In Context

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“A little context goes a long way.”

_ J. M. Barrie,

The Founder of Secret Literary Society (SLitS).

Written on the pale wall, the slogan greeted her on the first day of her job. She was standing in a dimly lit, narrow reception area. It was desperately in want of a receptionist as there were no visible directions about where she was supposed to go. She gathered her teal patterned muffler and covered her face as a protective response against her nerves, which were threatening to overcome her resolve for a yearning for the signature hustle and bustle of a London evening filled her. But there was only the mild noise filtering from the bar above to keep her company. Previous day’s events ran before her eyes like that of a play she had watched repeatedly.

She was clutching a letter in her hands that congratulated her on securing a position. A position which she had never applied for. But it incited her interest many degrees more than the prospect of engaging with an unknown family and educating their children. A tedious but also the only other means of earning for her. Curiosity coupled with the greed of being called the 1st woman to be selected for the work of such a unique nature motivated her. She looked at the letter again for reassurance. .

The SLitS Headquarters,

October 16th, 18____,

Ms. ______,

As per our previous correspondence, we offer you the said position. Consider this letter your official appointment. Please take note that you, under no circumstances, are to show this to anyone. If you want to decline, then burn the letters and speak no word about them. However, if you were to accept, then we request your presence at The SLitS Headquarter (basement of The 1888 Bar) today at sharp 20:00.

May the Power of Words shine over you!

Director,

Secret Literary Society.

(SLitS).

She ventured forward and after a few minutes located a spiral staircase leading deep into the building.


 

A year later

She was standing in the lavish garden of a grand mansion that she was to enter in due course. The paper in her gloved hands read,

“Story-telling is not mere escapism. It is more real than reality; truer than the truth.”

Chilling air cut through despite her heavy corset, abundantly ruffled bustle skirt, and a copious amount of hosiery. Her ample bosom peeked out of the sensuous V-neck of her bodice, which was tighter than the pursed lips of her mother, when she lost her temper. A Gainsborough hat covered her curls, except for a few strands that were let loose purposefully. While her figure was plump in all the right places, her face — if not flattered with hair — heavily inclined towards corpulence.

She looked about her anxiously. It had taken her more than the standard 3 days to avail the invitation to this ball. She had almost lost hope, except in her line of work, one did not have the luxury of giving up. She sighed and threw back her shoulders before she entered the royal venue with a lady-like gait she had been practicing for a month.

Blood-red carpet covered the floor of the gigantic hall. Draping the 7 feet tall windows, the satin curtains in a shade of deep burgundy shielded the room from the gloomy weather outside. Within a few moments, she had detected her target and was moving towards him but was hindered by her hostess. As guided by her mentor at the SLitS headquarter, she fended off the emergency by cutting her off mid-dialogue without appearing curt or disregarding in the least.

She noticed that the night was advancing fast. Soon the mad chaos of colliding bodies in the jolly ritual called dance will ensue. It would be impossible to get hold of her target then. She decided that it was time to make her move. But —

“A woman of exceptional beauty in a room full of prospective grooms, interested not in even one of them only falls short in terms of suspicion to a handsome bachelor, with a large income and handsome disposition yet who was not pursued by a string of women,” said a velvety, almost intoxicating voice.

She stopped dead in her tracks. Her eyes closed in a gesture of frustration, not unlike someone who was caught in the midst of performing an illegal deed. With great difficulty, she brought herself to face the watchful eyes under the drooping upper lids of this man of extraordinary eminence.

He was towering her 5 ft. 4” figure by a good 8 inches. Devoid of his wide-brimmed hat, sporting a tuft of curled hair neatly separated in a straight middle parting, and dressed in a silk frock coat of indescribable brown hue, he looked a character from the 17th century.

“Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde,” she curtsied and offered him her hand.

His Grecian features transformed utterly as he boomed with laughter and kissed her outstretched hand.

“It is odd you presented your left … ” He lost consciousness mid-sentence. Her backup had caught him and transferred him into another room before he had completed his fall.

By the time, Wilde came to his senses, a crucial piece of information had been exchanged between the 9th Marquees of Queens-berry and a charming lady who was never again seen in the same circle. It was an information that could char the name of a certain Lord Alfred Douglas for debauchery of inconceivable nature.


 

May 25th, 1895

“A few years and his work would have bestowed upon him success and popularity,” she told a mysterious man in black, “Why did we do this to him?”

“I may not have foreseen the level of injustice they perpetrated on him,” said the man but without even a shred of remorse in his voice. “Nonetheless” he added, “Our actions have only made him immortal.”

“Because that is our job,” she retorted, “We kill wordsmiths to immortalize them.”

