She looked at them curiously. The one who wasn’t driving was short, seemingly absent minded, irrelevantly thoughtful and awkward. The one who was driving on the other hand was lively, short haired, well-built and confident. They occupied the front seat in the car, leaving for her the only space which she had comfortably occupied. They oscillated between feigned confidence and immense awkwardness. Used to being confident the driver was far better off than the shortest one, who was now looking out the car searchingly. She thrust her head forward from between the seats and began talking about a boy who had been bothering her. She said he had been a bitter mess up. He was trying to flirt with her; and in doing so he was ending up constantly talking things she didn’t like at all.
“At one point I had this desire to punch him on the nose”, she said, disgusted with the memory of her tormenting time with him.
“Why didn’t you?” the shortest one said.
She laughed. The one driving looked at her for a few seconds, smiling. The shortest, looking at the road ahead, gestured to the one driving, who was now looking totally at her, to attend to the road. Disturbed, he turned to the road, cursing the shortest in his head. The car in which they were travelling belonged to the one driving the car, who drove it as if it were his bike, which was far better than the car he was now driving.
She looked at them curiously again. She started to say something about the hotel in which she was kept when the one driving took a sharp turn for no reason, and she fell back, for a moment appearing to be performing a serious isometric exercise. No apology came from the driver; and both of them began looking at the road for the reason of that sharp turn. There was none.
“You were saying something”, the shortest said, looking back.
“Yes”, she said, both the legs up in the air, trying to collect herself.
Saood spat a few obscenities at fellow drivers, who according to him were driving recklessly. Jasmine looked back. Srikant looked sideways.
Srikant was the eldest among the three and Saood the youngest. They had both looked forward to meeting Jasmine from quite some time now, and so had Jasmine; now all three of them were at a loss of words. Jasmine would from time to time discharge a flurry of compliments, most of them directed at Saood, a careful few at Srikant, who bowed on account of being free, unlike Saood whose hands and legs were tied to the process of driving; he still managed to steal elongated stares at Jasmine every few minutes. The moment he looked back at Jasmine in response to a compliment that apparently seemed to have touched him, the other two panicked; those seconds in which his eyes, bathed in tremendous delight, looked upon every aspect of Jasmine lovingly, the car drove itself. They were on the highway; the car was given a will of its own on moments of love. Everything else ceased to matter. When Saood was touched he was touched. Srikant tried to communicate to Jasmine through his hands that she could compliment him in the restaurant. It was too dangerous here. She misunderstood him and asked Saood to stop the car. She thought Srikant wanted to piss. Srikant went out of the car, cursing Saood, and bought a packet of cigarettes from a shed. Srikant and Jasmine began smoking while Saood inhaled the leftover smoke. They had come to the restaurant now. It was 6pm. They decided they had come early. Saood suggested, in an amphigory, that there was a bookstore nearby. Jasmine’s eyes widened. Srikant seemed to dance. They decided to go to it walking.
They dispersed as soon as they entered it, each their own way. Something seemed to pull them and they gave in to that force. Jasmine wasn’t to be seen. She must have gone to some remote corner. Saood could see Srikant sitting clueless in front of a rack. Saood called the guy from the bookstore and asked him for certain books. He got his list out. A few seconds later the guy began marking his list with a pen. Then they went somewhere.
Srikant started reading the preface of a book. It was a costly classic. It was about a man visiting an asylum to see his cousin. For the first few days he keeps getting, at a rapid rate, signs of something having gone wrong. A strong premonition of disaster pervades him. People in the asylum, sane ones, don’t take to him kindly. They look at him questioningly. They see him as a peace breaker, someone who destroys balance. When he asks about this to his cousin, who is recovering fast, he doesn’t understand him. He asks if somebody has misbehaved with him. No, he says; maybe because everybody has. But anyway he is made to feel extremely uncomfortable. Every night he questions the relevance of his stay there. Every day he faces refusal. He cannot sleep. He finds everyone maddeningly polite. His mental health slowly declines while his cousin is a couple of weeks away from getting out. In the end, he goes mad. He doesn’t want to come out. He finds his home in refusal. He starts seeking refusal, and talk of leaving fills him with rage. In the end he comes to terms with his condition, with everyone around him disturbed.
Srikant never understood why the narrative touched him some vague but totally gripping way. A feeling of suddenly being left in a barathrum made his head spin. But every time he came here or to any other bookstore he felt attracted to the book. It called him; and he went to it. He felt it page by page, layer by layer, fascinated, and enchanted by its aroma of demolition.
He closed the book. He looked up; there was no one about. Saood wasn’t where he had been a few minutes ago. He stood and began looking for them; he couldn’t find them.
Jasmine went straight to poetry. Poetry as a form, confined and challengingly acute, appealed to her more than prose. Even when she was reading prose she looked for poetic elements in it. She was wearing a green sleeveless top, which emphasized her bosom. She bent to pick the books and perused them standing. The collection bored her. There was nothing new there; besides the bookstore had taken her by surprise; she preferred going prepared. She for the moment picked a random book and began reading the summary. The narrator arrives at an asylum to see his recovering, young cousin. The narrator himself is young and healthy. Once they’re together, they plan to go home together. The cousin, still weak on his feet, shows encouraging signs of improvement. The narrator’s worry is that his recovery might be delayed and he would have to stay longer than he can afford. He has taken leave from his office and cannot extend it; what’s worse he’s ambitious too. All this goes on in his mind while he’s taking the long journey to the asylum. Meeting his cousin, who has come himself to pick him up, allays his fear to a certain extent. He doesn’t like the asylum though. He doesn’t talk to the people there. He considers them mentally ill in some way or the other. His cousin’s effort of trying to get him involved with a few of them fails: a meeting with a doctor, who’s considered wise and engaging. He’s got nothing to do. He has brought a few books but for some reason cannot go beyond a few pages. As time passes he’s only thinking about why people around him are so despicable, worthless and lifeless all the time. He has fuelled in himself so much hate that he begins to see things. He imagines a plot against him. Someone wants to kill, he repeatedly tells his cousin, who’s almost completely recovered. The cousin is worried. The narrator stops eating and coming out of his room. He doesn’t allow anyone but his cousin to come to his room. He threatens to burn the whole room if anyone forced in. he doesn’t sleep.
There wasn’t anything specific written as to how it ended. She closed the book. Something about it gripped her. For a moment she felt lost. Then she began looking for Saood and Srikant.
Saood was talking to the guy from the bookstore. He knew him and respected his opinion. They had both searched in vain for books in his list. They hadn’t found them. Casually the guy noted the name of the books and authors in his notepad, and promised he would have them the next time he came. Saood had long given hopes that he would own the book. He had visited all the bookstores in the city. None had revealed the now magic book. He could have given three times its marked price. He put his hands on the guy’s shoulder and said:
“Get this next week please.”
“Sure sir. We’ll try our best. I’ll call you if we find it.”
“Yes. Sure.”
It had become a joke searching for this book, he thought. Nobody seemed to have it. What maddened him was the fact that the book wasn’t being read. His face turned solemn. He had read it so long ago. He had read it fast, at a small age, and found it plot less. It made no sense to him. But the memory of it now seduced him to no ends. He clearly knew he was wrong. And he wasn’t getting any opportunity to read it again.
Jasmine found them standing together at last. She asked whether they were buying anything. They nodded their heads. They headed for the restaurant.
The time in the restaurant for all three of them was awesome. They were discovering so much of each other; the drunken Srikant, the smiling, shirtless Saood and the tall, flirty, lovely, constantly talking Jasmine. They had not a single moment of awkwardness, boredom or embarrassment. They shouted, behaved well, talked about the love, possession, Saood’s nakedness and a world full of other things. It was a night to remember each other by for all the three of them.

