Posted in Life and After, Love, Twisted Tales

Down to Cinders

The Merchant

I’ve never been so wrong footed in my life.

Last Saturday, at the party, I was sure the duchess was flirting with me to secure her third husband. Her first marriage had left her a rich widow and the second made her a widowed duchess. Now, with no sons, it seemed natural to look for a third husband to take care of all the accumulated estate…someone like me with tremendous wealth but no title. I had spent the golden years of my life building myself from a nobody to a prosperous businessman and the next few enjoying the success and money. I had been with numerous women but none of them really left an impression, except their lip colour on my shirts and their hands down my money pouch. At 41, I’m running out of choices. It’s high time for me to find a wife too, so I lead her on. I knew I’d never love her but she had class.

But as she invited me home for lunch, she moved the topic to her daughters who, according to her, were both the finest specimens of the fairer sex–beautiful, charming, intelligent, well-read and well-versed in arts. She mentioned looking for grooms for them and ‘hoped I would find them agreeable’.

Something did not add up. If they were even half as good as their mother, they would have a long line of suitors of their age. Why would she want them to marry me who is double their age? For my money?

Curious, I accepted the invitation.

Today, as my carriage drives into their estate, I see a long-running crack in the magnificent garden statue; unkept flower beds; a water fountain that has long dried out; and the wooden floor under the porch creaks…the beginning of the end.

So, money it is…

I knock and a rather pretty girl in her best house-help uniform answers the door. Ella, as she introduces herself, bids me to enter. Her eyes downcast, she informs me, “The Duchess and her daughters are out for an ‘urgent chore’. She has requested you to wait for them. They’ll be back later this afternoon.”

It doesn’t make sense, unless they have found someone richer. Or may be, the announcement of the King’s ball to find a bride for the Crown Prince has averted their gaze to greener pastures.

I should just leave. But Ella is clearly apologetic. Her eyes are pleading me to understand that she isn’t responsible for all this. She is embarrassed at her employers’ indiscretion. I had been there too many times. In my early jobs, when I was a nobody, my employers put me upfront to deal with angry customers. If I leave now, she would think of me as arrogant. For some unfathomable reason, I don’t want her to think I’m arrogant. So, I step inside to wait for the hostess who wouldn’t return for a couple of hours.

The Maid

It’s all too weird. My stepmother has kept me up all night to finish my endless chores before he’s due. She ordered me to get presentable to wait upon this guest while they all dealt with this ‘urgent chore’, whatever it is. Why even one of them couldn’t stay back is totally beyond me.

Why are they avoiding him? Doesn’t he have enough money to their liking? His two-horse-drawn carriage is certainly worth four times our own. He looks regal, right from his formal suit, diamond cufflinks to his silk tie. His brown wavy hair has a slight sprinkling of greys.

Maybe, they think he’s too old to consider…Well, they are wrong. He’s quite handsome and fit, unlike their noble suitors whose age you could guess from the size of their girth. When he introduced himself, his smile made me gasp. He smells like the Arabian perfume that father used to love.

Right now, I feel for him. Once I gave him mother’s message, he looks downright embarrassed for being so easily dismissed. He was clearly expecting to meet my step-sisters. May be, it is better he doesn’t. Marrying them would lead to lifelong shame-facing. I serve him tea and try to be good company.

We talk about books that my sisters have placed strategically in the drawing-room to be able to brag in front of the suitors that they have read them. I tell him of my favourite place in the world, my father’s library. He’s curious, so I take him on a tour. He looks around the library in awe, touching book spines like they were made of flower petals. His fingers are hardened with old marks of callouses. I wonder if he’s had a past like mine. We talk about more books. He laughs. It’s a nice, open laughter without pretence; one that I can get used to. I offer him my favourite book to pass the time while waiting.

Back in the drawing room, he points at the piano, curious who plays it. Too lost in his voice and too busy trying to not stare at him, I blurt out the truth, “It was mine before father passed away…” I clasp my mouth at the admission.

“Yours? Are you the daughter of the late Duke?”

