Friday, December 25, 2009

On Writing

Every story that needs to be told has already been told. And now we're telling the same things over and over again, in different words, in different colours.

Where do I fit in? Do I have a story to tell? Does anybody want to listen? My ideas are cliched, my tone amateurish. I read what I've written and wince at myself.

Yet I need to put words down. I get joy out of seeing them there, little black squiggles on white, little bits of my soul that I've squeezed out and lined up.

Maybe that's enough, at the end of the day. But not at the end of the life. Surely not?
• • •

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Inspired by a couple of hours spent reading a book in the park today. Supposed to be fiction, but more a collection of impressions that a story. All characters are based on real people - complete strangers, except for a minor appearance by [drumroll please] me.

The park is cold today. The sky is dark overhead, no sunshine shining through the branches. I do my usual rounds, glad of the warm wool of my shawl, the silk of my salwar-kameez. Courting couples, a stern girl reading an orange book, gangs of boys, a family with a small muffled-up boy who smiles up at me.

I keep writing letters to you, letters I can't mail. I pile them up in my little wooden chest, one on top of the other, the older ones yellow and curling already. They keep me company these days.

There's an elderly man in a white kurta-pajama who comes every afternoon, accompanied by a teenaged boy. The boy holds the man's hand and walks him around the park a few times. The man's eyes are anxious, confused, scared. He doesn't know what's happening, why it's happening.

I've held on all this while because I thought it would be cowardice. But I'm tempted. Sometimes, I cross roads without looking either way. But always, somehow, I get to the other side. And I wonder why I did.

Sometimes I fantasize that I did die. Perhaps my body is lying on the blue road back there, streaming red blood onto the crevices. Perhaps it is only my soul, my spirit, that is walking on, unaware of the gathering people, the hushed voices. Any minute now, they'll come to take me to you. A golden chariot will land in the middle of the dirty road, and I'll ride away on it.

How does one know, anyway, when one is dead?
• • •

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Cause and Effect

Two men met under a board at a station. It was early morning, and there was no train on the platform. The two men carried identical suitcases. They exchanged them without further ado.

No on saw them. A group of coolies stood nearby, but they were busy commenting on a girl. The girl went away soon after, and the coolies quietened down.

The first man went to a room in the station house and opened the suitcase. It contained, among other things, a set of freshly laundered clothes. He quickly changed. While he was changing, he heard the train chugging into the station slowly.

He spent some time praying. The babble of voices outside rose steadily.

He came out of the station house. Earlier, he had been an anonymous man in a checked shirt. Now he was an authoritative clipboard, and a dark jacket over a white shirt and trousers. A crowd of people converged on him, gesticulating, negotiating, pleading, arguing.

The unlucky ones got seats. The lucky ones went away, cursing the clipboard and the dark jacket.

The man suddenly realized that he had forgotten the suitcase. He went back inside the station house and got it. He tucked it safely under his seat. The train left the station with a final whistle.

The second man went back to his house and opened the suitcase. The suitcase contained money in thick wads. The man had not seen so much money in his life. He went to a nearby hospital and paid a bill. They finally released his daughter's body.

A while later, there was an explosion. Several bogies of a train fell off a bridge. Others hung down from the rails, and it was like a garland of bogies on the neck of the bridge. The river was a deep one, and it flowed on, unmindful.

• • •