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Monthly Archives: February 2011

Victor.

Flash Fiction 3 – Word Prompt – Cold Tea

Snow fell softly outside the window.
Winter was not back, it had just never left. He stood outside his little porthole in his igloo. And wondered if he would ever be able to stand under the sun again. Feel the warmth seep into his skin, almost like a tingling feeling that was more euphoric than any drug.

He sighed – even his breath was so cold that the window didn’t mist over.

He turned and walked over to his bed. Sitting down, he reached over and picked up a framed photo. With surprising delicacy, one of his sausage-like fingers stroked the image of the blonde woman. He missed her so much. The way she laughed, the way she smiled. Most of all, he missed her soft, warm hands. She had the warmest hands ever, a blessing for someone like him who was always cold.

For a second, he almost expected her soft presence beside him on the bed. Every Sunday, she used to sit right next to him and read the morning papers. She’d make tea and they’d drink at least two cups each, sometimes forgetting to sip, and then make faces while gulping their cold tea.

“Hey you. Freak.” The guard was back at the door. He turned. He’d gotten used to the names, the abuses, the looks. There was no looking back anymore, no regrets, no “what ifs”.

“You gotta visitor.” The guard stomped away, his footsteps echoing on the cold floor. A figure stood at the barred window in the door. “How are you?”

The man inside the cell sighed. “Why do you keep coming back? Go away.”
The man outside said, “I believe there’s still something inside you that’s good. Something that can get you out of here.”

Mr Freeze stood up in anger. “Nothing can get me out of here Batman. There is nothing I want to get out of here for.”

Batman stood silently. “We saved your wife. She’s alive. We’ve found an antidote.”

Mr Freeze sat down again. Heavily. The bed creaked. The taste of cold tea filled his mouth.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2011 in Fiction

 

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Birthday cake.

When I was 10 or 11, I can’t remember which, I had a birthday party.
There were mini idlis, samosas, pav bhaji, chips, dahi vada – all home made, this being the conservative Gulf, money being fairly tight in a three-child family and house parties being the only arena where stay at home housewives could do something, anything to shine and feel different.

In the midst of all this food, admittedly awesome because my mom was a brilliant cook although she hated it, (maybe that was the secret) my friends and I only had eyes for the birthday cake.

After taking a much saved-up for baking class, my mom had practiced a lot and with her best friend Sunita’s help and oven, had created this masterpiece of a cake for my birthday.

For once, I didn’t sulk and moan that no one loved me. I didn’t complain that my parents loved my brother and sister more than me. That cake made me feel like an only child.

It was beautiful. The cake was in the shape and form of a small wire basket with a lid, and flowers and vines spilling out from the lid. To my 10 year old eyes, it was even better than the Barbie cake the bakery always had out in its window.

It had taken my mother and her friend 2 days of back-breaking work to do. Two layers of cake, creating and freezing the sugar icing flowers, piping and freezing the even more delicate icing for the wicker-basket effect on the cake, freezing some more icing so that it became stiff and could be cut in the shape of a handle for the basket, using a paintbrush to delicately paint velvety texture on to the petals of each flower….I can’t even remember what else.

Sometimes I wonder what made my mother do it. Was it an urge to prove something? To my dad? To herself? To the neighbours? To her housewife competition? Who?

Once the cake was half done, it was deposited on the dining table for the finishing. We weren’t allowed to go near the cake for more than a day. I kept staring at it with greedy eyes throughout from almost 10 feet away in the sitting room, almost afraid that I’d blink and it’d be gone.

In the actual party, I was the envy of all my friends. Such a beautiful cake. So many flowers. So lucky you are, your mummy loves you so much and spent so much time on this.

By that time, after seeing my mom clutching her aching back, by seeing how much effort went into something that was demolished within 3 minutes, I could only look on numb as people sang happy birthday and I cut into the cake that had taken 2 days of my mother’s life. I bit into the cake, but couldn’t taste it. Melodramatic I know, but all the adults there had told me how grateful I should be and by the end, I was choking on everything.

It was only later, after the guests had gone, and I had cried and apologized to my shocked mother for making a fuss and making her make this cake, and she’d held me and assured me that she wanted to do it all, that I could finally taste the chocolate.

I gathered the only things left –  the flowers and vines and stored them in a box, taking them out every day for almost a week, licking each sugar flower as delicately as my mother had painted it, sharing them grudgingly with my siblings.

I doubt I’ll ever put in that much effort for my (future) children. That kind of labour of love – for it can’t be called anything else.

And today, I saw this video – of this guy who created an actual, working (so to speak) Angry Birds cake for his son. And I thought, “Oh, I’d definitely do that. Someone would need to show me how to turn on a bloody oven, but DAMN that looks like fun!”