Loss…it’s beautiful. One becomes vivid in passing away. In passing away of someone we see in ourselves an awakened form, beautifully structured, gathered from the debris of memory. Does loss make it vivid and give it form? Is passing away a little life evoked in someone else?
I saw tears in his reddened eyes, put my hand on his shoulder, and patted it slightly. The noise, the crowd, the mourners, the awaited rituals…..and one colossal absence looming before us blindingly. We followed the absence. In heat, chasing it, slapped by the constant birth compressed narratives in our respective minds, at times visual and then in words; we went to it. In chasing we found so much more of him-true, transparent, structured, suddenly prophetic; how did this absence suddenly swallow us? It had evoked such beauty in us, effortlessly, intimately, and in such perfect order that we went inside our pasts: staring at it, when visual, with disbelief.
Then rituals consumed us; they emptied us. Corruption then entered into order, while we were watching flames, and made it debris again. We were at a loss. We had lost. We didn’t know it but we had lost the ability to create that beauty from the debris of experience. We didn’t have the ability, we now saw. We were given it, and then the absence, which had now become inexistent, both inside and outside, took it away from us.
Mourn life!
Enter that debris; take out the absences from it. Give it form. Find structure in it. Isn’t our memory a graveyard of everything beautiful we have constantly failed to evoke?
Or too afraid to go there……………
Lie there my friend, look beautiful one last time.
Up you go as we watch you; we mourn your going.
We mourn life without you!

