Posted: December 12, 2006 in thoughts, Uncategorized

there’s so much that needs to be said

the many things inside my head

there’s visions and recallings

victories and failings…

and somewhere in the here and now… a life to be lived, certain of just the one thing that may take its time coming. If it must end soon, end it well.


Wonderful minds

meet at a point of view.

But what happens to those

with no minds of their own?

And dawn creeps over the city like a fugitive on the run, escaping the prison of night. With furtive looks behind, hesitant in winter’s chill, frantic at dark’s reluctant pursuit. Dawn then washes the streets and buildings the gray of cigarette smoke. Until the sun peeps over the rooftops and billboards, lighting a golden glow to the start of the day, now noisy in its awakening.

Just words

you have read,

more can be said

if you want.


Could there be a device which would trans, trans, trans-something-or-the-other the tunes in my head with the aid of my voice, into a computer program, which would eventually be able to produce a MIDI sequence of my musical creation? The lazy man’s wish list.

The lazy man’s wish list

is full of beans

for counting.

And there he goes

into space

no traces remain.

And then back again

in a fit of staying


The random leaps of mind are recorded. Recorded slower than the leaping mind. Recorded nevertheless. With arbitration, rumination, and a definite degree of satisfaction. An elevation is achieved, but the spirit rebels. It wishes to be indulged; seeking satiation in the tangible.

We want forms to fill up the spaces. We have spaces that describe wants. And wants become desires. Desires overrun by greed. And it’s not much longer, till imagination takes over and fuels the craving we feel.

I’ve forgotten the tune

I played in my head

as words

deflowered my song.

In the frenzy of the city morning, everyone going everywhere, as if there’s a purpose to it all. The statues, somnolescent in carved-stone, coloured in crude, garlanded with plastic devotion, embedded in their teardrop shaped island of green, (at least they will not be going anywhere soon), as in haste the world spins madly about them.

{Callous cold claims cruelty carefully. C-L alliteration. Calamity!}

Ironically, competitive blood-sports events abound around the worship of the Buddha in this place. Buddha, the enlightened one who preached of attaining a higher self by doing away with physical need and material want, must, to say the least, be disturbed with this twist spun by his devotees. Or perhaps not, since he is ultimately beyond it all.”

Smell It Like It Is

Posted: December 1, 2006 in short fiction

He smelled trouble coming. It may have been an old cliché, but he knew trouble smelled. Could he help being gifted with extraordinarily sensitive olfactory nerves? Or whatever the hell they were when nerves weren’t at home?


He would get a whiff of trouble brewing a few days, often a few moments, before the excreta hit the rapidly-whirring-electrical-device-with-three-blades-mounted-on-the-ceiling. The resultant effects of such an action need only be imagined rather than experienced, for a shudder of scatological intensity to shake his bones.


When he got a whiff it was usually like the smell that wafts up to the nostrils after sweaty socks have been tugged off after being encased all day in too-tight cheap leather shoes with plastic moulded soles. Just there, hovering like an unwanted, blinking-amber caution light when you’re speeding down the crossroads at night. The warning whiff was usually considered and discarded, yet remaining there at the edge of his consciousness like a long unsold magazine at the bottom of the newsagent’s shelf. And he’d done that too often, never heeding the warning of the whiff till it was too late.


This time he waited for stronger smells. Blinking amber to change to angry flashing red. Trouble never smelled the same every time. It was only the warning whiffs which were a constant. And if you were not a bit obsessive-compulsive about hygiene, didn’t change your socks thrice a day, were sweaty all over while clad in polyester, you would never really know the difference between the whiff and your body odour, till the night soil hit you in the face after rebounding off suspended, rotating electrical gadgetry. Then you would really know the difference.


Fortunately, he’d never reached that excruciating level of suffering. He’d watched others less blessed than him, without his advantage of fore-scent, wade through dung, never really reaching solid ground, as he nimbly sidestepped the mess and passed on to safety.


Trouble came in all sorts of scents, aromas and odours. It was important to distinguish between smells to understand the trouble that must be avoided. When he smelled scents, he smelled woman trouble. These scents were as often as not preceded by warning whiffs which was a bother. Fruity, floral, mildly spicy scents which caused havoc with his hormones and testosterones, and did nothing really to mask the subtle, delicate, underlying odour of feminine perspiration for which they were intended in the first place, spelled trouble for him. That is why scents featured on top of his list. His only defence against those particular fragrances was to douse himself in musky aftershave lotions and deodorant. His strategy hadn’t won him even a battle in the war of the sexes, but it stayed as top priority for trouble to be avoided despite sure failure. On the other hand, and with all things considered, he may have actually been at an advantage in the war.


A baked potato, diced and slobbered with butter melting down its jacket. Scrambled eggs, or a fluffy cheese omelette cooking. Smoked pork simmering over a gently burning wood fire, in a thick gravy of herbs and spices. Fine, long-grain rice bubbling in a rich soup of creamy milk, nuts, cinnamon and clove, sweetened with the winter’s fresh new jaggery. The breathtaking, but rancid aroma of home-brewed spirits which once partaken of, jangled the senses in a deliciously unpredictable, but joyful way. Aromas were like flavours, only you could smell them. Such aromas were trouble when he over-indulged. When he ignored the known stench of intestinal gases much before they were expelled hither and aft. But he also hated the slimy stink of bile that rose in his throat when he abstained.


There was another aroma that caused over-indulgence too. It had nothing to do with food as such, or perhaps it could well be termed the food of love, and it was trouble only after it happened, not something entirely avoidable. This aroma of trouble was a consequence of weakly failing in trying to avoid the trouble that fruit and flower laden scents brought in their wake.


It was the aroma of perspiring bodies, recently exercised in the conjoined pleasures of the flesh; sated with the aspired for emissions and secretions which distinctly smelled somewhere between a scent and an odour; and which left him wanting in excess.


These were some of the scents and aromas which assailed him. He bluntly confessed to himself that he had no possible tactical defence against them, other than to have a steely resolve not to fall prey to them yet again. And it is why he felt the need to classify smells, in an anal sort of way, so to speak.


Aah, but odours, those were something else. These smells he could handle confidently. They were redolent of trouble that happened because of incompetence around him. For instance, an accident involving vehicles always smelled of burning rubber. The odour of war and strife was not so much cordite and gunpowder, but rather the reek of nervous authorities doublespeaking about reasons to continue the fighting. The smell of decaying flesh would inform him that trouble in police uniform was in progress. Odours had also been classified by him into three sub-genres: putrid, funky and pungent. The last named was the least harmful in comparison. This sub-classified smell was similar to sun-baked red chillies used generously in cooking he would proceed to eat without adequate warning from the chef.


Putrid is the odour of war, crime, politicians, money, fundamentalism, bigotry, ad nauseam. Funky is the smell of garbage rotting, of unburned fossil fuel from a combustion engine, the malodour of cruel intent by a cheating lover. All these odours were invariably preceded by the warning whiff of smelly, desocked feet. His way of avoiding putrid odours was to be as uninvolved as possible; to be in a zen state. Funky odours were treated by handkerchiefs pressed to nose, and a certain ‘ignorance-is-bliss’ attitude. If you ignore it with vehemence, it will go away. Pungent odours were often troublesome in themselves. They smelled just right at times, and then they metamorphosed into the proverbial shit.


Smelling it like it is was an acquired skill, a developing art form, a candle in the dark for the strategy-deficient, a tool for survival. He wondered why people never paid sufficient attention to smells. They would always walk past with fingers pinching noses, oblivious to the warning bells, and then when trouble came and smacked them silly they would look to justify why they hadn’t seen it coming. Had they but heeded warning whiffs they would be all right and not reeling from shock every time. He had not failed to notice that there never was a warning for the advent of incompetent people who were in no way disabled or handicapped. The warning he got was for the potential trouble such people could cause. He wished he could somehow figure out how to be warned of these folks themselves when they entered his life.


He wondered what their identifying smell would be. Dead flowers? No, too good for them. A fish market? A public urinal? Better. But now that he could smell trouble coming he concentrated his exteroceptive powers and tried to determine the nature of the smell.


