Sunday, November 25, 2007

Death of Siddartha - Chapter 3

My life has been a fable to me. A series of stories. Bedtime stories merging with reality. As I grew up, I learned to differentiate between the real and the unreal.

I was born into the Gauthma gotra of the Shakya clan. My father was the commander in chief of the clan. Ours was the prominent family in Kapilavastu. The ruling of it fell upon my father, King Suddhodana.

I have no recollection of my mother. She died 7 days after my birth. I have learned about my mother from Ma. Mother revealed herself to me as bed time stories.

It was my mother who introduced me to death; the finality to an existence; but it was Ma who kept me away from being engulfed by its concept.

'Did she die because of me, Ma?' I had asked. Lying on the wooden bed, cushioned with cushions filled with yak hair, my head on her lap. I was five.

From where I lay, I could see out the window. The dusk was approaching and the palace guards were already lighting the torch around the compound. Ma's fingers stroked my curly hair.

She leaned forward and kissed my forehead.

'No, Gautama, you were the easiest birth a woman could ask for. You never gave her any trouble. She was a fortunate mother to have you. ' She said.

I smiled. I had no recollections of my mother. I have seen a painting of her in my father's bed chamber.It showed a young woman in flowing clothes, the clouds behind her curling and flowering plants around her. Her face seemed the same as many I have seen in the silk scrolls of the traders who came from beyond the mountains.

'Maya used to dream of your coming.' Ma continued.

She had noticed my silence.

'Really?' I asked.

' Yes Gautama, you were the reason for her life and once you were born, her karma was finished and mine started.'

'Is that why she died ? , because she had completed what she had to do in life? ' I asked.

'Yes, Gautama'

'What is life, Ma?' I asked.

Ma was silent for a while. I waited for her answer. Looking up, I saw her looking out the window and watching the lite torches lining the palace walls.

' Go to sleep now child. You are destined to lead the Shakyas, like your father and become a great leader, perhaps even a king.'

A king.

She was just parroting what has been told to me a hundred times, since my birth. The destiny that was in store for me revealed by Sage Asita to my father. I was being lead through my life like the goat taken for sacrifice. My fate foreseen, written and decided.

I closed my eyes. Waited for that sleep which never came.

I felt Ma gently lift my head from her lap and lay it on the pillow. I felt my body being covered by the thick peshwani blanket. I heard her withdrawal from my room. I heard her sigh and the creak of the bed in my father's chamber as she sat on it.

'Is he sleeping?' I heard my father ask Ma. His voice gentle. I imagined him next to her, his hands on her shoulder.

' Yes'

'I heard his questions.' my father said, ' Iam grateful for your presence here.'

There was silence. Outside I heard the shuffling footsteps of the guards. My eyelids felt heavy.

' Maya has not left him. She still envelopes him'

My fathers words echoed within me as I succumbed to the night

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Death Of Siddhartha - Chapter 2

A light rain fell. Fine mist of droplets. Cooling the night air, soaking the ground. Muffling our progress.

Chandra clung on to me as we raced to my unknown destination.

Surprisingly I was calm. The act once committed had purged away all sense of uneasiness I had earlier felt about it. I had expected to feel a sense of guilt or some amount of remorse for my seemingly heartless act. Yet I felt exhilarated . I felt like a caged bird set free.

I felt alive.

All my life I seem to have lived a life that seemed contrived. A life that was always lived in half measures. A life planned out by my father, lived by me.

I have questioned his intrusions. Not directly, but through Mahaprajapati, my foster mother. She who bestowed upon me her abundant love to repel the shadow of my mothers death.

It was through Ma that I had learned of my birth, the predictions and my father's inner turmoil. The stories had took on an aura of mysticism to keep me, then a little child, interested. Today I knew that theres an expectation that, somehow the birth and life of a privileged one should be different and more wondrous than that of an ordinary child. Today, at 29, Iam aware that my birth was no more or no less wondrous than the birth of a healthy baby anywhere in the world.

I was born to Maya, wife of Suddhodana, king of the Sakhyas. I was born , Ma told me, at the foot the glorious Palpa Mountains, in the Lambani groves. My mother was on her way to her parents place to have the delivery. This was our custom. My mother went into labour in the Lambini groves , much to the panic of her companions. They were forced to perform the delivery there and then. My mother held onto the low lying branch of a tree and pushed me out into the world, standing up. This particular type of delivery is not unusual in the hills, in fact, Ma told me that, it probably aided in the fast and painless delivery.

I must have been a perfectly formed baby. Later on Ma's version of my birth used to alter, depending on her mood, and my enthusiasm. She told me stories, which used to delight my youthful imagination. Stories about how I started walking from the time I was born, how from each step I took , a lotus bloomed.

To Ma, I could do no wrong. I was her ideal of perfection. Later I gathered that there was nothing unusual in her sentiments; to every mother, their child is the biggest miracle.

The cold wind chilled my body through the thin shawl that was wrapped around me. The fine mist of the rain had soaked through my clothes. I hopped that Chandran is warm behind me, protected by my body from the elements.

Kantaka rode on.

A man's life as it stands today is a sum total of all his actions and deeds. These actions and deeds are influenced by his experiences. The experiences in turn are perceived through his senses, which are filtered by his mind .

Today Iam running towards something, rather than away. I seemed to have been prepared by everything and everyone around me, for this day. I found comfort in that thought. My mother's death, my father's protectiveness, Ma's indulgences, the love of my friends, the secrets, my yearning, everything, helped to culminate into today.

Before I shed the known, let me indulge in remembering them one last time.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Death Of Siddhartha

I sat by Yashodara's feet.

The moon lit the chamber in its silvery glow. A thin red woven sheet covered Yashodara's sleeping form. She lay facing my son Rahula. Her arms engulfing his tiny body. She stirred in her sleep, let out a sigh and moved closer to her son.

I sat by her feet. Looking, memorizing, helpless.

I reached out and touched Rahula's cheeks. His tiny lips puckered to meet my fingertip, mistaking perhaps in his sleep for his mother's breast. I smiled.

The city of Kapilavattu slept.

I got up and sat for a while on the carved wooden chair by the latticed window. In the dark. I looked out at the palace courtyard. Everything seemed unusually quiet.The celebrations that had been held for my son's birth had run for two days. Now the whole palace lay asleep in a drunken haze.

I felt a weight on my chest. A heaviness. I breathed deep the night air. Trying to calm the restlessness within me.

I turned my gaze again towards my wife and my son.

I got up , wrapped the shawl around me and moved towards the door.

I did not look back.

I pulled out the wooden lock from its clasp and pushed the door open as gently as possible, lest I wake anybody.

I stepped over the sleeping guards and made my way down the stairs.

The courtyard was in darkness. The dim light of the dying lanterns that hung around the palace walls, showed me the way to the stable. I caught sight of the sleeping Chandra. My friend. He lay on the parapet , covered in a thick blanket, near the stable. I shook him awake.

He sat up with alarm. I hushed his questions with my hands. I entered the stable and untethered Kantaka, my black steed. Chandra, helped me saddle him. No questions. I was grateful. I would not have known the answers if he had asked.

We led Kantaka out of the palace compound. Chandra closed the wooden palace gates. I mounted Kantaka and hoisted Chandra behind me.

We rode out into the night.

I, Siddhartha, son of King Shuddodana Gautama , chief of the Shakyas; sneaked out of his home , like a thief, leaving behind his birth rights , his old father , his young wife and his new born son.

I left with no other intention than to get away from everything that would snuff the flickering flame of something I had no name for , than a feeling of intense restlessness, a call that could not be refused , an emotional agony that threatened to consume me.

Kantaka rode like the wind. My mind recalled a childhood memory of a moth that flirted with the temple lamps, attracted my its yellow light, finally burning itself to death.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Maya Anthurjanam - Epiloque

Ammomma died three years later in her sleep. Along with her breath was gone the one true memory of Madan Tharavad. While the pyre was lite by father in the courtyard near the cowshed, I sat on the bed in her small room where she had lived most of her aged life.

The wooden window panels still streaked with white lime fingerprints, red paan stained the outside ledge of the window where her spit fell short. I reached under the bed and pulled out the copper spittoon. The contents inside swirled. I went outside to the well and from the water in the bucket, rinsed the spittoon. I reached for the ash ,kept in the coconut shell near the well for washing vessels, and scrubbed the spittoon clean using the coconut husk. I was vigorously scrubbing it with the husk, when I felt my mothers touch on my shoulder.

She kneeled next to me and put her hands over mine, stopping me. I leaned against her, burying my face into her sari. I felt her tears drop on my head.

We left the village to take up a place in the city when I joined a collage there. Our house was rented to the new village postmaster. My visits to the village was at best erratic in the beginning, which slowly ceased to naught in the coming years.

I came to know through Bala who visited me once that Madan Tharavad was now under property dispute . After the disappearance of the only legal heir , Maya Anthurjanam, there was a legal haggle over the property. The main players seemed to have been some distant relatives of Bhargavi Amma, Vishnu Naboodri's wife.

After my college, my parents started arranging for my marriage. A part of me wanted to revolt against their wishes, but seeing my father's worsening health, I went along with it. The bridegroom was a shy , young man with a wisp of a moustache who was a doctor in America. I liked his smile.

Invitations for the marriage had been sent to everyone in the village. Many turned up with their well wishes and steel vessels as presents. Aathu was there with a grin as wide as his face. His hair finally tamed. Basheer had got a visa and had gone to Dubai.

I left with my newly acquired husband to the shores of America two months after our marriage.

It was for my fathers funeral that I visited my village again. He had insisted that he be cremated in his property. I was not saddened at his death. He had been bedridden a long time. Death came like a long awaited friend.

I stayed over after the funeral at our house, along with Amma, as the post master's guest for a couple of days. My husband had chosen to stay with the kids back in States. I had taken a months break from my job at the university. I had to make a decision about Amma, the last thread binding me to my past ; to all that was me.

The village had changed in my absence, in subtle ways. Where Madhavan's cashew trees stood, now was covered with lines of rubber trees, each wearing a coconut shell, looking to me for a moment like girls carrying the lamps at the temple deeparadhana. The old mud paths have made way to tarred road with pot holes. I walked towards Madan Tharavad.