Ether Twins


He was wearing a patterned shirt with black and white vertical lines on it; he thought he looked good in it. As far shirts were concerned this pattern was the start and end of his taste. He didn’t waver even slightly to experiment. And he did look good. He perfumed himself. His hair needed no doing up. He hardly had any. He cleaned his spectacles and wore his shoes at the same time. Looking at his watch, while his friend was already waiting below his house, he thought he had at least fifteen minutes left. It was quarter to two, and Junaid was supposed to come at two. He decided fifteen minutes was a lot of time. He removed his shirt decidedly and began looking at his tattoos, one in each arm. One was Hitler’s Eagle, which he had seen on the arm of the hero in an unknown movie about racism; the other was a typically vague saying which instead of eliciting some meaning communicated hilarity among his friends, mainly Junaid and Buttfly. He looked at one then the other, turning sideways, turning his head to get different angles. Contentment came to his face after minutes of effortless movements. He thought he had become a racist and a physical embodiment of that vague saying. He muttered to himself that he was going to get the third done as soon as he managed to collect some money. This time he knew he would do it on his back. Drawn there would be something really shocking and manly; something that would shoot his belief on evolution into the heart of anyone who happened to see it. But he loathed his sagging belly, and to expose the whole back his vulnerable belly would come in the open too. The thought distressed him and he told himself he needed to work out; five hours a day if possible, or swim incessantly. He swam well. The thought of swimming disturbed and in no time erased his repentance of needing a work out. Clancy, his dog, came to him, tongue out and tail between the legs, breathing heavily. He admired it for a few seconds, smiling to himself. Then he bent to hug Clancy, which lifted the upper part of its body to take its master’s tenderness. He murmured some sweet nothings to it and, ordering Clancy to go on with its routine, perfumed himself again. A thought, sudden and explosive, struck him like lightning as he watched himself, topless, on the mirror. He had tremendous amount of smooth hair on his back. He would have to shave them to give way to the third and what he considered the most important tattoo. He tried to look at his whole backside but failed.


Buttfly said, frustrated, “This is disgraceful. We can’t be waiting below his apartment like this while he gets ready like a lady.”
Junaid, who had been trying in vain to start music in his recently bought fifthhand car, knew Buttfly’s usual impatient outbursts, didn’t respond. He continued to work on the stereo of his car.
“I’m calling him. His cell isn’t switched off?” Buttfly asked.
“No it’s not.”

