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.

A maiden voyage

One day, I saw a visual I could not comprehend at first. They were shooting out mouthfuls of spit, from over the deck, making a game out of it.

It was the chance of a lifetime. The newspapers had been singing incessant praises about the remarkable journey for weeks now. The thought of it was too gigantic in nature to even make a foray into my mind. Would I find a place on it?

But when the manager called me into his office, puffed out a whiff of cigar smoke and echoed, “You’re going on THE SHIP”, I was elated.

Having grown up in the docks of Southampton, I was destined the ply the hard trade of the harbor, like my father and his father before him.

While they both did a good job of patting each others’ backs, proud of their heritage at the anchorage, I could see from a very young age, that that was not the life for me. The black soot, the vile breath of rum ever present at their foaming mouths, the way they treated the women of the house. No, I was not going to the docks.

So, I took up the violin. And boy, did it redeem me. I found solace in the strings, beauty in the notes and livelihood at the Southampton Great Orchestra.

And now, I was going to be a part of the biggest event, the confluence of the old and the new, the British and the American. A combined performance of the best of both the worlds. At the new capital of the world, New York. And to top things off, the voyage would be on the Great White Liner. The Titanic, her maiden voyage.

The glitz, the glamour and the grandeur of the ship are beyond my vocabulary. Having been stationed in the third class quarters, I really did not get to see the opulence of the first class halls and chambers. But the crowd in the third class made up for it. People of every known and unknown tongue milled about the deck, the ship a microcosm of the world itself, chugging along smoothly over the mighty Atlantic.

I encountered another artist. A painter. Young, brash and full of life and himself, we exchanged conversation and drinks for a couple of nights.

Later on, though, I saw that his palette had a new color on it. He had befriended a noble girl, a wide-eyed damsel very clearly in distress.

They galloped around the ship, clearly lusting after each other. I hoped the girl knew better. The artist had the eyes and manner of a womanizer, the swagger of a cheat. I could tell he would leave her at the drop of a hat. But the girl seemed innocuous to her impending doom. She was clearly taken in by him.

One day, I saw a visual I could not comprehend at first. They were shooting out mouthfuls of spit, from over the deck, making a game out of it. Ah, the drama of foolish temporary love! I could tell then itself that by the end of the journey, they would not be together.

I could tell then itself that by the end of the journey, they would not be together.

Write Club Hyderabad – The Others Within – 2 – 30th September 2017.



Journey to the End

Elsewhere, possibly in South India, the piercing scream of  “Last Order” catapulted a bunch of drunks into a passionate calculation. One would think it was the end of the world, the way they sprung into action.

The cards lingered for an airborne second, unsure of their purpose, before they dropped, turning over, revealing that everyone had in fact bluffed. The chips – green, blue and yellow were left standing, miniscule skyscrapers minus their architects. The hands that had shielded the cards were gone.

A heap of clothes was all that was left of each of the players. A fiercely fought poker game had been left stranded. To an onlooker, it would have looked extraordinary. But there was no onlooker. Having raised the stakes, the players themselves had all been raised to hell above.

Meanwhile, the excited man ripped off the cover with uncontrolled glee. He was determined to do it right tonight. It was a matter of tearing off the cover, giving it a pinch, and unrolling it. He had even timed himself, a tad less than five seconds.

Too many times he had tasted failure. The glazed over look of the woman, while in fervent anticipation of penetration, would in seconds cloud over with irritation, desperation, and finally something resembling pity. All the while the excited man would be fumbling about, in a race against himself.

Not tonight. He waited until the time was right.

Tear, pinch, unroll, descend.

The girl was gone. How long had he taken? Where was she?

This time, there was an onlooker, the excited man. No heap of clothes left behind though. The previously excited and now gone girl had been naked.

Elsewhere, possibly in South India, the piercing scream of  “Last Order” catapulted a bunch of drunks into a passionate calculation. One would think it was the end of the world, the way they sprung into action. Those who were drinking alone argued amongst themselves. Surely, another two pegs!