It also looks like a lot of work.  This man painstakingly creates a cake that looks like a level of the game Angry Birds – birds, pigs, grass, brick – the whole caboodle. And then calls his son in, and they PLAY THE DAMN GAME – demolishing the cake.

My parents would have KILLED me if anything had happened to my cake. To be fair, it wasn’t that kind of cake or that kind of generation. I don’t think anyone at that time would have thought of creating a cake you could destroy BEFORE eating.

When you see the video, you realize that this took enormous effort too. But things have changed. My generation is a lot more irreverent and indulgent than my parents’. And I guess it shows in big ways and smaller ways like this.

Watching the family hurl the sugar icing birds around, I could only think of my little plastic box with the sugar flowers hidden in the back of our cavernous fridge for an entire week. And wonder if this kid too would get a lump in his throat when he thought of his birthday cake years later.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2011 in Nostalgia, Ponderings

 

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Faith.

Flash Fiction 2 – Word prompt – Cramp

“Lotus behenji, phresh hai, take take,” exhorted the vendor.
She looked up at him through her lashes and then looked back down.
All the lotuses looked slightly grimy, forced to remain fresh till this time in the night. She pointed to one at the back, that seemed to look slightly better than the others. She gave the vendor a ten rupee note. And got back a five rupee coin which she held in her palm, intended as an offering to the Goddess.

She turned to climb up the steps – and was accosted by a strange woman wearing a tattered red nightgown. “Paisa. Paisa. De.” The stranger said, rubbing her fingers together.
She took a step back, her hand going protectively to her rounding belly, and then saw the madness glinting out of the lady in red’s eyes. Her mother’s voice echoed in her head, “In God’s house, only God will ever ask you for money.”

Softly, she said, “Darshan ke baad.” The mad woman stepped out of her way.
She made her way to the steps, slowly. Clutching the pleats of her sari in one hand, she started up the thirty steps, holding on to the railing for safety. Lotuses tucked into the grill along the staircase gazed zombie-like at her, stretched awake long past their time.

Reaching the metal detector, she walked through it. And into the temple. Thankfully, there was no rush. No clinging, noisy crowd that would scare her. She waddled into the sanctum sanctorum. And beheld the glory of the three golden devis in the mantap. Joining her hands, mumbling the prayers that had become habit, the words like patina-ed beads on her lips, she bent her head and prayed for the health and wealth of her husband and her unborn child. Even in prayer, her mother’s voice echoed in her head, admonishing her to pray for her mother-in-law too. Even in prayer, the voice of bitterness protested.

She held her hand out for the sweet sugar ball prasad. And slowly made her way out of the temple. The mad woman was running around, repeating her demand to people. Some ignored her, some put a couple of coins into her hand. She came running to the foot of the stairs, holding out her hand. The young woman put a ten rupee note in her hand. And watched her scurry off after another unsuspecting devotee.

“Das rupay? Zyada paisa ho gaya kya?” sneered another beggar. Ignoring him, she walked out slowly to the bus stop, ignoring the slight cramp in her side.

Once she got there, she sat down with a sigh. The bus ride home was at least an hour. And the wait for the bus would likely be the same.

She would still get home before her husband would be home an hour after that. And then eat dinner with him, listening to him describe his day, the wiry taut muscles on his arms bunching every time he lifted a morsel to his mouth.

She felt around for the pallu of her sari. And realised she was sitting on it. Wearily, she stood slightly, pulling it out and wiped her forehead with it. Slowly, she realised her face still felt damp. Not the dampness that sweat brought. But like there was something on it. She ran her hand over her face and looked at it. Red trails covered her hand. She looked down. The pallu was red too.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2011 in Fiction

 

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ADventures 9 – Out of the agency, into the quagmire

So I’m now in a non-agency advertising role.
I honestly don’t know if this is a good move or a bad move or whatever – given that I don’t see myself in a traditional, hidebound agency set-up anymore, or even in the future…
Should I even be terming these adventures in advertising? But it’s still defined as advertising, just not in an agency…

ANYWAY.

This post isn’t about my career choices, it’s about some gems I overheard today.

So the scenario is this. Overzealous Marketing Guy (OMG, who I suspect has more than enthusiasm coursing through his system) is commenting on some layouts that need to go out. The layouts are not just idiot proof, they’re amoeba-brain proof. Yet OMG is pondering them with the seriousness of Moses deciding on which commandments to carry down.