Sanjay told Buttfly to wait for a few seconds. He was ready. He was wearing his shirt. He also accused both of them of waiting uselessly and coming before the decided time. Buttfly’s face contorted into an expression of sheer disgust.
“This is the problem with second hand cars. Nothing works”, Junaid said, at last giving up his gladiatorial effort.
A girl passed by. Junaid observed her. After she disappeared he let out a sigh, which meant he had dismissed her. He said the cracks on her feet were revolting. It wasn’t something a woman was supposed to have at any cost. It destroyed whatever beauty lay in the body or face. The listener, now swallowing the smoke from his fifth cigarette, agreed with the shake of his head. It had seemed an hour or so ago that it would rain heavily. Buttfly and Junaid thought the car would be the best idea. A few days ago they had drenched in the rain, got stuck in an unending line of vehicles struggling to break free. Once they were free they agreed it was a horrible ride back home. No one cursed the rains like Junaid did that day. In his frustration, while Buttfly rode the bike with excruciating struggle, he tried to justify the farmers killing themselves because of dead crops due to no rains.
There was still no sign of Sanjay. Buttfly was hungry and continued smoking made him feel emptier. Junaid had said he was full; he had just had his legendary breakfast, consisting of half a dozen scrambled eggs, four oiled parathas, and a plate full of daliya. But he assured Buttfly he wouldn’t mind having lunch in an hour or so if Buttfly was seriously hungry. Buttfly had confirmed he was seriously hungry, no joke.
Junaid was the tallest among the three though Sanjay always maintained he was shorter than the shortest of Italian models. He was also the fairest. And most importantly, to the consternation of Sanjay, he was having the most number of affairs. Buttfly was having two, one serious and one on chat. Sanjay was having none. He defended it by saying he didn’t have the patience for the rituals of a relationship before sex. Courtship disgusted him. He always made it very clear he only cared about sex. Everything else in a relationship for him was a logical reason why one shouldn’t be in a relationship. He despised the small talk involved; he hated going out for no reason; he worshipped solitude; and he continually complained of people who stripped him of it. Buttfly for his part, on account of being older to both of them, either kept quiet, convinced he was above these judgmental outbursts or shouted disagreement, mispronouncing basic English words, to which Sanjay and Junaid winked at each other so they could laugh when alone.

Sanjay idolized Buttfly’s friend who worked in the army. Junaid idolized Buttfly’s manager. Buttfly idolized both Sanjay’s and Junaid’s age.

“He’s coming”, Junaid said, glancing at the rear view mirror.
“At last”, Buttfly whispered, throwing the remaining cigarette.
Sanjay came in, threw himself on the seat behind them and made a gesture, meaning they were good to go.
Junaid started the car, looked back and stopped the engine.
“Where are we going?”
Both Sanjay and Buttfly shook their heads.
“Why are we deviating from the plan? We were to go have lunch and watch that movie.” Buttfly said, looking at Junaid questioningly.
Sanjay looked at Junaid and, looking at him, pleaded with Buttfly that they weren’t going to some rotten Hindi movie. As for lunch he said he needed time and he couldn’t have anything before four as he had just had his breakfast. Heavy breakfast, he said; not quarter of what Junaid had had, Buttfly thought. Junaid started the car again and they began moving away.
“So what did you do yesterday? Your cell was switched off all day.” Buttfly asked Sanjay.
“Nothing I was sleeping; I didn’t sleep the previous night.”
“How was the movie?”
“Superb it was”, Sanjay said with some emphasis. “It was boring in the first half but then it just blew off like a bomb. I liked it.”


The Pen is Mightier than the Sword
The Penis Mightier than the Sword
The Penis Mightier than this word
The Penis Might Tear then the Sward


The child, bored at the prospect of being bored for the next hour, sits at his study. He doesn't want to read. Afraid that his parents might punish him as they have threatened a few minutes ago, he picks up a book and opens it to a particular page. On it there's a drawing of a man carrying unbearable load and walking impossibly on. He doesn't know the context. He doesn't know who that man is or why he has to carry such a weight. He just stares at it and waits for the clock to suddenly show an hour has passed. He thinks the man must be poor; or probably it's some some sort of punishment he's having to go through. For a second, knowing it's a bad thought, he imagines his dad carrying that weight; and in spite of himself finds a vague consolation in the thought.