It was not yet strong, though calling it mild might be understating it. It did not yet seem to possess an identifiable pong. He sniffed with the protruberating appendage that mounted his face like a mischievous whim of his Creator, which if truth be told, it was. It seemed to operate on its own, because his face held a calmness and passivity that did not reveal his emotions. The Nose, as he called it affectionately, and as he was referred to by others behind his back (though they would have been surprised to know that he would actually have appreciated the nickname), lifted itself like the snout of a wolf and made a lengthy inquiry of the air around him. He still could not define it as an odour, fragrance or aroma. This worried him. It probably meant that trouble would strike at the last moment. The warning whiff had come for a few seconds, but did not prolong its visit as it normally would have, leaving him feeling a tad frustrated.


These abnormalities in his smell sense did not make him happy either. It was important to know the nature of the smell to decide his defence strategy. He hoped it would not be a fragrance. The male-female equations had been particularly daunting of late. On the other hand, he had been without a woman for a long time… Passing scents on the street, straying scents in public transport not intended for him, made him feel edgy. Libidinous. The only defence he could think of right now was to stock up on condoms.


He decided he would give preference to aromas which presaged the full satisfaction of his not inconsiderable appetite. He was quite keen about garden-fresh cauliflower lightly stir-fried in salted butter this season, sprinkled with crushed cloves of burnt garlic, an aroma as heavenly as they come, a crispy charred tongue-drooling flavour to die for. Such a defence mechanism was ideal, requiring no strategy whatsoever, merely the inclination to submit.


The only work left for him now was to shore up on defenses for odours. And their sub-genres. Not an easy task and perhaps the most dangerous of all troubles. Odours were unfriendly and obdurate. While he possessed the basic human instinct for survival, he lacked the acute natural instincts of aggressive animals. Attack being the best form of defence was not always a sensible maxim to follow. Often retreat, and even total escape (with plastic surgery and a relocated new identity) were preferable means of surviving. But it had yet to come to that. So far…


Walls have a way of just being there. Immutable, impervious. You never notice them. One only refers to them as symbolic of imprisonment or privacy. Their presence goes unacknowledged except when it comes to having them papered or painted. Then the burning issue is about whether the pink and gold Fleur-de-lis pattern is more suitable than the lavender hue given in the shade card. Walls are considered for their level of dampness, their thickness, their ability to carry wires and fittings, whether they are built of brick, concrete or plastered-over wood, and not much else. In the dark, walls do not exist as physical entities, rather they are sensed. By touch of course. Walls don’t smell. At least not the ones he had around him.


The Nose wavered in its findings. The smell was intense but completely undefinable. Not a scent, aroma or odour entered his nostrils, yet he knew there was a smell. He turned around slowly on his heels, pivoting to allow The Nose to sweep its environs more closely. He was avoiding switching a light on since he did not actually want to see trouble. Smelling it was quite enough, thank you. Not being able to determine the nature of the smell was leading to minor panic buttons being pressed in his sensory systems. He pivoted faster, and then making a random halt he began to pace about. The Nose sniffed and snuffled. The hairs in his nostrils tautened, electrified as filters, and he increased his strides. In the dark, measurements fell away, and he was led by The Nose smelling something that seemed not to be there. Till he smashed face-on to a wall, still naked in its new coat of plaster, awaiting his final decision of paper or paint. He never saw lights nor stars, heard bells or thuds. Just a blackness, darker ­than the dark he was in, overcame him.


He awoke in a hospital bed with a grinding pain in the head and The Nose swathed in bandage. He fell back into darkness. Days later, The Nose having been unbandaged, he sniffed and snuffled for all he was worth, but could smell nothing. The doctor told him as much. His smashing into the wall face first had caused irrevocable damage to his sense of smell. He would have to live without olfactory sense from now on. Plus the results of a surgery that had bent The Nose a-kilter.


Supine on the hospital bed he wondered at the doctor’s choice of tiger skin patterned briefs and the piercings in his navel and his penis. He was glad to see the nurse, quite a pretty little thing, wore sensible underwear even if it were slightly stained at the crotch. And as he regretted his inability to smell all the scents she had and the fragrance she wore, he gazed through the walls of the hospital room, seeing the termites in the cheap woodwork, and the patients tethered to their monitors and intravenous tubing in the Intensive Care Unit next door, and he smiled.


Now he would be able to see trouble coming.

The Bleeper

Posted: November 12, 2006 in music, short fiction

A modern day fable

To paraphrase a popular jazz song from the bebop era, “He bleeped when he should have bopped”.

Do you know the word that is used to describe the short, high sound that replaces a spoken word or words when it is, or they are, subjected to censorship and expunged from the sound track of a film or television program? Or even a song? BLEEP! You know it? I thought you did.

Well, this is about people who expunge themselves from life as you know it. No, they don’t die. They simply remove themselves, their entire beings, from life. BLEEP. Hence, bleepers. One moment, there they are! The next moment, where are they?

At this early stage in my narrative I will understand if a feeling of utter disbelief is beginning to overtake you, when you want to question not merely the validity of my statement, but my very sanity itself. Well, willingly suspend that disbelief as you might for the poets, and listen to what I have to tell you. You never know, you might be a bleeper yourself.

Sometime in your life you would have read, or heard of persons who disappear without a trace. Of these many million incidents, some recorded and officially enquired into, most unrecorded; twenty five percent would be suicides, fifteen percent those who run away to another place, another country for reasons criminal or personal, ten percent those who are being protected by the authorities for usually political or military reasons, still leaving you with fifty percent. Fifty percent who have completely and totally vanished!

Take it from me, those are the bleepers. They have willfully bleeped themselves out of this existence.

You never know it the first time. The realisation dawns many, many years later, and for want of a better word, I choose to call it bleeping. Tell me, how often have you thought: I wish I was elsewhere, doing something else, with someone else? How I wish I could live a different life, perhaps in a different time altogether? Am I right? Are these not thoughts which have run through your imagination at some time in your life? Many have attempted to achieve such an ambition by changing horses midstream, so to speak, but they have continued to live in this life of the here and now.

I am talking about not even being in the here and now, in this present existence, this current life. I am talking about simply vaporising into thin air, without undergoing some horrible or tragic death, and appearing at a time and place of your choosing to be what you think you want to be.

Let me illustrate.

In this life you are a salesperson in a firm that provides information technology solutions. After having spent some fifteen to eighteen years of your life getting an education, being technically qualified and pumped up with purpose and ambition, you have landed a well-paid job with excellent scope for growth selling a solution, when what you are better qualified to do is to engineer that solution.

Nevertheless, your initial reaction is ecstatic. The pay is good and the prospects so bright (that you’ve got to wear shades – Ray Ban no less!), that you even marry your sweetheart, buy a car, move to a bigger house and have a baby or more. A few years down the line and everything is so meaningless, so mundane, so…so sad. Music is your only consolation. You listen to your favourite songs whenever, wherever you can. The home theatre system you replaced your obsolete 5-in-1 with, has been replaced with the state-of-the-art car stereo. The iPod has gradually begun to assume first priority in your interest levels so that your music listening benefits from a superior technological experience. You seek out friends who are musicians, preferably of calibre, of taste, of aesthetic advancement. Yet there’s a part missing in all this. You search for this missing piece in the music you listen to. Your work and your job are routine as is your family life, and they offer you nothing when you start searching.

You narrow your search down to the music you hear, and you begin to focus on a certain genre that has remained a constant source of pleasure, of consolation, of satisfaction. Let’s say it is jazz. You have graduated in stages in your listening to this form of music. From the old New Orleans style, to bebop, cool, mainstream, modern, avant garde, to contemporary, fusion, acid, hip-hop, it’s been a roller coaster ride of sheer musical pleasure. Today’s global sounds have infused the jazz you love with strange yet exciting voices, rhythms and melodies. Ideas of what might be, what can be are spilling over from your imagination. Your knowledge base has widened beyond the normal listeners’ ken. You can relate to musicians talking amongst themselves when they do a postmortem of a concert they’ve just played, or a composition they’ve begun. Their ideas mesh with yours, kick off new ideas in your head. But you still don’t know how to play an instrument, or even sing one blessed, tuneful note. For reasons best known to you, you did not continue with those piano lessons in school, or learn the guitar when your best friend did. Today, it is your fashion statement when you tell some bored and drunken listener at an office party that your one regret in life is that you cannot play a musical instrument. Cheers to that, and let’s have another one, do!