The groups of two, three or more dove into a serious discussion as to how many each of them could take. The small fry, “mere kids” to the experienced lot drinking down their sorrows at the single tables and at the bar.

Billy Joel would have been proud.

The bartender moved from table to table. Rubbishing the tall claims the drunks made. Chiding and telling them off for thinking they can have two more. He noted everything down – wherever three, he noted two, wherever two, he wrote one and wherever one he wrote – get the bill. He took off into the bar to get the drinks.

The tray full, he strides back to the tables. He sweeps his gaze across the bar, he sees no expectant drunk looking back at him. The tables are all empty. His gaze meets the cashier who seems to be in a trance of his own.

The beer bubbled softly, popping itself out. The whiskey sat forlornly in the glasses. It ages tastefully in a casket, but once out of the bottle, it loses its grace and needs to find solace in a drunk’s throat.

Elsewhere, at a lonely desk by a window, a nib skidded off the page and tumbled onto the paper. It trailed a tangent from the word it was inscribing. The pen itself rolled over a couple of times, swaying one way and another and it then lay still. The ink in time finally dried. A few more words and the debut author’s dream would have been complete.

Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. – From the Bible.

Write Club Hyderabad – Journey to the End – September 9th, 2017.

Behind Bars

My blood has turned languid, it claws its way through my body, reluctant, devoid of vigor and action. Sustain me it does, enrage me it does not.

Letter One:

My dear wife,

I hope this letter finds you well and in good health. It sounds cliched but I started with it, and I didn’t have the heart to strike it out. I desperately hope you are well and in good health.

I know you must be mired in distress, great unspeakable distress. Honestly, that would be a relief. It would mean you are alive and breathing. I pray, yes pray, fervently to a God I abandoned decades ago, that you are alive, and more importantly free. I hope they haven’t gotten to you.

I do not know if this letter will find its way to you. But the thought of you reading my words, reading them aloud like you love to, spurred me on to risk this. It fills me with joy, the thought of you reading out what I’ve written. The way you inflect emotion into everything, even the blandest of passages bringing them to life. How I loved to hear you read aloud.

I miss you terribly. No eloquent words can do justice to how much I miss you.

The silence around me is empowering. I crave for everyday sounds. I miss your throaty laugh, the tinkle your bangles making your presence felt even before you enter a room. I find a part of me broken down and cast away with your absence. The sounds of life, they all elude me, from the depths of my memory I strain to hear your voice every day and night in this hole.

I have nothing to do here but think for hours. I long for something to read. I long for the printed, the written word. I want to read like a child, trace my finger across the words, enunciate correctly, breathe in every page before I attempt to turn it.

Books aren’t allowed here. I befriended a guard, someone who says he is sympathetic to our cause. He gave me this pen and paper. He promised to see this reach you.

I have a thousand questions to ask, but I cannot bring them to paper not knowing if you would actually get this. But I pray and hope you are doing well.

Letter Two: 

I’m trembling with joy even as I write this. The chances of you receiving my letter were next to none as you very well know. I cannot tell you how happy I’m to hear from you. Oh, what I would do to see your face again. To see you smile.

Thank you for the pages from the Master’s book that you have enclosed with the letter. I remembered all the words even as I read them today. They feel so familiar.

Do you remember how we were swept up by the Master’s writings? How it riled us up, boiled our blood, made it flow itself into a frenzy, all the way to our minds? Do you think this man, this man that we elaborately planned to kill, and finally killed, do you think he was ever taken to a cause? No, he wouldn’t have believed in anything in all his life, would he have?

My blood has turned cold. In this dark, damp hole that I’m trapped in, it labors to even flow in my veins. The surge that it once had, this blood, that made it rush up with vengeance from my veins, rushing to my head to act, it is gone. My blood has turned languid, it claws its way through my body, reluctant, devoid of vigor and action. Sustain me it does, enrage me it does not.