A large wall covered the compound, with shredded glass embedded on top to discourage trespassers. Through the wrought iron gate I saw a well maintained garden and a pebbled pathway leading to a concrete mansion. On the gate was welded a Beware of the dog sign with a portrait of an Alsatian Dog painted for good measure. On cue I heard the distant barks of the model.

I walked back to our house.

In the evening , a knock on the door announced a visitor. It was Aathu. A taller, fatter, older Aathu, with the same wide smile. We spoke through the night, sitting in the Varandha, sipping pipping hot black coffee. Aathu kept on puffing at his India King. He spoke of reservation, caste rights, communism , of white khadi shirts and red flags. I listened. I remembered the little boy who clung to my skirt. I smiled.

Just before my return to the States, my mother made her decision to stay back in the village, refusing my offer of coming back with me. She occupied the small room where Ammomma stayed. The room had been whitewashed . The window panels painted a light blue.

I left the next day. I watched my village pass through the window of the Ambassador car which sped towards the airport. The car drove through the road that passed the tharavad. As we sped fast , I caught a glimpse of a figure at the wrought iron gate.

It was a small girl of nine in a white petty coat.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Maya Anthurjanam - Chapter 9

It was a school holiday. I had grabbed Achan's big black umbrella and ran out into the rain after rushing through a breakfast of puttu mixed with ripe padayamkulam banana and sugar.

Amma called out something. It was drowned in the rain.

A chilly wind swept over me, while the rain pitter pattered on my umbrella. I walked faster. My skirt and shirt getting drenched by the rain that was blown in by the wind. At the side of the road, Madhavan's cow grazed, oblivious to the rain. Its dung lay like greenish brown cakes ,on the grass , pitted by the rain.

I climbed through the fence and entered the Madan tharavad.

The ground was soggy due to the rain. I was worried about the snakes, since their usual haunts would have been flooded. I stepped gingerly over the debris. I reached the veranda of the illum. The remains of its roof offered a respite from the downpour. I kept the umbrella open , as I walked into the illum. Mini water falls from the roofs had flooded the insides.

I looked for Maya everywhere in the illum and could not find her. The old store room laid empty and open to the nature. Water was pooling on the floor , her bedding and the pathayam soaked. I wanted to call out to her but knew that I would not get any answers.

I walked towards the temple. She could have taken shelter under the banyan tree.

The monsoon had darkened the sky. A lightening flashed across, illuminating the illum in a blinding white , followed closely by the loud clap of thunder, startling me.

I reached the banyan tree. She was not there.

I looked around frantically. There was no place for her to go to; to hide from this rain. One part of my mind reminded me that she has survived many monsoons before my acquaintance, with out any help.

The ottupurra in the village temple?

No, she would not risk being seen.

The tharavad pond. The enclosure had a roof and the parapet would offer a good place away from the rain.

Yes. She would probably be watching the rain fall in the pond. I made my way to the pond.

Something made me stop as i neared the enclosure.

Some one was calling out her name.


I cautiously walked towards the voice.

There was someone standing outside the ponds entrance.

I stayed hidden in the midst of the estate, the rain concealing my presence, while I watched.

The lone figure stood outside, exposed to the rain, his back to me. Grey matted locks of hair was piled above his head in a large knot. In one arm he held a trident, around the neck of which was tied a black cloth that hung limp wet.

He stood stark naked.

A naga sanyassi.

'Maya' He called again.

From within the enclosure Maya emerged out, hesitatingly to the open wooden door. She stood by the door looking with the same emotionless eyes at the man that stood drenched in the thulavarshum rain.

'Maya' he addressed her, there was calmness in that voice. A confidence. As if this naked old man owned the universe. 'Come'

Maya stepped out into the rain . She stood facing the fearsome figure.

'I have come to you as Brahman' I heard him say.

'Swami' Maya whispered. Her face contorted as if in agony. The rain mercifully washed her tears as it emerged.

The sanyassi, stepped towards Maya and gently removed the thin towel that served as her anga vastram and dropped it to the ground.

Then he reached and undid her mundu, letting it fall.

Maya stood naked before him.

He then put forth his cupped palms and let the rain collect in it. This he poured over Maya Anthurjanam's head. Anointing her.

He placed the open palms on her head and chanted :

Guru Brahmo , guru vishnu, guru devo mahaswara
Guru sakshal parabh brahmo tastmai sree guruve namaha

Maya kneeled and touched the feet of the sanyassi. He helped her to her feet.

I backed off from where I stood and started walking towards the path that lead to the fence. The rain had eased. Drops of rain , trapped in the leaves of the trees dripped down. I looked back.

They were no longer there.

All that remained were the pile of Maya Anthujanam's mundu and thorthu lying in the mud being soaked by the gentle rain.

Glossary :

Guru brahmo... : Guru is the creator Brahma, Guru is the preserver Vishnu, Guru is the destroyer Siva. Guru is directly the supreme spirit — I offer my salutations to this Guru

thorthu : a thin cotton towel.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Maya Anthurjanam - Chapter 8

I sat up in the bed and leaned against the head board.

'Ammomma,' I asked, ' Was Vishnu Namboodri a bad man?'

Ammomma was silent for sometime. I thought she had not heard me.

'No kutti,' she answered, still looking at the full moon that shined silver through the silhouette of the coconut trees; ' Vishnu Naboodri was the result of those days. He was loved in this village for many of his qualities. He was a generous man. He was also feared for his temper but he acted much like any other father would have done.'

She lapsed into her silence. The only sound being the chewing of her paan.

' You think Achan will let me marry Athu?' I asked apprehensively

Ammomma turned to me; her lips curved into a smile , she took me in her arms. I snuggled into her vast bosom.

She released me to spit into the copper spitoon which was kept under the bed.

' I promise not to kick Athu in the chest' Ammommma said, laughing, which shook her big pendulous breasts, as she lay down beside me.

I curled closer to her, taking in her spicy smell.

' If the Namboodri was bad, then all of us were bad, kutti' She whispered almost to herself.

I kept silent. Waiting for her to continue. She didn't.

I heard her breathing growing heavy after sometime. I lay awake listening to her soft snores.

' I saw Maya Anthurjanam today' I said softly.

Ammomma snored on. I waited for some kind of response. Anything.


At the near drowsiness in the advent of sleep, I thought I heard Ammomma.

'Poor Maya.'

In the months that followed , my visits to Madan Tharavadu became a routine. I never mentioned those trips to anybody. It was to remain my little secret.

I sighted Maya Anthurjanam more often in these trip. I found out that she seemed to have a routine. She spend most of her time in the vicinity of the thravad temple beneath the large banyan tree. She apparently always ate the food she got from the temple in the remnants of her room.That seemed to be the only meal she took.I always saw the fresh banana leaf on top of the decaying pile of previously used leaves. She also slept in the same room , the same place, on top of the pathayam. She bathed everyday evening at the pond. She wore the same tattered mundu.

If she saw me, she never gave any signs. In the beginning I started attributing it to blindness. I tested my assumption by moving her clothes from the steps and placing it on the parapet while she was taking a bath, one evening,at the pond

I watched the result of my experiment through the gap in the enclosure door. I saw her step naked onto the steps and climb the stairs to reach her cloths. Water dripped from her grey locks of hair. She seemed oblivious to her nakedness.

She could see.

But there was no emotion in that sight. No annoyance. No recognition. Just an acceptance of everything.

That evening I stood by the door while she dressed and walked out , passing me.

She just walked past.

So that's how it remained.

I always kept a distance from Maya Anthurjanam. Since I knew her whereabouts, I always seek ed her out when I visited the tharavad. I found her proximity comforting . I did try to leave things for her , like food and clothes; but always found it remaining in the same place, untouched, the next day. Eventually I stopped trying to befriend her. I just let her be and she never did acknowledge me.

It seemed inevitable that soon I was spending more of my free time in the silent company of Maya Anthurjanam than with my friends. To avoid their suspicious queries, I started spending a token period with them and then excusing myself in the pretext of going back home. The boys didn't seem to mind my absence, even though I did note a wary look in Athu's eyes. I avoided looking at him when I went away.

It was October. Thula varsham had started. The time of torrential rains , fearful thunder and lightening. I was not to know then but my clandestine tryst with Maya Anthurjanam and her cursed tharavad was soon coming to an end.


Kutti : child

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Maya Aanthurjanam - Chapter 7

Over the days I managed to sneak into Madan Tharavadu many times. I went alone. Somehow I felt safe there. Leaving when it started getting dark.

I used to go there during the weekends when the rest of the kids where playing in the fields or swimming in the river. I spend a lot of time just roaming around inside the illum. I explored every bit of Madan Tharavadu. I found a nest of sparrows on the roof beams in one of the inner rooms. I spend time drawing on the inside wall with charcoal pieces that I found inside the house.

It was on my fifth visit to the tharavad that I saw Maya Aantharjanam again.

I had wandered into the enclosure of the tharavad pond. It was a Sunday afternoon. I had come to the tharavadu after my lunch. I had told Amma that I was going fishing with Aathu. To show the honesty of my intention, I had taken along with me the fishing rod, which was a sturdy long guava branch with 3 meter of nylon thread at the end of which was tied a hook. A round pebble was tied about ten inches away from the hook to serve as a sinker and a piece of banana stem was tied about midway which served as the float. I had wound the nylon string around the rod and had pierced the hook into the wood to hold it in place. I had no intention of going with Athu. I had seen the Tharavad pond in one of my sojourns and had decided that I will try my luck there.

The Illum offered me a solitude which I used to find very comforting. Moreover I did not have any friends of my gender. The boys were more fun to be around with than Meenakshi, Lekshimi and Fatima , who also studied in the same class. But off late I had been feeling the need to distance myself from them. I preferred my own company. I found their games like spearing mud crabs revolting. I also hated it when they used to make me be the watch while they did all the fun stuff.

I entered the enclosure that held the pond. The wooden door opened into a fleet of stone stairs that lead down to the pond. On both side of the stairs was a parapet. Above the stairs was the remnants of a terracotta tiled roof. The entire pond was enclosed within the walls, that was made from large clay bricks which was covered in moss.

The pond was green due to the algae, dry leaves partly covered its surface. I sat at the last step and cast my line. Large dragon flies skimped the surface of the pond. It was peacefully quite , broken by the occasional faint splash of some fish that had broken the surface to catch an unsuspecting insect.

