Flights and Fields


A sophisticated, well dressed gentleman in his checkered shirt sat next to me on an international flight. When we first got talking, he seemed like a regular IT guy from Bangalore, on his way to an onsite project. He was a little sad about leaving his wife and two year old daughter behind, a little nervous about finding his way around on foreign soil and a little excited about the project he was going to work on. He showed me some pictures of his daughter. She was gorgeous. He was to spend her birthday with random strangers on a plane, heading towards an unknown horizon, looking longingly at other children her age.

He hailed from a small town in interior Karnataka. He moved to Bangalore a few years ago for work and left behind his home, parents and the life that a small town had promised. But what surprised me was his distaste for Bangalore. That was the least interesting bit.

I understood quickly that it wasn’t Bangalore that he disliked. It was the lack of small town facilities, small town benefits, the fields, the streets, everything. What he said, with pain brimming his brown eyes, was the love for everything agrarian. He spoke nostalgically about the land his family owned, about how his father toiled in the fields till recently until his health started to deteriorate and how they had leased the land to a relative who hasn’t tended to it the way his father did.

Between announcements from the cabin crew and packeted hot meals, I thought a story was unfolding in front of me. Of a man, who looked ordinary and was going to soon land on foreign soil but spoke of extraordinary attachment to his small town on rustic Indian soil.

A little while before we went our separate ways, I asked him a simple question. And his answer seemed very profound to me. I asked, “So, what next, after your project in the US?” He said, “I don’t know immediately. But in 5 years from now, I will be a farmer.” The well dressed gentleman in his checkered shirt sitting next to me said he will be a farmer. He did not say “he wants to be”. He said “he will be”. I have not heard such conviction in anybody’s plan about what they want to do.

I’m so glad the well dressed gentleman in his checkered shirt, who I thought was the average Indian guy, aspiring for the big American dream, sat next to me. Not only was he an engaging conversationalist, but also happened to be the first aspiring farmer I know.

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Originally published on The Anonymous Writer-


The Wise Window


I think it would be right to call the window a wise window. For it had seen many tales unfold, many long nights, many weary sighs, many secret meetings. Hundreds of people shared a brief slice of their otherwise chaotic lives with others who were not much like themselves. The window stood testimony.

In one such story, the wise window played a crucial role. Now, whether to call it a romantic one or a mysterious one, is your call. But here’s the story that the wise window told me. It was a cold and wet day. One which warranted extra cups of hot water that sold under the garb of coffee or tea. There was the usual clamour of random folks thrown together for a journey, the hawkers and vendors shouting out, hoping to make a lean profit. And by the said wise window, sat a quiet girl- Aparna. Clad in a simple maroon kurta and jeans, she wore big black rimmed glasses. What the window passively witnessed, the girl actively avoided eye contact with- the chaotic scene unfolding in a compartment of the Charminar Express, passengers scrambling to fasten their luggage, the din of the overhead announcements and loud wails of fussy toddlers. She burrowed herself in a book, lost in mysterious verses of a far away land. Nobody could say for sure what she was reading as the book was neatly covered in an old calendar paper. On the back of the book, a note was scribbled in pencil- Property of Aparna. Ask before you can read.

Across from her, by the other window, sat a young man- Rishi. He sipped his piping hot coffee and pretended to be engrossed in his phone. Aunties and uncles bustled about, dragging suitcases and handbags. An old woman sat on the floor, with her basket of jasmine flowers by her side. As he got up to trash the tea cup, Rishi could not help but notice Aparna and her book, tucked away in a far corner of the seat. When he came back, she looked up from her engrossing book and smiled at him. He smiled back. Ice was broken and they made polite conversation. After a few minutes, he could not control himself any longer. He just had to know. He asked her what she was reading. She opened the cover and held it out to him- Rebecca. He was a fan of Daphne Du Maurier too, but had not read Rebecca yet. He liked what he saw- a girl that loved books deeply enough to cover them, a girl who read beyond the popular genre of Chetan Bhagat and the likes.

