Friday, December 17, 2010

Jimmy

Inspiration for me has been the biggest motivation. I once read a story that inspired me so much that I had to write a tribute to it, the story below titled Jimmy is a tribute to 'Mohiniattam' a story by The Fool.

A piece of land by the road side, a field once but now a playground, a green blanket of grass for the cows of the village sit touching the compound walls of Muthanna’s home.
A retired forest officer Muthanna was once the king of the jungle that spread across kilometers of land surrounding Bagamandala. Two well built forest guards always by his side, his trusty gun in his tight grip, the neatly ironed bright green uniform covering his wide frame, a thick moustache symbolizing his pride, watching Muthanna walk the streets of Bagamandala fascinated me.

Muthanna was a man who could send a shiver down anyone’s spine with just one glare, the tigers in the mountains, the elephants in the jungle roamed in fear of Muthanna, I always imagined.
One summer when I was ten, postman Ponappa had told me the story of Muthanna slaying a tiger with his bare hands.
"He encountered the beast on his way back to the forest office from his routine inspection, the animal had gone rogue with attempts of killing humans. Muthanna got out of his jeep stared at the tiger, he pulled out his gun and threw it down on the ground and said “I will give you a fair fight at life. He pounced on the tiger bringing it down with several blows. He took a nail from one of its claws as a trophy and hung it around his neck with a gold chain and walked away without a scratch."

After Ponappa left that day, inspired by Muthanna’s courage I had spent many a days walking around our small estate in search of a worthy contender to battle and spent glorious hours holding a small bug looking at it and saying
“I will give you a fair fight at life.”

Muthanna now retired spent much of his time staying indoors or working in his small coffee farm. A contrast to his glorious past, wearing a dhoti and a white mud covered vest, walked around his farm with a stick in his hand. His wife Kamalamma a school teacher at the Government middle school had a few years before she retired as well. Devoid of kids and no relatives close by, their time was mostly spent with just the two fighting or alone by themselves.
Muthanna having lost all his power, his gun and his kingdom had gotten crankier with each passing year. Every single act of his wife irritated him; the salt never seemed to be enough in the food and the sugar always too much in the coffee. She could try hard but could hardly meet his expectations, she was forbidden from the garden which he maintained with utmost care.
“My plants will die if they look at your face.” He always shouted at his wife.
His wife having to deal with his temper spent a lot of her time praying to lord Bagandeshwara for relief from her irritated husband.

Everyone feared Muthanna, anything could tick him off and nobody wanted to come in his way of furry. His trips to the market always ended with him shouting and threatening to kill one or two. Shopkeepers on seeing him on the streets would jump into a prayer hoping he would not enter their shop.
His smiles had faded, the lines on his forehead increased, stubble on his chin and an aging body, Muthanna was no more the man the jungle beasts had once feared.

Along with his wife the children in the playground by his house also faced the wrath of his anger almost everyday. Although having lost several of their cricket balls to Muthanna the kids still took their chance by coming to the ground every evening.
The sight of the playing kids angered Muthanna, their speeding cricket balls could damage his well groomed coffee plants, dirty his white washed compound wall or break the glass of his windows. A stick in his hand ready to whack any kid who dare enter the compounds of his house, he sat on his door steps sipping his evening coffee but keeping a watchful eye on the kids playing in the ground every evening.

Gowri a four year old dog had littered at the corner of the ground about three months back and three grown up puppies roamed the ground in playful mood. One of the three always strayed away from his mother to find his way to Muthanna’s compound.
Jet black shiny coat covering his body, a white patch on his chest, white on his two front paws making him look like he were wearing a pair of gloves and a small white patch at the end of his black tail like a jasmine blooming from the end of a branch, ‘Jimmy’ he was affectionately called by the boys in the play ground.
Kamalamma on a few occasions had fed the dog a piece of dosa which tempted him to walk towards the compound wall. She had once mentioned of bringing home Jimmy, but Muthanna was in no mood to listen to her demands. He had walked out of the room leaving her alone and heart broken.

Everyday morning standing near the compound wall Jimmy would wait for a while for a piece of dosa. Never had he once wandered in the evening, the boys playing in the ground gave me enough attention to keep him occupied. But one evening he dared to enter the compound walls of Muthanna’s house.
Sitting and sipping his evening coffee Muthanna almost missed the dog enter his expanse. Jimmy walked up to him and barked with affection, startled by the sudden shrill noise Muthanna reached for his cane and without a second thought chased away the dog swinging the cane furiously in the air. Jimmy in fear ran away but he was a excited too of the action that had his heart racing faster.