I must have dozed off, because suddenly I realized that it was getting late. I had no bite either. I pulled in my line and wrapped it around the rod. I scooped a handful of water after clearing away the leaves and washed my face with it. The water, to my surprise was not smelling bad, instead was cool and refreshing. I wiped my face on my skirt and turned around to walk up the stairs.

That's when I saw her.

She was sitting hunched on the parapet. She sat in the darkness under the shade of the roof overhead.

I froze where I stood.

She did not appear to be looking at me. She stared straight ahead at some unknown sight. Immobile. Like a statue.

I wondered how long she has been there. Was she sitting there when I had come? If she was I would not have noticed. She was so silent.

I slowly started climbing the stairs. My eyes fixed on the impassive figure. She did not move or even acknowledge my presence. I reached the opened wooden door and ran outside. A sound of movement from within the enclosure made me stop. I went back to the door and peered through the opening, keeping my body hidden behind it.

Maya Anthurjanam was standing at the last step. Her back was towards me. She took off the piece of cloth that was draped around her shoulder and placed it on the step beside her. Then she undid the knot of her mundu and folding it , she placed it on top of her other garment. She stood thus naked for sometime, looking straight ahead. She reached behind her head with both her hands and untied her bundled hair, letting a tumble of grey dreadlocks fall back , stopping just short of her buttocks. All her movements were graceful. I watched mesmerised.

Her body looked youthful. If not for her grey hair, she would have been mistaken for someone far younger than her actual years. She walked into the pond, stopping where it reached up to her shoulder. Then with a thrust she swam to the middle of the pond. Cutting through the carpet of dry leaves, she left a trail of green water behind her.

I do not know if she saw me. Perhaps she did see me but she made no sign of it. I watched her swim in that deserted pond, in which the legend said her mother had drowned in. I stood there while the setting sun cast a reddish glow on the pond and its swimmer.

When I reached home that day, I realized that I had left my fishing rod at the entrance of the Madan Tharavadu pond.

That night I lay next to Ammomma. She had just finished preparing her paan and wiped the trace of lime from her finger on the wooden window sill. The sill was covered with the white lime markings. If I sat and counted , I probably would have been able to calculate how many paan Ammomma must have chewed in that room.

She sat next to me and looked out of the open window. I lay awake watching her in the darkness. The moonlight outside lit up the inside of the room in its silvery glaze. I fell asleep watching Ammomma staring out lost in her thoughts.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Maya Aanthurjanam - Chapter 6

'I think the whole of the village heard your screams last night' I laughingly told Athu. We were on the way to the Government School where we studied.

Athu looked up at me and then continued looking at his feet as we walked through the dusty path to the school. He was sulking. He blamed me for his beatings.

'How many did you get?' I asked.

'Ten.' He answered, barely audible.

'With the stick?' I tried to show interest. Athu's mother normally beats him with whatever comes in her hand. Off late she has started keeping a cane specifically dedicated to beat Athu. The cane was long and yellow and was kept tucked into the tatch of the roof inside.

Athu nodded.

'Where?' I asked.

'On my bum' He replied, his left hand stroked it in memory.

'I got beaten too' I lied. I thought that would make him cheer up a little bit.

Athu looked at me , interested.

'I got hit on the hand. Achan never hits me anywhere else.' I knew that if I had said that I got hit on my behind, Athu would have asked me to show the marks. He knew that I have on occasions stretched the truth a little bit.

Athu just nodded.

'Hey Athu, Mashi chedi!' I said excitedly.

'Where?' Athu asked.

There was a clump of mashi chedi growing on the side of the path. We plucked the succulent stems out. Next to a water soaked handkerchief, mashi chedi stems were the best thing to wipe our slates clean.

We picked up our slates and slate pencils , which we had thrown aside. With a pocket full of Mashi chedi stems, we continued towards the school.

'I hope Kellu gets bitten by a snake.' Athu said.

'I hope he gets bitten by a cobra' I countered.

Athu laughed. We heard the distant ringing of the school bell and saw Basheer, Bala and others running to the school.

'Come on' I cried and started running to join the others.

In the evening, we all walked back to our homes through Madhavan's parambu which was filled with cashew trees. The pungent, rich smell of over ripe cashew apples filled the air. We picked up red cashew apple that had fallen on the ground. Basheer was busy plucking out the nuts from the fruits, which we planned to roast. Athu was on top of one tree reliving himself . A yellow arc of his piss splashed on the dry cashew leaves. Bala was throwing the cashew apples at Athu.

I sat on a low branch , munching on a cashew apple. The juice had spilled onto the front of my white shirt creating a yellow stain for which Iam sure of getting a shouting from Amma.

My thoughts were about Maya Aanthurjanam. I was sure of having seen her. I did not tell anyone about it. Not even to Athu.

Maya Aanthurjanam was old. She would have been younger than Ammomma but was old never the less. She had seemed like a shadow. Very frail. What I had noticed was how she was watching us. There was nothing behind that look ,apart from watching.

A shadow. I wondered if that was what madness was about. Seeing but not registering. Being but aloof. Alive but dead within.

In the distance I saw Madhavan coming towards us at a fast pace. I whistled the warning ,jumped down from the branch, picked up the pile of slates and pencils and ran towards the boys, who were already running out of the estate.

Glossary :

Parambu : property/estate/field

Monday, September 17, 2007

Maya Anthurjanam - Chapter 5

Green moss covered the walls of the tharavadu. The whitewashed walls were now in some areas black. Partial parts of the roof remained. Broken tiles, pieces of termite ridden wood and parts of the broken walls littered the vicinity. Weeds had encroached inside the illum.

Attu and I stood at the courtyard, where Sashi was kicked and spat at.

'Lets go in' I whispered .

Attu shook his head violently to negate my proposal. He moved closer to me.

The illum did not look as bad as had imagined it to be. A forsaken place. Neglected.Not evil.

I grabbed Attu by the wrist and walked towards the illum.

Attu , by the time I reached the steps that lead to the veranda of the illum, was a dead weight. I was so angry at his fright and glared at him.

He looked back like a panic stricken animal.

'Come on' I snapped.

We walked hand in hand into the Illum. The steps that lead to the inner rooms had crumbled .The stones laid exposed where the mortar that held it together had worn away. A carpet of dark, moist dead leaves covered the floor. Large cobwebs covered the corners of the wooden skeleton of the roof, through which sunlight sneaked its way into the illum.

'Watch out for snakes.' I whispered to Attu. I felt Attus hands tighten in mine.

Attu was scared. Wait till I let the gang knows about this.

I was hoping that the snakes will avoid us when they hear our foot steps on the leaves . Then I recalled the sluggish viper that bite the rubber tapper Kumaran. It lay coiled in the dry leaves , completely camouflaged. Kumaran was bite when he came ten inches near the snake. Kesu Ammavan who heard Kumaran's cries of agony, together with the neighbours, carried Kumaran to the Visha Vaidyan. Ammomma said that it was only the miraculous power of the Vaidyan that saved Kumaran from a painful death.

A feeling of chill crept up my spine at my inauspicious memory.

I still wanted to see the store room. We walked into the dark recess of the building.

I pushed open the remnants of a door and entered a room. The room smelled musty. In the corner of the filthy room, sat an ancient reclining chair, the canvas seat ,which had lost all color to become a non distinct grey color ,was still intact.

Both of us stood at the door way.

'Vishnu Namboodri!' screamed Attu breaking away from my grip and running towards the chair.

He jumped onto the canvas seat , turning in midair to land on his behind . There was a loud crash.

Attu had fallen through the rotted cloth. His legs protruded out of the frame of the chair.

I fell on the floor laughing. From within the broken chair came Attu's giggles.

I helped Attu to his feet and urged him to be quite.

We proceeded with our snooping, forgetting all about snakes and ghosts; caught in this wonderful moment of adventure.

'Look what I found!' Attu screamed from somewhere in the Illum. His shouting startled me in the midst of digging in the draw of a dilapidated cupboard.

'I found the store room!' Attu's voice reverberated within the ruin.

I ran towards it.

Attu was standing at the entrance to a room . I pushed past him and entered the store room.

It was nothing like I imagined. Part of the roof no longer existed. The afternoon sun lite the small room. Surprisingly the room was well kept and neat. The pathayam ,an old wooden box, which in ancient times was used for storing rice, still stood under the part of the room where the roof was intact. A tattered sack cloth was spread on top of it.

This is where she sleeps. My heart was racing in the excitement. I looked around , half expecting to see the infamous pile of shit in the corner. There was nothing there. Just the Pathayam with the makeshift bedding.

Attu and I spend a long time in that small room. Outside the window there was a pile of banana leaves; most dried and wilted brown but some still green.

Maya Aanthurjanam was still alive! She still lived in the illum!

I felt a tug on my petticoat.Attu had a pleading look in his eyes.

' Lets go' he begged,' its getting dark and Amma will get worried.'

I knew that Attu had a guaranteed beating when he gets back home for being late and not going home for lunch.

I took Aattu's hand and walked out to the veranda. Dusk was approaching. The crows were coming back to the estate trees to roost. Their cawing filled the air.

By now Attu was leading me, hurrying to get back home. I looked back at the illum.

At the veranda stood a forlorn figure.

She stood at the doorway and was watching us.

I gasped. Attu turned towards me with a look of total alarm.

'What!?' he asked, fear wrinkling his brows, eyes pleading not to have us go back again.

'Nothing.' I replied.

We walked back to our homes.


Visha Vaidyan : An ayurvedic medicine practitioner who specializes in snake bites

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Maya Anthurjanam - Chapter 4

In the beginning, the villagers heard Maya Anthurjanam . Cries in the night. Sudden laughter echoing from the estate. Soon, some started catching glimpses of a woman in tattered clothing, covered in dirt with wild hair. The villagers left the woman alone. Some where deep inside their collective souls ,they felt responsible for her fate by not acting. The guilt made them sympathetic.

The village children named her Madan Bhranthi. The name stuck. The poojari of the Devi temple left her the temple prasad, served on a banana leaf,every night at the oottupura floor.No one in the village taunted her. No stone were thrown at her. No children teased her by calling her names and chasing her. The village left her alone. They left the cursed thravad alone. They left her to her dreams and memories - or whatever was left of it.

