part of a large, old house behind it.The house is a perfect rectangle. Enter the living room and you can see straight down to the end of the house and into the street behind us. You can peek into all the room on the right and through their windows. You can also look left and once again see the basement and the house behind it.

There’s a strange man who’s always at the basement. They tell me there must be something wrong with him. The something is likely to be a physical condition but I’m not sure. He stand there, mostly during the afternoon, motionless between the always locked office and the three stairs to the elevators. He is clad in unassuming formals, well-worn old shoes and has rapidly graying hair. He talks to a few people occasionally, but never leaves his post. You’ll never seen him moving and you can’t afford to look at him because his post lets him look right at you.

Every room but the washroom(which has just one window) lets you see and be seen from at least two sides. Every side seems to have a conversation float by, every direction seems to have someone who look away when they catch your glance. no other house on the street must be able to see as much as we can, no other house can be seen as much as we can. She tells me it’s like the walls and roof have collapsed just like in all those old houses. I wonder what the view must be like from inside those shattered mansions.

Sounds From An Open Door

The room’s a cozy corner placed in the strangest way possible. Open the door and the world right in front you, but the room is still pulled back into the far end of the plot.

Overhead my neighbors feet thunder and scatter as he realizes he’s late for work again. A kid whines and implores this parent to look at something. I imagine he pulls at his fathers shirt as  autos ignore them. My UPS screams as if annoyed at having being woken, and the window sequels as I close it. The chair squeaks as I turn to the left and reopen it.

After a session of charging at howling vikings and dodging the metallic rings of swirling scimitars I hear curious footsteps and then a quick shuffle. I realize the door has been ajar for the enter day and the swaying branches having been singing as they always do. Lazy scooters buzz past as the housewives get a move on before the mid day sun catches them. I forget about the footsteps as the windows theme announces its shutting down.

Light dew floats by when I return that evening. My neighbors’ wife seems to be talking to someone on her balcony. Proof of her existence is always rare.  I prepare for my french viva as the neighborhood fills with the sound of cricket balls flying, stone wickets failing to stay upright, and uncles offering helpful tips. My monitor buzzes monotonously and more fights about the score ring out as more childish voices appear.

Thunder rings out but the voices don’t care. I step out and listen to the dirt between my feet and earth scrape. I wonder if there is some ancient part of us that loves to be reminded that in a world that sees so far, that dirt still scrapes lightly beneath moving feet.

An Old Phtograph

I don’t really have many pictures of myself when I was young, I was far to self-conscious and would scatter the second I heard some eager creature with a camera. So when I realize that my makeshift mouse-pad was an old picture of me on my 8th birthday I was quite startled.

I’d say something cliché like “memories came rushing back”, but really, that isn’t the truth. The picture felt like a rough jab because it reminded me that the memory -or even memories were always around. I remember what T-shirts people wore, how they smelt and where my dog had bitten three of my friends. It’s like writing a word on paper, closing your eyes and recalling every curve,swish and dot. On the left, my other wise pretty cousin is on the sofa with us, mouth wide open ready to chomp on a slice of chocolate cake she holds. I am in between. I look anorexic you’d think my cousin was inspired to enjoy her meal because of my plight yet I smile away trying to adjust my red birthday cap. My father sits on the right with his hand awkwardly feeling the wall behind the sofa. He looks like a cat about to be run over.

Most of those parties always went the same way. My dad would yell and throw a fit about me not helping him decorate, I’d ask him why people need birthdays in the first place (while I wondered why I had to decorate if the whole thing was about me). My father wears a simple white shirt and looks 40. He’s looked like he’s 40 ever since he finished high school. Now he’s 55 and still looks 40.

My cousin and I, both skinny and young, both in bright yellow hand me downs and with birthday caps that just won’t stay on our heads look like natural allies. She was almost done with high-school  by then, but had not yet learnt how to avoid getting yelled at by the many aunts who inhabited the mansion. Back then I never understood why she was so eager to drag me away from cartoon network, and talk to me about the most random things. I never got why people kept telling her to go ask her mother to pay her bills. We’d sit by the little outlook on the hill and count the number of black cars and buses that needed a wash. She’d talk about how she’d have to dig up graves to find teeth so she could study dentistry.

I forgot about her entirely when my mother and I left that old house and that part of the family. In my defense I was a kid, I never got her rants about her nokia and pink cycle. I saw her again 3 years ago when both of us went back to the old house. We shrugged and said “meh” to everyone else there. We saw each other. We shrugged and said “meh”. She had a kid apparently.

It’s an odd photo. Very obviously candid. None of us seem affected by the din that must have been taking place in the center of the room. There only three of us three, on a sofa colored like pencil lead, against a bland green wall. For some reason that image always seems to simple,recent and familiar to forget.

The Slow Wagon To No-Where

My father has this amazing ability to change opinions depending on how far away he is.

