Uninvited savior.

Getting down from the bus, he slowly walked over to his office, which was a ten minute walk away. It was early in the morning, and he could see the health conscious people running their rounds in the parks, the shop owners lighting up the small lamp in front of their deities, hoping and praying for a good day of business, the birds leaving their nests in search of their day’s fill, the servants of the home walking their masters’ dogs and like so, the city slowly waking up and coming to life.

What hurt him most was seeing those little kids, on such cold mornings, with their heavy bags and sleepy eyes, waiting for their ride on the express way to hell. Many of them called it school. He knew of parents who just wanted their kids out of their way so that they could work, enjoy and have their own lives. He could not help but wonder then why they brought these poor little souls into this world in the first place. He hated school.

His stride was slow. There was no hurry. Unlike the other days, today he had no song on his lips. He was lost in thought thinking of the suffering that many kids had to face in the name of education. To make things worse, child molesters lurked in every nook and corner. It was only recently that a drug gang was busted near an Upper Primary School in his village. Evil had its roots so close to our loved ones, closer than us, pampering and calling to them in their most vulnerable and private moments.

All of a sudden, a van turned around the corner and screeched past him. The ghastly face of the children inside told him all that he needed to know.  In an instant, he picked up a big branch that was lying close to him and threw it at the van. The bewildered driver applied the brakes and tried to turn into the next lane. However, within a few seconds, he had jumped on the fence, ran across and caught up with the van.

He banged on the driver’s door, making the van come to a complete stand still. The screams of the children within got his adrenaline pumped up, and he pulled open the door. He caught the driver by his collar and threw him out of the van, yelling at him.

“You nasty little piece of shite. You ain’t kidnapping anyone today!”

The commotion had got few of the neighbours out. They ran and caught him while he was landing punch after punch on the driver’s skinny face, whose slightly protruded teeth was bleeding by then.

“What are you doing!? That’s the driver taking those kids to school!”, shouted one of them.

“Let go of me! I just saved those kids from this sick kidnapper!”, he retorted.

“Are you crazy?”

“Ask them!”, he shouted and ran over to the back of the van. He opened the door and asked, “Don’t worry, don’t worry. Everything’s fine now. Uncle has taken care of the bad man. Tell me, how did he get you?”

“We are going to school uncle. We got in the van from our homes”, one of the kids replied, to which all the other kids nodded approvingly in unison.

“But.. but.. I saved you… You don’t have to. You can get out.. I saved you…”

The realization slowly dawned on him. He lowered his gaze, and fell on his knees, and sat there, a defeated man.

A fortunate evening.

As was his daily routine, he took his laptop out and lay down on his bed. Cycling was tiring. Only while coming back from his office though. The way to his office was mostly downhill and that too the early morning rides are peaceful and serene. He hated coming back. One reason being the uphill ride and the second being the other insensitive vehicles all around. He knew he was not Wolverine and neither was he going to get those powers. However, there were times where he really wished he could pull out a certain driver from his seat, hold him down on the bonnet, claws popped out pointing at his face, and telling him, “Don’t you dare ruin my momentum bub”. Unlike olden days, he had learned to come out of these fantasies much quicker.

He made himself comfortable on the bed. Resting his head and neck on his pillow, slightly tilted up in an angle that would easily let him look at his laptop screen. He plugged in the Internet cable and waited for it to connect. Work was enjoyable. That lying down had a certain inexplicable pleasure to it. The pleasure of a man back home from a good day’s work. The programming job along with the cycling exercise was tiring, but he loved it.

He logged in to his Internet service. A 2Mbps connection was more than enough for his needs at home. He opened up youtube and looked at the search bar wondering what to type in. Just then his phone beeped. It was a text message from his friend Ranjith. It said,

“Macha, can’t you try writing for newspapers! A thought”.

That was unexpected. For a moment, he got thrown back to the days where he used to keep writing. That was when he did not have too much attention. A time when it did not matter who read whatever was written. Things had changed now however. Everytime he thought of writing something, the people who might read it came to his mind. That scared him. He was not prepared for what they would say. What all comments he would have to face. Hence, he slowly gave up even thinking of writing.

However, at that moment, he felt a joy. His friends still did remember him as someone who wrote.

A conversation happened between Ranjith and him where he explained that writing for newspapers not only would require tremendous skill but a lot of research as well. Upon being asked how this sudden thought popped up, Ranjith said that he saw a similar writing style in of the articles within The Hindu newspaper.

“That is a great compliment Ranjith. Thanks!”

He put his phone away and turned his attention back to the search results in Youtube. It was almost 5:30PM. He stretched his legs and arms, letting off a deep sigh of relief.

“Knock, knock”. He heard someone knocking at the door.

That was unusual. His roommate only comes back around 8PM in the night. Also, since he was living as a bachelor, people paying him a visit randomly was scarce. There would have to be a phone call or at least a text message discussing about where and when to meet.

“Knock, knock”. Again.

Feeling irritated at being disturbed from his comfortable lying posture and a mind ready to be entertained, he grumbled and got up.

The door lock consisted of a knob from the inside and a keyhole from the outside. He went ahead and turned knob, unlocking the door.

A sudden gush of wind swept in.

Having recovered from the suddent burst of air, he lowered his hands from his face. He could not make out who was standing outside his home. His adrenaline kicked in.

It was a man standing outside. He was wearing a long black trench coat, something very unusual in India. At least, he had never seen anyone in trench coat before. At the maximum, a jacket or a sweater. This guy standing outside was probably boiling inside in this summer heat. However, that person did not seem to show any sign of uncomfortableness. He had a hat on as well. A round hat and he was holding his head down so that his face was not visible. His pale hands sticking out of the trench coat sleeves were visible. They looked pale. Quite pale.

“What’s up Haris? Killing yet another beautiful evening?”, the person asked in a husky, yet composed voice.

