Posted in Life and After, Random Thoughts

The Axe

Author’s note: This is a six-line story. The first line was offered by by Sarada Gray.

It was almost dark when I realised that the four of us were suddenly five. Shivering, I quietly signaled and we cowered in the shadows trying to blend with the walls.

Hiding was the only way to survive these days. I always wanted to fix that broken door but the rest of our group felt it would give our position away.

I knew the ruse could only work so long, because now, with abated breath, we waited for the axe to fall. And sure as death, a teenage scream rented the air, “Aagh, Ghooooooost!”

Posted in Random Thoughts

Stinking

Author’s note: Originally, I had told this story to my daughter to bring a twist in the old story. But when my daughter chose to retell it to me, as it happens so often with retellings, she added her own touch. By the third retelling, the story had its own character. Then, she created illustrations at my request. I couldn’t help but share it.

If the story doesn’t make sense, well, it’s not mine. You have been warned.

The Happy Beginnings

Long ago, there lived a girl. We don’t know her name, so for the sake of reference, let’s call her Cinderella. She lived in a huge house with her father, stepmother and two stepsisters. We don’t know their names too but it doesn’t matter; it is not their story.

Cinderella was really happy in her life with only one problem–she hated bathing. In fact, the only person who could urge her to take a bath was her father.

Once her father died, no one in the family could make her bathe again. Within a couple of months, the situation became unbearable for the family. The house staff quit, complaining of smelling death in the house. Soon, the outside staff that took care of animals and gardens quit too, believing the hearsay of the family being haunted.

The Hardships

The step-mother tried everything in her power to subdue Cinderella. She made her do all the household chores, reminding her, “If you bathe even once a week, the staff would return. Then, you wouldn’t have to do all this work.” But Cinderella remained unmoved. After four months, the stepmother started to get strangling dreams at night because of the smell that was now Cinderella permanent companion. She had no other option but to move Cinderella to the attic.

The Royal Ball

Years flew by. All the girls were now quite grown up. Cinderella happened to be prettiest of them all, but you wouldn’t know that, considering the cakes of dirt stuck to her body. The only clean place on her body was her hands, that were washed many times a day because of the chores she did. Her hair fell limp, caked with dirt too, on her back, never moving in strongest of winds.

One day, the king announced a ball dance at the castle, inviting all the girls of the city. The rumours were that the prince will choose his bride and the future queen during the ball. Their mother had dresses made for all three girls who were quite excited to go. On the morning of the ball, she asked all of them to get ready. She specifically requested Cinderella to take a bath. But Cinderella, being what she was, just went in the bathroom and splash water on the walls and came out toweling herself and wore her dress quickly.

She couldn’t fool anyone though. As soon as she joined her stepmother outside the door, the old lady wrinkled her nose and told her that she will have to stay back; they could not take her to the ball smelling like a dead cat otherwise the soldiers will toss them all out. So, they left Cinderella behind crying outside the house.

The Godmother

Suddenly Cinderella felt someone behind her. As she turned back, she saw a small figure the size of her palm hovering in the air behind her. She sniffed the air and asked, “So, what died here? And how long back?”

Cinderella was rather surprised at the sudden appearance and the enquiry, but she replied with as much dignity as she could summon. “Well, my mom died a while back and then my dad.”

“Yeah! I know that. That’s why I’m here. But, still—What’s this smell?”

“Ah! That must be me!”

“Really! How did you manage to do that? Upset stomach?”

“No! I…well, I just don’t like to bathe…”

“Ah! Okay, so why were you crying?”

Cinderella relayed the incident of the day and the fairy just shook her head. “Well, you didn’t leave her much choice, did you? What if the horses had bucked by the smell? Well, if you really want to go to the ball, I can arrange that but I cannot assure entry, considering the smell…”

Cinderella finally gave up. “Alright, I’ll go and take a bath!”

“Darling! The time you need to take off this amount of dirt and smell from your person…the party would be over by the time you reach there. We need to arrange something quick and easy. Ah! I get it! Stand back!”