All those books that we read, the books that were supposed to prepare us for sacrifice, all those dark chapters and essays meant to prepare us for an eventuality like this, I don’t understand what they say anymore. They are lost to me, I’m lost. I’m trapped within a four-walled hole, but I could have been lost, desolate in the mighty Tundra.

I don’t mean to distress you with all this. But you are a person of strength. I know I can tell you how it feels like in here.

The other thing. You have made no mention of it. I cannot bring myself to ask the question. I trust you would tell me more when you write to me again.

Letter Three: 

Why do you not talk about it? Why? Do you not understand how much I would be craving to know?


You understand, don’t you? You understand why I did what I had to? What we did?

Do you hold me against it now? All this? We decided on it, didn’t we? The cause, it comes first, doesn’t it? We talked about it.

Do you remember the day we met? That procession, the swell of that gathering that kept you close to me throughout? We were one, in thought, in our collective anguish. The knowing glances we shared as our cries rang out raw and unbidden. We were one, we all were, but you and me especially. And when it finally ended, when the crowd dispersed, you and I were left alone.

Our throats were hoarse from all the crying out, of our anguish, the slogans, but I couldn’t wait to hear your voice in its solitude. Couldn’t wait to know who and what you were. How you came to be a part of that uprising, where you were from, why you would have hated your parents, the society, your past, and mostly, how our common cause could have led you to where you were that day. Led you to me.

You know why I had to kill him, don’t you? We were right, weren’t we? He was the living example of everything that was against us, the epitome of everything that stood against our cause? Do you regret what happened?

How many hours we spent, simply resenting him. His actions, his words, his affluence, his lifestyle. Those hours we spent planning, to attack, to kill, in public. The world needed to know our cause was serious. That it was not just some passage in a book inherited from one activist to another. Not an obsolete way of thinking that we clung on to.

No, it had to be done, wasn’t it? We talked about this, we discussed this. Elaborately, elaborate plans. You agree, don’t you? We achieved our goal, didn’t we? Why, why then does my pen urge me to ask you this again and again?

Why, why then does my pen urge me to ask you this again and again?


This man, he lived a full life. He died a grand old man, sons to counsel, daughters to see off, and grandchildren to coddle. Friends to go for a walk with, free as a bird. He was free, always free. Even in death, he was free, wasn’t he?

He died at my hands though. Yes! But they celebrated his demise. They chained me down.

I wish our Master had written to us, explaining why this is a better life, for me, for you the one I had to leave behind, for us the revolutionists, we who fought for a better world. We won, didn’t we?

Has it inherited your dimples? Does it look anything like me, its ill-fated father? I wish I didn’t have to say ‘it’. But I have no way of knowing if our child is a boy or a girl. I wish I didn’t have to kill that man until our child was born. But the cause comes first, doesn’t it? We decided, didn’t we?

That man, he would have disciplined his sons and cajoled his daughters, even pampered his grandchildren. They would all remember him, wouldn’t they?

Our cause is right, it always has been. I know that. I do not know if we fought for it the right way. Is this dissent? Planning to trap and kill an enemy, and ensnaring ourselves in the process?

Our child, bring it up in the teachings of our Master, but let it go astray, even for just a while. The answers may not have been with our Master. Let it find them on its own. But whichever path it chooses to go, teach it to question, with reason, and to then act.



Your husband.


Write Club Hyderabad – The Design of Dissent – August 19th, 2017 & Epistolary Fiction – September 2nd, 2017.












Black and White

As the child sang beautifully, scaling a pitch deemed higher than what was possible, the cleric had felt an unfamiliar rising of his own.

The clergyman got up from the white stone floor with difficulty. The years were no longer kind on his knees.

Adjusting his white robes, he settled himself on the solitary chair. His fingers went immediately to the beads around his neck. He started mumbling slowly to himself.

The cleric was a dignified white-haired man of God. Respected, even awed, by his community, he had the reputation of having Christ’s touch on his hands. Many a prayer he had mumbled had led to miraculous results. His congregation worshipped him as the priest that could turn sorrow to joy, sin to righteousness, all things dark to pure. Black to white.

