Sunday, August 12, 2012

Revival

Blog's been shifted to: http://unusuallyuntitled.wordpress.com/

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Smiley's arrival

It's morning. The shadow of the construct overhead looms over the city. We can't say it's cut off all light, but it's there; translucent, shimmering, but an ominous reminder that someone from outer space has come to say more than hello. 
It's like watching District 9 with 3D glasses, except this alien ship looks a lot more sophisticated; sort of like the difference between Bond's gadgets and Smart's. And philosophers will probably say it looked predatory. They might as well be right.
But life goes on; if there's one thing we humans are good at, it's convincing ourselves of what we want to see and hear. But you can see it; out of the corners of their eye, when they think no one is watching, their face turns up, and they stare at the hovering circle, somewhere in the sky. It could be right above us; it could be in space; it looks both too close and too far at the same time. 
Science fiction authors have called it everything from humanity's saviour, to the herald of its destruction; they call it a monitor, a harbinger. They call it Smiley. From where we see it, it's possible to make out the outlines of two circles on the translucent surface; everyone's still searching for the big grin. 
But there's nothing. Smiley continues to watch. And wait.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Reminder

 Told from the POV of several characters. It's an experiment. I'll leave you to figure out who's narrating what. The main character is the budding artist. But he's not the only one narrating.
*****
I looked up from where I lay. The smoking barrel in his hands seemed happier now, that its purpose in life was complete.
The strange thing about a gunshot is the realness of it. The starkness of the bullet's intrusion into your body. Even with the pain aside, there's something about the small metallic cylinder that just feels wrong. When you're dying, and you know it, passing out from blood loss is probably a mercy.
*
Sunday morning. One of my favourite parts of the week. I usually either sleep or I go out. Today was a going-out kind of day, so I left home to get to the beach.
The beach is my refuge. When cool sea air mixes with beer and sand and a couple of burgers, then there's this heady sense of euphoria that settles on you like a blanket and refuses to go away. I lay in the sand, dead to the world, feeling fuller than my stomach.
*
It's the impact. You can tell that someone shot you from the impact.
Of course you know that someone's going to shoot you. But until the bullet actually penetrates, you still hold out this sliver of hope that someone will be a good samaritan and do something about the gun. It rarely happens anywhere outside the movies. People are just too jaded, or just apathetic.
I saw her get there, with the man, running into the alley. She was young. Younger than I'd have liked. Perhaps as old as my sister, but still younger than me.
*
Another thing I like about the beach is the women. There's plenty of eye candy. I like to sketch that eye candy. I didn't spend three years in Art School being a borderline geek. I can sketch and paint almost anything under the sun. I wasn't a Picasso, but I wasn't half bad either.
This was a weekly occurence. I'd come to the beach, hang out for a while and sketch whatever I liked. I had a ton of books sitting at home, full of these sketches that my friends tried to publish for me.
I hadn't let them. It seemed wrong, somehow. Those sketches were parts of other peoples' memories, part of their lives, done without their consent.. but then, that makes me a pervert, I guess.
*
I didn't think she would fire.
Hell, I didn't think there were even any bullets in the bloody gun. 'Jenny, sit down. You've had a shock.. I'll call the police.' She had these little gloves on, pink and frilly. I hadn't asked why. I had a stab of suspicion, though... if you followed conventional detective operas, then gloves didn't leave fingerprints.
But she was a girl. Just a little girl.
And with tears in her blue eyes, she fired the gun, pointblank, into my chest.
*
Sketching is all very fine, but you realize that like a writer's mental block, you can't actually start until you find something to sketch in the first place!
I had to look around for a subject. There's only so many sketches of the female form you can do with some sort of vindictive pleasure, until you start actually looking for a good subject with some meaning to it.
I found a subject. She might have been seventeen or so, a blonde firangi. She had on a one-piece swimsuit and sat on a rock, occassionally looking out over the sea while reading a book. She had small pink gloves on; and bandages under that.
Wondering if I should ask permission first, I drew the first few strokes.
*
I didn't believe it when she picked up the gun. I didn't expect her to, either. I thought she had collapsed. She was in shock.
The dead man on the floor had been just too much for both of us. It's one thing to see the body of your grandfather or parent, who did naturally and had to be cremated; with love and farewells. It's quite something else to see an impersonal killing. It's like life has no meaning, and very little importance. Everyone's a God in their own world.
'Put the gun away, it might still be loaded.' She shook her head.
'My brother's dead,' she said, and collapsed onto her knees, sobbing.
When she rose there was a purpose in her eyes, a steely determination, that I... didn't actually like. It was vehement and malicious, that gleam.. and suddenly, I realized the alley was empty but for us.
*
Halfway through my sketch, she looked around the beach and saw me watching her. Wondering if she'd object, I studied her, going on with my work. She soon caught wind of my frequent glances, and got off her rock. I sighed; another sketch scrapped because the subject was either too nervous of being stared at, or had something to say about the matter.
I was about to get up myself, to close the distance and apologize, when two men ran up from the water. One was in swimming trunks. The other was dressed typically in jeans and a sweatshirt.
He had a gun.
*
I didn't believe myself that I'd done it. I didn't think I could have, not if someone had paid me to. But things just happen. Both men lay dead on the ground. The first one had been murdered in cold blood, the second... probably in defense. 
The second... maybe I could plead self-defense. 
And so she'd shot him first. Call it preemptive judgement. Call it murder. He was dead, we were alive.
I looked around, wiping his blood off my hands, and I remembered that she was still there, and she'd screamed, seeing the corpses. She'd screamed again, firing the gun.
It's alright, I wanted to say. He's not hurting anyone else now.  But the words didn't come out. My mouth had frozen of itself.
She had the bloodied gun. And it was pointed at me.