For a while they talked about books, authors, travel and places. The compartment had quietened to a great extent and the aunties and uncles looked ready to retire to bed. As is almost always the case, two aunties were allotted upper berths and they had either knee or back problems. The uncles said they’d be really grateful if the youngsters could exchange their lower berths for the upper ones, which were closer to the fans, the aunties added. They didn’t have to try too hard. Aparna readily agreed and Rishi followed suit. Soon the lights went out and dull snores in varying rhythms could be heard. Aparna turned on the light by her headrest and continued to read. She knew Rishi was only pretending to be busy with the phone again. He probably would have liked to talk some more. Girls could always sense such things.

When he tried to call out and start a conversation, one of the aunties got up to go to the bathroom. She cheekily told him to take a break and save some conversation for the morning. If he blushed, Aparna could not see it in the dimly lit compartment. She giggled and said goodnight. For a while, he was quiet and watched her from under his sheets. She was a great conversationalist and he was smitten. He wished he had the courage to ask her for her number. All he knew was her name and that they were both heading in the same direction. He forgot to ask her where she was getting off, which didn’t work in his favour at all. Let her read Daphne’s acclaimed work now, but in the morning, he was going to ask her where she was headed and in his trademark gentlemanly manner, seek her permission to call her sometime to just say hello and perhaps discuss books over a cup of coffee. He could not wait for morning.

A railway guard shook him awake. They had reached their final destination and all passengers were to get off. He realised he had overslept and the compartment was almost empty. All the aunties and uncles had left too. Who got off where, he had no idea. Vaguely, he asked the guard if he saw a spectacled girl in a maroon kurta getting off at this station. The guard eyed him suspiciously as if he was being a lecherous fellow ogling at co passengers. Rishi quickly averted his gaze and jumped down. He found his shoes and gathered his belongings. In an almost obsessive compulsive force of habit, he turned to switch off the fans before leaving the train. As he reached for the switchboard, he noticed a little piece of paper fluttering on the window latch. He released the paper from the wise window’s hold. There was a number scribbled in pencil and a smiley followed by a bold and slanting A. It reminded him of the bold and slanting R on the cover page of Rebecca. He smiled broadly and did a little jig in the empty compartment, much to the surprise of the railway guard.

When he looked at the piece of paper again, he noticed there were only eight digits. It was not a landline, for it did not begin with a 2. The eighth digit was followed by two tiny dots. Ah! Aparna loved mystery as much as Rishi did. There probably will be 99 calls to wrong numbers. But he knew one of them was going to reach the right phone. And when it did, he was positive there was going to be a coffee and some discussion of books sometime in the future. Near future.

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Originally published on The Anonymous Writer-

Innocent Ambitions


In some ways today was just like all other days. The sun shone brightly through the gaping hole on the wall they called a window. A faint little melody drifted from the kitchen. A song danced on mother’s lips. That was very unusual.

Bunty sprung out of his mat on the floor. He scrubbed his face, rinsed his mouth, finished his morning business and reached the kitchen. The usual plate of dry bread and a glass of fresh goat milk waited for him. He gulped them down and hugged his mother. She was positively beaming. He wondered why, but did not wait to ask. It was time again to chase the flag.

Several weeks ago, Bunty had spotted a group of foreign looking tourists climbing the slope on which his little house stood. But they were so far above him that he had to squint to see them against the glaring sun. As he had strained his little eyes, he had seen one man from the group stick something in the ground- a flag. Ever since that day, he’s been trying to reach there to find out what flag that was.

He filled his water-bag and kissed his mother on her dimpled cheek. He ran out behind his house and set off on his little expedition.

For the first twenty minutes or so, he almost never paused. He sprinted up the hilly terrain as if it were a smooth road. As it got steeper, he found that the going got tougher.

When he paused at his favorite boulder for a sip of water, another boy came along from a less trodden path. It was buried behind dense bushes, almost not visible to the naked eye. The boy said his name was Billu. Smiles were exchanged and some pleasantries followed. What better to do on a no-school day than to climb a hillside, they agreed.

