THIS IS SATNA!!

In a few days, we not only celebrate Shri Vajpayee’s birthday, but also that festival of festivals, Good Governance Day on the 25th of December.

Mitron!! A warm welcome in the name of our Lord and Saviour Narendra Modi! The supreme Lord could not be here so I’m filling in for him today.

A warm and awkward bear hug to everyone joining us for the first time. What took you so long brothers?

And to our regulars, the ones who are returning. Of course, you are here, where would you go? Once a Bhakt, always a Bhakt.

So once again I welcome you all. Here, to the Right Club.

As the name suggests, and because it is the right way, we do everything at the Club the right way.

We eat with our right hand, the right food of this great nation, vegetarian. Our plates also lean slightly to the right, so make sure the Sabji is on the left Mitron!

The nation has propounded this way of life for millions of centuries. Yes, that’s right. Millions of centuries. Do not go by the fables of history that the opposite wing has been imposing on us. We are a grand old, old, ancient nation.

Our Indian men drive on the right side of the road. Our nationalist boxers deliver right handed punches. All our cricket captains have been right handed too! Except for Ganguly, but then, he is after all from West Bangladesh, I mean West Bengal.

We live in difficult times Mitron, difficult times! This is the age of isms and ists. The prodigal South has leaned far left and away from us! Beefeaters brethren! And I don’t mean the beautiful London Gin. Our dark Southern brothers and sisters have strayed away like cattle and are now feasting on that cattle itself!

Sniff. Sob. Sob. Sniff.

A new ism every day, a new ist every night. Communism, Feminism, Ramuism, Pawanism. Humanist, Realist, Secularist, Socialist, even Minimalist! It’s heart-breaking brothers, heart-breaking!

You know there’s only one ism that matters. One ist that we all should be! It’s of the nation!

He takes a glass of water to calm his nerves down. And resumes.

Anyway, we come to the agenda for today’s meeting. As you know these are festive times for our motherland. In a few days, we not only celebrate Shri Vajpayee’s birthday, but also that festival of festivals, Good Governance Day on the 25th of December. This is a special day and it rightfully should be celebrated for only these reasons and nothing else.

I see the twinkle in your eyes as we embark on the celebrations for this momentous day.

But alas, the red gang is also gearing up! No, not the Sickle Log. It’s the other red gang. The foreign gang. They are disrupting our peaceful sleep with their cacophony. Songs in a foreign language. Extolling a foreign God. Singing praises for a foreign character!

Sniff. Sob. Sob. Sniff.

Santa, they call it. Santa? Who is this Santa?

This is Satna! Satna, not Santa! Come on, Mitron!

THIS IS SATNA! Tear away those shirts! Show me those 56” chests. Shout with me!

THIS IS SATNA!

After the mob quietens.

It gives me immense pleasure, no, it gives me just the right amount of pleasure to announce our Karyakartha for the day. I have been following the exploits of this brilliant young man for some time now. His social media presence is as saffron as it gets. Bravo! Now it’s time for a field exercise!

Come on up young man, Dharmedra Dohar!

Thunderous applause.

Where are you coming young man? That way, right, right side! We have no stairs on the left!

More thunderous applause.

Tonight, he has been selected to lodge a police complaint against the anti-nationals that disrupt our sleep. We will leave the khakis to do the rest.

Dharmedra, my boy! So proud of you! Your name even resembles that of our Supreme Leader!

Right-o then! This marks the end of our session! One last time Mitron!

THIS IS SATNA!

 

Write Club Hyderabad – January 2018 – Reality fiction based on the below article.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/police-detain-carol-singing-group-in-madhya-pradeshs-satna/article21716250.ece

Bottled Down

Every new peg is like an element of the Fibonacci series. Each drink as potent as the sum of its predecessors.

From within the surreal depths of my ephemeral subconscious, wait wait, I don’t need to show off today, it’s stream of consciousness week, no need for cascades of grandiosity.

Now, the depths. My butt nestled in the deep undulating trough that made up the centre of my bed. No, that wasn’t the depth I wanted to rant about. It’s that of my consciousness, or rather the lack of it. Yes, that was it!