*
We'd chased them down into this side alley, following the pair. She'd brought me along, and I had to wonder exactly why. She'd yelled something that sounded like "Derek" and grabbed me; before I knew it, I was running with her.
The man with the gun had already shot twice, but both shots had done more damage to the alley than to their intended targets. We followed them into the twisting depths of a deserted alley. I never liked alleys. Too much stuff goes on in here than anywhere else.
We'd found the man lying there, Derek, in his swimming trunks, as we rounded a corner. He was lying there, leaking life from three bullet holes in his chest.
*
Impulsively, I'd thrown my sketchbook at him. It was a thick book, with a heavy cover, and he'd been dazed by the killing himself. The book hitting his hand had probably brought him to reality, but I hadn't stopped there, I'd punched him in the face with force, and kicked at his groin. He went down, clutching his vitals. I don't remember much else at the time; adrenaline was making things a blur.
We grappled at each other. The movies romanticize this part, making it an epic struggle between good and evil. I thought it felt like Russian Roulette, except that in this case, the one without the gun lost. It was anything-goes, pokes in the eye, kicks to the groin, jabs to the throat. But somehow, I got a kick in faster than him, and he let go of it. Then, something roared; and the man froze.
Rigor mortis. She'd shot him.
*'No, Derek!' she'd screamed. 'Brother!' Well, that solved something. So the dead man was her brother. 'What have you done?' The man with the gun was standing loosely. He looked like any other firangi, but the gun and the clothes gave him a shady cast to his profile. He turned towards us, and I suddenly realized that we were the only things standing between him and a quick getaway.
His gun came up.
*

Two months later

Walking on the beach is a sobering pastime, particularly if it's done by moonlight.
There's something sobering about being shot at. It reminds you that life, as you know it, is fragile. Perhaps we knew it once. I'd forgotten. I'd taken most of mine being careless about it.
I saw the rocks there, where she'd once sat.
Who had she been? Where had she gone?
I hadn't remembered much. Strangely, the best I could remember of her, was her pink gloves. They'd been distinctive. How many assassins do you read about, who hold their guns in pink-gloved hands? Guns and pink rarely go well together.
She'd been the sister. Derek's sister.
But Derek had been the man I'd grappled with. Not the man who'd been killed first.
Why? Why the random killing? And why had she fired? Twice?
By all means, she'd killed both her brother, and tried to kill me. Who was she?
I hadn't remembered any police, but one of my friends had told me all they'd found there was a pair of bloodied gloves.
I had a unique perspective on this. I wasn't actually involved. The police had called me a passerby. They'd never considered the possibility that this was actually anything more than a shootout.
Since both the swimming-trunks guy and this Derek had had guns.
In my grapple with Derek, the gun had never actually left us. She'd grabbed the other one, and tried to shoot one of us. Maybe not him. Possibly me.
Or maybe she'd just wanted to stop us.
Whatever the reason. I was alive, neither of them were. And the girl, vanished.
Life has a unique way of telling you about your scope in things, about your importance. Life, on the grander scale of things, goes on no matter what happens. We're ants. Extras in a movie, substitute players for a football tournament.
After all that effort, when there are no answers, and no revelations, there's only one thing to say: C'est la vie.
And let it go.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Shamshan Galli- Part 1

