Posted in Life and After

Scouts and Guides

Damn these monkeys! We’ve been following them for half an hour now. We have tried enticing with food, shouting and throwing stones. So far, nothing has worked. We can’t shoot them because the sound will alert the military of our presence, and risk igniting the RDX.

The three of us have been travelling on foot through the forest for the past 75 hours towards the closest city. From there, we’ll assume our fake identities as citizens. Once we reach our destination–the capital city–we’ll build bombs out of the RDX we are carrying for a series of blasts in the busiest public areas. The money was good, so I never asked why.

We had everything planned for a long time–training for building bombs out of everyday things, language and mannerism of the country to avoid suspicion, fake ID proofs, transport, place to stay…

But these stupid monkeys raided our camp while we were sleeping (no doubt, hoping for treats). We woke up with their chatter as they sniffed our bags. When my mate grabbed for the bag with RDX, and one of them picked it and ran away–our entire supply…

We can build bombs without it but they won’t be even half as potent. We can procure it in this country too but it will waste precious time and cost another millions of rupees. Months of planning and efforts, and several million rupees gone down the drain, or up the tree. Worse, if they accidently set it to fire, the forest fire will be out of control in this season, and Forest department will have an in-depth enquiry. That will close the path for us in the future.

Our employers will never let us live it down, or even just live…we get no second chances.

So, we’re tracking these little menace, trying to get our bag back but they seem to love teasing us. They have been moving deeper in the jungle, probably towards their family to share the ‘booty’. But they aren’t in a hurry–when one of us trips over tree roots, they stop as we curse and get back up, and then move ahead.

Are they leading us into a trap? But what could it be? They are mere monkeys, not lions. What can they do to us? Tear our clothes? It’s the mysteriousness of the dark jungle, where sun never penetrates to the ground, the humidity, claustrophobia from being surrounded by so many trees, and the training of never trusting anyone and reading between the lines.

The monkeys have stopped now. We are in the middle of a clearing and the monkeys have climbed too high on the trees. Climb or wait? Wait, because if we climb, they’ll move further away.

Now once they tear open the bag and find no food, they will throw the contents down. We just need to be nimble enough to catch it; and hope they don’t tear the tiny packets; and that RDX is stable enough to not explode by the impact. Well, we are dead without it anyway. So, we gather around the tree, put our guns inside our clothes, ready to catch, keeping our eyes trained on the bag.

A military voice shouts, “Fire!” and the firing begins.

Posted in My life

Calling W

My smartphone has a thing against making calls to my husband. Specially, during the pandemic, our connection has gone for a toss.

1. On the first call, I get no dial tone, no caller’s tune–only a woman in her mid-twenties educates me about COVID 19, washing my hands and keeping a six-feet distance. Yup! That’s the standard caller’s tune in India now. I wait for her to end her ranting so I can bug my husband. She speaks non-stop for sixty seconds. Then the call goes dead.

2. I call again. This time, some random guy picks up the phone and we both hello each other without being able to talk. I hang up.

3. I call yet again. The call gives some feeble beeps and goes dead.

4. Desperate to get through to him, I call yet again. The call connects but I can’t hear him. The call disconnects after 8 seconds.

Frustrated, I dump my phone and stomp off to let off my steam.

5. Five seconds later, my husband calls me demanding to know why I had called him four times and never cared to speak. Duh!

Posted in Random Thoughts

Liebster Award

Thanks to Ngozi Awa for nominating me for the Liebster award. Just to clarify, Liebster is a German word of endearment. It means, a sweetheart, darling or friend. Hence, I’m really honoured to be called that. Here are my answers to the questions.

1.What is your best childhood memory?

I had a privileged childhood with loads of toys, but my best memory is that of car journeys with my family. My father never hurried, and always made it a point to stop at multiple places on the way. The food at the farm side restaurants had a rural flavour and water tasted so pure…even the air felt so fresh. We had our share of traffic jams but they could not beat the freedom.

2. If you had a chance for a “do-over” in life, what would you do differently?

I would stay back at Kanpur for my Masters in Painting, and Doctorate too. Life would have been a lot simpler.

3. How do you spend your free time?

Writing and reading stories, Painting with my daughter

4. What do you feel most proud of?

My ability to empathise with peoplr and use it to teach them better

5. What skill(s) would you like to learn and why?

Concentration and patience

6. What is your strongest quality?

My forgetfulness…it helps me forgive and forget.