Haris’ heart skipped a few beats. He did not have a clue who it was standing there acting all spooky. The pale skin, the gush of wind, the tranch coat and the spiked long hair reminded him of someone. He did not want to believe it. Too many comic books tend to mess with one’s thoughts. He mustered up all the courage he could.

“Who are you?”

The man slowly raised his head. Haris looked at him in a state of shock as his face revealed inch by inch starting from his jaw. The skin was pale, really pale. The lips did not strike any resemblance. The nose did not help that much either. Nothing could have probably prepared him for whom he saw there then. The eyes revealed it all.

It was Neil Gaiman!

“Wha…!”, Haris exclaimed.

“Of all the people, I did not expect you to be surprised to see me. Were you not expecting me?”, asked Neil.

“No sir. I mean Neil.. Well, how would I? Come in, come in”, Haris stuttered.

“It is a beautiful evening. I would much rather be outside enjoying the breeze and catching the setting sun. Shall we go and sit on the terrace?”

“By all means, of course. Here, let me a grab a couple of chairs”

“No, no… Just get that mat in your other room. That’ll do nicely”

“How did you know that I had a mat there?”, Haris asked even more surprised than he already was.

“Surely that is not your greatest curiosity at the moment?”, Neil replied with a smile.

“Yeah no, not really. Okay, let me fetch it”.

Haris fetched the mat and both of them went upstairs onto the terrace. He laid the mat down. There was a pleasant breeze and sky was just starting to turn golden. There were eagles flying around. Since the entire meat market was just a couple of yards away from the building, the sight of eagles were quite frequent around. Neil put his briefcase on the mat, took his coat off and both of them sat down.

“It is an honor to meet you sir. But what’s going on? Why are you here?”, Haris asked, not being able to contain the suspense and excitement any longer.

“Aren’t you supposed to be telling me that? After all, you called me here.”

“What!? What are you talking about? How on Earth would I call you?”

“Perhaps you dreamt?”, there was a slightly sarcastic tone in Neil’s voice.

“Yeah right. If that was the case, then probably a lot more people should be around.”, stated Haris with a laugh.

“Well, Galahad must be here by now. Why don’t you go and meet him? I believe he is downstairs.”

With a look of amazement, Haris slowly got up and went down. Just as he turned the corner where the flight of stairs ended, his heart again skipped a few beats. This was becoming a habit now and he did not feel troubled about it.

“Milord”, Galahad took his helmet off, tucked it in his arm pits and kneeled. His shining white knight’s armor looked brilliant.

“Galahad at your service milord. May I know why your highness has summoned me?”

Haris understood the reality of the situation. He always dreaded this would happen at some point. He had gone crazy! All those years of reading comics and watching cartoons were catching up to him now. It was out of control. What could he do to prevent this going any further! He tried pinching himself in the hope that he would snap out of the dream. No such luck. It only hurt his forearm.

“Hey hey, stand up. What’re you doing? What’s all this about?”, asked Haris, still in his undershirt and black pants.

There was a puzzled look on Galahad’s face.

“But sire, you asked me to come…”

There was sudden crash and boom. The quake sent Haris flying over the building. He screamed and closed his eyes shut, imagining to be rescued. At that exact instant, something hit him and swept him upwards. He was in a shock to notice what had gotten hold of him. After swinging up for a while, both he and his savior landed on top of another building.

“Are you alright?”, a deep voice asked.

Haris recognized the voice in an instant. He rubbed his eyes and turned back.

“No way!”, he exclaimed.

“What?”

“I mean, I am alright… Batman!”

“Good, then let’s go now. The League is trying their best to defend, but we need you.”

“Whoa wait, defend against whom? What is happening?”

“You will have your answers soon, but we need to leave now!”, and with that, Batman caught hold of him and pulled both of them up into the Batwing which was hovering above.

The jet speeded. Haris was in a daze.

There was a gentle tap on his shoulders. He turned back. Neil was sitting there in the seat behind him.

“You’re fantasizing”, Neil said.

Even before Haris could say anything in reply, suddenly the jet shook vehemently as if it had crashed into something. He saw Batman leaning for his seat and pressing a button underneath it. The next instant, he got thrown way up into the air while he could see the jet going forward in flames. There was small red button strapped onto his chest which was blinking. Without thinking twice, he pressed it. A parachute bag popped up from behind, making him drift down slowly.

Way down underneath him, he could see smoke rising. Dark, thick smoke. He could vaguely make out the outline of some structure from the front of which the smoke was originating. The wind carried him slightly forward, leaving the structure beneath him.

As he drfited closer to the ground, he could make out a set of horses gallopping at high speed away from the structure, towards west, which was the direction he was drifting in. A look in that direction revealed a majestic white fort built really high at the foot of a hill. He started to get a strange feeling. A Deja Vu perhaps. Suddenly, he heard the sound of cloth ripping apart above him. Something had torn his parachute. He was almost at ground level when this happend. He fell, but did not hit the ground.

One of the riderless gallopping horses had come directly underneath and gotten him on its back. The horse rode on as if it expected this to happen. On both sides and up front, he could see other riders speeding away towards the white fort. Before he got to ask the question of what was happening, a spine freezing screech cut short his thoughts.

He looked up and to his terror, saw a huge black, chaotic dragon. He could see the large fangs, the glowing eyes and a stench so bad that he was filled digust and hatred in an instant. However, his terror seemed not to take control of his senses. Although he was absolutely sure he did not have a sword when he fell from the plane, he took one out from its sheath that was hanging on his waist belt. Holding it high up, he screamed and sped on the horse.

The dragon overtook the riders, pivoted back and swept down directly at them. Haris drew his sword back and thrusted it at the dragon. However, its wings knocked it out of his hands along with three other mounted riders off their horses. Only then a fear started creeping up his spine and he wanted to survive.

As if his unspoken words were heard, he saw a figure, clad in white robe, holding up high a staff glowing with a light that was blindingly bright, speeding towards them riding a horse. He was coming from the castle’s direction.

“Begone foul creatures!”, he shouted and raised his staff at the dragons circling about.