The next evening he walked up to Muthanna again and the same treatment stood waiting for him. A few days passed but his determination didn’t fail, is it the biscuit in my hand or the smell of my coffee, Muthanna couldn’t point a finger at the dog’s attempt to come back to him every evening.
Jimmy like every evening for the past 10 days walked up to Muthanna one day, dark clouds had filled up the blue sky the sun was forced to disappeared behind a dark cloud that roared in furry, soft gray light covered Bagamandala, thunder and a lighting passed by every minute warning of the heavy rains about to lash on the sleepy village. Muthanna looked at the dog, he stood surprised staring at his wagging tail and his energetic bark. Panting with his tongue rolled out he sat erect on his four legs looking at Muthanna with sparkling eyes and no sign of fear.
Muthanna curious, picked up a piece of biscuit and threw it in the air, Jimmy jumped and caught it before it could land on the ground. Excited by his lightning-quick reaction Muthanna threw another piece at the dog, and this time he jumped even higher in the air to catch it.
Realizing that he was holding the empty coffee glass all this time and had run out of biscuits, he walked into the kitchen to wash his glass. Standing by a cement sink he washed the glass and turned around to get a piece of biscuit. Surprised he stood looking at Jimmy who had followed him in. The dog looked at him with his ears bent, a tilt in his head and his eyes fixed at him.

The clouds in the sky roared and the children in the ground shouted with joy when the first drops of rain hit the ground. Muthanna reached down to the dog and smiled.
He petted him for a few minutes before giving him another piece of biscuit.
“Jimmy you want another one?” he asked the dog.
Jimmy barked in response to earn another piece of biscuit.
They walked out to the front yard, a drizzle of rain welcomed them both. Jimmy jumped out on the ground with his mouth wide open at the sky, running around in circles trying to catch the drops of rain in his mouth. Muthanna stood for a few minutes smiling and watching him, not in any mood to control him self he joined Jimmy, running behind him trying to catch him. Excited, Jimmy joined in the game of ‘catch’ with Muthanna and ran around faster. The walls of the compound, the air in the front yard, his dear coffee plants and the cold iron gates all heard the sound of Muthanna’s laughter for the first time in many years.

Kamalamma running back from school was surpised to hear the sound of laughter echoing of her compounds walls, she reached the gate and stood shocked looking at her husband laughing and running behind a dog. Her prayers were finally answered, in shock she stood but a smile took birth on her face, her brow relaxed from the tension it covered, her shoulders felt light as she watched her husband smile.
She stood there quite not wanting the moment to end, fearing her presence might anger her husband.
Muthanna realizing his wife’s entry stopped his game and looked at her with a smile, he smiled at her and called Jimmy at once. Kamalamma could hardly remember the last time Muthanna had smiled. She smiled at him and stood looking at the two play as tears rolled down her cheeks.
Jimmy tore away from Muthanna and ran towards her. He pushed at her leg with his nose and nibbled on her toe calling for her attention. She bent down and placed a kiss on his forehead, he barked at her excited.
Muthanna walked up to her and smiled
"I will make some coffee for you come lets go in before it starts to rain heavy."
Kamalamma had never imagined such a day would come in her life. The dark clouds in her life seemed to have parted away and the smile of the bright sun glowed on her face.

As they walked into the house they stopped and turned to see Jimmy following them in, Muthanna bent down patted his head and smiled at him. He was about to go in when a cricket ball bounced into the compound, terrified kids lined up near the gate with no hope of getting their ball back.
Tossing the ball in the air and catching it, Muthanna walked up to them, following him close stood Jimmy looking at the kids.
He threw the ball back to the kids and said
“I will give you all a fair fight at life.”

Not understanding what he had said but happy to have the ball back the kids ran shouting out in joy. The clouds rumbled and a steady fall of rain touched the ground.
Muthanna smiled and stood at the gate watching the kids run back into the streets leading to the market as lights on the streets lit up and slowly walked out the cloudy evening welcoming the moon lit night.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Good Bye


This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 13; the thirteenth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.



"I am sorry Mr. Ragavan, but we have tried our level best." the doctor patted my shoulder, as I sat hiding my face with my hand.
"I suggest you spend the night with her, we really can't predict the night ahead." he walked away leaving me alone with my tears that rolled down my cheeks.

I sat there for a few minutes with wet eyes, the time spent with her over the last 35 years flashed in a series of colourful images in my head.
I looked at the empty corridors of the hospital, the cold metal chairs, each of them have a story of misery to tell, I thought for a moment.
I pushed myself off the chair with all the strength I had and walked into the room.