She swiped her wand and a mango moved out of the fruit basket and started to swell until it was the size of a carriage with shiny golden wheels. The flies began swarm around it. She, then, picked two flies and turned them into horses. Then, she turned one into the carriage driver and asked him to tie the horses to the carriage. Flies don’t mind smelly things, so they would do well. The fairy then asked Cinderella to step inside the mango-turned-carriage.

The Clone


Once Cinderella was seated inside, she suddenly remembered, “What will I tell my family?”

“Nothing. Just avoid them. They won’t believe you anyway.”

“No, I mean, my mother will be furious if she returns before me and realises I went all alone.”

“That can be arranged.” The fairy swiped her wand and another Cinderella stood there. “Ensure you keep the family happy until Cinderella returns.” The clone smiled and went inside.

The Bath, the Ball and the Magical Lease

The door and windows were immediately barred, the carriage started moving and a warm shower started coming down from the top of the mango soaking Cinderella’s clothes. The fairy handed a soap bar smelling like a mango to Cinderella. She did a quick job, but fairy made her repeat until all the dirt and grime was gone. Cinderella’s dress was still smelly, so, the fairy created a new dress and pretty shoes too, which Cinderella wore quickly as the castle came into view.

The fairy whispered, “You have two years until all of the magic is gone. Use it well.”

And then she left with a pop.

As Cinderella stepped in the party, everyone looked at her. She looked rather pretty and freshly washed, and the smell of mango soap clung to her. Of course, the prince asked her to dance with him and again and yet again. She was rather elusive of her whereabouts but the prince was totally taken with her because of her deep knowledge on the things that really mattered, like how to bathe horses and polish shoes and buttons and how to be happy with simple things in life, like having someone to serve food.

So, he asked her to marry him. Of course, Cinderella agreed and they were married in a quick ceremony the same night. Cinderella knew she’d have to bathe everyday now but she didn’t really mind it so much anymore.

Two Years Later

Two years flew by. The time of magic lease ending was up, so on the last day, Cinderella returned to her home.

She was greeted with a sight of her clone–freshly bathed–sitting in a lawn chair along with her sisters laughing at a joke while the staff that had returned was busy working around the house.

She decided to wait until the magic wore off in the evening and this one was gone and hid behind some bushes. She heard a pop behind her. “Hi! Why are you hiding in the bushes?” the fairy asked smiling. “I am waiting for the other me to disappear. I have returned. Why is she still here?”

“Ah! That one will remain forever. One of you sisters wished she’d be forever the same, and I am their Godmother too.”

“Then, where will I go?”

“Back to the palace obviously. Don’t you want to be with your family?”

“Of course I do, but once the magic ends, I will be back to my old self again.”

“And you are not your old self yet?”

“I don’t see any difference.”

“Well, where are the dress and shoes I gave you?”

“I’m sorry. I seem to have misplaced them. I went looking in my closet but they were missing. Even the mango carriage, the horses, and the driver were missing when I went to get them. Someone might have taken them for a ride,” Cinderella looked apologetic.

“That’s because the magic ended last midnight. The dress and shoes are back to nothing now. And you can’t expect to recognise three flies in a place full of horses and that mongo must have become someone’s late-night snack.”

“But then, why am I still the same?”

“Well, you bathe everyday, I believe? That’s not magic. And your clothes and shoes are made by humans too. What is there to change?”

“But I look pretty.”

“You ARE pretty, darling. You just needed a bath. Now, if you are done with the questioning, there is a girl stuck on a tower I must send a prince to.” With those words, the fairy disappeared.

Cinderella took a great sigh of relief and went back home to her happily ever after.

Posted in Random Thoughts

Ghosts | Lantern

Ghostly

claws shred

me from within

until I cry. Damn

diet!