The dragons were taken aback seeing the light coming from the staff. The valiant rider clad in white rode around the set of gallopping riders, cutting them off from the dragons and rest of the dark army who were chasing them. Being rid of the danger, they ran into the awaiting doors of the white castle, feeling safe and comfortable beneath the strong and majestic walls.

The people within bowed in respect as the riders galloped towards the top. Upon reaching the 8th tier of walls, they alighted. Everyone walked away with their horses in different directions. Haris stood there dumbfounded, not knowing what was going on.

“Come my dear friend. The enemy approaches fast. We should hold the counsel as soon as possible. May I ask your name?”

“Uh, Haris… Gandalf. I mean, sir”.

“A strange name indeed. Maybe the Gods have sent you for aid during these troubled times. Come, let us go in.”

Gandalf slowly walked into one of the huge doors that remained slightly opened.

“Haris!”

He turned around startled to hear his name being mentioned. Neil was standing there.

“You are living in another person’s world now. The things that you see around you, the people, and even you, are at the mercy of someone else”

Neil was assertive in his tone. There was a slight sign of fear as well.

“Take the words into your control. Create your own world. Let those who do not understand the joy of creating a universe say what they wish. Let the words of power, that of passion and love come forth.  Stitch together the torn pieces of fabric that makes up our world.”

It did not feel real. He had heard Neil speak before and this did not sound anything like it.

“Why do you speak like that?”, asked Haris.

“Because you want me to speak like that. The depth of what you create and the message it conveys only goes as far as your knowledge and experience.  You used to dream and you used to make those dreams come true. Somewhere along the way, the dreams remained but the creation died. You sought to find the same feeling over and over again, never to have succeeded.”

“This is what I have in my mind! But how did you know that?”

A smile appeared on Neil’s face.

“AUUGH!”, cried Haris out loud feeling a stabbing pain through him. A sword’s tip stuck out through his stomach. The pain was excruciating. Blood gushed out and his strength failed him. He fell to the ground. Still, Neil just stood there with that smile on his face.

“You can heal.”, he said.

Then it struck Haris. He got up slowly, the sword still sticking out. He clenched his fists, wrinkled his forehead, and started uttering a soft roar. It built up slowly, growing fiercer and fiercer by the moment, until it became a loud, terrifying scream! His muscles ripped his shirt off. He threw his head back with the scream, and from within his tightly clenched fists, popped three claws! Holding the sword with his left hand, he swung around with his right hand stretched wide.

There was a shriek. Amidst the smoke, a severed head fell down on the ground. It was pitch black, and was covered with a dark mask, wearing a gray, broken crown. There was a not a drop of blood to be seen. The body which still held the sword’s hilt turned into ashes. Haris pulled the sword out of him. He was panting, his chest heaving up and down. He felt the pain drifting away. A look at his stomach revealed no wound.

Meanwhile all this was happening, Neil watched in amusement, not showing the slightest of intimidation.

“I am disappointed a bit”, he said, and walked away.

Haris stood there. He wondered what Neil meant. He slowly walked towards the walls and looked over them. The Dog was running around on the rooftop of the neighboring building. Its mistress had gone for work. Round and round it would go all day long, barking and standing up to see over the fence.

“The world must be those four walls for it. Except for the occasional peek it takes over them. I wonder what goes through its mind when it hears a language it can understand. The fierce debate of the street dogs 5 floors down”, Haris thought.

He shifted his gaze slowly towards the right. Over the horizon, he could see the sun slowly going down. Bathing the world in gold, making it look and feel so precious. He savored the moment. Following along the golden rays, he gaze fell upon the solemn tree standing tall and majestic, proud to wear the golden pardha awhile before going to sleep. As much as the sight was glorious to behold, he felt a sense of sadness at the sight. Around it was a wide stretch on uninhabited land. For miles, there were no trees around. An old man, with a book in his hand, stood in front of it. Haris could sense the conversation.  He grieved.

There was a slight tap on his shoulders. He turned around.

“Dad!”, he exclaimed.

“You have a gift. Make the world a better place with it.”

“But, but… how?”

“That answer is for you to find on your own. However, there is one thing that I can tell you.”, his Father looked at him reassuringly. “That you are not alone”.

The door which Gandalf had gone in opened. Haris could not see what was within. He waited. Even though he had enough surprises and adventure for one day, he was not prepared for what happened next.

The people who came out started with his family, followed by his friends. They started pouring out, each carrying a glowing pot. It did not just stop with them. The leaders of the world, the beggars, the scums of the society, the activists, all of them were there. The superheroes started flying and swinging in from around. The monsters and creatures he ever knew came around and stood obediently. The actors, their characters, the bugs, birds, animals, trees, plants, anything and everything came and stood there!

He stood there gaping. Neil came forward.

“Our experiences are at your command. Those that have been shared, to be used as you will. Those that have not been shared, waiting for you in those pots. All you need to do, is ask”. He paused for a moment and then continued, “We are there right behind you. Now it is time to start your quest. Let’s get you back home. Any preferences?”, he added with a wink.

Haris smiled.

“I think I’ve got that covered”. With that, he ran and jumped over the wall. Falling freely. He did not sprout wings, he did not wear a cape. No one came from anywhere to save him from the fall. He cut the air sharp and went straight down. The trees, the stones and the pebbles started getting bigger. It grew bigger and bigger until WHAM!

He heard Neil’s voice in his head. The screen was titled “Neil Gaiman – Advice”. The flash video box showed suggestions for other videos to watch. It was 5.37PM. He let go off a deep sigh. He got up, took his laptop and put it on his table. He adjusted the seat, sat on it, fired up his favorite text editor and started typing in,

“As was his daily routine, he took his laptop out and lay down on his bed. Cycling was tiring…”

—————

Following was what the voice said. (This is the transcript of the video titled ‘Neil Gaiman – Advice’, on youtube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voFDz4o6H9g)

“If you only write when you’re inspired, you maybe a fairly decent poet, but you will never be a novelist. Because, you’re going to have to make your word count and those words aren’t going to wait for whether you are inspired or not. So you have to write when you are not inspired and you have to write the things that don’t inspire you. The weird thing is, six months later you will look back at them and you can’t remember which things you wrote when you were inspired and which things you wrote because they had to be written next.