I nod quietly, glancing at my clothes–clean but far below the status of my family, knowing how far-fetched the story seems. Will he mention it to mother? She will burn me at the stake…or in the oven…

But his eyes hold no judgement, only understanding, “So, after your father died, she took over the estate and turned you into housemaid?”

I nod again.

“Is there anything I could do to remedy your situation? I could request an audience with the king. He is just. He would ensure you are provided your share in the property.”

My eyes well up at the unexpected sympathy, “Thank you for the offer. I, too, could have applied to the king. But I’d rather stay home and sweep the floor than drag my family through dirt.”

The Merchant

Ever since I saw her, it has been difficult to look elsewhere. My eyes had been drawn to her face. But now, I see her in a different light.

Is she for real? She cares for a family that reduced her to a maid. Her little hands in the lap are full of calluses from the daily hard labour. I can see the blue marks peaking out of her shirt sleeve where she had been hit with a cane over and over. And she doesn’t want to change that for her family’s honour?

I cross the distance between us to where she stands. She looks so vulnerable as she looks at me with surprised gaze. I take her hands in mine, as gently as I can, “You know, Ella, I always thought that women like you had ceased to exist.”

Her hands fit in mind perfectly and her face is a picture of subdued beauty that comes from forgiveness and love. Suddenly, I know I will not be able to forget this face or walk out of this place leaving her behind. It is clear what I have to do.

“I came here seeking a bride. I think I’ve found one–if, of course, you’ll have me. Will you?”

She’s surprised and hesitant, “I’m afraid, it won’t be appropriate, considering I am just a maid. I won’t have my father’s name or property to bring along.”

“I don’t care about the title and I have enough money to last several lifetimes. All I care about is whether you like me? Would you like to spend your life with a man like me who doesn’t have a family title, but who fell in love with you the moment he saw you?”

She blushed a deep red and nodded sheepishly, “I think, I did too.”

The Duchess

“Of course, you have my blessings, my dears. I’ll arrange the two of you to get married this Sunday. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be much of a fanfare because the time is short…”

I don’t think they cared for the size of celebration any way.

When we had returned, Ella was in his arms, as I had expected. She’s captivating even when covered in cinders from the oven. Being dressed decently and left alone for two hours was more than enough to bring a marriage proposal. As for Ella, she couldn’t wait to be shot of us. She would have married a horse, had it proposed her, just to get away from us.

So, now that all has gone according to my plan, she will be married a week before the Royal Ball. Thank goodness for that too! Of course, we will need to hire household help, so it wil be a little inconvenient, but with her out of the way, my beautiful daughters are sure to win the Prince’s heart.

Posted in Random Thoughts

The Forest Bed: The Making

After an year full of pain (and I am not even talking about the pendemic or my back injury…), our first book, the Forest Bed, was finally released worldwide in June.

Manpreet and I are still so excited, which is weird considering that we have been working on it for an year now.

Those who have followed my blog in the past one year probably know that I had been creating a short story collection for quite some time now. I had believed that since the stories already written, self-publishing them would be a breeze. As you would have already guessed, I was wrong. It was an year filled with dismayed discoveries one after another. Here is the journey and lessons learnt.

Selecting stories: Choosing the probable candidates for the book was a pain. As a mother to 400 (now 500) stories, it was impossible for me to choose the best. So, I chose around a hundred and threw them in Manpreet’s way, knowing that as my best friend, she is duty-bound to help me and she’s too loyal to back out later. She chose forty stories that she loved the best. Then she told me the loopholes and words that didnot make sense to common readers. I went through the stories again and tried to give them more character and less confusion.

Providing a flow: I read in a very informative blog that a short story compilation is successful only when one story flows into another. There should be an underlying theme and a natural flow. I created an excel sheet to find a theme based on underlying emotions, starting and finishing emotions, keywords, age of characters, the timeline/chronology…nothing made sense. So I pitted the stories against each other, reading and re-reading, moving them around in the excel sheet until they started to flow.