The squeak of the door opening, woke her up, her hands were stretched along her body. Tubes with pins poked into her skin, she lay on the bed with a calm expression on her face. I walked across the room to close the window and ward off the cold breeze that crept in. Her tired eyes looked at me as I walked up to her, a hint of smile seemed to play on her face as I reached closer to her. I sat by her side finding it hard to control my tears, she looked at me, with the little strength she had, she lifted her palm and tried to pat mine. An effort to comfort me from the thoughts of losing her. The tears gushed out of my eyes as I saw her trying to make me feel better even at this physical state.
I bent down and kissed her forehead, she seemed to push herself close to me to say
"Don't worry Raaghu, nothing will happen. You just stay by my side tonight."
I kissed her again and replied "I am always by your side Lakshmi."
"I want to sit up a little." she requested.

I held her and helped her sit up with her back resting against a pillow. As I helped her, I looked at her finding it hard to accept that once a strong women now lay on the bed finding it hard to sit up. I held her for a second more making her feel comfortable of my support, I placed my palm softly on top of hers and sat looking at it in silence for a few minutes.

"Final good bye." she broke the silence with her soft voice finding it hard to breathe.
"Please don't say such things." I spoke out at once.
She smiled and tried to hold my fingers with hers, looking at them she spoke
"Do you remember our first good bye."
"How can I forget." I held her hand a little firm.
"Those magical days I remember them like it was yesterday...


"Ragavan you are late again, our student has not been able to use the typewriter for the last one hour. Can you please check?"

I was a typewriter mechanic and you a student. Although we lived in the small town of Madikeri, I had never seen you before that day. You sat on the stool with your head down writing something in your hand book. Not looking up even for a second as I walked up to you. I opened up the typewriter and you just moved away a little.

"You remember?" I asked her with a teasing smile
She smiled back, "I didn't feel the need to look at the mechanic" she spoke softly trying to tease me back.
"This smile Lakshmi, 35 years have passed but it has the same effect on me."
"That day, I can never forget that smile...

I kept trying to look at your face but your eyes had it down not interested to look towards me.
Finally you turned, those jet black eyes, soft cheeks with a blanket of a pink glow over them, curls that fell elegantly over your shoulder and then came those two, those soft lips parting into the most beautiful smile I had ever seen. I think I stood silent for minutes just looking at you type.

"I had to tell you a hundred times the typewriter was okay, but you still insisted on staying near it."
"Near you." I patted her palm and smiled.

I finally walked away but kept turning back to see if you would smile at me one more time, I had reached almost the door and was about to step out when you looked up, waved Goodbye and smiled at me one more time.

"I remember I reached my cycle and jumped in the air with my fist held up high excited that you smiled at me."
She looked at me, I held her palm and we both broke into soft laughs trying to re-live the past moments of sheer joy.

"Nikhil is at home?" she asked with her soft voice.
"Yes, I asked him to take Arnav home, he has school tomorrow morning."
She nodded and sat silent for a minute looking at the blanket that covered her pale body.

"School. You remember Nikhil's first day at school." she asked me trying to pull herself up a little
"Oh yes, he could never say Goodbye to you." I replied helping her sit up.
"The crying, the words...



"Amma promise amma, I will go from tomorrow." he pleaded with you.

Plump, fair boy, those same black eyes of yours, red cheeks that tempted everyone to kiss them. A green cap and a napkin pinned to his...
what was it, a superman t-shirt?
That Mickey mouse bag on his soft shoulders and big fat tears in his eyes.
He just wouldn't leave you, the teacher literally dragged him away and he came running out of the class to you crying,
"Amma promise amma, I will go from tomorrow."
The teacher then lifted him off to the class room and shut the door and I had to pull you away from the window.

"Four hours I tried to console you but your tears wouldn't stop." I patted her palm
"I felt like I was breaking a piece of my heart away." she replied looking into my eyes.

I smiled away
"You remember, the airport when he was flying away to The States for higher studies."

He had walked into the Check-in counter, we were supposed to leave but you insisted on staying for a few more minutes. You stood there like you had near that window on his first day of school, and suddenly he came running out of the Check-In counter to you, hugged you and said
"Amma promise amma, I will go from tomorrow."

We both broke into soft laughs as she spoke
"He then said Good bye and I stood there waving to him with tears in my eyes but a smile on my face."