The process of writing can be magical. There are times when you step out of an upper floor window and you just walk across thin air, and it is absolute and utter happiness. Mostly it is a process of putting one word after another. It is like, out in Peak District, in England, and up in Scotland, there are people who make dry stone walls. And they have been making dry stone walls for generations. The way they make these walls is, they have lots and lots of rocks. They put one down and they put another one down that fits, and they put another one down that fits. They know how to do it. And somehow, they create these walls that are absolutely stable. And just by putting one rock down after another, eventually, you have a wall.

That’s how you make a novel.

Put one word, after another, and then you repeat. So when people come to me and they say, ‘I wanna be a writer. What should I do?’. I say, ‘You have to write’.

Sometimes they say, ‘I am already doing that. What else should I do?’. I say, ‘You have to finish things’. Because that’s where you learn from. You learn by finishing things.

There is so much advice that you can give young writers. Particularly writes who want to work within a certain genre. Read within that genre to understand what people are doing, but then, go and read outside your comfort zone. If you love a certain kind of movie and you want to make hollywood action thrillers, go watch other kinds of movies. Watch documentaries and go see the other stuff. Find everything you can. If you like books, and you like fantasy and you want to become the next Tolkien, don’t read big, Tolkienesque fantasies. Tolkien did not read big Tolkienesque fantasies. He read books on finished philology.

You go and read outside your comfort zone. Go and learn stuff. Hit primary sources, and then, the most important thing that anyone once they get any kind of level of quality – the point where you are ready to write and you can, is, tell your story. Don’t try and tell stories that other people can tell. Because any starting writer, will always start out with other people’s voices. You have been reading other people for years, you are going to tell the kinds of thing you’ve been doing. However, as quickly as you can, start telling the stories that only you can tell. Because there always be better writers than you and there will always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that, but you are the only you.

You know, Tarantino, you can criticize everything that Quentin does, but nobody writes Tarantino stuff, like Tarantino. He is the best Tarantino writer there is and that was actually the thing that people responded to. This is an individual writing with his own point of view.

There will always be people out there who are better than you. There are better writers then me out there. There are smarter writers, there are people who can plot better, all those kind of things. But there is nobody who’ll write Neil Gaiman stories like I can.

As for getting over the writer’s block, for me it has always been a process of trying to convince myself that what I am doing in the first draft isn’t important. I remember the incredible liberation of the point that I moved from type writers to computers, because I was no longer making paper dirty. It was just sort of notional, it was imaginary. I was writing these words, but they did not matter. And then a decade after that, I remember the liberation again of thinking, I can write in notebooks. It isn’t real until I keyboard it. One of the things that I actually still do is to over and over is to just write in notebooks. Just hand write, because, it is not real. One way you get through the block is by convincing yourself that it does not matter. Nobody is ever going to see your first draft. Nobody cares about your first draft. And that is the thing that you maybe agonizing over, but honestly, whatever you are doing can be fixed. You can fix it tomorrow, you can fix it next week. For now, just get the words out. Get the story down however you can get it down, and then fix it.”

A short review on “Aadu Jeevidham” – A Malayalam Novel

How I came to read the book
————————————–

I closed the gate after getting out of my Mom’s home’s compound. The turn-wheel turned and the latch fell into place with a clack. It was almost 9PM and I was sure Mom would have been waiting for me to come home to dinner. I stepped into the street lane of the main road connecting the village center and surrounding places. It was dark. Fortunately, still today, night is related to darkness in my village. However, since I was quite close to an intersection which connected the lane that lead to my house, to the main road, there was one street lamp and a few shops that were still lit. Junctions sleep late. Around 11PM, it was guaranteed total and utter darkness except for the light coming from the mobile phone screens of late night drunkards.

The shops alongside the road, adjacent to the house’s compound belonged to my Grandfather. Once he passed away, the ownership was transferred to my Grandmother, who, immediately transferred them to her two male children (my uncles). These shops consisted of tailors, phone booths, groceries, textiles, photography studios and foreign goods, most of them having been there for almost 15 years now. I took a few steps and crossed the first mobile phone accessories shop, when I reached in front of the Matrix. The tailor shop was named so far before the movie came out. They had shifted shops thrice within a 500m vicinity. The owner Ismail, known to everyone as Bava, was quite a popular character in our village. Apart from his lean, really lean figure, what made him a fan favorite was his quick witted conversations. A laugh was guaranteed whenever you spoke with him.

Along with him inside the shop, I could also see Shihab. I will refer to him from now on as Shihabka, where “ka” means brother in my mother tongue. Almost all the times, that is how you address your elders. He is the poster child of social activeness. Along with a real pleasant humor sense, he has an incredible charisma and a dedicated will to help anyone in need. I have never been able to figure out what his motivation is for being so helpful. Suffice to say he was the one who helped me find my accommodation when I moved to Bangalore.

The front of the shop had a glass wall. While locking down, they had a shutter in front of it which they would pull down and lock it to the latch on the ground. I waved at them. I could not resist going in. Who wouldn’t like a hearty laugh in between this busy life? We exchanged greetings and chatted for a while. Bava was busy since he had a lot of orders come in the previous days and the customers kept on calling asking whether their dress was ready. Shihabka and I were discussing about when we were both returning to Bangalore, as both of us worked there, in the middle of which he suddenly asked,

“Have you read Aadu Jeevidham?”

“No. As a matter of fact, I have not read any Malayalam stories”

“Then you should read it. Come with me. I’ll get you the book from my home”

He seemed pretty decisive about it and I thought it would be a nice experience too. I hopped onto his motorbike and headed for his home, which was on the fields, at the bottom of a small hill. It was almost 9:30PM. His Mom made Sulaimani (black tea) for both of us. Over tea, he explained about how elegant and creative the writing was. About how it would draw you into the author’s world and make you feel like you are living it. It was a short conversation and we left his place by 9:40. He dropped me off at my home and we parted exchanging Salams.

