Sunday, November 02, 2008

My hued white

Thrown in, with throngs of others,
Of every hue and color,
She is a silken white,
And a starry-eyed newcomer.

She picks herself up,
Looks around in wonder.
All is swank and grand, until
Things start to get damper.

Sitting cold and crinkled,
She hopes for things to temper.
But a rumble erupts and she's taken for
A toss, a tumble and a twister.

The ride seems never ending
With only tiny pauses for a breather.
She uses those to soak up
Hues from those that charm her.

The ride and the rumble come to a still.
She rests in the flavor
Of her newfound self
Feeling like a proud fighter.

To the tumble she is thankful
Although it brought with it some languor.
It is what made her fresh and clean,
And gave her a rare color.

It amuses me to see
How much the laundering adventure
Of my little white piece
Is like my saga's sampler.

A profound laundering experience
If you think this piece garners,
I must confess - I just needed to justify
The outcome of mixing my whites and my colors :-)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Little Box - Part IV

[Story starts here]

Dan noticed Sarah was being very secretive about her little box. She would check on it every now and then and never let him touch it. She also managed to find a nice small lock for the box. He did not bother to give it much thought, brushing it away as a little girl's prerogative to little eccentricities. But it wasn't long after that he realized it was not just playful fancy that his daughter harbored for the box. He found out something about the box that Sarah seemed to have kept from telling him - The box moved. By itself!

One day when Sarah was away at school, Dan was in her room, tidying it up while talking to himself, like he usually did (and like many of us do when there is no one around to judge us for being a madcap). He lifted the box off the desk it was on to wipe away some dust, when he thought he felt it move ever so slightly. He assumed he was just being delusional, but decided to humor himself by ensuring that boxes don't move by themselves. He straightened up and held out the box on his huge rugged palm, waiting for it to happen again. And it did! It was a pipsqueak of a move, but one that couldn't go unnoticed if it happened right on top of your palm. He wanted to open the box and see what was in it, but it was locked. He searched all nook and cranny for the key, but in no avail. He decided to wait until Sarah was back. Although his wait involved holding up the box on his palm every 10 minutes to check if it moved. It moved only once after that, of the two hundred and fifty times he tried.

Once Sarah was back from school, Dan prodded her about the box, sounding phony-calm, fighting against his adrenaline's efforts to burst into an interrogative tirade. His hormones started pumping with even more ferocity when he learnt that the box belonged to a clairvoyant.

"So, what is in the box?", Dan nudged.

Sarah looked up from her sketching work and gave her dad an inspective-eyed, thin-lipped look. In under a wink, it turned into an angelic, unsuspecting semblance and she calmly replied, "Nothing".

There are some ironical times in a parent's life when they feel their child has learnt too much of a thing they were once encouraged to learn. This was one such time for Dan. It was clear to him that Sarah was lying, but thanks to her pick pocketing adventures, she had learnt to do it with a slickness that averted any further drilling. "What do you plan to keep in it?"

"Nothing. I lost the key", she said with the same serene poise, without looking up from her sketching.

Dan sighed. Sarah wasn't going to tell him a thing. But he resolved to find out what the box was all about. Having belonged to a soothsayer, the box could infact be magical, he mused. And if the box were really magical, it might even help him get rich quick.

And it did.

[To be continued.]

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Red Riding Hood Talks

[Spurred off by a writing prompt to re-write a fairy tale or re-tell it from the view point of one of the characters :). I picked 'Little Red Riding Hood'. Original tale here.]

This is the one advice I give to celebrities all around the world: If you want people to know the truth, write your gossip columns yourself.

In my early years, there were no 'gossip columnists'; there were just 'columnists' - the ones who did not indiscriminately conclude every red apple a celebrity carried to be poisonous; the ones who did not blow up a simple kiss to a pet frog into a torrid affair; the ones who do not exist anymore. And then the Grimm Brothers came along and brought an end to every strain of truth in journalism. Stories about me of the most preposterous nature were published and widely read. At that point, this did not bother me for two reasons - One, I was way too busy with my celebrity life and two, I hadn't been singled out as the victim in this horrendous connivance of words - Ms. Gretel, Mrs. Charming I, Mrs. Charming II, Ms. Locks were all subjected to the inequity as well. But now it bothers me to see that over the past many centuries, no one has ever succeeded in bringing back the element of truth to the written word. And what is worse - we have been forcing our children to read these fabricated versions and letting them draw morals from these that don't apply in real life because the stories are not real in the first place!