"Arnav is exactly like Nikhil" she concluded.
"His birthday is next month, he was asking if we'll buy him a red car."
She smiled and spoke
"His birthday...

The day we saw him on his first birthday when we went to visit them in Bangalore. Nikhil walked up to us and put him in my arms, those big eyes looking straight at us, trying to recognize us, those soft cheeks as fair as milk, that small nose and pink lips. He was a prince, the cutest baby. His tiny fingers and his small hands trying to hold your finger and Nikhil, he was so happy.
Arnav, the last five years he has added new energy to our lives.


"You buy him a red car tomorrow Raaghu, and tell him its from me. I may not be here next mon..."
"Please lakshmi" I cut her before she could complete her sentence.
She smiled,
"Raaghu as I sit here and think back at the last 35 years, the time spent, the laughs, the smiles, the tears that flowed. All the images that flash before my eyes, I see you by my side sharing them all with me." she spoke with a smile on her face but her eyes full.
"Lakshmi, Lakshmi" I kissed her forehead finding it hard to control my own overflowing emotions.

"Raaghu I don't know what will happen tomorrow, tonight might be my final Goodbye. I want you by my side." she tried to lean on me.
I pushed myself to her side and allowed her head to rest on my shoulder and spoke
"I am going no where Lakshmi, I am by your side. You take rest, we'll talk tomorrow morning. Nothing will happen Lakshmi." I kissed her head.

She smiled a little and lifted her head to look at me.
I got up and helped her back to sleep on the bed, I sat by her side with my palm holding hers.

"Raaghu thank you." she spoke softly
"What for?" I asked a little surprised.
"For making my life a beautiful one. If I leave tonight I bid Goodbye to all with a smile on my face but you all remember to send me off with one on your face. I have lived a very happy life Raaghu." she smiled
"Lakshmi, nothing will happen." I bent down and kissed her forehead still trying to console and conceal myself from the harsh truth that stood in front of me.
"Smile for me once, please Raaghu."
I looked at her and smiled, bent down and kissed her cheeks.
"Sleep now Lakshmi, take rest please."
She closed her eyes with a smile on her face. I got up from the bed and switched off the lights. Darkness engulfed the room for a minute, but the full moon light finding its way in through the glass window pushed out the darkness.
I walked back to the bed and sat there for an hour looking at her face in the pale blue light.

Till date she has looked the most beautiful to me, not a single moment could I think of feeling sad or depressed, she was always there by my side consoling me back to my happy self.

Looking at her lying on the bed, a moment of helplessness hit me, desperate i felt. She lay in pain, nothing could I do but just watch time take her away from me with each passing minute. Tears rushed down my eyes and I held her hand tight. A strong gush of sadness hit me and I suddenly felt empty like I had lost everything in life.
I looked at her face, she lay in front of me with a hint of a smile and no sign of pain on her face.
With trembling hands I tried to feel her pulse but found none. I wanted to shout out and cry in pain but her last words played in my head.
I called out for the doctor, but sat there holding her hand knowing that she had left us all.
I looked at her, bent down and placed one last kiss on her forehead and sat by her side with her last words echoing in my head but tears rolling down my cheeks.

The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Stars of Bagamandala

"Chetimani, Chetimani, come quickly." the conductor shouted.

"Bagamandala 8 Kms" read the mile stone.


"Bagamandala" the voice sang out in my head. I was going back to my roots, to my village, after a long gap of 10 years.


Bagamandala, a small village in the far end of Coorg district is the place I spent most of my childhood with my grandparents.

Tall green mountains in the background, sparkling waters of river Kaveri cutting across, green paddy fields on one side of the road and rich coffee plantations on the other. I often tell my friends in Bangalore how Mother Nature has been too kind to the people of Bagamandala.


I lowered the window, and immediately a strong gush of cold wind hurried in and slid into my shirt. It seemed to hug me, the chill that it left felt familiar; it whisked past my ear and seemed to whisper

"Welcome back home."


The bus stop in front of the Bhagandeshwara temple forms the centre of the village. A road runs to its right and turns into a stretch of small shops, coffee curing works, few houses and a small hotel.


I got down from the bus and started to walk, I turned around constantly to see if I could spot a familiar face.


On reaching my grandparents house, I stood silent, lost in time looking at the house, not a brick seemed to have changed place since I had last visited.


A small iron gate opened into the front yard, where sat the Tulsi plant decked with flowers and a few incense sticks, surrounded by lush green plants with colorful flowers smiling, a few coffee plants that bordered the compound wall and overlooking them stood strong a mango tree.