The man had had enough. “His work is larger than his life and our sins,” he told the girl he had recruited a few years ago, “Besides,” he said adjusting his bowler hat on his head, “He isn’t dead, yet.”


 

A strange woman visited the most controversial prisoner of his time. What a scandal! thought everyone at the prison.

The powers that be had wanted to keep the whole affair a secret; thus, it was on every tongue like the other secrets of the literary world. Why was every great writer afflicted with misfortune? Why was there always a back-story about the best of storytellers? These were more than mere coincidences. Spicing up the lives of great writers was the job for which our protagonist had been hired!

“Why have you come here, dear lady?” questioned a prisoner whose glory and dignity had been drowned in a gong that still echoed “Shame!” “Shame!”

A veil covered the face of the woman in black, but he knew who she was. He looked down at the gloved hand more lethal than the most venomous serpent living in the depths of the African jungles.

“Apologizing will not absolve me or undo my deed,” she said in a sepulchral tone, “I want you to remember who you are irrespective of what happens in this dreadful place.”

She offered him her hand again. This time it was the right one.


 

De Profundis,” wrote the queer prisoner on a sheet of paper that night.

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Originally Published on Medium 

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Fiction and other Realities

‘Fiction is inspired by reality’ That is what they say. Yet, I have observed that a few events happen a lot more in fiction than they do in real life or vice versa.

Take sweating for example. Imaginary characters sweat way more than you or I ever would. I understand being in a story is testing since you are always in one difficult situation or another but that amount of sweating isn’t normal. Not even for the fictitious world. A lot of sweat and you run the risk of making your story stink.

Then there is this fact that everything occurs ‘suddenly’ in fiction. I know there are some realistic books where the story takes forever to fold. There are books-classics actually where nothing happens-no story at all! However, the popular opinion usually classifies them as boring. The fiction that sells real fast is often active with numerous suddenly this and suddenly that. I sincerely appreciate the characters’ reluctance to drop dead with ‘sudden’ heart attacks. Some of them do die that way though.

Beautiful Women/Ugly Men. Another thing, all or at least a majority of women in literature are beautiful or at least pretty… no wonder they are not real. 😂 Don’t even get me started on the impossibly humongous boobs! I wonder if that is why cancer is so common in the fiction city. On the other hand, men are usually ugly… at least if they are to be faithful. Handsome men in fiction, that is if they exist at all, are rarely faithful except in Jane Austen novels and even then they have at least one major character flaw. That is kind of realistic though, men are full of flaws and never faithful… okay maybe a 0.000001%!

Let’s take a look at the young adults now. All of them fall in love, which is alright considering their age. My problem is why the triangle is their favorite shape? I want a love circle, you know the protagonist loves nobody but themselves. That would be realistic for sure.

Weather. It is either a dark stormy night or a pleasant clear morning. Why are there no rains during the day and whats up with the fiction moon? Why does it come out on two occasions only? Either when a werewolf is on the lose or when the lovebirds want to do some outdoor rom-rom stuff.

Writers. There are always so many of them. This one actually makes sense to me. A writer writing about writing has to be genuine.
There are various other instances I’d like to point out too but that would be genre specific so next time, maybe. *Yawns*

However, before I end this, here is the final one; deaths or their lack of in the fiction. The mortality rate in fiction is too damn high. Although sadly, we are catching up with that trend. Yet, there are so many novels where characters needed to die but the writers decided to save their precious. I wish God would be that indulgent too.

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All GIFs from GIPHY

 

 

SPPRIG Testing Laboratory

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“Natural selection,” the voice said, “is obsolete now.”

Zac was struggling to focus on the words that were resonating all around him. Despite having memorized them by heart, he had to listen to them daily because according to ADLTHood 101, he had yet to internalize the concept.

“After extensive research, it has been concluded that Nature has turned too soft in deciding what to keep and what to discard,” the words continued. “Therefore, We had to intervene.”

Zac had no idea who these We were. Neither any of his acquaintance knew. The only thing they were aware of was that We were important and right. There was no question about that. Zac was too much of a conformist to question who’s, how’s, and what’s of the system. He was not a rebel, at least not until he had met Aby!

“By our method, only the best will be allowed in this world,” the metallic voice summarized. “Misery will be eradicated, once and for all.” Zac had once again missed the point and he knew that We would know. He will have to attend this session again tomorrow. He was not worried about it because he had just spotted Aby and judging by the sheepish look on her face, she will be attending the class too. He waved at her and she smiled.

“May you see the birth of supreme race,” he greeted her.

“And you,” she replied.

