Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Writer's Date [Short Fiction]

In spite of the dullness and modest interiors of Oakwood, a quaint restaurant neatly tucked in the inner roads of Chenaati hill city; it had been patronized by creative artists, particularly writers who visited the hill station looking for peace and tranquillity required to write that yet another best seller. It was very common to spot one of these creative geniuses, downing numerous cups of coffee while looking dazedly outside the glass windows that were tainted to provide an apt level of privacy.   One of the writers’ who had frequented this place had described Oakwood to be that secluded nest amidst the laidback Chenaati, to where a creative mind could migrate to, if it were to drown in a slumber of undisturbed day dreams that artists usually need to engage in. If Oakwood was that secluded nest then, Paul, the waiter was its chirpiest cuckoo.  Paul’s verbose nature along with his satirical humour made him a man with a quality to be charming and irritating, both at the same time.  Even his clean black suit with an audacious red bow tie, neatly trimmed handlebar moustache that curled at the ends, shiny boots and nose and well trained sophistication, didn’t conceal that it’s a very thin ice that needs to broken to make Paul speak his mind.  A casual, “Can you suggest something nice to order?” could dangerously divert the conversation.

It was a usual slow weekday afternoon at the Oakwood with just one customer.  The place was running on minimal staff due to the off-season. The tables missed the usual deal cards and the free bread trays that were served along with the salt, pepper, soy and Tabasco. A huge white board was displayed at the entrance trying to oversell a bunch of items that had been pre-cooked and were moving slow. A small bell hung at the entrance to announce the arrival of any customer to Paul and Deborah the only two waiters manning the restaurant. Deborah was to manage the odd numbered tables and Paul was to serve the customers occupying the even numbered tables.  

Mr. Vincent, a regular visitor who lived across the street stormed out of the restaurant angrily, “For once, mind your business - you moron!”

Deborah lifted the Beer Mug with a cigar floating in it while clearing the table and shot at Paul, “Oh you must be proud. There goes my twenty bucks! ”  

Paul retorted, “Damn right, I am proud Deb! I did him a favour. He had no right to be rude to me.”

“You just ordered a heart attack? How can you say something like that! Was that very polite?  The man lost his brother a week back, because, of a Heart Attack! Didn’t you hear the ambulance?  You owe me my tip of twenty!” Deborah Said.

“Had I not said that? You would hear the ambulance, again and oh! Don’t you worry about your twenty; I’ll give you a forty. Go file your dirty nails, wax your hairy legs and flash them to your date.”  Paul shouted back.
“After what you said now, oh yes! You do owe me a forty.” Deborah disappeared into the kitchen with the beer mug.

Paul dropped on his knees looking at the ceiling, “Oh Lord! I pray to you. Send in another customer before we kill each other.”

The bell at the entrance chimed and the door swung open. A pair of Louboutins strapped to the feet of long legs peeking through a slit of an elegant floral gown walked in. A small white bag hung near the elbow of the lady’s arm as she strutted into the restaurant like a life size Barbie. Her, Ken, Clovis followed her and gave a friendly smile as Paul stood up in a jiffy and greeted him, “Welcome Mr. Clovis! Didn’t know you were in town.  Writing another sequel, Sir?”

“It’s all the mercy of the Lord! The usual table please.” replied Clovis.

Paul bowed in acceptance and led the couple to a table by a window which looked onto a green park through the rain droplets that still lingered on the glass. Clovis checked with Claire, “Are you comfortable here, my dear?”

“Oh it’s lovely darling!” She crossed her legs and freed her hand of the bag, resting it on the chair beside her.

Clovis took the chair that was diagonal to his date. He preferred to look at his women from a forty five degree angle. It gave him a satisfaction of being in a position to capture every little micro expression.  After all he was a writer. There was nothing in his surrounding that wasn’t a part of his notes.