Together from the boulder point, two boys scampered upwards with renewed energy. With many tales to exchange between them, covering a span of a little over a decade, they kept talking almost non-stop

Between collecting feathers and smooth shiny pebbles, catching fish in the little stream to talking about their favorite goats, the boys had much to say, even more to listen, and didn’t even stop by the scary looking ‘monster tree’, as Bunty called it, for a second water break.

When Billu slowed down, Bunty would tease him into a race and when Bunty slowed down, Billu would return the favour enthusiastically.

All this climbing, talking and the excitement of making a new friend slowly made the boys very hungry. They didn’t carry anything with them except water and when they stopped again, they decided it was best to make this attempt another time. Perhaps they could try to reach the flag together on the next no-school day.

When they turned around them, the sight was beautiful. There was something magical about the valleys around them. The air was perhaps a little crisper, or the wind just a little chilly or the sunshine a little warmer. Whatever it was, it definitely was magical.

As the duo looked down at the trail that brought them to this stupendously mesmerizing spot, they had the biggest surprise of their lives. Both of them rubbed their eyes a couple of times to make sure they really were seeing it right.

As they almost ran down the slope in glee, just about managing to not slip on the gravel and roll down the rest of the way, the boys saw the little flag fluttering far below them. They reached it and caught their breath; their eyes shone at the white dove on the flag. In all their excitement, they had crossed their milestone and did not even realize it.

A few hours later, that night when Bunty went to bed on his mat, he gazed at the half moon through the window and smiled to himself. Indeed, he was right that morning, in having felt something was very unusual about that day. He made a new friend, reached his little flag and pushed himself harder than he ever had. He remembered the highlight of the day- after a few animated moments when they celebrated their victory, albeit delayed celebrations, two pairs of eager little eyes looked upward for another flag to chase. The excited eyes spotted some remains of an old wall farther up from the flag.

Their calendar was marked for the next no-school day.

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Of Tombstones and Epitaphs


What would you like to be written on your tombstone?

A few days ago, my friend asked this question to a group of brilliant writers and word wizards. Some of them came up with beautiful profound quotes. Yet others chose to be buried alive and not have a tombstone at all. In my culture, I wouldn’t have a tombstone. I’d be cremated, which means nobody will ever know I walked on the face of the earth. There would be no stone that read my name, no wooden casket five feet and four inches long will have to bear my weight. Perhaps a few people will remember me and talk about me to a few others but over time, the few will become very few and dwindle to a handful and then to nobody.

But, if I had a tombstone and could pick my own epitaph, it would probably read- “The girl who lived because she wrote; the girl who wrote for herself.”

Then I wonder if that would work. I like to imagine there is a huge oak tree a few feet away from my grave. Will somebody really come to visit me? Will somebody sit on the bench under the big oak tree? Will they be lost in reminiscence- of the person I was or the person I was not? Will they remember the stories I wrote? Will they be told to young children? Will the tales live after I’m gone? Perhaps, I should have left them where people would find them easily- on my table or the book shelf, instead of hiding them between the pages of books that nobody will ever touch.

Maybe it will not matter where I left the stories. Maybe they were never meant to see the light. I will probably be reduced to what meets the naked eye. A slightly chubby girl who never did master the art of cooking or keeping house, or folding the laundry like the dry-cleaners would. Perhaps, that is what onlookers will tell the man who is to engrave the epitaph. ‘The girl who had to grow up too soon and didn’t quite master the use of a ladle or a broom. Like someone else.’ There is always someone else who cooks better. And I am not she; I know I will never be she. But nobody cares that I don’t want to be she.

If I had to describe me, I’d call myself a story teller, a dreamer, an aspiring writer, a thinker. If I could truly bring about one change to mankind, it would be to get people to look beyond the surface. I am chubby, an uninhibited extrovert and a lousy cook. But I’d like to think I’m more than that. So are you. You could be a lousy ad-maker, but a fantastic teacher or a chess wizard or a gifted hair stylist. And that is what should define you. We should all be given the right to write our epitaphs, because nobody else will ever know all the layers that dance under the surface of our skin. Unless you decide to leave your life an open book and remember to leave the book on the table.