Madan Bhranthi never left the illum or the estate, apart to snatch the banana leaf left for her at the temple, which was very close to the tharavadu. Her life became the bedtime story for a new generation of children. Every child who ever, out of curiosity, ventured into the tharavadu , was given a thrashing or at the very least, a toungue lashing. Madan Tharavadu and its Bharanthi stood at that realms where reality meets myth.

Attu had seen her once or he thinks. He had gone looking for the kutti that had been hit into the Madan Tharavadu estate. They had been playing kuttiyum kolum . Attu was one of the fielders. Balu hit the kutti right into the coconut grove that bordered our make shift play ground which was the village road. Being the smallest, Attu was bullied into retrieving the kutti from the estate. We stood at the edge of the thorn bush fence, while Attu climbed the fence and walked in exaggerated stealth into the darkness of the estate.

A few minutes passed. The only sound being the buzz of the dragon flies that hovered near the paddy fields. We peered with intense concentration at the faint khaki color of Attu's shorts , which was the only thing we could make out.

Then Attu screamed. In seconds he had jumped over the fence and continued running. We didn't question. All of us ran.

Attu ran all the way to his hut, with us following him in sheer panic, even though we had no idea what we were running from. We found Attu behind the wall of the well that stood behind his hut; squatting; his hands wrapped around his knees and shaking. Rivulets of oily sweat ran from his head onto his skinny back.

Attu had seen Madan Bhranthi!

Attu became a celebrity among us for quite sometime. Slowly we pieced together the whole story, eventhough Attu's version became more dramatic and colorful each time he retold his experiences.

Attu had gone into the estate , which was in some ancient time, a coconut grove, but now, completely overrun by shrubs. It was very dark there. The sunlight broke the foliage in few areas. He started walking in the general direction he had seen the kutti fly. He was looking , rummaging through the dry leaves , cursing Balu, when he suddenly got a feeling that he was not alone.

Here Attu's voice drops in decible, while he continues the rest of his story in whispers

Someone was standing in front of him.

It was Madan Bhranthi. She was old. Her matted grey hair fell upto her waist. The mundu she had wrapped around her waist was dirty and torn in many places. A thin thorthu was drapped across her shoulder, covering her breast. Attu could not take his eyes off her eyes. It was bright and searching. She reached out to Attu. In her hands , she held the Kutti.

Attu ran.

In the coming days, I convinced Attu to accompany me to Madan Tharavadu. The truth was that I lacked the courage to go there alone. Ammumma's rendition of Vishnu Namboodri hanging from the wooden beam had a profound impression on me. Infact that image scared me more than running into Madan Bharanthi.

Atleast she was alive.

On the designated day, we took the same route Attu had taken earlier. He led the way, with me holding onto the back of his shorts. He showed me the very spot where he had seen the Madan Bharanthi. I looked around expecting her to come rushing out with the kutti in her hand crying out : here take it, take it , take it...

There was no body there. All we heard was the chirpping of the crickets and the farway haunting call of a solitary Chempothu.

Upon my insistence , we walked further torwards the Illum. Now I walked in front, with Attu holding onto my petticoat.Every now and then, I pushed down Attu's hold on the tip of my petticoat to avoid it being raised too high.

Thus we walked , one behind the other, pushing our way through the thick vegetation , towards the legendary Madan Tharavadu.


Bhranthi : Mad woman. Bhrant means delusional.
Oottupura : Feeding halls in temples where free food is distribued to devotees and the hungry.
Chempothu : A fairly big black bird with red wings. Makes a hooting sound.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Maya Anthurjanam - Chapter 3

It had taken one Ezhavan man to break the power that Vishnu Namboodri held over the village. Over the years that passed, Vishnu Namboodri watched the respect and fear he inspired among the villagers melt away. In a state of desperation he started holding the most extravegant festivals at the temple. He hired twenty five elephants for the processions. He had fireworks to rival Thrisoorpuram. But it was all in vain. The esteem he had lost among the people could never be bought back again.

Somewhere along the way, Vishnu Namboodri took to the toddy that came from his depliting estate.Bhargavi Anthurjanam was found dead, one morning, floating in the Tharavadu Pond. Whispered stories spread among the village that she committed suicide. Some said that she was drowned the Namboodri. Some just shook their heads and said a silent prayer against the Ezhavan's curse.

Maya was still remained a prisoner in the store room, where her food was placed everyday at the small window sill by Naniamma , the Madan Tharavadu cook .

Vishnu Namboodri lived long. He suffered long. He stayed within the Tharavadu. All news about the Tharaavdu came from Naniamma, who spoke of the once powerful Namboodri, now a shrivelled old man seated on the easy chair in the dark confines of Thekkini, mumbling to himself.

The villagers started talking about strange occurances in the vicinity of the Tharavadu.

Kuttiamma's cow fell sick of a mysterious ailment , which made the cow bloat up and break out in sores. It died 2 days later. The cow had grazed in the over grown courtyard of Madan Tharavadu.

Gopi saw a blue light floating above the Madan Tharavadu roof one night. He was coming back after his bath at the Temple pond and had squatted near the open wooden gate of the Tharavadu to relive himself. He ran all the way back to his hut.

Soon, every one in the village had their own personal experiences. Naniamma stopped staying over night at the Tharavadu. Instead she started attending to the Illums requirement at day time and returning to her hut in the village before nighfall. She was convinced that the Tharavadu was over run with Kuttichattan, yakshis and other demons. She spoke of noises in the attic. Kitchen utensils falling by itself in the kitchen.

The villagers stopped taking the shortcut of the Tharavadu coconut groove to reach their homes. The pathways used for many generations soon disappeared under the wild grass.

The thravadu itself started falling apart. The pond where Bhargavi Amma drowned was covered with dead leaves. The water had turned thick and green with algae . The tiles on the roof that had broken from falling coconut were not replaced. Weeds and creepers overran the courtyard which was no longer being swept. Moss started growing on the walls that has not been whitewashed for years.

One day the panchayat meeting was held for the planning the temple festival for that year. Vishnu Namboodri was not even informed. Next day, Nanniamma went to the illum and found Vishnu Namboodri's corpse hanging from the wooden beam of the ceiling. He had used his mundu for the deed.

Naniamma ran out screaming.

The panchayat came back in the afternoon with some brave souls, who cut the mundu and lowered Vishnu Namboodri's bdoy to the ground. A cremation was done the same day in the courtyard. The mango tree near the well was used as fuel.

While the pyre burned, Naniamma entered the Illum for one last time. She took the key from inside the cupboard in Namboodri's bedroom and unlocked the store room.

Some where in the night, while the embers of the pyre glowed , the tharavadu was looted. Some blamed it on the gang of gypsies who had camped at the periphery of the village. Ammomma said that it was Naniamma's relatives. Either way, the doors of the illum stood pry ed open and everything of any value had been carted away. The panchayat members inspected the illum along with the Police. Nothing had been spared. They pushed open the store room door to finally release the legendary Maya.

The inside of the store room was dark and filthy. A stench of excrement emitted from the room. They saw what appeared to be scratch marks on the wall.

The room was empty.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Maya Anthurjanam - Chapter 2

Madan Tharavadu, droned my grandmother in her wavering old voice, while she rubbed lime onto the betel leaf in her palm; was once a very prosperous Illum. It was an nallu kettu. They were a very prominent Brahman family. Vishnu Namboodri used to hold the temple festival every year. Some say that it was his generosity and extravagance that ruined them in the end. Some said it was the curse of the Ezhavan (low cast) man who was in love with Maya, Vishnu Naboodri's only daughter.

Ammomma, took out the betel nut cracker from her Paan Box and placed a betel nut piece in between the blades and broke the nut , which she placed in the leaf. She took a pinch of tobacco from the box and placed that along with the betel nut piece and folded the leaf to a triangle which she placed in her mouth very delicately.

I waited patiently. Watching. She started chewing. Then she took the spittoon from under the bed and held it close to her lips and spat into it. She rubbed a trail of the red juice from the corner of her mouth with her mundu and resumed.

Maya was very beautiful. Not many have actually seen her because the Brahman girls rarely ventured out side their illums.

Then how do you know she was beautiful, Ammomma? I asked . I shifted by head on top of the pillow.

Some have seen her, Ammomma said, stroking my hair, they used to talk about her beauty, her grace and her gentle nature. They say that Vishnu Namboodri adored his daughter but the villagers also spoke about his violent temper . The Devi used to heed his prayers. We used to fear him. He was a very powerful person in our village. His caste and wealth assured him of that.

Is it true that you never used to cover your breast in the old days ? I asked, with a smile.

She gave me a tap on the head and laughed. Not the Brahman girls.

I started giggling. I had told Athu about it and showed him my breast. He was not very interested. So we played, with me pulling down the petticoat to my waist tied around like a mundu , while Athu tied a thread across his body and pretended to be Vishnu Namdoodri.

Amma caught us at our game and gave me the worst thrashing ever. Later on , lying in my bed weeping, I could not help wonder why Athu could walk around in his khaki colored shorts bare chested. His chest looked no different from mine.

Sasi was the toddy tapper Chellapan's son. Ammomma continued. Chellapan used to tap the coconuts in Vishnu Namboodri's plantation. Chellapan had worked for Vishnu Namboodri all his adult life but he used to say that he had never seen Vishnu Namboodri's face because custom demanded that he ,an ezhavan , must look down in presence of a Namboodri. Sasi used to go along with Chellapan on his daily morning ritual of climbing the coconut trees, making a slit on the tender coconut with his sickle and tieing the earthen pot to collect the sap, which when fermented became toddy. This was sold to all the Toddy shops in the village.

Sasi must have been sixteen when he fist saw Maya. They used to meet each other at the temple pond at night. Who knows how it started. How they first met. We came to know about this when Vishnu Namboodri found out. He confronted his wife Bhargavi Aammalu first, with his fists. We heard her screams at our Illum. The next day we came to know through Karthiyani, the cook, that Maya was locked up in the store room.

The same day, Chellapans hut was burned down. Chellapan was dragged to Madan Thravadu courtyard by the villagers and tied to the banyan tree near the wall. There he was whipped by Namboodri's people. Sasi was held back by the villagers , while Chellapan was beaten . Each time the whip slashed across his father back, Sasi screamed. Chellapan was silent.

