Thursday, 26 April 2012

From The Heights

He sits cross-legged on the floor outside
the lantern room of the lighthouse. Sea’s roar
a mere sight from here. Rusty wings of eagles
circle the sky, much below the railings
that my fingers clutch beneath giddy gasps.
“Never mind him”, the guard assures
a flock of school kids, “He’s the harmless type.
Just climbs the stairs up here every morning
with the first tourists and leaves with the last.”
He keeps a distance from words, behaves
like an animal that doesn’t grasp
human conversation. But he turns around
and smoulders teenage indignation, as a boy
tries to poke him with his dirty shoes.
A girl, frail and meek, her fingers
nowhere near the vertigo-defying railings,
tries to press her back against the wall and
stand still, fails, and collapses onto the man’s lap.

He doesn’t move a finger while others
circle around, murmur, shout, get a bottle
of water and sprinkle it on her face.
When she wakes, he looks calmly into her
eyes that blink back at him, and gives her
the kindest smile madness can afford.


Sunday, 22 April 2012


"We are already strangers", she said.
"But what makes you think so? Hey, see that deer over there, it's a spotted one!"
She looked at the direction pointed by him, succumbing to his intrusive charm.
"Benny, stop behaving like a fool..." she managed to say at the end of a giggle.
"Okay, all ears. Your turn to talk."
"I was telling you that the fact that we have a child doesn't make things any better, or worse."
"And that we are already strangers, after living together for five years. Yes, I followed you till there."
She stood up and walked towards the pond. He stayed where he was, at the park bench. And he kept looking at the spotted deer, a young one, a bit lost among the human crowd.

They never got married, but were staying together. The birth of Anna must have made things easier for them to become a regular married couple, but she had her doubts, all the time. He couldn't even remember how many times they sat here together, discussing the future of their relationship. He knew that she had her own reasons to stay away from a committed relationship, but she was also a helpless woman, left to herself.

She walked back towards him, obviously with more to tell him. He braced himself up. This time, he has to be himself, he thought.

"Julie, you are reading too much these days, and watching all those scary movies. I know it's tough to remain what you want to be, all the time, but you have to take care of yourself, of our family. Don't tempt your fate by indulging in all those frustrated people's imagination."
"Listen to yourself Benny. You treat me as if I am a mental case. No wonder I feel like liberating myself. You are asking for too much if you think we should stay together for one more year, to see whether things work out. It's already clear..."
"...That you are confused. That you need help."
"Stop it!" she sat next to him once again and stared into his eyes. He took away his glance from her and tried to focus on the deer, but it was not there anymore.

"It's a pity that you can't ever focus on a single thing. And that's one reason why I am mad at you", Julie said.
He just smiled back in response.
"Anna needs a lot of focused care at this moment. Do you think you will be a good father, ever?"
"Now, don't talk about taking her away from me."
"Oh yes, I know that it's your main problem. You need to keep the baby doll with you, and it doesn't matter whether I leave you or not. But I don't think I can trust to leave the baby doll with you. You'll spoil it."
"Come on Julie. What do you think of me? You make me sound like a total idiot, some silly prototype that you are obsessed with."
"Not entirely silly, but unaware of your ability to harm others."
"What had you been reading lately?"
"Are you serious Benny? Well, I'm reading Pride and Prejudice at the moment."
"And what's the last movie you saw?"
"It's a pity we can't watch movies together."
"It is. What's the last movie you saw?"
"My Beautiful Laundrette."
"Still stuck with Hanif Kureishi? And I bet you are reading something by him as well."
"Yes, I'm reading The Body by him."
"No wonder you behave like this."
"You are what you read?"
"I guess that's the point you made with your last boyfriend."
"None of your concern. You started this line of argument."
Benny stood up and took a stroll around the park, while she opened her handbag, took out the book and started reading it. When he returned after fifteen minutes, she was still stuck on the same page, though she wished he didn't notice that.