"Sidhartha" a voice called me from behind.


I turned around to see an old man pushing his bicycle towards me, the khaki uniform and the letters in his worn out bag reminded me that it was Postman Ponappa.

"Siddhartha, look at you how tall you have grown." he patted my back.

"Do you remember me." he asked with a heartfelt smile and care in his eyes hidden behind those smudged thick glasses.

"How can I forget you anna, how can I forget those letters you brought to me."

"You remember." he smiled

"Look at you, you have grown taller than your father. I remember when you were seven or eight..." he took me back in time.


Postman Ponappa is the only postman to have served the village for more than 30 years. He would often come home to deliver letters or register posts. Once when he had found me bored and restless, counting days to go back to my friends in Bangalore, he had introduced me to letters and into my life walked in names that I had fondly called ‘Pen-Pals’.

Addresses with black and white photos found in Tinkle comics became my friends. One in the Middle East, two in Europe. I would sit looking at the road, waiting for Ponappa to come riding on his cycle with my letters.


I would run into my room, sit at the table and feel like a grown up to have received a letter addressed exclusively to me. The next two days were often spent in writing back a reply, getting up from my desk only to ask Ajja a few spellings or requesting for his copy of the dictionary.


"Ajja must be waiting go on in, I will come later. You have to tell me everything about Bangalore." he smiled and walked away pushing his old cycle.


I bent down and touched my grandfather's feet, ajji stood near the table wiping away a tear filled with joy. I hugged her, she pulled me down and kissed me on my forehead.

"Look at him Radho, he has grown taller than me." ajja spoke with pride in his voice.

Ajji affectionately brushed my hair and spoke

"Go take a bath, I will keep break-fast ready."


Hot steaming idly with cocunut chutney sat still on the banana leaf waiting for me. Seeing Ajji holding a jar of 'Midi Opinkai' (mango pickle) brought an instant smile on my face.

Steaming hot coffee in a dented steel cup added extra joy to my break-fast.

I sat on the floor cross legged. The break-fast slipped past in world politics, Kannada authors, Bangalore and a few times ajji forcing more idly onto my leaf.


The hands of the clock had come together to welcome a new afternoon. I looked out of the window. The mighty Sun struggled hard to break free from the thick clouds that had covered it, the fog had cleared and now visible was the majestic mountain that sat facing the village center, a pleasant chill filled the air, the road invited me out for a stroll.


"Going out for a walk, will be back in half an hour." I shouted out

"Don't forget to take the 'Kodae' " ajji shouted back.


I entered the road bare handed, walked along the line of shops, the smell of coffee from the curing works at the end of the street filled the air, Kaveri Darshini, the only hotel in Bagamandala was packed with tourists. I walked further ahead and stopped at "Aghora Provision Stores".

Rajanna stood across the counter handing out a pack of beedi to a costumer. He looked to have changed a little, slightly on the fatter side but people often preferred to call it prosperity than fat.


"Mathe Rajanna vishasha?" (So Rajanna, what’s new at your end?)

"Siddhartha!" he let out a loud cry.


‘When, what and how’ covered the next ten minutes. He invited me into the store and forced me on his chair while he sat on a pile of rice sacks.


Rajanna had once visited Bangalore five years back. He left the store to his younger brother and landed in Bangalore with bags on his shoulders and a dream in his eyes. A desire to live in the big city, a strange fascination for Bangalore pulled him to the city.

I will never forget that day I ran into him.


I parked my bike outside an abandoned bus stop and ran under it to take shelter from the heavy rain that lashed with no mercy. A human like figure sat crouched with his head hiding between his legs. A soft sob was all I could hear, but when the sob turned into a cry. I walked up to the guy, patted his shoulder and was about to talk to him when he jumped to a side, turned to me and shouted out with trembling folded hands,


"Sir, I don't have anything. Please don't hit me sir." he pleaded with tears flowing from his fear filled eyes onto his dirt laden cheeks.


It took me a few minutes to realize it was Rajanna, robbed off all his belongings, no food for three days, beaten up by cops, chased by dogs, he roamed the streets of Bangalore not knowing where to go. The people, the traffic, the smoke filled air had choked him into a shock.

He hugged me tight outside a restaurant after our lunch and cried on my shoulder for one last time.


I waved good-bye to him at the bus stop the next day, I stood there for a few minutes reminding myself of the promise made to him; his story would stay a safe secret with me for the rest of my life.


"Please come home for lunch." he held my hands and requested me getting up from the pile of sack he was sitting on.