“Today?” he asked her in an undertone.

“Too dangerous,” was her reply. Before he could completely wear his disappointed look, she added, “but I want to.”

This made him happy but in an attempt to show it, he ended up with a comical expression on his face that was a mixture of happiness and disappointment. Aby couldn’t help but laugh. Zac was born with a genetic defect that slowed down his gestures. Therefore, he was often caught between two emotions that resulted in a confusing look on his face. Aby thought it was cute. On the other hand, Zac found it even cuter that instead of inheriting her mother’s dominant gene, the love of his life had her father’s recessive ones. She was bald. This made her unique because according to what science he knew, this was a sex-linked gene. Yet, he had never set eyes upon a woman more womanly than Aby!

They both knew they were not supposed to be like that. We had told them often enough about their defects but failed to instill a feeling of regret in them. It was mainly because the whole world was like that. Everyone had their own set of deficiencies. Since they had never seen for real what Wedescribed to be the perfect human being, except as models in labs, on technological devices, and as monumental structures on every street, they thought it was just an impossibility and an exaggeration.

“Meet me behind the great statue,” he told her. “The one at the end of your street.”

She blinked and was gone.


“You are beautiful.” He was drawing intricate patterns on her hairless head with a SpecPo, which was a pointer with fluorescent ink in several shades. He was holding a mirror in his free hand to let her see his art.

This is beautiful,” she almost screamed examining the now-finished mandala of vibrant colors on her head. It was the latest fashion trend and Zac did the best replicas of the designs she pointed out to him, from the international magazines.

“Shhh!” he warned her. She suppressed her giggles and clicked his photo from her DigCam.

“No way,” he almost yelled looking at the photo. “Is this the expression you will draw? It is ugly!”

“Fuck off!” she said. “This is such a singular expression. I have never witnessed you being scared, amused, and turned on, simultaneously.” His eyes twinkled and she busied herself in drawing magic on a paper pad. He produced an electronic cigarette from his pocket. They puffed on, taking turns.

“Zac,” she said after a few minutes. “If we got caught, horrible events will ensue.”

“How about we register for a compatibility test?” he suggested.

“I don’t know, Zac. There had been zero cases of love marriage in the previous centuries of which we have any record,” she was unsure. “Rom/Jul were the last ones to think about the L-word and you know how We had staged a series of evil stratagems leading to programmed deaths.”

“This is why I propose to follow the rules,” he tried to convince her.

In order to ensure that children with only the best genetic makeup were born, We used compatibility testing called SPPRIG. It stood for sex, philosophy, psychology, religion, intellect, and genetics — the characteristics that were evaluated in this test. It was based on the latest scientific research and was supposed to generate the ideal results. Data of thousands of people reached them and they ran a set of tests on it. There conducted interviews, blood testing, psychological checkup, and medical examinations. Only after that, were two people allowed to copulate.

“I am positive that our SPPRIG will be acceptable,” said Zac, hopefully.

“You do realize that so far, none of the marriages arranged by We have succeeded in terms of love,” she said.

“Look, they are not interested in love, I agree. But if our SPPRIG score is convincing, they might let us do it,” he told her. “Our sexes are different for the starters,” he joked. She rolled her eyes at him.

“Philosophy and religion are not an issue either,” he counted on his fingers. “You know our family backgrounds, schooling, and beliefs are similar”

“Hey, you missed the psychology P,” she intervened. “Also, what about intellect and genetics. There is no way to estimate those parameters on our own.”

“I ran a few tests on my tech toys using our data,” he told her. “The results were promising.” Zac hesitated and then added, “I have a friend in the SPPRIG headquarters. He will make sure our tests come out alright.”

For the first time during this conversation, she looked hopeful. “What is his id?” she asked.

“Pac. The one with two pair of hands,” he said. “Let’s do this!”

She nodded.


“Bos”, said Pac, “These two are a perfect match.”

The one called Bos smiled. He took the application form from Pac and stamped it.

“Denied?” asked Pac, shocked.

“My dear Pac,” said Bos mockingly, “do you really believe that SPPRIG is about compatibility?”

“Then?” inquired Pac.

“It is for controlling their willpower”, came the reply as Bos’ characteristic multiple laughter sounds rang out in the walls of the SPPRIG Testing Laboratory.

Originally published on Medium

Free will, Shcmee will!

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All alone in a bathtub,
With no water calming my nerves.
Naked, I am lying curled up.
Foetal style, ready to return.
Pure and intact
To my mother’s womb.

I can see, smiling folks
Waiting for me to be born.
Kick in the air and cry a lot
Even if my lungs get torn.

