Posted in Random Thoughts, Writing Tips

Learn from the Masters: Sketching a Character

Author’s note: I have always loved To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I never tried to dissect the love to understand why until recently. When I was reading it for the nth time, I realised…

The book sketches innumerable characters from a small town, I am not into documentaries and the entire thing should have been absolutely boring and I shouldn’t have been able to distinguish between characters. But I love it. The character sketch is woven into story and narrator’s interactions with them. It brings out not just the physical traits but the entire personality. Here are couple of excerpts.

“We lived on the main residential street in town—Atticus, Jem and I, plus Calpurnia our cook. Jem and I found our father satisfactory: he played with us, read to us, and treated us with courteous detachment.

Calpurnia was something else again. She was all angles and bones; she was nearsighted; she squinted; her hand was wide as a bed slat and twice as hard. She was always ordering me out of the kitchen, asking me why I couldn’t behave as well as Jem when she knew he was older, and calling me home when I wasn’t ready to come. Our battles were epic and one-sided. Calpurnia always won, mainly because Atticus always took her side. She had been with us ever since Jem was born, and I had felt her tyrannical presence as long as I could remember.”

“Dill was a curiosity. He wore blue linen shorts that buttoned to his shirt, his hair was snow white and stuck to his head like duckfluff; he was a year my senior but I towered over him. As he told us the old tale his blue eyes would lighten and darken; his laugh was sudden and happy; he habitually pulled at a cowlick in the center of his forehead.

When Dill reduced Dracula to dust, and Jem said the show sounded better than the book, I asked Dill where his father was: “You ain’t said anything about him.”

“I haven’t got one.”

“Is he dead?”

“No…”

“Then if he’s not dead you’ve got one, haven’t you?”

Dill blushed and Jem told me to hush, a sure sign that Dill had been studied and found acceptable.”

Also, the author was not in a hurry to give away everything at the beginning. It is almost half way through the book when you realise that Calpurnia is black and Dill’s character sketch waits until we are a couple of pages through with him.

Let’s learn from the masters.

Posted in Blogging

Milestone Celebration

In middle of all the confusion that encompasses my life, I missed a very important milestone: 400+ followers! Also, 14K views! Wow…there was a time when I had 3 views for one year…all my own.

Thank you, dear followers, for reminding me everyday that my blog is there for a reason: You! It is meant to show an upside down view of life, give voice to beings who often go unheard and spark a conversation. I had stopped giving political opinion last month because it hurt some very important people in my life but I still write about everything else under the sun, as long as it has the potential to stir a healthy conversation.

Sometimes, I do feel out of juice though until I see a photo, hear a story, read a word that makes my brain do somersaults until something spills out that is worth telling a story.

So, if you have a topic or a word around which you want me to weave a story, just leave it in the comments. The offer is open to anybody and anytime. You can throw the word in, in the comment box of any of my posts. I’ll pick up and see if I can weave something. It might take a few days…or weeks…months even, because my brain does its own calculation while I sleep, and churns out something almost perfect at unexpected moments, but it will surface, eventually.

So, give me inspiration, dear readers. I write for you.

Thank you again for following me. Keep posting comments whenever you feel like it, even if to just say, Hello!

I love talking to you all. You keep me alight!

Posted in Love

The Master

There are dogs and, then, there is ‘The Dog’;

The one that owns you right from the moment your eyes meet;

The one who silently commands you with puppy eyes to pick it up;

and marks you as his own territory by fervant licks;

The one who ties you around its wagging tail

and rules your life then onwards.

It’s too late until you realise that you’ll be

feeding him out of your hand, buying him toys,

taking him on walks, cleaning after him;

become his slave for the rest of your life…

It’s too late because you are already ensnared in the trap

the little four-legged cupid had set up for you…

You have lost your heart…


For some reason, I’m missing you a lot, Master Bruno...

Photo by Nathaniel Bowman on Unsplash

Posted in Random Thoughts

Why Do We Need a Pride Month?

The fact that we need a Pride month is a matter of shame for us all.