He though knows his dad could easily carry that weight. The old man in the picture is weak very unlike his dad. He then, again despite himself, imagines his dad with double the weight. Would he find it tormenting to carry all that weight just like the old man, his dad? He thinks he would. He thinks he would come to his dad's rescue and help him carry the weight. His dad would smile, grateful at the help, and proud at his son's strength. It's a deeply satisfying thought. It feels to him like his moment of glory. He re-imagines it. Now he inserts his mom's presence as an audience in the scene. She watches them as he helps his dad and smiles at
him. He keeps repeating the scene, drawing an unimaginably huge satisfaction at every repetition. And at each repetition he adds a new character. At one point the scene transforms into his act being performed in front of his whole school, ending in everyone clapping for him. There's no thirst in him for it to really happen. In fact if it were for real he's not sure if he wouldn't go hide himself somewhere. He's content to keep it within his head, and it's where he retrieves a huge satisfaction from.

And sudden;y he abandons the whole thing. It's as if the chapter or the picture has done it's purpose. He starts reading aloud from a chapter so they could hear him. He observes them and calculatedly pitches his voice.

What's that thought, is it's life lived in him? Or would it come back some time later in some other variation to rescue him again?

Table of Terrors

It's grdually become, from my resting place, to an area where I'm hunted by multiple narratives...none of them completed, each pretending to be important; and when avoided pretending to be intellectually above my intelligence. One such book is Milan Kundera's "The Joke", which lies hidden somewhere on the table, never appearing, in a constant state of newness amidst chaos; and awaiting someone who would lift it and disappear.
How does one deal with disorder? It's a recurring question to which I probably don't want to find an answer....

As a first novel Rushdie's Midnight's Children stormed into the western psyche, causing extreme wonderment and a sense of how far literature could yet, in times of compressed narratives, be stretched. The book was a feat; another non-fiction book by Naipaul, Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey, was published the same year and as usual went un noticed; although silently read by Naipaul's very few faithful readers. Now, looking back, both the books seem equally controversial and prophetic. It should have been some year for a reader in London or India. Midnight's Children was a book that did to India what "One Hundred Years of Solitude" did to South America; the beauty of the book was the extremely confident tone in which Rushdie customized English acording to the Indian social or political life. It gave an air of confidence to writers after him arising one after the other, good, mediocre; but all absolutely certain they could write. Arundhati Roy, Amitav Ghosh, Amit Chaudhury, Pankaj Mishra and a lot fucking more have taken tons from that year 1981. I think Rushdie could controversially be called the father of Indian writing in English.