Deborah pretended to be busy in the kitchen and hoped that Paul would request her for help in assisting the couple.  The quarrel with Paul had killed her mood. She had a hot date in the evening and Paul’s comment about her had just reminded her about how unattractive she looked.

Paul cleared the menu after taking the order and walked towards Deborah who ignored his presence, “Oh common! Are you angry at me now? Great!” Deborah didn’t reply. She just turned her face away with a sudden spike in anger which occurs when one is confronted by the cause of the anger.

Much to her shock Paul walked straight to the writer’s table, “Excuse me, Mr. Clovis; you are man of wise words. You have written so much about women that gives me the trust that you are a fairly enlightened man when it comes to the other gender. I have a problem here with my dear lady friend. May I have the pleasure of discussing this with you?” Paul turned around sincerely and requested Claire, “Of course with your permission Ma’am. Oh! And who better than a woman to know another woman, please feel free contribute to Sir’s recommendations. Only if you don’t mind”

Clovis looked at Claire and responded to Paul after a gentle nod from her, “Go ahead Paul. I have known you enough to consider you my friend. But know one thing; we are all amateurs when it comes to the other gender.”

Paul took no time to ask his question, “So, if you were a friend of lady who is as ugly as a toad, is it fair of you to make a recommendation, which would make her look better?”

Clovis chuckled, “Not if you want to keep her as a friend. I wouldn’t recommend that.”

Paul looked Claire as if he waited for a response from her. But she gave none. He shot one glance towards the kitchen to catch Deborah watching them through the window screener.  He continued, “Say supposing there was a glaring ugly mistake that your beautiful lady here made, wouldn’t you correct her?”

Claire looked at Clovis as if this answer to this would determine the future of their dating. Clovis shifted in his chair and cleared his throat, “Hmmmm...” he breathed heavily before responding, “No!”

Claire raised her eyebrows and sharpened her gaze on Clovis. Paul quickly checked with her, “Is that something you would appreciate?”

Claire was quick to respond, “No. I’d like to be explained about something that I did wrong. I would value the honesty."

Clovis, “Value the honesty? I beg to differ, my dear. No woman has the stomach for honesty.”

“That’s because men are never completely honest with women. Why don’t you be honest with me about something now? We can test the theory right here.” Claire thumped her hand on the table.

Paul nodded in agreement. Clovis shifted uncomfortably in his chair, “I’ll do that only if you give me immunity.”
Claire replied, “Immunity for?”

Clovis bent forward and looked straight into her eyes, “Darling, I deeply admire and adore you. I definitely do not want this to blow it up for us. I need immunity that whatever I say next should never in the future or now be used by you as a reason to stop seeing me.”

Claire was determined to make a point, moreover she was sure his observations would be trivial, “Oh give it try. You have the immunity!”

Clovis stood up, pulled out the chair beside Claire and stood behind her with his hand on her shoulders, “Here you go.  Your breath smells of cabbage at times, and, at those times it is very hard to come near you. You legs are too long, and your Louboutins drill holes into my feet if I am not careful. Your house is like a pig sty which is ironical because you are so spic and span otherwise, like how you wipe your mouth every time you take a bite. Sometimes I just observe these little personality riddles, and it inspires me build fictitious characters. I do love these flaws”

Claire’s eyes widened and her face turned deep red, “You love my flaws?” She picked her bag up and stormed towards the door and turned around, “Oh Paul! I stand corrected. Go apologise to your lady friend about your boorish, inconsiderate honestly and Mr. Clovis, please don’t dare and come to my pig sty to convince me.”

Clovis ran towards her, “Oh Claire! Dear, I told you no women, can stomach honesty.” He held the door with his foot and watched his date walk away, “I’ll call you in a week’s time dear.”  Once she disappeared into the crowd he walked back into the restaurant and glared at Paul. Deborah rushed from the kitchen and walked towards Paul with her hands on her waist.