I must say I am glad that this happened in my life.

 

About the book
——————–

Last month, I finished reading a Malayalam Novel for the first time in my life. At some point in my childhood, due to the inspiration from my Brother and Sister, I started reading comic books, short stories, kids’ novels as well as classics. However, each and every one of them were in English. The only times that I had read anything in Malayalam were the stories and poems from my school text books. Since all of them were read with a sense of tension about the teacher asking questions on it the next day, I don’t remember any joy that I had derived while I was at it.

“Aadu Jeevidham”, translated directly to “Goat Life” in English, is the story about a typical Keralite Muslim man and his journey to the Gulf in search of livelihood. I must say, the most wonderful thing about the book is the language itself. I do not deserve to talk about it from a literature perspective as neither have I read other Malayalam novels nor have I learned the language too deep. I entirely mean that the language is wonderful from the perspective of the language being in ones own mother tongue. There are certain quirks and colloquial constructs that you have in your mother tongue which expresses the meaning of a word or a context much better than any other means of communication. Hence, although I have read quite a few English novels and stories in my life, this one novel got through to me the most.

To further elaborate on that, I was able to understand the emotions and feelings of the characters much better. I was able to picture the scenes much better and most importantly, it was like a conversation between a human and I. As if someone was telling me the story rather than me reading it from the book. Of course, this could be the case with every other book written in ones mother tongue since there is nothing that I have described here which is peculiar to this novel. I will just have to read more and see whether in terms of the language constructs he had used, this novel stands out from the rest of the others.

The novel talks about the dreams that a person would have and how reality dawns upon him to crush not only the dreams, but his entire life as well. Najeeb, the main character in the novel, is a jobless husband, with his wife expecting their first kid in 6 or so months. One of his friends tells him about an opportunity in the gulf, upon which, after discussing with his wife, he decides to take it up no matter what happens. After somehow begging and borrowing enough money for the commission and airplane tickets, he spends one last night with his wife before he leaves for Mumbai to catch the plane.

The conversation during that night is bitter sweet. They talk about how he would go there and earn a lot. How he would come back in a year and bring gifts for his newborn and his wife. Purchasing a Fridge and a TV, laying foundation for their new home and all other ‘luxuries’ that they could think of.

He leaves the next day for Mumbai and stays a day or two with his friends there. However, before he left for Mumbai, his neighbor’s son had gotten a Visa to the gulf as well. Hence, both of them were traveling together. The other person was a brash young kid, full of life and full of expectations.

The actual story begins when they reach the gulf airport and don’t find anyone waiting to pick them up. After waiting for a long time, they see a torn apart mini lorry revving up the road that leads to the airport. It stops midway and an Arab jumps out from it, wearing a white Kandhuura covering him from top to bottom and with a turban on his head. He walks here and there for a while looking frustrated and finally spots our two young gentlemen standing over there. He comes over, takes their passport, looks at it and then looks at their faces. After what looks like a face analysis, he gestures them to get in the truck. Happy that someone finally paid them some attention they jump in. The Arab takes them on a long ride. A very long ride, into the heart of the desert, where they reach during midnight. Najeeb gets down at some unknown place and sharpens his hearing. He hears the slight braying of a goat.

I do not want to give away what happens then and how the story develops. The author’s depiction of the desert is off the charts and extremely gripping. Maybe someday I’ll gather enough literary skills to do a rewrite of this wonderful piece of work into English.

A million thanks to Shihabka for making me read the book.

A thief’s grief.

It was pouring that evening. Ahamed loved the rains. He would never fail to be mesmerized by the pitter-patter of the rain drops and hence, it was not surprising that he did not heed to the call of a few busy customers standing outside his grocery shop.

Some say that customers should be the top priority. However, for him, taking the time to reflect on and enjoy nature was far more important. He made himself a nice tea and continued to enjoy the evening.

It was getting late and he did not want to miss the Kebab his wife was making for dinner that day. He had hit his daily earning goal. So a quick sort of to-dos list based on priority landed the Kebab on top. The boy next doors helped him carry the heavy trays and tables inside. He knew he was not in his salad days anymore and did not do any heroics. At least, his body was not, even though his spirit and mind were.

Thanking the boy and giving him his daily wage, Ahamed walked home with his Umbrella. Even before he opened the door, the aroma of the kebab started watering his mouth. That was not all. The surprise that awaited him was much greater when he was greeted by his grandchildren. Could one ask anything more than the lovely rain, loveliest grandchildren and a delicious Kebab along with them? Nope. Ahamed was as content as a person could be.

They finished dinner. Ahamed’s eldest son described about his business ideas and how he was planning to move back close to home once his idea took off. His children made a mess out of the dining table fighting with each other over a piece of kebab because it remotely resembled a gun. One bite out of it would have solved the problem, but no. They had to pull the trigger.

Everyone retired to their rooms and Ahamed had his own little space. He liked his room. It was one of the smallest ones in his home, but was perfect for him. Everything was at a hand’s reach. The small rectangular room had windows on one side, his cot just beside it, the hangar on the opposite wall and a table in the corner.

He hung his shirt on the hangar and changed into his dothi. Answered Nature’s call, applied a little musk to the bed sheet and pillows as was his daily custom. He sat down on his bed, content with the day and yearning for a good sleep. However, the pitter-patter of the rain could still be heard outside. Ahamed wanted to listen to it, to sleep listening to that lullaby. He opened the windows, turned the light off and put his head to rest on the pillow, breathing in the cold air, soothing his mind and body.

Little did he realize the day was not over yet.

After a while since Ahamed slipped off into deep slumber, the beings of the night were set into motion. The moon tried as best as she could to take a peek at the world through the thick clouds, but it was just not her day. There was complete and utter darkness. So dark that it could chill the bones of a mortal who would be awake at that hour. Well, all mortals’ except one’s.