Knowing, what they will do to me.
I must refuse to budge from here.
Tools, they will use in vain
To force me out of her.
Then I must hold my breath.
So, they only get my shreds!

A wasted journey has to end,
Before it ever begins.
Had I only been given that will,
Alas! I will be here still.

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The Vegetable

“Hahahahahhahahhahahhahahhaahhaha”

His laughter echoed as the sharp ends of his wits ricocheted back from the hollow walls of the building. Wits were all he had at that moment for his form was reduced to an awkwardly arranged construction of weak bones, confined by means of ropes. However, he didn’t know that, for he couldn’t feel a thing. Every inch of his body was throbbing uniformly and had crossed the pain threshold to the point of numbness. His senses were affected. He could not tell if it was a day or a month, since they had captured him. He felt as if he had not looked at his reflection in a long time. However, he knew it could not be more than a few days though because his chin only had a few bristles. Good, he thought, at least my brain is working even if my body is broken.

The dark room had just a single candle in some far corner. Its light was throwing a bleak ray on the protruding spine of his naked, humped back. His face was lying limp between his small trembling knees, while his hands were tightly secured with a rope at the back of the chair on which he was being forced to sit.

“Bloody pathetic”, the big man said, wiping the spit from his mouth that had found its way there as it often did whenever he got too involved in his duty. Mr. Aubergine was a huge man with a narrow face and shoulders that somehow enlarged into a bulging tummy, giving him the look of an eggplant. He had a reputation of being a bully and was hated by those who worked under him. One of them had once bedded the same woman as him. She ended up sharing a few intimate details about Aubergine’s physiology with him and he, in turn, told his comrades. Ever since then, Aubergine was called ‘the eggplant with no eggplant’ behind his back.

‘Aubergine’ was not his real name of course but real names were not needed where he worked. Undercover names sufficed, and their leader had named the men based on their physiques or in some cases, functions. This has resulted in some ridiculous names. Aubergine’s partner, for example, was called Rhubarb being a thin man with a very red face. “What is he?” Rhubarb had exploded in anger when they were named, “A botanist?”

“His world, his rules” was the reply from his friend.

“Bloody Pathetic”, repeated Aubergine, “They always do that to me.” Aubergine found special pleasure in breaking bones of people-criminal or not! What he did not find pleasing at all was when his subjects entered a state, where pain couldn’t reach them and his forceful movements meant nothing but tiring himself uselessly. What enraged him further was the captor’s nerve to mock him by laughing at his helplessness.

“Not a single man had ever done that to me”, boasted Rhubarb, “And you know why? Because I fucking know when to stop.” Rhubarb was a shrewd man. While he loved torturing people just as much as Aubergine, he never lost control when at it. He would hit them hard but ensure their sense of pain was preserved. Then he would hit again when his subject was least expecting him. He knew how to be there. Always.

Aubergine did not reply to his partner’s jibes. Since the man they were paid to torture was far beyond their reach now, they knew it was time for them to leave. Besides, she would be coming any time now and Aubergine hated her. She was the only person in this whole system that wanted to soothe these rascals. Why can’t she just play by the rules?, he thought for the umpteenth time, and will you just look at that crafty stick sniggering and planning on to make a move on her. He was looking at his partner.

“What does that whore even see in you?” he decided to provoke him but that didn’t work.

“Oh I just know how to keep her awake at nights”, he smirked and added gesturing towards the figure tied on the chair, “That heightens his torture in a manner that’d satisfy every muscle in your body.”

“You are a dirty man”, said Aubergine that made Rhubarb laugh. The big man left the room since Lavender’s aroma had arrived.


“This is all very interesting”, said the doctor, “I’d diagnose depression and anxiety.”

“But it hurts me physically”, he was saying.

“Sometimes in severe cases, this could happen”, the psychiatrist elaborated, “However, what I really don’t understand is why would you see depression as some kind of eggplant and anxiety as what did you say it was?”

“Rhubarb”, he reddened.

“And sleep?”

“Fragrant Lavender”

“What are you, man?” asked the doctor mocking him, “A botanist?”

“No, a vegetable”, he mumbled.

“He knows”, the crowd of intern psychiatrists gasped in unison. The subject of their experiment was not brain dead!

Originally Published on Medium

Unmade for Each other

“Most people aren’t really bad, you know”, she told him.

“If that is so, they don’t do a very good job of showing their true intentions”, said he.

“Why do you have to be so bitter all the time”, she was saying. He, however, was busy observing her. Her small lips were moving in circles as if her sentences had words with lots of Os in them. Her fake accent made her words come out all rounded. How he had hated the pretentious accents that were so common in his days! Yet, he couldn’t find it in himself to even slightly dislike hers. He ended up focusing on her lips. The one thing he knew he shouldn’t have done.