Your listening to music is now accompanied by your extraordinary performance in thin air. Your fingers run over an imaginary keyboard, plucking out those notes just like Monk did, even filling in spaces with your own notes and chords. That figmentive saxophone is lovingly caressed in your hands as you copy bar for bar what Bird is blowing through the earphones of your iPod. And it hits you like a grand piano crushing your skull at the end of a ten-storey fall that this is what you were meant to be doing after all.

You were meant to be a jazz musician. Even better, an enormously successful musician in India, where the rich classical and folk idioms can so add to the new jazz that is in your head. You know for a fact that jazz is the only living, breathing, real music there is. It is the melting pot and what melts in it. It is music to live for, a sound to die for. Beyond this you know nothing else. Information technology solutions are the crassness of the human soul. There is no purity there; no magic, no pulsating organism; just digits, inorganic, binary coded non-matter. You further realise that this family you have purposefully put together, your spouse, your offspring, the obvious signs of social standing, are the totem poles of a tottering trauma that lie like an undertow in a monsoon-fattened river, ready to pull you down, drown you.

Music, that is jazz, is your only escape, your only release. You want a life where you can play jazz always. But at forty seven? Is it possible? To go through another thirty years of merely imbibing, imitating and regurgitating the greats, till you at last arrive in your own, carve your niche? Where is the time? The money? The circumstances? And you deeply, sincerely, almost religiously wish that you were a jazz musician, born in a family of musicians, learning from all those musicians you respect and worship, till you at last have the ability, confidence, training and the requisite standard of creativity to play your own music. And earn some respect and accolades yourself. That’s important to your wish too.

BLEEP! Your wish has been granted. You suddenly realise, or more correctly become aware, that you are six years old; standing beside an old battered piano being sweetly played by a dark, curly-headed man you unwittingly know is your father. Another jolly looking man, his cheeks puffed out with his blowing, eyes popping as he coaxes out a mean piece from the cornet he is gripping along with a handkerchief, stands alongside. And you know, somehow or the other, that Satchmo is your father’s friend.

Elation knows no bounds. And you also know that your prior life, the one before, is still part of your consciousness. This is what you had wanted. Again for reasons best known to yourself you decide not to share this revelation with your present family. So you grow, you train, you inculcate, you are influenced by the great ones, the musicians you had idolized then, and continue to worship now. Over the years you find your place in the sun that shines on the jazz world, your footprints embedded on the blue moon that so inspires you and your ilk.

But you always know you are from the future, from India, another country, another mélange of cultures. You had been an information technology solutions provider then, and now you are a jazz musician in an age when the language of Trane’s horn is all the information you need, and the way Dizzy uses that mute all the technology you want. And the solution to it all is when you hear Mingus and gang do their thing.

Because you had on that first occasion wished yourself into this day and age, this space and time, you have now grown into an icon of jazz in the era of Information Technology. Techies freely offer you their feats of micro-engineering, their end results of using technology to beget even more sophisticated technology. And you allow your music to adapt to this new environment, to find meaning in the alphanumeric mumbo-jumbo, where electricity, digitisation and the things you can do with them are as crazy, if not more so, than the mind altering substances you took before to find that lost chord, that perfect piece of music.

Then again you come to the realisation that perhaps this is not what you want, this technological marvellousness, this precise mathematical computation, permutation and combination of your music which emanates from your soul, is the beloved child of your muse. And you seek. You search once more. This time the search returns you to India, the land of your previous birth, the one you are still conscious of. Many things have faded. The previous family are wisps of smoke, nameless, faceless; a life that was. Yet you remember the one thing you do – your passionate desire to be a jazz musician. Because that’s when you bleeped.

Once more, at this juncture of my telling, you find yourself unwilling to suspend disbelief any longer, and damn the poets! Your credulousness is turning in, and feelings of doing violence to this writer are overwhelming you. But I say hold a while! Don’t you want to know if you are a bleeper? Don’t you wish you were one? I’m quite positive you do. Shall I tell you why? Because you too have such desires. You too wish you were in another life, that you were someone else doing something else. And how do I know? Aah, that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?

Well, it’s like this then. That tale I just recounted? That jazz musician’s soul hiding inside an IT solutions salesperson’s body? Truth to tell, that’s me. Yes, me. And now whether you believe it or not, it’s the whole truth and nothing but. So, you might as well hear the rest of it, the last of it.

A pretty, astute young sub-editor flirted with me at a party in Mumbai where I had just finished guest playing a small set with a local jazz band. The musicians knew me only as an American jazz player who was quite something. They were not aware of my reputation or fame, nor did I say anything to enlighten them, enjoying this wary yet free moment of being incognito. But the sub-editor, though young, was a true jazz aficionado, and had recognised me. She dug around in the host’s collection and found an album of mine. You might recall, for a while then, I was hot property on the Page 3s of all the newspapers. Learning that I had come to India for good had resulted in sponsors suddenly taking up cudgels for jazz. In a snowballing effect, and as you can witness for yourself, jazz has become the flavour of the day for film music, pop music, and the varied urban music of India. Record companies, never slack when it comes to sniffing out instant profits, have released more jazz recordings into the Indian market in one year than they have ever released in the West in the last millennium. I’m sort of glad to say many of those recordings are mine.

That sub-editor, now promoted to Senior Features Editor, approached me to write a three-part series of articles for her publication on my music, my roots, my influences, my life. If you are still reading this, then you have in all likelihood read the other two pieces that have already been published in this periodical you hold. Those two articles give the publisher what he wanted. This one tells the whole truth.

I bleeped once without knowing it and look where I am! I have in these two conscious lifetimes understood what I want from my existence here on this earth. I want music, more specifically jazz, to replace the blood in my veins. It is said the conscious decisions you make now determine the trend your life takes. This is my conscious decision. I wish to go further, deeper into the music and I am quickly losing patience. In fifty years from now, technology, and indeed the very nature of music will have changed. I want to be there then. Now. I wish to be part of that change, that revolution today.

Remember not everyone will be a bleeper, but anyone can try. If you want something really, truly, badly enough, and if you wish for it in your heart, with all your mind and spirit, you too could be a bleeper.

Till then, bleep! bleep! See you whenever I do.

Editor’s Note: The mortal remains of the author have never been found. The combined efforts of Indian and US investigating agencies to do so have been in vain. However the author’s claimed antecedents bear out from what we have been able to verify and does include two families in two countries who have a mysteriously missing relative. Recording companies of course, are releasing previously unreleased material by the author-musician, reissuing old titles, repackaging them and making a killing. We are not doing too badly ourselves. Look out for our upcoming series of investigative articles on the bleeping phenomenon. May the author-musician bleep in peace!


Posted: November 12, 2006 in short fiction

Dreams die in the screeching of an alarm clock. Dreams die when you’re over forty, unemployed, and divorced. Life then attains a dreamlike quality that can easily become a nightmare. Things happen not because you want them to, but in spite of you. What you would like to happen, such as becoming a crorepati overnight, or maybe Jimi Hendrix resurrected, remains a fantasy.

Dreams die when your story is published in the Sunday papers. That short story will never become the novel you intended it to be. Dreams die when you’re salivating about a seafood repast and open the fridge to find a soya bean curry leftover from two days ago.

All these dreams died as Paran’s shoes bit into his ankles causing two fierce blisters, making him limp, and failing to catch the bus. He stood once again in the shade of a small, desiccated tree growing out of the pavement at the bus stop. The Bangladeshi cigarette was ridiculously cheap, harsh smoke carrying the flavour of dead cockroach into his lungs, which were surely cancer ridden, he mused. The next bus came along but he gave it a miss, preferring to finish the smoke till the bitter butt end.