"Betichudan maa ke laude, tera to mai pura khandaan ko chod ke narak bhej doonga."
He lay on the ground, not moving, whimpering at every word. The chain swung from the goon's hand- the very same chain that had once held the same neck that'd belonged to his wife. 
"Teri biwi ka to maine leliya, gand marke, chut phaadke. Ab mai kaunsa anadi ka bhatija lagta hoon, chamanchutiye? Tujhe vapas mere hi paas aana tha? Ek baari kaafi nahi? Abe gandu, tere us bheje ke andar kya bhagwaan ne sirf do takiye ki tatti bhar ke rakh diya kya?"
Again the chain fell, propelled by an almighty hand. Lakhan's screams echoed into the alley, but no one heard him; no one who wanted to. All around them the doors were shut, the lights were off, the windows barred; no one challenged the single man who stood on Lakhan's hand, grinding the sole of his heavy boot into Lakhan's fingers. 
"Ay, woh bhi jawan chut thi. Har jhalak me aisa nasha.. madarchod lagta tha ki uske har shabd ke picche ek aur awaj bol raha hai, mera chut hai bistar- aake tasreef rakhiye... aur aap to aisi rand ke pille, jiska dil dariya aur gand samandar." He paused in his whipping of the prone, bleeding Lakhan, as if coming to his senses.
"Betichod mai bol raha hoon woh sun bhi sakta hai kya? Tadka, kya is madarchod ke kaan abhi sahi salamat hai, ya kya mai likh ke report karu, dastakhat ke saath?" Tommy "Tadka" Jalal grinned back at him, then proceeded to lift Lakhan by one ear. "Tadka" he was called because of his love for food and drink- spicy, hot stuff- much like the girls he enjoyed. His immense girth was easily recognisable- no one else could down four chickens like Tadka could. Lakhan screamed again as his ears were nearly ripped off by the man's efforts.
"Bhau, lakta hai iske kaano me ab bhi jaan hai. Kai re mutreyaa, tula hindi yeet nahi ka? Tar kasha me Bangla bolu kai?" The grin on his bearded face vanished instantly, replaced by rage. "Chutmarike, ab tak jo hum bol rahe hai woh tere bheja me kya mujhe ghusana padega, garama-garam chaini ke nok pe?"
Lakhan shook feebly, trying to get his words past a swollen tongue and bleeding lips. His face was worse off than the rest of him, and that was saying something. Almost every bone in his right leg was fractured thrice over; he hadn't felt his left arm since five minutes back. His ribs hurt with every breath, and he bled from over a dozen wounds across his body, some wide gashes and others open holes in his skin.
"Tadka, isse edhar hi chodna hai, ya thoda insurance lena chahiye?"
"Pata nahi. Kya hume insurance lena chahiye?" Tadka asked the man, shaking him like a leaf. Lakhan tried to scream, but even taking the breath hurt, his throat was purple from when one of the goons had stomped on it. 
"Nahi.. mai kuch nahi bolunga," he managed to get out before coughing out blood, and his throat felt both dry and wet at the same time- there was so much blood on the streets that Lakhan knew he'd die if the bleeding didn't stop soon.
"Chal, thik hai. Teri biwi ki thukayi ke kasam, tujhe is baar chod diya. Agli baar agar haath uthana pada, to behen ke laude, sun le. Tere aakhon ke saamne teri bacche ki jaan leloonga- hathode se uska ek ek haddi tod dunga. Lekin tu zinda rahega- bena zabaan, kaan, haath ya pair; phir dekh tu police ke paas kaise jayega. Tadka, chod de. Ashfaq ke ghar pe naye raande aaye hai.. aur raat abhi baaki hai."
They left Lakhan there- battered, bruised, bleeding, but as they left, Lakhan fixed their retreating backs with the only thing he still had on him; bloody, brutal hate.
------------
More to come. What goes around comes around- what you do unto others comes back threefold, and so on and so forth. Fun times.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Adventures in Blunderland #1