Author’s note: Lantern is a Japanese forn of potery with 1, 2, 3, 4, 1 syllables creating the shape of a lantern. Usually it is about much deeper topics but dieting makes me shallow. 😁

Posted in Life and After, Random Thoughts, Twisted Tales

A Bad Hair Day

Damn that rat! I am having a bad hair day, or rather an even worse hair day because I always have bad hair. It’s a curse that has followed me since forever.

I keep rat poison around the house and in the gardens too but one of these always sneak in. And, then, my hair go haywire, sniffing in all directions, getting tangled in the process, never remembering that they can’t leave my head to hunt it anyway.

My life is hell. Yours would be too if you had a headful of snakes for hair. I am Medusa and I’m still trying to hide these cursed ‘hair’ under an assortment of wigs.

I hate Athena. Just because I was slacking from my duties as her priestess, thinking of the time I had with Poseidon, she had to curse me. She could have simply fired me from the post. But no, she had to make a point. And now, I have to deal with hair that eat rabbits for dinner. And live for an eternity too.

Earlier, it was easy. I would simply petrify anyone who stared at my ‘hair’ longer than needed. But it became increasingly difficult when soldiers came calling to check if I had seen certain missing people and finding their statue in my garden shed. They could never pin the abduction/murder on me but my luck wouldn’t hold out forever. Also, now people have trackers on their phones, and sometimes in their cars too.

That’s why I started this business of fashion wigs. It gave me an excuse to have an unlimited supply of ridiculousy large wigs to hide my own head and adverstise my fare too. Getting rabbits to feed my snakes was also an issue, so I started a small rabbit farm on the side, increasing the products to guniea pigs, hamsters and hare. Of course, they are scared of me and never come to me easy. But then, who cares. They are not my pets. They are pet-feed.

Speaking of which, my ‘pets’ are now settling down. It seems like the rat has finally left the room. Nagina is even rubbing her head against my cheek, probably asking for a belly rub and Vipe is pointing his head towards the bag of treats.

Sigh! Don’t I love them all! I just wish they weren’t so much work…

Posted in Random Thoughts

Meet Rapunzel

Most of you might already know how my daughter is crazy about animals and birds. She has been asking me to get her a pigeon for ages. To know more about our first conversation, visit my post: Negotiating with Intelligent Beings. She has been at it ever since. Every couple of days, she reminds my husband and I how much happier she would be if she could get a pigeon.

We have been fighting the never ending waves of emotional torture using various means.

At times, we try to make her see how our house is like a bird sanctuary where so many birds visit us every day–pigeons, doves, crows, babblers, parrots, hornbills, owls, eagles, hawks, and so on. When she said she wanted birds that would meet her every day, my husband bought a couple of clay parrots in a cage.

She played with it for a couple of days and the cage broke. She was afterme to build a nest for them and get eggs but that plan never came through for the lack of grass needed to create the nest.

And then, I got her a set of unbreakable plastic birds. She played with them for a week and now they sit in a box awaiting their owner’s return.

Lately, she started her barrage of requests for a pigeon again. We had to decline point blank, reminding her that the bird would probably hate her for caging her and die an early death too. That was when she relented and, with a sadness of Romeo upon the death of Juliet, she said that she’d would not cage a bird.

I guess God smiled that day because what we saw next was divine intervention. A pigeon started visiting us.

We are not sure if it is the same pigeon, but it certainly looks the same and chooses the same branch to sit–right in front of our window–on the same time every day. So, as soon as my daugher has her bath, we open the window to let sunlight in and there it sits waiting for her. Then my daughter takes some time socializing with it.

When the visits became a habit and a daily expectation, my daughter finally named it as Rapunzel. Honestly, I always thought Rapunzel is supposed to have hair long enough to reach down a few floors. He seems more like the prince visiting my daughter (who is Rapunzel, living on top of the tallest tower). But since my daughter is the Disney Princess expert here and the owner-apparent of this wayward pigeon, she gets to decide the name.

At least, she is happy now. Thank God!

Posted in Life and After, Random Thoughts

I and Me

“So, did you find me yet?”