Maybe they did not intend to but when then untied Chellapan , he just collapsed onto the ground . Sasi broke free and ran to his father. We all watched while he tried to wake his father up.

I hide behind my mother when Sasi turned towards us, Ammomma said. He looked at us. The whole village, who watched the spectacle fell silent. Chellapan gasped one last time. Sasi screamed . He screamed at all of us.

Then he got and walked straight to Vishnu Namboodri who was sitting in the veranda of the illum.

Sasi called out : Vishnu!

Namboodri got up from his easy chair. Some of the male relatives rushed towards Sasi. Namboodri raised his hands. They stood their ground. He looked at Sasi.

We all watched .

Sasi was looking Vishnu Namboodri in the eye.

He asked Vishnu Namboodri to release Maya. He told that they will leave this village and will never be seen again.He knew that Maya will be punished until she died for dishonouring the family name. He begged Vishnu Namboodri to let them go.

Vishnu Namboodri looked at the pathetic figure standing before him in silence. He walked towards the young man. He stopped in front of Sasi. He spat at his face and then lifted his leg and kicked Sasi on the chest.

Sasi flew across the courtyard. He lay there. Covered in red dust. He looked up. The spittle dripped across his face like clear blood. He stood up. He looked at his father, lying under the banyan tree, then at us gathered there, finally stopped at Vishnu Namboodri.

' You ceased to be a Brahman today' He whispered. Then he turned and walked out of the courtyard.

From within the walls of the Madan Tharavadu, we heard a wail hardly human.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Maya Anthurjanam - Chapter 1

'Don't you ever go there. Next time I see you there or hear that you been near that place, I will tie you to the mango tree and give you such a trashing that you will never forget it' He roared.

I squirmed in his grip trying my best to get away. I knew that my father will never beat me. His bark has always been worse than his bite but his loud voice had the desired effect. I cried.

Amma , who was watching the whole scene from behind the door , came running and tore me away from Achan and held me. She turned to my father, standing there, suddenly looking very awkward and looked at him accusingly.

' I don't want her anywhere near that Illum' He muttered, 'Ammukutti , you know what people say about that place. Its not safe.'

' Shes just a child ' Amma countered,' what does she know about all this?'

I sobbed a little harder for effect. Inwardly I cursed Kellu for snitching about my visit to Madan Tharavadu to Chellammma, our cook, who in turn whispered it to Amma with great drama and extra spices and Amma dutifully mentioned it to Achan. All hell broke loose after that.

Madan Tharavadu was just a furlong away from our tharavadu. It was a derelict place. The illum itself has been abandoned and seen many rainy seasons. All that remained now of a once prosperous household was a few walls and the beams of the roofs with very few terracotta tiles remaining. The courtyard was over run with Communist Pacha and was supposedly teeming with cobras. Creepers with big leaves covered the walls . It was very dark there, even during summer afternoons. The surrounding trees blocked all sunlight. To my nine year old self, this was heaven.

Donned in my white petticoat , I used to play with my neighbourhood kids. Athu was my favourite of the lot.He was a skinny kid, younger than me, with a unruly hat of hair, which used to stand in tufts defying his mother's attempt to tame it by applying vast quantity of oil on it.As a result, he used to be dripping in oil, streaking down his face, which mingled with his sweat when we played - his hair still stood in tufts.

Madan thravadu was more attractive to me because it was a restricted place to be in. Stories were galore in our village about its history. Some said that the Illum was haunted and that it carried a curse. Ever since I was four, Ammommma , my grandmother, used to tell me stories about Madan Tharavadu, as she patted me to sleep.

I used to drift off to sleep with the wonderful spicy rich smell of her paan breath engulfing me, my hands stroking the papery skin of her hands while she told me stories about Madan Tharavadu and Maya Anthurjanam.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Devil's Chronicles: Epiloque

The priest walked towards the confession booth. The mass was over and there were no worshippers in the pew.

The priest took his seat and closed the door. He flicked on the overhead dim light. He heard the door opening on the other side , followed by the faint click of the door closing. He heard the creak of the wooden kneeling board.

He heard the husky female voice, very breathy say :' Forgive me father, for you have sinned.'

He smiled at the mistake and opened the sliding window.

His smile froze on his face when he saw me.

I personally thought I was looking rather hot. My hair was brunette, wavy. My lips was painted red. I wore a simple black dress with a black lace shawl wrapped around my shoulder ,covering the curves of my ample breasts .After all, the place demanded a certain decorum.

'Its you,' he whispered, recoqnizing me ' and you are a woman'

'Yes' I sneered, my lips curling into a smile,' perhaps you would have preferred a nine year old altar boy?'

I watched the blood drain from his face.

I know a good soul when I see one.

I smiled.

Outside a storm was gathering.

Devil's Chronicles : Chapter 12

I walked .

The reddish golden sands burned under my feet.

The heat from the overhead desert sun, beat down on me. I felt the overpowering human sense of thirst. I focused on that feeling. My mouth was dry and my tongue felt swollen .

Why do they do this?

Its what they want.

Why this need to limit themselves? To enslave themselves? To understand themselves through mortal flesh and faulty senses?

Its how they want it.

Why are you being dragged into all this?

Because they have chose to forget in order to remember.


She sat by his side. His broken body was dwarfed by the machines around him, sustaining his flicker of life.His breathing sounded magnified by the ventilator.

She sat by his side. Holding his tiny hands in her palm. There were no more tears. There was only a coldness towards the inevitable conclusion she knew will unfold.

She felt her husband's presence behind her. She did not turn.

' The lawyer is here ; again' He said softly. His eyes swam over his son.He turned away. Unable to look without the fury blinding him.

She nodded.

' What do we say to him?' He asked. His hand rested on her right shoulder.

' What we had decided.' She replied in a voice barely audible. She let her face tilt and rest on the top of his hands. He moved closer to her.


He shared the cell with 12 other prisoners. The cell had concrete beds built on to the three walls. There were no segregation according to the crimes they had committed. He sat on his bunk. They had shaved his head on the second day of his detention.

The Shariah law gave him 15 years imprisonment and Dirhams 30,000 as blood money, which will earn him another 5 years more upon failure to pay.

The court appointed lawyer had appealed.

He knew that he looked forward to about 20 years in prison and a deportation upon completion of his sentence. His life was over. His wife. His family. Over.

He bowed his head and prayed that the child lives. He accepted his situation with a calmness that he didnt know was capable by him. He only wanted the child to live.

He heard the cell doors being opened.

The jail warden called out to him in Arabic and gestured him to come outside.

He got up. Nervous . The Arabic language seemed crude and incomprehensible to his hears. He feared the worst. Whatever that was.

The warden locked the bars behind him. He stood there, watching.

'Yalah habibi, yalah' (Hurry my friend, hurry) the warden barked , gently pushing him on his shoulder.

He turned to look at the warden, frightened , when they reached the wardens room. The lawyer was sitting on the chair opposite the large wooden desk. The lawyer stood as they entered.

'Mubarak Habibi', the warden said, as he patted him on his shoulder.

'You have been pardoned by the parents.' the lawyer interjected,' They have requested the court to let you go. They have not pressed any charges. You are free to go.'

He looked at the lawyer, his eyes brimming with tears of gratitude.

' So,the child is safe.' He asked

' No, he died last night, a little after they signed the pardon statement' The lawyer answered.

Velayudan Siva Shankaran walked out of the prison a free man. As free as any man in his situation.


The sun beat down on me.

The head scarf I wore offered me no respite. I felt His burning touch on my cheek.

How long will you go on, my friend?

Until I understand.

What dont you understand?

They are a fickle race. They can never return.

You are wrong my friend. They always return. You have to have more faith in them.

They need You?

No. They do not need me. My existence is not dependent on their belief in me.They dwell upon me due to their fears, that their self imposed limitations have generated.

For what purpose is this silly game?

To be me, my friend.

A cool gust of wind swept over me. The sky darkened with grey clouds.

Then it rained.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Devil's Chronicle : Chapter 11

She got and opened the door.

A man stood outside. He was partially drenched by the rain. In one hand he held a dripping umbrella , folded, which he was shaking and in the other he held a 3 tier tiffin box, which remained miraculously dry, without a spot of rain on it.

'Velayudan' She addressed him,'You should have at least waited untill it stopped raining.' She took the tiffin box from his hand ' Come in.'

Velayudan remained at the door step.He shook his head in negation and said, 'Its okay, chechi. Meenu had the tiffin packed and I thought I will get it to you before it became cold. She told me to tell you that she has put in two pieces of fried sardines also.'

She smiled at the middle aged man who perhaps was older than her, yet called her chechi.

She came back into the room to place the tiffin on top of the table in front of me. ' You should tell her thanks from my side' she spoke loudly , so that Velayudan could hear outside.'You are really going out of the way. I have told you hundred times that I can manage to cook for myself. This is too much. At least let me pay you for the supplies'

She knew that Velayudan will not take her money. She has tried many times before.

Velayudan did not speak. He too has heard this lamentation too many times before.

'Chechi, who were you speaking to?' he asked, changing the topic and leaning inside to take a peak inside to see the visitor.

She turned around. She saw Velayudan looking at were Iam sitting. She saw that Velayudan could not perceive me. I smiled at her.

She walked towards the door. Velayudan retreated.' Nobody, you must have imagined it.'

'I heard you speaking when I rang the door bell' said Velayudan timidly,'Must have been the radio or something'

She did not answer.

'Chechi?' Velayudan asked, worried ' is everything okay?'

'Everything is fine , Velayuda , everything is fine' She assured him. 'Tell Meenu that I will come by on the way to the way to the Orphanage and drop off the tiffin box'

'Ok chechi' he replied. He stepped out from the porch and opened the umbrella.

She watched his retreating figure until he reached the road and closed the gate behind him.

'He could not see you' She said as she sat opposite me.

' No , he could not' I replied.

' Are you real?' she asked,'or is all this just my imagination? Am I going crazy?'

' Iam as real as you want me to be' I assured her,'Iam not the result of a delusional mind but then again that would be exactly what I would have said if I was a figment of you imagination.'