Paul stood there grinning, “You really didn’t think I could pull that off did you?” Clovis broke into laughter and patted Paul’s back, “With the confidence with which you accepted my proposal, I had no doubt you would! I’ve been trying so hard to break up with her. That gives me just that guilt free time and material I need to finish my story!”  He pulled out a handsome amount of cash, pushed it in Paul’s breast pocket and walked towards the door.

A shocked Deborah watched Paul count his cash.

“Thank you Mr. Clovis! May I know what your story is about?” asked Paul.

Clovis smiled, “Oh Paul! You won’t be able to stomach the truth. Now go apologise to your lady.” He pointed toward Deborah and walked out.

A year later Clovis released his third book which was a collection of short stories titled, “20 Breakup Dishes” centred on goofy waiters’ whose conversations unknowingly lead to twenty couples breaking up. The thank you note read as follows,

“Thank you, my darling Claire for patiently accompanying me to twenty different restaurants, for enacting out the scenes from my imagination and giving me the opportunity to obtain live material from the oblivious waiters who played along beautifully.

Special thanks to the handpicked waiters who have always intrigued me with their personalities. This book is dedicated to you.”  
Written as apart of Captured Writings

Monday, June 17, 2013

That Day [Poem]

That 'that day', was the most wonderful day
That day, I had smiled probably my most
That day, ‘he’ and me were deliciously close
That day, a warm Sunday, we had indulged with chocolate and pie
That day, we had walked our dog, under the rainbow sky
That day, I had wondered, “Could this be the best I’d lived to see?”
That day, I had believed there was no better place where I could be.
That day, when  the sun  had finally drowned, 
That day, had become that 'better place' where, 
I could always be.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

An Evening Conversation [Short Poem]

Every evening is a conversation,
Sun’s retiring talk with a dear tree
“I’ll come in the morn looking for you!
I’ll knock on the doors of darkness with a request  
To let my rays caress with love, your gentle leaves
As they swing with joy, with hope, to see another dawn
Waiting for me to bring that dawn to you
I’ll come, but promise, that you will not let...
The black dusk swallow it all up - every time I am gone.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Intervals of longing [Poem]
There are these intervals,
Intervals that appear out of nowhere,
Intervals that
suddenly fill in the gaps

Gaps, between those minuscule measures of time,
that never made their presence felt ever before ,
Gaps that are now, eternal moments of longing

Longing to feel your warmth,
Longing to touch your face,
to let each of my heartbeat become
a witness of your presence,

Because somewhere away.. you too are caught,
aught in
the same longing that those intervals bring,
Caught in those intervals that appear out of nowhere.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Pensive Mood [Poem]

In a pensive mood she stands, staring at the blank walls
There is so much on her mind,
Do not disturb her,
As she entangles herself in intricate thoughts
As the clock strikes twelve,
She watches the second hand move,
From one melancholic day into another
Will this day be any different? She wonders
Will the hollow fill itself as the minutes pass?
Or will she be stuck even today,
Without knowing the difference in the present and the past


Friday, April 5, 2013

Coca-Cola [Short Fiction]

I run through the news channels impatiently to know the proceedings of a court case in relation to the verdict of a drug selling racket in India. It’s been nine years since this case -this case that shook an entire nation and changed my whole life. The report that might be on the judge’s desk right now has my name and a whole lot of papers that support my identity as a journalist assistant from Norway who has contributed significantly to the investigations. I could have been inside the court today waiting for a life imprisonment or crueller verdict- but no, I am here -sitting in my home in front of the television as a completely different person. Isn’t that what I had asked for in return for my favour?

Over these years my hair has turned from black to grey. I am now a middle aged woman working with a government bank and my name is Agnes Brekke. I have two children, a husband and none of them know anything about my connection with the biggest Norwegian drug import to the Indian sub continent in the 1990s. 