‘Cos, it was from there that transpired the shrill sounds of “Butra Milk!”

The railway platform vendors. Haven’t they procreated a language all their very own over the years?

Buttera Milk, Saamousey, Cutaaleeet, Sodalu…

Normally annoying these calls. Why were they a tad inviting today? Why is my consciousness conjuring up images of dirty railway station vendors, brownish white packets of grainy buttermilk and questionable pink straws?

Ah, that bottle. The bottle of whiskey that I downed last night. Of course. The bottle that will be the death of me.

I started consciously enough. Timing every peg, inspecting every measure of the not so fine malt and the soda, even the two cubes that should along with it.

Alas, it was a stream that never ran out. After the first few, shit starts to get real. The head starts dancing, bobbing, all on its own. The tongue starts lashing out, the syllables start loosening up. The peg count goes out the freaking window.

Linearity takes a backseat. Every new peg is like an element of the Fibonacci series. Each drink as potent as the sum of its predecessors.

Ah, an ant on my wall. Climbing up, or is it burrowing itself into the same spot on my wall? Strange, don’t remember ever seeing wildlife in my habitat. Boy, it takes a bottle of whiskey all the way from the moors of Scotland to awaken my senses, here, in Gachibowli.

The memory of the ex flits dangerously close to me. Teasing, tantalizing even. A battle at hand. I’m the hero the battle needs but does not deserve. My weapon of choice – the phone of course.

It looms into view. Was it there all this time? Or did it sashay into my line of vision at this eventful juncture? This moment of reckoning, where a drunken night potentially turns into a week of embarrassment to follow?

This whiskey, this daaru, mandu, why the hell is the Telugu word for alcohol and general medicine the same? Damn mother language. No! No, no!

No thoughts of maternity, not now! That stream leads to a guilt trip.

Ha, guilt trip! How wonderful would a Lemon Tart taste right now! Awfully good! Smashing! Ha, like a basket in an Enid Blyton picnic lunch!

But it must be Butra Milk now. Ain’t no chance for tarts.

That ridiculous whiskey, how it builds a bridge, brick by brick with the first few drinks, then races across that very bridge at full speed. The road stock full of mirages, mirages one part imaginary water, two parts dreadful whiskey.

Of course, I’m being predictable. I call it dreadful but last night I was locked in a warm embrace with it. A faithful wife warming my bed or a booty call? Hmm? I don’t know which one it is, I just know I need it.

The bottle has a booty after all. I don’t drink from self-righteous whiskey bottles that stand tall and straight. I love the ones with the booties! The curvy ones, where peg measurement is shrouded among the contours of the sensual figure of the glass.

God, I must still be sloshed. Sensuality in a whiskey bottle? My stream is veering way off course.

It would still be fine. Romancing the bottle at night, waking up to delirious calls of “Butra Milk” or other soft beverages, wincing at the tiniest human sound emitted, this is all good, bearable. It will take a day or the next bottle to wear off the hangover.

But the first step towards the liberation of the drunken soul is checking the mobile phone. The weapon now lay waste, as if it had fought a thousand battles all night, now licking its wounds.

What did that ridiculous liquor make me do last night with my phone? Was I going to be red-faced all coming week?

I fished around for my phone on the trough-like bed.

My outstretched finger collided against the expanse of my tummy. I poked curiously at it. It bobbed around like an engorged piece of jelly. I could feel the swish of whiskey swirl around at my prodding, whirling around like a torrential pool. It finally settled itself back into place, resigned to my stomach’s boundaries.

My fingers finally found the phone. Heavy laden with last night’s guilt. My trembling fingers picked it up and opened the dialed calls.

Damn! There it is! I knew it! Damn the alcohol!

The last ten something calls, at the dead of the night, from the depths of the bottle to the contact.

She That Should Not Be Named.

The contact’s name glared back at me. DO NOT CALL.

I wish the trough in my bed went deeper, I feel like digging myself into it, shunning civilization. Go away! Arggh! This whiskey, what a bitch!

As if on cue, the phone starts ringing! God, the other kind of bitch! DO NOT CALL was calling. Eyes shut in shame I pick up.