Words flowed into Paran’s mind making little phrases, establishing succinct sentences, forming paragraphs, and instantly forgetting them as he watched a nubile young thing approach the bus stop. Hand to a ear under her freshly shampooed, blow-dried hair, cut fashionably, she spoke animatedly into a mobile that was invisible in her grip. Her pert breasts jiggled to the tune of her body music, as her hips swayed to a rhythm that very possibly did wonders in bed. Paran eyed her appreciatively. He understood. Old men don’t letch as some are wont to believe. The over 40s appreciate the finer things of life even if, as they were in Paran’s current circumstances, mostly unattainable. In any case, other than normal, and now increasingly rare waking-up conditions, it had been too long since he’d been turned on. Besides letching is for younger men with their presumptive virility, unable to control their raging hormones.

The NYT finished her conversation, fiddled with her mobile phone’s buttons, returning it to dangle between her breasts from the strap around a slender neck, as she stole a glance at Paran who tried to hold her look.

– Sir! Hello sir! How are you?

Ouch! She knows me, thought Paran, and like an idiot looked behind him to see if she was perhaps addressing someone there.

Her outstretched hand jangling with silver jewellery, and her quite lovely smile in this dead dreams morning of his, caused a mild anginal flutter. He clasped her hand with a quizzical return smile.

– Sir, I’m Richa! I was a summer trainee at the paper last year working under you.

Groaning inwardly:O! How I wish! – He said – Of course…quite…Richa…yes!

– Richa Valli – you gave me that assignment on TV viewing patterns…

O! Of course, yes…

Damned if he could remember! She must be right though. A whole bunch of these aspiring journalists came annually for their summer training at his late employer, and he was saddled with the unwanted responsibility of putting them through the grinding rollers, as it were.

He thought he recognised her now but was still unsure. She was quite the little charmer though, as he eyed her nubility and silently, casually wondered about her virginity. At the time of Richa’s training he had been steeped in a torrid but depressing affair with a sub at the rival paper, and had little or no interest whatsoever in the rest of the female species.

That sub-editor, while built for a comfortable time in the sack, had been under psychiatric attention, popped anti-depressants as if they were antacids, and had two award-winning pieces published in her paper, both actually Paran’s ideas which had been refused publication by his own Chief Editor. He’d never got over that, and the last time together with her had been a sado-masochistic orgy of the senses, brutal insensate sex and the painful inability to orgasm. He had been even more depressed when they parted, not because of it, but because of their actually having got together in a relationship in the first place.

Dreams die in failed orgasms. KLPD. He’d forgotten about his libido since he had been asked to leave his job, except for passing references while watching a late night movie on cable TV, or a passage in a novel. Richa stood there, awakening latent desire, and he hoped he wasn’t leering.

She stood confidently before him despite having to look up at him with his questionable advantage of natural height and the added advantage of the footpath under his blistered feet.

– Your giving me that assignment has now resulted in my current career, and I should thank you for that sir!

This girl is unbelievable! Where were you when I needed you darling? Paran thought as he grinned bashfully at her.

– Really? Where are you working then?

ACN, sir!

– Aaah! Of course… – Fearing to ask what ACN was he opened his mouth and burbled.

She was smart. She understood his incomprehension, silently forgave him his ignorance, and said:

– All Calcutta News, sir. ACN? It’s a new cable TV, news-only channel that was launched about six months ago. News about the city, its happenings, people, food, and whatnot! Very exciting sir! Have to work my butt off, but it’s fun and I’m really learning a lot!

So, you’re a…?

– A reporter sir! There’s a camera guy and an assistant who also handles sound and I report. Actually, I’m on my way now to cover the opening of the North East Festival.

– Aaah! Yes! Of course…

The North East Festival? Whaddahellwazzat? He mentally kicked himself for staying out of the loop.

She said – Can I give you a drop sir? I’m taking this cab. She was half in, half out of the open yellow door, smiling back at him.

– Yeah, yeah! Sure! I’m going there too, in fact, so we’ll…

– O good sir! Maybe you can give me some tips on how I can cover it, I’d really appreciate it!

Like I’d really love to appreciate you up close darling! Paran followed her in and sat down heavily.

The taxi moved slowly through distraught traffic around the construction of another meaningless flyover. They discussed that for a bit as he wondered if he should offer her his cheap cigarette. She solved his dilemma and offered him one of hers which he took, gallantly lighting hers first.

He had certainly not been planning to go to any festival since he didn’t even know of any happening. Paran had planned to take a bus to its final destination, then hop on to another to that one’s final stop, and so on, thereby allowing another day to pass, some more dreams to die.

With sidelong glances he watched her breasts bounce as the taxi roared over what masqueraded as a road. He had the sudden urge to cup one in his palm, feel its heat, the turgid nipple prick his flesh softly. Instead, he closed his eyes and thought about thinking of the weather. She was almost twenty years younger than him and she was causing bells of all sorts to ring in his body. He ignored the warning bells in his mind and looked at her again. She returned the look and smiled a slow one. She’ll look like that in post-coital bliss, he thought, as she’ll lie cradled in my arms.

– Listen! Don’t call me sir, my name’s Paran, ok?

– OK sir! I mean Paran!

That smile again. He asked her about her work and she went off like a rocket, enthusiasm underlying her descriptions till the polyphonic ring tones of her mobile came alive and she answered it.

O! I wish I were her mobile phone

Hanging ‘twixt those breasts,

And every time the ringing tone,

Would give me her sweet caress!

Dreams die, but they can also be like Phoenix risen if you want them to, he consoled himself. He thought of random things like sophisticated pick-up lines, coloured vs. ribbed condoms, his landlady peering suspiciously around her door as he walked Richa up the flight of stairs later this afternoon…

– Sir? I mean Paran…do you know Ravi Kumar?

Um…Ravi Kumar? Sounds familiar, who’s he?

– Sir, I mean Paran…!

Just Paran! Paran Palit if you want the full version, definitely not SirIMeanParan! – They both laughed. It was warm and convivial and he relaxed.

– Ravi is the chief producer at ACN and I know they’re looking for an assistant producer. Would you be interested?

TV? I don’t know…no experience, you know…

But even Ravi’s from print media sir, Paran, his first stint with TV…like me…and they prefer print journalists… – All this in a rush of minty breath that blew into his face as he gazed at her, falling in love instantly.

O! You mean Ravi Kumar from ‘The Business Edge’?

Yes sir! The same guy! And I’ll still need a little time to get used to not saying sir!

They laughed again. This time, Paran thought, there’s some electricity. The conviviality is definitely charged! Watts and amperes raced through the physics of his being, electricity became chemistry, and his desire sprang up like a Phoenix.


They’d arrived at the Maidan and she made the driver stop, quickly paying and following Paran out. She fished around in her handbag and came out with an ID card on a chain. He followed Richa through the security gate as she flashed her card and slung it around her neck at the same time. With a nod and a slanted look, he wordlessly indicated to the cop that he was with her, which she confirmed with a brusque – He’s with me! – and half ran, half walked off. Paran followed meekly behind watching her hips sway, her buttocks setting up a rhythm to match the movement of her breasts, which he couldn’t see now. Aaah! But imagination…! That can lead to dreams! And wet dreams would be quite all right, thank you!

The chief guest was yet to arrive to light the lamp on the stage. As Paran sat next to her, he looked around to see some familiar faces from the city’s press corps. Richa got up again and whispered in his ear – Hang on sir! I’ll just go check in with my crew. She dashed off.

I wish I were those jeans,

Enclosing her pliant flesh,

I can well imagine the scenes,

As with her skin I’ll mesh!

It was bad versifying but it helped pass the time as he sat back, mildly drenched in perspiration, with the afterglow of sex-yet-to-be-had already suffusing him. A year or more without sex and now he waited a good time as if it were a given.

He peered over heads as he saw her on one side of the stage, talking to the cameraman who was setting up his equipment. A heavy hand clasped his shoulder and Paran looked up to find Chiro, an ex-colleague currently occupying Paran’s last post, grinning with stained broken teeth at him.

– Who’s the babe, pal? She’s got bad taste no? – And he guffawed.


– Obviously! She’s with you! – Loud guffaws again.