' You are confusing me. Please stop that.' She said. She leaned forward and held her head in the palm of her hands.

I stood up and walked towards her. She sat there , cradling her head. I knelt before her and gently took her hands in mine. She looked up.

'I understand a little better now' I said. She looked into my eyes . Enquiring.

I released her hands and got up. I walked towards the door and opened it. Outside , it was dark. The rain was letting up. I could hear the dripping of its drops from the trees in her garden.

I stood outside. The gentle drizzle caressed my face and body. He touched me as a gentle breeze.

How long must I endure this , my lord?

Until you find me in your search, my friend.

She is beautiful.

Ah yes, my friend, they all are, as you shall find.

Not all.

The breeze died out.

I smiled at His silence.

But I do know a good soul when I see one , I whispered.

She was still sitting where I left her when I dispelled the will and dissipated the body.

Tomorrow Velayudan will find her in the same spot. He would have had to break open the door to reach her.

That night he will sit beside Meenu who lies on the bed sobbing. He will tell her how chechi was smiling when he found her. Then he will bury his head in the thin towel he clenches in his hand and cry uncontrollably.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Devil's Chronicle : Chapter 10

Why did I come back?

A question I keep asking myself.

'To understand' I said to her.

'To understand what?' she asked.

'What makes you so special? What made Him ask us, Ancients, to kneel before you?' I answered.

' You wanted to understand?' She roared, grabbing my collar,'Is that your justification? You played with my life, killed my son, so that you could understand?

‘I did nothing. Neither did He. You did it all’ I replied.

She stared at me, tears of frustration running down her cheek. I slowly released her clasps on my collar; never could stand being touched. She walked back towards her chair, sat heavily on it.

She sat in the darkness thus for a long time. I too made myself comfortable on my sofa and watched her.

‘ I asked for this?’ she asked me in a whisper.

‘Well, not asked, rather you wished it. When you ask, you let someone else become the doer.’

Sometimes I have noticed , putting you in a corner has its benefits. It brings you out. The actual you.

“ Why do your grieve death?” I asked.

“ Its not death I grieve for, its my child. He was taken away from me, I grieve for him. His misfortune of a life unfulfilled, the meaningless of his existence” She replied. “ moreover I grieve for me , The tearing away of a life I produced, the love I felt, the lack of his presence….the meaningless of my existence.”

I kept my silence. I have heard this for centuries, this yearning due to your clinging.

‘ His death has destroyed all that I have felt. My faith in a god who could do this, or rather a life which has no seeming purpose other than to be born and to die. I loath my being alive to experience this sorrow. I loath having to face another day and seeing everything going on as it was while my life is destroyed. I loath the teachings which tells me to accept it and to learn from it. How easy it seems for others to be objective about me pain and to offer me those empty words of condolences. How can anyone understand? Other than a mother? What sort of a god permits this pain to exist? What sort of god allows his children to go through this?’ she stopped.

She was not done. She continued, ‘ You are right. I should have known why you came to me. Iam shaken of faith and I no longer belive. Iam paying for my lack of faith. This is my punishment for doubting. You knew me from within, you saw and you waited. I failed the test and now I have lost my child and through that I have lost my desire to live. Yet I do not regret. I would never accept a god who acts the way he did. I cannot worship something that cruel, unforgiving and without compassion. I deny him.’

She stood up, tears flowed down her face. ‘ They say that you are his adversary, bring my son back , put it how it was before, take me to the day I saw you last. Do this for me and Iam yours. Do what you will with me but let me have my life as a mother to my son.’

‘ Its not for me to give or take’ , I said. ‘ I merely observe. You can give me nothing that I really want. You over estimate me . I too am like you. A creature in search the meaning of my existence. Your passions, your attachments , your desires , all of it , have no meaning from where I stand. To me you look pitiful, loathful, pathetic; with your constant births and never ending yearnings from which so few of you have actually emerged. You cry for your son when thousands of sons have died on the very moment your son did. Yet, you cannot feel that pain. To you your pain is more engulfing. You never seem to realize that all situation that you experience can be borne with the same calmness if you see it from the correct perspective. That all emotions are indulgences. Merely your way of enforcing upon your intellect your existence.’

‘Then why are you here?’ she asked , ‘ to watch me grieve my loss? To mock my faith? To hover around like a vulture attracted to my misfortune? Is that your great purpose , you exalted one? To look upon us pitiful creatures , watch us and feel for yourself a greater destiny? What is it that you seek by being here , in my house , at this hour?’ Her voice raised in octaves with each sentences .

‘Of course!’ she said, turning towards me with a sarcastic smile, ‘ you want to hear me say that you were right’

‘You are right’ she continued, ‘ my basis of faith has no foundation. My beliefs were handed down to me so I have no understanding of it. My beliefs were blind acceptances. Are you happy? I stand before you destroyed, having lost the meaning of my existence and I have nothing to hold on to , no hope, no god, no meaning....are you finally satisfied? Do you finally understand? I have nothing to live for. Is that what you hoped to achieve? And you say I wished for this? Wished for all this? Wished for my child's death?

'Yes' I answered. I never could win any popularity contest.

'You are a species with an inherent need for experiences and you thrive on it. You are emotion junkies.You have slated yourself to experience those experiences through your emotions. Take a good look at yourself. You have become the experience that you craved for. Your drama. Your expressions. Your poor bleeding life. All your own making.Then you need someone to take the blame when you feel a little lost.You are here because you wanted to be here, to experience what you are feeling right now.' I stopped for breath.

'And Iam here ' I continued, 'because I too am part of your need to experience.'

'I wished for my Son's death? She whispered.

'No' I corrected,'that was his own wish.'

'Dont you see? Its all about you. Everything comes together to let you have what ever you want.'

'What is it that I wanted when I wished for all this?' she asked.

'How am I to know?' I answered.' Its your fucking life.'

We looked at each other.

Then the door bell rang.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Devils Chronicles: Chapter 9

I waited for her.

It was dusk and was the flag end of an Indian monsoon. I sat on the steps. The awning above prevented me from getting wet, but I watched with delight the rain wet the stairs. All around me was the sound of the falling rain, not heavy, just enough for me to know of his presence. I have always loved the ways he expresses. Rain is my favourite.

She sensed me before she saw me. She stood by the gate, protected under her large black umbrella. The darkness had fallen. The street light near the gate came on, revealing her. Her cloths were wet in places. She wore a simple salwar , white which had yellowed slightly due to age. A red dupata was wrapped like a veil around her head and neck. Her hands held open the gate latch. She hesitated. I saw her looking at me. She latched the gate and walked towards me. I got up . She climbed the stairs, folded the umbrella and shook the rain out of it and propped it by the parapet near the steps. She switched on the naked bulb which hung above where I stood.

She turned and looked at me. I stood there , in the circle of the light she has thrown on me.

‘ I was waiting for you’ I said.

‘So was I’ , she replied.

She took the house keys from her bag and opened the door to her house, stepped in and switched on the table lamp near the living room sofa. Apart from the glow of the lamp, illuminating the immediate vicinity ,the room still lingered in dark.

‘Come in.’ She called out to me from inside.

I walked in, careful to stamp the rain and mud from my shoes on the rug that lay by the door. She was standing by the sofa. Her features were still hidden partially by the shadows.

‘Would you like to have some tea?’ she asked , after she invited me to sit of a single soft cushioned sofa.

‘If its no trouble.’

‘ No trouble, I was going to make one for myself.’

I leaned back , my back buried itself in the cushions. I looked around.

The living room was large. It was also a very old building. The original local architectural showed itself in every corner. The furnishing was relatively new and modern. The walls were lined with framed sepia prints , from where ancient faces stared out. There were no recent pictures. None of her family.

None of her son.

‘ When did you leave from there?’ I asked , as she walked in bringing with her two cups of tea. She held a cup in each hands. The steam curled up from the hot brew and the room was captivating filled with the aroma of it. She handed me one cup.

‘I just didn’t go back after the funeral’ she said, seating herself on the sofa facing me. She held her cup between her palms on her lap.

I sipped my tea. She sat; watching me.

We sat there in silence, drinking our tea, listening to the sound of the rain ,which was becoming a downpour.

‘Your husband is still there?’ I asked

‘Yes’ she replied. ‘ He didn’t object when I told him that I will not be joining him. He transfers money to our account here. He had written that he had moved out of our apartment and has now taken up a studio apartment. He is planning to sublet it to a bachelor, because he finds being alone very lonely.’

‘What about you? Do you find it lonely?’ I asked

‘Lonely? No. I just wanted to be near him. As near as I can.’ Tears welled in her eyes.

‘Iam sorry. This must be hard for you. I can stop.’ I said, not meaning it at all.

Then she did the most amazing thing. She leaned forward , moving from the shadows to the light of the lamp. I saw that she had aged. Her once black hair had streaks of grey in it. The shadows highlighted the wrinkles that had formed on her forehead- worry lines, but her eyes were bright. She looked straight into my eyes and said ,

‘ I know who you are.’

The words were whispered at me. She gave me a knowing smile, and then she leaned back on the sofa, with the smile still lingering , waiting for my reaction.

I was surprised. Really was. Moreover I was impressed. Most people who are in my presence are aware deep within themselves of my nature. But few would dare to confront it; for to confront is to acknowledge.

I had to smile, seeing her smug expression as if she had just solved the biggest riddle there is and was waiting for a pat on her back.

I could have played with her. I could have questioned her to the extent of making her doubt herself. I could have confused her, unsettled her. I didn’t do any of those. I decided to give her what she wanted. Acceptance.

‘Are you scared?’ I asked.

‘Surprisingly no. You are not what I expected you to be.’ She replied.

‘Actually Iam exactly what you expected me to be.’

I had finished my tea. I placed it on the coffee table in front of me. She still cradled her cup in her palm, relishing the warmth.

‘Would you like to see him?’ she asked quietly. She was not looking at me. Her eyes were looking unseeingly into her cup.

‘Yes.’ I replied.

She went up the stairs. I could hear the draw being pulled open in her bedroom. I saw through her, the album being pulled out. I saw her placing her palm above the cover. Hesitating. Remembering. She held it close to her breast with both her hands and shut the draw by leaning on it.