Creating illustrations: All this while, I was working on the side with Manpreet to create illustrations for each story. Manpreet is a freelance painter with a gift of open-mindedness, which is rather rare. Most painter try to create and stick to a certain style. Manpreet, on the other hand, experiments with various mediums, just to see where it takes her. Hence, she was my natural choice. There one glitch in the whole plan–she lives 500 miles from my home and we had no way of putting our heads together except Whatsapp…

She began with hand-drawn illustrations and, then, experimented through various means to enhance the experience. Finally, she discovered a way to digitalise handmade illustrations through applications already available on the phone. It was surprising what one can achieve with a little imagination and strong resolve to learn. As an example, the painting on the cover page was created solely on her phone–No colours, no pencil. Just stickers and effects!

We spent several months on getting the correct illustrations for the stories. It was a process of discovery and understanding how to visualise a story without giving away the content. We laughed and cried while sitting 500 miles apart, joined together through the very inadequate means of phone that allows us to hear and see, but not hold hands. It was an emotional journey, reconnecting with my best friend of twenty years on a daily basis, just like we did during our Bachelors degree.

Creating a template: When I began with creating the template for the book, I looked up my old books to see the basic courtsies required from a writer. And to think, I had never even looked at the Copyright statement and Acknowledgements pages of any book ever before. For a week, I researched how to copyright my book, only to find out it wasn’t even required since books are automatically copyrighted upon publication. It isn’t like I’ve invented a car that uses sea-salt as fuel…hey, that one has a potential for a story…

Anyway, when it came to Dedications page, I started to mention each person I wanted to thank, but I couldn’t fit them all in one page…it was a moment of realisation how lucky I am to have countless people to be thankful for…family, extended family, friends from schools, colleges, jobs, neighbours, roommates, family-by-marriage…and the many people I’ve met through them. They have all moulded me into…well, me!

And then, there were people who hurt me…who taught me that life was not all pretty and gave me the challenge of fighting back with grace. How could I fit all these people in one page?

The About Author page mystified me. What could I ever write about my mundane life that would be of interest to readers? I could, of course, blabber till eternity pointlessly but the short stories concept did not allow Author description to be pointless. It had to be short and succinct with humour to keep people engaged since it was going to be the last page of the book.

Header and Footer: I thought I knew MS Word, until I had to set up the Header and Footer. Pagination had me down on my knees praying for divine intervention, which came, eventually, through Google.

Editing: It was a herculean job and I was doing it one story at a time. Editing your own work is like searching for grey hair out of platinum-blond. You believe all’s well when actually it’s not. You read a story for the 15th time, only to realise that you had missed typing an article, conjunction or preposition while your perspective had been filling in the gaps for you all the while.

Proofreading: When it came to proofreading, I realised I could not be relied upon anymore. I needed someone who was a pro at finding loopholes. That’s when, I begged my father, an Indian taxation writer, for help. He did it overnight and, for the first time, praised my stories, which, I think, is all that I had been aiming at for all these years since I started this blog. He also helped me cut out a couple of stories that were killing the flow. In the end, I was left with 30 good stories.

Finding publishing platform: Once all was done and dusted, I thought, “Well! Now publishing a print and ebook would be a breeze…” But then, I tried finding a platform that would create an ebook out of a massive 100 MB word document…and failed…over and over. When I finally found one that would accept my file, the result was horrible. The text was all over the place. The chapters began and ended at their free will and images floated around like helium-filled baloons. There was no guarantee where the text would appear in the next page and I was losing my heart…and brain…in the process.

Finally Amazon Kindle became my hero. It accepted my superheavy manuscript and converted it into a sleek book, both ebook and printable version. It also helped me understand the problems and gave probable solutions. Most of them worked. It also created an eye-catching cover using Manpreet’s illustration.

Distribution: Finally, after I was done whooping around for the victory, I learnt that Amazon doesnot distribute prints in India, my homeland. I realised that my parents would never see my book (that is, if they want to see it again after reading the manuscript). So, I began a fresh search for a local distributer. Most of them cost more money than my three-months’ salary. While I can afford it, it is certainly not the kind of flight I would sit in wondering all the while whether it would crash.