Do I want to kiss them? He reflected. Out of love, he added hastily to his incomplete thought. He’d kiss them out of lust any time. That he knew very well.

“So?” she asked.

“I don’t care”, he said and he didn’t. She wanted to know what had hurt him so bad. The old story he had repeated so many times before people who had shown even the slightest of interest in him and his miseries but who like him had never really cared.

She didn’t insist though, which was odd. He was actually expecting her to show more interest than she had or perhaps that was what he secretly wished for. You don’t care he told himself again, and she shouldn’t either.

Both of them were now boarding their separate trains of thoughts. But soon they were interrupted. “A moment of peace inside your head”, he told her, “is too much to ask you know”. She smiled.

They turned around to find the source of the disturbance. A group of hooligans was standing a few feet away from them. They were shouting obscenities, most of which, were directed at him.

He looked at her. She was observing him.

When he did not stir and made it clear that he was not going to respond in any way, she rebuked him.

“Why don’t you respond to them?”

“I am out of credit”, He told her.

“What do you mean?”, she almost shouted, “They are standing right in front of you. What do you need credit for to retaliate against their insults?”

“I have nothing to my credit. A nobody like me has nothing to say to the people who have a lot to say about my character without even knowing me” was his reply.

She looked disappointed. “You are a loser”, she told him and stood up.

She is not very beautiful, he thought. Drawn to her full height and she was still a small awkward figure that leaned heavily towards chubbiness. Shoulder length, rough brown hair, a too prominent nose, and a pair of ordinary eyes always in need of some kohl to avoid looking dead. Ah but those lips, he thought. She was wearing a lilac T-shirt with grey trousers. Her brown leather handbag with the long strap was dangling from her right hand. It took him a few minutes to realize what she was about to do.

He had thought she was walking away from him because he had upset her but she was going over to the villains who were still insulting him.

“Woohooo”, one of them shouted, “So the pimp has sent his girl to defend him.”

He was on his feet now taking long strides to prevent any harm before it would be too late.

By the time, he reached there, it was already too late.

“That is all you got? In a fight, you guys would last even less than you’d do in bed”, she scoffed, “And with your tiny excuses of dicks, that would be what? Microseconds?”

“You bitch”, one of them screamed.

“This bitchy pimp’s girlfriend has more balls than all of you combined”, she retorted coolly, “So scram.”

To his utter disbelief, they did!

At that moment, it hit both of them. She is too strong of a person for a coward like me, he thought. What was I even thinking, she thought, fancying myself in love with a loser like him.

Walking their separate ways, they both decided to live happily ever after.

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Blown Out of Proportion — Wringo Ink.

Here is another entry from our #WringoInk. project.
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Monday:

She was reading something. We were in a library surrounded by books. I was glad she was there. Finally, there was a girl who loved literature. She was into Camus and Beckett; would you believe it? I mean she belched at the mention of glittering vampires and impossibly romantic love stories just as my dream girl would have done.

I could imagine her narrating my favorite story. It was the uncensored version of a famous fairy tale where the shrewd elf was tricked and raped by the shepherd’s little girl. Throughout the story, the little girl was portrayed as a simpleton. Itwas only at the end the plot twist was revealed. It boiled my blood how the modern version was a hunky-dory retelling with the elf turning into a handsome prince marrying the village girl. Talk about making things palatable!

“You should be in dramatics. You read lines with emotion”, I told her.

She said something but I didn’t quite catch it. I was busy watching her small red lips curl into a smile.

I could tell she liked me.

Tuesday:

I was sitting cross-legged on my writing table when my phone beeped. However, I didn’t care much because she was in the room too. She was singing a song I had never heard before. Great, I thought to myself, now I will think of her whenever I will hear this tune.

It was 9 a.m. and I could see sunlight filtering through my window and landing right on her. She was wearing a silver satin dress that she had worn on the party last night. It was glowing because of the golden beams that were reflecting off the fabric’s surface.

I was beginning to fall for her.

Wednesday:

I was lying on the sand. The moon must have been wildbecausethe waves were creating a havoc. Yet I could see the force of water die down as it touched the tips of my bare feet. I felt as if I was part of a best-selling fiction. She was lying right beside me, whispering mesmerizing poetry into my ears.

This relationship was definitely progressing.

Thursday:

She was going for a coffee with her otherguy friend, Z. She said she had a surprise for me. Maybe she wanted me to be her boyfriend. Was she asking Z for advice before making that decision? I thought. He would tell her I am a nice guy,I smiled.