Did you know that around 5% of population across that world has a problem with gender identity. You say, “Well, I’ve never seen anyone…” That’s because they are foresaken by their families upon birth, killed, left in orphanages, handed over to the LGBTQ+ societies in your area or their families hide their ‘defect’…

The fact that we need a Pride month is a matter of shame for us all

because it means we are still not treating people right;

That we need a whole month every year to remind ourselves that people who are different deserve an equal footing;

That we still forget that gender is not black and white but hues of rainbow;

That people are commiting suicide every year because they are pushed to marry the ‘wrong’ gender to prove they are ‘normal’ and those who resort to violence to prove they are ‘man enough’;

That there are sports for women and sports for men, and people who are allowed to enter none;

That there are people who laugh at those who wear their colours with pride;

That every year, too many children are forced to drop out of school because they can’t deal with the physical, mental and emotional abuse by their classmates and teachers alike;

That we are still teaching our sons that boys don’t cry and daughters that girls don’t talk back;

That we are raising another generation that is just as unforgiving to those who don’t fit in the unyeilding boxes of gender roles…

The fact that we need a Pride month is a matter of shame for us all…

Posted in Life and After

The Bus Shelter

I drag my feet to the bus shelter. The night was nearly over and I had nothing to show for it. I push the gnawing hunger down until…

There was a time when men would throng this area after the late-night movie in the hall close by, eager to get behind the bushes with anyone who showed the slightest piece of skin. It was a life of plenty then. But not anymore.

The virus had changed it all. Movie halls are closed. Men are wary of strangers. The mask makes it difficult to bare my supple lips, the biggest draw in otherwise petite frame, but without a mask, they would be even more vary. No one is ready to risk the disease for the sake of pleasure. I really can’t hang a board in my neck declaring that I am vaccinated…

Not that I am vaccinated anyway.

A pang of hunger pushes me to quicken my pace towards the bus shelter. There is always someone there, returning from a late-night job or a soiree…

I turn the corner and look expectantly. A lonely figure is huddled on the bench waiting for the next bus that wouldn’t be here for a bit–a woman! I sigh, but I have to try. I step forward from the shadows, flash cleavage towards her and make a ‘follow me’ sign towards the shadows. She visibly cringes and averts her gaze.

I sigh again.

I hate the bus shelter’s light, but I’m hungry and desperate. So, I make a mad dash, hold the girl’s face in my hands and dig my teeth in her neck…


Inspired by Lop-sided moon by John Melon

Continuation of Blood Red Moon

Posted in My life

Busy Bee (Part 2)

I mentioned a couple of projects for my daughter in my last post, but elaborated only one–the folding kitchen. Well, the other one is a jungle/zoo/farm backdrop.

Everybody at home had been complaining about how my daughter’s toy animals turn up everywhere in the house at the most inopportune moment, like on the floor under your bare feet, on the pillows when your head hits it too hard, on the chair seat when you are too tired to check before sitting, under the bed where you can’t pull them out without getting yourself dirty, behind the huge almirah which needs four grown up men to move (we have only three at home)…

I guess, the herbivores have the habit of running away to go looking for grass and plants, and the carnivores follow them to eat them…

Well, it became important to build a ranch/sanctuary/safeplace where they were allowed to roam. It also helps my daughter create stories that I could, then, publish in the blog (Hah! Mastermind me, stealing stories of the minions…).

So, I used an old flat cardboard box to build the backdrop with water colours (all that I could find at home during lockdown).

The walls have silhouette of a deep forest.

I also built a detachable cave and a hollow tree out of a plastic box. The 4-year-old Madame Leonardo Da Vinci coloured it to perfection.

The forest comes with yellow and red trees built out of old coloured cardboard boxes. It also has a fishy pond and an even fishier river that can be moved around at will. These were made of the old plastic sheets from my old organiser diary. The stones donated by an unsuspecting relative add to the effect.

To ensure flexibility to convert it to a zoo, we have combined it with a set of foldable cardboard cages and coloured by the family artist a few months earlier.

The piece is a continuous work in progress since we plan to add grass, a few more trees, a lying down hollow tree, and other cool stuff to build stories. We are gradually working towards adding farm buildings to the set as well. I’m looking forward to building a nice blue ocean out of the box top, thanks to my daughter’s new found love for water creatures.

The best part is that it also works as storage space for all these sets.

All in all the hard work seems to have paid off, considering the time my daughter spends with the set. I had too much fun…so there’s that too.