It was not just him. Everything about the Church was white. The architecture, the clothing, and for many centuries the reputation too. Heavens, even the rosary beads were pearly white.

Of the many prayers that the rosary stood for, tonight the Prayer of Agony tugged at the old man’s heart. For he was struggling with unspeakable agony. The guilt wearing down on him. He felt like he was wearing the Cross itself. Agony cloaked itself around his neck.

The new addition to the choir had been only a month into it before the conductor made him render a solo at Sunday Mass. The priest deep in prayer had been jolted out of it with the tender and lilting voice of the choirboy. The notes were being hit with precision, but it was the mellifluous voice that had not only the priest but everyone in the congregation in raptures. A little angel in white.

That had been merely a month ago. Since then, the choirboy had been given extra duties around the Church. His presence brought about an enthusiasm to the priest, one that he did not know even existed. Every night before he retired to bed, he made the boy sing one of his favorites from the hymnal while he closed his eyes in pure, white joy, reveling in the child’s voice and the old lyrics.

Tonight, though.

The recollection made the priest grip his beads fiercely, turning his knuckles white. What had come over him tonight?

As the child sang beautifully, scaling a pitch deemed higher than what was possible, the cleric had felt an unfamiliar rising of his own.

The next few minutes went black. As the child whimpered away and the priest adjusted his stained robes back into place, he had felt a black cloud descend upon him. He of the magic white touch.

He couldn’t take it any longer. The rosary was not working. His fervent prayer was not being answered tonight. His admission of guilt though directed upwards had not even left the room. It kept prodding at him. A black whisper in his head.

He picked himself up and went to the wardrobe. Ignoring the usual white robes, he picked out the old black trunk. He let the white robes slip easily from his body. They no longer felt right, after all these years. He donned the garment that had not seen light for decades.

Turning around he removed the string of beads that had been his companion for years. Leaving the white rosary on the table, he slowly stepped out into the shadows. Him and the black garment that he had just donned.

It struck him as he slipped into the darkness that the night had never looked as black as it did then.

Write Club Hyderabad – Colors and Writing – July 15th, 2017.


We all squatted. The game was simple enough. Each one takes a card and rests his back on a rock. The rocks have absolutely no significance in the game. Once the cards have been picked, each of the players must talk with his card.

We were a gigantic group of fifteen. The city bored us to death. A couple of ours had already killed themselves. For a different reason.

They were twins and they used twine to hang themselves. I remember thinking twice, twins use twine to die.

With those two deaths, our group of fifteen was greatly depleted. Only thirteen of us were left. A few were right handed though. I thought the deaths augured well for us. Thirteen was after all such a lucky number.

To fight the boredom, we decided the city was no place for us. We decided to leave it for good, only for a day.

We went on a trip to a nearby hill station. Words can describe how beautiful the place was. But what demands description was the journey. I rode pillion on one of the guys’ backs. There was also his bike that came below us.

My journey on his back was uneventful but while I was riding pillion, I pitied a million rotations the bike took for its journey. It had an MR.F tire for its front and a wooden wheel for its back. While the MR.F made a million haughty revolutions, the spokes of the wheel tailed and toiled. I know this because the spokes spoke to me.

A million revolutions on pillion later, we joined the rest of the group.

We were greeted by one Mr. Bernard Shaw. He was the proud owner of an auto rickshaw. At first, he wouldn’t show us around. He was greatly peeved to have been brought out of his lordly slumber by a bunch of thirteen bored men. He had been dead in his slumber for years and finally relented to show us the place after we told him the truth.

That he had been posthumously ordained and that a breed of handsome dogs was now named after his saintly personage.

So happy was he that he brought out a set of plastic playing cards and proclaimed that we should play. Since there were only thirteen of us, it was obvious that we would play thirteen cards.

We all squatted. The game was simple enough. Each one takes a card and rests his back on a rock. The rocks have absolutely no significance in the game. Once the cards have been picked, each of the players must talk with his card. The one who has the longest conversation loses, for who really has the time to talk to cards anymore?