It was night.
The world was unfocused; everything was like a mirror. Pieces of your soul would look back at you and say nothing.
The moon, that temptress in the sky, shone her light scantily, bathing everything in blue lines that stretched from end to end. The air, thick with the tangy smell of wet wood, seemed intoxicating.
There, in the blackness, something prowled; so he went towards it. In a jungle, you realize, common sense tells you whatever prowls is not the best thing to chase.
But in an urban jungle, common sense is a twit.
He pushed through the bushes, mindful of the noise he made. In a way it fit; the night had no noise, so never not think of creating your own. In a way, he was marking his presence. If nature was kind this night, the noise allowed him to be the alpha predator, one that didn't need to mask his presence. Nature is sort of unbiased that way.
The prowler turned out to be a badger, glaring at him through its beady eyes. The animal was large, easily coming up to his waist. How did he know it was a badger? Some things never change. He didn't need to specify what, because at that moment the badger sneered at him.
There is something terrifying in having a badger sneer at you. It's like the owl in The Fourth Kind, which often smiles at its victims. A chilling thought- how does an owl smile? And why does it smile? What is the reason behind that knowing stare so neutrally joyful? Why didn't the badger just go further into the bushes? Why doesn't common sense help with adrenaline, instead of letting him freeze to the spot and consider the badger's malicious sneer?
Because, common sense, in the urban jungle, is a twit.
'You shouldn't be sneering. Dumb animal you are.' So saying he put the badger in its place. The badger, thinking for a moment, stopped sneering, and indicated that he take a seat on the log behind.
'If I am a dumb animal, then would you say that I shouldn't be talking either?' it said in a crisp English accent. Strange, but he guessed that the British may have brought over more than they should have- somethings set roots deeper than revolution.
'You are a dumb animal. But for that matter I've met dumber people. So no, I think your talking to me does not make you dumb, but makes me question another aspect of this conversation entirely. Why are you talking?'
'You don't want me to talk, do you? PETA doesn't speak for all of us, you know. Some of us are inclined towards legalizing human hunting. The thing is, it just wouldn't be humane.'
'Why?'
'Hmm? It wouldn't be humane. Look at yourself. What do you have? Two legs? Two hands? You're bipedal. No claws. No nails, no scales- no teeth, no fur. To top it off, you taste like a week-old chicken corpse, what with all the nicotine and the alcohol and the substance abuse. You're a walking pollutant, and your carbon footprint's horrible.'
'I don't need to take this sort of abuse from you, do I?' He asked, slightly uncertain. If the animal didn't want to kill him and eat him, then why, oh why, the talking? Not to mention the high.
'It's because the vicissitudes of verity need a talking to. So does the monotony of murkiness; neither of them want to depress you anymore.'
'Why?'
'Because you scorn truth, don't you? Verity is by and large an unneeded phenomenon today, in these enlightened times.'
'You're like the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland, except that was a bit more fantastical. A talking badger just doesn't cut it.'
'Pardon me. It's not my fault I don't have a liking for hookahs. And do you know the rates on a single giant mushroom these days? Thanks to deforestation they're getting rarer by the minute, so all the good ones are already taken.'
'I... see. That actually makes sense.'
'I hope so. You have a report to write tomorrow, I think.'
'Yes.'
'Then get to it, I'd say.'
'Sure.' His time done, the badger looked back once more as it walked off.
'And would you like a last bit of advice?'
'No.'
'Take it anyway. Don't talk to badgers at this time of night. Try talking to a snake instead.'
'Why?'
'Because unless I tell you to, you'll never wonder why.' So saying the badger prowled off into the bushes, its nose once again to the ground, in search of whatever savoury meats might be found.
Meanwhile our protagonist found himself walking, once more- and it seemed to him, the walk was too long, too quiet. 'I need to find a snake nearby,' he said to himself and went off to look for one.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Third-person Internet Searchings of a Wandering Idiot

Why is it, he thought, that whenever a story unfolded from his fingers did it begin with something akin to: " --- happened." He thought, why do I always think of an action to begin my stories? Can it not be different, can I not make of my stories what Zeus made of the Chimaera?
Chimaera, she stood there- all that was and much that wasn't. Chimaera, the essence of feral bestiality, the indulgence of sin. Chimaera, that dark beast that seduces at night to devour in twilight.
"I moved on. Chimaera may promise depravities unknown, but the Kraken I prefer." So saying he brought up Alfred Lord Tennyson's Kraken.
"His ancient, dreamless, un-in-va-ded sleep," he intoned. "Do I detect an influence on Cthulhu mythos?"
So thinking, his thoughts turned to horror Lovecraftian. The ancient machine snarled at him, humming its quiet tunes. "The fan needs replacing," observed he. "This machine may be on its last legs, after all." As if to prove him wrong, the laptop swirled in almighty rage and summoned up the requisite webpage.
"Hmm. Reverse psychology works on machines too." Lovecraft, the master of his domain. Cthulhu reared from the ugly depths and in the mind of our unthinking author whispered those blasphemous words: "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn." In his house at R'lyeh Cthulhu sleeps, waiting.
The aspect "Sleep" traversed the quagmire of his mind for something to connect with. It found Morpheus observing the young author.
"Ah, progress." Morpheus in his placid rage turned to our hero. "Finally you have sent ammunition my way! Let fingers falter and eyelids droop, let the sweet seduction of sleep swoop. Find your bed more pleasing to the eye, make your grave, and in it, lie."
Good advice, thought the author. But he had miles to go before he could even get out of his chair, and the laptop, slinky little slut she was, turned to him the eye of lasciviousness and beckoned him closer. "I pimp myself out to the internet. We are prostitutes," he observed, "in a world populated by neighbours who their neighbours know not, but who name someone half a continent away friend."
So saying he opened up Facebook. Sure enough, there were people in Europe, France, America, Java.. "Do I know you?" he asked, pointing at a likely candidate for his ire.
"I suppose not." He closed the laptop, and went for class.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chaotica #2: The Unopened Bag

