Thursday, September 29, 2005


Last Sunday, I visited a couple of temples, after a gap of more than a year.

It was in the month of May last year that I'd last visited a temple, and that too because a friend of mine had suddenly found religion, thanks to the Boards. Not only did she drag me off to a neighbourhood temple the day before the exams began, the stress-busting walk that we took the day before the results were to come out also somehow had a temple pitstop.

Neither of the visits was particularly enjoyable. Why on earth do these North Indian temples have so much marble? That particular stone strikes me as very artificial and worldly, probably because of its overuse in rich people's homes these days. Also, marble gets damnably slippery when it's wet. It gets rather hard to concentrate on peaceful Godly thoughts when one is trying not to land up on the floor butt first. Or when its much more fun to watch the people nearby as they flail about, trying to keep their balance.

Not that I'm an authority on temples, mind you. I'm not a very religious person, probably because neither of my parents is. It's been ages since we carried out the mallu tradition of lighting a lamp at dusk and praying by it. My brother and I know no bhajans and no keertans. In fact, when I was watching that bus scene in 'Mr. and Mrs. Iyer' last year, I was wondering what I would do if somebody asked me to prove that I was a Hindu.

However, despite not being religious, or perhaps because of it, I expect certain things from temples. None of the crowd and bustle of famous temples for me, thank you. I don't see any point in standing in queue just to be able to file past the deity and catch a glimpse of a stone idol smothered in colourful silks. Nor do I see any point in praying to any particular version of God, out of the thousands that we have in Hinduism. Vishnu, Lakshmi, Parvathi, Ganesh, Shivji, Brahma - what differance does it make?

I have a fixed idea about what a temple should be like. Unfortunately, my expectations are rather high. You see, I had the misfortune of living in Thrissur at an early age. I say misfortune, because Thrissur is choke-full of beautiful temples. Which is, of course, a good thing, except that my parents, displaying an enthusiasm I've never seen in them since, insisted on visiting them all one by one. And they dragged me along.

Now, in case you don't know, Thrissur's temples are so many and so varied, that there's something for everyone. You just have to fall in love with at least one of them. My favourite was the exquisite Vadakkunnathan. I have memories of walking barefoot inside the temple compound, the wet stone beneath my feet, breathing in air moisture-laden from the previous night's rain. Even then, aged eight or nine, knowing nothing of the temple's history or even which deity was which, I felt at peace.

Since then, no temple has come close to fulfilling that need in me. I need a temple that offers me sanctuary and allows me to think, to reflect. I need quiet. I need temples made of rough stone, with simple stone idols that are not revered as Gods, that are present only to act as points to focus on. I need temples with plenty of space to walk about in and maybe a couple of banyan trees to sit under and think.

I need temples that give me peace. Isn't that what they are supposed to be for, after all?
• • •

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Just An Image

Then suddenly, you want to run - run so hard and so fast that your lungs give up and your heart bursts and you end up on the ground with blood on your lips. And then people will walk around you, and walk past you, and some will tut-tut irritably and some will say poor thing, but none will stop to help, because they'll know that some things are beyond repair.
• • •

Friday, September 23, 2005

Blood Letting

I donated blood for the first time this week.

The Rotary Club of Delhi had organized a blood donation camp at my college on Wednesday - a big, invitingly open white tent in the middle of the front lawn. The Rotary Club members then wandered around the college, collaring hapless students and asking them why they weren't out there - in there, rather - donating blood.

I'd been wanting to donate blood for ages, but hadn't cared enough to actually go and find a place to donate. Not that I'm all selfless and generous, mind you - I just felt that it was an adventure that I ought to undertake as a part of turning eighteen. Anyway, I was delighted at the opportunity. So I tried to get my friends to come along with me, but they refused outright, giving reasons ranging from the practical ("Suppose they use infected needles?") to the plain ridiculous ("Tujhe pata nahi hai, blood donate karne se kala ban jata hai!")

Finally, suddenly infected by the Rotarians' zeal, a friend of mine agreed to come along with me. We went to the big white tent. It was like entering a circus. There were people all around - the doctors, the Rotarians in their blue caps and the students from Pathways World School, who were supposed to be helping the Rotarians. Also, of course, students from my college who'd wandered in, wondering what this was all about. We were supposed to register first and then fill out a form that had questions like "Have you ever had Malaria/Typhoid/Jaundice/A-Dozen-Other-Diseases-Whose Names-I-Can't-Remember?" and "Have you taken any medication/vaccination/alcohol in the last forty-eight hours?" and "Have you ever had sex with multiple partners?" (huh?) and "Are you HIV-positive?" (double huh?)