“Ouch! When was the last time you cleaned this place? It’s cluttered with regret and anger.”

“Don’t evade the question.”

“I’m trying but it’s too dark in here. Can’t see a thing.”

“I know. It’s long since I saw any light.”

“You’ve covered the windows with deception.”

“Yeah! Coming up clean is long overdue.”

“Help me help you. Shed some light.”

“It hurts my eyes

and ego.”

“Fine! I’ll still find you somehow.”

Posted in Life and After, Random Thoughts

Lost and Bound

So many dreams shatter every year,

Lives lost and tears shed,

Coz we can’t step outside the role

Thrusted upon us the moment we were born

Against our wishes.

——–

We are molded to accept it

As our nature and our destiny.

——-

There is no question of not falling in line.

I am the woman: The fairer gender? Homemaker? Caregiver?

You are the man: The stronger gender? Bread winner? Protector?

You can’t cry.

I can’t stop.

——-

There is no question of not falling in line.

So many dreams shatter every year…

Posted in Random Thoughts

Samandar (The Sea): Sher

Jis samandar ki lehero me tair ke laut aaye hum,

Suna he ki log usme doob ke paar ho gaye.

_________________________________________

Translation:

The ocean that I swam in and returned from unscathed,

I’ve heard, has drowned many and let them pass.

______________________________________

Author’s note: In Urdu poetry, a Sher is a couplet, where two lines present one thought or story.

Posted in Random Thoughts

Guroor (Pride): Sher

Sir jhukaye, asman ko neelam lutaate dekhta hu,

Sharm he ki hatheliya dua me khulne nahi deti.

Translation:

Head bent, I look at the sapphires falling from skies above.

Pride forces my palms in pockets, ashamed to spread heavenwards and collect.

______________________________________

Author’s note:

In Urdu poetry, a Sher is a couplet, where two lines present one thought or story.

I run another site with urdu poetry and I’m moving my work here gradually. I will translate the pieces, but not verbatim since it seems impossible without breaking the spirit of the piece.

Posted in My life, Random Thoughts

Plagiarism with brains: Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle

My daughter has got a way of being inspired by other works.

For instance, lately, we have been competing to create stories involving different animals. We give each other random animals and, then, the other had to create a story out of that animal. A couple of days back, my daughter gave me rather a tough combination: Peacock, Hippo and Rhino. I asked her to reduce the number of animals but she won’t relent. So, here’s the story I created.

Once upon a time, a peacock was flying. Since they are heavy and not used to flying too far, this one decided to sit down on a rock beside the river. It was a huge grey rock and as soon as he sat down, the huge grey rock began to move. The peacock thought it was an earth quake and flew up lest he would be crushed beneath the now freely moving rock which also sprouted four thick legs. After a few seconds in air, the peacock again felt tired and chose another rock–a huge brown one–inside the river. As soon as he sat down, this rock too gave a huge lurch and started walking out of the water. The peacock took flight in time to see the rock open its huge jaws to display teeth large as daggers. Now, wary of rocks behaving like animals, it chose a fallen log beside the river. He had come pretty close and was really hoping to sit down, since his long wings were now soggy and heavy with water, when the log opened its yellow eyes and bared a log set of sharp teeth. The peacock decided that ground was not safe for beings like him anymore and sat on a tree far away.

My daughter felt the story was not long enough. So, I asked her to create another story with the same combination she gave me: Peacock, Hippo and Rhino. She was not allowed to tell the same story as mine. She pleaded her case as being only four-years-old and requested to reduce the number of animals. I refused, hoping to give her a taste of her own medicine. Here’s my daughter’s story.