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The Perfect Face


He opened the latched doors. Behind them lay his most coveted possessions. Yet, was rendered useless by the world in which he lived. As he stood in the middle of the room, he looked around him. About thirty pairs of beautiful eyes looked back at him. Each of them had layers of emotion. Some throbbed with a longing, some danced with mysterious joy, yet others looked at him coyly. He had not dared to paint beyond the eyes.

Every chance he got, he came to this room that he considered a shrine, and he painted. He painted pairs of eyes. Beautiful pairs of eyes. He did not see anything else in those vivid dreams of his. Just eyes. And they spoke to him like no human did. They told him stories and engaged him in conversations. That is why he started to paint them, to remember the magic they wove in his sleep. To remind him that they are more than just a recurring set of dreams.

Today, he stood in front of yet another brilliant effort of his, the best he had ever done. And suddenly, on impulse, he gave it a nose. Now, that was something. A sharp pointy nose. He didn’t know why he painted that nose. Or why it carried a single sparkling diamond stone. He certainly did not understand what possessed him to paint the prettiest lips on that face. It was a beautiful pair of ruby red slightly pouty lips. But what made them extraordinary was the ghost of a smile.

He paused to look at that face. He had never seen anything so pretty. For a fleeting moment, he was proud- that he had created the perfect face ever, albeit on canvas. His hands swiftly made some bold strokes and gave life to simple yet assertive eyebrows and put on a pair of modest ears that carried large pretentious earrings. He stood back to admire his own work. She was perfect. Wherever he stood in the room, she looked just perfect.
The following week, he found an advertisement in the paper, seeking paintings from amateurs for an art exhibition.

He was sure she stood a chance at being hung on a wall, men and women would ogle her face, admire her mystery and gaze at her eyes. Just as he expected, she adorned the exhibition wall very soon. He sat in a far corner, observing people who looked at his perfect muse. One gentleman stood for longer than others. He seemed perplexed, overjoyed and absolutely surprised.

The onlooker sought the gallery owner and asked to see the creator of the painting. The owner pointed him towards the far corner from where the onlooker was being observed. He took quick long strides and was beside the painter in a few seconds. He shook hands vigorously and said he’d like to buy the painting and was willing to pay a very handsome price for it. The painter was taken aback. How could he sell her? She was not for sale. She hung there to tease people. To tell them they can look at her but she can never belong to them. This man was mighty audacious!

Breaking into his train of thoughts, the man asked the painter how he knew his fiancé. The painter knew he was a hoax. For as much as he wanted her for himself, he knew she only presented herself in dreamland. But when he saw the onlooker open his wallet and take out a picture, it was as if the painter was getting teased. This girl existed! But he had never seen her in life. And yet, it felt like he knew every inch of her face like it was the back of his palm. That perfect face did not belong to him, then. Not even when he brought it to life on canvas.

The painter signed some papers and held his cheque in hand. He didn’t notice that the 4 was followed by six zeros. He had to get away from there. Away from her. He was back in his room, staring at the beautiful eyes around him. He could not believe she was not here. He spread a new sheet of canvas and inked a brown pair of alluring eyes. As if his hand had a life of its own, it proceeded to give the pair of eyes, a pretty nose. No diamond this time.

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Super Short Stories- 8

With this serving, I am 20 tales shy of a century! Very many thanks to everybody who has spared their time to read my tales and give feedback. This is getting a little cliched, perhaps. But I cannot skip the thank you note! I would love to try and attempt tales on suggestions from readers, friends and family. After you are done reading this post, I’d be happy to get suggestions/ topics/ words for me to attempt more tales. Do drop a note if you have the time 🙂 Thanks in advance!

Everybody wished for the same thing
‘May you be blesed with little Krishna’
After hours of blinding pain and labour
God finally listened to me-
I was blesed with the most precious daughter.