I was definitely in love with her.

Things were going great and we’d been together by nowif only reality had not arrived from the foreign lands of my dreams. It was back from its vacations.Urgh.It was knocking on the door of my sanityincessantly. I had to answer.

Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday

“You should be in dramatics. You read lines with emotion”, I had told her on Monday.

“Dude, what the hell? This is just a Facebookpost. You gotta chill,” she had said while laughing.

We were sitting with 5 other people. It was a library alright but our college library. Love has the power to alter a few imperfections.

There was a Tuesday song for sure but…

“Listen to this guys:

#myfavoritenumber #myfavoritesinger #themusiclegend”

She had shared her favorite song on our WhatsApp group. She had been talking about it all night at the party. She had promised to share it on the group, of which I was also a part. Just not the onlypart though.

We had our English Literature class onWednesday. She had volunteered to read “I saw from the Beach” by Thomas Moore. It was broad daylight. The whole class was her audience but I was the only one who was listening. Listening too much, I presume, and imagining even more.

On Thursdayshe was successful in giving us a surprise. I was shocked to the point of devastation.

“Z and I are dating”, she had told us. The two of them were bursting with laughter.


Today is Friday:

I am going home. Alone. I see a girl waving at me. What does she want? I think, probably waving at someone behind me.

Somewhere a villain will trick a sweetgirl. Not all fairytales have to be unrealistic.

It is high time I should stop blowing things out of proportion.

Originally Published on Medium.

Riddle Me Out!

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And once upon a time,
I was a piece
of a jigsaw puzzle.
But not the corner one —
that is always unique.
I was more of a left mid one.
And there were many others like me.
Thus, I was
Easy to misplace.

The child to whom I belonged
Threw me away
out of neglect one day.
The sweeper swept me away
Into the dustbin, I dwelled.
Until it was time,
for the waste to be taken away.

The garbage truck
was almost at the door.
The family has put,
the dustbins in the streets
I will be incinerated, I believed.

Fate, however, had other plans
For a stray dog came running
I was stuck in a piece of meat
And was taken away by the beast.

He ran away with his prize
Took me along too on the ride.
The mad guy didn’t look around,
and crashed
straight into the truck on the road
There was a banging sound!

I was thrown away, once again.
This time I landed into a gutter
But not quite so!
For I was stuck in its grill.

Nobody paid me much heed.
Autumn, Winter, Summers,
and then Spring reached.
Coffee, ketchup, acids,
All of them, I tasted.

Then one day,
a guy came along.
He opened his zipper
and peed all over me
while humming a song.

Stinking me was still stuck.
in the grill of a dirty gutter.

Then I saw a hippie
He was walking towards me.
“What will he do?”
The thought frightened me.

He was glancing
everywhere
Up and down
Left and right
As if he was searching
for treasure trove.

‘I am not what he wants’
I thought.
Yet his gaze lingered on me
He kneeled down and picked me (?)

He whiffed and smiled
To my surprise!
In his pocket,
I was taken!

Now I sit,
as an art piece.
Considered the best
in the gallery.
The artist has made me a celebrity!

Her and the Cat

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Characters

LADY 1: A middle-aged woman with graying hair. She is corpulent and looks tired. She used to be a looker in her younger days. You could tell that by her twinkling, honey colored eyes. She is the wife of a decent and wealthy man. Yet, she never stops complaining.

LADY 2: An elderly widow with a small and thin figure. The Police had caught her husband smuggling money. They had taken him to the jail, but he committed suicide before being presented for a trial. He could not bear to see his reputation go to pieces. His widow became a snob afterwards. She denounces every person who dared to challenge the societal norms.

HER: A woman in her late thirties, she is not much to look at but has a cheerful demeanor. She is the spinster of the neighborhood. People are always criticizing her for her odd behavior because she is always happy. The society does not accept her. A unsuccessful person has no right to laugh without constraint.

THE CAT: A thin black cat


Scene I

Setting: Two women sitting in a lavishly decorated drawing room. The table in front of them is laden with delicious food items. The hostess is indifferent to the food. However, the other lady keeps helping herself, trying one item after the other. They are busy talking —

Lady 1: She keeps moving her fingers in her brown curls. She has a habit of batting her eyelashes after every sentence she speaks —

“So I was saying to dear husband last night we should change the entire designing of our house. I think it direly needs makeover. He never listens though. He is a miser if you ask me and yet I love him.”

She bats her eyelashes.

LADY 2 stuffs a pastry in her mouth and gulps it down with a cup of tea.

“Dear God! That is awful business. Does he not know one must keep up appearances?”