Then, while going through site reviews, I came across Pothi.com that publishes and distributes in India free. It works on a zero-inventory, print-on-demand basis. For a minor fee of Rs.1500 (around 20 US dollars), they provide expanded distribution through Amazon India and Flipkart. So, now I am publishing our book through Pothi, Amazon.com, Amazon.uk and Amazon Kindle.

I hope that would suffice. I am thoroughly exhausted and wish that I could simply lie down and leave the headache to others.

But now, I have a marketing campaign to deal with. Manpreet is dealing with Instagram while I am with Facebook and WordPress. I don’t understand Twitter at all, so I will leave that to fate and you. So, help me dear reader to spread the message and get my dream across that bridge where earth meets the sky.

In case you are wondering where the book is, click this link for details.

Posted in Random Thoughts

As Things Begin to Take Shape

My daughter was born Leonardo Da Vinci and she is just improving from thereon.

I still remember the eight legged lion with its legs sprawled out like a pretty spider, the minimalistic designs of a fish without fins and tail, the cat without limbs and kittens with various degrees of abilities (no hands no legs, hands but no legs, legs but no tail) and her adopted monkey baby.

But now those days are gone and what I see is real stuff.

Please don’t ask the logic of the train, elephant and giraffe in front of the cottage. The cat and rabbit make sense with the girl, so please be grateful for that. I have seen weirder stuff.

The new and improved variety of lion and tiger, along with giraffe half-hidden behind a kangaroo, along with a hippo (pink), gazelle and crocodile (guess?). The outline of the girl can be accepted as a jungle sprite looking over these creatures…

And then there is stuff like this which is actually is superb considering it comes from a 4-year old working only with her imagination.

I’m sure she’ll turn out to be a far better painter than her mom. 😁

Posted in Random Thoughts

The Forest Bed: Free ebook

Go grab your free ebook. If you are unable to provide reviews on Amazon/Kindle, please provide reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58388632-the-forest-bed?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=Co2fykm2EX&rank=1
Or on Facebook/Twitter or any other social media. Help me spread the word!

Short Stories | Fish-eye Perspective

It is finally here! My very own short stories collection: The Forest Bed and other short stories. After long delays for ‘technical’ reasons, my book is finally available worldwide as an ebook. What’s even better?

The ebook is free.

The Forest Bed ebook is available to readers worldwide for free on Amazon Kindle

Offer valid from June 22, 2021, 12:00 AM PDT till June 26, 2021, 11:59 PM PDT.

  1. Open your Kindle app.
  2. Type The Forest Bed in your Search bar.
  3. Select the book.
  4. Download and read.
  5. Provide an honest review.

Or depending on where you live, you can find it on Amazon. Just click the relevant link below:

Amazon.com

Amazon.in

Amazon.co.uk

Just type in the comment box if you can’t find it. I’ll provide the link.

Book in Print: If you are more of a love-the-smell-of-books person like me, you can order the printed book from Amazon or…

View original post 98 more words

Posted in Blogging, Published, Random Thoughts

The Forest Bed: Free ebook

It is finally here! My very own short stories collection: The Forest Bed and other short stories. After long delays for ‘technical’ reasons, my book is finally available worldwide as an ebook. What’s even better?

The ebook is free.

The Forest Bed ebook is available to readers worldwide for free on Amazon Kindle

Offer valid from June 22, 2021, 12:00 AM PDT till June 26, 2021, 11:59 PM PDT.

  1. Open your Kindle app.
  2. Type The Forest Bed in your Search bar.
  3. Select the book.
  4. Download and read.
  5. Provide an honest review.

Or depending on where you live, you can find it on Amazon. Just click the relevant link below:

Amazon.com

Amazon.in

Amazon.co.uk

Just type in the comment box if you can’t find it. I’ll provide the link.

Book in Print: If you are more of a love-the-smell-of-books person like me, you can order the printed book from Amazon or Pothi and they will deliever it at your doorstep. Just click the link of your favoured distributor.

Site name
Amazon.co.ukBlack and White Coloured
Amazon.comBlack and WhiteColoured
Pothi.comBlack and WhiteColoured

Free sample: If you are wondering why you should spend your money on the book, here is a free sample with five representative stories from the book. Please click DOWNLOAD to take a sneak peak and provide reviews that would help me raise the sale.