Paran removed Chiro’s hand like a fly being brushed off, and took out his cigarettes. Chiro grabbed the pack, took one out, closely examined it, rolled the tube around in his fingers, sniffed at it and then put it between his lips, looking at Paran expectantly. Taking his pack back, Paran slowly removed another cigarette, took his time lighting a match, blew the flame out and handed the matchbox to Chiro.

– Bad times huh? Smoking Bangladeshis nowadays are we? O how the mighty have fallen!

Abracadabra! You may now disappear in a puff of smoke Chiro! – Taking the matches back, Paran looked away, ignoring him. Chiro walked away, a nonchalant wave that was like a dismissal thrown in Paran’s general direction.

She spotted him and waved, made some extravagant hand signals and a few pouts, which he interpreted as – Sorry! I’ve got to be here shooting this, interviewing some brain-dead politico, when I’d rather be sitting next to you sir, holding your hand and discussing the merits and demerits of position 69 vis-à-vis the missionary position which we shall indulge in later today. Paran sighed, lounged back, stretching his long legs under a chair in front.

Later. Dreams died again as she profusely apologised for rushing off to cover another story, gave him her card and told him to stay in touch, regretting not being able to have that coffee with him, which he had suggested after she’d apologised and which he had done cunningly, knowing he would not be able to afford it.

While the wet dream did not happen although he dreamed of her all night, Paran woke the next morning with a feeling of onanistic satisfaction. The kind of satisfaction that is incomplete.

– Hi Richa! Paran here! How are you?

O hi sir! I mean Paran – her laugh tinkled – Good morning!

– To you too! Listen! Were you serious about that vacancy at ACN yesterday?

O, but of course! Look! Give me a minute, I’ll call you back – is this your number? – I’ll just speak to Ravi and get back to you, ok?


Yeah, yeah, sure! No problemo!

He hung up, twiddled his thumbs, scratched pleasurably at his groin, and lit a cigarette. The STD booth was empty except for the lady who ran it. She was a talkative, blowsy, middle-aged female who gave him enticing smiles when he came to make calls.

– The person will call back on that number, I hope that’s fine? I’ll be short… some news about work…

Yes, yes! Quite okay, you are a regular customer. Normally we don’t allow it, but in your case exceptions have to be made, don’t they? How’s the family? I don’t see your Mrs…?

– They’re quite well, yes, she’s busy…you know…journalists…night duty… – He encouraged the imagined domesticity she thought he had.

Tch! Tch! Very bad for the children no? Excuse me! Can you do me a favour? See, I’m the secretary of the ladies’ group in this area, and every year we organise the local Durga Puja, all the ladies doing everything. Do you think you can get us some TV coverage? They do that don’t they?

Paran nodded without comment and looked at the stray cat outside the booth stalking a sparrow on a wall. He half listened to the woman’s rambling, watching nature’s mini-drama play itself out when the sparrow flew away and the cat returned to nosing through a torn plastic bag of garbage. The phone rang and he jumped to answer it.

– Hi Paran! Richa here! Yes! No problem, Ravi said you should come see him at the earliest with your CV.

When? Today?

– As soon as you can! Call him first. His number is… – He took it down on the palm of his hand and said,

Many thanks Richa! I owe you.

– O no sir! How can you say that? My pleasure!

Look, let’s have that coffee…

– Soon! Very soon! OK? Bye now! – Aaah! If only later really was sooner, Paran remarked to himself as he paid the woman and left the booth.

With his updated, freshly printed CV lying in front of Ravi who was on the phone, Paran looked about the office seeing the young men and women bustling about, shouting messages across the tops of the low partitions, getting serious over scrolling news agency monitors, laughingly derisively at other news programmes playing on a bank of TVs at the far end, and then Ravi – OK, man, Paran! You’re on! When can you start?

The first week had been chaotic. Paran tried his hardest to adjust to instant news, repeats, and later talk shows about the instant news that was already old hat eight hours later. He regretted not being able to hold newsprint hard copy of what he had written, instead of having to see it televised hours later, to explode in digital colour in the ether, in cathode rays, presented by eminently bonkable women who did not even know that news might stand for north, east, west, south. Theirs was a dramatic reliving of minute by minute stories that unfolded, of non-news dressed up with nowhere to go.

Paran fell into it with a vim and vigour he couldn’t believe of himself. Dreams do rise Phoenix-like from the ashes, old man, he wryly smiled, thinking of the hefty pay cheque due to him at month end. Richa was a series of exuberant, jewellery flashing comings and goings, each lasting a couple of minutes every time. That coffee with her still hadn’t happened. He too was genuinely busy. The hours at work were long and frantic. Invariably it was home, after a quick bite at a mobile roll and chow mien stall near the bus stand, and falling into a dreamless sleep.

Are there no dreams because dreams are dead? Or yet to come alive? Paran waited for the lift to take him up to the office, as he idly pondered on this. Walking into the mess of cubicles, he was greeted by a jubilant Richa who put her arms around his neck, gave him two quick pecks on either cheek, and told him to be at the coffee shop down the road at 6 pm, before rushing off. He gazed lovingly at her departing derriere clad in fluorescent Lycra, and whistling merrily went to his PC at the far end.

She was all touchy-touchy, feely-feely, fingers running up his arm, moving a lock of hair from his eyes, her bright shining eyes almost bursting the desire out of his trousers.

– O God! We haven’t met, it seems, for what? A month?

Actually two months. That’s when I joined. – He offered smilingly.

– Two months! – she almost shrieked. – God! That’s so long! No! first you tell me what’s been happening.

So he told her. About what he was doing, the talk shows he wrote for the vacuous idiots who hosted them, about the excitement he’d now begun to feel for the job, after his initial prejudice and cynicism as a print journalist. She empathised, she giggled, she jiggled, and she occasionally caressed that phone still pulling its weight in her cleavage. She sipped at her coffee, bubbling in the froth of her obvious happiness to see him once again on a one-to-one, he thought.

She could hold it back no longer. She poured out her news without his even asking. It came in bursts and sparks of agitation once experienced, now a tolerated memory. It flowed out in words and phrases of extreme joy and optimism, in the form of tales that had shaken her world and turned it over. He heard her, but as usual comprehension was yet to dawn.

– He promised forever and ever…his parents are such snooty old coots…and his sister? What a bitch!…so we’ve decided to live separately from them…the wedding’s next month…you have to come!…we’re planning to go to Mizoram for our honeymoon…he’s looking for another job…doesn’t want his wife in the same office as him… – The words flowed over his numb skull, his dead brain, his dead dreams.

So who’s the lucky guy?

– O Paran! You haven’t been listening! It’s Ravi, Ravi Kumar! – He hoped she would not notice his shell-shocked stare. – I really, truly, sincerely, love him! He’s so much older than me, and people say such huge age differences are not successful, but we’ll prove them wrong!

So it was Ravi then. Ravi, his age group, peer group, Kumar. Ravi the guy who gave Paran his job, gave back his dreams. It could easily have been anyone else. Why Ravi? Why not him?

– So, when did this start?

O! about the time we met – you remember the bus stop? I was on the phone when I saw you…I was arguing with him because he was not willing to confirm our relationship with marriage. I mean, you can’t take me to bed promising a life of love together and then not live up to it!


She laughed, a little nervous with her reasoning perhaps. Guilty maybe for having shared this intimacy with Paran.

While Paran had dreamed, old Ravi Kumar had acted with enough alacrity to take Richa to bed and was even now on the verge of marrying her. Dreams die. Period.

The wedding had been fraught with parental tension till the religious ceremony got over. After that the wine flowed, and colleagues and friends came together in a forced, social bonhomie. Paran watched this dream die, as Richa clung to Ravi’s arm, radiantly happy, greeting guests, graciously receiving congratulations and gifts.

They were away on their honeymoon, when one morning, as Paran entered the office, the normal bustle quite subdued, he saw the MD sitting in Ravi’s chair. With a wave, he acknowledged Paran’s greeting and pointed him to the chair before him. His expression was grim and formal.

– You’ve heard, I suppose, that ACN has been bought over by XTV?

There were some rumours circulating, but nothing definite. – Paran shifted buttocks uncomfortably in his chair.

– Well, they’re now confirmed, as of today in fact. – Pregnant pauses are aptly named. Their indication that more is to come can be quietly foreboding.