She came to where I sat, and placed the album in front of me on the coffee table. I pulled my seat closer to the table. She sat on the ground, next to my legs and opened the album.

Sometimes life makes its presence felt more in its absence.

‘ I got pregnant two years after our marriage.’ She said. ‘My husband and I had decided that we will have the delivery there itself instead of here. Actually we could not afford the travel expenses and moreover our combined earning was essential.’

She had opened the album to a picture of her sitting on a plastic chair in their balcony. She was dressed in a white housecoat with a read border. Her pregnancy was clearly visible. She was looking straight at the camera and she was radiant. The sun was behind her, the brown tinge of her hair was highlighted like a halo, her face was in the shadow but was clear. She had in her hand a bitten doughnut, the crumbs lined her lips.

‘ We were very happy,’ She continued, her fingers tracing the border of the picture, her eyes still searching intently at the picture for any possible sign of events yet to happen. ‘He was truly wonderful. He used make me breakfast during the weekends.’

Out side the rain fell .

‘We weren’t prepared for the pregnancy . I had a tough time dealing with it. I used to have terrible mood swings. Sometimes I used to feel as if Iam no longer in control of my body, as if it was invaded. I hated it. He was very patient with me.There were times, when I could see the disappointment and hurt in his eyes but I didn’t care. I was more consumed with what I was going through. I guess I blamed him partially for everything.’

She flipped the sheets of the album absent mindedly. More pictures of her , in various stages of her pregnancy . There were few pictures of both of them together, where the picture was taken with one of them pointing the camera at themselves.

‘When the labour began,’ She continued, ‘ we were in the kitchen. We were talking about making evening walks a mandatory thing in our life . I was becoming worried about the weight I was putting on. Suddenly the water broke.’

I know.

I was there.

How the floor became wet. The sudden silence between them. Then the panic. She running into the bathroom to change and he looking for the carry case they had packed for in the event of such an emergency. The frantic drive to the hospital. The labour pains. The cigarette smoke in the waiting room. The forms to be signed. The expenses. Finally the birth.

Then the days filled with sweet sufferings.

The kind of life which looks good only in retrospect. The sleepless nights, the pains from the after effect of the operation, the sore breasts…the breakdowns with the baby lying in your lap and howling, refuting all attempts to pacify him and you start screaming…you lament the loss of yourself.

Then there are days when he squints at you and grabs the finger you hold out to him and you melt. You feel as if your whole journey was towards this moment. All you talk about is him, you practically cease to exist ; what he eats, the words he say, the day he turned and lay on his stomach, the day he walked. Being unable to throw away his baby cloths. A love truly baffling , yet so right. You don’t want to analysis it or understand it, you just want to live in it.

She kept on speaking. I listened.

I waited.

She stopped talking. She had exhausted herself on the living. Memories have been taken up, dusted and examined. She looked at me and saw me for what I was.

'Why did you come back?' She asked.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Devil's Chronicles : Chapter 8

Its all in the timing. To be available when the opportunity strikes.

Me being me has certain advantages. I know when you are going to be faced with a crisis. I don’t cause it. I can't cause or change the course of your life. Only you can. I do try my damn best to exert my influence on your choices. This is the biggest grouse between me and Him. For him its all about the freewill and other such nonsense. Sometimes I rage over his impotence. Alright, its very admirable to be so father like and so aloof , detached . The whole thing bothers me. Left to yourself, you are like sheeps ; defenceless , stupid and never to reach your destination unless lead. Look around you and then say if iam wrong. If He waits for all of you to finally understand the forgotten messages and then go ‘ aha!’ and whack your forehead and reach out towards him; He is in for a lot more longer wait than eternity.

That’s where I come in.Lets not get any fresh ideas, I do not have his blessings in my endeavours. I do it for the sheer love of Him. In the end He will see that I had helped his cause. I had made him bigger.Somewhere along the way, I realize that I too have become like him because I stood up to him. If hes so much into freewill, wheres mine? I have asked him. His reply ,as usual, was direct.

‘You can never have what you have never given’

I understand. I understand so much. Then I see you, your sufferings due to your ignorance, your delusions through your illusions, your pain through your yearning. You were never his most brilliant of creation , but to let you go on suffering, because you had chosen this upon yourself, is wrong. You need help. You need the miracles. You need the prophets and you need those religions.

Sometimes , like a freak of nature, some among you surprises me. They get in tune with the beginning, your true potential. To an onlooker it will appear as if those gifts are easily begotten. I know the superhuman effort and the numerous life times it had taken for them to evolve to that stage.

Want to know how they started?- by dedicating their entire being to the right question.

They are far too few in between. They come forth like a flying star. Fascinating and brilliant and only to then die out. Between their attainment and their final end, they try to make you understand what they know.

Never works.

It can't work. It’s the freewill thing. You need to work out your own salvation. Which in reality also means that you have to clean your own shit. You will be always liable for your own actions and toughts. You cannot claim ever to be influenced. If you think you were influenced you must have learned too that it takes two hands to clap. Trust me on this. You may save yourself today with all this ‘devil made me do it’ and the mental illness and psycho routine , but you have no idea how just the system really is. You will be your own punish er and theres none out there who can make you go through the hell of your own making. Every agony you see, every injustices that you see, every murder, rape, death, starvation, perversions , everything that you perceive to be evil – all you deserve, because you wanted it. All that you see as good in this world too is there because you chose it. You are all in various stages of working out your salvation and if you do not see that big picture, rightfully you are going to be a little pissed off. How are you to know that yesterdays murderer is todays victim ? How are you to know the credits you earn when you stop your karmic debt by not participating?

So you stand around trying to make some sense out of it. Lets blame the devil. Some of you blame the gods. Its all the same actually , but in the end you come out feeling a sense of hopelessness, a sense of doom. Who’s to blame? Him?



I don’t cause your sufferings, neither can I cause your happiness. Iam there to test you. To see if I am right in my assumptions, in my first argument ; if you really deserve the freewill. In every turn, you seem to agree with me. You are ready to surrender your will to your gods. Let god take the responsibility. How many of you despicable creatures know what it is to surrender to Him? To offer everything at His feet? Your sins, your happiness, your punishment and your rewards?

You don’t have the guts. You pathetic worms are willing to praise his name to highest glory, if everything around you is hunky and dory; take one thing away, and you will curse him. I still stand by what I have caused Job to go through. I still stand by what I believed. I still admire a soul who can stay steadfast in all situation.

Theres no truth you can see in the word, because you are blind and unprepared. Only he who is ready will attain Him and himself. Those who do that, does not need the scriptures or your religions. Yet you lowest of the lowest will cling to the dust that once clung to their garments and create a crutch for you to hang on. You will use their words, you will twist it, misunderstand it, sometime understand it yet ignore it, you will pervert it, to suit your needs. You will create your religions and build bigger walls from the truth. You will hide in your darkness and you will kill for your truths and you will proclaim yourself as the true faith. You are fools. For you I await. To you Iam the enemy. You should fear me. For I shall haunt your actions, watch your undoing, I will destroy your bearings, your small faith. I will watch and laugh while you rip each others throat, for you deserve no mercy because you show none. There awaits no heaven for you, no nymphs in sensual cloths. There will await no Father on a throne with his divine son beside Him.

One of the ironies of your race is that you are totally oblivious to the truth in front of you. No matter how many prophets shout it down from roof tops, no matter how many new books are written, you will always remain true only to your nature- animal. I have seen the frustration in his face when he said about pearls at swine’s feet. You will not get it. No religion you practice is the true religion, you practice words of the dead, twisted beyond recognition, to suit your lower standards , your convenience, your base conscience.

You, the people of the Lie, are a doomed race. Know this , you have not known love if you have hate in your heart. You cannot be a believer and kill at the same time. Every action and thought you do in His name will be noted and will be evened out . Theres no rewards or punishment as you think ; theres only balancing. So each cruel act is met with a cruel act , kindness with kindness, eye for an eye is a cosmic law, but in your hand it becomes a cruel act. See the catch? Detachment is the key. To be in the act without a care for the result. Then you become gods.

Anyway, why waste time? We have a long way to go, you and I.

My little librarian.

Her belief in her faith. A faith based on such loose foundation. A faith she was born into, without any understanding had clung onto. That’s not a belief , it’s a habit. Every one of you will one day face a crisis, which will be your cross road. The choice you make , the action you adopt, the thought you have will define and change the remaining of your life. Whenever you stand at that cross road, you are not alone. I stand along with you.

Why go into details? When you are as ancient as Iam, you learn to see the signs. You start to see and appreciate the pattern. When a person is going to face a crisis , its an event which has been choreographed to such perfection by you. Every birth is to give you an opportunity to experience and learn. Every event is planned by you to shed the ignorance that surrounds you and become more like Him. The catch is, of course the freewill part : you can take the horse to the water but you can’t make it drink. So in the end , its all up to you.

This is where I have a problem. Like I said earlier, you are set to fail. You have no recollection of your being or source ( but then if you did, we wouldn’t be having this conversation), you are by nature like your Creator : fickle, arrogant and naive. Yes, we have our disagreements, but in the over all picture, I believe He should adopt a more hands on approach with you. I think you need a push once in a while. A small reality check. Me.

I repeat, I had nothing to do with her problems. Iam just a witness. Yes, I could have prevented it but Iam not inclined towards such actions; moreover it will be an invasion to your scheme of things. Her son had chosen a smaller life span, and wanted to pay back the karmic debt by being killed in an accident by a soul who has suffered a similar fate in the hands of him. A simple plan. Works for everybody. He had chosen this family to be born into for the lesson his death will give them. Win Win situation. This was the actual purpose. Observe how it plays out.

The school bus driver was having the worst morning in his life. His salary had not been paid for the last month by the school, because it was being adjusted against the advance he had taken for his vacation. Yesterday, he had received a letter from home, where his wife had lamented about the financial dire strait they are facing : his children's’ school fees, mother in law’s hospital expenses, the loan sharks. He had spend the night fretting . Clueless as to how to make both ends meet. His reaction was that of anger.

He reported for duty early morning as usual. Normally the preschoolers screams and shouts were music to his ears. He was a nice man, friendly, fatherly to the children and a good worker. Today everything irritated him. The rules of the school does not permit him to shout at his wards. So he was seething by the time he reached the school. On a normal day, he would have stood by the bus door, assisting the ayahs in carrying out each kid and doing a head count. But today was not an ordinary day.