He loved his boss’ home
It was a cozy little brick house
Something he had always wanted
When he saw the little wooden swing
Out in the garden, his heart fluttered
As the hostess came to greet him
A long lost conversation echoed
In his confused muddled head-
“We’ll have a little brick house
With a wooden swing in the garden”

At the age of forty six
Your little hands led me to the temple
Down by the riverbed
Years after you’ve moved away
I still sit by the temple pillar
I can hear you in the ring of the bell
And sense you in the soft white sands.

She loved to go fishing with dad
He always hauled a big catch
She’d slip behind him sneakily
And drop the slippery fish back in the water
A few feet away her mom stood smiling
She had taught her daughter well.
|Save a life|

Cardigans, winter coats and sweaters
Every brand label hung on hangers
But it was the moth-eaten, hand woven
Musty old green quilt that kept him warm
His mother gifted it to him
On his sixth birthday.
|Non brand|

Among the jewelry and clothes
The many paintings and vases
She found an unaddressed envolope
Four line suddenly outweighed
All other presents put together
The anonymous writer perfectly knew
What she’d want for her birthday!
|The anonymous writer|

She traveled far and wide
Met many friends and family
Her gaze seemed empty, though
And her ssmile distant and lost
But when she put pen to paper
The life in her flowed out
Beautifully into little words.

She’d been told a lie all the time
‘You’re plain’, they told her for years
She knew she was rare-
Mysterious, mythical and magical
When the artist surprised her
With a unicorn tattoo on her ankle.

I winced in pain and agony
But I didn’t cry out loud
I guess I’d have to bleed red
For those armed men to care
Or perhaps they won’t even then.
|Tree stump|

She dusted their home
Changed their sheets
Washed their toilets
Earned ten rupees
Her wage left by the door
Gandhi sighed when she held
The tattered note in her blistered hands.

Super Short Stories- 7

Hello once again! I am super excited to share with you the seventh serving of Super Short Stories. All of them have been penned during travel. Literally penned. I got myself a little scribble pad and found myself a lucky ball point pen 🙂

Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to read the little tales. Am just thirty away!! <Come, dance with me in celebration!> 😀

I knew it was going to be short lived
When I held you tight in my embrace
I aw the life run out of you
And one fine moment you said your last
I’ve since found many of your kind
Yet none just like you.
|Ball point pen|

In all the six years they’d been married
Neither uttered a syllable to the other
Yet they said ‘I love you’ everyday
Four eyes danced to a song of their own
Words of which they never could mouth.
|Mute love|

I found you out of the blue
There on the road you started
Your curvy scintillating trail
Our torrid affair sprung forth
For miles I was hooked
And just as suddenly as you began
You stopped short and were gone!
|Rain on the road|

She didn’t take his surname
Or change her faith to his
But she was his arms and feet
His voice and his very being
When he got paralyzed
For four decades now
They have been tho bodies
Sharing one soul.

He built for her a beautiful home
With many doorways and towers
His toddler sister though,
Destroyed it in a matter of seconds
With her own hands and feet.
|Sand castles|

You would call it love at first sight
From beginning to end I glanced quickly
I must have eyed you a dozen times at most
Yet you charmed your way into my heart
Without going on a date
Or even having a conversation!
|Fictional love|

The green elephant stood out
Against the glowing purple sun
Stray streaks of pink and blue
Looked like her signature
Scrawled in perfect randomness
The two year old artist
Had just finished her masterpiece.

You kept me a prisoner
Ashamed of my drooling mouth
And unpredictable mood swings
I was neither to be seen
Nor heard
What you could not take away
My absolute freedom from me
What I thought in my head-
You could never chain that.

For years he and I fought
He finally tunneled his way
Into your beautiful heart
But today you are destined
To sing my praises all day
While I stand playing a flute
And you sit at my feet.
|Meerabai role-play|

Twenty two years after college
When we met at today’s reunion
I was overjoyed to see
You’d saved a seat for me
Like you used to, so many years ago!
|Save a seat|

Hoping to serve the next round before the end of another fortnight. I’m loving this! 🙂 Do take care and be well!