In an attempt to lay things straight for all generations to come, I have decided to bring out the truth in the stories they read about me and urge every other celebrity to do the same. Here is my true story :-

So yes, I did set off to granny Ann's place for my routine visit. Granny Ann was my dad's mother. My mom and she never really got along. My mom thought she was a bossy old lady and granny Ann thought my dad could have done better marrying someone who was a better cook than mom. The only reason mom even sent me to visit granny regularly was because everytime I visited, granny made these amazing pastries that she packed for me to take back home and mom secretly loved these pastries. (Now you know why I was made to carry that basket along during my visits).

Anyway, getting back to the story, on that eventful day I met Mr. Jamie Wolfe on my way to granny Ann's place. Contrary to popular belief, he was no wolf. I have no clue how the Grimm brothers made you believe he was - wolves dont talk to humans! But... Mr. Wolfe was a werewolf. Now, here is something that we should all know, but don't: Anyone whose name has the word 'wolf' embedded in it, is a werewolf, like the composer 'Wolfgang Amadeus Mouse-Art' or the novelist 'Virgin-i-am Wolf'. The reason this fact does not feature in the "original" fake story and the reason you would not have acquired this piece of information from any other media source is because werewolves do not like us normal people to be aware of their whereabouts AND they happen to own the largest market share in the media industry. This of course is apart from the reason that the media industry has got nothing to do with facts anyway.

I knew Jamie. He was once granny Ann's friend. I had seen him at a party in granny's place many months ago. That was the same day he became a werewolf. He cracked a joke that offended granny and she cursed him to be a werewolf for a whole year. He morphed into a werewolf that very night and so also had to change his name from Jamie Fox to Jamie Wolfe. It was well before dusk and Jamie was in his human form when he approached me that day on my way to granny's home. He said he had served his term of one year as werewolf and wanted to meet my granny to get the curse removed. I gave him her address. When I reached granny's place, he was already there. I could understand the urgency and totally empathized with him - being a werewolf is like having multiple personality disorder, split between being a human and a wolf, and it can be very irritating... to others.

Granny was describing the curse removal process to Jamie. We had to wait until it was dusk when he transformed into a wolf. That moment, granny would cut open the wolf's stomach (while muttering some spells) and Jamie would emerge, cured from his curse.

Dusk came, the wolf was cut open and Jamie was redeemed. As we stepped outside home to perform the final acts of the ritual - burning the wolf skin and getting Jamie a new last name - the paparazzi caught us in their flash lights. No points for guessing what story Mr. Grimm cooked up on seeing the photo featuring an irritated me, a tired granny Ann and Jamie with the wolf skin slung over his shoulders.

That, readers, is The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth.

Unlike the unrealistic morals of the 'original' fake story such as
- do not give out phone numbers and house addresses to wolves
- beware: wolves are capable of swallowing grandmothers whole
- if you cut open a wolf's stomach, you will get back all grandmothers it has ever eaten,

the true story offers morals you can actually use in your life, like
- your mother and her mother-in-law (your grandmother) will likely not get along but all is fine as long as there are tasty pastries
- please do not let a person whose name has the word 'wolf' in it bite you.
- if you want people to know your version, don't let someone else tell your story.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Little Box - Part III

[Story starts here]

As she entered her home with a prance of triumph, Sarah found Dan setting the table for dinner. "Daddyyyyy", she shreiked running into his open arms that lifted her high into the air and swirled her around once before bringing her back to the mud floor of their small, neat home.

He seated himself on a chair and lifted her onto his lap. "So, princess.. tell me", he began, "how was your day?".

"Th-e-e-s is for youuuu", she drawled as she put her hands into her pocket, drawing out the dark, thin man's wallet and handing it over to him;
"th-e-e-s is for youuuu", she repeated with the exact measure of drawl she used the previous time, placing the other wallet also in his hands;
"th-e-e-s is for youuuu" - now placing the watch on the wallet.
"Aa-aa-aa-aa-nd", testing the elasticity of the word, "this's for me", she finished quickly bringing out the little box but this time not placing it in his hands.

"Thank you, honey", he responded while quickly checking the contents of the two wallets. And then shifted his gaze to the box. "What is this box thing?"

"I flicked it from some forture teller woman. I want to have it. I will use it to keep something."

"What will you keep in it?"

"Still thinking. Maybe I will use it as my pencil box and take it to school. Or I will keep my pocket money in it." "I want it, I will keep something.", she repeated, looking up at her dad, crinkling her forehead slightly and putting on her resolve face.

"Of course you can keep it". He smiled and kissed her, amused at her young decisive look. His thoughts then drifted back to the wallets. "Good money, this" - he brought out the large wad of money from the blonde girl's wallet.