Then we had our haemoglobin levels and our BP checked, and, when we passed those tests, were given one plastic bag each, with tubes coming out of them. After that, we were finally allowed to enter the place where the actual blood letting was happening - a huge room inside the tent, with a couple of dozen beds, on which people were lying with their arms connected via tubes to rapidly filling bags of blood.

A rather nice doctor took my form and made me lie down on a bed. Then she put a cloth thing around my arm and asked me to make a fist. She said it in Hindi (muthi or some word like that) and, me being me, I didn't understand what she said, so I folded my arm at the elbow. So, of course, she thought that I was nervous. She smiled at me very reassuringly and said, "First time?" and I smiled back and said, "Yeah." She was even nicer to me after that.

She put the syringe in - still have a hole by my elbow to prove it - and gave me a sponge ball to squeeze, I suppose so that the blood could get pumped out faster. So I lay there like that for some time, squeezing the little ball regularly and trying not to look at the sun that was shining into my eyes through the white cloth of the tent. It was rather nice and peaceful.

She came by regularly to check on me. When 350 ml had been pumped out, she pulled the syringe out of my hand and put a white gauze thing inside my elbow. I lay there for some more time, again trying not to stare at the sun. And that was that.

She made me get up some time after that and asked me if I was feeling okay. I felt perfectly fine, which, to be honest, was rather disappointing; I'd expected at least something, but no. Apparently, I'm too healthy.

And then, to the best part of the whole experience - the free food! Let's see - we had soft drinks (I had three glasses), orange juice (one packet), baby samosas (three), puffs (one), chips (innumerable), cup cake (one), apples (one), banana (none, I hate them). Plus one free gift, a clock, which I promptly donated to a classmate of mine.

All in all, the actual donating part was the least painless. Standing in line to get my form submitted was, in fact, more of a hassle. And, of course, the only sickly feeling I had at the end was from all the overeating!
• • •

Friday, September 16, 2005

Another One


4. The Numbers

She worked with numbers for forty years. And then she retired.

But the numbers wouldn’t go away. They stayed before her eyes, burnt forever into her retina. They danced before her, orange-red, and she snatched at them, trying to make them disappear. But they wouldn’t.

Finally, she gouged out her eyes. It didn’t help, though.

(55 words, not counting the title)


This story came to me at two in the morning and it's sort of inspired by something from my life. Oh, and the last bit? My mum's idea. I was just going to shoot her outright, but my mum said that that was rather staid (!).


• • •

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Tagged! 3

*This Post Will Keep Getting Updated*

Well, so I've been tagged by the Smugbug. I'm supposed to write a story in less than fifty-five words. How easy, I thought. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way. The last thing I wrote was this and, as you can see from the date, that was a long time ago. The following story just popped into my head and it's not what I thought I would end up writing, so please excuse - well, pretty much everything..

1. True Love Bypassed

"Him? But he's so ugly!"
"No, he's not!"
”Look at his nose!”
"There’s nothing wrong with his nose!”
“Sweetie, you need someone to make P jealous, not make him laugh. You should pick someone handsome.”
“Yeah, I guess..”
“What about that guy over there?”
“Better than your guy. Ask him, go on.”
Sighing, “Okay.”
(55 words, not counting the title.)

2. Puking by the Roadside

The images kept haunting him throughout the drive. Finally, he stopped the car and puked by the roadside. Vehicles roared by. He wondered what those drivers thought of him. He wondered if she would be stiff by now, inside the trunk. He wondered if he would puke when he buried her. He rather thought not.

(55 words, again not counting the title)

3. Decisions

There wasn’t much time left. She had ruled out the blue one, so there were just two choices left. Moisture trickled down her back. The cutter in her hand wavered, first over the red one and then over the green one. Finally, she decided on the red one. Snip went the sweater’s price tag.
(54 words)

Update # 1:

I forgot that I was supposed to pay this forward, so here are the five people whose literary genius I want to - er- stoke? As in, you know, stoke the fire sort of thing?
  1. Arnav
  2. eM
  3. Pradyot
  4. Inky
  5. SOxy
Some of these people won't do it, since I'm aiming rather high here, but whatever. I want to read stories written by these people, so there.

Update # 2:

To see how this should actually be done, visit this place. This blogger has posted a lot of stories, in different posts, so I can't link to all of them. But his tales are so much better than mine, they shouldn't even be mentioned in the same sentence.
• • •