"Tomorrow for sure, today I have to visit the temple." I slid away.


Bhagandeshwara temple built in the 16th century by architects and masons from Kerala, had a huge open air corridor that ran around the main temple complex.


The speciality of the temple was that the idol of lord Bhangandeshwara is taken around in procession thrice a day, accompanied with dhol, 'chande' (a type of drum) and 'Valaga' (a type of Shehnai).


Rama Shastri a vetran pojari of the temple had the honor of carrying lord Bhagandeshwara on his head. As a young kid I looked at him with awe, his concentration, his strength amazed me. I would almost everyday tell my grandmother that I wanted to grow up to be like Rama Shastri.


Rama Shastri is a kind hearted man but is also famous for his volcano like anger. When walking on the streets, people seeing Rama Shastri approaching them would step aside immediately, bend a little and and wish him with folded hands. With one hand holding a bronze tumbler filled with water from the river and the other swinging swiftly by his side, he would walk past the people nodding his head and not stopping for a second to exchange pleasantries.


On one of those lucky days when huge groups of tourists entering the temple coincided with the idol procession, Rama Shastri would walk briskly with both his hands swinging by his sides and balancing the heavy idol on his head. He would suddenly jump, hop on one leg but manage to keep the idol stable on his head. A loud gasp followed by an expression of pure surprise often played on the tourists' face. I would look at all of them with a proud smile on my face.

I would try to keep pace with him swinging my hands to match his action but also manage to keep a safe distance from him. On reaching the main door of the temple he would stop, with folded hands he would shout out


"Bhaganda Bhaganda Bhagandeshwara." I always thought that his shouts were so loud that it would compel Lord Shiva to look down and smile at Rama Shastri.


It was almost two when I walked back home. I silently made my way to the bed room, and fell asleep on the soft mattress.

I was rudely awakened two hours later by voices coming from the living room. I pulled myself up from the bed and walked into the living room to hear ajja say


"His son was never interested; he is now an American citizen. He will not come back. Now all the secrets, all the knowledge will burn to ashes with him."

"It is a sad day, we have lost a great soul." Rama Shastri shook his head.

On seeing me walk into the room, Ajja turned to me and broke the news immediately

"Karei Gadhae Chikayya is no more."


I stood silent trying to picture him in my head. The last time I had heard about him was when ajja and called me up two years ago to tell me Karei Gadhae Chikayya had turned 80.


Karei Gadhae Chikayya or often addressed to as Ayya was a brilliant man. He was a dear friend of Ajja and an excellent doctor in his own right. He was a genius at identifying the medicinal qualities of a plant, an art, a science that was not documented anywhere but was passed on from generations from father to son.


People from around 20 nearby villages visited him for remedies and advice on their health problems. He never said 'No' and treated them all for free. Nobody had ever seen him frown or sulk, he was often heard saying "I have a hundred problems in life but my lips don't know them, they just smile."

"His son will reach by tomorrow afternoon." one of our neighbors entered the room.

"Last month I had called him and had warned him of Ayya's deteriorating health." Ajja fumed.

"Ayya died without getting to see his son or his grand daughter's face. Could there be a greater curse." Rama Shastri lamented.

"The bus is here." An other guy entered the room.


I stood silent with folded hands looking at the stream of people who had arrived to pay their respect to Ayya. Almost three hundred had arrived and more were expected, I walked into the veranda to see Ayya's body surrounded by his family. Tears made their way down their cheeks, people sobbed finding it hard to accept the loss. I bent down to touch Ayya's feet, a calm expression with the hint of a smile looked to have settled on his face.

"He was adamant, never agreed to visit a hospital." an old man shared with a group of people.

"He never wanted the English medicine in his blood." another from the group spoke.

"Ayya, ayya, ayya." a man ran to his body crying like a child, few tried to pull him away from the body.


The affection, the honest tears, the genuine sadness around me, made me feel proud of Ayya. So many people he had touched, a life of absolute brilliance he had led.


I turned away from the people and stood looking at his farm, I had spent many a days playing on the trees, hiding away from the neem juice Ayya wanted me to drink.


I walked away from the house and entered the farm.

Cardamom plants along with coffee filled the 20 acre area. Various vegetables and a few trees like the jack fruit, mango, sapota (chiku), and areca nut stood scattered in the farm. The centre was filled with medicinal plants that had a special place in the farm and in his heart.