Well, I’m now the MD of ACN with the new management…

– Congratulations!

Yes..um..well, I have also been given the unavoidable task, er…responsibility, of um… streamlining, that is to say…er, cutting the flab, so to speak.

O shit! Here it comes. Paran knew for sure dreams die and then fade away. Sometimes they return like replays, like an ex-acidhead who continues to get hallucinatory flashbacks.

– So, um…well, we’re downsizing, and under these circumstances…what with low rates and inadequate advertising coming in, we have to ask some people to leave. Of course one month’s notice and a decent severance pay will be given, but even then…um, I think you should know…

When do you want my letter of resignation? – Paran had asked this same question not too long ago of another chief executive. Dreamlessness is because dreams are dead.

– O! today, please! With one month’s notice being mentioned, and I’ll be happy to be a, um, reference if you want, on your CV.

Paran got up and walked to his PC to type out the obituary of yet another dream.

September 2003


Posted: November 12, 2006 in short fiction

The saviour of the world needs a villain to resist and react to. Unfortunately for him, the self-styled saviour is himself the villain. No he is not schizophrenic, although the goodness he claims to be doing has many levels and that quite easily qualifies him as a dysfunctional personality.

Thoughts like this afforded Paran quick slumber. He had no choice. With a power cut affecting the neighbourhood, watching TV or reading was out of the question. The monsoon rains had at least cooled things down as he comfortably fell asleep.

 The saviour of the world, sitting atop a Humvee behind a long machine gun that extended well over the bonnet of the vehicle, moved like a computer animation. Flying over desert dunes, palm trees, rivers and burning cities, the psychedelia that accompanied his passage rushed around and before him through oily darkness. Phosphorescent green trails in the wake of these graphics faded and then returned to collect in glowing pools, rippling languidly.

The saviour saw orange flashes coming towards him and stopped suddenly. Seconds later, bumblebees travelling faster than the speed of sound whizzed past his ear. One bee bit his arm very hard above the elbow, but he felt no pain. Then in darker hued psychedelic patterns that approached the saviour out of the black, came the villain of the world. He straddled the turret of a fast moving half track vehicle, his gun as long as the saviour’s, pumping bullets in orange flashes. And when the saviour looked at his archenemy he saw his face mirrored back at him.

But the saviour had a back up plan. He needed to call one of the jokers back home and tell him to press a red button. That button would launch a weapon of immense destruction in the villain’s territory and obliterate it. Nothing would ever live or grow there again. The saviour looked around and saw the red telephone lying in the reeds fringing the water of a pond in the oasis he had stopped at. He saw a bearded longhaired man on the other side, surrounded by an aura of light, dragging a crucifix out of the water. The man paused to look at the saviour on his Humvee and raised his hand. The saviour was pleased with the silent benediction and was reaching for the phone when it began to ring. The shrill tones of the instrument were jarring and surprised him. He froze for a moment in his actions. Then he reached out for the ringing phone, fumbling for it, not finding it where he had seen it.

Paran woke suddenly, finding himself groping among the pillows and cushions for the ringing phone. The transition from dream to reality had a fuzziness to it and he blearily turned over on to his right to answer the call.

He pressed the speakerphone button and glanced at the bedside clock. 5 am. Sleepily wondering who was calling so early he heard telephone static and the monotone pinging of a childish melody as if played on a digital instrument. A few seconds later a husky voice breathed a tentative hello. Paran waited. The voice was female and it had grabbed his now awake interest. Some more hellos, in that same huskiness, with the same melody playing behind it. Then the line was disconnected. The caller ID displayed an unfamiliar mobile phone number.

There were no further calls that day. The next evening, Paran had just got home, and was taking a leisurely leak provoked exceedingly by the rainy weather when he heard the phone ring. By the time he flushed, zipped and washed, it had stopped ringing. His thoughts went back to the second editorial he would be writing for the next edition. His dream of saviour and villain of the world had prompted some opinions he believed were radical. He had been surfing the net all day trying to get some backup material to flesh out the editorial he would write first thing tomorrow morning.

The phone rang again. He looked at the CLI. Same unfamiliar cell number. He looked at the clock. A little after 5 pm. Pressing the speakerphone button, that childish melody burst into the room uninvited. He snorted. Then he heard the moans, soft but distinct. They reached a crescendo and a loud groan glottal stopped out in a tone of sensuous pleasure. The phone disconnected again.

Obviously the caller did not know that Paran had a CLI. He thought of calling back but realised she would not answer on seeing his number on her screen. He decided to wait this one out.

At precisely 5 am the next morning the phone rang waking him this time from a dreamless sleep, or a dream he could not remember. Same melody, but this time the voice said – Paran – in a soft querulous tone after the initial husky hello. He did not answer. Once more – Paran? – and she hung up. He did not think it a voice he knew. But one word said twice was not sufficient to be sure. Next time he would answer.

That evening he returned at eight and saw her number registered on the CLI at 5 pm. He wondered about this five o’clock thing she seemed to have. Unfailingly at 5 am, a bright dawn breaking through the dispersing rain clouds, his phone rang. This time he picked up the receiver and growled a hello. Her voice was very sexy in its huskiness, and the natural phenomenon upon waking from a good night’s sleep was acutely evident under his covering sheet.
– How are you Paran?

– Good, good! What is it about these five o’clock calls?- Isn’t any time a good time to call? That’s what you said…
– I did? When? Do I know you? What’s your name?

– My! So many questions so early in the morning!

Obviously! I mean…
– It doesn’t matter Paran.

Long silence punctuated by his hellos. He thought he sounded a little frantic. Then the moans sounded again. This time he knew they were lusty in nature, orgasmic in their finality, when the phone disconnected abruptly. She mystified him and he didn’t like it. His training as a journalist did not permit him to tolerate such unknowns, especially when she seemed to know him and he did not. He needed a concocted, plausible situation which he could control. It was unfortunate that he would not be able to editorialise this incident, he thought, in a moment of cynicism. As the senior writer of the city’s most reputable newspaper, this was something he would have loved to be a paper tiger with.

The calls never ceased and unfailingly happened at five o’clock every twelve hours. When he could not get home on time, he would return to see the liquid crystal digits of her phone number blinking at him from the CLI display. He realised with a start he’d begun to look forward to her anonymous calls and actually missed receiving them when circumstances did not permit. Yet again he mused over her identity, drawing blanks with every assumption he made, suspecting every woman he had secretly harboured a letch for, who was not part of his immediate network.

Lately he was waking a few minutes before five am, his internal alarm clock efficient and punctual. He’d begun to sleep nude and her early morning calls were libido arousers that pleased yet frustrated him increasingly. She obviously sensed the feelings she raised in him, and her moans seemed to lengthen and linger every day. Shallow and fast breathing now followed her final groans that echoed through the wires before she disconnected. He had once called back immediately and as he had expected there was no answer. They no longer talked other than a brief hello or hi. His hand strokes matched her moans and her final groans were usually echoed by his. She must have heard them but preferred to keep her silence.

 Then one morning Paran snapped. Sleep the night before had been fitful and disturbed. There had been a forced lull in his habitual evening alcohol intake for the last four days. His ex-wife and daughter were in town for a short visit and he had been spending quality time with his offspring. A good reason as any but it left him irritable once he returned home. The quaffing of a number of rums each night had assumed the proportions of a dependancy that he mentally justified to himself in many ways. His ex-wife had been assertive and very clear: no drinking when you’re with your daughter or you never get to see her again. He recalled with a shudder that the judge had almost declared him persona non grata when issuing the decree absolute in their divorce case. Paran only saw his daughter when she was in town and that too at the condescending benevolence of her mother.