I had been to India with my then boyfriend in the February of 1991.I had befriended him through a university exercise on cultural journalism.  He used to work with a magazine that published articles on various civilizations and life in different countries across different continents. Each student was assigned a journalist. And I had thanked my stars when I was assigned to the green eyed, unusually handsome man, Ethan. Ethan was in his mid thirties, usually dressed in his typical khakis and linen shirts. He had sported a beard that made him look intellectual. We continued seeing each other even long after I had graduated from my college and was interning with a local newspaper. Over my seventeen months of courtship with this man I never had a single moment of discomfort. Had the situation in India been little different I would have even sworn on my life that this man was innocent. I had really thought I knew everything about him. He had been travelling a lot around that time for different assignments in Africa, Canada and Cuba. So, when he mentioned that his magazine can sponsor an assistant for his new assignment in India – “Indian Fisherman-Their life at the borders” I jumped at the opportunity.  I was to realise much later that this single decision was going to throw me spiralling down into the dark underworld of India and had it not been one opportune moment I would be there today in the Indian court listed as one of the accused facing potential life imprisonment in a foreign land.

Breaking news: Ethan Aspen, the Norwegian journalist to serve life imprisonment over drug import and peddling charges in a nine year old case”

I am not sure if it is Ethan who is being walked out of the court into a police van. His face is covered with a bag. He looks much thinner, weaker and older.  The news channel displays the quick facts about the case for the viewers. 

·         Ethan Aspen – a Norwegian journalist assisted seven major drug imports into the Indian subcontinent. 

·        The Nether dope was stuffed into waterproofed and gas filled barrels underneath cargo ships. These barrels would be dropped at a specific location by letting the gas out before the cargos reached the port. These barrels would then be picked up by an Indian fisherman who would coordinate the whole activity by a local drug peddler.  Ethan interacted with these fishermen on the account of article coverage for a Norwegian Magazine and passed on critical information about the import. He communicated the Nether Dope sea hide spot destinations to random drug dealers operating through small unnoticeable retail kiosks only identifiable by a specific pattern of coca-cola advertisements painted in a coded fashion on their walls.  The peddlers would in turn get in touch with the fishermen. Over 17 such outlets on Indian Highways were shutdown and the owners were prosecuted in connection with the most intelligent drug scandal. The information communicated was usually the nautical miles into the sea from the border and address of the fishermen who would assist in fishing out the Nether Dope barrels from the sea hide spots.  He had aided three such imports from South Goa, Gokarna and Kovalam before the CBI was tipped off by an internal resource of the Norwegian Govt. Over 1500kgs of raw Nether – Dope was collected from various spots along the Indian Border during the course of the investigation.Af ter long drawn political and underworld conspiracy Ethan is finally sentenced for life along with 13 other key accused. 

After this summary they flash a photo of him at an outlet with coco cola painted on its walls. And highlight the coca- cola ads to display the pattern. I shiver because I was sitting right there about four feet away from Ethan when this shot was taken.  I look at a photograph I had pulled out just hours ago.  A photograph of me resting my head on a board painted with the coca-cola logo.  A photograph that was the logical extension of the area photographed in the image that was being shown in the news.  I light a cigarette to calm my nerves and continue to watch the news as the sweat drenches my t-shirt.  I switch to multiple news channels covering the same news- they all show the same photograph, display the same pieces of information and like the first channel they too don’t mention a Linda Schwartz in association with this case.  The photograph on my table fails to appear in the news. I let out a sigh of relief and switch off the television.  My body is still shaking with disbelief.  I light one more cigarette and draw the smoke deep in till every inch of my lung is filled with it. I breathe the smoke out slowly realising for the first time that my worst nightmare is over.  I flip the photograph on my table. It reads

Name: Agnes Brekke
Norwegian Govt. Internal Resource ID: 8080NGZP
Cover: Linda Schwartz
Cover Profession: Assistant Journalist
Case ID: INDNDPO190383

My real identity had been made my cover and a new identity had been given to me.   