"Do we have enough to keep a dog, a pet now?"

"No, honey, we still can't afford that. Later. Come on, lets get started with dinner now."

After dinner, Sarah went and sat on her bed with the box in her hand. She took off the lid and examined its insides in an effort to figure out what she would keep in it. It was too small and too square for her pencils to fit. She did'nt really need a box for her pocket money - she always kept it in the pocket of her school uniform and that was where it was convenient to have. She could'nt think of any other possession of hers that would fit neatly into the box.

A little later that night, when she was doing her routine chores, it suddenly struck her - she knew what she would keep in the box. She ran to her room, and pulled out a bamboo basket from under her bed. She took out from it, the soft linen cloth that her grandma had given her that had Sarah's name embroidered on one corner. Her grandma's linen found its new home in Sarah's fancy lidded little box.

The oval mirror that was in the little box found itself thrown into a rarely opened drawer in Sarah's room, that housed rarely used things.

[Continued here.]

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Little Box - Part II

[Story starts here]

There was a brightly colored tent with a board on it that read "Psychic Reading". Two women sat at a table right outside the tent, across from each other. One of them was a gypsy woman, her hair covered with a red cloth that was tied to a knot at the back of her head. She had her eyes closed, her palms locked and was muttering something that was too whispery to be comprehensible but yet had a tranquilizing effect. She was clearly the psychic in question. The woman seated across from her was resting her chin on one of her palms, with the little finger between her teeth. Her face was so plain that if you could fashion a face that represented an average over the faces of all the women in the country, you would end up with hers.

Between the two women, at the centre of the table, was the little box. It was a square wooden box with the most splendid lid Sarah had ever seen. Along the four edges of the lid were intricate and colorful drawings of mythical and supernatural beings of all kinds from across cultures - from gargoyles to chinese dragons to cherubs. There was a neat 'Z' shaped crack in the middle that let a hairline-thin streak of sunlight into the box. Something on the inside seemed to reflect the sunlight back through the crack, making the 'Z' look like a strike of lightning. The wood itself had a very dusty look about it, making the box look even more enigmatic.

The psychic opened her eyes slowly and smiled at the other woman. "Place both your palms on the box so your aura seeps in and then ask your questions", she said.

The plain lady did as she was told. "Can you tell me about my previous birth? What was I?"

The psychic placed her palms over the other lady's and again went into her muttering ritual. A few seconds later, she lifted her hands and asked the other lady to do the same. She then tenderly lifted the box's lid and took out an oval shaped mirror. She studied it closely for a few moments and then started talking in a slow, dragging tone. "A Roman woman", she said and paused a few seconds before she continued, "married off into an aristocratic family as a part of a political move. Your husband was a vicious man. You killed him. No one ever knew that it was you. "

"What else? Did I have any children? Did I have a lover? What did I look like?"

The psychic took on the questions, referring to her mirror every few minutes. But Sarah had stopped listening to the conversation. All her senses were focussed on the box. She decided to wait a little longer.

A quarter of an hour passed. The plain lady's psychic reading session came to a close. She seemed visibly happy with what she had learnt of her past life from the psychic. She made her payment and left. The gypsy woman got up from her chair, smiling at Sarah as she went into the tent with her new earnings, leaving the box on the table. Next minute, the box was in Sarah's pocket and a minute after that, Sarah was a long way off from the tent.

As she got close to home, she touched the little box in her pocket and smiled. Then she felt her other pocket and made sure the two wallets and the watch she picked were safe.

[Continued here.]

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Little Box - Part I

Outcome of another short story prompt - to write one that begins "She touched the little box in her pocket and smiled."

She touched the little box in her pocket and smiled. Then she felt her other pocket and made sure the two wallets and the watch she picked were safe.

Sarah was only nine but she was already adept at the art that her father had mastered a few decades ago. She went to school and she knew she was going to be a doctor some day. But picking pockets was something her father did for a profession and she, for a weekend hobby. When Sarah was seven, Dan had mulled over whether he should let his daughter know of his true vocation. He finally decided he would tell her - he wanted her to know the truth. He did not intend for her to take part in any of it, but she insisted. He resisted in the beginning, but ultimately gave in, justifying his decision with the reasoning that they could do with the extra money. And so began her weekend pick pocketing travails.