Once upon a time, a peacock was flying. Since they are heavy and not used to flying too far, this one He was flying for hours, got tired and decided to sit down on a rock beside the river. It was a huge grey brown rock. As soon as he sat down It sat there for sometime, then, the rock began to move. The peacock thought it was an earth quake and flew up lest he would be crushed beneath the now freely moving rock which also sprouted four thick legs. After a few seconds in air, the peacock again felt tired and chose another rock–a huge brown grey one–inside the river. As soon as he sat down, this rock too gave a huge lurch and started walking out of the water. The peacock took flight in time to see the rock open its huge jaws to display teeth a couple of horns large as daggers. Now, wary of rocks behaving like animals, it chose a fallen log beside inside the river. He had come pretty close and was really hoping to sit down, since his long wings were now soggy and heavy with water, when As soon as he sat down, the log opened its yellow eyes and bared a log set of sharp teeth. The peacock decided that ground was not safe for beings like him anymore and sat on a tree far away. The tree began to move too. It ran in really long strides. The peacock decided that only safe place to sit was bare ground and that was where he stayed for the rest of his life.

I argued with my daughter that this was more or less my own story. But she pointed out that in her story:

  • The Hippo comes before the Rhino.
  • The peacock sits for sometime before it has to move.
  • The crocodile allows the peacock to sit down before deciding to make a meal out of it.
  • And then, there was the bonus animal–the giraffe.

Well, I really couldn’t argue against such a strong case. So, I gave up trying to pry another story out of her. With five animals, her story trumped mine!

It reminded me of remixed songs–add an extra beat, a couple of extra instruments, a few hip-hoppers, and you have a quick hit and a chartbuster.

Plagiarism with brains!

Posted in Random Thoughts

On the Day We Chose to be Better

My 4-year old daughter, a Muslim, was super excited when she created this flag and hoisted it on a stick yesterday.

It was India’s Republic Day on 26th January. It is the celebration of the birth of our Constitution, which is the backbone of all our laws–existing and new.

The preamble of the Indian Constitution is the keeper of the soul of India–a constant reminder of what we are and what we strive to be. It speaks of freedom and equality, and gives the common man the right to challenge government and court decisions where they lack. It is the backbone of becoming a Socialist Secular Democratic Republic.

Let’s keep that in sight when we choose our government this year and next.

Let’s all vote.

Let’s vote for the people who work for growth, equality and freedom, not for a particular religion.

It is time to rise above our petty quabble and stand up for ourselves and each other. Let’s ensure that your children and mine grow up as proud of being Indians.

Jai Hind!

Posted in Random Thoughts

To New Beginnings…Yeah, Right…

Happy New Year, Readers and Co-blogggers!

If you are wondering why I am late by five days in wishing you all, rest assured I wasn’t drunk or nursing a hangover or dealing with an LSD side-effect. I was busy vacationing…

Of course, vacation now means a car trip from my place to my parent’s place, and binge watching cartoon movies and Harry Potter on TV. Gone are the days when people went to beach for sunbathing or to hills for watching snowfall. Earth’s smallest organism has ensured that we are all inside our pigeon holes, never daring to poke our heads out.

Well, I made new year resolutions: rising early and daily exercise, which I have already broken on the first day. It is a norm, of course. I have made that resolution every 31st December night for the last 19 years and broken it the next day. It is sort-of a private joke now.

I remember my first time clearly. I slept through it, of course. After five months, when my parents could clearly see that I needed help waking up, they voluteered. They woke me and my elder brother up on a cool morning in May. It was 5 am. We walked sleepily with them to the closest park and sat down. When they forced us to walk around, we slouched for a few metres and sat down again. My parents left us there and began walking along the diametre of the park.

My brother, with his charming and respectable personality, was in a traditional kurta-pajama that day. He was sitting on a bench and I was down on the grass in a traditional salwar suit. Not sure what inspired him. My brother began preaching me in pure traditional Hindi about ‘Nidra Devi‘ (the godess of sleep), which was a beautiful construct of his overactive imagination. Like a true Swami, he preached me that sleep was a way to being close to God. I sat at his feet with my hands joined like a true follower, crying out intermittently in a loud voice, “Swami ji satya kehte h. Swami ji amar rahe.” (“The Great Preacher says the truth! Long live, Great Preacher!”) Together we sang a bhajan in praise of this newly-discovered goddess. His language and my acting was so impressive that people began to come close to hear what the wise man had to say. By the time, my parents had done two rounds of that park (around 1 km), we had shamed them enough never to bring us along again.