7. If you could only keep five possessions, what would they be?

  1. My daughter
  2. My parents
  3. My debit card
  4. A pencil
  5. A notebook

8. What teacher in school made the most impact on you and why?

My English teacher in junior high school. In the course if three years, she taught me many things, leading by example: it was okay to be afraid, to admit you made a mistake, to ask for forgiveness from youngers without shame, to be human…

9. Who do you most admire in your life?

My parents

10. Do you believe in luck?

I do, but I also believe that there is nothing that can’t be changed by prayers.

Posted in Random Thoughts

Little Red – Part 1

A retelling of a classic tale! What an amazing twist!

Tiny Tales

I didn’t intend to make this a two-part post, but life happens. This is the portion I was able to edit in time for today’s post. The conclusion will be posted soon.

This story is an altered re-telling of the classic fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood.” In his MasterClass, Neil Gaiman encouraged writers to take a fairy tale, dissect it, ask what parts didn’t make sense, and write a version with those questions answered.


On the edge of a brooding forest, there stood a little village, and in the village, there lived a little girl. She spent her days running through the flowery meadows that skirted the village and skipping from stone to stone in the stream that trickled along the dark wall of trees. In that dark wall was a darker mouth where the meadows ended and a dirt path fringed with ferns snaked beneath the towering trees…

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Posted in Twisted Tales

The Folk of the Forest — Tiny Tales

We’ve all heard of folklore. How many of us believe in it? Have you felt the lure to go down an unused path, explore unseen places, see through the dense fog and what hides beneath it? Beware! An awesome site with fantasy so thick, you will lose yourself in it.

I’m sure you’ve heard tales of the strange folk said to dwell in the forests, folk not human. Go ahead. Laugh. Call ‘em nothing but fairytales, stories to scare defiant children. There was a time I’d have joined you…

The Folk of the Forest — Tiny Tales
Posted in My life, Painting

Good Teacher Bad Teacher

Knowledge is wasted without motivation.

-Me

I was 9 years old then. My brother who is a few years older than me was already pretty good at painting. So, my father arranged for a tutor for him during our two-month summer break. He was a good painter–somebody my father had employed to paint his own portrait at that time. I was so excited at the prospect that my father asked him to tutor me too. He was sure I’d quit within a few days as I did everything else. But he was fine to pay the fee, as long as I got a fair chance.

I was an average fourth-grader, but I was proud of my accomplishments. My ‘paintings’ would cover the house walls in all the prominent places–a family of bears (mom, dad, baby), a family of ducks (mom, dad, baby) and a rainy season scene (a building with flowers and raindrops) were my trophy pieces. My parents showed their unwavering ‘fanhood’ no matter what I created. They would applaud and suggest a good place on the wall to display the painting. I was sure I was destined for great things.

Our class had another couple of kids, and we differed in ages and sincerity level. When I joined the class, I had great enthusiasm. I expected myself to turn into a great painter by the end of the summer. That day, my teacher gave me an art book, which was far beyond my years, opened a page of animal pictures, and asked me to draw a Squirrel. No explanations, no tips.

I tried my best and achieved what a 9-year old could in 45 minutes. I was rather proud of myself when I presented my teacher with the best painting in the world.

He took a look and guffawed. Then he added springs to his feet, and told the class, it was a Kangaroo and it was about to jump. Everybody laughed.

That was the last day I went to his class. At least, mentally I was always absent. He reported to my father and he told him not to press me. I even stopped painting for a few months. I don’t remember talking about that incident but it was always there in the back of my mind.

A couple of years later, I was talking to my brother and I told him I longed to paint like him but didn’t know how. He told me, “Practice daily. You will get there, I’m sure.” Then, to motivate me, he gave me a tiny unruled notebook and told me to practice in it so that I do not lose my work and see my progress. The first thing I made in this diary was…any wild guess?

My brother told me that Chip and Dale looked great, and that I should practice daily. I’m sure I did not become a wonderful painter overnight–I hadn’t practiced in two years. But he saw I was putting in the effort, and he got me going. Within a couple of years, I was creating portrait sketches, and my work was far beyond my years.

David Dachovny (X-Files fame)–my first portrait sketch I made in eighth grade
Sachin Tendulkar (the Cricket legend)–a sketch I made in 10th grade

Thanks to my brother, I got my Bachelors in Painting–with Merit and second highest score in the Painting subject in the University. My practicals exams had 98% score–a rarity in Arts.