His steps were nimble and the dark added to the swiftness of his motion. Nothing could be heard or seen except for the occasional rustling of leaves, dripping of water and hooting of the owl. He was a master of his trade.

Unsuspecting, Ahamed slept soundly. Not realizing open windows were for creatures of the dark what sun light was for plants, he dreamed on.

A bamboo pole slowly found its way into Ahamed’s room through the grill of the room’s windows. So slow and yet so steady that even a fly wouldn’t have been able to detect that motion. The pole slowly moved in, not even scratching in the faintest at either sides of the narrow window grill. It crossed Ahamed’s bed, steadily continuing forward above him.

Masterfully and skillfully, the pole reached Ahamed’s shirt on the hangar. Maintaining the heavy pole so steady was too much effort and his muscles were acting at its peak. But it was worth it. It was art and sheer talent. Bravery.

Slowly the pole hooked onto Ahamed’s shirt, slowly lifting it off the hangar. Utmost care was needed now for the weight just became unbalanced. The shirt hanging on the pole made it so that it had to be lifted way above the cot before bringing it closer to the window. He was determined to do it.

However, what he did not realize was that Ahamed had been living in this home for the past 25 years and he knew every nook and corner of it. Even the draft that would run through the room was familiar to him because barely anything would change its place. As such, when the shirt was taken off the hangar, Ahamed awoke.

He did not get up. He slightly opened his eyes and beheld his shirt nicely floating by. It amused him. He admired the skill with which the pole was being held steadily. He did not move.

The pole slowly continued to move back towards the window. Almost 20 minutes had passed with that pole in the air. He was clenching his teeth, but his tiredness was overcome thinking about the gratification of achieving this feat. He knew he was getting better day by day.

The shirt was right over Ahamed now and he kept looking at it, admiring its consistent movement. Slowly, it went over, inch by inch. With utmost discipline, the shirt gracefully reached the window. He could not believe he had done it. He was euphoric. He gave all the strength to one arm holding the pole, bit his lips, and slowly moved his other hand to fetch the shirt.

Ahamed got up, took the shirt from the pole, hung it back on the hangar, and went back to sleep.

The rising sunsets.

“No hangovers this time!”, Rakesh was adamant about it and his friends had no say over it.

“Sheesh, alright, aright…”, said Midhun. “What else do you want to do?”

“Let’s do something totally wicked, eh?”, Rakesh had the million dollar smile on his face. That meant he already had something on his mind and his friends, who knew this, waited for him to spit it out.

“Are you saying we aren’t wicked enough at our parties!?”, blurted out Ayer.

“Heh, we are wicked alright. But this time, we want to break all boundaries. Go wild and do something we have never done before!”, Rakesh was bursting with excitement.

“Out with it already man”, said his friends in the same breath.

Rakesh’s eyelids came down a little, his lips went on either side of his face; a perfect naughty grin. Midhun raised his eyebrows, not being able to read Rakesh’s mind. Ayer and Vishnu had already given up on guessing because they knew Rakesh was in one of those peculiar moods where his brain was working at its peak, the only difference being that this time it was not on debugging code, but on planning how to celebrate new year’s.

“Well folks…,”, Rakesh started. “believe it or not, we are going to see the sun rise over the horizon!”

There was a deadly silence. His friends could not even begin to fathom the meaning of what he had just said.

“See the sun rise over the horizon!”, exclaimed Ayer. All ghastly thoughts came pouring into his head, the first and foremost of them being waking up in the morning! He had not done that since his High school and he was pretty sure his mind would get a nasty shock if he were to wake up that early and start thinking about something, anything.

“Yes Ayer”, Rakesh interrupted Ayer’s thoughts. “That is why I said it is going to be something totally wicked”.

“But still..”

Rakesh laid out the plan, “Okay guys. We are going to Konark, the archaeological site on the eastern border of our country. We are going to sit on that darn beach and see the sun of a gun slowly come up out of wherever the heck it hides during the night. Unless any of you are going to say no, I am going to book the tickets”

No one had anything to say. They were totally taken by surprise and off their guard that either they could just sit there gaping, or they could not say anything, thereby approving Rakesh’s proposal.

They did both.

So it was decided. The 4 friends were going to Konark, the eastern beach, to see the sun rise. The tickets were booked and the preparations were made for their journey.

After a few weeks, they started off on their journey, a two day train ride, which was supposedly to end in a shocking new real life experience that would make all of them better human beings.

They made it to Konark in one piece. Reached there early in the morning, got together all their stuff and figured out the location of the Hotel where they were going to put up for the week. They had a good rest, cleaned themselves up, had a good lunch and by evening, decided to go out and figure out a perfect place to go and sit the next day morning to see what they had come to see.

The 4 friends walked a while, on the way passing by the amazing Sun Temple. The beach was almost a kilometer away from the temple and they covered the distance on foot. It was vacation, and they were cool with time. Finally, they reached the beautiful, golden colored beach.

“Ah, here we are!”, said Rakesh and emptied his can of drink.

The four friends sat down, the gentle breeze blowing on their faces, the calming rhythm of the sea soothing their hearts, the wide stretch of open water lying wide open in front of them. They felt at peace.

They sat there for a while, getting into a conversation amongst themselves, cracking jokes and sharing a few life stories. They were having the time of their lives, and the setting sun added to the lovely feeling around, bathing the world in a reddish tint.

Vishnu could not help but praise the scenery. “Guys doesn’t the setting sun simply look awesome?”, he said pointing to the sun. “It turned red from the fiery yellow it was a couple of hours ago. Simply amazing…”

The others nodded, remaining calm and silent, enjoying the scene. Suddenly, Rakesh had this terrible feeling inside him.

“! What the…!?”, he almost sweared.

“What’s wrong?”, asked Ayer.

Rakesh looked as if he had seen a ghost. His eyes were almost bulging out and his face had an expression of complete disbelief on it.