Almost every summer that I had spent in Bagamandala he had brought me a special jack fruit from his farm. On seeing him walking towards our house, I would run towards Ajji singing

"Chikayya bandhru, halasu thandhru." (Chikayya is coming, jack fruit he is brining)


The sun had dived into the horizon, darkness slowly started to engulf the area. I sat under a jack fruit tree and looked up at the tree; small unripe fruits filled the tree. I lay down with both my arms folded behind my head. The clouds parted ways and out came a full moon. Stars bright and dull appeared to fill the dark empty sky. The silence that surrounded the place felt peaceful, I closed my eyes for a minute and memories of Ayya and my summers spent in Bagamandala flooded my head.


I opened my eyes, a bright star to my right caught my attention, the star looked new to the sky, it sparkled and seemed to smile at me.

I smiled at the star and said to myself

"That has to be Ayya, the brightest star of Bagamandala."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Orphan

To people who are new to 55 Fiction. It is a genre of fiction writing using only 55 words. A story with only 55 words in it.

Here is my third offering in this genre titled 'Orphan'


Lying naked on the bed she looked at him, they had kissed, fondled; he had forced love onto her. She never smiled nor was she shy. Happiness had travelled miles from her. Orphaned she lay beside him.

There was a knock on the door; she knew there stood another lover waiting to buy her.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Stories from the Kal Bench

Touching the Sky


Far away from the bustling traffic of Bangalore, deep in the heart of Nandini Layout, sat a huge piece of land which was cut into two by a green fence. On one side lay lush green grass with well grown bushes strategically planted on them. A small board stood between them all, threatening people “Stay away from the grass.”


Around it ran a wide cement path, on it were a few benches parked beside well grown trees; which acted as resting points to the walkers and joggers who thronged the place. Beside the lush green lawn, within the circular pathway was a small clearing which served as the laughter club’s workout arena. Retired fathers and in service homemakers tried to laugh away their frowns every evening.


The other part of the land was a stark contrast, with light brown ground, loose mud, no hint of grass anywhere; it wore the look of barren. Most of its mornings and evenings were spent hosting numerous cricket matches, the afternoons though was mostly in company of the hot sun, the light breeze and the occasional rain.


Both the pieces of land had in common, the people and their laughs and watching it all, across the road sat silent in the company of a tree whose name nobody knew, our Kal Bench.


Ashwin and me were first to arrive, we sat waiting for the other two to join us. Now 17, all of us had spent most of our evenings on the Kal bench. Sharing our heart breaks, rejoicing each other’s success, exchanging amma made sweets, resting after hard fought cricket matches and on those rare lonely courageous late nights sharing a cigarette. Kal bench our adda stood witness to many our emotions from our normal middle class life.

"Where is Pradeepa?" Krishna joined us excited.

Ashwin and I both looked towards the empty road mumbling "He'll be here in a minute."

The three of us sat waiting with curiosity for Pradeepa to come join us. Pradeepa had acquired almost star status by becoming the first guy among the people we knew to have traveled in an aero plane. His father's Ltc had covered their family trip to Mumbai.

Metallic golden Top Gear cycle skid to a forced halt.

"Oh Pradeepa" we welcomed him.

Well combed hair wearing a faded red t-shirt and a proud smile, Pradeepa walked up to us and stood facing the bench.

"How was the trip?"

"Which aero plane?"

"How many hours did it take?"

We pounded him with questions.

"Oh it was beautiful." he punched the air softly

"Jet and it took almost 1hour and some twenty-thirty minutes." he spoke like it meant nothing to him. Just brushing dirt off his shoulder.

But we hung onto to his words amazed.

"Tell us everything in detail." Krishna commanded

"Oh you want the details, uh?" Pradeepa started out

"The journey has no words; the experience was better than I had imagined. First we sat in our seats..."

"Was there a cute girl in the seat beside yours?" Ashwin interrupted.

"No maga some uncle sat next to me." Pradeepa lamented.

"Continue" Krishna gestured with his hands.

"So then three air hostess walked in and stood in the passage between the two rows of seats. They started explaining things but it looked like they were doing P.T exercises. But I tell you, each one was more beautiful than the other, and I couldn't decide who was the most pretty..."

"Were they like sexy-beautiful or beautiful-beautiful?" Ashwin cut him again with his unique terms.

"They were beautiful loafer." I hit him softly on his head.

"Yes they were beautiful Ashwin, now continuing. We all strapped our seat belts, the plane hit the run way, a few seconds and it was off the ground. It took off at some 200 or 250 kms speed, full high speed. First it was like full inclined." he explained with his outstretched palm. "Then it slowly became straight"

"I removed my belt and looked out of the window. We passed over the clouds, all I could see the was the blue everywhere. I looked down and the roads looked like thin lines and the vehicles were almost invisible, the buildings mere dots."