All this was thanks to the great teacher who told me to believe in myself. Both my brother and I are now in the business of adult education and I can vouch for his method.

A successful teacher does not teach great things. He motivates his students to forge their own path.

-Me again

Just for the sake of bragging, here are some paintings I made during Bachelors.

Hrithik Roshan in oil paint (My second love)…a story for another day
Gul Panag–former Miss India and actress
Mom and dad on swings–my own style–finger and nail painting.
Tiger in the river–Water colours
Posted in Nature, Painting

My Neighbour: The Kingfisher

Kingfishers are a common sight where I live. Though weirdly, there are no fishes in here. I’ve seen them feed on dragon flies and bees. May be they should be renamed as Bee-eaters but the real Bee-eaters might get offended…

In an attempt to give my daughter company during her ‘painting’ escapades, I created this on a rough page with her wax colours. Then she decided the rest of page wasn’t colourful enough and added stuff of her own. I would have kept it too, but leaving a Kingfisher in company of a Lion is rather cruel.

So I cut it out of the paper.

Then she wanted to ‘take a closer look’, so I took a picture to immortalize it in case she decided to go ninja on him.

Posted in Nature

My Neighbours: The Refugee

It hassss been a difficult year–the god of rain hassss been relentlessss. Every other night, water gurglessss down my home driving me up a wall…or rather a tree.

So, here I wassss up on a tree again, waiting for the godssss to stop showering their blessingssss down on ussss, when the aroma hit me. I couldn’t help a peep inside the window next to me. There she wassss again, walking on the thin window ssssill in that tentalizing way that issss trademark of women who know the power they wield over men.

Had I been a mouse like her, I wouldn’t have been able to resisssst her.

So many timessss, I had seen her walk on that ledge. But today, I wasssss having a difficult time resisting her too…I wassss hungry. I had been on a hunt when the rain started pelting down and it hadn’t stopped all night. It issss close to dawn now, and my stomach wassss growling. This mansion has too many mice, which is a temptation, and but it also has too many humans–the only reason I had never hunted here.

They kill our kind the instant they spot any of ussss.

But at this time of the night, they would be deep asleep. I could just get in and walk out with a snack within minutessss! Nobody will be any wiser…my stomach growled in agreement. So, I reached out to the open window and slithered down in the room where three humans, rather two and a quarter, were deep asleep. Their body heat was too low for them to be awake and become a threat.

So, I followed the irresistible aroma of good food running around the floor. A few secondssss later, I was on the top step of stairs leading straight to heaven…down to the kitchen where the rats seemed to be having a feast. In an unthinking moment, I followed.

I was rather sleepy, moving in a food-induced trance, when I reached the bottom step. Damn! A human up too early…I hurried up a rack and inside a box that ssssmelled of old leather, hoping she hadn’t noticed me. Alassss! She called out on the top of her voice for reinfrcementssss.

There were sound of steps running down the stairssss and coming out of the inner room, and lot of shouting, and a bit of maniac giggling…(Some of these humanssss are plain weird!)

Suddenly, the box I was in moved, and I had an odd feeling of having left my stomach behind. I could feel the box sssspinning with me in it as it zoomed into the air and fell on the street outside. I quickly slithered out into darknessss before it was too late. I could hear loud thudssss of stonessss falling around me as I ran into cover. My tail had a scratch, and I wassss still hungry, but at least in one piece, which wassss a miracle considering my stupidity.

I am never going anywhere close to humanssss again. Let those mice take over their mansionssss, eat their food, chomp on their clothessss, bite them in fingerssss…that will really show these stupid humanssss…

Hurting an innocent ssssnake like me…

Posted in Random Thoughts

How to Cook Your Eggs Just Right

Three Men on a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome (1889) is my lifejacket against all of life’s bad puns. This excerpt gives you an insight into my husband’s attempt at cooking and why he needed a wife in the first place. Mind you, he will never admit it.

Harris proposed that we should have scrambled eggs for breakfast. He said he would cook them. It seemed, from his account, that he was very good at doing scrambled eggs. He often did them at picnics and when on yachts. He was quite famous for them. People who had once tasted his scrambled eggs, so we gathered from his conversation, never cared for any other food afterwards, but pined away and died when they could not get them.

It made our mouths water to hear him talk about the things, and we handed him out the stove and the frying-pan and all the eggs that had not smashed and gone over everything in the hamper, and begged him to begin.