Posted in My life

Busy Bee

So, you might have noticed that my posting frequency declined greatly lately. Earlier I used to write at least a couple of posts every week. But in the last month, since mid-Ramadan, I went slow, too slow actually.

No, it had nothing to do with fasting, something to do with my book–The Forest Bed–and everything to do with a couple of projects I had going on for my daughter.

As you might know, I love building things with hands. Earlier I saw on You Tube a folding kitchen that a father had created for his daughter where she could stand and cook. The kitchen was simple, clean and orderly with hangers and stands for utensils, a microwave and a working sink. I was specially struck by how everything was in place and ready to play when the girl opened it so the child doesnot spend time setting it all up.

My house doesn’t offer enough space for anything that elaborate. But setting the kitchen up is my daughter’s pain point. Usually by the time she is done with it, it is time to sleep, eat or study. So, I definitely agreed with the ready-to-play and folding kitchen part.

So I built it out of waste material.

The cardboard was home, thanks to Amazon–around 12 X 8 inches. I just cut one side to be folded up and down. Then, I used the side flaps to add to the depth. Of course, they close too when we are folding, making it a compact storage for all the things that were earlier found all over the house. Since cardsheet was not available due to lockdown, we covered it with the artsheets my daughter had already coloured. The utensil hangers are made of old buttons. The racks are made our of smaller cardboard boxes.

Since the space was too small, rather than sticking the oversized plastic stove on the counter top, we painted it on the counter…by we, I mean my humble-self and my very own four-year-old Leonardo da Vinci.

I added a bit of rough outlines for accent…”rough” being the operative word here. I didn’t want to take away the childish feeling from the paintings so I ensured that the outlines were not clean and symmetrical…they were drawn as if I didn’t have my glasses on (which I didn’t)…way off the mark but still leaving a mark (smudge, actually) on the sheet.

Closed front gates open upwards all the way back and down to form the floor.

The crazy fun I had during the process made me question my mental age…which was about five a couple of years back. I think now it has shrunk to three and a half.

I am planning to add a refrigerator and oven on the outerwalls in my next vacations. Any ideas?

Posted in Life and After

The Specimen

The News Reader’s impersonal drawl filled the air while the king ground his Sodium pincers in anger, “As unprecedented hatred rises in the air between citizens of different colonies, people can be seen rallying the streets with hydro-guns.

They are drowsing each other with Hydrogen Dioxide, melting countless people into puddles of nothingness. The monarchy seems to be clueless on how to stop the massacre. As the tension builds, they are now facing a very real possibility of war, which, so far, was considered a thing of fairytales from planet Urth…”

The king, of course, knew what needed to be done. But that move would be akin to admitting a grave mistake…not graceful at all. After all, it was only last year that their planet celebrated its victory in space research. Tremendous amount of money was invested to arrange a group of scientists travel to this solar system with nine planets, so they could bring live samples. The samples from the blue planet, Urth, were exceptionally alive with chatter. One of the specimens, some Trum, had offered to discuss openly about their society and political system. And, foolishly, he had consented.

Maybe it wouldn’t have caused so much damage if he hadn’t allowed public speeches. But he had thought it was rather ‘entertaining’ to see a specimen address the general public as he tried to copy their accent.

He started with the great things he had done in his own country. How he had started war with others who did not agree. Gradually, he started offering his opinion on everything…how it does not do well to allow races to mix, to share resources…how the current government wasn’t taking enough measures to support it own people… how people should rise to save their birthright from usurpers…

And people listened, transfixed.

Initially, people came in with requests about removing certain people from their colonies and, then, to remove certain colonies from the planet. He, too, agreed because it made sense to him then…until it didn’t. And then, all hell broke loose…

Not sure how hydro-guns came to be. They never had water, except for the samples collected from the blue planet. But now, it seems that they are building them in hundreds. The hydrogen dioxide reacts with sodium of their bodies and melts it. Nobody in their living memory remembered them fighting, but now…

If the madness didn’t stop, he will be facing a war soon, adding further water to their miseries.

Sighing, he did what was needed. He instructed a team of soldiers to load Trum on the waiting spaceship and dump him back to Urth.

Posted in Life and After, Random Thoughts

The Taboo (Real Life)

My earlier post, The Taboo, sparked a lot of conversation and it reminded me of a real incident from my college days.