Hoarse male laughter rushes into my ear. What?! A hungover head cannot comprehend.

“Got drunk again? Ass.”

Nothing to respond. Mind haywire. Stream way off course. Why was this bastard on DO NOT CALL? Where’s that Buttera Milk when I need it most?

“You don’t remember changing the number to mine, do you?”

Oh yes! Of course. Phew!

Trailing peals of laughter on the phone as I heave a sigh of great hungover relief. A liberated soul!

Time for Butter Milk! Time for Lamakaan!

 

Write Club Hyderabad – December 2017 – Stream of Consciousness.

Guilty pleasures

They extol her idlis, her footwear, the random sparrow at her window all year long if only to catch that rare glimpse of her face.

A ridiculously private and personal picture adorned my Wall this morning. It ticked off all the accepted social norms of photography. High-definition, unnecessary filters and obscene zoom-in. It was off a girl’s Facebook account.

And, it was a photo of her twins. Hot, white and fluffy. Ready to be feasted upon, right in the morning, early in the day.

The pair of idlis she posted on her page already had the vultures circling in. The likes kept rolling in, the comments kept coming in.

“You having idly Baby?”, asked a besotted and starved fan.

“I’m hungry, I want to eat too”, languished another.

“Sambar, white chutney or green chutney”, inquired the attention-to-detail freak.

All of them were united in one aspect. The girl was popular on account of her unending stream of photographs she bestowed upon them. Only one in a million of them actually featured her face, but the mob is remarkably patient.

They extol her idlis, her footwear, the random sparrow at her window all year long if only to catch that rare glimpse of her face.

Everybody involved here get something out of it. The girl rolls her eyes all day at the impish comments, or lets out a pearly chuckle at the clever lines. The mob meanwhile have their juices flowing, creative and possibly the other kind too.

Her documented life thus brings joy and happiness to mankind. Why do you think I’m on her friend’s list?

 

Write Club Hyderabad, December 2017 – Documented Lives.

Sastry Garu

He could hear all kinds of sounds emanate from the confines of his stomach. Like furniture being moved, like thunder rumbling at a distance.

The piercing crow of the rooster shattered the midday silence. The perplexed flies hovering about the backyard buzzed off at the screech. The wake-up call was a good six hours late. This particular rooster was notorious in the village for its sloth. Having slept through the starlit night and the better part of the morning, it now ambled importantly onto the street announcing its dawn with a second screech.

Nobody gave a hoot for its call. The women of the street had long finished with their chores for the day. Some of them had joined their husbands, their knees deep in the lush paddy fields. The others, like the ones on the street, tried in vain to gossip amongst themselves.

For there was hardly anything scandalous enough to warrant a discussion amongst the women. The village they lived in, had been a peaceful place for as long as memory could serve. Robbery, drunken brawls, eloping teenagers, no. The village was too good to be true.

Hence the women had to resort to grandiosity to make their afternoon talk spicy. Like the coquettish girl coming into her own at the end of the street. She, with the wild and incorrigible pallu. The boys of the village who were at the mercy of the pallu.  Or the drunk at the other end of the street who came home intoxicated every night to a thrashing from his unforgiving wife.

After a bit of gossip which went nowhere, the women fished around for new bytes. Having found none, they soon fell back onto their usual delightful topic of discussion.

Sastry Garu.

They retold tales of visitors to his ill-fated home, some knowing, others unknowing, who have had to bear the brunt of Sastry Garu. This was common folklore. The women tittered heartily, a couple of them even tut-tutting in pity at the hapless invitees. They were careful though to not make a din. Sastry Garu lived only a couple of doors away. He was in fact out there now, lounging in his armchair, laying siege to his favorite haunt, his own front yard.

The attention of the chuckling women was diverted by the entrance of a stranger onto the street. This was new. No one ventured onto the street unless one owned a house or land on it.  This man was certainly an outsider. He even had the look of one. He looked lost, looked like he was searching for someone, a house or probably an address.

They pulled their saris over their faces and looked away in respect. The man walked on. The women waited with bated breath, too tensed to even breathe. The invite would ring out any time now.