He had some trouble in breaking the eggs – or rather not so much trouble in breaking them exactly as in getting them into the frying-pan when broken, and keeping them off his trousers, and preventing them from running up his sleeve; but he fixed some half-a-dozen into the pan at last, and then squatted down by the side of the stove and chivied them about with a fork.

It seemed harassing work, so far as George and I could judge. Whenever he went near the pan he burned himself, and then he would drop everything and dance round the stove, flicking his fingers about and cursing the things. Indeed, every time George and I looked round at him he was sure to be performing this feat. We thought at first that it was a necessary part of the culinary arrangements.

We did not know what scrambled eggs were, and we fancied that it must be some Red Indian or Sandwich Islands sort of dish that required dances and incantations for its proper cooking. Montmorency (the dog) went and put his nose over it once, and the fat spluttered up and scalded him, and then he began dancing and cursing. Altogether it was one of the most interesting and exciting operations I have ever witnessed. George and I were both quite sorry when it was over.

Posted in Life and After, Nature, Twisted Tales

Some Peace

Aegis was over the moon today. He would finally get some sleep. 108 years is a long time to have stayed awake but these fairies never let him get a wink.

Ever since he was a young tree, they had started building their little mushroom houses all over his body. They created quite a din day in and out. He hated how the little ones ran all over him with muddied feet, and teenagers partied all night. The queen herself was a merry person, never stopping her people from having fun. So, his pleas for some peace always fell on deaf ears.

He wished them begone.

As his grumblings grew on a daily basis, the queen relented and decided to move to a clump of smaller trees across the field.

The day the fairies finally left, Aegis was really glad. He would finally get some sleep, he thought. He embraced himself and settled for a long night. But the place felt rather cold without the little fairy lights. And scary too. The chaos from earlier suddenly did not seem so bad. His stomach dropped to bottom as he realised he’d be alone for the rest of his days–another 100 years or so.

He missed the little raucous crowd and wished them back. But the fairies were gone to their new lodgings across the field, leaving Aegis with his lonely pride.


Free photo by Amy Humphries on Unsplash

Posted in Nature

Not My Neighbour: The Sparrow

Painting is my first love. A picture on Unsplash.com lead me to create this sketch.

Out of all the birds I have seen here, I have always missed the unassuming little sparrows. There was a time when they abounded Indian cities but the loss of habitat led to a devastating decrease in their numbers. I hadn’t seen any in ten years. So, this year, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw them hopping around at a cousin’s place in my city.

This article shows how we can help them survive.

Posted in Random Thoughts

If You Are Trying to Use WP-Admin to Post, Read This

Here’s to all those who miss Classic Editor. Thanks Maggie!

WordPress strikes again.

In WP-Admin, the ADD NEW button defaults to the Block Editor, but they added a dropdown. Drop the down arrow and select Classic Editor from the ADD NEW button.

Same goes for editing. Hover over the post you wish to edit and select CLASSIC Editor, to edit. Otherwise it will default to the Block Editor.

If you are having trouble liking posts in reader or getting notifications, try clearing your browser’s cache. Make sure you have all your passwords readily available, because by deleting cookies, you will be required to login to all your websites again.

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Posted in Blogging

Wooohoooo! 400 Post, 290 Followers

Thank you, WordPress! Thank you, Facebook! Thank you, Twitter!

After one year and three months of the rebirth of my blog, I can finally boast of worthy achievements. I am 400-Posts old. Most of them stories, in one way or other–love, hate, memories, nature, politics…things I stand up for.

And I can boast of 290 followers.

Well, in all honesty, I have 1 follower on Twitter (Thank you, Pete!), 38 on Facebook–family and friends who love me enough to support me even if I have an empty page, but still… And 246 on WordPress! Wow! I never thought so many people will deem me worthy. So, thank you! I hope I am living up to your expectations.

It have been trying to deliver a post a day. It is a difficult target considering I am considerably new at story writing and have a child who hasn’t started school yet. But I have crossed the one year mark and am still delivering, which means a lot to me. And you, my friend, are reading! Which means a lot more! Thank you for embarking on this quest with me.

I would like to remind you that I love sharing guest post. So, if you have something that you want to be read by my audience, please share with me and I will be happy to share. Please look at the guidelines to learn more.

Thank you! Looking forward to see your posts!

Cheers! 🍧 🍨 🍦