What is this life so full of care?

We have not to time to squat and stare.

I picked up my card. It was the Queen herself. She was looking sideways averting my gaze. There were two views of her on the card. Top left and bottom right. I fell in love with the bottom right pose.

As is the case with people in love with people on cards, I was hopelessly tongue-tied and couldn’t muster enough courage to have a conversation. I won the first round thus, quite comfortably, by having the shortest conversation.

In the next round, I got the Queen again. But this time she wasn’t the same. Knowing fully well this could mean losing this round of our hard-fought game, I asked her, “I love you, but you have changed. Why are you different?”

“I have many forms, she said. I’m in the sixth form, Grammar School, the one you fell in love with is still in the fourth form.”

I was dejected. I had lost in love, but more importantly in that round of cards. The hopeless romantic that I was, I never thought of the Queen ever again, the one that I loved dearly.

At Write Club Hyderabad – The NonSense Story – July 8th, 2017.

Growing Up – Part 3.

He could not make out the eyes in the dim light but could very well feel them penetrating him, raking out every secret he hid inside, including the most recent. It was the tilt, however that disturbed him the most.

It would be cliched to say that he would never forget the sight in front of his young eyes. It needs to be said, however. For it was so sudden, so unprecedented, that it warranted a rightful place among the frightful memories he would need to carry to his grave.


It was a man sitting on a chair smoking a cigarette. Blue smoke billowing out of his partly gaping mouth and the roll of tobacco balanced in a frighteningly fashionable manner between his index and middle. The head slightly tilted to the side, adding a new and surreal dimension to the otherwise simple scene. He could not make out the eyes in the dim light but could very well feel them penetrating him, raking out every secret he hid inside, including the most recent. It was the tilt, however that disturbed him the most.


The vision stayed clear for only a few seconds. It then inexplicably attained amoebic proportions and its contours started dancing about in front of our hero’s eyes, adding visual incomprehension to his existing misery. He blinked innocently to clear the vision and looked. When he was done with it, his vision bettered but something unexpected followed. His lashes were wet. Devastated, he immediately understood that he had inadvertently started to weep. He should have seen it coming. Of all the people! It was Enemy in front of him.


Tongue and muscle tied as he was, he did not know how to proceed. He tried to skim through the mental instructions handed to him from Friend for any mention of the action expected to undertake in the case of human intervention, Enemy included. The search returned zero results.


After letting the cigarette drop to the floor in a maddeningly slow and dramatic manner, Enemy used his left foot to kill it, using force, restrained, but every bit purposeful. An action, chilling to the eye. His index finger, then, made its way to roughly the center of his lips. A sign that its recipient understood well, for his own behavior had often in the past attracted the same bodily gesture from other distinguished index fingers. Though unrelenting to most earlier requests, this time he was happy to oblige. He stood unmoving without making a sound. Enemy next motioned him to come over. This time around, he did not obey immediately. Our hero stood his ground. He realized the step could spell doom. The requested action reminded him of the game of chess he had of late started to dominate at home. The Pawn. That piece, which operated with only measured steps and in only one direction. With no turning back, however, sticky the situation. He could draw the parallel easily. It still had to be done! Running away from what he had gotten into was a little too late now. He walked over to where Enemy sat and stood before him, bravely fighting back his tears but feeling tiny and utterly powerless.


Enemy looked at him. His head was still tilted to the side. Anger and disappointment showed. Even in that unearthly light. Without saying a word, he asked him to attend to his teary eyes. Our hero, though momentarily disgraced at himself for having let someone watch him cry, decided it was not the time to indulge in personal liquid reflections and proceeded to remove all traces of water on and around his eyes. He followed it up with the tiniest of snorts he could manage given the situation and its need for silence.


Feeling a lot less wet, he waited for the next instruction. None came. Enemy looked at him for a few seconds. After an elongated duel of staring, one in which our hero obviously lost, Enemy broke the tense air between them by jutting out his outstretched arm toward his younger opponent.