“guruvu garu, bonchesara…”

The breathless women let their breath out in chortles. They looked at each other with a twinkle in their eyes. A new story to tell from tomorrow.

The hapless newbie in town replied in the negative. Even as he wiped a trickle of sweat from his brow, he was relieved at the suggestion of an inviting lunch offered without preamble.

The man was eager to introduce himself but Sastry Garu couldn’t care less. He ushered him in, rushing him through the ritual of cleaning his hands and feet.

The visitor was pleased and felt more and more at ease. The host seemed to be as cordial as humanly possible. Sprinting into the house, Sastry Garu called out,

“Subhadra, bhojanam pettu”.

The visitor greeted the lady of the house, Subhadra. She was all grace and poise. But as he greeted her, he sensed something afoot in the way she looked at him. It was only a fleeting expression, something akin to a warning, or was it shadowed pity? Was she trying to tell him something?

A little perturbed at her expression, he sat down at the dinner table. The spread seemed elaborate enough. A large dollop of rice was immediately planted onto his shining steel plate. A colorful plethora of vegetables soon followed. Cooked in glistening oil, the curry looked absolutely inviting. His mouth watering, he was about to dig in, when his approaching outstretched fingers were scalded without warning by a torrent of piping hot Sambar falling from a height. His fingers recoiled in surprise and he instinctively looked at his host, Sastry Garu.

“Tinandi, tinandi, ma Subhadra spesal..”

He finally started on the feast. It was very tasty, he loved the color, the spice, loved every bit of it. Each mouthful started off on a tasteful journey culminating in the delectable after-taste of the Sambar. Alas, he was not allowed to revel in it for too long. His plate was being filled in at an alarming pace. Like a magician’s hat. The spread seemed endless.

The visitor coughed a couple of times with respect saying, “No more, no more”, but Sastry Garu would have none of it.

“Subhadra, Gongura pachadi..”,

“Subhadra, Pachipulusu..”,

Like a dutiful magician’s assistant, she complied with his every order.

The visitor meanwhile was in dire distress. His right hand labored to collect the morsel of rice into a handful. His mouth refused to open up. He could hear all kinds of sounds emanate from the confines of his stomach. Like furniture being moved, like thunder rumbling at a distance.

In despair, he finally clasped his tired palms in obeisance, “Na vallu kadu inka, please leave me alone”.

Thankfully Sastry Garu seemed finally content.

Having found his escape, the visitor got up abruptly only to stagger back to his seat. The additional burden and weight shocked his limbs into disobedience. Gathering resolve, he tried again. Slowly, he made his way to the backyard to wash his hand. He stopped short in shock. The can of water was on the ground. He had to bend down to take it.

The latest serving of the food was still in his throat, defiant. It now threatened to venture out. He was now finding it hard to choke back the tears settling in as well as the food lodged midway in his pipe. He looked up at the afternoon sky in despair. He had been subjected to trauma he never knew was even possible. How was he to escape now? He knew it was humanly impossible to bend down and wash.

He closed his eyes, his face still turned towards the sky, waiting for a miracle that would unburden him.

The splash of water brought him out of his reverie. Subhadra, that angel, she stood next to him, with a mug of water in her hands and a knowing look on her face.

Write Club Hyderabad – 11th November 2017 – Flip It – Turn a virtue into a vice

 

 

 

Fall from Grace

As I stood rooted to the spot, pairs in cinematic love flung themselves at me, twirled around me coyly and played hide and seek using me, usually to the beat of some music.

I could be made into anything. A bookmarked page of a racy bestseller, a revered chapter of a Holy Book, or even the outpouring of a smitten boy in love. To be read and tossed aside, or to be cherished in acceptance. I could be the cover over chocolate, that first gift exchanged between lovers. To be looked at fondly, crumpled though I would be, I could spark a memory and be cherished.

These are the graceful ways to go. An after-life of meaning.

After-life because beings of my ilk have no life. Only the one after. Even then, our identity is scraped over by the commonness of paper, no telling which tree the paper came from.