She shakes her head in disgust.

Lady 1“That is not his fault, you see. In fact, I only blame myself and my stars since nothing ever goes well with me.”

Lady 2“That must be the fruits of your elopement. You know what I say? Abide by the eternal rules of society and you will be fine.”

LADY 1 stares at her rude friend.

“Or else you might end up in the prison house, swinging with a rope, right?”

LADY 2 opens mouth to retort but stops as something outside the window catches her attention —

Lady 2“Forget our little quarrel. Look who is outside your window — so gay and bursting with optimism.”

LADY 1 glances in that direction. As she sees the spinster waving enthusiastically at her, she rolls her eyes and sighs. Reluctantly, she invites her.

LADY 2, facing the audience —

“I hate the guts of this unnaturally happy girl but I am glad she is invited. The sacrifices we have to make for the society!”

The spinster enters the room —

Her“Hello young ladies. You know I had been out on a stroll. What a lovely morning it is, isn’t it? You see I went hopping around the place, talked to some birds, enjoyed the wind as it played with my hair, and just loved the hell out of the delicious breakfast at Dennie’s. What did you two lovely girls do?”

Lady 1“Just talked a bit.”

Her“A bit? You two must have some gossip to tell, right? Come on share some with me.”

LADY 1, muttering —

“We are not a chatterbox like you.”

The Spinster looks hurt.

Lady 2“She means we were just discussing our problems and all. She wants to change the look of the entire house as it does not make her happy but her miser husband won’t allow. I say that is a blasphemy to not go by the current, which says this house needs renovation.”

Her“Oh but it is lovely just the way it is. You (she points a finger at LADY 1) just like being unhappy and you (points another finger at LADY 2) just want to please a society that does not approve of you either.”

This sudden outburst shocks the two ladies but the truth wounds them and they retort.

Lady 1“When are you getting married, dear? Don’t you think it is about time?”

Lady 2“You do know you shouldn’t be working like a horse all day long. It has made you less of a woman, you know.”

Lady 1“Now I see all the wrinkles peeking form under the layers of your makeup.”

HER: interrupting LADY 2, who was ready with her piece of razor sharp jargon —

“I am happy the way I am. Thank you very much; I don’t need a man to take care of me. I can decorate my own house as per my wishes without having to beg to a husband and I do not care one dime about the society’s opinion.”

Despite her heated words she has not betrayed a shade of anger. They were addressed rather calmly and that irritates the two ladies. She smiles at the pair of annoyed women kindly and exits.


Scene II

The spinster enters a house — her house. Every inch of the tattered building is covered with gloom and dirt. She leaves her basket of roses at the door of her bedroom. There is a mirror fixed on the side wall of the room and a black cat is sitting in the corner of the room.

HER: looking in the mirror —

“Hi, you hideous creature. How was your day? It’s time you take your medicines, you know the darkness is coming to engulf you.”

She opens a drawer of her bedside table and takes all the pills form the bottle. Gulp gulp gulp, the water sends each pill down her throat.

HER: Standing with some difficulty notices THE CAT —

“Why are you still here? Don’t you think I am ugly? Look at my wrinkles. Come on why don’t you hate me like the others.”

THE CAT: staring at the spinster —

Meow… (softly), Meow… (soothingly), Meow… (reassuringly)

Her“Come here. Lets lie down here on the floor, just the two of us — the outcasts!”

THE CAT obliges limping towards the woman, revealing that her left hind leg is missing. The two stay together hugging each other as they take a nap.

An hour later…

The CatMeow…

Attempting to wake her friend up but there is no response.

The CatMeow… Meow… Meow

With confusion and anger but there is no response.

The CatMeow… Meow… Meow

With frustration but there is no response.

The CatMeeeeeeooooooooowwwwwwwww!!!

Forlornly.

The Secret Passageway

Jahandad Balkhi was wise beyond the few years of his existence in this temporary world. He was blessed with an element of mystique, which his disciples linked with his spiritual history. He belonged to a family of Sufis. If rumours were to be believed, Jahandad was 100 years old in reality, out of which only 25 years belonged to this world. He had spent the rest of his existence exploring the secrets of the permanent world — the one that preceded and succeeded this sojourn of a few moments.

Ever since his birth, Jahandad had received divine guidance in his dreams. Initially, the situation had terrified his mother as he could not narrate to her the subject of his reverie. Being a mother, she could sense the disturbance he was put through in his sleep.