The End

Friday, March 29, 2013

Astrology Disturbance [Non - Fiction]

Have you ever had that moment when your eyes slowly drift to the Astrology section and you tell yourself it’s a childish sneak peak and you obviously don’t believe in astrology? If yes, this post is for you.

“Don’t have intense discussions with your spouse.” 

“Stick to your guns. You will find a new job. A sibling will cause trouble.” 

“Good inflow of cash.”

“Control your expenses”

Oh! That’s like somebody is closely observing my life. “A New job” really? I haven’t yet applied but may be they will just call me in to join from tomorrow. 

Now can you finish reading the astrology section with the prediction made just for you your sign? What’s the fun if you don’t read the prediction for the sign of your Spouse/Family/Friend?
And so the mix and match of predictions give you some meaningful input about how your day is going to be- more like a weather forecast that may or may not be true.

I read through the profile of a famous astrologer who claims to combine the principles of Vedic and Western astrology, I-Ching, Tarot, Numerology, the Kabalah and even Palmistry. The right combination of these principles enables him to make highly accurate and relevant predictions. Moreover, naturally gifted with a spectacular intuitive prowess, he listens to and relies on his inner voice, and seeks Lord's blessings to foresee and predict.

Please note – inner voice. 

I mean who is this person who is taking it upon himself to predict the days of every living being on the planet?  And prediction- mind you is only the first step- the real juicy nugget is the cure. The cure is supposed to provide relief for the problems in one’s predicted life. Of course before that you will only have to shell out a few thousands in a personal special prediction to understand that you will earn very little in your life. Well, that’s a nice guess that has a good probability of being correct! If you have the money to spend on astrology boy you are going to be out of cash. And this man/woman who looks at you intensely sells you a ponzi scheme. “Spend Rs40,000 on this pooja and mind you it will be specially performed for you with silver idols and your income will increase.”  

Shall you fall for it... This very person will add a new dynamic little later. “Oh you just had a kid who was born in the 10th house with Rahu. Your income is got to be affected. But we can negate it.” 

By now if you are furrowing your eyebrows thinking.. not all astrologers are bad. Not all of them demand money. Agreed, but one thing they do is- all of them predict. We have seen doctors- who at times after clearing all the scans say – I cannot diagnose what you have. But every astrologer.. will predict.  There is never  a case where he/she will say- “my inner voice is silent today and zup! I have nothing for you.”

For the discussion sake lets say all astrologers do predict. Now I bring in the concept of interference. Astrology  Astrological corrections interfere with our lives. Yes, they do.  I am a strong supporter of a belief – “Everything happens for a reason”. So I can’t help but feel that the pooja’s and astrological corrections are making alterations to my future without completely understanding that they are spoiling a much bigger plan. What if my life has a bigger plan which an astrologer cannot fit into his/her checklist of good life. Imagine somebody would have looked at Gandhi’s kundli and said, “Lot of fame. But a life full of struggle and a tragic end.” None of this is false but it leaves a lot unsaid. The suffering was voluntary, was done to meet a purpose and brought lot of inner peace (probably).  Now if some poojas’ were to be performed on reducing this “Struggle” and had these poojas’ been effective as claimed... The person wouldn’t have lived his destined life. See how much potential the God has put in his life and an astrologer did a pooja and interfered with a plan beyond the scope of his understanding.

Our life is written or described in a crazy language which all the astrologers claim to know. In fact all of them are mere interpreters of the messages.  Like some poem written in Persian when translated to English not only misses its true poetic essence but also loses the originally intended meaning astrology too provides a description of the predicted life from the biased and skewed mind of the man/woman who is playing the role of the interpreter. Even if you find an expert you cannot reproduce the thought of the poet.

We are the beings whose poetry of life is written each day through multiple things touching our lives. Why ruin it for a poor translation? Be a part of the bigger plan. Do what your inner voice asks you to do.
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