(Tripfest: The Chaotica series is about what I retrieve after tripping on.. whatever. Didn't get around to explaining that last time. Writing when stoned/drunk/droned is.. unique. This time, it's tharra, meat, and a few joints.)
-
The bag sat there like some offering from hell oh so resplendent in all its verdant glory. The thing about bags is how they turn out to be doorways to hell, if you've never picked up a stranger's bag then I suggest you don't.
But in the unlikely event that you do then don't stop halfway and open it all the way, let the contents spill out onto your bed and get it into your head that your invading someone else's world (which they don't know about, either) is not really going to affect the universe as a whole so get to it.
I opened the bag or tried to, and tired myself trying. The Problem lay in the heart of the matter that means a devil of avarice was floating not over my shoulder whispering sweet nothings from the ether. No, it was a pure motivation of kleptomania that blanketed the foggy depths of my mind.
Still the bag would not open despite my intentions to simply peek inside the doors of heavenly surprise. I wanted to peek so badly with all the fervour of love once lost and regained but the doors of paradise remained lost to me- me, whom Milton remembered- or was it the other way around? Paradise lost.
But a bag is not paradise in the same way cotton is not cheese or a deer is not a chair. The thing about deer, though, is the venison. I remember having some venison at a cheap little dhaba in a town near Pune and I remember the fleshy juiciness of the meat as I tore into that and sapped at its delectable sweetness while having to pour down some tharra with lemonade. Then the tharra hit me like then thousand fists of arcane fury ringing with all the solidarity of a single peal of the church bell I deign to visit on Sundays. The mysteries of life seem so petty and little to me then, who lay on a cot with hash in the hand, and since I always say hash in the hand is worth two in the tea, then all you want to do is sit down and smoke with me. The universe glittered at my eyes like a mean wench with a saucy stare, the kind that parts you with your money as wonderfully as the Joker parts Batman from his loved ones, or Hush goes ahead to perform a heart transplant on Selina Kyle and gets to say that he stole her heart in more ways than one.
Ah, Hush. Nowhere has a trickster emerged like him who can actually get past Batman on so many levels but then I digress since the bag is what began this post then I may make the most of the confusion my mind is engulfed in and thus try to make some coherent sense of my wrongdoings. I have mislead so many that my mind is more like James Frey's in his memoir A Million Little Pieces, but sorry James Frey; I may not have been the same kind of stoner you were but make no mistake I am in pretty bad shape right now since I must open the file in my Transcend HDD to see what the fucking name of your book was in the first place, and that brings me to my first and final original statement, that the bag wouldn't open.
That is a contradiction in terms since it did. The problem lay in searching for a zip when there was a flap and a flap when there was velcro, and velcro when all there actually was were simple laces tied together and inside that lay my treasure, and my pleasure, and my measure, and my pain, and my little store of rural hash that I needs must smoke with my beedis if I am to have any chance of missing my plane in the morning- so what happened to the unopened bag, that reliquary of relief, that potion of pleasure, my bag of bewilderment, but that it stayed in the corner looking innocent as ever and stared back at me with gimlet irises out of the eyelets that held its laces?
Oh nothing. It opened, like any other bag. Or did it, and my hash is still inside, unsmoked, unspent? Do I dare open its confines again for fear of knowing that I've already finished my store, or do I dare leave it around for less restrained visions to uncover?
While I confine myself to answering that question, I may take my five minutes of peace. I daresay I can find the button that allows me to save this post in the time being. It's not finished like the hair of a devadasi, who needs must grow it as befits her beauty.