His editorial about the saviour and villain being the same and the protracted analogy he’d drawn with George W Bush Jr, had also rocked some boats. There was some unspoken pressure coming down from the Chief Editor’s ivory tower. The vendor of an upset apple cart – the office of the US Consul General – had sent an Indian representative to verbally remonstrate and Paran had listened to him somewhat impatiently. The man was a coffee house intellectual, university educated and very patently enamoured by the US of A. He had bandied about words and phrases like: ‘globalisation’, ‘global village’, ‘9/11’, ‘fight against terrorism’, ‘democratic forces’, ‘anti-constitutional’, ‘Indo-US synergy’ before asking for a printed retraction. Paran had instead asked him for such a written request and the man then pulled out a letterhead and CD asking Paran to print the readymade one, which he would sign. Paran refused and asked for one from the Consul General himself. Paran had no intention of publishing a retraction, but he wanted an official request to come from the Great Cowboy’s cowhand in India. It was malicious mischief and his pyrrhic victory was short-lived when the cowhand did address an extremely polite but firm request to the Chief Editor that very evening. The boss wanted it published in the next day’s letters page. He told Paran to pen a suitable reply without causing further feathers to be ruffled, seem apologetic enough without being overtly so, and if such were achieved he could continue to consider himself employed.

So that morning he snapped. He shouted at her for being so unfeelingly tantalising. He was embarrassed with himself and told her in no uncertain terms to reveal her identity and intention immediately else he would take action to prevent her being a nuisance any longer. She had immediately hung up.

He called the cell phone company to try and get her name and address but had no luck. The girl at the other end very sweetly twittered about customer privacy, and when he briefly mentioned the reason for his request, more polite and sweet twittering advised him to speak to his fixed line operator or even the police if need be. He was then thanked for calling and told to have a nice day.

The fixed line customer care officer, who was accessed after an interminably long interactive voice response system, asked him to put in a written request to his local exchange. She could not say if he should take the matter up with the cops. It was entirely his decision. When Paran asked if at least the exchange would take some action, she replied that they would look into it after receiving his complaint In writing, but as it didn’t really meet the official definition of an obscene call that she had, and that too with the male as the victim, it was difficult for her to comment on the matter at this point.

Paran gave up. Besides he didn’t really want to get embroiled in a case that seemed so harmless on the face of it. Yet those calls had disturbed him. They had torn away some of the sophisticated veneer covering his general demeanour. He felt exposed and humiliated. The calls had stopped since he had shouted at her and it was now a week.

Sunday afternoons were lethargic, lounging times for him. Having waded through six Sunday papers and a few magazines, he’d tucked in to a heavy, high protein lunch after a couple of chilled beers as appetizers. Drowsy and supine, he was dozing off when the phone rang. He knew it was her without looking at the CLI.

 Huskily she said – Hello Paran! Long time no…

 He completed it – … no harass, yes?

– Am I harassing you? I thought you were enjoying it!

– You’re driving me mad, you bitch! What’s your game?

– No game Paran! Just some fun, some foreplay…just enjoy!

– I’m not enjoying it! This is crazy!

– Of course you’re enjoying it! Listen here… And there was a click. Paran heard his own voice groaning back at him in a previous excited climax from the early days.

– That sounds like you having fun Paran! O, you naughty boy!

He was dumbfounded for a moment. – Why are you doing this? If you get so turned on by me, why don’t you meet me? Let’s meet today, right now… you tell me where…

 – O, O, Paran, not so fast! I like my lovemaking slow and easy. Do you want to make love Paran? He remained silent.

 She continued – Let’s make love Paran! You and me and a telephone makes three! Do you think three’s company or a crowd Paran?

– A crowd! A crowd! I like making love face to face and one on one!

– Not yet lover boy, not yet! You know I’m a little intimidated by you, and I feel shy to look at your eyes. In fact it’s how I felt the very first time I set eyes on you.

– Where have we met? Who are you? He sounded plaintive, and like he wanted pity.

– I know, I know, I didn’t make an impression that day. It’s why you don’t remember me. But I remember you well. Come on Paran, indulge me, listen to me make love, imagine you and me in the flesh!

 He would have liked to say that he couldn’t possibly imagine someone he had never seen, but stayed silent.

 She asked – OK? – softly, sincerely, huskily. He still kept quiet.

 The moans began again. Her breathing became harder, punctuated by gasps as if she were being slammed. They rose in intensity and rhythm, ever faster. At one point she gasped out – Are you also making love Paran? Make love with me!

He felt weary and worn out but couldn’t stop handling himself. When the end came he too was gasping short breaths, until inertia overwhelmed him. She called again late that night, and the next day, and the day after that…

The five o’clock schedule had changed to random times. He took days off to be at home when she called. In a moment of weakness he had given her his cell phone number. Now she called when he was in office, on the bus, in the loo, in a meeting, at a press conference, during lunch, while doing an interview – the calls were always the same: Hello, moan, groan, disconnection. It was like a drug for him, he was addicted, he got high on them, and suffered withdrawal when she didn’t call.

Of late, he thought he heard muffled grunts accompanying her moans. The secondary noises sounded masculine and Paran began to feel tortured. He had confided this to no one, although friends suspected something was distressing him but their enquiries were brusquely brushed away. He’d called a suicide help line and the kindly voice at the other end suggested he get a new telephone number when he explained his predicament. Later, on further enquiry, he found that he would have to go through a lengthy paper chase before he could get a new unlisted number.

Yet he would not stop answering her calls. He could have barred her number on his mobile and rejected her calls on checking the CLI display on his landline but he didn’t. One day he asked for a transfer to the facsimile edition office in the neighbouring state, not really noticing the alacrity with which it was granted.

That evening he told his landlord and landlady that he was very regretfully vacating their premises after an enjoyable ten-year tenancy. They both expressed their own regret very sincerely and the landlord was willing to return Paran’s security deposit the moment he asked for it. The last few days were a blur of farewell parties and goodbye binges at his favourite watering holes.

The packers and movers had left him with a mattress on which he slept, ate, and entertained guests in the few days left before his departure. The calls had stopped soon after his transfer had been sanctioned. Paran was conscious of this but preferred to let the status quo be.

The night before he finally left, the phone rang. It would only be disconnected tomorrow as he had requested, but now it rang loudly in the empty room bereft of any furniture or curtains that might have absorbed and muted the sound. He knew instinctively it would be her.

– You knew it would be me didn’t you Paran? – were her first husky words. She always managed to surprise him, despite everything.

– I’m leaving tomorrow, finally rid of you! His anger and simultaneous relief were explosive.

 – I know Paran! It’s why I’ve called. One last time Paran, one last time. Maybe, I don’t know, we will meet sometime in the future if fate permits, but tonight one last time!

 He felt weak and vulnerable and it made his heart flutter. Blood was like water in his veins, and he lay on the mattress letting her do what she did, the telephone against his ear. Closing his eyes he listened to her sounds of rapture, of intense pleasure, and dullness enveloped him. His libido lay unaffected and he was pretty sure there were male grunts that matched her moans. This time before disconnecting, and after a long pause, she said – Goodbye Paran! I will miss you, so you better miss me! – Click! The dial tone was loud in his ear.

 His flight was a morning one and before leaving he rang the landlord’s bell to hand over the keys to the apartment. The taxi had come as ordered at five am and they both came to the door to bid him farewell. The landlord shook Paran’s hand with a strong warm grip, and his wife gave him a quick hug, whispering a husky goodbye in his ear, surprising him. As the taxi sped it’s way to the airport, Paran recalled hearing a childish melody coming from inside their house.

 The landlord shut the door as the taxi departed, and she went to switch off the electronic water filter. Somehow she liked the silly tune it played when it was working. In the bedroom, she lay down next to her husband, arm around him.

 He said – I must say your idea really worked! And your powers of persuasion are quite effective, darling!

 Her laugh was husky and full of a juvenile thrill. – Well, at least we no longer have a tenant who might have ended up living here forever and paying us some measly rent, or even worse, paying it to the rent controller!

 – I love you, darling! Let’s make love again! He turned to enclose her in his hug. – I must say though, I shall miss your inspired telephony. It’s quite a turn on for me when you do that! You think we could try it with a random number?

She silenced him with a deep kiss on his open mouth.


Posted: November 12, 2006 in Uncategorized

Dreep he wanted to write deep his mind told his fingers dreep which he typed in glowing on the screen. Somewhere behind the glass the images on the monitor he could see the reflection of his face. It looked like a negative image on film in faded colour. Dreep beneath the glass dreeb in the night. In the dweep heartland.