OMG – Do we need the “the” in this sentence?
Me (dumbfounded) – Um yeah, it’s Watch the program. So yes, its necessary. Else it would be “Watch program” and we’d sound stupid. It’s grammatically incorrect.
OMG – Yeah, grammatically, yeah but advertising can take liberties right?
Me – speechless, I didn’t realise what we were doing was advertising. I manage to shake my head in dissent and smile shakily.
OMG – Okay. Do you think it looks alright in this angle?
Me – Um. You mean the logo? Yeah. Okay. Hey, Art Director, please put a full stop at the end of program.
OMG – Yes! A full stop! Wow! That just gives the whole thing this poetic finish! Fantastic!
Me – Mouth open.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2011 in Advertising, Rants

 

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Elevating the fine art of being stupid.

Please explain to me, you, yes, you the man with the disgustingly hairy chest and the gold pendant about to lay eggs in it, did you fail kindergarten?
Do you not know your numbers properly? Why is it that every time you enter a lift, you must push the button for the wrong floor?
Is it like Aspergers? Have you got Wrongnumbers Syndrome?
Idiot.
Is it not bad enough that we’re all tensed in the lift, hoping we’ll make it just before officious bosses say “58 seconds late again eh?” and we lose a precious day’s leave/salary/our first born to corporate greed?
Must we all wait with bated breath as your wrong 4th floor arrives, you blink your piggy little eyes and realise, “Oh. Wrong floor.”
AND THEN YOU PRESS 9 AND GET IT WRONG AGAIN!!! You need to go to floor 12! TWELVE. If you can’t memorise your floor number, pin it to your shirt and someone will press a button for you.
Don’t delay all of us, in a lift designed with doors that wait till several metaphorical handicapped snails have toodled out with heavy picnic baskets.
In fact, while I’m here, I might as well attack your cousin as well. Mr Press-the-call-button-constantly-so-the-lift-comes-faster – hey Jabby, that doesn’t WORK!
Did you grow up in a jungle? Do you not KNOW that the lift, unlike the errant spark of any intelligence in your head, is designed to spark and come as soon as the button is pressed ONCE?
In pre-historic times, man came to blows because of women or meat.
Today, bumpkin behaviour in an elevator can get you bumped off it. From the 50th floor. Watch your hairy backs.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2011 in Rants

 

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For once, hype = reality (aka Strawberries and Dream)

“You haven’t been to HAJI ALI juice centre? Dude, you’re so lame.”

I’ve heard variations of the above for many years now. No dammit, I hadn’t gone there. Either I wasn’t in Mumbai to go (duh) or I was on a friggin’ diet when I did live here before.

Anyway, today I ended up going. And had the strawberry milkshake. Yes, yes I should have had the sitaphal cream, stop yelling, they were out.

A hundred and ten bucks (REALLY? 110??) later, I was deliriously happy. Even the boiled cabbage waiting for me at home couldn’t dim my smile.

Thank you Haji Ali Juice Centre. You’re one of the few things in life that have lived up to and surpassed your own hype. Amen.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2011 in Raves

 

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Helpmeet.

Flash Fiction 1 – Word prompt – Piggy Bank

The blue pill rolled towards the centre of his palm. He looked at it a moment before picking up the glass of water and swallowing it. In 30 minutes, it’d take effect.

Picking up another blue pill, he immersed it in a glass of water on the bedside table. One was no longer enough. If he didn’t keep it ready, he’d have to hear a lot of screaming. And not the good kind.
He took a deep breath. Making love to his new wife was exhausting. But at 76, he could at least boast of the fact that his 32-year-old wife desired him so much, that she went out and bought Viagra on her own for him.
He hadn’t told his doctor about them, how could he? He’d known him for over 30 years and couldn’t bear to see the disapproval in his friend’s eyes.

He took another deep breath and slowly walked over to the bed. Sitting on it, he lifted his legs up and dragged himself back so the headboard supported him. His wife liked being on top. He liked it because he didn’t have to do anything. Just being present and letting the blue pill course through him was enough.

He looked up at the chandelier. His first wife had picked it out. Delicate intertwines of wrought iron and white coated iron, each vine ending in a leaf-shaped crystal. His new wife hated it. But after one of her social-climbing friends had praised it, she’d let it be. He was relieved at that, he couldn’t imagine letting it go and couldn’t imagine fighting his new wife.

The door opened. His new wife entered. Her large breasts swaying with every step, barely restrained by the slivers of lace covering them. Despite himself, he felt the blood rush downward.

Cupping her breasts, she sat on him. And crooned “Hello my little piggy. Thank you for the new necklace.”
Grinding down on him, she pushed her breasts into his face.
Did she say “piggy or piggy bank?”
Cupping herself again, she started to move on top of him. With her breasts obscuring his face, he never saw the handful of pills she dropped into the glass of water on the bedside table.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2011 in Fiction

 

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