“Dang! The sun sets!”, he exclaimed.

“Ha ha.. What did you think? That it stays… ummm… What the!?”, it dawned upon Ayer, which in turn dawned upon the others as well.

Rakesh flipped out his smart phone and checked the GPS to know where the heck they were. The phone showed the location, which was correct. They were on the eastern beach at Konark. The train tickets were correct and even the hotel accommodations were fine. And yet there they were, sitting on an eastern beach, watching the sun set.

“What the bloody hell is going on guys?”, a tone of disbelief and fear was there in Rakesh’s voice.

After a long time of puzzled looks and freaked out replies, the friends managed to find out what was going on. It seemed that the beach at Konark started from an eastern tip, went down south a little, then took a sharp turn towards the west, running a few hundred kilometers in that direction, and finally turns south again, proceeding thusly till the southern tip of the country. So what happened was that they were almost in the middle of the large strip of beach that was headed west, and thus could see the sun set into the sea facing westwards. The interesting thing that they figured out was that if they faced east, the sun could be seen rising up from within the sea as well.

The case was completely weird. They were now in a place where they could see the sun rise from the sea and set in it as well. However, what they came there for. was there, and that was what they wanted.

They were made better men, when the four of them waited since 5am the next day, and saw the sun coming up from within the sea, slowly to light up the world in all its glory.

The sensuously irascible guy.

Now that I sit back and take a good long look at that title, I must say, “The title says it all”. Moreover yes, “irascible” was a new word for me as well. When Aayan gave all of us our sheets of paper with a word written on it, I got that word. I know, being a writer, I should have acted like I knew what it meant and should have simply started writing about it. However, thank God I wasn’t too full of myself or I would’ve ended up writing something totally irrelevant to that word.

I put a helpless expression on my face and looked around stating, not asking, “I don’t even know what this word means”. To my surprise, everyone was as humble as me (ahem!) and Lalana was the first among them to google and find the word’s meaning for me.

“Easily made angry”, it said.

Great! I had to write a short story in 100 words about a sensuously irascible guy. What could be more awesome than that? Anyway, all of us did our parts and somehow stuck them together to make up a wonderfully senseless story about this dude called Raj/Mohan, who is completely burnt out doing assignment after assignment and exams after exams. He is so irritated that he choke slams his friend onto to the wall of their room when his friend asked him for a book.

In that state of anger and strife, he calls up Meena and asks her whether she would like to come over for a swim. She agrees, of course and they have the most sensual dip in the pool where he goes under and comes up in between her legs and what not.

He video tapes her without her noticing it and to his surprise, she suddenly disappears from the front of the camera and comes up behind him.

They both sit together and the emotions build up inside them. They don’t want to be safe and be conventional, they wanted to be decadent, and they did; succumbing to the animal instincts.

Finally they sit together reasoning about what they had done and how it was a natural thing to happen.

Well, that’s it! Irascible, Water, Moist, Decadent and Evoke were the words that our team got and that is the story we made up. However, I haven’t been able to do justice to my friends’ writings as the way they had written the short piece of 100 words was mind blowing.

Check out The Bangalore writing club. Looking forward for the next meetup!

Rupet’s dolls.

When I heard Rupet’s dolls had finally hit the store, I was so excited that I just had to immediately see my friend to share the excitement. Nidiya lived a few houses down the lane. I turned off the TV, told my Mom that I’d be back in a jiffy, got hold of my umbrella as we were continuously having rains, and hurried onto Nidiya’s home.

Just as I rang the bell, I could hear a lot of voices from within her home. Standing there wondering what all the hassle was about, the door opened and I heard Nidiya bidding her Mom a quick goodbye. It was never a good sign for me if she was excited. Mainly because she starts going off on wild goose chases and I’m usually the one she drags along with her. Although it is absolutely lovely to be with such an enthusiastic girl, I sometimes do feel what the point of all of it is.

“Hasna, what a surprise!”, she cried upon seeing me standing there without a clue.

“Hey Nidu, what’s up with all the hurrying? Moreover, why does my sixth sense tell me that you were on your way to fetch me to accompany you on one of your so called “who-buried-the-treasure-over-here hunt” instead of simply a “treasure hunt”?”

“Ha ha ha”, Nidiya chuckled warmly. Whenever she smiles, I look at her and lose myself in a few moments of thought at how beautiful and adorable she looks. Especially while smiling. It is a good thing for me because when we both walk together, all the boys look at her and usually do not even pay the slightest of attention to yours truly. I admit that it kind of hurts, but I guess it is better that way in the long run. Anyway, I came out of the spell that her beauty had put on me and smiled back.

“Ever the loyal friend”, she continued, “However, the truth is that we don’t have time. Remember that fact about how the latest multi core processors could do processes in parallel? We even had a debate about it two months back.”, she said, winking at me.

“What! That was two months ago and we had left it then and there agreeing to how hardware parallelism was achieved! Don’t tell me you have gone off on one of your irrelevant tangents regarding this too.”

“Ha! Good news for you then because I have!”, she said sarcastically. “I’ve been reading upon it a lot and doing a lot of research on the matter. Downloading simulators, talking to people online, discussing in online communities and what not. However, here is the drill. I’ve finally tracked it down to Mr. Shafik! Can you believe that?”. There was fire in her eyes as she finished saying that. A look that said that she was blind to everything else now that she was so close to the truth. You people might be wondering what that look is but trust me, I know her and I haven’t seen another person in my life with such zeal and enthusiasm for learning. She just wouldn’t rest until she got to the very core of it.

“Shafik, our  milkman? Cool!”, I said dumbly.

“Augh! No you silly little girl.”, she blurted out extremely irritated. I loved doing that to her. “Mr. Shafik from our own University! Don’t tell me you don’t know the person. Apparently, he was one of the design consultants in the manufacture of the processor!”, she continued in full excitement. I knew what was going to come and just as I had that thought, she said, “So let’s go! No time to waste.”. Ah, there it was. So much for the excitement that I went there with. My mind was on fire thinking how I could show my excitement at Rupet’s dolls. To mention going and seeing toys over learning about processors was a shameful thing for an Engineering student. Still, I too was not one who gave up that easily.