I tried again some years later when I had joined office gym, but that meant bathing and breakfasting in office. After having heavy breakfast (exercise makes you hungry) with a bunch of friends (laughter helps gain weight), I gained even more weight in that month. So I stopped.

Well, now the first resolution is broken, I made new New Year Resolutions: I will try to remember when to take medicine; I will try to eat healthier, if not less; I will try to spend less time on laptop and more with real people…Of course, the promises were broken the same morning when I forgot to take my calcium tablets, ate gajar ka halwa and potato sandwiches for breakfast while watching a movie on my laptop.

I am unsure if I should make more resolutions or ‘re-resolute’ myself to keep these old ones.

What do you say?

Did you make/break any new year resolution too?

Posted in Random Thoughts

Where Do Lost Peanuts Go

I had long wondered why my family had the tradition of eating peanuts on long winter nights while sitting on the bed, preferably, inside the quilt. It is certainly warm but considering that peanut shells and their inner pink foils tend to stick to the quilt cover until washed, and makes them look dirty and forces us to wash them more frequently, it seemed like a lot of work for a little bit of warmth.

Hence, I tried to break out of the age-old tradition and eat peanuts at a table yesterday. I began to break open the shells using my fingers. That’s when it happened…

As soon as I would turn my head to talk to my daughter, who talks non-stop, peanuts would jump out of my fingers, land on floor and dive for cover. I would look around, meaning to find the lost bounty, to wash and eat it anyway. But to no avail…

The peanuts would just vanish in thin air. Frustrated at defeat and adamant on finding them anyhow, I moved the furniture and everything within three feet radius, even sweeped the floor using a broom so that, at least, we won’t step on them. But somehow, they managed to avoid me.

That’s when I realised why we eat them on the bed and inside a quilt–to trap them…

That’s what I am doing tomorrow too–I will wash the quilt covers later!

Posted in Random Thoughts

Accidents

Maybe they had been a little rash

and stopped a little too late.

Do we throw away people with driving accidents?


A bad choice of date,

a rape,

an indulgence in drugs with shared needles

at an age when life seems too short

to go slow and think twice,

a blood transfusion,

a used needle,

isn’t it all an accident too?


AIDS patients are victims,

not criminals.

Before you judge,

remember, you could be one too…

Posted in Random Thoughts

World AIDS Day

As a lot of you would know, today is World AIDS day. It is unfortunate how we have to create a day to spread awareness about a disease.

Out of all diseases, AIDS is the most unfortunate because of the stigma associated with it. A COVID patient, at least, recieves government aid, society’s sympathy and family’s emotional support but an AIDS patient, at least in India, is thrown out of the house for being infidile and bringing shame to family–as if those not infected have not been doing exactly the same things. AIDS patients are simply unfortunate to have received the disease that someone else had either hidden or carried unknowingly.

Shabana Azmi was India’s first actress to openly support the cause and come on television and say in a public service ad, “Chhoone se AIDS nahi failta.” (Touching doesnot spread AIDS.) That someone had to say that out loud on national television in an ad that was repeated everyday speaks volumes about how AIDS patients were treated then. Unfortunately, they are still treated the same way.

Virginity before marriage is the first demand for social acceptance in India. AIDS shatters that mirage. If an average Indian meets an AIDS patient, they jump to conclusions regarding their character without accepting that it could have been a mistake, true love, or simply blood transfusion or infected needle.

When Phir Milenge, a movie on AIDS with big starcast, was relesed in India in 2004, it only recieved critical acclaim, not box office success. People were afraid to be seen outside the movie hall that showed such a movie.

Even with laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a person with AIDS, it is sad how AIDS patients are still treated the same way. It doesn’t just kill them, it kills their wish to live.

Let’s remember, we are all humans who err. Let’s be humane…