A personal best ensued. It was the quickest reaction our hero had ever clocked. His hand was in and out of his pocket in dimensions of time so small they may not have been recorded yet. In, it went, wet with sweat, out, it came, cold with iron.


The brand-new key was immediately whisked away by Enemy and put in his own pocket. It could not have been a few grams in weight. But having let go of it, our hero felt less heroic and supremely light. He breathed an almost hushed sigh of relief. There was still Enemy to reckon with, however. But having received the key, Enemy paid no more attention to our hero. He strode past him and approached the washroom that was our hero’s first foray into adulthood. Left alone now, with only traces of tobacco and tension hanging in the air, our hero didn’t exactly know what to do.


Should he run for it? True, he had been caught, but Enemy had not made any move to retain him on the crime scene. He did not doubt for a minute that the trio on the ledge would be caught. It was apparent by now that Enemy had been waiting for them. And even if they did try to escape, he suspected people would be waiting for them downstairs. And if he himself tried to escape now, there was every chance those people would stop him as well. Weighing these limited options on his young head, he decided however that he should first try to get beyond the school walls to entertain any chance of living a peaceful life henceforth.


From the room, down the stairs and onto the ground approaching the gate. He ran in a daze. He had a hunch that the gate would be open, and anyway was not all that interested in walls anymore nor in his capacity to climb them. His eyes stayed straight and so did his intent. Huffing, wishing to be back home, puffing, hoping to slither into his mother’s embrace, he ran like the wind. Luckily enough, the gate that he heard close about an hour back was open now and he ran out of the Convent land and onto the Government road. As he turned left and continued running, he could see that there was a deserted police van parked alongside the school. One which was missing when he first came by the school.


The marathon continued and ended only after he had reached the foot of his stairs. His unwelcome appearance and the noise he brought with him was not received in an appreciative manner by the mother cat who had just coddled her kittens to sleep. Thanks to him, they were all agitated again and would require more coaxing. Our hero couldn’t care less. He was home again, unscathed for the time being. He slowly ascended the steps and reached home. He hardly heard his mother chastise him on aspects of his appearance, moss and all. She demanded a few answers but got none. Ordering him to go and bathe, she retired to the kitchen to apply the finishing touches to the meal for three.


To cleanse himself of all external memoirs of the fateful day, our hero spent the better part of an hour rinsing himself clean of all the dirt. He wished he could have a cigarette while in the bath, especially on that day, but his mother would have none of it. Once done with the scrubbing and after some much needed quiet, he came out and dressed himself trying hard to look as normal as possible. But it did not escape his mind that the real test was ahead. He sat through the meal, not speaking at all, not lifting his head, only concentrating on the rice on his plate trying to think of nicer things than the ones he had had to face that evening. He was surprised to hear his father make a particularly critical comment on the contents of the meal that night and concluded that he seemed to be in a bad mood as well.


His mother disposed of the plates and they washed their hands. He followed her into her room pleading for a cigarette. She was pleasantly surprised, maybe even shocked to see him display characteristics expected of his age, something that he never did before. She went to her purse and brought out two cigarettes and gave them to her loving son. He followed her still, holding onto her dress as they made their way to the Hall. He sat beside her and across him.


Meanwhile, three fifteen-year-old student’s lives were forever tarnished after being caught trying to steal the Board Exam’s question papers. A weeping wife watched as her clerk husband was whisked away by the police on charges of assisting the students.


He put one of the Phantom cigarettes in his pocket and started to suck on the other. Across the hall, he watched as his father started to puff away at one of his own “real” cigarettes.


A nine-year-old had a mighty revelation. Of life and what little he knew of it. Of friends and enemies. He looked across the Hall at him. Our hero’s eyes started to water for the second time that night, a plea for forgiveness this time. His father, mysterious as always, just sat smoking, the tiny lethal cylinder poised fashionably between his index and middle in an all too familiar manner. And the unmistakable tilt of the head of course.


Short story written in August 2011.