I’m no special tree. No leaves that can be rolled up to kill lungs. No fruit of taste. No arousing odor to fill the coffers of smugglers. Just a simple tree.

I once knew this arrogant fellow tree. An anomaly among us common wood. He was a teak. Very early into his leaf, he drew more and more people to him. He grew himself wide and stately with the adulation the humans seemed to bestow on him. He knew he was affluent. Knew he would make it in life.

I laughed my leaves off when I heard what had become of him. A grand four-poster bed. A gift from a bride’s father to the amorous newlyweds. He had not a single moment of respite, they went at it day and night. He sighed with them in tandem, though not out of ecstasy but from tiresomeness. Not many days later, I heard that he had started creaking.

I’ve never held any claims of grandeur. I was just looking forward to an after-life of usefulness as paper.

But then providence struck. I was discovered. A big caravan shoved itself into my shade one summer day. I had been basking in the sun, glowing confidently from root to leaf. I was intrigued by the interruption though. The band of men lugged out various kinds of machinery from the caravan. The humans milled around busily as if they had not a minute to waste. It amused me. Why wouldn’t they take a minute to breathe under my cool shade? After all, that is all I could offer, as a simple tree.

But soon, lights came on. Chairs were put out. Soon, a brightly decked up woman ventured towards me. She let her soft hands brush against my skin. Never had I felt human touch so soothing. I immediately started feeling conscious. Would she like the shape of my leaves? Was my trunk well endowed?

A man came up to me next. But did not even spare me a glance. The pretentious snob. While I was surveying the area and the flurry of the humans, still trying to figure out what was going on, a shout rang out, “Action!”.

For years after that, I was on a roll. I was an integral part of the biggest blockbusters of the industry. As I stood rooted to the spot, pairs in cinematic love flung themselves at me, twirled around me coyly and played hide and seek using me, usually to the beat of some music. Though the girl was the first to caress me, later on, I had much more distinguished fingers feel me up. It was all very dramatic and I enjoyed the attention. I even let a few of them carve their names into me. Usually with a symbol of the human heart etched along with them. Much love.

Alas, a new wave of cinema was ushered in. The visits from the crew dwindled at first and then eventually stopped altogether. My cameos and my career were thus ended by the well-meaning cinema. I was disappointed but I consoled myself. My run-in with the glamour industry was no mean feat. I should be happy it happened at all.

Soon the fateful day dawned on me. My time was up. I took in the whirr of the approaching saw with as much grace as I could muster. Trees such as me should be satisfied to just provide shade and shelter to the traveling human. But here I was, having had a successful career under the lights! I looked forward to a now useful stint in the after-life and gave myself up to the saw to cut into me.

Ugh! Another entrant. He was still closing the door behind him when he started prancing about. He was doing his dance of urgency. He seemed to be on the verge of the outburst. Still dancing, he got the shoes and the pants off and got down to business. I survived the noisy ordeal. Soon, he reached out to me, sighing with relief. I unfurled myself first onto his hand and then down under to fulfill my purpose.

Write Club Hyderabad – Into the Woods – October 14th, 2017.

Shades of Green

He was finding it hard to chew the blandness down his throat. His taste buds were crying foul, they attempted to throw some of the vegetation back, but he kept gulping water to wash them down.

It was time for dinner. It was also, she knew, time for some theatrics.

She took dish after dish from the kitchen to the dining table. Today, they all looked similar. The spread was leafy today. Lately, she had been reading up on the finer aspects of leafy vegetables in cooking. Her household complained but she had decided to go green.

The leafy vegetables adorned her dining table. She took a moment to take in all the greenery hoping that it would all be consumed. The man of the house strolled in, navigation compromised by the newspaper in front of him. But she knew she need not bother. He knew his way around the house. He had built it after all.

He expertly halted at the table, rustled the paper down and looked at his dinner. For some reason, the special china had been laid out. But it was all green, no trace of the ceramic white the china came in.

“Why does my dinner look like a garden”, he growled.

The other man of the house meanwhile was gazing into the mirror in his room. He was trying out different styles, various angles. The funky light at the salon mixed colors up, making it difficult to ascertain the exact shade. The dull, uncompromising light of the tube light above him cleared things up. Not exactly what he was after, he thought, but this would do. At least until the novelty dies out.