That day her exploits had been at the Gypsy Fair that had come to town. It was pretty crowded at the fair grounds, as you would expect, and that made a perfect setting for Sarah's drill. Being only thirteen, she was struck by awe for what the fair had to offer. She decided to enjoy herself for a while in the web of excitement that engulfed the place, before she commenced on her stint. She walked around from one stall to another - there were craft stalls tended to by women in long flowy skirts and dangling earrings, there was a face painting stall for children, there were food stalls that wafted rich smells into the crisp air. Now and then some gypsy women would gather together to perform a dance for the onlookers, or some gypsy men performed tricks like swallowing fire or juggling knives. There were even pony rides and merry go rounds. Sarah let an hour pass by, ambling through the fair, cheerfully nibbling on a pink cotton candy.

She then got on to work. Her first victim was a thin, dark man who walked with a quick-paced funny strut, always leaving his wife two steps behind him. At first he didnt seem a likely candidate, given his wife was constantly right behind him but Sarah decided to follow them nevertheless on grounds of her self-devised rule number 7: People who acted all-knowing were almost always easy victims - and the guy fitted the "act all-knowing" description to the T. She got her chance when he was trying on sunglasses while his wife was checking out earrings at the adjacent jewellery stall. She deftly slipped out his peeping wallet from his back pocket as she walked by. She never came to know when he noticed his missing wallet since he decided not to buy any sunglasses from the stall. He ushered his wife to walk on, as he declared "its all cheap stuff here". By that time, Sarah had moved on to looking for her second victim.

It happened to be a blonde, fashionable girl with huge dark glasses, pointed heels and a small handbag with long handles. A rich dad's only-daughter, with an entourage of three fawning friends. She was walking alongside her friends with her handbag slung over her shoulder. The handbag had its mouth wide open since she was holding on to only one of its handles. Her small but florid wallet inside visibly had a large wad of money. As Sarah clasped the wallet and drew it out, she realized there was something else in the handbag that was coming along. She worried it might cause a tug at the handbag and alert attention, but that didnt happen. It - an ornate watch - came out effortlessly, along with the wallet.

Satisfied with her spoils for the day, Sarah had just started to head home, when she spotted the box.

[Continued here.]


A most interesting phenomenon I came across today: Synesthesia

Per wikipedia: "Synesthesia is a neurologically-based phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. In one common form of synesthesia, known as color synesthesia, letters or numbers are perceived as inherently colored, while in ordinal linguistic personification, numbers, days of the week and months of the year evoke personalities. In spatial-sequence, or number form synesthesia, numbers, months of the year, and/or days of the week elicit precise locations in space (for example, 1980 may be "farther away" than 1990), or may have a (three-dimensional) view of a year as a map (clockwise or counterclockwise)."

I am in awe at the byzantine ways of the brain!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"It hit the house"

I came across a fiction writing exercise somewhere. The task was to write a piece based on or featuring or inspired by this sentence: "It hit the house". I took on the exercise and the story below is the outcome :)

Mrs Sobers shoved me out of the house.

I had been with them for about 6 months. Her son brought me home one bright summer day and told Mrs Sobers I would be staying with them from then on. Mrs Sobers tried to sound enthusiastically welcoming. I could tell right then that she wasnt really excited about having me stay with them. But it wasnt until later that I realized that she actually detested me. I also figured why - she was jealous how attached her son was to me - we went out together every evening, I spent my nights by his side and just palming me brought a smile to his face every single time.

During my first week at their house, she flashed a mechanical smile whenever she saw us nestled together. In a matter of weeks, the smile turned into a scrowl, a scorn or a scream. She was adept at finding some reason to blow off her top and scream everytime she spotted us being chummy. She did smile at me on rare occassions (only when her son was around to see) when she wanted to patch up a tiff with her son, but it was as affected a smile as smiles can get. She also tried to keep us away from each other by sending him off to run errands whenever she got a chance. I chose to endure and forgive - I was just happy to be with Gary.

As things got worse still, in ways I dont wish to put to words, I should have expected it to happen. It did - on a cold and rainy October evening. She decided that was all she would have of me and forced me out of the house. I waited outside wishing her son would come running out to hoist me back in. He didnt. I dont blame him. Mrs Sobers had him pinned with her yells. They were more menacing than ever before. I could hear them from outside.

No one came for me that entire night. I found shelter under a large shrub, and sat there wet, dirty and huddled up.

Two more days in abandon. Long enough to unfold and inflate feelings of pent up anger against her. Painful enough to resolve to seek vengeance. Paulo Coelho, in his book, 'The Alchemist', said, "When you really want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it". I believe in it. I wanted to avenge my abuse and I only had to wait for the universe to work out the plan for me.