Thoughts swam around in his brain his mind drowning with syllables words sentences too fast to type. He wrote faster than he typed but it was convenient on the PC. Later editing was easy he still liked to edit on a hard copy a printout he could hold in his hands and use a pen on. Then he could later key the edits in onto the comp make it sound right better fill in the gaps. He just wrote wrote so he would never write again but he always did didn’t he?

A gust of wind from the open window blew the cigarette off the ashtray scattering sparks scorching ants marching in line to the crumpled paper which he’d missed the wastebasket with that now contained crumbs of a chocolate cream pastry still lingering in his mouth between teeth what was left of them left of it. Deep in the dental cavities. There, he’d said it right at last. Deep not dreep dreeb dweep.

Creep in the night into the night of the night. Creep a nice word creep of the deep. What was it? Stream of consciousness he needed LSD for that didn’t he to write out the words images sounds ideas music of his mind. No LSD here though long ago experienced acid trips flashed back left his memory blank remembering only others’ descriptions of acid highs their telling of it their colours and visions none of his own. Had he ever even done them?

You, she said as she walked into the room. You, she repeated finger pointed in mock accusation as she came up to you sitting at the computer, where have you been? And your thoughts were how did she get in who let her in was the door open? You mumbled a hello how did you and she said what are you doing leaning down to look at the screen. And you looked at her breasts in their printed cotton covered roundness they look so firm you want to touch them hold them so watched their suspended perfection outlined against the blue glow of the monitor. But you don’t you have no intimacy with her no physical contact you are her dearest friend yet. You can’t even remember ever having kissed her.

You ask who let you in and she looks back at the door as if surprised at the nature of her entry. And you think, what if I’d been sitting there scratching my balls or even wanking when she walked through a door I’d left unlatched? She said Shobha and you said I’ll go put on a T-shirt conscious of your paunch your male breasts for the sake of propriety. You remember the maid Shobha was cooking your meal and you ask her tea and she says Darjeeling? Shobha looks at you and you say no more just reaching behind the door for the black T-shirt unconsciously sniffing it as she watches.

I say it’s clean and laugh and quickly pull it over my head my spectacles coming off but getting caught at my paunch in the folds of the fabric. I wonder if I should put on undies hope I don’t get a hard on which would be quite evident through these bright maroon shiny synthetic cloth shorts though they have inner netting for testicular support but that won’t do I think. Manage to retrieve my eyeglasses reposition them on my nose run fingers through my hair laugh at myself to you.

You smile and turn to look at the screen. You say what’s all this? Dreep dreeb dweep creep of the deep what’s this stuff? You look at me a strange look a puzzled look have you been smoking? drinking? you ask noticing the glass now empty beside the ashtray with the crushed cigarette that had earlier fallen to the floor with the other smoked cigarette butts the flakes of tobacco ash soot. The evidence is plain to see to smell and I say nothing. You know better than to ask any more.

He says I was writing at least trying to write start something he trails off. She is bright eyed just come from where fabrication construction of a design she’d had approved for the interior of a showroom for very expensive wristwatches is now underway. Sparkling with energy jouncy chattering having argued for the best part of a day with male workers semi-skilled semi-literate has had a trying time convincing them that she knew what she was doing and it didn’t matter what their experience but they needed to do it her way because that would be the only way her design would look good as it now did in her head on the 3D renderings she was presently showing him on the colour laser printout.

He looked at it at the design and he wondered. He had actually proposed to her some weeks ago and he was mystified at this and she asks how, what do you think? He looked at her she was jazz ballet all staccato movements full of grace. She tugged at the end of her shirt pulling it down reducing the prominence of her shapely breasts stopping the cloth from folding under and accentuating their fullness as she crossed her leg over a knee.

He said it’s lovely looking at her at a virtual point on her neck between those breasts and her pursed lips her very kissable lips asked again, what do you think? He looked at her design and at her and at it and at her knowing he had to say something relevant intelligent to stay in her favour in her regard for his what he considered useless opinion. Remembering a friend who’d been over in the afternoon who’d said something about semantics nonsense after many glasses of bangla the country liquor inebriating fumes still in his head and he smiled now.

I said what will you use to cover the wood of the showcases and you went into a long treatise on imported laminates with metallic finishes which every shop in town now had and I wondered if I would ever be able to kiss you make love to you hold you tight warm humid in my arms and said, Wonder what this one costs the one which has this overlapping concentric-circles design on it, certainly looks suitable for counter tops.

The clink of crockery and the aroma of tea leaves brewing brought Shobha in with our cups and you smiled at her said your usual, You’ve given me too much but thank you, taking the cup from the proffered tray. Shobha simpered setting my cup down next to the keyboard spilling a few drops which she wiped with the end of her saree. And the screensaver came on with a click tubes running randomly bending curving colourfully over a black background and the music of a Keb’ Mo’ blues, If you feel like dust upon a shelf you can love yourself, became louder as I tweaked up the volume on the speaker.

She had said no she would not marry him which of course was no surprise. But her reason had been. Incompatible horoscopes. A match of less than 35 percent. He recalled her request some weeks before he had proposed for his birth date place time. So had she considered marrying him even before he had proposed it was a revelation he knew not of what. She liked him enough to consider marriage? It seemed an obvious conclusion not to be taken lightly. He had laughed at her belief in the suspect belief system of a computer generated horoscope with set criteria and programmed parameters to accurately judge the compatibility of two humans’ fickle fantastic fandango of emotions inconsistent from moment to moment. She had been vocal in her support convinced of the correctness of the computer program and protested it had rung true many times before for relatives friends herself.

I continued to laugh and you flared up a bit told me not to treat it so lightly to make sure myself and test it on relationships I knew were currently at crossroads and see if you were right or not.

You sipped your tea and asked what the matter was. You all right? I said I was a little hung over from my afternoon binge the joint smoked before you came the words phrases syntax of sentences I wished to write but was stuck at dweep. You asked of my friends visiting from other parts and I had told you on the phone some days before of how all my old friends were in dysfunctional relationships most of which had begun as young blood love affairs. You asked me again about it drinking Darjeeling daintily I loved the way your unpainted nails on slender fingers looked against the ceramic cup and I expounded on my peer group generation all in disastrous marriages even second ones, or post-divorce single by choice pretending happiness at being able to do whatever without worry. Yet ready to propose marriage to the next pretty face that entered my loneliness but I did not tell you that.

Talking on I marvelled at you sharing the same birthday as the one I had loved so exquisitely who had loved me back but chose to desert me anyway at the altar and perhaps I loved her still and she was a designer too marvelling also at my affinity for your tribe. Remembering how another friend also horoscopically inclined had told me that Sagittarians and Taureans are incompatible and rare to find in marriage even rarer in stable togetherness. But I talked of how irritated I had been getting meeting with these old friends who talked of nothing but broken breaking down relationships indulging in self-pity no sex desperately drinking seeking solace in another’s loneliness. You said we were unnecessarily compulsively obsessed.

She said she had to leave now she had come for a short visit had many places to go sourcing fabric fittings for the work she was doing. And he said thanks for coming over you cheered me up no you really did and she said I’m glad you think so but it’s all in the mind and he said it is all in the mind isn’t it? Love no love loneliness dysfunctionality normalcy are all in the mind. He wanted to say sex was the only thing that wasn’t it was so physical so evident in its pure release of tension but he didn’t stayed unsaid in his mind.

Rising as you do unconsciously in tune with Miles’ horn coming over the speaker I know jazz ballet is an apt term to describe your movement in its natural state confident charming. I too rise gently touching your shoulder mouthing soft thanks as you leave through the door sweet smile back at me and I am left with a torrid calm but a surprising peace of mind. I look at the cushion lightly impressed by your weight when you had sat on it and now plumping itself back and I didn’t want it to wanted it to retain the shape left by your rounded buttocks. I lifted it smelt it it had the stale scent of monsoon mould on its cover making a mental note to wash it tomorrow.

Deep in the heartland deep in the mind destined to deeply love women incompatible incomprehensible to creep in the deep dark fathoms of lust desire attracted always by the allure of an intelligent mind in a pretty head on a shapely body to set down in words sentences paragraphs about unattainable love deep inside a computer.

September 2005