Although there have been many great writer preceding him; one such was R.K.Narayan. There was once a rumour, believable, that he was being consedered for the Nobel Prize; the rumour lasted a good five years. Narayan, whom Mr Naipaul admires alot, captured the Indian way of life through very simple rural lives of individuals, their families, their little concerns in the most magnificent way possible for a writer. But in his heyday there was still this belief among the westerners that Indian writing in English was hardly of any value and was stupidly emotional. One remarkable writer of that era was Nirad.C.Chaudhury, whose "Autobiography of an Unknown Indian" was praised in the western media for its erudition and realistic commentary on indian social customs, family values etc.
Althogh these and a few other good writers were operating at that time, you wouldn't recollect their books or names; what you would rather recollect is names like "Kipling" "E.M.Forster"; this was how it was, just like it was in Africa 2 decades ago; it needed someone to visit the place, bring back experiences in the form of a book. Ernest Hemmingway has been chided by Paul Theroux and Naipaul, all the three have been to and writen about Africa, as a guy who went to Africa to serve his ego, and bring back in the form of books experiences, either untrue or valueless, which could as well be composed fantasizing in the solitude of one's room.
What Rushdie brought in for India was a respectable attention in a global sense. It's a remarkable feat. A line of good Indian writers have since written some truely marvellous books, internationaly recognized. MNC is a ground breaking book because of Rushdie's unbelievable imaginative ambition, and the narrative excesses he covers in the book. About allegory William Golding, a master in allegoric writing, has said that if you're going to clarify your allegory to the exact point of what you want to say through it, you must minimize it and keep it very small. His point was if you spread across too wide you might lose the whole point of allegory itself, in the comprehensive narrative. It's true. Golding's books prove that. His allegories are an Island in "The Lord of the Flies", a Ship in "Rites of Pasage", A church, a School, Celebrity; he covers very small allegorical objects and the precision of his narrative gives his allegories brightened meaning.
Rushdie did the opposite of that. He expanded one allegory to such an extent that MNC became a book, if you read it closely, which was full of thouands of pieces of smaller allegories, unintegrated and living their own separate lives. Rushdie didn't care to integrate the allegories.
If one asks what so great about MNC, what does it say? Nothing, just that 50 years of independence hasn't brought as much developments as it should have, Salim Sinai is cute, he saw his mother's butts while she was bathing; not belittling the book, I'm saying there is an absense of a central integrated allegory, unlike in Golding's Kundera's Coetzee's or Calvino's writings; but his achievement was fuelling the narative with multiple allegories and leaving them unfinished, and in some cases partly superficial. And this is where lies his achievement.
It's no wonder Rushdie was enchanted with Arabian Nights as a kid; you could see the book's influence on MNC. Multiple stories, stories upon stories, entangled narrative.......
After MNC and except The Ground Beneath her Feet, Rushdie hasn't been able to any write anything substantial, promising his first book's narrative promise. Maybe he would never do it. MNC was once in a lifetime book, and the tragedy was it was his first published book. He's been constantly getting rewards for the book since 1981 though. He has tried writing a straight book; the last three books of his (Fury, Shalimar: the Clown, The Enchantress of Florence) have been attempts at fiction pertaining more to realism than magic; but all failures nonetheless.
Naipaul once said that the writers reputation should gradually grow, book by book, until he or his reputation becomes the sum of his books. Rushdie subtracted by MNC will not look as cute as Salim Sinai.
There is a story in Greek mythology in which a writer becomes a donkey because he, as a famous writer, loses his ability to observe, and the Gods punish him by metamophosing him into a Donkey so he would observe and think.


He had led a hard life. He was, as it seemed to me when I first saw him, somewhat consumed by a proud sense of physical inactivity. The excess of intellectual commitment, which he had worked out for himself, had made him look at other simple things in strict apathy. As a result he became totally secluded, in which lay his strong mysterious existence. He had once told me that to touch mediocrity was to invite pollution, to invite failure; and I wondered what idea it was that made him feel the opposite of failure. He said that mediocrity of any sort ate you away, and I knew most of the people around him were mediocre by my definition itself; and hence his seclusion. Companionship was absent in his life; he claimed it was deliberate...he said it was the first step towards intellectual delectation. I didn't agree with him then, and seeing him, now.
He drank a lot and almost always smoked; he constantly looked tired. A proud smirk of disarray was drawn on his face, and he knew that. I, disagreeing him in all aspect, still looked up to him. I wanted to see this man, everyday, stuck in an unknown depth of uncertainty.

I had been a spectator many a times when he was abused, awarded ridicule; I acted as if I didn't notice. I saw his expression, he looked like a prey, moments away from being eaten. But then I also saw him violating this very ridicule as if it was just a dream we had both seen, and knew it was a dream. But then I didn't see him as an achiever of any kind. I saw a lack of that flash in him. Maybe he just had this commitment towards demonstration. His idea of himself looked fake, he said so.

Ridicule threatened me. "Escape" to me looked like an answer. He, my man, was far from what I wanted to be, but was tending towards. I could smell his decay.

And I questioned myself. I tried answering. And I wasn't convinced. He was a reward for me and a punishment. Or at least a symbol of punishment; and that symbol, with all my might, I have always tried to rub off.
It felt indelible. And running away didn't diminish the feeling that the symbol was cruelly marked somewhere important in my psyche