When he’s in Mangalore, everyone agrees that a car ride with him is torture. His trusty steed is a dented, old Wagon R, is painted  brown by the omnipresent coating of dust [legend has it that it was once as black as the hair dye my grandfather always gets all over his neck]. The Wagon R has a disturbing tendency to fall apart in the oddest ways, ooze strange fluids that seem to have been food during a bygone age,have strange insects crawl out etc. The furious family head shaking at my father driving [which gets my grandfathers hair dye all over the rest of the family] dies down the closer to Bangalore my father gets. By the time my father has driven into city limits everyone seems to have forgotten about their disgust at his driving, and insist that I have nothing better to do than accompany my father to where ever it is he needs to go.

My family has this weird thing about road. To most people road’s don’t matter all that much unless they’re being launched into orbit by some inconsiderate pothole or being offered an unwelcome shower by a motorist who hasn’t noticed that the pothole you are walking next to is filled with water. To my family it’s the pinnacle of civilization. Show them a documentary on the Romans? “Wow look at those roads!”. Images of Afghanistan? “My god look at those roads! How can they be so good when Taliban and American terrorists are bombing everything?”. My mother has recently become interest in Urdu poetry. Every time the discussion turns to Pakistani poetry and some patriot uncle decides that Pakistan is nothing but my sand, my mother will argue “That’s not true! Don’t underestimate them, have you even seen their roads?”

Perhaps this love of perfectly paved tar can be traced to Mangalore. Mangalore and the villages in the area ,like Bantwal, have for a very long time, had atrocious roads. How atrocious? So atrocious that every single car ride must warrant comment on the roads. There has never, and I mean NEVER, been a car ride without complaints about the road. So my father who has been bouncing up and down the poorly laid mixtures of tar,dirt and speed bumps for most of the day-long car ride from Mangalore to Bangalore  achieves a state of maddened euphoria when he sees patches of good road. Suddenly the accelerator is his worst enemy that needs to be crushed under his foot, the break needs to be kicked violently or it’ll disappear and ever traffic jam a excuse to stop and snooze while maintaining a 7 meter distance from the vehicle in front. Unlike my family, normal motorists have a consistent view about my father’s driving.

Every time we start off from home, a hour later than planned, my father and I spend a minimum of 15 minutes sorting the many many plastic bags, ferrying all the things he’s brought into the house, throwing away all the random derbies and aged fruit his journey has accumulated. My father also has this habit of buying fruit juice every 20 minutes of the car ends up having a lot of thing spilt all over it. Occasionally he’ll hang it on the door locks. If your aren’t careful the paper cups with the juice can get caught between car and door. A wet explosion of water melon is sometime I’m all to familiar with. Once my father didn’t notice I was half red and drenched till we got back home.

Honestly I’m surprised by how easily I’ve reached 600 words. I guess that’s because we travel everywhere by car. It’s always the first option which is weird since none of us can stand each other. My father and I have debates about religion, or at least we used to when I was foolish enough to think I could change his opinion. He has some pretty bizarre ideas, like moon rays affecting everything he does, random anecdotes about wells filled with money being proof of god etc. At one point of time he hoped I’d become an astrologer.

My father also comes up the weirdest of conspiracy theories. Rahul Gandhi is a cocaine addict, the CIA funds global warming etc. Occasionally random friends of his who are almost always filthy rich hotel owner from Goa who dress like hobo’s and share his taste in cheap hotels that where built back when Joseph Stalin was yet to hit puberty. I could go on the utter bizzarness of the conversations but if you really want to keep your mouth shut you can which is a plus. Or maybe he’s learnt that it’s no use trying, I’m not very sure.

He always sends passenger to fetch morning, afternoon and evening papers. They can be any south Indian language, but if they are Kannada he has to get a copy from very specific publishers, who’s names I can never remember. I don’t know anyone else who read’s afternoon or evening papers. I guess this is because he spends most on his day inside the car like some 21st desert nomad on his camel.He doesn’t have a modern phone either [he has three Chinese made one which have survived a ridiculous amount of punishment and are of the following colors: Pink, Bright yellow and violet.

Occasionally if we’re on some scenic route, he’ll start driving slower than butter melts in refrigerators and become the most mundane travel guide ever. Stories of how some random grand uncles, nephew’s wife’s friends  substitute teacher fell down while running barefoot will turn up. At time the choice of sites leaves me baffled. “Look a golf course”,”Look a field of paddy”,”Look a river” . I’m not quite sure how I’m expected to respond to that. Or why we took a 30 minute diversion to go see it. If my mother is also with us, she’ll rip the back of the drivers seat to shreds[ I always ride shotgun, it’s not that I care but it’s been my default position for some reason.]

For a stinky, sweaty, battered, old car that always leads to some fight or outrage, it has a lot of memories that tag with each trip.