Zulaikhan Bibi was a single mother as her husband had selfishly decided to die right after impregnating her with his seeds of fertility. Therefore, she had learnt to rely on her father for guidance in almost every matter. Baba Jan was after all a spiritual man as well as a figure of authority. Known to everyone else in the vicinity as Sufi sahib, he had the wisdom and knowledge to figure out the solution to every problem. She turned to him for Jahandad’s condition as well.

“My beloved daughter,”, his father had said, “You may not know but Jahandad’s paternal grandfather used to worship Ahura Mazda — the wise lord in Zoroastrianism but he had converted to Islam after his 40th birthday. He had received a sign and as a result of it, he had migrated from Iran to Balkh in Afghanistan.”

“You mean here?”, asked Zulaikhan. She adored her father. His company soothed her as she felt a calming energy engulfing her. She could believe the most unbelievable as long as it was uttered by Baba Jan.

“Your father-in-law was a spiritual man as well,”, Baba Jan informed her, “Mystique never vanishes, dear, it just moves from one vessel to another.”

“Jahandad is a vessel? My son is a vessel?”, She asked agitated, “What is he carrying?”

“That is for him to find. It is none of your concern.”

The meeting was over.


“Ma, the baby wants to tell me something but before it could, my dream ends.” Jahandad was not a baby anymore but his dreams were as disturbing as ever.

“This is somehow related to your stature, Beta. Your wisdom and spirituality create the most eloquent language I had ever heard. It is as if a supreme power is communicating through you.”

“Ma, I want it to stop controlling me.”

“Do not be ungrateful, my child. It is a rare gift.” The answer had never been able to satisfy him and it did no good this time either.

On Jahandad’s 25th birthday, Baba Jan requested Zulaikhan to shift from her humble abode to his Haveli — the place where she had spent her childhood. Jahandad’s two maternal grandmothers — Sufi Sahab had married twice — were to ensure that their stay was lavish and comfortable — a task they kept failing at but not because of lack of trying. It was only that Jahandad remained restless throughout his visit as he had a feeling of being haunted at the Haveli.

The two women from the Haveli were entirely different from each other. While Nano — Zulaikhan’s real mother was an ordinary looking woman with simple tastes, Bebe — the stepmother was a different story altogether. She possessed otherworldly beauty and was a woman of wit. Yet, the villagers claimed that she had lost it when her son was murdered at the tender age of 14.

For Jahandad, his uncle was just a character from Baba Jan’s narrative of the incident. It had happened before he was born and he had not even seen any picture of his uncle. Bebe had burnt every single photograph for some reason. Moreover, his mother could not tell him anything about his uncle either because she did not remember him at all. She was only 13 when the incident had happened. Jahandad had found it curious but there was nothing he could do about it since he was never provided with a straightforward answer on this topic.

Each night that he spent at the Haveli only brought greater discomfort to him. Then one night, the matter was resolved.

“Ma, Ma”, Jahandad woke up in the middle of the night. He was sweating profusely. Zulaikhan was confused. She could sense that the situation was graver than usual.

“Ma, the baby…” his voice was incoherent. “Ma, the baby was innocent… It was not his mistake, Ma.”

“Bete, what are you even blabbering about. There is no baby.” It only made her son more vehement in his claims that the poor baby was not at fault.

She knew she must take her son to Baba Jan but the west wing was too far away from where they were staying. She looked helplessly at his son who seemed to be possessed by a passionate frenzy that had made him raving mad. In her desperation, she remembered the shortcut…

“Come on, son”, she was dragging Jahandad now, “I know the secret pathway.”

Suddenly Jahandad was very still and then he asked her, his voice merely a ghost’s whisper, “Ma, who had told you about the secret pathway?”

“Why? Your uncle!” came the reply.

“So now you remember him?”

She looked stunned. Finally, she remembered… him… and everything else.

“Ma, the baby was innocent!”

Zulaikhan could see her world collapse right in front of her eyes as one session after another with Baba Jan played in her memory.

“You are being married to — ” Zulaikhan could see herself sitting across his father, clad in a bridal dress but there was no groom. Why was her belly so swollen, she was only 13…

Another scene came…

“Your husband is dead”, Baba Jan was telling her but the husband in question had never existed.

“Why is Bebe always worshipping Ahura Mazda? Who is he, Baba? Is he scary?”7-year-old Zulaikhan emerged in her memory.

“I will kill you, you rascal”, it was Baba Jan’s voice but different. It was scary and profane — the two things he never was! This time it was not his room and there were no sessions in progress but it was the secret passage way-her stepbrother had discovered for his secret activities.

Zulaikhan turned towards his son. There were no more memories left. Jahandad smiled at his mother. He knew that he was even worse than a bastard — the creation of incest!

 

This post was originally published on Medium