I was travelling by car with a bunch of family friends to a marriage. We were all between 20-25 years of age, celebrating the momentary freedom from parental supervision. (In India, you are under parental supervision as long as your parents are alive.)

On the way, we saw a scooter at a distance. A girl in her late teens was travelling with an old person, probably her father. One of my friends said, “Hey! Guess what? I can touch her hair while sitting,” and he began extending his hand to touch her.

I shouted at him to stop. He was rather surprised and said he won’t hurt her, just touch her hair. But I held my ground–Just the act will hurt her; that girls are afraid of travelling because boys take such liberties.

He was shocked. He had no idea.

I asked him how he would feel if someone did that to his younger sister. He growled, nobody would dare touch his sister. I reminded him that she probably dealt with this on a daily basis and never told him because of the fear of retaliation or the fear of being grounded for life.

He had no idea…

Posted in Life and After

Fly High

I was out, of course, while he called. I can’t exactly give flying lessons inside a cozy classroom.

He could have just left the message on the answering machine. But no! He had to call me 13 unlucky times before losing it and blasting his cellphone off with his wand.

He’s like, “Why don’t you carry your cellphone with you?”

Sure, I can carry it. But he should try answering calls while riding a broom driven by a shrieking first-timer trying to avoid birds, trees, humans and electrically-charged clouds.

There is no foothold. I almost drop myself ten times a day while holding a broom with both my hands. I don’t have enough hands to hold a cell phone too.

But does he understand? No! Instead, he blames me for ignoring him. Love sucks…

Posted in Random Thoughts

Published Our First Book!

“After an year of toil and tears, it is finally here! Our very own short stories collection…”

-Manpreet and Shaily

The Forest Bed and other short stories

Our book is now available in India in print on Pothi.com. 😊 😃 They deliver across India through courier.

Soon, it will be available worldwide as ebook and in print.

Spread the word!

Share the post, if you will. Please, pretty please! 🥺

Posted in Random Thoughts

Dreams and Crop Circles–Is this a Sign?

Earlier this morning, I had a dream that was on a fairytale-meets-star wars theme with princesses, prophecies, sabers and spaceships. As I sat down to prepare lunch, I was greated with this sight.

A dried top of bottle gourd had this design.

Had I been a supestitious person, I would have run out of my house declaring that Lord Ganesha (with elephant face) has visited my house in his triple face avatar. But thanks to the dream, I was on a Sci-Fi cum Fairytale mode. Hence, I decided it was a crop circle inside my house. You may say, “Hey, a crop circle is a circular pattern in crops.” I say:

  1. Bottle gourd is a crop.
  2. It’s top is circular.
  3. This one a has pattern, a pretty one too. Many progressive Indian women, henceforth, shall use it in their rangoli designs.

I wonder which TV channel to contact–

  • Aaj Tak that will turn it into Doomsday prophecy
  • NDTV that will call it the next attack of a deadly microbe
  • National Geographic that will call it a visitation from aliens and add it to their existing series of crop circles…

Any suggestions?

Hey! Small aliens that fit inside my fridge! Now that’s a plot for story. What do you say?

Posted in Life and After, Nature

The Society Snob

I heard a melodic voice out of my window

I thought, “Ah! A tiny sunbird for sure…”

Excitedly, I looked out and…

…found a hawk!

I thought of the eagle

living across the road–

musical voice,

shrill only at times of hunt.

The little harmless mynas, babblers and crows however, are rather a raucous crowd. They shout and squawk at the top of their voice.

All of a sudden, I realised what it is.

I am biased…

biased against people who are loud…

loud because they speak their heart…

loud because they don’t mask their intentions beneath many layers of honey…

loud because they don’t have anything to hide…

loud because they don’t prowl…

I an being a society snob,

who considers loud as crass

and duping others an art…

Posted in Life and After

The Taboo

A girl walks on the road wearing a long dress that fits her snugly.

A second girl looks at her clothes longingly, mentally comparing it with her own loose, unflattering clothes.

An old man ogles, his eyes resting in places they shouldn’t. A young guy wolf-whistles, while another touches her backside ‘accidently’.

So, a couple of old women begin gossiping among themselves about the vices of unashamed modern girls who invite rapists to themselves.