“Wo, wo, wo, hold on. I came here in my own excitement. We’ll go to the University now, but on one condition. As soon as we get back that you’ll come with me to see the Rupet’s dolls exhibition in town! They are out, can you believe it!?”. Now I was sounding excited.

“Yeah sure”, said Nidiya. “I’m not sure what those are but I’m sure they will be worth seeing if they got your attention. Now let us go!”.

We went to the university and got back in the afternoon. She had her fill when Shafik explained to her the core semantics and details of the implementation. Content and happy with her research efforts, she had that “pleased with one’s self” look on her face. However, I was not done yet.

“Let’s go for the exhibit!”, I said disturbing her train of thoughts. She felt irritated on being pulled away from her world. Since it was me who did it, she kept it to herself and gave me one of her lovely smiles.

“Let’s grab some lunch and we’ll be on our way”, she said.

We had lunch and caught the bus to town. We could see posters and billboards of Rupet’s dolls all along the way. They had given it a pretty wonderful publicity for over month now through TV and newspapers. Everyone was anxious to get their hands on them as much I was. We reached town and went to the central supermarket where the first batch of toys had arrived that day morning.

I was scared that this might bore Nidiya too much and I was beginning to feel bad about dragging her over there. The rush at the market was unbelievable and it took almost half an hour to find our way through the crowd into the market. Just as we entered it, I stood as if I was struck with lightning. Trying hard to digest what I had just witnessed, I slowly turned and looked at Nidu. I felt relieved on seeing her eyes widened and her jaw dropped. Bringing her along was not a disappointment after all.

“I need a closer look”, she said and hurried over to one of the dolls on the show stand. I followed her and what we both beheld put us in a trance. The dolls were so life like that it was almost indistinguishable from a real human! You could even see the nerves on the hands slightly protruding. The palm of the doll’s hands were so masterfully crafted that each and every line was perfectly visible. Even the nails had the slight pink tint to them. Their eyes seemed to have life in them. The light lines on the lips, the eyebrows, and even the hair on the skin was there and that too in a perfectly normal nature that you would not at feel like you were looking at a doll at all. I even began to think these might be real life dwarfs standing there to trick us and tried pinching and slightly piercing one with my pin. They did not stir. They were dolls.

“Hasna, this is absolutely awesome!”, Nidiya cried. I too had not expected to witness such a marvel.

“Let’s check out the others!”, I said and dragged her away to see the other dolls.

Each one was better than the previous one. The price of the dolls were a tad bit too much for ordinary people, and hence we contended ourselves with just looking at them. We had spent more than two hours there savoring the sight when I noticed that it was getting dark out.

“Hey Nidu, we should get going. First you did not want to come, now you don’t want to go?”, I mocked her. She did not reply, but went straight over to one of the representatives and asked him,

“Sir, where do you get these dolls from?”

“From Rupet, Of course!”, the representative replied with a laugh.

“I mean do you know the place where they come from? Do you directly order it from Rupet himself?”

“Well, their agents came and gave us their number. We rang them and placed an order and here we are!”, he again ended with a smile.

I pulled her away from him and we got out of the market. However, she was already drawn towards the dolls. She kept looking back at the market as we hurried to catch the homebound bus.

“Wow, now those were some cool dolls I say!”, I said trying to show my amazement. Nidiya just nodded and let out a slight hum without giving any reply. “Hey, snap out of it Nidu”, I shook her.

She came back from the world she was in and gave me a weird look. I started feeling extremely disturbed because I had seen that look before in her eyes. It meant that she was hooked onto that matter and she would never give up on it unless she understood every aspect of it.

We got down at the stop near our homes. I asked her not to keep any of this in mind and tried to get her mind back onto the matter of processors. On our way home, I was relieved when she suddenly started telling me about what Mr. Shafik had told her about it. The enthusiasm with which she explained the matter really would get the person hearing her interested in it. Suffice to say, I was all about processors.

Days passed and one day, I was surprised to hear from her mom asking me whether Nidu had called upon me or whether I had any idea where she was. It was study leave for us and we had not seen each other for almost a week now. I grew concerned and asked her mom what was going on. She told me that Nidiya had something on her mind and would spend a lot of time walking here and there muttering to herself. I was not alarmed at that because she usually was like that. However when her mother told me that she had been making quite a few trips to the super market lately, I started to feel a bit worried.

I went over to the super market and inquired whether such a girl had come there. What they told me raised my anxiety even further. It seems she had talked them into giving her the distributor’s phone number. “What is she planning on doing? Learn the craft from the masters?”, I thought. That girl never knew when to let go of something. I did not waste much time. I called the distributors and got their address. I hurried over there and saw the managing director.

I asked him whether a girl had come to him inquiring about Rupet’s dolls.

“Ah yes madame. A pretty young girl had come inquiring about it. However, we do not have direct contact with Rupet’s dolls. We get a call from a number consistently every week and we place our orders then. We never used to call back. She made us give her that number and she went away with a chuckle. That is all I know.”

Nidiya went missing from then on. Nothing can express the guilt and grief that I have bore over the years. It has been 18 years since then. I have relocated to another country and have been settled there for the past three years now. To my surprise, today morning it was the grand opening of Rupet’s toys here in central city. There was a huge crowd at the mall. I went over to the mall which brought back all those bitter memories.

I got in and looked at the dolls. One doll caught my eye. It had a special black dress. I looked at it. It’s skin was so fair and smooth. It had the hands of a sweet little girl and the figure of a beautiful young lady. I felt something horrible within me just then. In that sense of fright, I slowly took the doll. My hands shivered. Slowly I turned it around, and beheld one of the most beautiful faces that I have ever seen in my life.

It was Nidiya.

——————————–

Yet another one of my sister’s weird dreams.