We listened patiently to everything he said, opening our mouths only to utter a soft "wow".


"Twenty minutes later, they announced, 'It is now safe to remove the seat belts.' I had like removed them five minutes into the flight. What safe, bloody." he let out a soft laugh, and we smiled trying to imagine, what would have happened if they had found out he had removed the seat belt before the announcement.


'They can't throw him out or stop the flight, it’s not a bus. May be they would have shouted at him.' I thought to myself.


"The captain then welcomed us and told the height at which the plane was flying and the temperature outside. The temperature outside was some -30 degrees. I thought to myself, if the door blows open no need to worry about the parachute, we'll freeze to death in seconds anyway." Pradeepa laughed out and we joined him with a soft clap.

"Was there free food, chocolates?" Krishna asked interested

"Oh Pepsi, the air hostess served me Pepsi."

"Lucky bastard." Ashwin let out his feelings loud

"Oh free Pepsi!" Krishna spoke confirming the theory that free stuff be it small or big is always welcomed with joy.

"Not just that Ashwin, she also smiled at me like six times. Not just a smile, a beautiful smile." Pradeepa patted on Ashwin's shoulder with a teasing grin.

"Was the smile like sexy-beautiful or beautiful-beautiful?" Krishna mocked Ashwin, bringing an instant wave of laughter.

"Ha ha, very funny." Ashwin tried to take the high ground.

"She even gave her address to pass it on to you Ashwin." I tried to join in.

"Ya, but Siddharth stole it from me." Pradeepa betrayed me.

"Bloody perv, Sid" Ashwin tried to trip me in further.

"Look who is talking." the three of us blurted out.

"I'll tell you all something, but I am quite sure you'll not believe it." Pradeepa spoke with confidence.

"No we'll believe you, come on maga." we tried justifying feeling a little offended.

"Guess who I met on the flight?"

"I don't know." I gave up without a try

"Karishma Kapoor." Ashwin grinned.

"Close but not very close." Pradeepa motivated.

"We give up." Krishna spoke on behalf of us.

"Hrithik Roshan." he spoke to our surprise.

"Hrithik Roshan." Krishna repeated out loud


Kaho Na Pyar Hai had released couple months back and Hrithik Roshan was our new Demi God. He had taken up most of our wall space and stood frozen alongside Madhuri Dixit, Kajol, Karishma and Sachin. All of us behind closed door secretly tried copying his dance moves but ended up with only a sprained ankle.


"Did you talk to him? Did you get his autograph, photo?" were all we cared.

"No maga, he was sitting in the front end. Surrounded by his people, we were not allowed near him." Pradeepa spoke dejected.

"Hey but you got to see him." Krishna tried to lift the spirits.

"Hrithik Roshan." Ashwin repeated his name a couple times and shook his head in disbelief.


Our conversation suddenly stopped on seeing Shilpa jog towards us. Soft fingers clenched into a fist, sparkling eyes which looked to have a star studded in them, pink glow on her cheeks, straight silky hair tied into a pony, she was the one that would make anyone look up to the heaven and say "Job well done". She ran past us as if we didn't exist in her world. None of us had the guts to walk up to her and talk to her.


We sat there looking at her run away, like we had for the last one year.


Silence engulfed us for a few minutes; minutes were spent deep in thought and some in imagination. I turned away trying to bring myself back to the reality.


The Sun clearly tired of all the travelling around the sky had now silently slid into the horizon. The sky a soft orange and red now was slowly turning grey. The thunder of laughs from the park was heard no more, joggers and walkers made their way out of the park and onto the road.


Most of the cricket matches had reached a fighting finish, kids walked back to their homes with some still swinging their bats' in air. Some lamenting their choice of play in the lost match walked with slow pace, shaking their heads.


"Pradeepa" his younger sister came looking for him.

He ran up to her to enquire her visit.


The three of us sat silent looking at the people walking out of the park. Our heads suddenly turned skywards on hearing a loud sound. A white dot with wings darted across the grey sky; we looked at it with just one single thought in our head,


"When will I get to touch the sky?"

------------------------------------------------------------------


Story dedicated to those insignificant nothings, those ordinary moments of life whose beauty most of us have turned blind to. Those evenings spent with friends discussing anything but important.


Glossary

Maga: A Kannada slang equivalent to "dude".

Kal Bench: A mixture of Kannada and English words meaning a "Stone bench".