Spread the word!

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

Posted in Love, Nature

My Neighbour: The Diva

My mom always said, “Never judge a bird by its feather.” So when the time came for building a nest, I thought I’ll give humans a chance. I didn’t like judging them based on their feathers, or the lack thereof. I am not really averse to humans…just a little wary because they are so large and uncoordinated. They flap their wings all day for no reason but never take flight. Though, some credit is due because they continue trying. They never really give up, unlike most other creatures who are now using their wings to walk.

I also appreciate the way their trees are always breezy. I often sit on the branches of their open window and the breeze is just there when there is none outside. Someone told me it is because of the three-legged sloth that hangs from the top of their tree and the breeze comes when it moves round and round. I tried talking to one of them if it was true but he seemed a quiet one.

Well, it’s hot right now and I don’t fancy staying outside in the sun while sitting on the eggs. So, when I started property hunting for a nest, I thought I’ll build it inside one of these breezy hollow trees. A couple of mynas referred me to this tree mentioning that the resident humans were rather gentle on other creatures ever since the last revolution and their recent treaty with the resident mice, spiders, bees and wasps. Also, they had mentioned that the owners offered free food to feathered neighbours. All this seemed rather too good to believe. But again, I wasn’t judging them yet. So, I thought, I’ll check out the property to see if it was worth the risk.

It is one of the usual hollow trees where humans live–very thick trunk, no leaves, no fruits, huge open windows, full of useless stuff. You can hear the constant dripping of water that seems to be ever present for humans. At the window, I could not feel the breeze and the three-legged sloth on the top wasn’t moving.

The humans were still asleep (Lazy bones!) so I decided to take a quick tour and then wait until the sloth wakes up. I sauntered inside. The branches on the top seemed promising for a nest. As I started to check them out one by one, one of the larger humans woke up and saw me. He woke up his mate and pulled out his camera. I thought, well, if that’s what it takes to please them…I posed for him. Big mistake!

Meanwhile, the smallest one woke up and started giggling. I was glad they approved of me; that would make them good neighbours. Or so I thought. I was so wrong!

After some time, the largest human got up and touched one of the square mushrooms that grow from the inner wall of the tree, said something about a ‘fan’. Well, I was rather glad to have him for a fan and I would have accepted the mushroom gift, but the female shouted, “No”.

Jealous!

Then she shouted something that sounded like ‘bird wud hurt’ and the first guy dropped his hand never plucking the mushroom. I would say, I was rather dissapointed by the lack of hospitality. Now, as I continued checking the branches as earlier, this female wouldn’t leave me alone. She started waving her hands menacingly, shouting “Shoo” on the top of her lungs.

“Shoo, yourself woman!” I decided, I wouldn’t be driven out by a jealous female. So, I hung around waiting for her to give up. The male placated her once and all three of them went out of the space closing the opening behind them. I was so glad for the peace and quiet. I tried waking up the three-legged sloth just to see if the breeze of this property was worth the hassle. I tweeted at him. I pecked him. But no use.

Then the female returned brandishing a pitchfork at me…

Okay, not a pitchfork, but one of those long branches these humans weild at times–‘wroom’, I think. She started pestering me with the soft side up, swiping pretty close but never making contact. I was startled at her hostility, I must say. You would think, I had stolen her seeds or something! At first I jumped around from branch to branch. Then I decided to fight back.

“Eat dirt,” I shouted and pushed down the dirt that was collected on the branches right on her eyes. She rubbed them and they were all watery. We faught like that for quite sometime until both of us were breathless.

That’s when she retreated never to come back.

I stayed there another hour but the three-legged sloth slumbered on. Then I just left. I was tired and hungry, and honestly, I couldn’t live in the presence of a hostile female. What if she blames me for leading her mate astray. What impression would that leave on my guy? I wish I had brought him along. Then, her guy would have seen right away that I was taken and he wouldn’t have hit on me in the first place.

Sigh! Jealousy, thy name is woman!

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.