The second girl groans inwardly, hiding her longing to be free to dress…

Posted in My life

Negotiating with Intelligent Beings: Act 2

Author’s note: I recently had this conversation with my daughter. Note how priorities change with time.

“Mom, Make me a fairy. I want to fly.”

“Baby, I can get the wings from the market for you, but I’m afraid that won’t help you fly. You need hollow bones.”

“Fairies don’t have hollow bones but they fly.”

“First, you don’t know that yet. You’ve never met one. Second, fairies are born as fairies. You were born a human. Maybe you can grow up and become a pilot. Then you can fly.”

“Who’s a pilot?”

“Well, you saw those aeroplanes the other day? Pilots fly them.”

“But I don’t want to fly inside an aeroplane. I want to fly like fairies.”

“Well, there is hand-gliding. You hang on those gliders tied to the wings and fly.”

“I don’t want to hang to anything while I fly. It’s dangerous.”

“Okay, then become a pilot.”

“Fine, make me a pilot.”

“Well, to become a pilot, you must study a lot…for many years…”

“How many years?”

“15-16 years…maybe more…”

(A pregnant pause)

“I think, I’d rather have the scooter you offered the other day…”

Posted in Random Thoughts

Gille, The Bard of Falutia

A penny for your thoughts…

Tiny Tales

Between the treacherous forest where only foul spirits dared to tread and the wide waters of the Alamanthanine Sea, there stood the small kingdom of Falutia. And in Falutia, there lived a bard of such renown that his name was spoken in hushed whispers from the sandy shores to the peaks of the snowy mountains. The mere mention of his arts upon the lute strings sent a shiver through even the most brutal mercenary, for he was, without a doubt, the worst singer ever heard in those fair lands.

His name was Gille.

His singing brought to mind the scratch of dead branches against gravestones, and his lute playing stirred even the most war-hardened soldier to tears of despair. Wherever he went, always in cheerful song, the road cleared before him. Thief, trader, brave wanderer, or stalwart servant of the king, it made no difference. All fled at the first…

View original post 1,259 more words

Posted in Life and After

The Temple in the Dream

Day 1: Walking up that winding mountain road in the moonlit night, I look up again. There stands the temple, partially hidden behind the mound of grey rocky slope, looking ancient, bleak and sad. I shouldn’t be able to see it at all from this angle, but somehow I can. I don’t question the vision though. The place has a lonely aura as if no one has visited it in the longest time. But still someone certainly had recently because it has no dust, no cobwebs.

Don’t ask me how I know that–I haven’t reached there yet.

I walk slowly, for the road is full of colourful shops lit by yellow light, like old days. Colourful stone jewellery hangs from the low ceilings and is laid down on the table display…nothing of real value but too pretty to ignore. I’d stop every now and then to hold them in my fingers, maybe try them out in front of the mirror. But my heart wasn’t in it. Then, the urge to reach that temple would grip me and I’d begin walking again, only to stop at the next shop…

Day 2: There are stairs winding between shops, going up and down and up again. I am bone-tired and a little lost. I want to take rest but the temple is pulling my heartstrings, and the compulsion to keep looking for the path keeps me weaving through the crowded marketplace built on the stairs. I look up at the temple at an angle where it should not be visible. But there it is, still too far, still the lonely mysterious place partially hidden behind the grey rocky slope. How I wish to see it up close…

Day 3: I walk that mountain road again, making my way slowly through the shops. I reach a crowded temple, vibrant with pink walls and huge deities that fill the entire room making it a tight fit. It isn’t where I want to go but the crowd of temple visitors jostles me until I fall in line.

The urge to seek something else builds within, making me restless with the crowd’s antics. I push against a houseful of humans until I finally find a way out. I am now on an upward unused grey path that leads to an open gate flanked by high walls. Once I reach the top of the grey rocky mound, I look down. There it is, the temple I seek…

The temple looks mysterious in the moonlight. It is as lonely as ever. I am drawn towards it like a moth to flames. I know, I’m not supposed to go alone in a place where no one else ventures. But my feet take a life of their own. I walk inside.

The darkness is not oppressive. It is releasing.

I stroll around between the many pillars, relishing the serenity. I reach a pair of sliding doors that look like an elevator. I inch closer. There is no visible button but the lift opens for me. There is one more woman there, looking lost in peace. Not sure where she came from. But I step inside anyway as if I know what I’m doing. The door closes behind me. There are no buttons but the lift moves downwards, which does not surprise me.