He too, like his father, rustled things up a bit before striding out of the room. The confidence he was exhibiting was not entirely genuine. But he had to portray some assurance for the storm that lay ahead.

Taking a seat and a look around the table, he asked, “Who is dying here? What is this grass you have cooked for me”?

The man in front of him had been eating in a sullen silence. He was finding it hard to chew the blandness down his throat. His taste buds were crying foul, they attempted to throw some of the vegetation back, but he kept gulping water to wash them down.

All of this, however, came to a sudden stop at the sight of his progeny. He choked on his leaves, making his wife immediately thump his head down to settle him.

But settled he wasn’t. Too shocked for words, he gaped at his son who averted his gaze. He looked to his wife for an explanation but she had her head down over the foliage on her plate, chomping away to health and better skin. Was that a faint smile he saw on her face? The nerve of the woman! To feed him fodder and then smirk behind his back?

“Has your son gone completely crazy? What is that thing he has on his head, seaweed?”

The wife looked up at her son’s hair and gave a mild shrug.

“What is the meaning of all this? Are you trying to tell me something? First, it’s these plants you have me eat, and then your son comes before me with that green pigment on his head? What is going on here?”

The boy who hadn’t touched a thing on the table was ready for this.

“Ma, tell him its a form of expression. I’m expressing myself”.

The father let out a thick “Bah!” watering the plants with his disgust and spit.

He grumbled under his breath and stormed out of the room. Once he got there, he realized he had left his beloved newspaper behind. He charged back to the table to retrieve it. His family was giggling amongst themselves. The woman was taking a picture with her son, what they call a selfie nowadays. She even was pointing to her son’s green-tinged hair. They quietened instantly on seeing him.

“Shameless, you people”!

Marching back, he tried to concentrate on the paper. Eco-system, going green, environmental crap. He threw the paper away in distaste.

He decided to go out for a ride. Away from this damned greenhouse. Letting the lungi drop, he searched around for some underwear in his wardrobe. There wasn’t any.

He shouted out to his wife, “Get me some clean underwear!”

She came dutifully enough and unfurled a piece of crumpled fresh underwear.

“You woman, is this a joke to you?”

“This is the only clean one I have right now”.

Clean and fresh as the plants he had just eaten, and glowing like an emerald, bright green underwear winked up at him, completing his circle of misery.

Write Club Hyderabad – VIBGYOR – 7th October 2017.

 

 

Minor character

I whisper among the plastic chairs that house the AD’s and the scriptwriters. My cries of loneliness echo the walls of the caravans that house the actors.

I know of the struggles that plague the film industry. Any industry, irrespective of language. Therefore, it is no surprise that I would find few takers. But then, I’m no fresh talent looking to make a splash.

Various versions of me have pervaded every industry, not just the entertainment industry, for centuries. Although I should admit I haven’t had as much of a presence as I rightfully should.

One particular field I find most challenging is the Telugu Film Industry. I was once celebrated there, put on a pedestal, the glory days. Although I was never strictly the protagonist, the viewers enjoyed frequent glimpses of me that gladdened their souls.

For decades, I had a standing of my own. Much like the hallowed hero, the hapless heroine and the pretentious director. In the past few decades, however, I have been thrown out like an unnecessary extra.

I whisper among the plastic chairs that house the AD’s and the scriptwriters. My cries of loneliness echo the walls of the caravans that house the actors. My wails of isolation are drowned out in the layers of the foundation laid onto the dancers.

“Take me, please, just for a bit”.

“Okka chance, oke okka chance”.

I’m common sense.

Once the backbone of every bound Telugu script, I have now been disgracefully clobbered down. Mercilessly squashed between Balakrishna’s thighs, left gasping for air every time TATA Sumos kiss in mid-air.

I’m a necessary ingredient of a meaningful movie. I’m no main character, no protagonist, but I demand to be made a part, though small, of every movie. It will make a world of difference, I promise you.

Write Club Hyderabad – The Others Within – 1- 30th September 2017.