Fate is merciful and the universe is fair - my journey to revenge started just a day later.

Early in the morning of the third day, someone spotted me rundown and took me home. I went readily - I knew he was to be my tool for revenge. He was away most of morning that day, but he came back home in the evening. I tried to look my best - I needed to entice my tool into doing my job. He took me out the same evening to meet a friend of his.

"Dude, look what I got", he said to his friend, referring to me.

"Cool, dude! Nice ball! Where did you get it from?", his friend reacted.

"I found it, man. Under some bushes near that foreigner people's house where my mom works."

"Cool, lets use this ball then, its newer than the one we use."

"Ya, has a nice seam, will swing better. I bat first. You batted first last time."

"ok ok"

I almost blushed in excitement that the moment was not too far away.

The game of cricket began.

Murali's first throw was an illegal delivery ('no-ball', as they call it). Sunil played defensive and blocked me on the second.

Third time lucky, they say. The shot was a slog and I soared. Higher and higher every second... until I had cleared the tree tops... until I could see Mrs. Sobers' house.

I hung there for a second. Just long enough for a glimpse at the two agape mouths below. Then I swooped towards my target. I gathered momentum as I recollected how she flung me out and let the rain slush gather on me.

I plunged through the fiberglass bay window and shattered her most cherished possession in the house - her ultra expensive copper and white porcelain Ming vase.

Revenge is sweet they say. So it is.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Coming to terms with the real world

Been a few years now since I stepped out of my parents' home and set foot into the "real world". And I am still teetering my way through it. The protective walls of pre-reality life's lessons I built around me are still crumbling as I scramble about clearing up the mess and trying to re-build the wall with new bricks of wisdom. Blocks of wisdom that give myriad shades of grey to my wall. Pieces of wisdom that sometimes dont exactly fit in with each other, leaving spaces in my wall.

Building the wall is exhausting, especially when you want to build one that is pre-eminent. It gets to me sometimes and a slack sets in. Soon enough, the wall becomes brutally unstable. The wall that was almost undiscovered when steady is soon at the converging end of countless pointed fingers. But soon after is when I am usually thankful in life for the few who rush in, not to use their fingers to point but to use their hands to hold it up for me.

Sometimes I climb up the wall, sit on it and look outside at other people's walls. Each time I find the world more labyrinthine than I could ever imagine it to be. I do this more often these days just to remind myself that my wall is more normal than I could ever imagine it to be.

[This blog post was a resultant of practicing a writing exercise :)]

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Creating a genius

-- Driving my car one day, my friend sitting next to me... a sudden ramming into the breaks somehow set off a spirited discussion between us about kinetic friction and inertia and other mechanics of motion...

-- I watched the movie 300 recently. Hunk-watch-excitement aside, I was intrigued by the non-fantasized parts of the spartan lifestyle and the Battle of Thermopylae depicted in the movie. Soon after the movie, I caught up with the real, whole story of spartan history on wikipedia...

(Apart from flaunting the tiny undercover geek in me) why are these of any significance? - Well, these are hand picked instances of how much excitement I have been getting oflate from learning and discussing such topics... which is interesting because these (physics and world history) were my least favorite subjects in school.

Not that I did not bother to leaf through my physics or history textbooks in school - I did... and did it well. But the motivating factor was almost always scoring points in exams.

But now, I could devour all my physics and history text books in zest... in an unrequitted love for knowledge.

So, I have been wondering why this cognition-thristing-me did not happen 10-15 years ago... and in general about what it takes to impart this kind of a passion for knowledge in students early in their lifetime... what it takes to create a genius... what it takes to create many geniuses.

Dont most of us remember that one teacher who imbued us with a profound passion for his/her subject? So does the answer lie in making more great teachers?

I have stared at pages of laplace transforms or details on the second battle of panipat wondering what in "real life" anyone could possibly do learning all that. Is it about having us realize early-on how real they really are?

If some kid did have the learning-lust, would he/she score as well in exams as would his textbook-cramming counterpart? Maybe not. In all probability, the learning-luster would have wandered off to realms beyond his/her textbooks, and fall behind on the kind of questions which you could answer only if you had read the 4th word on the 7th line of the 52nd page of the textbook. Should the evaluation system change to credit the avant-gardist?

My recent interest was further piqued by books such as 'The Cartoon Guide to the History of the Universe' and 'A Short History of Nearly Everything' that convey much the same principles and facts as did our school textbooks, but in a much more fun manner. Should textbooks be re-written to make them more engaging?

I can ramble on and conjure up ten other ideas for spawning prodigies... but I would love to help.