"Julie, look here, this is getting on my nerves, pretending to be someone else. Enough for the day. Let's go back."
"You couldn't find that deer anywhere? Frustrated again?"
"Yes, to be honest."
"How is Reggie doing?"
"He's fine. But he says he needs more time with me. Fed up with the long distance love. High time we find a gay-friendly place to settle down."
"Aha, so you come down to it, finally!"
"Yes, of course, I have to. And how is your husband doing? And the kids?"
"He's home, babysitting. Very good of him, or how else can I make this?"
"I'm sorry Julie. This thing is getting on my nerves. Perhaps it's a good idea to discuss our stories like this, but I am never on time with my writing assignments."
"Stay focused man. Grace is not going to be kind this time if you submit the work late. But look here man, you write really well."
"I wish so. Well, we must stay for some more time then. It's time to pretend being my characters now. I need real crisp dialogues Julie."
"Okay. How old am I?"
"Late forties. Just found out that you have a brain tumour. You are having a tough time with me, your teenage son."
"You, my teenage son!"
"Why not? I played along till now, being your nasty husband. Come on, let us get into more details..."

Image courtesy:

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Pulled Away

The moon falls on him and makes him look like a gnome. The glowy patches on his shoulder are those that escape the foliage above him. They can't be considered real, like light on flesh. They are not so romantic as well, but they exist, and give him the eerie innocence of a gnome. His eyes are not fixed on anything. He clenches his hands and releases them at regular intervals. It's not clear whether his indecision has something to do with the boat, floating powerlessly on the water, not even trying to free itself from the rope that pulls it to a reluctant land.

Things happen so fast in the small town. And this is where he comes back from there every night, after letting the rich and curious people pay him for the exotic cruise on the river, on his little wooden boat. He can take just two at a time, usually newlyweds or lovers. Earlier, he had more decorations on his boat, but now it's ripped off all luxury the way his imagination got drained off from an aging mind. He is the only boatman around and there are people to take the romantic cruise anyway, as long as exoticism sells. Even his torn shirt and trousers don't deter them from trusting him - or that is what he thought, until a few hours ago.


His last clients were the regular type, about to be married, as they said. And the man chose to propose to her in the boat. He took out the diamond ring and did the usual stuff. The girl was elated, and they just went on to make more declarations of love. Everything was fine till the end of the one-hour ride. And then, as they were close to the bank, the girl said that the ring was missing. It was beginning to get dark, and they found it difficult to search inside the boat. He knew that the ring was a bit lose on her finger, and that she had  dipped her fingers, unwisely, in the water many times. He did even try to warn them, but to no avail. Now, when he mentioned that again, the man started raising his voice, against him. There was a tone of accusation in his voice.

And it had been thirty long years since he had done this job, with no single complaint from anyone. When they reached the bank, he made it a point to mention this, but the people there seemed to have some pleasure in victimizing him. He didn't know that the people of the town were not with him, all these years. He never made too much money, but was honest and had a steady flow of clients. Everyone had trust in him - that was what he thought, and he never wanted to lose it. There was no reason for others to feel jealous of him. Or, is it just the hatred that emerges at the wrong time towards the wrong people?

People were crowded around him, all raising their voices. They had a little scuffle with him, and they searched his clothes and the boat, forcefully. After a while, he just sat on the bank, unable to communicate the intense pain within him to anybody. There was no one who cared for him - and all of a sudden, he felt alone. He knew no one would harm him further until they found out that the ring had been stolen by him. But the damage was already done. He felt he was beginning to lose his grip...on human relations, in whatever little ways he experienced it so far.

They didn't even find a trace of the ring anywhere. And then, the couple left, visibly sad about their loss, but never even looking at his direction again. The people left, murmuring inanities. He sat there for a long time, and then he got into his boat and came here.


He clenches his hands and releases them at regular intervals. It's not clear whether his indecision has something to do with the boat, floating powerlessly on the water, not even trying to free itself from the rope that pulls it to a reluctant land.