He sat behind his wheel, defiant; glad for the moment of peace in his bus. He saw through his rear view mirror the ayah cradling a small girl in her arms and closing the door. He revered the engine, put it in reverse to pull out of the drive way and go for his breakfast.

Everything what happened after that occurred in seconds. Later, he will replay it in his head again and again like a dog chasing its tail.It will seem to him as if the time stood still and those seconds dragged on like hours.

He had released the clutch and reversed.The next instant he heard the ayah banging on the side of the bus with an open palm, shouting something. The sound startled him, he felt the bus tyre going over something soft, yet hard.

His blood froze when he heard the scream .

Win win situation.

Devil's Chronicles : Chapter 7

She sat down at her chair by the counter. She was aware of her rudeness to him. Somehow she didn’t care. A feeling of dread had engulfed her bringing on a wave of nausea.

She leaned forward on the counter , placed her head on the counter and closed her eyes.

She was startled by the ring of her mobile phone. She looked at the number. It was her husband.

Oh God, No…don’t let it be…please.’ Her mind wailed.

Her husband’s voice seemed to come from far off.

‘Hello, can you hear me?’

‘Yes’ she whispered.

‘Its our son. There was an accident in the school. They called me. Hes in the hospital . You go straight home. I will bring him there. ' He spoke in short sentences. She could make out the strain in his voice, trying to keep his emotions in check. Being a man. A scared man.

‘Is he ok?’ she asked. A chill took hold of her; she realized she was shivering.

‘I don’t know….they are not saying…they are not saying anything…’ he stopped. There was a lump in his throat, he could not talk, he gasped. Then he cried.

She heard her husband’s sobs over the phone and placed the mobile on the counter. She looked at it dispassionately. She could hear the mute voice of her husband asking if she was still there.

She tried to stand up, but her leg gave up underneath her. Her mind was racing,

Did you have the lunch I packed for you….or did you throw it like you do at home? What did you wear today? Was it the color dress day or the uniform day? God! I don’t remember. Why did I scream at him last night? I have been an awful mother…my poor baby…my poor baby. I would do anything to hold you now…my poor baby…I will never shout at you…you can have anything you want….just be there when I get back home….please be there when I get back…oh god, please let him be there when I get back home…

Devil's Chronicles : Chapter 6

We walked back to the library. She was still buried in her thoughts. She fished the keys out of her bag. Unlocked the door and stepped in. She turned around to face me , at the door way. I stood outside .The sun had come out of the clouds and was shinning upon me.

‘ Will you gone long?’ She asked. I was not being asked in.

‘ We will meet again. Theres a reason behind our meeting. I have sought you out.’

‘Are you one of Them? Like Jesus?’ She was looking down at her feet as she spoke. Her hand gripping the side of the door. The bell attached to the door rang its melody.

‘ No, Iam not like them. Iam on your side.’ That’s the closest I could come to revealing my true self.

She looked at me. I saw what she saw. An old man, with his white hair haloed by the sun, wearing a black cotton pants and a white linen half sleeves shirt. Harmless, vulnerable . I took the cotton handkerchief out of my packet and wiped my forehead clear of sweat. She was unmoved.

‘Goodbye.’ She closed the door behind her. I watched her while she switched on the light inside.

‘ Until we meet again’

If she had looked, she would have seen an old man walking in the middle of the road , enjoying the searing afternoon desert sun .

If she ran after me , overtook me and faced me, she would have seen that I was smiling.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Devil's Chronicles : Chapter 5

The sky was overcast when I stood outside the library that day.

He does have a dramatic way of showing his displeasure.

The bell hanging on top of the door tinkled as I walked in.

She looked up and smiled. There were few customers in various stages of browsing, buying and renting the books. I recognized all of them. I amused myself by evesdropping on their thoughts while I waited for the lunch hour to come. I walked to the autobiography section, leafed through some books. I find autobiographies interesting, not that I read much of it. In my existence I have learnt that all lives are heroic and every life is dramatic. Theres no such thing as an ordinary life.

She touched my shirt sleeve. I turned around . The library was empty. She had already switched off the lights . The keychain dangled from her hands.

“ Today’s lunch is on you” , she said , still smiling and looking right into my eyes.

‘Everything is on me today’ I replied, holding her gaze. Her smile faded.

We stepped out into the humid weather outside. I looked up at the dark clouds covering the sun, betraying the afternoon into appearing like dusk. She locked the shop and followed my gaze.

‘It seems a little surreal, don’t you think? Dark , hot afternoon.’

I didn’t comment; it was not expected.

We walked towards a nearby restaurant. The inside was cold due to the high blast of the central aircondition. We sat in a private corner in the family section. The waiter handed us the menu and stood at a discreet distance while we placed our order. A greek salad with extra helping of cheese and a glass of lemon mint for me and a plate of filfal with hommus and kobus for her.

I sipped the cold mineral water which the waiter had poured into a wine glass. We still had not spoken.

She was watching the level of the water being poured into her glass. Her eyes followed the waiter as he went towards the kitchen to place our order. She averted her eyes towards mine when she realized that I was watching her. She blushed as if I have caught her doing something embaressing. I smiled back.

‘ I will be gone for sometime’ I said, breaking the silence

‘Where? For how long?’

‘ Iam going home for a while. Have some business to attend to.’

She was quite until the waiter bought us our order. We ate in silence.

‘It was nice ; talking to you. Iam going to miss that.’ She said , her eyes on her food.

‘I enjoyed my afternoons with you too. We will meet again.’ I reached out to touch her hand. She held my wrinkled hands in hers. I gently pulled it out. No matter what people think, Iam not much of touchy feely kind of person.

‘ Lets forget that for a moment’, I said, clapping my hands together . The sound startled her to snap out of her reviere as was intended. ‘I do owe you an apology for getting you all worked up the last we spoke.’

She smiled, ‘We always seems to be apologizing to each other.’

‘That’s true.’

‘Who are you anyway? I don’t seem to know anything about you. I went through the registration form in the library and called the number you had listed there. It was not connecting.’

‘My my, Arent you being snoopy! Why did you want to get in touch with me? You could have asked for my number.’

‘No, it wasn’t like that. Yesterday, I could have sworn that you disappeared. Somehow it didn’t seem very real – all of it. The way you seem to bring out the worst in me or is it the best ? I don’t know anymore. I just wanted to call you. Kind of make it all real. That you existed.’

‘I exist. Do you find that hard to accept?’

She looked annoyed now. ‘This is the problem. Why can't I have a normal converstation with you? You take off on this philoshical babble. It tires me out. Theres a part of me which wants to snap at you and never see or speak to you again... and then; then theres this part which is very curious to find out what you can draw out of me , about what you are going to say next. Its all very strange to me.’

‘Why?’ I asked.

‘Well, for one thing Iam not that sort of a person. My life is quite simple. But now I feel a kind of anxiety. I question everything around me. I don’t know. I feel scared, as if all this is a prelude to something bad.’

It was . I don’t make anything happen. I cant. No one can. Everything is the cause of a series of actions and thoughts by the living entity. It serves my need to be available when an opportunity arrives.

I had been sitting back while she spoke. The waiter came and placed our order on the table, hovered around a bit and left us. There was a temporary silence. She broke the kubbos and dipped it in the hummos and inserted it to the left corner of her mouth and started chewing. I toyed with my salad.

‘Do you believe that theres a reason why people meet? That theres a purpose behind it?’ I asked. A cube of fetah cheese pierced by my fork found its way to my mouth.

She looked up; ‘Are you implying that theres a reason why we are having this talk?’

‘That’s exactly what I meant.’

‘Well, I can agree with that to some extent. I think we find a reason to justify the meeting. Like , now that Iam married to my husband, I can find numerous incidents which can look very extraordinary and coincidental ; as if the world was conspiring to put us together. But I do know so many people I have met in my life who have not added or subtracted from my life. Like my school friends and people I have met on the trains and buses , who I have spoken to , exchanged addresses with and never bothered keeping in touch with. So I think it all depends.’

I was not finding the salad very satisfying. I continued playing with it.

‘ Actually theres a reason in every interaction.' I said,' Infact you cannot in some way not be effected by any interaction. Even the interactions which you have discontinued would have changed or altered you in some way, like you have to them. Everything that you are today is the direct result of a lot of things, which includes these interactions.’

‘ What are the others?’she asked.

‘You are what you are today due to a lot of things: your genetics, your birth, even down to the location and date and time, to your choices, people you have met, haven’t met, what you have heard, what you have spoken, what you haven’t said, your thoughts, your ignorance and lots more’

I had given up on the salad. I took the tall glass of lemon mint and took a sip.

‘ That doesn’t sound like a reason.' She insisted,' Sounds more like a random mix of events and at the end of it you got you. How can that be considered purposeful? I do believe what you are saying , which is that , today is the end result of all the yesterdays. But I disagree with the part that one has control over how their life has turned out. You can say it’s the choices that I have made. That’s only one part of it. Iam of the opinion that life is a series of random events and one tries their best to stay a float in it.’

‘Maybe,' I said,' Maybe I can understand why you might think like that. If one day you could stand apart from yourself and see life as it is, you will realize that there is nothing random in this universe. You are exactly where you want to be, how you want to be. The day you can truly see that, is the day you will be in control of your destiny. Until then, I guess , its natural to think the way you do.’ I finished my little speech and finished the lemon mint in one gulp.

She was seething now.

‘Why do you talk down on me?' She asked,' As if you are the wisest thing that have ever crossed this planet. Do you realize how arrogant you sound? Do you see it?'

' Standing apart and seeing the life for what it is?' She imitated me pretty well,' Show me one person who has done it. This is the kind of pseudo intellectual crap that irritates me. Your answer to everything is based on something that no mortal being has experienced . Like a mirage.’ She was gasping for breath. The waiter was looking at our direction.

‘ Jesus.’ I said quietly.

‘What?’ she snapped .

‘You asked me to show you one person who has done it. Jesus. He had done it. So has several others. They were never the same after that. You will never be able to play the game once you know it’s a game. The rules changes as and when you want it. You shape your destiny.’

She was silent. I asked the waiter for the check.