The lift stops after a long time, or maybe a few seconds. Time does not make sense anymore. The door opens and both of us walk out in a long lobby. The ceiling is too high and invisible to me. There is light on both ends of the long room, but that is to be expected. The place is crowded too but there is no jostling. I look back, the lift door is closed. I know it would not open for me anymore, not that I want it to.

People walk around peacefully at a casual pace, there faces grey and devoid of all emotions except eternal peace. I am here to join them. I begin walking at a casual pace, knowing I have an eternity to explore.

The last thing I hear is the final beep of my heart monitor. I know, now, I’m free.

Posted in Love

Awaiting

I look at the clock for the hundredth time. He’s still not home.

3:21 AM: It’s futile to wait up. It is only 3 hour journey. If he was coming home tonight, he would be home long back.

4:07 AM: But his friend had said he met him at VT station…

5:37 AM: He probably didn’t find a train…

6:58 AM: But why hasn’t he picked up the phone?

8:09 AM: Is he alright? Why would he not call me back? I know he is always angry but how can he ignore 26 calls?

9:16 AM: Did he have an accident?

9:45 AM: Should I call police?

10:15 AM: His text reads, “The maid will be late.”

11:13 AM: The maid is home, more cheerful than usual.

11:30 AM: He saunters in more cheerful than usual. I rush to meet him. His hair is wet from the shower.

I quietly move to the inner room. He speaks to the maid in a low tone. They laugh…

Posted in Love

Impasse

I hold the phone

hoping you’ll pick up;

hoping you wouldn’t;

hoping you’ll recognise the number;

hoping you wouldn’t;

wondering how you could forget the number

when I couldn’t…


I hold the phone

hoping you’re awake;

hoping you’re asleep;

wondering how you could,

when I couldn’t…


I hold the phone wondering

if you have company

and who could she be;

fuming, how you could

when I couldn’t…

Raging, I throw the phone

at the wall

breaking it into pieces

like me…

Still wishing,

you had taken that call…

Posted in Life and After

Voices at the Sea

Honestly, it’s a decent job. I could easily bus tables at the seaside restaurant. It wasn’t as if I had anywhere to go or anything to do. All I did all day was sit on a rock and sing. There were no more sailors to lure and drown anymore.

In the earlier days, mermaids earned a lot more. Mom boasts about drowning an average of a sailor per month. She’d then collect the souls in her neck-shell and sell them to Poseidon for bags of sea oysters with pearl-guarantee. It paid for every comfort in life and a decent retirement.

You see, Poseidon uses human souls to create sea monst…ahem…’exotic beings’ on demand. Initially, he created these beings from the scratch. But it was a long and difficult process, taking several years in tracking a suitable sea-nymph, courting her, waiting for the ‘product’ to grow up and, later, making the mother agree to hand it overn. It also gave him a bad name among the big-wigs at Mount Olympus.

So, he simplified the process by keeping a set of pre-defined ‘baby products’ ready for sale and programming them to life whenever a wannabe parent came seeking. However, the program had its own faults–sometimes there wasn’t enough voilence for ‘character building’ of the species and the ‘products’ weren’t intense enough to challenge/kill men at sea. There were talks at Olympus about Poseidon losing his touch and moving the sea-life contract to Goddess of land-life, Diana.

That’s when inspiration struck. Poseidon began sorting through captured human souls. Once he found the one with enough violence, he inserted it in pre-defined bodies and, then, customised them as per the demand. The product became a booming success and mermaids were the richest soul vendors in the entire ocean.

But now, the job opportunities are dying out.

The new ships are sturdier and have better compass. By sheer luck, if they ever get lost, the radio and GPS ensure that human find them before we can. The competition for sailors is rather tough and we are lucky if we find one per year. It hardly enough to put food on the table.

Hence, my only choice was either to go savage and hunt fishes like the old tribes did or get another job that pays enough.

This seaside restaurant already employs several mermaids and pays in river-oysters with cultured pearls. The scrumptious seafood to all its employees is an added benefit. Plus, a number of hot men throng that place, so there’s a potential to date and drown a few, at least.

You can’t fault us new-age mermaids wanting to work there.

Now, if only mom would stop freaking out…